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The Confessional: I Was Wrong.

May 16, 2014

I am a prideful person, and I don’t like to admit it when I’m wrong. (I understand that I have this trait in common with about 95% of the human race, but it’s still a point of embarrassment for me.) But sometimes, when I am wrong about something very important, I know I have to own up to it, and in this case, I feel like I need to own up to it publicly.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years reading natural childbirth books and blogs. I spent SO MUCH time doing this that it made me a little crazy. I planned to give birth to Garrett at home but ended up transferring to the hospital, and the only reason I chose to have Caitlin at a hospital was because we had a different insurance policy and couldn’t afford the out-of-pocket cost of a homebirth. I never made this blog into a soapbox for my views, but my real life friends can vouch for the fact that I can be pretty self-righteously outspoken on the matter of natural childbirth. I mean, I’ve toned it down quite a bit over the past couple of years, but around the time that I was pregnant with Garrett, I was insufferable – mostly because I felt that I had to defend my decision to have a homebirth from all the people who said, “But but but… it’s so dangerous!”

Garrett Just Borned

Any excuse to share a cute baby picture. Garrett on June 20, 2010. I think. That weekend was kind of a blur.

I told people that my “research” had shown me homebirth WASN’T more dangerous than giving birth in the hospital. In fact, for a low-risk mom, it was actually SAFER! I preached it to anyone who would listen, and I may have converted a few people to my rah-rah birth goddess club. (Although, honestly, most people just tuned me out once they recognized the gleam of crazy in my eye.)

The problem with the “research” I did is that I only looked to sources that would confirm what I wanted to believe. I wanted to be counter-cultural and hip and cool and strong. I didn’t want anyone to harsh my birth goddess buzz, so I didn’t look into the dark side of homebirth, the things that could go wrong. I didn’t want to believe that anything COULD go wrong. I let myself be swayed by bad statistics and passionate arguments instead of looking at the facts from every angle and truly considering the risks AND benefits of ALL my options. I was afraid that I’d end up having an “unnecessarean” if I was pressured into inducing by a doctor with malpractice blinders on. I had come to believe that doctors were the enemy and that the only way to win against their scissor-happy assault on natural birth was to stay far, far away from the hospital. I let my problems with authority warp my view of the medical establishment, and I feared losing control more than I feared losing my child.

I do believe that my midwives truly had my and Garrett’s best interests at heart, and that is why they advised that we transfer to a hospital at the very first sign of distress. However, my home is less than five miles away from the hospital where Garrett was delivered, and the transfer still took over an hour. What if Garrett’s heart rate dropping had been a sign that something was SERIOUSLY wrong? What if I had needed an emergency C-section? That’s not what happened, and honestly, the odds of something like that happening are extremely slim. But if there had been a true emergency, I could have lost my son. I could have cheated myself out of the two and a half years that we had together.

In spite of my poor decision making, Garrett was born healthy and whole. And I might not be writing this post right not if it weren’t for the fact that we lost him less than two and a half years later. He was abused by a woman we considered a friend, a woman we trusted to have his best interests at heart. Instead, she violently murdered him, and justified her actions at her sentencing by saying, “I was only trying to get his attention.”

garrett-with-a-red-ball

Garrett at his second birthday party, July 1, 2012.

I cannot help but see chilling similarities between our trusted caregiver, whose actions were grossly inappropriate and deadly, and the stories I’ve heard of trusted midwives whose actions were also inappropriate and deadly. The children they killed didn’t get two and a half years to be held and adored and loved. They didn’t even get to take a breath.

The three stories that have touched me most deeply are Gavin’s, Aminah’s, and Wren’s. I won’t rehash the details of each child’s death because their parents deserve the honor of having their story relayed in their own words. What I will say is that Wren’s story filled me with horror and anger (at myself!) because he died of pneumonia caused by group B strep (GBS). GBS disease is a very rare risk/complication that is usually anticipated and mitigated through prenatal testing and the treatment with antibiotics during labor. When I was preparing for Garrett’s birth, I signed a waiver saying that I understood my midwives would not test me for GBS and could not provide me with IV antibiotics even if I wanted/needed them. I had been so brainwashed by the natural childbirth dogma that I truly believed that receiving antibiotics during labor and upsetting the balance of my child’s “gut flora” was worse than watching my baby die hours after he was born. In effect, by refusing the GBS testing, I was rolling the dice with my child’s life. The odds were in my favor, and everything turned out fine. But I still took a gamble with Garrett’s life, just as Wren’s parents took a gamble with his. I won and they lost, for no other reason than dumb luck.

