Review and Takeaways From the Birth Documentary "Trial of Labor"

Screen shot from Trial of Labor
Screen shot from Trial of Labor

The newest birth documentary is called Trial of Labor. It is aptly named as it looks at the journey of four women who are planning a trial of labor for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). Each of these women have had previously unplanned cesarean births.

The film opens with the women discussing what lead to their first cesarean. They talk about what they knew and didn’t know. The examination is real, raw, and deep. As a doula, I often work with women who are planning a VBAC or who have had a previous cesarean and are working through their emotions. I really thought that this film really captured very well, the confusion, the pain, the anger, and shock that some mothers feel so vividly.

Each of the women is currently pregnant and the story unfolds as to how they intend to give birth again. Women who have previously given birth via cesarean section are often left to try to figure out what their options really are for future births. This is confusing and angering for many as they are trying to navigate a system that is not designed to be helpful or conducive to patients asking questions or having opinions.

The frustration that many of these women feel is real and occurs in many places. The discussions about which providers they can see and where they can have their babies is one that women are having all over. The pressure to make a decision is real, and what often feels coercive to the women, a decision that is not one they really want to have to make.

It is not unheard of to hear women, like those in this movie, talk about how their choices are now limited because of their previous birth. What was once a seemingly simple thing has morphed into something very complex. The women each have different paths to navigate to find a place where they can feel comfortable giving birth. Though the film also acknowledges the painful reality that the choices are often limited by a variety of factors that are often outside the control of the women.

I love that this film touches on the healing aspect of birth. Each of the women express their feelings before they’ve had their baby, about how they feel the birth will change them. Some of what they say is so sad and painful, and yet I hear it from many women.

I will not provide you with any spoilers, but let me say that the ending is real. The births are all triumphant in their own way. And even while I called it an ending, the truth is, the film doesn’t end with the births of the babies. There is a good bit of time spent debriefing with each mother.

They each talk about how the birth has changed them, what they learned, and what they feel was different about this experience. It was a really positive end to see strong women, making hard decisions for them and their families.

So the spoiler that I will give you is some of the take aways I have from watching this film.

  1. Education is very important. You really need to know what is going on in your pregnancy and with your body.
  2. Choosing your care provider is an important starting point. A care provider who is supportive and views you as a partner often works best for women who want to be involved in the decision making in pregnancy and birth.
  3. Get support. This often goes beyond what your partner can do for you. Women in the film had support from friends, family, doulas, support groups (mothers groups, as well as specific organizations like the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN), and many other places.
  4. Options. Keeping your options open as you learn about pregnancy and birth is important, but it’s also important to remember that sometimes you have to take that knowledge and run as your labor unfolds.

You can watch Trial of Labor online. For a limited time it is available free. Running time is just over an hour.

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