‘Pieces of a Woman’ Has Midwives Talking About That Birth Scene
In the movies, childbirth is usually an emergency. It starts with the woman’s water breaking at the worst possible moment. She hardly seems to be in labor, and yet the traffic jam takes her to the hospital. There she gets angry and the pain is her husband’s fault. She yells at him, maybe even injures him, and orders him to have a vasectomy. Then she asks for an epidural, but for some reason she can’t have it. After four minutes of intense screaming, she passed what looks like the baby tanner.
The recent Netflix film, Pieces of a Woman, with an Oscar-nominated performance by Vanessa Kirby, attempts to undermine that narrative with a naturalistic birth scene that takes up almost a quarter of the film. The extended sequence, which ultimately has a tragic outcome, got midwives talking, especially because film and television can greatly affect the expectations of couples who have never had a baby. In a handful of interviews across the country, midwives hailed naturalistic childbirth as a new frontier in screen display, though they argued that some details were inconsistent with a fully empowered experience.
As the work scene begins, Martha (Kirby) leans against a stove and her contractions intensify. Her partner Sean, played by Shia LaBeouf, rushes around her and asks repeatedly if she wants water. They eventually move into the living room, where he cradles them on his lap. “I think I might throw up,” she says, burping and choking.
Hannah Epstein, a midwifery nurse in San Francisco, said she was impressed with the scene, which many other films leave out: “You never see work, only birth.” She said that some patients fear they don’t know when they will Are in labor, and others think that the labor is absolutely rushing. “Pieces of a Woman” helped correct these misunderstandings. “It was a good illustration of that uncomfortable, gross feeling at the beginning of labor,” she said, noting that nausea and vomiting are also very common during labor.