first-photo

Brand new baby Caitlin, no worse for wear in spite of being born in Teh Eebil Hops-spital

Thankfully, I had a chance to do things differently with Caitlin, and even though I didn’t do it for the right reasons, I reaped the benefits. We had a natural hospital birth, and although there were a couple of minor concerns – Caitlin’s cord was wrapped around her neck, and she didn’t really make much noise after she was born – everything was managed quickly, efficiently and with minimal fuss. I’m pregnant with our next child and you had better believe I’ll be happily cooperating with every prenatal test and labor intervention my OB thinks is necessary instead of suspiciously folding my arms and narrowing my eyes, silently accusing my doctor of trying to bully me into a scheduled C-section so she can make more money and get out of the hospital in time for cocktail hour. In the crunchy mama world, there’s a popular catchphrase that says, “When you know better, you do better.” I know better now. And I intend to do better.

ultrasound-01

Baby 2014. Or perhaps a bunny. Someone on Facebook said it looked like a bunny.

Resources:
The following websites were instrumental in opening my eyes to the dangers of homebirth:
What Ifs and Fears Are Welcome
(Especially her series comparing data on neonatal mortality rates.)

The Skeptical OB
I told myself years ago that I would NEVER read anything written by Dr. Amy Tuteur, an outspoken critic of the natural childbirth movement. Honestly, I still think she’s kind of mean. But I also understand that she feels driven to expose the dangers of homebirth so that babies’ lives can be saved. My favorite post on her blog basically tears apart every one of the homebirth movement’s talking points.

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31 Comments leave one →
  1. Sue permalink
    June 15, 2014 08:37

    Thank you for the article. It takes a lot of courage and insight to review previously held views in response to evidence, and admit it publicly.

    Like

  2. Carolina permalink
    June 13, 2014 15:09

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your precious Garrett. He was a beautiful little boy. No one should have to live through that. I hope your earthly children are a comfort to you. Thank you for speaking out on this topic.

    Like

  3. carla hartley permalink
    June 13, 2014 12:58

    I am so sorry for the loss of your son and so sorry that you know of some midwives who you have been able to compare your situation to. As someone who is often the subject of Amy’s lies, I can tell you that she does not do what she does out of concern or love. I won’t go to her site to see her arguments but I can tell you that there is no topic that I consider her opinion to be a valid one. I had one of those “Safe” hospital births which led me to decide that I would never ever ever do that to another baby, and considered adoption my only option……then I found out that there were still midwives in the world ( I was born with a midwife, my grandmother in an ambulance on the way to the hospital) and I had 3 home births after that……all perfect, no baby skin peeled off cheeks, no cheek bones dented in or eyelid punctures, no separation from mommy, no hours of exhaustive crying for baby, no alcohol on mommy’s nipples, no fire separating mommy and baby set 3 times in 8 hours by disgruntled employee, no threat of a c section with doctor pouting because I said no. (He never spoke to me again) No infections, no trauma. I would not dream of trying to change your mind about home birth because it is not really your mind making this decision, anyway, but your heart. I am just sorry your heart is hurting.

    Like

    • June 13, 2014 14:29

      Hi, Carla, thanks for your comment! I understand your hesitation about Amy Tuteur, she is most definitely a person that inspires strong emotions in people (positive AND negative) and I don’t agree with everything she says on every topic. However, I do agree with her that homebirth is inherently dangerous. My son was killed by a person I trusted to have his best interests at heart, and for that reason I am very sympathetic towards women who have lost babies because they trusted midwives who were incompetent and/or unethical. The reason I say that homebirth is inherently dangerous is because there are certain (rare) complications that can only be addressed in a hospital setting, and sometimes those complications cannot be identified quickly enough to get the mother and/or baby to the hospital. That doesn’t mean that every single homebirth will end badly – rather, I know a great many of them end beautifully, with a happy and healthy mom and baby. But, for me, choosing homebirth would be like choosing to gamble with my or my child’s life. The odds might be in my favor, but I would rather give birth in a hospital, where the odds are much much better.

      As for the negative experiences that you’ve referenced, I think it’s safe to assume that some are extremely rare and have nothing to do with the medical model vs. midwifery model of care (i.e. fires set by disgruntled employees… YIKES). I also want to be clear in saying that YES, I completely agree that there are incompetent and unethical doctors in the world. However, in America (where I live – not sure where you are) the regulations that control the practice of medicine are so much more rigorous than those that homebirth midwives must follow. And if, God forbid, a doctor was guilty of medical malpractice, he or she must face professional and financial consequences. Midwives who injure or kill babies through negligence are not held accountable because the aren’t required to be licensed or submit to any professional oversight. The only hope for stopping a negligent midwife is criminal prosecution and conviction.

