Think about how birth is depicted in television and the movies: emergent, urgent, fraught with screaming and swearing, and often with a care provider (or bystander) who must sweep in and perform some urgent act in order to save the birthing individual and their baby.
Even in prenatal films – movies designed to educate and empower us – we are shown medical professionals who are quick to intervene with either their hands or their instruments, giving directions such as “push”, and creating the sense that childbirth must always involve someone other than the person in labour conducting the activity.
Birth with Gloria Lemay seeks to challenge the notions that birth is an emergency, and that care providers must be “hands on” when it comes to childbirth. This film depicts nine home water births where Gloria Lemay acts as midwife. There are minimal interventions (often, Lemay is completely hands-off except to help untangle an umbilical cord or to help support a stretching perineum), and each birth is remarkably serene. Most noticeable are that the sounds each laboring person makes: there are no agonizing screams, only moaning, grunting, panting, and sighing.
In a scene that is almost always left out of other birth movies, a placenta is gently delivered, reminding the viewer that the process of birth is not completed once the baby is born. What is especially unique about this placenta’s emergence is that the umbilical cord is unsevered from the baby – meaning, the two are still attached at the time of the placenta’s birth – and that the midwife does not use aggressive cord traction to pull the placenta out. Like the babies in the movie, it is simply born.
There is definitely a “new age” feel to Birth with Gloria Lemay because of the soundtrack. I feel that the pan flute background music that plays with each of the births takes away from the point of the film – that birth can be organic and that the sounds associated with it are not necessarily those of fear and alarm.
Viewers have the option of watching the movie with or without Lemay’s commentary, and I recommend experiencing both in order to absorb the peacefulness of the original film and the content of Lemay’s remarks.
Birth with Gloria Lemay is a depiction of birth as a simple, family affair that requires minimal assistance from a knowledgeable care provider. There is no shortage of movies that show complications, interventions, and stressful circumstances during childbirth – it is a pleasant change to be reminded that often, babies can be gently born into their parents’ hands.
By: Beth Murch
Birth with Gloria Lemay can be purchased at: http://wisewomanwayofbirth.com/