Orgasmic Birth

The documentary, The Business of Being Born by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein has received a lot of praise, recognition and mainstream awareness.  But have you heard about the film, Orgasmic Birth?

Now, before you get your westernized, sexually repressed hackles up; saying toy yourself, “orgasmic birth?  That’s rediculous!  Childbirth is agony!  It is the hardest, most miserable time in a woman’s life!  It is, after all,  the damnation by God upon Eve in the garden of Eden–a fate suffered by all women thereafter…” …just HOLD ON!

Last night, I viewed this film with a group of my doula/childbirth educator friends.  With a running commentary throughout the film, and a healthy analysis afterward (we even had one member present who is almost 39weeks pregnant herself, and VERY encouraged by the film’s message) we came to the conclusion, we would have rather seen the film makers go with their initially-intended title: Ecstatic Birth.  Because that’s what it was really all about.  But aside from that little critique, we thought the film was RIGHT ONE!

Sure, there are a couple scenes in the movie showing laboring women experience tride-and-true rolling orgasms while in the midst of labor contractions…but mostly, the film (much like The Business of Being Born) is about the joy, self awareness and empowerment that women have the potential to experience in birth when largely left alone.

You see, our culture has collectively undergone one big, massive, brainwashing that has lasted the better part of 200 years.  As women, we have been convinced that pregnancy, labor and childbirth are an illness from which we must be saved.  We have been told we can’t birth without the significant monkeying around of someone else.  The truth, in fact (as pointed out by Christiane Northup, MD) is that only 10% of laboring women come up against a TRUE medical emergency or medical condition that requires intervention.  The remainder of women and babies undergoing childbirth are perfectly fine and healthy…requiring absolutely NO intervention whatsoever.

Did you know the World Health Organization studied c-sections extensively and discovered that the world c-section rate ought to be no more than 10-15%?  And that, any rate beyond that leads to increased mother/baby injury and/or death, with no more babies “saved”?  That makes our country’s rate of 33% look despicable!

And here’s the big secret that the film aims at:  childbirth actually CAN be enjoyable (in a totally and completely challenging way) if a woman makes the decision to embrace the process, allow the contractions (rather than fighting them) have faith in their body (mental anxiety has HUGELY negative affects on a laboring woman’s progress…especially if that woman has a history of significant emotional trauma or sexual abuse).

One of the many talking heads interviewed for the movie (many of whom are also featured in The Business of Being Born) makes this final point:

If you had the opportunity to witness your full potential, to learn of the highest mountain you have the capability to scale, to permanently empower yourself for any future challenge, wouldn’t you accept that opportunity?  Because that is exactly what achieving normal (“natural”) childbirth does for a woman:  it taps into the incredible strength, resiliency, power and endurance she contains….levels of which she has likely NEVER experienced in herself before…and shows her that, “if she could make it through that level of challenge and difficulty…she truly possesses the ability to make it through any future challenge she will face.

But here’s the other truth pointed out in the film:  women who don’t or can’t experience normal childbirth…women who are forced through the obstacle course of labor inductions,constant fetal monitoring…women who are numbed from the waist down with intrathecals and epidurals…women who are operated on to birth their babies…they lose out on a potentially life-altering experience of the magnitude I described above.  But they can also emerge from the experience empowered and fulfilled:  if they remain integrally involved in every decision making process and their baby’s birth unfolds.  While I DO think completely normal, complication-free birth is the Cadillac of birth experiences, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an all or none experience.  But you have to work a hell of a lot harder to experience ecstasy while hooked up to tubes and wires when birthing your baby!

Now, for those of you reading this who abhor the idea of “natural childbirth” (I don’t personally like that term, for all the politicalization that’s happened to it), who have delivered a child under the use of many medical interventions and still have wonderful memories of their babies’ births…I DO NOT discount your experiences!

Of our three children’s births, only one was a normal birth experience for me and the baby.  I have never birthed at home or in a birth center.  I did not deliver our one “natural birth” baby under a tree in our back yard…but what I CAN tell you is that, all that stuff about empowerment, self-strength, and self-awareness only became obvious to me AFTER the delivery of our third child…with whom I avoided medical interventions.

