When I think of home birth advocates, I think of strong and educated men and women not only in the medical community, but also from various social classes, and backgrounds. I do not think of the handful of extremists who stalk internet message boards, and spend their days trying to convince mothers that their choice to birth in a hospital is not the right choice.
With that being said, I understand not everyone is going to view home birth advocates, or supporters in the same light. I also know it takes just one extremist to ruin it for an entire community.
This morning I read an article on BabyCenter about a Virginia Midwife who went to trial for practicing midwifery without a license, with the author’s opinion on the situation and on home birth. As a home birth advocate, and a mother who has had three c-sections and would never be able to actually physically birth at home… I found most of it extremely offensive.
Author Evonne Lack starts off by discussing the case midwife Karen Carr was charged in– a breech home birth leading to an emergency situation, which left the baby on life support before losing his life. While I am sure there is more to the story, what is being left out of the story as a whole is the fact that the mother made the choice to give birth at home, knowing her baby was breech and searched out Carr as a provider in the area who would attend a breech delivery. Midwife Carr wasn’t out searching for mothers to bully into home birth or trying to convince mothers across Virginia to sign up for her care despite not having a license.
Then came the kicker:
I admit, I have a bias against home birth, particularly in high-risk situations like this one. I think that women who give birth at home are often too caught up in the idea of an idealized birth, of an idealized home birth movement - and consequently become blind to the risks.
As someone who has worked with the community for years, I can honestly say I have never seen any real home birth advocates, or mothers advocating for high risk patients to give birth at home under any circumstances, no matter what. The reputable midwives would also never consider a high risk mother for a home birth under any circumstances… no matter how much a mother may want a certain type of birth… at home or not.
But it didn’t stop there!
That’s what gets me. The home birth community seems to profess a “take back the night” mentality, as if the medical community has stolen something from them. Hospitals and doctors are seen as the embodiment of a paternalistic establishment which seeks to rob women of their natural birthright – the right to give birth naturally. And I just don’t think this is the case – at least, not these days.
Unfortunately for the writer of this article she has not had to fight to give birth naturally. I go back to my first son, before we knew that giving birth really wasn’t an option for me, and my desire to have a natural birth… in a hospital. From the moment I walked through the doors I was laughed at by hospital staff and told I would change my mind shortly… I never had a chance at having a natural birth because of the environment I was in. No support, no understanding, no listening, and yes… it was a fight. A big fight.
I didn’t want an epidural, I didn’t want monitoring and intervention, but because of the birth facility I had virtually no choice. Most mothers don’t know these things until they are in the hospital birthing and it is too late to just walk out and go someplace else. If there is someplace else to go locally. Take Back the Night mentality? Not so much… just mothers not wanting to be put through the assembly line, one size fits all type maternity care we see today in hospitals. Or mothers who simply have educated themselves about their birthing options and want to birth at home.
Contrary to Saturday Night Live, and Hollywood movies today, mothers who are choosing to birth at home are not all hippies who haven’t shaved in 14 years, and beat bongos while they chant around an inflatable fishie kiddie pool in the living room. Although I can see how that stereotype would be fitting for those who are strongly opposed to home birth.
When it comes down to it, just like any other medical choices, mothers should be able to make informed decisions about their prenatal care, as well as their birth. After all, it is her medical care!
photo: flickr.com/Nico Nelson
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