Opening Doors

“I think this film opens the door to allow all kinds of providers to respectfully examine themselves and be part of the solution. Ultimately, we all have the same goal and that is to provide quality care that is safe, sustainable and accessible to all. This movie has such potential to help further this goal.”

— Dr. Ali Lewis, OB/GYN

I realize not all communities are as open to home birth as the Pacific Northwest, but what happened in Seattle brought the vision I have had for so long to life.

 

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Push Back

This Thursday, May 5th marks International Day of the Midwife. This is a day to raise awareness about midwives and the quality care they give to mothers and families around the world.

It’s not surprising that Amy Tuteur has kicked off this week with a seething opinion piece on the dangers of home birth midwives. She claims the NYT approached her and asked her to write something on the topic. They published it yesterday, "Why is American Home Birth So Dangerous?". Reliably, it was one of the most highly shared articles in the Times and had 337 comments before they were closed. Many of you sent messages or shared the link with me as soon as it came out. Her tone is so condescending and hateful, her reasoning and research so lacking I almost didn't want to respond.

It’s easy to write one-sided, inflammatory criticisms about a group you dislike, it’s much more difficult to take an objective view and advocate for improvements in a broken maternity care system (it tends to get fewer likes, comments, and shares too).

Slate did a story back in 2012 calling into question the credentials and motives of Dr. Amy after a journalist relied heavily on her as a source for what was presented as an objective piece of journalism about home birth.

If she wants to blog angrily about the dangers of home birth on her blog and it helps her sell books and drive ad revenue for her site that’s her prerogative, but find it irresponsible of the New York Times to spread this brand of thinly veiled propaganda. 

The one thing she got right was that home birth in the Netherlands and Canada is as safe or safer than hospital birth. It’s Dr. Amy’s claims about home birth safety in the US where I think she got it wrong.

Oregon is one of the few states whose birth certificates now collects the intended place of birth. She states that Oregon’s data shows a 7 fold increase in perinatal death. This just isn’t true. Anyone who took a minute to click on the data cited in the article can see that the perinatal mortality rate for planned out-of-hospital birth was 4.0/1000, whereas the perinatal mortality rate for the hospital birth group was 2.1/1000. Nearly twice as many. If you look a little closer, 75% or 6 out of the 8 losses in out-of-hospital birth group were pregnancies that did not meet published low-risk criteria (meaning they were multiples, post-dates, or breech). 

Another thing Dr. Amy failed to mention about the Oregon data is the maternal health outcomes. The c-section rate for women who planned an out-of-hospital birth was 7%, while the c-section rate for those who planned hospital birth was 27.8%. Women who had previously had a c-section were 10 times more likely to have a repeat c-section in the hospital than they were if they planned a home birth. 

No one wants poor outcomes for mothers and babies. No one. Any loss is tragic. But preying on people’s fears and falsely inflating risks is not advocacy, it’s bullying. I’m disappointed that the New York Times would publish a piece like this.

The US doesn't need more division or polarization. What we need are people willing to listen to each other, to look critically at the issues, and work together. That's how we'll improve outcomes for mothers and babies--in all settings.

If you’ve seen my film you know that I’m passionate about correcting misperceptions and improving both outcomes and experience.

This Thursday Why Not Home?  is showing at 9 locations across the country. If you would like to join the conversation and bring this kind of dialogue to your community e-mail info@whynothome or fill out the screening request form here. Together we can shift the conversation about maternity care to one that is more positive and focused on solutions and less based on fear and blame.

 

 

 

Bring Tissues

Four weeks ago was the US premiere of Why Not Home? in San Francisco. Many of the mothers, doctors, nurses, and midwives in the film were there with their families. Victoria, our editor, even came in from New York for the event. Nearly the whole team was there and got to feel the love from the audience--and there was a lot of love to be felt. 

Since then I've traveled to Waynesville, MO and Tulsa, OK where I was able to share it with enthusiastic audiences. The film has already been to 11 screenings since the SF premiere and will be seen in 20 states and Australia, Canada, and Finland over the next 3 months.

