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