Children of Men (2006)

June 12, 2011

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron.   This is a neat clip because it breaks down how the birth scene was constructed:

I really like this film, but, how do you feel about the title Children of Men?  Here, Kenzie (no last name given) has “worked for many years as a doula, postpartum doula and breastfeeding counselor…lately she’s been an informal educator and advocate for homebirth and informed choice. Currently she’s practicing as an incredibly part-time Traditional Birth Attendant, but most of her time is spent caring for her own young son, born at home in the middle of a snow storm in January of 2009.”  This is what she has to say about the birth scene here:

“Here’s a woman giving birth, the first birth in 18 years. This seems to me like a pretty prime opportunity to show a birth done instinctively, without so much cultural pollution. But instead, what do they show? The same old pop culture movie birth – woman, lying on her back, panicking while pushing (uncommon – this would be more common in transition, not seconds before the birth), being reassured and directed by a male between her legs.

This is not to say that women never instinctively lie on their backs to birth, or panic while pushing, or appreciate a little reassurance and direction. But most women, left to their own devices, are more likely to assume a hands and knees position to birth in, and breath and moan in a very natural way while pushing.

I also question whether a young woman in her 8th month would spontaneously go into the birth process in such a dangerous situation unless something else was wrong. We’re mammals, after all, and most mammals don’t start birthing and do pause birthing when in dangerous or threatening situations because oxytocin (the labour hormone) and adrenaline (our dangerous situation hormone) are antagonistic, you can’t actually release both at the same time.

So this leads me to the thought that I should take on yet another part-time career, that of birth script consultant. I should totally do that” (


From director John Hughes.  (So, this is one of my least favorite John Hughes movies, right?)

I am having a hard time finding all these videos on Youtube, here is a link to the clip that is cut for time’s sake, but will not maximize:

As Lisa Barrett’s webpage explains, the baby is in breech and it is treated as a far more serious barrier in birth than it truly is, leading the doctors to perform a “necessary” emergency Cesarean.  And Barrett makes a good point, that since the subject of this entire film and its climactic moment is the birth itself, it is surprising Hughes did not paint a more accurate picture.  What she points out that is most absurd is that the doctor states the baby is in breech and his/her head is stuck, therefore they must perform a Cesarean.  So…what was the baby’s head stuck on? Was the baby’s body out, the head got stuck, and they then pushed the baby back in to her uterus to perform a Cesarean?  I wonder how this film may have influenced viewers perception of breech.  Recently, Angelina Jolie has discussed having a Cesarean with Shiloh Jolie-Pitt because of her breech position, which in reality, is not always necessary.  I believe high profile celebrities and mainstream cinema’s construction of the dangers of breech certainly influence American mothers’ perception of giving birth to a baby in breech.  Jolie has also discussed having the birth of her child in Africa, but that American doctors were present.  Does this message reinforce U.S. practices of birth?

Knocked Up (2007)

June 12, 2011

None of us need a repeat of the crowning glory that was Knocked Up, but hopefully it will inspire future filmmakers to at least make the birth scene less contrived, if not anatomically correct…
 April Peveteaux  (Babble)

From director Judd Apatow.  Do you think Leslie Mann (mother of their two children and featured in the film, and character Debbie) helped Judd construct the birth scene in this film?

I think it is great that this film about birth, because it is one of the few that follows an unplanned pregnancy.  Although, Alison Scott is a privileged, white, middle-class female who has the help of her family, and for the most part, the father during her pregnancy and labour.  The crowning of the birth is shown, (neatly waxed and all, is that realistic?) and Ken Jeong (Dr. Kuni) who delivered the child in the film is seen in his first role here, previously an obstetrician in real life.  I wonder how much input he had in this scene, as he plays out the pushy doctor and “intervention is necessary to save your baby” narratives in a comedic way.  Here, when the nurse enters, she looks primarily at technological equipment (I believe the fetal monitoring system) rather than at Alison as she speaks with her.  Lastly, the cord is shown being clamped before the baby is handed to the mother, something that commonly takes place in hospitals.  My mother said my father was instructed to clamp my cord before I was placed on her chest.

Video I’m pulling from Australian midwife Lisa Barrett’s blog.  You can check out what she says.  The video is near the bottom, unfortunately it will not fullscreen.  Notice, (hard to miss) right when the clip starts, the female doctor/obstetrician says, “yesterday I had to lesbian, mothers. Now this.”  She is comparing lesbian mothers (in 1999!) to a woman giving birth with potentially one of four men being the father.  I find this outrageous, reflecting and reinforcing heteronormative values.  I also find it interesting that one of the potential fathers says, “could we get an epidural, please?” and another responds, “she doesn’t need an epidural.  Even though there are female doctors delivering Kimberly’s child, the four male non-doctors in the room are still making decisions for her while she’s already in labour.

This film is a recreation of director Wolf Rilla and Anton Leader’s 1960 version, both based on John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos.  The town in both films is still Midwich.  Do you think this is intended to be a play on words, as in midwives and witches, as the two have been associated historically?  The film interestingly plays on the “you will give birth in exactly 9 months” narrative, as the women that have conceived at the same time, all give birth at the same time, in the same room, sort of a birth orgy, perhaps.  This is a horror film, but the individual births do not seem all that different from births depicted in other genres.  They emphasize “pushing” excessively, scream fearfully, an excess of medical staff moves rapidly through the facility in scrubs, masks, and caps, pushing stretchers and medical equipment.  Also, all the women are flat on their backs in hospital bed, as is usually the case/

Grace (2009)

June 12, 2011

Directed by Peter Solet.

Here, midwife Lisa Barrett posts and describes the stillbirth scene in the horror movie Grace.

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

June 12, 2011

Directed by Roman Polanski.

Let Lisa Barrett explain most of the nonsense here.  Link to video is near the bottom of the page. However, she claims this is not a horror film.  She’s wrong.

This film is interesting because it seems to reinforce the narrative that homebirth and birth without consulting a medical professional is dangerous.  The whole film Rosemary struggles to access doctors and a hospital, but is not allowed by her husband and seemingly old-fashioned neighbors.

Mad Men

June 12, 2011

“Matt Weiner and January Jones talk about getting into Betty’s head and depicting the reality of childbirth in the 1960’s.” (AMC)

The realities of the Twilight sleep depicted by Betty Draper, introduced in 1914.  “This 1914 ideal contrasts with today’s feminist stress on being awake, aware, and in control, and in control during the birthing experience” (Leavitt 147).

Furthermore, in this episode, Don Draper sits in the waiting room with another male also awaiting the end of his wife’s birthing experience.  Here, the men were not allowed into the room with the mother.

The Life Zone (2011)

June 12, 2011

Directed by Rod Weber.  Soon to be released…I wonder how birth will be portrayed.