When I first started thinking about distribution I imagined I would be at all of the screenings. It was weird to think that people would watch it and talk about it without me. I made this film to create conversations and changes within communities, and I wanted to be there--at every one. But I can't be at 40 different places in 2 months. I do have some limitations. 

Next week Jonas and I will go to DC for the Premiere there. I'm excited to watch it with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who are expecting their first baby. I'm also curious to see how it's received in the Mid-Atlantic. If you're in the area I'd love for you to join us! 

An ER nurse and maternal child health instructor who was at the Petaluma screening last week said this after watching the film,

I was impressed with the balanced approach and the compassion and love that everyone had in the film. It was well thought out and executed and really spoke to me in a way I was’t expecting.

Home birth can be so polarizing and contentious. My goal was always to present something that was honest and compassionate. The women and families who allowed me into their lives for this project held that same hope and I'm so glad it comes through.

If you are planning to see it at any of the upcoming screenings, bring tissues. Nearly everyone cries.

Is it worth it?

Today my youngest turned three. Most of the time I’m glad to be through the first few years. I’ve always said that I would carry and give birth over and over if I didn’t have to go through the first 18 months of parenting. But there is something undeniably amazing about watching your newborn baby grow in front of your eyes into a walking, talking, loving little person.

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

When I started this project she was 3 months old. I was still on maternity leave. I thought it would take maybe a year or 18 months. I had no idea what I was getting into.

Looking back I would certainly have had more time with her if I hadn’t decided to make a movie--if I had worked less. It’s hard not to feel guilty for the time that I’ve missed.

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

In my better times though, I look at the strong and loving girl she is and know that she is fortunate to have not just a mom and dad who love her, but a whole community who has stepped up and supported our family along the way. If the girl she is now is any indication, I think she’ll understand why I made the choices I did.

Three years ago I enjoyed birthday cake in bed. Today she had her very own birthday cupcake.

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

Three years ago her brother woke up at 3AM to find me in labor. Today she sleeps in that same spot.

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

Image Credit Erin Wrightsman

Everything is different and everything is the same.

Last Christmas Erin gave me an illustration by Lisa Congdon, “It’s always worth it.”

I cried.

At the time I really wasn't sure if it was. Now having watched the film with 3 different audiences in different parts of the country and hearing how it is impacting them I can feel it. It’s worth it.

 

 

 

Live from New York

It’s done. Finished. I can hardly believe it.

During my two days in New York earlier this month, Victoria and I screened the film with the sound mixer and colorist. It was our last opportunity to make any changes. Warm up this shot, make the music a little louder here, quieter here, make my voice sound better--Ken and Evan did an amazing job with everything. 

Silly on the streets of NY. Happy to be finished!

Silly on the streets of NY. Happy to be finished!

Even though Victoria and I have worked together for more than a year, we had never met in person until this trip. I stayed in her basement edit suite/guest room where all of those late night outputs, uploads, and edits took place. We had talked about meeting so many times, but it wasn’t easy to coordinate the schedules of two working mothers with a side project.

Beyond the work we got done, we were able to share what the project has meant for each of us and laugh about some of the more challenging moments in our working relationship (good stories for another time).

Looking back I can't imagine a better person to have edited this film and am constantly grateful for Victoria's skill and dedication. 

Another highlight of the trip was getting to spend time with Emily. Emily and her husband Alex have been quietly supporting Why Not Home? since I met her in Boston during our first Kickstarter campaign. Looking for an opportunity to advocate on a larger scale, Emily saw something in this project that she believed in. Her support over the past year and a half has been invaluable in getting us to the finish line. She took the train from Boston for the day to screen with the colorist.

After a long day in a dark edit room, the three of us enjoyed a coolish but sunny walk on the High Line and celebrated finishing with drinks and dessert at The Standard Hotel. Not a bad way to mark the occasion. 

Grey wool coats and neutral knit beanies were apparently required.

Grey wool coats and neutral knit beanies were apparently required.

I left New York without anything physical to show, but I knew it was done. I thought I would feel different. It’s been my goal for the past two and a half years to finish this project, and even though it is finished, it doesn’t feel finished. Maybe that’s because even though the film is done, there’s still a lot of work. Much like having a baby. Yes, the labor and delivery is over, but now there’s the work of breastfeeding and parenting.

