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Feature November 2010

November 23rd, 2010 · No Comments · Featured Musings, Home

The Blessing of Birth


A friend of mine Jodie Myers films chidbirthing – www.MyBirthMovie.com. In reflecting upon what this means to her, this is what she says:

“ When people hear what I do for a living, their first response is usually a cumulative facial expression that sums up “Huh, What, Why, Really?” if you can imagine what that looks like on their faces. Then when they graduate to the use of vocabulary, their responses are quite divided, especially between men and women. Men’s imaginations usually go down under, as they visualize the more graphic and dramatic image of childbirth. They get kind of squirmish, especially if they’ve never attended birth. Women tend to connect with the emotional experience, whether they’ve experienced it themselves, or through stories they’ve heard or through the media. Media images, as we know, can yield a positive or negative response. Lets face it, childbirth on TV and in the movies is very dramatized with a lot of cursing, screaming and fear. I hope through my work to change that image into a more positive one. For the most part, however, and after finding out more about what I do, people are intrigued, at awe, and either wish they knew me when they had their babies years ago, or wonder who on earth would want THAT filmed?!

Personally, I think it’s the most amazing gift, to have the birth of your child, probably the most important moment of your life, captured and edited into a short personal documentary. My birth movies, not only unfold the birth of a baby, but the birth of a mother as well. Sometimes I see the shift clearly as it happens. It could be the moment she surrenders to the process and lets go, the moment she takes control and steps into her power, the moment it ‘hits’ her that in a very short time she’ll be meeting her baby, or the moment she forgives herself, her mother, or her partner for whatever she may have been holding on to. This gradual shift peaks when she holds her newborn for the first time, skin to skin, and falls so deeply in love. This is the moment her life has changed forever.

I never imagined finding myself filming childbirth for a living. As a kid, I never had one focused dream of “I want to be a _____,” but I do remember loosing myself in the pages of old National Geographic magazines, wanting to go “there” and meet “these other kids” and try “their food, clothing, games, homes… in Japan, Lapland, Kenya, Nepal…” The images were all so intriguing. I wasn’t even reading the articles. A seed was planted in my young mind; the desire to travel the world one day, to see it in person and feel the world with my heart.

As I matured (I’m still in the process), I knew that my work would have to be creative, possibly visual, and so I studied photography for a while in the hope of working as a photojournalist of sorts. My resume was pretty short at 21, highlighting high-school, my service in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force), waitressing and a substantially long photography course. I realized I needed a college degree to work for any reputable newspaper, so back to school I went.

Eventually, in my final semester at St. Petersburg Junior College (Now SPC), where I enjoyed courses in everything under the sun, I took an Introduction to Film course and it was then that I knew I found my tool for expression. Four years later I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Florida State University’s Film School and moved my eager self to Los Angeles! I met an amazing woman in LA who produced National Geographic Specials. A year later, there was an opening at the National Geographic office in Studio City, and I was hired. I made it! Well… not quite… the Studio City office closed 10 months later. Still for me, it was one of the best traditional work experiences I have had, and I was able to work with some amazing and talented people, true visionaries.

I freelanced here and freelanced there, and then I landed a gig on a Discovery Special which funnily enough employed all ex-National Geographic colleagues. Then, one day in 2001, friends of mine asked me if I’d like to film the birth of their first child. This was to be a candle lit water-birth at their home. I didn’t even own a video camera at the time, but it took me less than a second to agree. New experiences are always alluring to me. I had no idea what to expect and gladly joined them in one of their childbirth preparation classes led by their midwives. When the day arrived, we were actually hanging out all day together. It was a Saturday, and we went to synagogue for a few hours in the morning. I had no idea my friend was already experiencing early labor surges. I took her occasional swaying movements as normal; “she’s a dancer after all.” We were invited to a concert later that evening, and we decided to play it by ear. That night they called to ask if I was ready and I responded, “What? You want to go to that concert in Topanga now? Isn’t it too late already?” They repeated the words, “Are you ready?” I remember saying, “Na, it’s a long drive. I think I’ll skip it.” “Jodie,” they said “it’s time, are you ready?” It finally hit me: “my friends are having their baby tonight.” I was excited yet calm. It was just the three of us for a while, and a few hours later the midwives arrived. It was a beautiful, sensual and an awe inspiring experience. I didn’t know it at the time, but this is how my journey as a childbirth filmmaker began.

A couple of years and births later, and with great encouragement from my friends, the filming of women giving birth has become my passion. Knowing that couples and later their children cherish the remembering of their birth journey through my filming, and knowing that my birth movies have inspired other couples during this magical time in their lives, brings me great joy.

Filming childbirth requires a huge commitment as well as flexibility, as I am on call 24/7 for two weeks prior to the due date until two weeks after. My presence at a birth is calm, quiet and unobtrusive, created by a deep respect for the sacred space, emotions and needs of the birthing mother. I work in the birthing environment with no extra lighting, no tripod and a very small high definition video camera. I usually arrive around the same time as the doula, and I’m usually the last to leave. This gives me the time I need to film the precious moments that unfold before, during and after the birth: the anticipation, the magnitude of emotions, the crowning, the first breath, the first touch, the first eye contact, the bonding, the feeding, and the marveling at this new presence in your life. These sacred moments reveal the special story of the day your baby comes into being, the day that your baby is born.

The visual storytelling of this magical birth takes place while editing, as I go through the raw footage choosing the most moving, inspiring, and touching moments, weaving them with music, captions, still shots and love. Much of my time goes into editing these moments honoring the birth, as each birth is unique. Editing, in general, is a slow process, one that takes time to creatively express the blessings of the birth.
I am thankful as well as blessed to experience and share with others such an intimate journey. Every time I’m asked to film a birth, I am honored. It’s an invitation to witness the transformation of a soul in the most sacred of ways: seeing creation, the humanity of existence, the moments of surrender and surmounting. I’ve seen the courage and strength that women have and find within. I’ve learned that knowledge, plans and intentions are important, but the ability to adapt and let go are even more so. Not having experienced childbirth first hand, I can only hope to take these lessons and embrace them in my own life.
When a mother births naturally, without drugs or surgical intervention, her body releases a hormonal “love cocktail,” which includes oxytocin and serotonin. The overwhelming feeling of love and well being that women experience during birth and especially right after is so powerful and all encompassing that I can’t help but feel empowered and inspired myself.

Thank you.

Today, some of my birth films are used in Hypnobirthing ® and other Childbirth Education classes in Los Angeles. Some of my birth footage has also been featured in DONA’s (Doulas of North America) International film “The Essential Ingredient: Doula” and one of my births was used in the documentary “The Year of Paper.”
My aspiration is to document the traditions and ways childbirth takes place. I currently film births in the greater Los Angeles area, although I hope one day to have the funding and opportunity to film natural childbirth around the world.”

The birth of a life is a blessing, your life, your children’s lives, the lives of your family, friends, and of all those around you. Embrace the beauty of your life. You are a magical being and no matter where you are in your journey, know that it is unfolding, the quest for your purpose, the birthing and realization of your dreams, that which brings you joy, love and peace.

Happy Thanksgiving,

SLY

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