Ricki Lake: Changing the World One Birth at a Time
Actress-turned-activist Ricki Lake talks about her own birth experiences, how The Business of Being Born changed her life, and why she felt the need for More Business of Being Born
What advice would you give to a first-time mom who’s hoping to have a drug-free vaginal birth at a hospital? Or one who says she trusts her OB to do what’s best for her?
RL: Watch our movie and read our book [Your Best Birth]. It’s really for that woman who wants to have a hospital birth. There’s a lot of scary stuff in books like What to Expect. Our goal was to get these women so they’re psyched to experience labor and feel those contractions.
And pregnancy and birth are different for every woman—we’ve heard lots of stories of women switching practices halfway through their pregnancy or even at the end of it, once they realized that their doctor or midwife wasn’t a good match for them. It’s about learning to advocate for ourselves—no one can do that for us. It’s about getting that information, asking questions like, “Is my doctor answering my questions?” And for women going to large obstetrical practices, “Am I OK with the fact that I may have never met the person who will deliver my baby?”
What do you say to those who discount you as being pro-homebirth and anti-obstetricians or hospitals?
RL: I’m not. I can only say it so many times. I want women to have the information they need to make the right choices for them. I care about the safety of mothers and the babies being born, and I want them to then go on to tell their daughters about their positive birth experiences. I want all women to have beautiful, transformative, positive birth experiences. I can feel the shift happening; it’s not about where you deliver or who delivers your baby, but feeling your power as a woman.
What do you think are the biggest roadblocks to better birth experiences for women in the US—insurance companies, hospital policies, VBAC policies, lack of information?
RL: All of the above—and lack of options. Birth centers are struggling to survive and being shut down, midwives being prosecuted when there’s an infant death—it’s really unfortunate; there’s inherent risk in all birth, and not all babies are born perfect, but our society wants someone to blame when things don’t go well. It is an uphill battle for anyone to have the birth experience that she envisions. So it’s about fighting fear-based perceptions, judgment… it’s preposterous that many insurance companies won’t cover homebirth. Really, midwives could do all well-woman care and low-risk pregnancies and leave ob’s to do what they’re best at—dealing with higher-risk pregnancies—and save this country I don’t even know how much money. Ultimately, one of my goals is to change legislation and there are so many issues involved that I still need to decide where to focus my efforts.
Why come out with More Business of Being Born? And why DVDs instead of a theatrical release?
RL: We’ve heard from a lot of parents who still have questions after watching The Business of Being Born. So we address some of those questions, like more information about doulas and VBAC [vaginal birth after cesarean]. It’s really an educational tool, not a film with a narrative like the first one. It’s more about giving people information, for anyone who is interested and wants more.
Tell me a bit about the Kickstarter campaign. Do you think that it’s working because women want to feel a part of spreading this gospel? Why Kickstarter instead of more traditional funding?
RL: We chose Kickstarter [a funding platform for creative projects where Lake and director Abby Epstein are raising $100,000 to market and distribute More Business of Being Born] because we couldn’t get funding. And the women who are a part of our online community at MyBestBirth.com are really the driving force in raising this money.
What do you still feel you need to accomplish in the world of maternity care and birth? Where do you see yourself in this movement?
RL: I’m going to continue doing what I’m doing in this area, including supporting midwifery care. I’m also following Ina May [Gaskin]’s Safe Motherhood Quilt Project [inspired by the AIDS Memorial Quilt, it attempts to draw public attention to the current maternal death rates and their underreporting in the U.S.].
Next, I want to see our outcomes getting better—a woman’s experience in birth can impact so much other stuff, like breastfeeding and bonding. I am advocating that women have access to the correct information—not wanting everyone to have a homebirth or a drug-free birth—because the power I got from birth has stayed with me through every part of my life.
And, I think for me, I’m all about reinventing myself. I’m going back and doing a new talk show in September 2012, I just submitted a first draft of my memoir, I’ve got a new platform this fall that I can’t talk about yet… I love checking off something else from my bucket list. But this is the most fulfilling work I’ve done, and it has gone so far beyond my wildest dreams. I think it will go down as the most important thing I have done in my career—and it’s from the heart and for the right reasons. I tell my homebirth baby, Owen, who just turned 10, “Your coming into the world has had such an impact on so many people that we will never know!” And he says, “I know, Mom.” And I think he really does.
Learn more about The Business of Being Born (available for viewing 24/7) and More Business of Being Born (coming in October 2011) at thebusinessofbeingborn.com.