Sara Lamm filming Ina May Gaskin at the Farm

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On May 14, 2013, Thais Derich from the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) speaks with Sara Lamm about her recently released film Birth Story. The interview took place online with voice and video for ICAN members.

ICAN: How did you make a film with small children?

Sara Lamm: It was grueling to the degree that I’ve never experienced in my life. I’m answering this honestly because I feel like the question was asked very honestly. The key is to be working together. Because I have a directing partner who is also a mom. We understand each other and we give each other a lot of room. Like today I’m going to do twice the amount of work because tomorrow I’m going to the school play. The schedule is so much more flexible and it’s rooted in the fact that we have each other’s backs. That’s been a big part of it. Emails get sent at 9, 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night. I wouldn’t trade the experience.

ICAN: Can you comment on Ina May’s comment about her husband in your film? She said that his support freed her to be a fierce woman.

Sara Lamm: In the 70s, there was some issue at the Farm around marijuana and Steven (Ina May’s husband) said this is a community and if you’re going to arrest somebody, you’re going to arrest me. Steven went off to jail and Ina May really stepped in and did a lot of leading at that period of time. That’s a really interesting chapter of her growth as a leader. We weren’t able to include that in the film. But when I asked him about it he said it’s like stepping out of the way of a moving bus.

There’s no choice. They all worked really hard to create a culture that respected women, respected women’s bodies, and acknowledged women’s power. At the time, maybe he would talk about the Divine feminine and honoring that in men and in women. It really informed the whole way that they structured their society. The midwives were a treasured, treasured part of their community, as I would hope that they would be in all communities.

ICAN: Were there vaginal births after a cesarean (VBAC) on the Farm?

Sara Lamm: People across the country have different access to VBAC. Even in places where there are practitioners who are willing to do them, a woman has to know what she’s asking for or she’s likely to be discourage from even trying. We only filmed two births at the Farm but we got to meet a lot of pre and post partum clients.

We filmed a prenatal visit and she was having a VBAC and then visited her after her birth. She had a really powerful experience. I know that they definitely do VBACs at the farm. They’re careful with the way that they do VBACs. They trust the body. They trust woman’s ability to birth. They don’t start from a negative place. They start from a positive place. You can do this and we’re going to make sure that we take care of you and keep you safe.

ICAN: I was wondering if you could talk about the choice to include a breech birth in the film?

Sara Lamm: My directing partner, Mary, would have a lot to say about that because she had scheduled cesarean breech for her first baby. The shame is that there is not often a choice presented. And it’s quite difficult now a days to find practitioners who have breech skills. Our motivation in showing it was to support the movement that’s out there that’s saying let’s not lose these skills. Ina May was just at a breech conference. As soon as you start saying that a breech is automatically a C-section than the C-section rate goes up automatically. Then you’re saying VBACs aren’t allowed and now we’re at a 33% C-section rate. Ina May points to the shift in breech culture as contributing to the increase in the C-section rate. If we can show a breech birth, it can become a little more tangible. It starts to feel doable. The hope is that the breech scene opens the idea a little bit more. On a care provider level, if you’ve never seen anyone do it you’re going to feel a lot more afraid of it than if you do see someone perform a breech birth.

ICAN: Ricki Lake praised your film. Has she given you any advice or help with your film? What has that been like?

Sara Lamm: She has been really lovely. We had a party for Ina May at my house. We showed Ina May a rough cut of the film. We invited Ricki who we knew through our doula Ana Paula. We’ve been in touch with Abby Epstein the director of Business of Being Born. They’ve been so lovely. Talk about women who get the idea that we have to support women. Abby has tweeted about it and put stuff on facebook. They gave us that beautiful press quote. She’s come to see the film twice already. Ricki brought over a huge gorgeous bottle of pink champagne to my house to share with Ina May and that was really so touching. We saved it and drank it after the premiere of the movie. They really paved the way in helping to create media that really is reaching a lot, a lot of women. Almost everyone who gets pregnant seems to find their way to The Business of Being Born. Because of that film and the information covered in that film we were able to make a film, a different film.

ICAN: Your film doesn’t do that back and forth with statistics like Born in the USA. How would you respond to the critics?

Sara Lamm: We talked a lot about that in the edit room. We really felt like there’s a lot of that out there. It’s not the style of filmmaking that interests us and it’s not the style of filmmaking that we think ultimately connects with people’s hearts. We wanted to show the birth culture as we found it when we went to the Farm. So, we took our cameras and that’s what we saw. There wasn’t anyone showing up at the Farm saying that this is really not safe. We don’t believe in this. Or, here’s the statistics of why this isn’t a good idea. We didn’t find that. These women lived in comfort and in security knowing that what they do is the right thing for them and the women that they’re caring for. That particular conflict we would have had to manufacture. And, we didn’t want to. That didn’t feel authentic to what the experience is like in being there. That said, we make sure that the Farm outcomes are in our press kit and on our web site. We had to recognize that we think birth is totally normal but there is the rest of the world where people think it’s incredibility dangerous and needs a particular style of care, and so we had to open up the dialog around the film to help speak that.


The next speaker series event will be July 9, 2013 at 5pm Pacific with Ina May Gaskin. A registration link will be posted on the ICAN website on July 1