Yesterday I Made A Mistake

Yesterday, I hosted a screening of REAL BIRTH STORIES and DOULA! at the University of York’s lovely  Midwifery Department (fantastic facilities and brilliant staff!) and I had a bit of a reality check.

The actual screening went well and the audience seemed to really enjoy watching the films.

But then in the Q&A afterwards, I was asked about my next project, a feature-length cinematic documentary which is a global look at the rise of non-natural births in the Western world. The film will look at the record levels of caesareans, the high maternal and neonatal death rates with the underlying theme that  if we don’t change, according to Michel Odent, “the future of humanity is at stake”.

I got on a little bit of a soap-box and said that with this next film, “I wanted to change the world”.

Quite rightly, I was fired with some tough questions from the audience mainly comprised of midwives / student midwives / midwifery lecturers  and some doulas. Here’s a summary of the Q&A exchange:

Audience: How exactly are you going to change the world?

Toni: I want to make a feature length documentary that plays in cinemas right around the world about the problems with birth in the Western world with record induction and caesarean rates, high maternal and neonatal mortality rates and that most women now fear giving birth. The film will also offer possible global solutions to these problems. My goal would be to make a film that raises birth and breastfeeding issues in the public consiousness  just like Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth did for climate change.

Audience: What exactly do you want to achieve?

Toni: I want to see more midwives, more one-to-one midwifery care, more birth centres, more doulas, better antenatal education, a reduction in global induction and caesarean rates and most importantly, to help women regain faith in their own bodies’ ability to give birth naturally.

Audience: But where’s the money going to come from for the additional maternity services you want? (This question referred particularly to the UK’s NHS – National Health Service – system)

Toni: Part of the film’s strategy is to persuade the Government to award more resources to maternity services…(In hindsight, what I could maybe have said is that by reducing the number of caesareans, this will reduce costs  (our local hospital is paid £2500 for each caesarean they perform by the hospital funding body, £3,500 for a caesarean with complications – so reduce caesareans = reduce costs = more money in other areas!)

There were a few more questions about how it would be difficult to change people’s ingrained attitudes but you get the general picture. To be fair, although I was challenged on my plans, it was good to be put through my paces on something that I really care about.

But last night on the 7 hour train journey home, I realised I had made a mistake.

To avoid putting people’s backs up, I should have been a bit more humble.  What I should have said was that I wanted to help change the world. I should have acknowledged that there are lots of other people and organisations that have been trying for years to make their voices heard, but it’s proving really hard to make the mainstream population listen.

Most birth experts agree that the  subject needs to be higher up in the public consciousness, so that everyone talks about it – so that it’s a global conversation for the conservation of natural birth!

I know I’m just one tiny voice and it takes millions of voices to make change happen.

The only difference with me is that I’m a film-maker. And this is my passion project.

I have the tools  to make a film that features the likes of Michel Odent, Ina May Gaskin, Elizabeth Davis, Debra Pascali-Bonaro, Jan Tritten plus leading midwives, doulas, obstetricans, parents and other birth experts from all corners of the planet.

All of us,  wherever we are in the world, if we really want to make change happen, we all have to create and contribute to a global debate, that isn’t just about a single country, or county, or primary health care trust or even about individual care, it’s about our survival as a human race.

But yesterday really brought home to me that I’ve set myself a really difficult challenge. There’s going to be many obstacles in my way and many people that I have to win over , but I also know the hardest things in life to achieve are the things that are most worth fighting for.

But I’m committed to making this film. Now I just have to raise the money to make it!

Next month I’m going to be launching the film’s campaigning / fundraising website, the first step to helping change the world – so I’ll be announcing details about how you can sign up and how to join the campaign very soon.

Then together, all of us, can help change the world!

If anyone has any comments or thoughts or wants to tell me what else I can do to help change the world- please email me at info@altofilms.com

Or post a message on the DOULA! film’s facebook fan page wall.

Thank you. xx

Toni Harman, DOULA! film-maker

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8 responses

  1. Sam

    Toni,

    You say “I’ve set myself a really difficult challenge. There’s going to be many obstacles in my way and many people that I have to win over , but I also know the hardest things in life to achieve are the things that are most worth fighting for.”

    Just remember you’re not alone and there are hundreds, possibly THOUSANDS if we look hard enough, of people willing to help you with this, get it in the public eye, and change the world for the better.

    This is an amazing idea and I’m sure it will go far.

    x

    November 11, 2010 at 2:51 pm

  2. But why is it that the LIVES of our childbearing women and their babies are not given enough importance. Is it not a matter of live and death? about good maternal mental, as well as physical, health, and the future physical and mental health of their babies into adulthood? Yes, it is!!! And if we spend more to provide better one to one CARE, there will be an instantaneous cut to other services like surgery within maternity system and ongoing medical services throughout life, which we all know is far more expensive. How come lay people such as myself, and I am far from being the only one, can see this yet the powers-that-be can’t see it? Oh wait, I’ve not got pharmaceutecal reps buying me off 😉 or lackies telling me what to think within the government…

    I add my tiny voice to yours to help change the world

    November 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm

  3. Sam & Karen – Wow – thanks for your brilliant comments.

    Makes me feel very honoured that you took the time to write your thoughts and even better, that you’re onboard this with me. You know, I totally believe that together we really can help change the world for the better.

    Thanks again.

    Toni
    xx

    To contact me, email info@altofilms.com

    November 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

  4. Toni – you know how I feel about your film already. The concept of your next project excites me even more!

    I read your blog entry and this quote immediately sprang to mind.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does” Margaret Mead.

    Keep the faith and we will all be right by your side, helping in any way that we can.

    Lisa Sykes ~ Doula

    November 11, 2010 at 5:34 pm

  5. Toni – you know how I feel about your film already. The concept of your next project excites me even more!

    I read your blog entry and this quote immediately sprang to mind.

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does” Margaret Mead.

    Keep the faith and we will all be right by your side, helping in any way that we can.

    Lisa Sykes ~ Doula

    November 11, 2010 at 5:35 pm

  6. Toni – thank you so much for sharing. No worries – we all have things we’ve said that we wished, in hindsight, that we’d expressed better. What impresses me is that your heart is in the right place, and that you are helping to give so many people – Michael Odent, Ina May, and more – a voice, no… a megaphone… to get the world’s attention through your project. I am thankful that you are so passionate about what you’re doing and feel so much ownership that you’re making this your fight. It’s going to take that kind of spirit and energy to get through the coming obstacles, and yes, together WE can change the world!!!

    Rock on!
    You’ll have my full support!

    Bonnie
    La Bonne Mama Doula and CBE services

    November 11, 2010 at 9:11 pm

  7. I was at the screening and I didn’t think you were outspoken at all. As a mother you seemed to share my passion to improve maternity services. As an Independent midwife I do this one woman at a time (as well as fighting through Independent Midwives UK to change things at Government level. As a film maker you can reach hundreds of thousands of women world wide and change their lives for the better.
    I am a great supporter of our healthcare system and worked within it for many years, but realise the limitations lack of resources puts on the quality of maternity care. I was far too outspoken at that meeting because I think women should be told the truth about the state of maternity services in this country – for which I do not apologise. Your film will show what can be done and be the catalyst for change. Let me know if I can help change the world.
    Love Joy

    January 18, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  8. Wow Joy. I’ve just seen this comment. So beautifully written and so heartfelt. Thank you for your lovely kind words and I would be proud to stand next to you as together, we help change the world.
    Love, Toni

    January 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm

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