'Birth' a labor of love

Karen Brody, playwright of “Birth” and founder of Birth on Labor Day, an arts-based organization dedicated to creating childbirth choices that work for mothers, is on a mission to let women know that positive birth experiences aren’t pipe dreams.

Brody’s documentary-style play — think the “The Exonerated” meets “The Vagina Monologues” — is part of “Birthfest 2008,” an all-day expo Sunday at San Francisco’s Brava Theater Center that also features films and classes about childbirth.

In “Birth,” Brody paints a portrait of childbirth experiences of many women today, and it isn’t necessarily a pretty picture. Yet even though some stories border on disturbing and alarming, Brody’s aim is to move people toward positive solutions and better maternity-care options in the future.

“It’s not that easy to tell a bad birth story to family and friends,” the New York-based writer says. “Everyone thinks you should be happy that you have a healthy baby. Of course, everyone is thankful to have a healthy baby, but they may have this pain and trauma that needs to be released, too. Instead of all the statistics, let’s tell the story of childbirth today through mother’s voices — tell the truth — and then the people, the audience that is, can decide if the maternity-care system needs a complete facelift or not.”

Brody, who instinctively knew that homebirth was the right choice for her, was eager to share her positive experience with other new mothers soon after her son was born. She quickly learned that many women didn’t have the same story.

Inspired to address a growing crisis in childbirth choices, she interviewed more than 100 women, and through their stories, “Birth” was born.

Brody points out that “Birth” doesn’t necessarily promote a particular option. The goal of the play and her group, BOLD, is to inform and empower women about their birthing options and create social change along the way.

“I just want women to know that there’s a tribe out there of people who believe a powerful birth experience is a possibility,” she says. “It’s not necessarily about being for home birth and against hospital birth, I really want the hospital situation to be good for low-risk women, but right now we have to face the reality and that’s just not the case.”

IF YOU GO

Birthfest 2008

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday (7 p.m. performance of “Birth”)

WHERE: Brava Theater Center, 2781 24th St., San Francisco

TICKETS: $20 to $45

CONTACT: (415) 433-7827, www.birthfest.com

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