Courtesy Ricki Lake
For Ricki Lake, working on the documentary The Business of Being Born was a labor of love.
“I worked on this project for three-and-a-half years. My son who is born in the movie is now 10,” she tells PEOPLE.
“It’s a lot of time, a lot of effort, and just hope that the public would care about the issue.”
Released on DVD in 2008, The Business of Being Born follows Lake and director Abby Epstein, whose pregnancy is also depicted in the film, as they investigate birthing practices in the U.S., from hospital care to midwifery and home births.
“The message is really about choices and exploring birth options,” Lake, 42, says. “I want a woman to be able to give birth in the way in which she chooses.”
“I want those women to be informed and to know what they’re getting into,” she continues. “They need to know the pros and cons of it all — I happen to support home birth because I had a beautiful experience, but I’m not telling everyone to do that. I’m advocating for choices.”
The documentary has found success at home and abroad, and in particular with Hollywood stars such as Pink, who recently voiced her support of the film. For the follow-up, More Business of Being Born, which Lake is currently developing and hopes to release in October, new moms Alanis Morissette, Gisele Bündchen, Laila Ali and more have reached out to share their own birthing experiences.
“I think because they feel so strongly about the experience they were able to have or the message of the film, they’ve been happy to come forward,” Lake explains. “Alanis is particularly private and she was so candid with us. She allowed me to interview her while she was still pregnant. She was planning a home birth and we interviewed her before she had her baby and after. She’s incredibly articulate and eloquent about her experience”
“Gisele was incredible. Abby went to her house in Boston and she was in tears talking about this experience that she had,” adds Lake. “It’s amazing. She said to Abby [that] she would do anything [to help us].”
“In 300 hospitals around the country, once you have a Cesarean, you’re not allowed to have a vaginal birth,” Lake notes. “If a woman is given a C-section, she doesn’t know the next time around she will likely have another C-section, and it will not be her choice. If a woman knows that, she might fight not to have the C-section in the first place.”
Ultimately, “We definitely need some major reform in this birth system,” Lake says. “There needs to be a system in place where we honor normal birth and women’s bodies working the way they’re supposed to. Midwives should really be utilized more.”
“If women all had that experience and were able to feel empowered and transformed by however they give birth; if it can be a positive experience and they feel like they’re in charge of their babies and their bodies, I think the world would be a better place.”
— Kiran Hefa