In films, birth is usually an emergency. It starts with the woman’s water breaking at the worst time. She appears to be laboring hard, and is nevertheless transported to the hospital via gridlock traffic. There she becomes angry, and the pain is her husband’s fault. He yells at her, perhaps even injuring her, and orders her to undergo vasectomy. She then begs for an epidural, but for some reason, she cannot be. After four minutes of intense screaming, he gave something that looked like a Gerber baby.
The recent Netflix film “Peas of a Woman,” featuring Vanessa Kirby’s Oscar-nominated performance, seeks to distinguish this narrator from a natural home birth scene occurring in about a quarter of the film. The extended sequence, which eventually leads to a tragic outcome, has prompted midwives to talk, especially because film and television can profoundly affect the expectations of couples who have never had a child. In a handful of interviews, midwives across the country praised the naturalist birth as a new frontier in screen portrayal, even arguing that many of the details fell short of a completely empowering experience.
As the labor scene begins, Martha (Kirby) is leaning against a stove, her contractions intensifying. His companion Sean, played by Shia LaBeoff, rains around him, repeatedly asking if he needs water. They eventually move to the living room, where she takes him into her lap. “I think I can throw up,” she says, drooping and gagging.
Hannah Epstein, a midwife nurse practitioner in San Francisco, said what she has been told about the scene, which leaves many other films: “You never watch labor, only births.” She said that some patients are worried that they may not know when they are in labor, and others feel that Labor is being pushed all the way. “A Woman’s Piece” helped correct those misconceptions. “It was a good early labor depiction of that uncomfortable, icky”, she said, noting that nausea and vomiting are also very common in labor.