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Are Mothers Who Refuse Medical Advice Selfish?

Image via Flikr

Image via Flikr

This week, I came across a story about Lisa Epsteen. Lisa is a mother of 4 and was pregnant with her 5th child. Like most moms nowadays, she had done her research and knew she wanted a VBAC, so she selected a doctor who was not only highly regarded, but also known for being a VBAC proponent and working with high risk women on VBAC births. When Lisa was a week past due, at the time, suffering from gestational diabetes, she went in for an ultrasound that ended up showing her baby in signs of fetal distress. She was warned that her child may be born with brain damage, or, at worst, her baby would die and asked her to go in for an emergency c-section.

Image via

Image via

Yet, she declined stating that her husband was at work, and she couldn’t leave her 2 year old in the care of strangers and scheduled a c-section for a few days later. Dr. Yankowitz, upon hearing of her decision, proceeded to send her a threatening email that read:

“I am deeply concerned that you are contributing to a very high probability that your fetus will die or your child will incur brain damage if born alive. At this time, you must come in for delivery. I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in, but you are leaving the providers of USF/TGH no choice.” – via Fox8 News

While I do not agree with his wording or his threatening manner, I have to wonder why Lisa didn’t listen to medical advice when told her child was in danger?  The pressure to have a natural birth is huge, I remember feeling it myself when I was pregnant with my daughter. In fact, that was the only plan I had…no drugs, all natural, I didn’t even bother to consider any other option. I was a healthy twentysomething so my baby’s birth should have been a piece of cake right?

Fast forward to 10 days past my due date, and I gave the doctor the OK to be induced, because really, at that point, I was miserable and although I didn’t know it at the time, carrying my 10 lb baby was really painful the last few weeks. Although I was induced, I was determined to still try to deliver as naturally as possible. I gave my doctor the go- ahead to break my water (after 2 days of no baby), and that’s when he saw it…the green liquid. He came to me and calmly told me that the green fluid meant that meconium was present and it could present a hazard to my baby if it went into her lungs. Then, he gave me the option that I had not planned on nor read about, he said, “you could continue to labor and try to proceed for a vaginal delivery, but at this point, it will be a risk for your baby and I recommend having a c-section before your baby’s health suffers.”

That was all I need to hear.


My doctor was right to be concerned, as it turned out, my daughter had to be taken to the NICU because she wasn’t breathing well. She was given some anti-biotics and monitored, thankfully, for just over 24 hours. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t listen to my doctor’s advice, and I really don’t want to think about it. Today my daughter is a happy, smart, wonderful little girl and I never doubt that having a c-section was best for us. For me, the only thing that mattered, was making sure she was born healthy and safely. For those of you wondering, Lisa went on the deliver a healthy baby via c-section, on the date she scheduled. Yes, the baby was born healthy…but she was lucky, a lot of stories don’t end that way.

Is there so much pressure to have a natural child birth that it’s worth endangering a baby’s life? Or is it us moms who dream up a “birth plan” and refuse to see past it? 

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