Danielle Muns wasn’t always a doula. In fact, she thought doulas and their licensed colleagues, midwives — both trained to assist women during childbirth at home or in nonhospital birthing centers — were perhaps a little kooky.
Danielle Muns wasn’t always a doula.
In fact, she thought doulas and their licensed colleagues, midwives — both trained to assist women during childbirth at home or in nonhospital birthing centers — were perhaps a little kooky.
“I thought home births were what crazy hippies did. I thought only crazy witch doctors did home births. I didn’t know anything,” says Muns.
But after having her first two sons in a traditional hospital setting under an obstetrician’s care, Muns, 28, opted, somewhat tentatively at first, to deliver her next two children at home with the help of a midwife.
Now a practicing doula herself, she’s producing “Birth,” a play about modern American childbirth. Two performances are scheduled for Labor Day in Tempe.
The play chronicles the labor and delivery stories of eight women who gave birth in hospitals and at home, and it aims to make women more aware of childbirth issues and options.
“It’s not about any particular type of birth. It’s not about Caesarean birth or hospital birth or home birth or good birth or bad birth. It’s about all of them. It’s about bringing awareness to people about maternity care issues,” says Muns, co-owner of a childbirth education, referral and doula service in Litchfield Park.
“Birth” was written by Karen Brody, a former sociologist and community organizer who delivered her sons at home in 1999 and 2001 with the help of three midwives in Little Rock, Ark. As childbirth came up in conversations with other mothers, Brody was stunned to hear how different some women’s hospital experiences had been from her own.
Their stories were not the stuff of happy, tender moments. Some felt they had been verbally abused by caregivers who used condescending, uncompassionate or forceful language. Others loudly and repeatedly protested an episiotomy — a procedure in which an incision is made to enlarge the vagina and make room for the baby’s head — but were cut despite their wishes.
“I felt like nobody was talking about the reality of childbirth today,” writes Brody on Bold Action, the play’s national Web site. “… Even when friends, family and care providers know a mother had a bad birth experience she is always greeted with, 'But at least you had a healthy baby.’ The question that burnt in my mind was: What about the mother?
So many of these mothers had experienced birth trauma and needed a voice.”
In the play, stories are told through first-person monologues, dialogue, re-enactments and the voices of caregivers and relatives who were present during each birth. There’s also a lot of screaming, panting and moaning — sounds common to labor.
Muns says it’s an eye-opening production for women and their mates, whether they’re pregnant or not.
“A lot of people don’t realize all the physical and emotional and spiritual issues that can come up in the process of physically having a baby. There are so many things that happen, and an average first-time mom can be anywhere from 12 to 24 hours in labor,” she says. “The whole event is really about enlightening people about mother-friendly maternity care and letting them know there are options to think about.”
An information fair will be open between showings of the Tempe production, and audience members will be able to participate in a discussion with birth-community professionals after each performance.
“Birth” was first staged in 2004 on the campus of George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Since then it has been performed by community groups across the nation each September. Seventy-five performances occurred in 2007. This is the first year the play is in the Valley.
Tickets are available online at www.freewebs.com/boldphoenix or from select midwives and baby stores.
All proceeds will benefit the Arizona Birth Network and the Arizona Association of Midwives.
What: “Birth,” a play by Karen Brody, paints a portrait of how women are giving birth in modern America. A fair featuring information booths and concession stands runs between shows, and a discussion with local birth-community professionals and audience members follows each performance.
When: 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday
Where: Arizona Historical Society Museum, 1300 N. College Ave., Tempe
Cost: $14 per advance-purchase ticket; $17 per ticket at the door. Advance ticket purchase is recommended. Tickets are available online or from select East Valley midwives and baby stores; check online or call for locations. The play’s strong language and emotion may not be suitable for children.