Pieces of a Woman
Content Warning: Infant Loss Portrayal
This film is making the rounds in the birth worker communities and despite my initial resistance, I decided to watch it.
I wanted to be able to give an honest review and to see it for myself.
Now I'm going to be honest and say that I'm going against the grain here because I did not hate it for the reasons I expected to (after reading multiple reviews.)
It is one of the most honest portrayals of labour I have seen on screen. (Other than seeming to start real fast, compared to many first time labours, but still slower than many movie representations of labour).
The leading actor did an incredible job with her vocalizations, movements and struggles throughout the labour and the emotional responses of the father were also perfectly balanced between excitement, fear, attempts at calmness and strength (so much like I see so often in birth partners in real life!)
So, please can we take a moment to appreciate this effort being made to remove the drama from what is naturally a dramatic event, without the need to have explosive waters releasing, epic screams, etc?
Now, the negative critiques that I have been reading for months on line have been mostly based around the vilifying of home births, midwives and autonomy in childbirth and I just want to say that I do NOT believe this is the case. (Or that is not my perception, even though I went into it expecting EXACTLY that).
This film shows me a midwife who knew there was a reason to be concerned, who mentioned in a gentle way that perhaps a transfer to hospital would be a good idea (who, in my opinion, would have been perfectly justified in stating firmly "We need to go NOW!")
A midwife who was doing what we often want midwives to do: trust the innate process, observe and keep hands off.
One of the most admirable things about this movie is that it shows us several uncomfortable truths:
Human grief is painful to watch. So painful. I had to shut it off part way through because I just couldn't watch. The ways that we cope with grief can be so awful, harmful and hurtful to the others around us but it is impossible in those moments to be selfless, to think of that and I truly do not think that that is a reasonable expectation of anyone suffering great loss. I sobbed multiple times, cringed many and wanted so desperately for the parents to be okay and to make it through. Which truly highlights how prevalent it is in our society to just want things to be good and to want to avoid the hardest parts.
Sometimes babies die. And we may never know why and it may or may not have been preventable (whether or not this specific instance could have been/should have been is not really the point. Or I don't think it is. Do I have an opinion about it? I do. I think that if the baby had gotten out faster perhaps, if the midwife had been more hands on immediately following the delivery of the baby with resuscitation efforts, perhaps. But I truly don't think that that is enough to justify all of uproar about this film intentionally being a call against home birth. I think that we could also find many instances of a hospital birth gone wrong due to the efforts or lack thereof of the medical staff so I'm going to trust that the makers were exploring on a deeper level the very human experiences that we go through)
Now, I do think that the timing is strategic, as home births are on the rise, one could argue that this was intentionally released to discourage home birth. I can say that, as a birthing person, I would not be discouraged from having a home birth because of this film. (Recognizing my bias, of course, as an educated and empowered birth worker, who knows the actual facts.)
So, some facts for you:
The Midwives Association of BC found 89% of responding members had reported an increase in inquiries about home birthing (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/covid19-fears-spark-increased-interest-in-home-births-1.5849332)
Australia has also seen a dramatic increase from approximately 4% of birthing folks wanting a home birth to approximately 25% (https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-12/coronavirus-fears-drive-increase-in-homebirth-interest/12138386)
In the UK, during lockdowns, there has been an increased demand but less access. (https://blogs.bmj.com/bmjsrh/2020/04/02/home-birth-covid-19/)
Some actual studies on the safety of home birth in comparison to hospital birth:
Overall, I would NOT recommend this film to folks who are either pregnant or have experienced loss because, my god, it is heavy. Instead I would recommend https://www.thesearemyhours.com/
(If you want to watch this, reach out! We can do a screening of it locally. It is a beautiful real life midwife attended home birth)
I WOULD recommend Pieces of a Woman to folks who are feeling capable of and ready to handle the subject of loss, grief, and all the ways that can manifest.
I WOULD recommend to people who want to see a more accurate portrayal of labour than we normally get.
I WOULD also recommend to people who are supporting other people through loss. (I wish that I had seen this before supporting a family with a full term loss as it would have helped me to anticipate the reality of what the grieving process can look like (it is different for every family and by no means, is this what it is like for everyone)
I am surprised that I did not hate this film.
I found it hard. I found it uncomfortable. I looked away. I didn't want to watch.
How often in real life are folks in grief subject to those same reactions?
We can do hard things.
Let us learn to look at grief. Let us learn to sit with it. Cry through it. Rage through it. MOVE through it. FEEL through it.
Have you watched it?
What did you think?