Watch here for updates on this growing baby. I can't wait for you to meet her

 

 

 

 

What do you feel?

Last week, on the same day as the Paris attacks, my father-in-law passed away. I have shared it with my friends and in my personal network, but was hesitant to bring it up in the “Why Not Home?” space. I didn’t want people to think that I was using this loss in some way. I feared judgement for moving forward on a project like this just having experienced such significant loss. I went back and forth in my mind, say something? or don't? Today I'm breaking out of worry about what other people may think. This isn’t about them.

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Real Moment

I love Terry Gross. Judging from the number of people who recently read and shared this piece about her in the New York Times, I'm not the only one. 

One of my favorite parts was when she recounted an editorial call she made in her interview with then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. She decided to leave something in that was a little sticky and not totally resolved because it was a real moment between her and the Secretary.

It made me reflect on all the decisions Victoria and I have made over the past year. What stays and what goes.

When I started this project I didn't see myself in it at all. I was the interviewer, the director, the producer, but my story wasn't part of the project.

Over time and with the nudging of some guides and mentors I reluctantly put myself in the story. It has been uncomfortable and undoubtedly vulnerable.

There's one shot where I'm working on my computer while my sweet 2 year old is dancing and singing in the living room. I'm apparently not paying any attention to her. I cringed a little when I watched it.

I showed it to some other moms. Their response, "It's real--leave it in."

Real isn't always neat and tidy. Sometimes it's piles of laundry and "Mom, when will your movie be done?" But it's these real moments that connect us.

Full disclosure: I have admit I'm also one of those people who fantasize about being interviewed by Terry Gross. After reading the article it's nice to know I'm not alone. 

Labor Day 2015

Labor Day 2014 we launched our Kickstarter campaign with this video. I really thought we'd be done by now--I was wrong. We have made significant progress. What we thought would be a 56 minute documentary is now 80 minutes. We still have some cutting to do, but there was too much story to tell, so it's taken more time than we initially thought. 

Thanks to some recent contributions we'll be able to get back into editing later this month to put the finishing touches on our current cut. The music and graphics are being finalized. Piece by piece it's all coming together. 

While I don't have a finished film to share, today I'm happy to share this 3 minute trailer. It incorporates some of the expert interviews, archive, graphics, and music we were raising funds for a year ago. 

If you like what you see, and think your community would benefit from a public screening, sign up here and we'll be in touch. Together we can change the cultural conversation about how birth happens in the US. We can promote improvements in maternity care and support women and families in making informed choices about that care.

Too many women in the US die during childbirth. There isn't one simple solution to the maternity care crisis, but evidence based, woman and family centered care is clearly part of the answer. Thank you for joining us in this work! 

Are we making progress?

In this moment it must seem I've been reduced to measuring progress in terms of money and movie. Did we get the match for finishing funds? How close are we to a locked picture? 

When I take a step back I can see the bigger picture.

Since I started this project I have seen progress, and not just the movie and money kind. The conversation is shifting about maternity care and home birth. More people are speaking up. Women are organizing across the country and around the world. Doctors like this one are talking about their own experience. This one took an honest look at the available evidence on home birth and changed his position. He published his perspective in the New England Journal of Medicine. This year on Labor Day there will be rallies across the country to improve birth. 

This project is a part of changing the tide.

Whenever I'm feeling discouraged I think about the audiences who screened the current cut and the meaningful discussions that took place afterward. I think about the first year med student and the change I hope to see for future generations. 

In 4 days I would love to be done fundraising and move on with finishing.

It feels like I've been at the edge of "failure to progress" for months now. It feels so vulnerable to keep asking.

I've heard other filmmakers say that fundraising is the worst part of filmmaking. I'm not going to say I've enjoyed it, but I'm trying to see it as a practice in asking and receiving. Part of building community and being comfortable with vulnerability. I'm remembering how powerful and vulnerable I felt giving birth and the support that helped me through.

Image Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Image Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Thank you for being part of my network of support. I truly can't wait to finish this film and share it with each and every one of you. 

Got a Match?

