By Jennifer Merin
JM: I assume your getting pregnant while making this film about natural childbirth was happenstance -- what made you conceive of the film before you conceived, so to speak?
AE: Ricki Lake brought it to me. The subject’s been a passion of hers for a while, and she‘d wanted to do something on it. I didn’t know anything about it, wasn’t sure I was interested in it. But she gave me a book to read and I got interested. I started from absolute ignorance.
JM: How'd your becoming pregnant effect your filmmaking, and how did being in the middle of this film affect your pregnancy?
AE: It was ironic, kooky -- but it didn’t affect my work. When interviewed people, they’d ask if I’d put my pregnancy in [or] show my birth in the movie. I’d say, "Nah -- there’s nothing interesting about my story." But, by the time I got pregnant -- two years into filming -- I’d learned so much I wasn’t able to make blind decisions the way I’d probably have done several years ago. I knew I had choices and took my time exploring them. I went back and forth -- I’d film an awesome, easy home birth and think I’m going to do that. Then, the next day, we’d film in a hospital and hear scary stories and I’d think I should find a birth center.
JM: What do you want filmgoers to learn?
AE: I want to shed light on a subject people don’t give enough thought to, which is how they’re going to have their babies. Most of us coming at it as busy working women just go to the OB-GYN we’ve seen for years, do whatever they say -- hospital, epidural. We wanted to show a whole new array of choices. And you should understand the political and historical context of how we birth in America -- more than medical safety issues arise.
JM: Is birthing in America different from birthing elsewhere?
AE: It’s well-researched and documented that birthing in America is in crisis at the moment. We have the worst infant mortality statistics in the Western industrialized world. In fact, a huge New York Times article last Sunday showed infant mortality taking a huge jump in the South. It’s pathetic. Part of it’s due to our healthcare system in general -- there’s no preventive care.
JM: Do you see natural childbirth as the right choice?
AE: Not for everybody. But if you’re not exposed to different possibilities, you probably see pregnancy the way I did before making the film: That natural childbirth’s dangerous; a million things can go wrong; you’d better be in a hospital. But no -- it’s actually a sexual, intimate, sacred rite of passage that you can take many approaches to.
JM: Was it hard to find subjects?
AE: No. Midwives we followed had clients who agreed to be filmed. There are many women who feel passionately about the subject and [would] willingly sacrifice privacy and pride to spread the word.
JM: How important is premiering at Tribeca?
AE: We’re so excited. This is where we belong -- Ricki and I are New Yorkers, we had our babies in New York, we mostly shot in New York. And Ricki has a special relationship with New York since she filmed her show here for 11 years.
Posted at April 28, 2007 6:11 AM
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