Known for her spunky attitude as both Tracy Turnblad in the original Hairspray and her 11-year stint as a daytime talk show host, Ricki Lake has reinvented herself as a women's birthing advocate. Following the release of her documentary about the shifting of the American mindset from home and drug-free deliveries to medicated hospitalized births where Lake chronicled her own son's home birth, she and director, Abby Epstein, penned Your Best Birth ($18). The text is a guide to natural delivery and birthing options.
We had the opportunity to chat with Lake, mama of two — Milo, 12, and Owen, 7 — about labor and delivery, c-sections and motherhood.
lilsugar: Is it hard for women to convince their families that a natural birth, or midwife, is the way to go?
Ricki Lake: I think it is really hard. There's still the stigma attached and very much less than one percent of people have home births. It's not something that’s talked about. If you go to the Netherlands, this is the norm. I think in Holland 30 percent of births are planned home births and they have a better infant mortality rate and maternal death rate. Midwives handle most of the births. So it's just not in our culture to really be open to it. I’m not on a mission to get everybody to deliver at home. I’m on a mission to talk about informed choice in this area.
lilsugar: Did you believe this would be your calling?
Ricki Lake: No! I was looking for something to speak on and be passionate about and this is the natural fit because of my experiences and because there was a lack of a voice. I thought — this is where I can serve, I can do something that I feel is positive. I’m not telling women what to do, I’m just trying to educate them and understand that having the ideal be a birth where you’re an active participant, whatever that is – if it's “don’t take my baby away from me,” or “don’t give me that epidural yet,” or “give me that epidural now.” I mean whatever it is, to not be a number in this conveyor belt.
To read what Ricki had to say about VBACs and mothering her sons,
lilsugar: Why do you think the US has moved so far away from the European midwife model?
Ricki Lake: In the turn of the century, birth moved from home to the hospital as doctors got more and more trained doing surgeries. And then in the last decade, really, this malpractice situation that we’re in, with all the insurance and health care reform, it’s a nightmare. It's a really difficult climate for doctors to practice in. I wouldn’t want to be an obstetrician. It's not even about money any more – you’re not even really making a living. You have to pay this malpractice premium that’s so outrageous that you have to do a certain number of births just to pay it. They need to have a life, they have families of their own. That’s why they can’t wait for a woman to go into labor spontaneously and stay with them through the course of their entire labor and delivery.
lilsugar: Are c-sections the enemy in the birthing process?
Ricki Lake: I don’t think it’s the enemy, It's amazing that doctors are able to save mothers and babies in dire situations. It's a necessary procedure. A lot of times it's being done for reasons that are not in the best interest and safety of the mother – it's from the litigious standpoint. The c-section rate has gone to 32 percent when the world health organization says it should be around 13. Some hospitals are at a 50 percent c-section rate. In New York City, 50 percent of women are being cut open. And with VBACs being an option that is being taken away from many women around the country, I think 200 hospitals have mandated that they will not do a VBAC It's horrible.
lilsugar: You know you're a mother when ______?
Ricki Lake: You are no longer your top priority.
lilsugar: Why didn't anybody tell me _______ about motherhood?
Ricki Lake: Why didn’t anybody tell me that it would be so hard.
lilsugar: What's the best trick your mama taught you?
Ricki Lake: How to heat up a Hungry Man dinner.
lilsugar: Helicopter mom or free-range kids?
Ricki Lake: I think I’m pretty free range. My kids might argue that, but I stand by that I’m pretty free range.