Svea's Top Five Favourite Birth Videos

Film still from Brakhage's Window Water Baby Moving (#2 on this list)

When we were rushing into the birthing room and I was trying not to start pushing before they'd examined me, the midwife quickly interjected to see if I wanted pictures taken because, hey, that baby was coming fast. I was like, NO WAY NO HOW WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE PUT SOME HOT WATER ON MY ABDOMEN. I always thought it was a bit dehumanizing to be filmed while going through this intensely personal, physical process.

Now I kind of wish I had.

Every time I see a woman sharing her birth story or picture, I'm grateful. We're rebuilding our bank of positive birth memories, working through our collective fear about women's bodies. If there's a next time for me, you just might find it on YouTube...

Until then, here are my top 5 favourite natural birth videos. Enjoy!

1. Naitre Enchantée by Magali Dieux (2006). 
What I love about it: This is a beautiful film! When the baby is crowning, the camera stays at a respectful distance, only coming up close when mama has the baby in her arms. Also, their cat is mildly interested in the whole thing.

What I don't love about it: The husband(?)'s face is pixelated out. Like what, he was concerned people would be trying to identify him while his wife pushed a baby out of her vagina? Classic.

Greatly indebted to Choose Your Birth for finding and sharing this.

2. Window Water Baby Moving by Stan Brakhage (1959).

What I love about it: It's a classic. It was one of the first birth films ever made. The hospital wouldn't let Stan into the birthing room so at the last minute they transfered his wife's care to their home and had the baby there. It's been credited with allowing men access to birthing rooms. Fuck yes. Kodak confiscated the film for 'criminality' and they had to fight to get it back. From Wikipedia: "Critic Archer Winsten described the film as being 'so forthright, so full of primitive wonder and love, so far beyond civilization in its acceptance that it becomes an experience like few in the history of movies.'"

What I don't love about it: They hang the baby upside down at the end. There is no need to hang a baby upside down and/or slap their little bum. That was just something doctors used to do after heavily drugged ('twilight sleep') mothers gave birth to babies who seemed too sleepy to breathe (modern epidural is a cake-walk compared to the anesthesia they used to use).

Part One:

Part Two:

3. ISEA (2009): This is actually a series of birth videos from ISEA, the Instituto de Saúde Elpídio Almeida in Campina Grande, Brazil. A series of women give birth to healthy babies (one with a nuchal cord!) in peace, and with little intervention. Most are squatting and there is immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth. Delayed cord clamping, respectful caretakers, dim light... It's basically a natural birthing nerd's dream. To learn more about natural birth in Brazil, click here.

4. Natural Unmedicated Birth - with original sound by Moffett84 ("Jenny") (2011).

What I love about it: I always cry at the end of this one. I forced all my friends and family to watch it with me when I was pregnant. It's just incredible. I think it's the most 'realistic' for us North American mamas: it takes place in a clinical setting with lots of people around and lots of anguished cries/commands to breathe. I also like it because the mama was born the same year as I (1984). And at the end she says, "Is it really over?", which I think I did too. And her baby was the same weight as mine and also had lizard eyes ("Look at those eyes, so alert!"). While most YouTube birth videos have disabled comments, Moffett84 has elected to keep them up. About a year ago someone posted, "Don't you have any shame?"And she responded, "Nope, no shame about birth." Jenny, will you be my friend?

What I don't love about it: Jenny had a cervical tear, which is why she bleeds so much. Sounds painful.

5. Accidentally Unassisted Homebirth by oljos78 (2010).

What I love about it: The look of surprise on the mama's face. It's kind of how I felt after our labour, except that ours was 6 hours, not 6 minutes.

What I don't love about it: She gave birth alone, when that wasn't her intention.

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