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“Birth”–it’s for everyone

Post by Rosemary Ponnekanti / The News Tribune on Sep. 24, 2008 at 1:11 pm with No Comments »
September 24, 2008 1:11 pm

Erica Bergman (as a nurse) leans over birthing woman Carla Valderrama (as Vanessa) in “Birth.”

Are you expecting a baby? Know someone who is? Ever had a baby? Ever been born?

Well, that covers everyone. And everyone needs, in fact, to know the information that’s presented in Karen Brody’s play “Birth,” showing at Tacoma Community College this Friday. Dubbed “The Vagina Monologues” of childbirth, it’s a staged version of hundreds of birth stories from women all over America. I saw the Seattle/Tacoma production last year, and even though I knew much of the information in there (thanks to my awesome homebirth midwives!) I was alternately shocked, awed, impressed and depressed.

Why? The rate for Caesarean sections in America is currently at 31 percent, up 46 percent since just 1996. Most of these C-sections are planned, unnecessary and/or the result of hospital interventions: facts backed up in the play and by numerous studies. That 31 percent is also about 20 percent higher than the maximum recommended by the World Health Organization.

And the trouble with hospital childbirth practice is that intervention (epidural, induction) leads to intervention (C-section), with the laboring woman losing a lot of say in her own treatment. The trouble with C-sections is that they lead to increased injury and death for pregnant women.

When even USA Today runs a story about how risky traditional hospital childbirth can get, you realize there’s a big issue here.

Brody realized it, and after interviewing hundreds of women across America in 2003/2004, wrote a play about it. “Birth” has a semi-circle of characters, each describing their own experiences, which range from hippie homebirth to planned C-section. The actors are local, and in some cases have deep experience in their own lives with the material.

“Birth” is coming again to Tacoma, thanks to the local production team at BOLD (“Birth” On Labor Day (or close to it)) and also thanks to my own midwife, Dawn Wadleigh, who I dragged along last year and who thinks everyone concerned with babies being born (i.e. all of us) should see it. Guys, girls, parents, friends, teens. (Just maybe not young kids, there are some screaming, distressed moments.)

“Birth” is onstage 8 p.m. tonight at Tacoma Community College Theatre, 6501 S. 19th St., Tacoma. Tickets are $16, at the door or through boldinseattle.com. There’s another show at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 at Evergreen State College Recital Hall, Olympia; and a BOLD Red Tent (birth story sharing) at Heart of Wellness Healing Arts Center, 205 Clark Place S.E., Tumwater.

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