Color correction and sound mixing are not on the normal to-do lists of medical professionals, but in the past two years, Jessicca Moore, a family nurse practitioner at the Petaluma Health Center, has expanded her skill set.
After giving birth at home twice, surrounded by family, friends and the smell of banana bread baking in the kitchen, Moore was inspired to make a documentary film called “Why Not Home?” to tell people about her experience.
“I was post-partum delusional,” she said. “It was that feeling that I had just created a person and pushed them out of my body — if I could do that, I could do anything.”
With the encouragement of a friend who makes commercial films, Moore harnessed energy that, she said, birth at its best provides for women. She set out to make a 28-minute documentary about medical professionals who choose to have their babies at home instead of in the hospital.
Now, two years later, the film has grown to 80 minutes and is about much more than the reasons some people choose home birth.
“Having access to these choices is important,” Moore said, “but it’s bigger than that. It’s about raising questions about the quality of maternal care that’s available.”
Moore, who moved to Petaluma in 2005, is from Waynesville, Mo., a small town in the Ozarks. She said she didn’t grow up with the idea that birth was a wonderful experience. Her mother had two children, both through cesarean section, and she didn’t expect her own birthing experience to be particularly amazing: “I was fully prepared for it to be painful.”
In fact, Moore said, it was an intense experience, but intense in the “most beautiful way.”
Moore attended many hospital births through her medical training at UCLA and her work at the Health Center. She witnessed how a hospital-based midwife practice worked in Los Angeles and saw the importance of a birthing environment with familiar people and minimal interruption and distraction.
Because her own pregnancies were low-risk and a similar hospital midwifery practice did not exist in Sonoma County, Moore decided that, for her, the best chance of having a successful birth was to do it at home.
Even after the successful home birth of her son, however, she thought the ease and overall positive experience might have been a “fluke.” But after the birth of her daughter, she realized there was something different about having a child in the comfort of home.
Moore said she was left wondering why no one had told her how amazing birth could be. She said many of her friends and colleagues who worked at clinics and hospitals were also having home births, but it was not widely discussed.
“Even here in the medical community, there is concern if it’s safe,” she said. “But there are some stories I want to tell, things about this that people don’t know they should know.”
Moore explained that western medical training does not include births outside of the hospital. In fact, she said, midwives historically have been seen as untrained or dirty, despite the fact that before the 1900s, most women gave birth at home under the care of a midwife.
By the early 20th century, more women were giving birth in hospitals, perhaps to accommodate the desire for physicians to be involved in maternal care, Moore explained. Most of these physicians were men who didn’t have firsthand experience of birth or working with a midwife. At the time, because of the lack of knowledge of germ theory and other reasons, the outcomes were worse in the hospital than at home, she said. And even now, Moore acknowledged, there are reasons why most U.S. births occur in hospitals.