Dying to Birth at Home: Is Homebirth Worth the Risk?
I absolutely understand the appeal to homebirth. What could be a more organic, wholesome welcoming to the world than in the comfort of your own environment? If this has attracted you to look into homebirth as a viable option, I can assure you midwives are going to entice you with visions of candles, a relaxing birthing tub, the freedom to move as you wish and eat what you desire during labor. Once you have them talking, they will also beguile you into believing the hospital will deny your every wish. You will be forced to labor on your back, denied food and water, made to take drugs, bullied into a c-section, circumcision, and immunizations should you choose a "medicalized" birth.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I know; I once was a staunch homebirth advocate. Until my own. When my midwife arrived at my home to help me birth my first child into the world, it was a nightmare few women can imagine.
My midwife asked if she could use my oven to sterilize her instruments. She tried giving me someone's prescription to induce labor. Although she used a Doppler, she did not know the correct position my son was in. She told me her assistant was also a midwife- nowhere in my state does she have a CPM license. She did not allow me to labor in a position that was comfortable for me. Despite being GBS+ (Group B Strep- an infection that is harmless to the mother, but can be deadly to the neonate), she assured me homebirth was still safe and that using a Hibiclens rinse would effectively combat my GBS. She broke my water even though in our birth plan, due to the GBS, we agreed that breaking the water was not safe. She made me start pushing after she broke my water. I pushed for three hours with no results. She kept saying she could see my son's head, telling me he was right there but I wasn't fighting hard enough to bring him into the world. Later at the hospital, I learned what she saw was actually a blood clot on my bladder. After 15 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing, I was so weak and confessed to her that I felt as if I could pass out at any moment. She “administered” oxygen to me and left the room, but it wasn’t helping. Because she forgot to turn it on. At that point, I wanted to be in a hospital. I simply wanted my child to survive.
At the hospital, my midwife refused to give the hospital staff any of my charts when I transferred the hospital, so without evidence of prenatal care, both my son and I were drug tested. My midwife would not stop arguing with the nurses when I was being admitted. Two Labor and Delivery nurses, an OB, and a resident checked my dilation- only 6 centimeters. An ultrasound showed the baby was asynclitic posterior, so not only was he face up, but his head was not engaged properly in my cervix. At home, my midwife told me my son was LOA, the “easiest” position to labor in. It took two skilled nurses a half an hour to properly insert a catheter because I was so extremely swollen. A fetal monitor showed my baby going into distress and I was relieved to be wheeled down to the O.R. for an emergency c-section.
My son had to resuscitated at birth. He required so much care; I did not get to see him for two hours after the birth. I had a severe bladder prolapse; my surgeon said he had to literally pick up my bladder and put it back where it belonged from pushing for so long without being fully dilated. Despite everything, we were inexplicably, undeniably lucky. Thanks to an amazing hospital staff, we lived. While my son is healthy, my body is not unscathed. I have a tilted bladder, incontinence, and uterine trauma. I will never naturally birth a child. Every pregnancy from now on carries a higher risk of placental abruption.
To top it off, although my midwife’s 2,000 dollar fee had been paid after my 36th week of pregnancy, she began fraudulently charging my insurance for ridiculous things like $800 for "whirlpool therapy." That has to be the most expensive bath I ever had in my own tub at home.
Carrying a new life inside of you can be such a wonderful gift, but also a daunting task that can shake us to the core of our very being. In times as such, women often have a renewed sense of faith to ease into the rhythm of maternity. Faith that we are entering a sacred bond with nature; our bodies are working as they were designed; we are capable and strong. While these are wonderful mantras, when it comes to choosing a birthing environment, do we own the rights to test the epistemological validity of faith in our bodies? Or is faith truly opposed to reason?
Few women begin their journey into motherhood without fear. Fear of anything- be it needles, stretch marks, pain, parenting, labor, birth, even death. Nothing is safe about birth- there is an instinctual reason women fear it. No one can guarantee a positive experience or a safe outcome, so beware anyone who wraps an anecdotal birth with a bow of empowerment and tries to sell it to you. You could be bargaining your baby and your life for an experience that may not turn out the way you were promised.