It’s not until you become pregnant that you truly appreciate the amount you can accomplish in those 40 weeks. At the beginning, it feels like such a long time, but somewhere around the halfway point you realize that 40 weeks is nothing. And yet you manage to grow a human being, make a nest for him, prep your village for his arrival and then miraculously transform yourself into this other person: a mother. Talk about great documentary fodder.
Husband and wife filmmaking team Dominique Debroux and Chris Henze thought so too, so they created 40 Weeks the movie. The heartfelt documentary brings you into the lives of a diverse group of real women, from pregnancy positive to the birth of their babies, including all the emotional ups and downs in between. It’s all at once comforting, empowering, shocking and inspiring. It honors and celebrates pregnancy, and reminds you that every experience is different--and yet also the same.
“Birth is of course the great dramatic emotional outcome of pregnancy but all is built (including the new life) during pregnancy,” says Debroux. 40 Weeks the movie, explains Henze, is a “guide and roadmap that women can follow and that helps them along their way.”
What led to the idea of the documentary?
Chris: I watched my wife, Dominique go through her pregnancy to bring me my beautiful daughter Gaia. I’m so grateful to her. Along her journey I was able to meet a lot of other pregnant women and thought their stories were also beautiful. That was almost 7 years ago, and I finally have a DVD to put into someone’s hand that fulfills my dream to celebrate and honor pregnancy for all that it is.
Dominique: Chris really did celebrate me throughout my pregnancy and brought that awe to all the women that he interviewed. I also think that his inspiration was further fueled by the amount of complaining I did through my pregnancy about not having anything to watch from the point of view of other women. I did not have girlfriends who were pregnant at the same time, and I worked long hours and traveled for work so I did not have a lot of time for meet-up groups to make new pregnant friends. I certainly wanted to know what was going on with my body, but the intense morning sickness that I had well into my second trimester made reading a real chore. I just kept wishing there was something I could watch, some women I could visually-virtually connect with.
Why focus on pregnancy vs. birth?
Chris: I wouldn’t even say I chose pregnancy over birth. In 40 Weeks the movie, we also experience the birth process as part of the pregnancy journey. I wanted to create a guide and roadmap that women can follow and that helps them along their way. If we only focused on birth we wouldn’t be able to do this.
Dominique: Birth is, of course, the great dramatic emotional outcome of pregnancy, but all is built (including the new life) during pregnancy. Women who are not moms who have watched 40 Weeks the movie talk about having a better understanding of the love that you can have for a child and a better understanding of how their mother feels about them. The birth by itself cannot give that; the arrival without the journey is incomplete.
How did you choose the women included in 40 Weeks the movie?
Dominique: We wanted to show a range that is as close to what the U.S. is right now, within the constraints of a less than 2-hour movie. Interestingly enough, without trying to do so, the percentages of natural birth, epidurals, scheduled cesareans and emergency cesareans that we ended up having in the movie follow the national percentages. It allows us to see what is going on, and our community can strengthen what works and hopefully help change what does not.
Tell us about the changes you witnessed in the women you followed over the 40 weeks.
Chris: I was lucky enough to be with the 40 Weeks the movie moms very early in their pregnancy journeys and observed them change fundamentally. To me, women sacrifice who they were to become mothers, they are no longer the same. One mom told me that she knows that her very last thought will be of her daughter. Some of the moms I have talked with have said there’s no sacrifice, and "look what I have after pregnancy." So I now call it a noble sacrifice. Men, we evolve into fathers, we don’t fundamentally change. Women [change] so gracefully that it can happen without being noticed.
What was the most surprising thing you caught on camera?
Chris: Actually I was most surprised by how much the 40 Weeks the movie moms let me into their lives. The depth was more than I could have imagined. I had total commitment and heard everything.
The most hilarious?
I have to say the funniest thing was when some moms would share their crazy pregnancy brain stories or wild cravings.
The most heart-warming?
When the moms would talk about how much they love their babies and how happy they are about becoming a family--so beautiful.
You captured so many intimate moments. Was there anything that was off-limits?
Chris: There was nothing that was off-limits, and it’s all there. There were a couple of things in the film that I made sure the moms were okay with me sharing, and even though they could be embarrassed, they all chose to be fine with it being included. We all were working with the idea that the more open and human we all could be about the process the more we had a chance to help women who were watching the movie feel comfortable.
Over the course of your filming, what did you learn about pregnancy that you didn’t know before?
Chris: I’ve always had a lot of respect for women because I have a great Mom, but what I learned about women through the process of making the film is that they are even more amazing than I thought. I’m not sure that women even realize how amazing they are. I hope this film shows them.
Dominique: Through our long journey of getting pregnant and then having Gaia, I had let go of a lot of the “right and wrong” ways to be pregnant, but I still had some remnants. Getting to know all these women wiped those out. All lives are different, and they bring different challenges. All the women in the movie (and now I am thinking the majority of expecting moms) want to be the best they can be, and they grow and change as they can. That is inspiring.
What do you hope people walk away from this movie with?
Chris: I hope that women who watch the movie will feel more comfortable about their pregnancies and learn some things that can help them achieve healthier outcomes. It’s going to be hard and challenging but you’ll make it through.
Dominique: I hope women realize that they are part of a welcoming community and that they are inspired to educate themselves on all parts of the pregnancy journey.
What’s your best piece of advice for a woman that just learned she’s pregnant?
Dominique: Watch the movie, watch all our videos, learn as much as you can, ask your doctor/midwife/nurse lots of questions and most importantly celebrate yourself, you are doing something amazing.
This post was brought to you by Big Belli.