“To life”, in the footsteps of an extraordinary midwife

To the life ***

by Aude Pepin

French film, 1 h 18

Chantal Birman’s passion for her profession has never wavered. At 70, retire him “Tear out the heart”. A liberal midwife, she works at home with young mothers who have just returned home with their newborn baby. In Seine-Saint-Denis, Chantal Birman goes from apartment to apartment to take care of bodies and souls. She checks the scars, helps the baby to latch on, announces an umbilical cord on the verge of falling, rejoices in a weight curve that goes up.

Nothing escapes her either from the confusion that seizes many mothers whose exhaustion makes their voices tremble. This is one of the blind spots in our society, so busy celebrating the happiness of motherhood that it obscures its difficulties. Faced with the fear of not understanding this little stranger coming out of oneself or with a concern for her child who makes one lose sleep, Chantal Birman poses with a lot of humanity the words that soothe. The time devoted to each makes it possible to identify in one a difficult relationship with food, in the other an immense loneliness after the flight from a country where her husband beat her and retains her two eldest children.

Pathologies rather than women

Aude Pépin films in the way Chantal Birman approaches her patients, without pretense and with tenderness. She follows her on her visits, dragging a heavy suitcase up the stairwells. The young intern who accompanies her, Hortense leads her to talk about her practice and discusses with her in a contradictory way the right to abortion that this feminist has always defended.

The meetings with her colleagues double the portrait of Chantal Birman of a worrying picture of perinatal care in France: tight flow in birthing rooms, increase in the number of parturients per midwife, systematic use of epidurals, loss of sense of the profession. , treatment of pathologies and no longer of women in their entirety … A largely unknown fact emerges, central to understanding the extent of the role of midwives: more women die by suicide after the birth of their baby than in the hemorrhage of deliverance yet at the heart of teaching and medical concerns.


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