      If you are hesitant to take your internet traffic to Amy’s blog (which I can understand), please consider checking out the other blog I linked to, What Ifs and Fears Are Welcome: http://whatifsandfears.blogspot.com/ Dani is a doula who was pro-homebirth but whose analysis of homebirth statistics – released by MANA itself – convinced her that American homebirth is needlessly dangerous when compared with hospital birth. It may not change your mind but it may at least help you to understand why so many women still choose to give birth in the hospital, even though our medical system isn’t perfect.

      Thanks again for commenting!

      Like

    • Carolina permalink
      June 13, 2014 15:07

      Cara, I had a hospital birth with “no baby skin peeled off cheeks, no cheek bones dented in or eyelid punctures, no separation from mommy, no hours of exhaustive crying for baby, no alcohol on mommy’s nipples, no fire separating mommy and baby set 3 times in 8 hours by disgruntled employee” etc. No infections, no trauma. Hospital birth is not a torture for most people and I resent people who act like their experience is the norm in an attempt to scare people. I’m glad your homebirths worked out for you, but the statistics don’t lie: it is simply not as safe. There is not a single complication or emergency that can be better handled at home than in the hospital. Not one. Considering that the day of birth is the most dangerous day for a child, I’ll opt to be around medical professionals.

      Like

      • June 13, 2014 15:48

        Birth is a normal function of biology. I have been studying birth intensely since Toby’s hospital birth in 1975 and have been teaching midwifery for 35 years. I know what can and does go wrong and why. There are few emergencies that happen in the absence of interference. The risks that the hospital’s interference adds to birth are far greater. I know a great deal about hospital birth and I am not even factoring in my hospital birth when I can say with assurance that hospital birth is riskier than home birth for most people. Home birth is safe for most but at any point where medical assistance is needed then to the hospital you should go. And statistics that lump miscarriage in with planned home birth do lie. Are you familiar with the Mehl studies? Fear does not motivate me….love and truth are why I do what I do. And day one is NOT the most dangerous day for babies born at home. In fact, I wish I could take my home born babies back to the inherent safety of that day of their lives. I would never wish to take Toby back to that day in the hospital. You can resent me all day long but that will not keep me from telling the truth about my births, hospital and home. Birth is safer than not; interference is riskier than not. Birth is not an ambush, pregnancy is not an illness. Trusting birth means trusting that the physiology of mother and baby are designed to bring baby to mother’s arms. It works very well almost every time if left alone. The body that knows how to conceive and grow certainly knows how to birth. Birth is as safe as life gets, as my friend Harriette Hartigan says, but it is only as safe as life gets. It is held to a higher standard than any other part of life, unfairly. Those of us who have learned the truth about birth and choose to exercise our rights to make our own decisions about birth are quite used to be ridiculed for our choices, but we are not going to stop telling our birth stories.
        trustbirth.com

        Like

        • June 13, 2014 16:21

          “Trusting birth works very well almost every time.” But not EVERY time. What a tragedy for those who did trust birth and were left brokenhearted.

          http://whatifsandfears.blogspot.com/2014/06/trust-birth.html

          Like

        • Ottawa Alison permalink
          June 14, 2014 07:27

          I will do anything to get my baby out alive and thriving. I don’t want my child to be a causualty because some babies die during birth. We have medicine and procedures that can reduce the death rate that comes from prolonged labours, shoulder dysocia, having an infection during labour, going after 42 weeks. We have neonatal resuscitation procedures filled with experts and advanced equipment to help babies live, the ones that are often labeled “not meant to live” by the extreme home birth at all costs advocates.

          I’ll be 37 when my next baby will be born. I have dealt with 3 years of infertility. The fact I got pregnant naturally was a fluke, our odds were less than 1%. My last child came “through the sun roof” and I honestly won’t lose 1 minute of sleep if I never have a vaginal birth. I just want the opportunity to mother another child and watch them grow and learn and embrace the world.

