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The birth of a documentary

Three years ago, after a rather traumatic experience, I decided it was time to make some major changes in my life. My children were becoming more independent and I was aching to be more than just a mom, which seemed to have taken over my entire existence. For the greater part of the last decade my world revolved around diapers, feedings, dancing to the wiggles, playing the role of nurse, teacher, entertainment, jungle gym, chef and basically catering to the needs of everyone in my house except for my own.

Something happened that shook my family to the core and left me asking myself "If I died tomorrow, what would I be leaving my sons?" and the answer is what led me to putting myself through school. It wouldn't be the first time I'd enrolled in college, just the first time I completed it. I was at a stage in life where the idea of going back to school was equal parts exciting and nerve wracking.

Years before I decided to go back to school for video production, I started playing with video editing software as a hobby. Just something I did to mess around with and make good use of all the home footage (stills and video) that I had of my kids. Over time it developed into something I really enjoyed and I started video editing on a slightly more serious level. What I was really interested in though was story telling, having been a writer as far back as I could remember.

Shortly after enrolling in school again, I'd gotten the idea in my head to make a documentary about birth. A few years earlier, when I was pregnant with my youngest son, Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein made a great documentary called The Business of Being Born. It focused heavily on the medical side of birthing and the business that birth had become within the medical industry. I wanted to make a documentary that would be complimentary and focus on a different side of the birthing community. I was also fueled with motivation by the mainstream media and what programming there is available to pregnant women. When a woman turns to television for information or entertainment about pregnancy and birth all that's available is high risk, emergency traumas, "I didn't know I was pregnant" and anything of an extreme variety. Nothing for the healthy, low risk pregnancies (which happen to be the majority, not the minority like TLC, Lifetime, Oxygen, etc want you to believe). So I became even more passionate on a subject that I already felt pretty strongly about. However, my goal was to make a film that allowed me to be an activist, not an extremist. An activist for women to know their options and what choices they have. I'm pro-choice. If you don't know you have choices, then you don't have any.

I called my midwife Debbie Marin, owner of the Hollywood Birth Center and told her about my plans. We had a meeting in August 2011 where I discussed with her my plans, the angle I wanted to go in and told her I'd get back to her when I was ready to get going with it. I spent the next two years learning as much as I could about video production in my course of study, while I was also homeschooling my own kids. While in school, I was writing feature length screenplays (2) and towards the end there I took an internship which later turned into a job. All the while I continued to juggle home schooling, being the matriarch of a large family and turning a new leaf in my own professional life (which is something I'd never had before so yes, it was overwhelming at times to adjust to but thankfully I have an awesome mother of my own who helps guide me when the going gets tough). With so much going on at once, something had to give. I was not only juggling all of the above, but in my last semester of school my husband of nearly ten years and the father of my sons and I had decided to split and we began that process.

With only a few months left of 2013, I called Debbie again and told her I was ready to start shooting interviews for that documentary I'd come to her about in the summer of 2011. My life long friend, Jackie Korpela happened to be a doula, birth assistant and birth photographer. When I told her what I was doing, she jumped on board and agreed to help me by donating some of her images to my film. With Jackie on board and a friend from film school who was eager to get some real world experience under his belt, I was able to make this happen and see one goal come to fruition.

I planted a seed in my mind, contiued to feed it and three years later I can sit back and smile and say "I did it. I made a documentary film about birth." Not only did I do it, but along the way I learned a lot about the production process, learned a lot about people, (including myself), watched some relationships fall apart while other relationships blossomed or strengthened but most of all, I learned how to not give up when things got tough and that if I believed that I could do it, I would do it and then I stopped making excuses and just did it.

Every time I see the numbers rise by the thousands on the mini version I put up on YouTube to test the target market and see if people actually wanted this information, and every time a woman I don't know sends me a message thanking me for making this or telling me how important it is that we get this information out to women, I feel like I've accomplished something big. I look at where I was three years ago (literally, figuratively, mentally, emotionally, physically) and where I am today. It's been an incredible journey so far.

There's a lot more to the story but we'll save that for another time. For now, I'm looking forward to the end of the labor process of documentary filmmaking, but I'm taking it one wave at a time as I work towards that final push, which will be the official release of this project to the public. We're almost there! A few more pushes and we'll be there.

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