Being in the position of comparing childbirth under the influence of an epidural…two labor inductions…strapped permanently to a fetal monitor (and to a bed…flat on my back)…mentally numbed by narcotics…internal fetal monitor screwed into my baby’s scalp and protruding from my body…with the experience of laboring outside in the sun, getting in and out of a bath tub, being massaged by our doula and my husband, pushing when I wanted and resting when I wanted, avoiding even so much as an IV because I took it upon myself to stay hydrated by drinking water and juices…I can truly, honestly and without hesitation tell you:  the message in Orgasmic Birth is real.  Yes, I too would prefer to have seen the film named Ecstatic Birth which I think would be relatable (and less off-putting) for more women but…regardless of the title, the message is right on.

I challenge you to view the movie with an OPEN MIND and share your ideas about it with others.


Filed under Childbirth Issues

6 responses to “Orgasmic Birth

  1. I’d like to see the film.

    I feel like there are women on two sides of the fence, those for whom childbirth is without a doubt awful, and those for whom it can be fulfilling. It is so hard to bridge that gap.

    I was fortunate enough that when I was a teenager I met a woman who told me that birthing her child was not painful. Intense, but not painful. It blew my mind then. Now that I have had four births that I would describe as fitting that bill, I try to spread that message around when I can. It is hard not to offend women who say that it was the worst pain in the world. It is as though I am saying that they did it wrong or something. But I just want there to be the possibility for other women that it just might not be horrible.

  2. Lisa Traxler

    Hey Kimmelin –

    I’ve been following your blog since Arches published a notice about your first book awhile back. This topic has really piqued my interest in the last month or so…I’m currently 16 weeks pregnant (my first) and plan to deliver in a non-hospital birth center with a midwife here in Seattle.

    I’m as pain-averse as anyone, but I think it be fantastic to be able to focus on the beauty and ecstasy of birth instead of being overwhelmed by the physical pain and exhaustion. I’ve seen the trailer for the movie and have read a little on it, but yours is the first objective opinion I’ve heard about it. Thanks for posting on this, and please say hi to Andrew for me. Take care!

  3. @ Elena and Lisa: I’m glad you brought up the issue of what a girl/woman is told about birth from early on. Elena, you had the (extraordinary, in our culture) experience of having someone tell you a very different side of childbirth than what most girls/women hear about childbirth. When I teach my childbirth prep. classes, I spend a lot of time suggesting to my couples that the birth process is a “mental game.” If a woman can embrace the process/sensation of her contractions/surges, she will learn to flow with the process rather than desperately wanting to retreat from the process every time a contraction starts. De-programming and then re-programming your mind to accept the birth process, trust your body, and view each surge as a reminder that you are one step closer to meeting your child all make an ENORMOUS difference in how a woman experiences childbirth.

    I remember, during my last birth and even while in transition, I was able to make that happen–I established a “routine” that I would undergo during each contraction: a combination of a particular body position, set of movements, breathing with vocalization and visualization. I was actually LAUGHING at the end of each contraction! This stuff really can happen…but the woman has to start changing her mind about birth EARLY ON.

    It’s great to hear from you, Lisa. I’ll definitley pass your greeting onto Andrew.

  4. Shelly

    I had a natural childbirth with my first. I do remember the “O” when we made the little bundle of joy on our Bahama cruise, however I only remember much discomfort and pain during the birth. For #2 I chose the drugs and for me it was a much better choice.

    • Shelly,

      I definitely can’t discount your comment here. In childbirth, it’s a ‘never say never’ kind of thing. I’m curious though, pain aside, did you still experience that empowering, “if I could do that….I can handle anything” state of mind after your non-medicated childbirth experience? For some women, that’s the greatest benefit they receive from accomplishing “natural childbirth” (plus the fact mom and baby aren’t exposed to medications/procedures that all carry potential risks and/or side effects).

      I appreciate your forth right comment.

  5. Shelly

    My natural birth was so unpleasant that I would never do it again. When my daughter finally was born I simply felt exhausted and sort of in shock that I lived through it! I can’t honestly say I felt any empowerment because I just don’t remember any feeling like that during or after the birth. When I had a simple epidural for my second child the whole experience seemed much better because in lieu of focusing on pain I was able to focus on my husband and the birthing process. And after she was born I felt like I had much more energy to enjoy my new baby. And I did not let them screw the heart monitor in my babies head! My doctor used as monitor placed on my stomach and it was not intrusive at all. For me the second birth was 100% better but everyone is different. I tell my friends to explore both options but don’t be afraid to embrace technology. I am sure you can have a tooth pulled without drugs but personally I enjoy the invention of Novocain!

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