At Home in Maine in Today’s Bangor Daily News!

Friday, April 8, 2011

BELFAST, Maine — When mom and filmmaker Nicolle Littrell was pregnant with her first child, a friend asked if she and her partner were considering having the baby at home.

Their reply was instantaneous — and negative, Littrell said Thursday.

“We said, ‘No!” she recalled, adding that part of the reason was their insurance did not cover home births.

But as she thought about it, she realized it wasn’t the whole story.

“My first reaction was financial, and then it was definitely more than that,” she said. “It was the not knowing, and the fear, that gets embedded in each of us at an early age.”

Littrell began researching midwifery and home births, ultimately deciding that delivering Leo, now 6, at home was the right choice.

He was born in a tub, in an experience that was empowering and comfortable, with the help of midwives who were respectful and knowledgeable. It was very unlike the standard Hollywood depictions of births, Littrell said.

And afterward, she found she still had more to learn, and teach, about the growing group of people choosing to have their babies at home.

“I feel like there’s a relationship between how we give birth and how we live,” she said.

Littrell has spent the past few years using her camera, her heart and her filmmaker’s eye to document and help educate about home birthing in Maine.

“It’s a gift. I’m definitely the luckiest person in the world, to be at these births,” the filmmaker said. “It’s absolutely sacred, to see women so powerful and beautiful. And there’s magic, too, when the baby is coming out. When that baby is born, I cry every time.”

Originally, she had envisioned making a conventional documentary film about the subject, but as she dug deeper, she realized that one film wouldn’t be enough. So far, Littrell has produced several short films about home birth as part of her “At Home in Maine” series and started a website as an educational and community-building resource.

The latest documentary, titled “At Home in Waldo,” will have its first Waldo County screening at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at the Belfast Free Library.

During the filming, Littrell spent 20 hours with Melinda and Jerry Weaver of Waldo as their son, Gideon, was born a year ago.

After the documentary is shown, the participants — including the Weavers and their midwives from Morningstar Midwifery in Belfast — will join Littrell for a discussion.

Melinda Weaver, who was 42 when Gideon was born, said she and her husband were glad to take part in the documentary project.

“When Nicolle stated her purpose, I said ‘Yeah, of course,’” Weaver said Thursday. “Anything to have more people be comfortable with the decision to have a home birth.”

Littrell met and interviewed the family often before her labor began, Weaver said, so that everyone was comfortable with having her present for the birth.

“The day of the birth, other than noticing that you had a friend there, you didn’t notice the camera,” Weaver said. “You watch the birth.”

More and more families like the Weavers have chosen to take births out of the hospital over the past few decades, beginning with the back-to-the-land movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, according to the filmmaker. “American homebirth midwifery was pretty much stamped out in the early 1900s,” Littrell said. “Home birth and midwives re-emerged in a grassroots, teach-each-other, positive way.”

That journey has been at times political and controversial. Over the decades, midwives nationally developed the certified professional midwife credential. But in 2008, a Maine proposal to license “lay” midwives was derailed by lawmakers, who instead voted to authorize them to purchase, possess and administer a short list of prescription drugs often needed during a home birth.

“To me, midwives are the most incredible heroines, and it’s a tremendous amount of responsibility,” Littrell said.

She said she hopes a lot of people will use her website as a resource, including — but not limited to — people who are exploring birth options.

“This is about birth. It’s not just for people who want to have babies,” Littrell said. “How we are born is important. Birth matters.”

“At Home in Waldo” will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 12, at the Belfast Free Library.

For more information, visit www.mainehomebirth.wordpress.com

4 thoughts on “At Home in Maine in Today’s Bangor Daily News!

  1. Way to go, Nicolle! Great press! I so wish we could come to one of your showings to support you. Good luck and keep up the good work!

  2. We all believe in the myth that American medicine and the American way of birth are advanced and superior. But the truth is that the US ranks 34th in the world for outcomes for babies, and 43rd for mothers! And the US spends almost four times more money per mother and baby than any other country in the world! As we struggle to cope with our economic challenges, we ought to be looking at other developed countries, such as Great Britain, France, Germany, and all of Scandinavia, who have recognized that giving birth is most often a normal event and does not require a medical setting. Reserving costly medical resources and specialized practitioners for the truly complicated births is a cost-savings measure that could save billions of dollars without sacrificing safety. Large and well-executed statistical studies, such as the CPM 2000 study, demonstrate that home birth with a qualified Certified Professional Midwife, is as safe as low-risk births in the hospital, with a far lower rate of interventions, including induction, epidurals, and Cesareans; a greater rate of satisfaction on the part of the birthing mother and her family; and huge cost-savings to Medicaid, insurance, or those paying out of pocket. We would be smart to really look at the reasons behind the suppression of home birth and CPMs in this country. Does it have more to do with money than with evidence about true outcomes?

    1. thank you for your spot-on, well-seasoned input, ellie! we have so much work to do in the US to help birth be birth better for mothers and babies. i have been reading ina may’s new book, “birth matters” and two quotes from her intro really hit it home for me: 1. “The way a culture treats women in birth is a good indicator of how well women and their contributions to society are valued and honored.” 2. “…the right to a positive and safe birth is just as important as the right to choose where or not to have a child.”

      Thanks to all the midwives, including you, Ellie, who share Ina May’s values here and are doing such great work caring for and supporting mothers and babies.

      nicolle

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