Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It must be true, I saw it in a movie!

Recently, I have been collecting birthing scenes from the media of the past three or four decades. This is mostly in an effort to put together a really interesting senior project, but also just because they are everywhere and fascinating. What we show and tell each other about birth probably contributes hugely to our perceptions and feelings around our own birth experiences. If you grew up knowing the birthing process only by the ten second clips on your favorite TV show with the woman in stirrups screaming while everyone around her forcefully tells her to push, I can't imagine that your expectations of your birth could be anything less than terrifying. Why do we portray birth the ways that we do? I think a lot of it has to do with fear of nature, the loss of humanly control, and probably a lot of ignorance.

For example, this past weekend, my friend Chloe showed me a clip from one of her favorite shows in which a pregnant woman goes into labor while stuck in a car that had just been in a bad accident. The labor begins with her water breaking, followed immediately by her quick and incapacitating contractions, and ten minutes later in the ambulance, an EMT shines a flashlight at her crotch, declares her 10cm dilated, and a clean very large baby is born shortly thereafter. If I were to know little to nothing about birth, after watching that I may be under the impression that usually women go from no labor to pushing in a matter of minutes, that when in labor, a woman cannot move, that to know that a woman is 10cm dilated, you need not actually check the cervix, and that babies are born pink and shiny at the age of four to six months. "Well," my friend Brodie asked, "have you ever seen an accurate depiction of birth in a movie or TV show?" Mulling it over, none of us could. If you have seen one recently (specifically in a mainstream media production) please let me know.
Have you seen Lady Gaga's new music video?
Have you seen the movie Juno or Knocked Up? What other recent films/shows have you seen with birthing scenes? What did you notice? What did they emphasize? If you start thinking about it, you'll start seeing birthing scenes everywhere.

My favorite find so far has been in 101 Dalmatians, the original animated version. Toward the beginning of the movie, there is a rather long scene of Bongo, the father Dalmatian, and his pet (the human), pacing around outside a closed door, on the other side of which the mother Dalmatian is giving birth. The nanny/nurse is running in and out and giving brief incomplete updates to the excited/nauseated/nervous men, and a clock is ticking loudly in the background. This movie was made in the sixties, and depicts pretty clearly what the accepted role of the father was in a birth - outside. This birth scene, in a classic American children's movie, was the catalyst to my search. I continue to enjoy collecting scenes, but this remains my favorite.

(Picture thanks to: http://cartoon-picture-collection.blogspot.com/2010/10/101-dalmatians-wallpapers.html)