Born For This
Born For This
Born For This
Born For This

Born For This

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    • Directed by: Jen Gilomen
    • Released: 2024 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2018
Running Time: 70 min
Language: English
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Race Power and Privilege, Women's Studies, Women's Health

Determined not to become another statistic of the Black maternal health crisis, Janeé Washington and her husband Josh choose the rare option of hiring an experienced midwife and doula and planning to give birth at home, away from the hospital and all of its interventions. But the baby has other plans. This is the story of the birth of one baby, with its family caught between two very different approaches to childbirth.

Summary Of The Issues Portrayed In The Film

By now, the failings of our nation’s maternal healthcare system and its disparate impacts on women of color are widely known,¹ but the solutions are still elusive. In part, this is because there is not one system, but two fundamentally different ones, with an extreme imbalance of power and resources: the industrialized medical system of hospitals, and the world of out-of-hospital birth.² While both systems ostensibly provide the same services to pregnant people, their world views, along with their motivations, methods, and importantly and centrally in Born for This – how those systems are experienced by those who access them – could not be more different.³ Whereas hospitals and those involved in the industrial system often approach birth as a medical event requiring close management and frequent intervention, the midwifery model of care practiced in birth centers and homes approaches birth as a natural process, aiming to intervene as little as possible.  

To an outsider, these distinctions may not be obvious. Hospitals, catching on to their customers’ interest in a ‘birth center-like’ experience, have in recent years opened their own ‘birth centers’ staffed with nurse-midwives and equipped with birth pools and yoga balls alongside IV drips and fetal monitors.⁴ After causing incalculable harm from decades of rising intervention rates, many hospitals have also implemented policies and practices aimed at reducing those rates.⁵ And yet, the experiences of medical racism, coercive practices, obstetric violence, deaths, harm, and trauma persist.

Director's Statement

I nearly lost my own life during childbirth in December, 2018. One minute I was envisioning a home birth with my midwife and doula; the next I was being induced a month early with suspected preeclampsia. I labored for 36 hours with numerous interventions, organ failure, and a late diagnosis before needing life-saving blood transfusions and an emergency C-section. I came within potentially minutes of losing my life and my baby’s, and was rushed into surgery alone knowing I may never meet my child. It was traumatic, and as I settled into motherhood and recovery, I learned how unnecessarily common my experience was. Yet I am a white woman living a life of relative privilege in the Bay Area, California, at the epicenter of medicine and technology, under dual care from a midwife and obstetrician and with continuous support of a doula who advocated for me, and so I survived. I hope to create a film that speaks in part to my fellow white Americans, from healthcare workers to politicians and voters. Acting as allies and following the leadership of affected communities, we have the power to protect thousands of mothers – a sacred tribe of which I am now a member – from needless trauma and harm. I also hope that the lessons we stand to learn by questioning our society’s treatment of women, investigating our implicit biases, and celebrating the work of the affected communities and allies who are leading the change, will help to propel birth equity and reproductive justice globally, not just in the U.S. I have spent the past four+ years since my birth experience researching this topic, learning, networking, and collaborating directly with the communities featured in the film.

My teammates for Born for This each bring their own identities, lived and professional experiences to the project. A Black mixed-race mother, co-producer and editor Jessica Jones recently created a short film about Black maternal health for the Smithsonian Futures project in collaboration with BElovedBIRTH Black Centering. The film featured a scene from her own daughter’s birth. Linda JonesBorn for This advisor, Birth Justice movement leader, and expert on Black maternal health, was Jessica’s doula and filmed Jessica’s birth scene. 

Bria Bailey is a quiet presence in the film itself as a student midwife for Janeé and Josh. Also working behind the scenes on the film as an advisor and educational consultant, Bria brings her vast lived experience as a trauma survivor, researcher, midwifery student, and doula. Along with Davon Crawford, we have been collaborating since May of 2022 when we met at the Alabama Black Midwives Conference. After meeting with midwives Lisa Davis, CNM and Kiki Jordan, LM, CPM, who along with their apprentices Bria and Davon agreed to participate in and collaborate on the film, we connected with Janeé and Josh through their providers. 

We hope you enjoy the film and learn from it.  Please pass along its message.

Official Selection at 2023 Oakland International Film Festival, 2023 Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, 2023 Mesa Film Festival and the 2023 Centre Film Festival

About the filmmaker 


Jen Gilomen is an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has created films distributed on PBS, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon as well as domestic and international film festivals, including UNSETTLED (producer and cinematographer; directed/produced by Tom Shepard; premiered April 2019; over ten film festival awards), LIFE ON THE LINE (PBS, 2014, distributed by New Day Films; UFVA Award, Best Doc at Mexico City International Film Festival), IN MY SHOES (Audience Award, Frameline Film Festival; distributed by Frameline), and DEEP DOWN (Independent Lens, 2010, distributed by New Day Films), which was funded by ITVS and MacArthur Foundation, participated in the U.S. State Department’s American Documentary Showcase, and received a national Emmy® nomination in 2011. In 2015-16, Jen was a Supervising Producer and Programmer at ITVS, where she oversaw a $3 million portfolio of over fifteen feature documentaries. She is an Associate of the U.C. Berkeley Investigative Reporting Program, Member-Owner of New Day Films, co-founder of the Collective of Documentary Women Cinematographers, former board member of Working Films and director at Bay Area Video Coalition, and lives in San Francisco with her wife and daughter. Jen’s current projects, DELIVERING JUSTICE and BORN FOR THIS, were inspired by her own traumatic, near-death experience in childbirth in 2018.


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