Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Business of Being Born

I watched the Ricki Lake documentary, The Business of Being Born the other day. I'm not pregnant myself, but I'm at the age where many of my girlfriends' uteruses are currently occupied with child. Pregnancy, babies and how they are brought into our world seems ever present. My friends' experiences run the gamut - from completely drug-free labors to c-section births.

All this discussion about pregnancy has me doing some gestating all my own - just not the bun-in-the-oven kind.

While watching the documentary I was completely enraptured by women giving birth in their home, but I was also struck by how political the movie felt. In general, you could feel the frustration the midwives had about the hurdles they face in trying to provide pregnant women with natural birthing experiences. You could also feel the horror that the doctors had about women giving birth in their homes. At the end of the movie, both sides seemed at opposite ends, leaving pregnant women right smack in the middle. This made me irritated.

Last night I was discussing the documentary with a friend of mine who is in her last trimester with her second child. We talked about our frustration with the lack of separation between the information and the judgement. Women who don't find themselves virulently on either side of the birthing debate seem to be the victims of the politicization that's occurring. On one side you have doctors telling you that if you give birth outside of a hospital you could, you know, die. On the other side you have home birth advocates telling you that you may not bond with your child if too much hospital intervention is placed upon you during delivery. Meanwhile, I think of my friend who gave birth naturally and my sister who had a c-section and the fact that both bonded beautifully with their babies. Both women are divine examples of motherhood and the love a mother can have for her child.

As someone who would like to have children one day, I'm left with the plea: can someone talk to me without all the scare tactics on either side?

Women's bodies becoming the crux of a political debate is not new, but with the Women's Movement at our heels, can't we all agree that women are smart enough to digest rational birth information from both sides? That with that information we can then walk away with our own, individual, informed choice?

What I appreciated most about the documentary is that the discussion was brought to the fore. Valid and important questions were certainly raised, but can we keep talking - without the heat or the judgement.

Friday, July 8, 2011

When Fear Almost Stops You

Many of you who read my blog know that I've worked as a screenwriter (and actor). About three or so years ago, I adapted a one-woman show I performed into a screenplay. The screenplay went on to become a fully produced feature film at On the Leesh Productions. Like any low-budget independent film, it took a long time to finish the movie completely. We had to take other (paying) jobs in-between editing cycles and were forced to turn our attention away from finishing the film.

Then 2011 rolled around and "For Belly" was finally done and making its way through the film festival circuit. Alicia (who produced with me and co-directed the movie) and I wondered, would anyone like the movie? Would it get in to any festivals? In the three years that have gone by since making the movie, both Alicia and I have grown and changed as artists. We've learned more and (hopefully) our skill level is higher. When we look at the movie now we see everything that, if we had a time machine, we'd go back and adjust, fix or completely change.

Alas... no time machine.

We were left wondering then... would anyone like the movie? I can't speak for Alicia, but for me, the fear was causing my stomach to churn. Once we started getting into film festivals, I relaxed a little bit. After watching the movie with a crowd of strangers - and finding out that they liked it - relaxed me a bit more. Then came the request to review it.


Part of me, a pretty big part actually, wanted to turn them down. I went into Alicia's office and told her about the request - hoping silently that she would say she didn't think it was necessary. Reading the fear on my face she said matter of factly, "Julie, it's the nature of the business. It's what you do."

I knew she was right, but the fear! The FEAR! But off the screener went.

As the weeks passed I actually found I was able to put the impending review out of my mind. And then... today... it came out: Indie Cinema At Its Finest.

Happily, it was more positive than I could've hoped and, beyond my elation that the review was so supportive, I feel like I learned something. Had it been up to me, I might have turned the reviewer down because I was afraid. I love doing creative work. I love it more than I can express (which is perhaps sad since I'm a writer!), yet no matter how many years I do it, the fear is still there - looming.

So, if I may mangle the words of Eleanor Roosevelt: do something brilliant that scares you today. You might love what's on the other side...