In the past 2 years I've a lot of time trying to raise money to pull this project together and get it to completion. Time I would have rather spent advocating, writing, and actually working on the film, not to mention hanging out with my family. 

The Kickstarter got us through production to the current 80 minute fine cut. Unfortunately it wasn't enough to get it polished and complete. 

Since then fundraising has been stagnant. We have raised just over $1000 in the past 2 months. Our entire budget has been from individual support. We don't have any corporate donors or sponsors. We only have people like you who care about this subject and want to see this story told. 

One supporter believes in this project so much that she has offered to extend matching funds through the end of August. We have people ready to do the work of finishing, but it won't happen without some more cash.

I can work for free because my primary job is as a Nurse Practitioner, but I'm working with film professionals. Filmmaking is how they pay the bills. 

Image Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Image Credit: Erin Wrightsman

We need $32,000 to finish post-production and pay outstanding invoices. With matching funds that means our goal is $16,000 in the next 7 days. It's a lot of money, but this is still a very low budget endeavor. To give you some context, a low budget independent film is considered anything less than $250,000. 

If we meet this goal we can get back to editing in September and do the final mix and online in October/November. If we don’t meet this goal, everything gets pushed back.

One way to support AND guarantee a screening in your community in 2016 is to purchase a public or educational screening license. Fill out this form for more details. 

Donations of $35 or more get you an early preview of the film and a digital download for personal use when it is released. 

In a nod to the Kickstarter days, you can watch our progress on Facebook and Instagram throughout the week.

When you click here to support you are promoting informed choices and evidence based, woman centered care across birth settings.

Click here and do all that PLUS get a tax deduction. 

If you still aren't sure, read what people who've seen the fine cut have to say about it here.  And remember, every dollar will be matched through August 31st.

Thank you! 

Meet Kathryn

Today I'm happy to introduce our new Outreach Coordinator! She is a home birth mom, doula, and childbirth educator living in the Bay Area with her husband and two year old daughter. We're so happy to have her on the team! We hope each of you will become part of the outreach team in whatever capacity you can. 

Hey guys! I’m Kathryn Orr, the new Outreach Coordinator for Why Not Home? I joined the team this month and have loved connecting with many of you already. I'm excited to see the message of this film spread to communities across the country and around the world. 

Photo credit: Danica Donnelly Photography

Photo credit: Danica Donnelly Photography

I’ve been working on outreach to individuals and organizations invested in improving maternity care who might want to partner with our effort to get this wonderful film out there!

Many of you have already helped in so many ways, but if you're wondering what more you could do, here are the top 7 things you can do right now. Some of them require almost no effort. So if you’ve been watching from the sidelines for a while, or if you donated to the Kickstarter last year and are looking for a new way to help, here's what you can do:

  1. Share about Why Not Home? on your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and invite your friends to like and follow us too. 

  2. Help us connect with universities. Getting this film out to students is a major goal of ours. If you have a connection to a school of nursing, midwifery, medicine, or public health tell them why you think this film is worth showing on campus or send us an e-mail of introduction and we'll take it from there. 

  3. Learn about educational and community screenings coming in 2016! If you want to know more about screening opportunities, fill out this short form and I'll be in touch. 

  4. Do you have a blog? If you have an audience that is interested in this work, write about us! If you’re looking for a guest blogger, our director/producer, also a nurse practitioner and home birth mom, would love to write a blog about what she has learned on this journey.

  5. Share your skills. Do you or someone in your organization have publicity, web, or marketing expertise to share? We are looking for help as we complete post-production and launch this project into the world. Email me at info@whynothome.com .

  6. Join our mailing list if you haven’t already. You’ll be the first to hear about screenings in your area and get the latest updates and sneak peeks.

  7. Make a donation toward post-production. You knew we would give you an opportunity to support! Why Not Home? is a fiscally sponsored non-profit endeavor through IDA. We have an 80 minute fine cut, but are still raising funds that will allow us to pay outstanding invoices and proceed with the sound mix, color correction, music, and final editing. We have a generous supporter who is matching all funds through the end of August. That means any support is DOUBLED when you do it now. 

