As one half of the dynamic duo behind the acclaimed documentary, The Business of Being Born, director Abby Epstein is passionate about putting moms-to-be back in the driver seat when it comes to giving birth. A mother herself to Matteo, born June 2006, and Pietro, born February 2010, she sees parenting as a long continuum of choices that begins well before you hold your baby for the first time. "You start making decisions for your children from the minute you get pregnant," she says. "Those are parenting decisions." Here, Epstein talks about the business of being in the Baby Zone.
What's your golden rule of parenting?
Oh, God—do I have one? I'm still trying to figure out any rules. I try to be open and flexible and stay in tune with my children and their ever-changing needs. It's about having boundaries—but not being too attached to any firm plans because your children tend to blow those up in smoke really quickly.
Describe the best moment of parenting so far.
The best moments are when you see your child overcome something and grow. My older son used to have a lot of separation anxiety and dropping him off at preschool was always fraught with tears. Now I see him do all of these things, go to camp, ski school. It's amazing when you see them blossom and grow into their own person and push through their fears and anxieties.
And the worst?
The worst for me is when you feel like you're subjecting your child to some necessary evil and you don't have any control over it. My older son had a minor surgery when he was a year old. He was terrified, and it was traumatic to just sit in the waiting room. You're putting your child's fate in someone else's hands. You have no control.
Best advice you ever got?
My first birth was so unexpected— it was early, nothing went as planned. People said to me, "Welcome to parenting!"—that it was the best preparation for parenthood you could ever have. You just can't anticipate the experience and who your kid is going to be. My kid needed a certain kind of birth, and that was a huge upset and shock, but it's not about you in the end. Basically, you need to be constantly prepared to not be prepared for what's next.
What's the one thing you can't live without?
Help. It's so easy to stop caring for yourself and stop fulfilling your needs, to say to yourself, "Oh, I don't have to go to yoga, I have to take care of the baby." You really need to have mommy substitutes—relatives or childcare. It does take a village.
Finish this sentence: You know you're in the Baby Zone when...
...you're crouched down in a tiny airplane bathroom stall and there's crazy turbulence and you're still holding your 24-month-old on the potty. Fasten Seatbelt sign? Sorry, my 2-year-old has to poop!