(Host) A performance in Brattleboro this Labor Day weekend celebrates one of the most intensive labors – the labor of childbirth.
The play opens a window on the thoughts and feelings of women giving birth in contemporary America.
VPR’s Susan Keese reports:
(Keese) The idea of bringing this play to Vermont for Labor Day weekend started in the birthing Center at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
Amy Majer, the director, is a labor and delivery nurse there. Majer worked as an actress before she was a nurse.
(Majer) “It was just being done here and there across the country, and we found out this play by word of mouth basically.”
(Keese) The play, by Karen Brody, is based on more than 100 interviews with women about their experiences giving birth.
(Majer) “What you have here are seven stories that are representative of what she felt was contemporary childbirth in this country.”
(Kersula) “And I’m a bit of a theater geek myself and I thought boy, wouldn’t it be fun to do this?”
(Keese) Dawn Kersula is the producer. She’s also a childbirth educator.
(Kersula ) ” and just this past month, I asked my childbirth class, what do you think about when you think about birth?’ And they said fear’. That was the big, big word.”
(Keese) The women putting on the play chalk that up to a shortage of reliable information. They see birth as a powerful, transforming experience, though Majer says it doesn’t always play out as expected.
(Majer) “Part of the reason why I think birth is so difficult in this country and breast feeding is so difficult is because we don’t have this type of story telling and this type of sharing.”
(Keese) Cast member Renee Wolliver says it wasn’t until she herself was about to give birth that she heard her own birth story – a story of the heavy medication typical of her mother’s era.
(Wolliver) ” and my mom said I was knocked out, just like everybody else was. So I think there’s not an opportunity to wrap your mind around what it is going to be like. And I think the play works on that and how it feels.”
(Keese) Some of the women in the play are angry — like Lisa, played by visiting nurse Beth Lloyd. She’s been counting on a natural childbirth but finds herself facing a caesarean.
(Lloyd) “I begged them to let me go into labor naturally. Then if the baby was breach, fine, do the c-section…. these were midwives! Why weren’t they listening to me?”
(Keese) Another woman in the play, a hardworking executive, schedules a C-section to accommodate her busy life. There’s Jillian, who has four births, each more satisfying as she learns how to get what she needs from her medical caregivers.
And there’s Amanda, the earth mother, played by Cathy Tretler. Her mantra is My body rocks.’ She gets to the hospital ready to go, only to have her labor slow down. But she gets through it, with the help of her Doula. That’s a volunteer birth support person.
(Amanda) “I am strong..”
(Doula) “ou are strong.”
(Amanda) “I am strong. I am strong. I am strong!”
(Keese) The women say the play doesn’t attempt to judge anyone’s birth story, no matter how things turn out. But it does try to empower women to command respect and support for this work only they can do.
For VPR Backstage, I’m Susan Keese.
Note: The play “Birth” will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7:30 at Brattleboro’s New England Youth Theater.