Pretty cool, right? With seven choices, there’s something for everyone. Feel free to email me at info@whynothome.com, or comment below, to let me know which action step you are taking!

 

What do your kids do?

For the last 10 years I have worked as a nurse practitioner at the same Community Health Center. Over that time I’ve developed some long term relationships with patients. They have seen me pregnant and postpartum twice now. Sometimes they ask about my kids.

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Last week one of them asked me a question I’ve heard before, “What do your kids do when you’re at work?”

It’s possible that with regular work plus movie work I’m suffering some excessive mom guilt right now, but this time I kept coming back to it.

I imagined the ways I could have answered, “They stay at home with the chickens,”  or "Was I supposed to arrange something?"

The truth is sometimes they're with their dad and sometimes they are in the care of another trusted adult who loves them. They are growing and learning and playing and eating and napping and all the other things kids their ages do.

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

My male colleagues never get this question even though they all have children. No one asks my husband when he’s at work either.

There is still a cultural expectation that children are primarily if not exclusively the mother’s responsibility. Yes it’s important for dads to be involved, but they are also expected to work outside the home and no one questions that this arrangement is acceptable for their children. When families make choices not in line with these deeply held cultural expectations it can be challenging.

While the mothers in this film birthed at home, they work outside the home. They have all faced these questions and the judgements that come with them.

Right now my friends and Paige Green and Izzy Chan are making one final fundraising effort to finish their documentary, The Big Flip.

The Big Flip is about families where the mom is the primary breadwinner and dad takes care of the children. It’s a film I have supported and continue to support.

Making a film is hard enough, but raising the money is even harder. I know I'm asking for finishing funds for my project, but I don’t want to operate from a scarcity model. I believe there's enough for everyone.

If you want families to make choices about how they spend their time at home and work based on what works for their personal situation and needs, without additional judgement from strangers, family, and friends, check out their IndieGogo campaign and support them today. There are some great perks too.

 

Twenty-Eight Weeks

I feel like I’m 28 weeks pregnant right now. I remember it clearly with both of my kids. I was far enough past the point of viability to feel a little more confident, but my baby and I still had a lot of growing to do.

In my prior life as a Pediatric ICU nurse I had seen the difference a few more weeks in utero could make and hoped my baby would make it to full term.

26 weeks pregnant with my son after a preterm labor scare.

26 weeks pregnant with my son after a preterm labor scare.

When people ask me right now how it’s going with the film I have some of those same feelings. I'm excited we've made it this far. The movie has all its parts and is watchable, but it will really benefit from a little more time and energy before it's ready to meet the world.

The third trimester can be uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels like you've been pregnant forever and everyone keeps asking when you’re due. But it’s a critical time for a growing baby and it’s a pretty crucial time in the gestation of a film too.

It’s going to take another $32,000 to pay current invoices, do the final edit, sound mix, and color correction. There, I put it out there, $32,000. Yikes!

The film is longer and covers more ground that I thought it would when we did our first Kickstarter campaign. We traveled more places and captured more stories. This has all made it a stronger film, but it made it more expensive too. 

If you’ve wanted to support but haven’t yet, now is a great time. A supporter on the East Coast has pledged MATCHING FUNDS for any money donated through the end of August to help us meet the goal for finishing. Support here and get a personal thank you. If you donate $35 or more we'll add you to the list of backers who will be among the first to get a digital download when it comes out. If you donate through IDA by clicking here, your donation is tax deductible.

We’re also starting to organize and pre-sell community screenings to help raise finishing funds and build the network that will get this film out to people who need to see it. Fill out the community screening form here and we’ll be in touch.

For everyone who is reading this and has already supported, thank you so much. Without your support we wouldn't be where we are today. We are so excited to share this film with you when its finished! 

 

 

Conceived on the 4th of July

Two years ago I was at a 4th of July picnic at a local park with friends. Three months into my maternity leave and I couldn't stop thinking about this story I wanted to tell. 

I wasn't satisfied with the media portrayal of home birth moms as more concerned about their experience than the health of their babies or as an extreme choice for women who reject technology and medical care out of hand.

At the same time I felt a growing sadness over the limited options many women have when it comes to birth. 

