Speaking to LA-based Jacqui Blue, you would never guess that this relaxed and soft-spoken woman was a mother of five (yes, FIVE) young boys and a budding filmmaker.
Before putting herself through film school, Jacqui, who is also a writer, photographer and artist, spent the greater part of the last decade as a stay at home mum and wife. Having had a Caesarean section with her twins, followed by two very different but successful hospital VBACs (Vaginal Birth After Caesarean), and finally by a water birth in a birth centre, Jacqui developed a passion for natural birth and fell into “alternative” or “attachment” parenting styles.
When she became annoyed with the programming available to women about pregnancy and birth, she decided it was about time for someone to make a film that showed a different, more natural way to bring children into the world.
“When you are pregnant, everyone wants to tell you their story, and rarely are they good. I want women to hear good stories. I want them to read Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery. We need to change the stories, the images. Birth can be an amazing experience”, she says.
Blue’s film opens with a warning to the viewer: “What you are about to watch contains graphic images of the natural and beautiful process the human body endures while giving birth. If you find these images disturbing, we advise you to get over it. It’s nature!”
Beautiful Births is the result of more than two years of hard work, but Jacqui is starting to see the benefits of her labour. She started with a mini version of her film – just a brief five minute promo clip that she uploaded to YouTube in July 2013. Less than 18 months later, that clip has been viewed almost five million times and proved to Jacqui beyond a shadow of a doubt that she had to keep going and produce a feature-length version of the film.
“I made a film that was what I wanted to see in the mainstream media about birth. I focused on what I felt were the most important issues to touch upon but there is a lot more about childbirth that should be explored. I want all women to be aware of the fact that they have choices and what they are. Then it is up to them to make their decisions based on informed consent. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we all deserve to be given by our health care providers; informed consent.”
The film follows three mothers – Joia, Stacy and Ashley – who describe their birth experiences – both good and bad; disempowering and conversely deeply empowering. We also hear from a variety of birth professionals, such as midwives and doulas who discuss how birth can be a powerful and positive experience, in the right environment and with the right support.
Florida-based doula, Jackie Korpela, who also happens to be a childhood friend of the director, and doubled as the film’s photographer, says in the film, “if a woman doesn’t look like a goddess during birth, she’s not being taken care of.”
Blue manages to cover a lot of important information in the 60 minutes. Woven around the women’s stories, she raises topics such as the importance of choosing the right place to birth and the right people to birth with. She also examines issues such as informed decision-making and informed consent. It was great to see the subject of good nutrition in pregnancy raised – something that is so often neglected.
While Beautiful Births lacks the Hollywood pizazz and polish of films like Ricki Lake’s The Business of Being Born, this documentary is honest and raw in its telling and clearly a love project.
“I wanted to give women information and let them know they have options. It’s not intended to be preachy. If you feel safe in a hospital, then that’s where you should be.” says Jacqui who wants to emphasise that the film is aimed at all women.
In addition to the film, the Beautiful Birth’s website will serve as a living extension of the documentary. Resource directories will be available on topics related to natural births and natural pregnancies; Women can share their birth stories and experiences, video clips will be uploaded featuring experts and women sharing their expertise and personal stories with regards to: pregnancy, childbirth, hypnobirthing, VBAC, natural pain relief and much more. The website is, and will continue to be a work in progress that will invite women to interact and share their experiences.
Jacqui isn’t slowing down anytime soon. She is now working on two new film projects which are currently in pre-production. When asked if she had a particular message to women about the current hospital birthing system she had this to say; “It’s up to us to change it. We can’t wait for politicians, governments, hospitals and doctors to make the changes for us. Women need to demand change.”
Tanya Strusberg is currently the only Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) in Australia and teaches prenatal education to pregnant women and their partners in Melbourne. She is passionate about inspiring, educating and empowering women to feel confident about their body’s ability to give birth naturally and without unnecessary medical intervention. Tanya and her husband Doron have two beautiful children, Liev and Amalia.