After rewatching Season 4 Episode 3 of one of my favorite shows, Jane The Virgin, I realized that there is an entire dialogue that points to the debate between hospital and homebirth with regard to the safety of homebirth and the autonomy of the birth-person embedded in the script. This was not totally surprising to me because Jane the Virgin frequently touches on a variety of controversial and socially important topics (complications in Venezuela, the U.S. immigration system, wealth disparities, and feminism for example). As Jane the Virgin is a U.S. American twist on telenovelas, there is quite a lot of drama built into the scenes. It is important to discuss how in some ways this was a realistic and possibly influential portrayal of homebirth, along with the ways that it is a misguided representation.
To start, there is a big focus on the risks of Darci’s decision to give birth at home. Her baby-daddy, Rogelio, “did research” on homebirth and concluded that a hospital birth would be much safer. Not only has the research shown that (not including high-risk pregnancies) that a homebirth is just as safe, if not safer than a hospital birth. Stress and fear increases risk during labor and being able to choose which people will be around and creating a personalized safe setting should reduce that fear and stress. In any case, as one would have in reality, Darci explains that she has a contingency plan, knowing that the hospital is just 17 minutes away in case of an emergency. It is also ironic to think of Rogelio’s pro-hospital stance given the end of Season 1 when Jane’s baby (his grandson) is abducted by a random nurse who disrupts her time with the baby for “routine” testing. Having a hospital birth does not equate to a risk of kidnapping, but it is certain that at a hospital, a bunch of people you have never met before will constantly interrupt the natural processes of birth and postpartum one-on-one time with baby.
They also touch on the autonomy of the birth-person to make decisions for themselves. Rogelio tries to convince Darci to change her mind. He pleads that she just go to the hospital and to bring the tub and her doula with her. But Darci says she is afraid she will get an epidural at the hospital and exclaims, “I really want to feel every moment of this amazing experience.” Rogelio doesn’t seem to care about her wishes and continues by telling her that it’s not all about her. His wife, Xo, comes into the room and mediates the situation. She makes it clear, “It’s her body, and she has the right to choose how she wants to give birth.” Homebirth is all about empowering birth-people to make the choices they think are best for themselves and their babies, and Jane the Virgin highlighted that point very well during this conversation between the three of them.
There was one thing in particular that they missed. Darci was screaming for an epidural, which could happen in real life. However, it makes it seem as if there are no other forms of pain relief available. In reality, the team of people who come to all of the prenatal visits, and who will be at the birth, will have already been preparing the birth-person with the tools needed to relax and not be in too much pain. That includes and is not limited to: yoga, hypnobirth, massages, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy.
However, here are some of the other things that they did right:
- When explaining her birth plan, Darci talks about playing “jazz music” in her birthing room. Having a homebirth will allow for the birth-person to pick whatever kind of relaxing music they want to hear.
- Darci has Esteban in the pool with her. He is even holding her from behind as a physical and emotional support. If the birth-person would like, partners can be in the birthing pool for the same reasons. It can help relax the birth-person and it is a powerful way for people to feel really connected and a part of the birth experience.
- The baby was pulled directly up to Darci’s chest, which is common practice with homebirth. Midwives know that immediate skin-to-skin contact between baby and birth-person is a priority.
TV shows and movies that are based in drama cannot be held up to the expectation of accuracy and perfect authenticity. That being said, if they talk about controversial topics, it is important to point out what is fiction and what is reality. Overall it was really interesting and important that they touched on this subject, and focused on supporting the autonomy of Darci. Even though she is not even a main character, and actually is a rival to Xo, they really highlighted the fact that it is up to the birth-person to decide how the birth is going to go, and that everyone else around them should be supportive of those decisions, despite how they might personally feel.
Written by Gabrielle Cappelletti, the intern.