Back to this picnic. My friend Beau and his family were at the park that day. Beau is a commercial and documentary filmmaker. Extremely talented, soulful, and dedicated to his art and the community, I decided I'd pitch him my idea and see where it landed. 

"Sure. A 28 minute documentary. Let's shoot it," he said. That's when Why Not Home? was conceived.

Over the past 2 years the scope of the project has grown in ways I couldn't have anticipated at that moment. With a current running time of 80 minutes, the story has evolved and become stronger with each new voice.

I know many independent filmmakers struggle for 3, 4, 5, 7 years to get their projects launched into the world. It's the trade off for being independent. You don't have to answer to anyone, but you have to make your own way.

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Happy Independence Day from this independent film celebrating 2 years post-conception! I still can't say what the estimated date of delivery is, but we're getting closer.

Running the Labyrinth

I love this girl. Carmen’s birth was the first home birth I witnessed that wasn't my own. Here she is 3 years later, running the labyrinth.

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Photo Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Traditionally one walks the labyrinth. It’s intended to be a centering and contemplative practice. There are no dead ends or blind alleys. There is only one path to the center.

Why Not Home? is coming up on it’s two year anniversary July 4th. I’ve been reflecting a lot about this process with all it’s twists and turns. I didn’t know where I was going when I started, but I have continued on the path. Sometimes like Carmen, I’ve run when maybe I should have walked.

Last night Victoria sent me a Fine Cut with the temporary animations and archive in place. Scenes were trimmed and replaced in some cases. It’s a big milestone and represents a huge amount of work.

There’s still much more to do, but today I am grateful for the journey and thankful for all of you who have walked with me and supported me when I felt like I couldn’t go anymore.

 

5 Things Dads Say During Labor

There are plenty of posts out there about dumb things dad's say during labor, or advising dads what NOT to say, but the dads I've seen during labor with their partners have been pretty amazing. This is what they say:

  1. I'm here. It may seem like stating the obvious, but when mom is struggling deep in labor land sometimes it's a nice reminder. He is there. With a hand to hold, back support, a shoulder to lean on, great dads are there. 
  2. Breathe. This one might seem unnecessary too. We all breathe, but when things are really intense sometimes moms need a gentle reminder to release what they are holding on to breathe into what is coming.
  3. You can do it! Many moms get to a place where they feel like they can't do it. It's just too hard. It's never going to happen. Hearing affirmation from your partner that he believes in you makes a big difference. 
  4. You're doing great! This one is always true. She's is doing great. Even if she's exhausted, vomiting, and crying, she's still doing great and it's OK to tell her that. Labor is hard and she's doing it the best she can. 
  5. Push! Dads can hardly help themselves when it gets time to push. They are excited to meet their new baby too! They can't do the pushing, but they can cheer mama on to the finish line. 

Happy Father's Day to all the dads and dads to be! 

Grace and Mike Image Credit: Erin Wrightsman

Grace and Mike

Image Credit: Erin Wrightsman


Guess Who I Met?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet three women I admire greatly. Here I am with two of them.

Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein were in San Francisco to screen the new film, Mama Sherpas, directed by Brigid Maher

Mama Sherpas is a picture of what maternity care in American hospitals can look like when OBs and midwives work together collaboratively. It's also a personal story for Brigid whose first birth was a c-section, and most likely unnecessary. She credits the midwifery care she received in the hospital for her successful VBAC the second time around. 

At the screening I also met many Bay Area midwives and supporters. It was great to make some in person connections with people I've been virtually in contact with over the past few months. Nancy, the first home birth midwife I talked to for this project, was there and seems to know everybody. She very kind to offer introductions.

Maybe it's just because I'm looking for it right now, but it does feel like there is new energy for changing the system of maternity care in the US. Articles like this one in the Atlantic and of course this one from an OB in Time give me reason to hope. 

Films like Why Not Home? and Mama Sherpas have an opportunity to educate and inform in a powerful way. 

It isn't going to be any one thing that changes the system. Collectively all of these efforts are moving us toward changes that will improve access, safety, and experience whether families choose to give birth at home or in the hospital.