          Liked by 1 person

        • raisingcropsandbabies permalink
          June 14, 2014 16:27

          Oh my gosh… I can’t believe I used to believe all that bullcrap you’re spewing, Carla. I trusted birth, the homebirth midwife left the birth alone, and 30 hours later.. what did I end up with after a severe shoulder dystocia (a perfectly natural, at home shoulder dystocia even)??? A lifelong injured baby who is our miracle. I learned “the truth” about homebirth the hard way… I’m not bitter, but somedays it sure is HARD to look at my son because of the guilt I feel, knowing he didn’t have to face this life limited and it is because of a choice I made that he does.

          I am so sorry for the loss of your son, Garrett. So very sorry.

          Like

        • Sue permalink
          June 15, 2014 08:34

          “The body that knows how to conceive and grow certainly knows how to birth.”

          Would that be the same body that wastes 10 – 20% of conceptions in spontaneous first trimester miscarriage?

          A disingenuous comment like that would suggest that the poster knows much less about the physiology of birth than she claims.

          Like

    • June 14, 2014 12:24

      Thank you for demonstrating what passes for “reasoning” among homebirth advocates, Carla. By your own admission, you haven’t read my claims, but you know you disagree with them, anyway? That sounds like you are afraid; you don’t read my claims because you know you can’t rebut them.

      A few questions for you, Carla:

      Do you feel any guilt, responsibility or sense of accountability when a baby dies because a mother follows your advice?

      How many babies have to die preventable deaths before you might consider that you are wrong?

      Do you think it is intellectually honest to refuse to read anything that doesn’t make you feel good about yourself and your views?

      How do you sleep at night knowing that you have encouraged mothers and fathers to risk their babies lives, and now some of those babies are dead, and their parents face a lifetime of crushing grief? Or do you simply put those dead babies and suffering parents out of your mind and get on with spreading your nonsense?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. May 17, 2014 19:36

    I am so sorry for the loss of your son. That broke my heart. I AM SO SORRY!

    Like

  5. May 17, 2014 16:28

    What a wonderful testimony. THANK YOU for writing this; it couldn’t have been easy.

    Like

  6. May 16, 2014 21:44

    We almost lost our Carter due to a placental abruption. Paramedics came quick, had the transfusion, wasn’t even awake for the delivery, didn’t even see him for 24 hours. I would have it no other way. Hospital all the way. It is not worth the risk. You really need a competent team ready for any and everything because initially they thought my bleeding was just another bleed from the placenta previa. No clue how long or what part of his brain was deprived of oxygen. We are part of a longitudinal study which is interesting, and like you said… These experiences make us appreciate our children perhaps just a little more. Even though I didn’t lose my Carter, I came close many times. I am overprotective, hold him a little longer, and love a little harder. He is quirky as hell and has huge core and proprioception issues, but… That’s him. I wouldn’t change him even when I see the “normal” kids out and about. I love and miss you and think of sweet Garrett every day. We almost gave our yearly gift to Children’s in November, but we decided we will give every June to celebrate his life and all he did for so many people! Isn’t it incredible? One little boy that you were chosen to mother touched the lives of countless numbers of people. I know that doesn’t numb the pain, but who would have ever thought Emily that you would be such a strong, guiding force for so many. We love you. We never forget, and we never stop offering our condolences. Love Always, Matt, Molly, Carter, Owen, and Granmama Geraldine

    Like

    • May 16, 2014 21:47

      Molly, I just adore you. You are right – I was blessed to be chosen as Garrett’s mom, and I thank God for that. He was the apple of my eye, and knowing that his story has touched so many people encourages me.

      Like

    • May 16, 2014 21:47

      And I thank God for Carter’s life!

      Like

  7. May 16, 2014 21:28

    Thank you for speaking out!! I know how hard it is to realize what we so firmly believe is based on incorrect information. Thank you for being so brave.

    And…. my heart breaks for the horrible loss of your son. He is darling…. just darling. I am so sorry.

    Like

    • May 16, 2014 21:35

      Thank you! Your blog really inspired me. I appreciated your posts about changing your mind on home birth.

      Like

  8. May 16, 2014 20:12

    I’m so very sorry for the loss of your beautiful son.

    Like

  9. gatheradmin permalink
    May 16, 2014 18:55

    Thank you for your message.I’m sure it was not easy to write.

    Like

  10. OregonClimber permalink
    May 16, 2014 18:41

    You may be interested in reading this story about the risks of homebirths: http://www.bendbulletin.com/home/1897490-151/the-risk-of-being-born-at-home

    Like

  11. May 16, 2014 18:32

    Thank you for sharing your story, all of it, and I wish you every possible blessing with your new child.

    Like

  12. May 16, 2014 17:38

    That was me. I’m hoping for a cute cotton tail. :D

    Like

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