Premiere in Greece of Trailblazing New Birth Documentary: “These Are My Hours”

This weekend marks the premiere in Thessaloniki, Greece, of the trailblazing new film, These Are My Hourswhich documents the experiences of labor and home birth of Emily Graham, an American woman who is also a mother and midwife. Directed by award-winning filmmaker, Scott Kirschenbaum, the documentary is unique in its approach to the phenomenology of birth, recording the story of Emily’s labor entirely from her own perspective and words.

Thessaloniki, the capital of Macedonia and an important geographic location of the ancient world, is an appropriate place for this film to open. Just as Greece typically connects its inhabitants and visitors to our ancient world, the laboring Emily reminds us during the film that she is connected to a long lineage of birthing women. This connection to the past is a comfort and strength to women during their own labors,

So there you are, in front of the coals, and they’re burning. And it’s your turn to walk across them. You’re the one who’s walking, you’re the only one whose feet are going to get burned. But you can see the footprints of all the mothers who have come before you, so you know that this isn’t your journey alone. – Emily Graham

Classical image of birth (Athens, 5th C. BCE)

This film is unabashed in its depiction of birth’s most visceral aspects, letting the viewer partake as Emily goes through the process of her labor, which proceeds in the calmness of her own home. We see Emily groan and squat, her flesh, and blood unhidden, and we witness the emergence of her baby from her body. But these visceral aspects are part of the humanity of birth, and they are also important on a didactic level, especially for girls and other women who have not seen birth beyond its often unrealistic depictions on television and film.

The physiology of birth can be intense for the laboring woman, but Emily reminds the viewer, “Don’t be afraid of how intense it looks. These are my hours, let them be hard. I’ll ask for what I need.” And while she relies on her own strength, Emily receives gentle support from her husband, Jason, as well as from her midwife and and the quiet presence of her mother.

Also important to this film is the incredible footage Kirschenbaum was able to get of Emily bonding with her baby, a radiant girl born with a full head of dark hair. The baby is so strong and vibrant, right from the moment of her birth, and the capturing of bonding with her mother so solid, that the importance of not interrupting these moments between mother and child after birth becomes clear to anyone watching the film.

This documentary is an important representation of birth and will help others who seek to visualize how labor and birth can unfold.