By Jessica Hartshorn
July 20, 2015

There is the way you picture your birth going, and then the way it actually goes, and rarely are those two the same.

But the premise of a new documentary called The Mama Sherpas is that maybe, perhaps, our country can inch toward a model where mothers work with both midwives and doctors to have births that are more comfortable, calm, and less of a surprise than, say, the emergency C-sections we so frequently hear about, or the induced births.

Because the documentary is executive-produced by Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein, the team behind The Business of Being Born (and the executive producers of the documentary Breastmilk) I first thought The Mama Sherpas might be another championing of home births and natural-everything. But it's entirely focused on several medical centers where doctors and midwives work side-by-side, in medical settings. There is always an emergency team on the premises if needed, which is reassuring as you watch, for instance, a woman attempt (successfully!) a vaginal breech birth.

The film chronicles plenty of mamas' labors—yes, there is a C-section, and yes, there is a water birth, and everything in between. The director, Brigid Maher, was motivated to do the film on her quest for a VBAC, a vaginal birth after having had a Caesarean, and she is entirely understanding of the fact that there is a time and place for every kind of medical intervention. Her objection is to women being pushed into a birth they don't want strictly for the convenience of the doctors and hospital staff. And her love of midwives seems to come from the fact that they are able to devote more time and patience to educating their clients, explaining when something is necessary and when it is a choice.

The takeaway, if you're pregnant or planning to have another baby, is that finding a midwife who will assist your birth is, at the very least, likely to give you more options than you would probably have working only with doctors and nurses whose job is to standardize the births they facilitate.

Use the firm to be inspired to ask questions, and to appreciate that perhaps we can all have a little more control of our births than we think. It will be available on DVD ($19.99) and iTunes ($4.99 to rent) tomorrow, July 21. In the meantime you can watch the trailer or check them out on Facebook to follow the rollout of the film.

Jessica Hartshorn has been an editor at American Baby magazine for 17 years and yet is still sort of shocked when watching video footage of babies being born.

Image: Courtesy of The Mama Sherpas


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