I went to the 20/20 website to see when they will air the upcoming piece on Orgasmic Birth and what did I find? A bunch of great birth coverage!
Trying to Take Back Childbirth is an excellent expose' of the costs, both literal and figurative, of medicalized birth, and there's another on homebirth, featuring Ricki Lake, though the headline of that one, Mothers-to-be Saying no to Modern Medicine is misleading.
Another one on homebirth explores the financial and political motives of ACOG on the opposition to homebirth, and another examines the pros and cons of surgical deliveries pretty fairly. I was disappointed in that one only because they kept using breech birth as a reason babies needed to be born surgically. Sometimes they are, but vaginal breech birth, while the complication rate is roughly double that of a head-down vaginal birth, is nowhere near the 5 times greater maternal mortality rate associated with surgery, providing the circumstances are favorable. This means the caregiver must be familiar with assisting with a breech (most doctors are not these days) and the breech scoring criteria should be met. The article made it sound like it was always deadly in days when surgery was not the norm.
I was a breech baby born vaginally, and I assure you I'm not dead, nor am I mentally incapacitated...at least on most days.
It's nice to see so many great stories in mainstream media, but we have a ways to go before we can expect to see women urged to birth at home, as in Scotland, England and elsewhere.
[WoW! These kids are now 12 years old AND some are big siblings!]
The last HypnoBirthing(R) baby reported to me was a home-birth on November 20th. Welcome Natalie Marie!
Aiden James and Jackson arrived in October (two other babies were due on October, but I have not received birth announcements so I have no names as of yet), Hanako Lily in September (likewise, no birth announcements on the other two that were due that month), Brittany Faith in June (one other due that month), Zanna Lirien in May, and Lillian Grace in March. There is one baby due any time now also. When I touch base with the other families with new arrivals, I'll post. I'm vowing to do better and give a shout-out welcome to these babies here in a more timely manner in 2009!
Now, about the ABC 20/20 program on Orgasmic Birth:
The entire program was about birthing and parenting options that don't often get a lot of exposure. I thought all were were fairly represented...and the responses to the pieces revealing.
I would think that women would be at the very least intrigued by the idea of ecstatic birth. Even if they aren't interested in what can make birth pleasurable instead of agonizing so they can have an orgasmic birth, I would think they'd at least be curious as to why it happens or why nature would provide such a 'hormonal blueprint of labor', what the benefits to mom and baby might be, and what is sacrificed when it is interrupted.
But some of the comments were downright hostile! Not only are some women saying orgasmic birth is impossible despite the fact that women in the film spotlighted in the 20/20 piece are enjoying themselves very much, but other comments I've seen say that elective paraplegia is better! I was astounded when I read that! The woman who wrote that had two horrific natural births and one with an epidural. And of course since her experience is the definitive word on what is possible in birth, that's the end of that discussion.
One person commented on how gross it was for the child to grow up thinking their birth was enjoyable for their mother. Yeah, so much better for a child's psyche to grow up being told your birth was the worst possible, tortuous thing your mother ever endured.
The same person who said feeling nothing is better than feeling pleasure also commented on the segment regarding home-birth, saying that women who give birth at home are selfish and ignorant because hospitals are so much safer. Another echoed that, saying that her baby was born not breathing and would have died if born at home.
There were others who were concerned that the segment implied that homebirth equals unassisted birth. I didn't come away with that perception, but the title was misleading. It read, "Mothers-to-be saying no to modern medicine" which is not the case at all. Giving birth at home does not mean that a woman wouldn't transport if a complication arose. Choosing to birth at home does not mean that a woman (or her family) doesn't believe in modern medicine, or even that she does not take prenatal care seriously. It simply means that she understands that hospitals are for the sick and injured, we go there when we get sick or hurt, and birth is neither illness nor injury.
In any case, often when I tell people my child was born at home, I hear comments about how 'brave' I was, followed by some dire birth emergency someone narrowly averted only through the quick action of the doctor.
"The cord was wrapped around my baby's neck and he would have strangled if he was born at home." (Babies don't breathe though their windpipes yet, they don't strangle. If the cord is around the neck, as it was with my baby, it's not such a big deal; we just unwrapped it.
"My baby wasn't breathing! Without the doctor, my baby would be dead!" (Maybe. But maybe the mother took narcotics in labor which depress breathing efforts. Maybe the doctor immediately cut the cord instead of waiting for it to stop pulsing and the baby wasn't ready to breath, but now that his oxygen source has been cut off, he needs help.)
"My baby had a life-threatening infection! We needed to be in the hospital!" (OK, but consider this: a baby is immune to the germs in his own home, but is very vulnerable to the super germs in hospitals, especially if his gut is colonized with them instead of the good healthy bacteria from his mom, and the colostrum to fight the bad germs.)
"My baby was premature!" (If naturally premature, a legitimate reason to be in the hospital. If the baby or babies were removed early because of induction or surgery, intentionally--as is often the case with healthy twins--or unintentionally because the ultrasound was wrong, as it very often is, then the doctor/hospital created the disaster before they fixed it. This is of great concern to the March of Dimes, who is trying hard to prevent premature births. Reporting on this, the St. Louis Beacon points out in an article with a section titled: Early induction of labor and Cesarean sections
"Pregnancy is popularly spoken of as lasting nine months. Therefore, many women think term is at 36 weeks, when really normal term is between 39 and 40 weeks. They will schedule delivery at around 36 weeks at their or their physician's convenience, believing that the baby will be fine.
However, according to Dr. Dave Stamilio of Washington University, late preterm births are much riskier than full term births. These babies are 4-7 times more likely to have feeding difficulties, respiratory distress syndrome, temperature instability, or other medical conditions.
Physicians and hospitals should schedule deliveries only when the baby is determined to be full term by such standards as fetal lung maturity. At the symposium, one audience member suggested a public campaign emphasizing that the brain does most of its maturation in the final weeks of pregnancy. Publicists could point out that "the womb is the best bike helmet." Seltzer, J., 2008. St. Louis Beacon.
People need to keep something in mind: an obstetrician, the most sued professional in the US, is not going to tell you he messed up but then he fixed it, even if that is indeed what happened. Most of what is considered 'routine' technology for birth in the US has been shown to be useless or harmful for healthy women and babies, so the chance that an emergency was created and not encountered are pretty good.
But there are a couple of reasons he won't tell you this. For one thing, he's trying to avoid being sued. In this litigious society, people sue doctors for things that aren't even their fault, so if something IS, why would they own up to that?
For another, if he can convince you that without him your baby would have died, you will adore him. Not only will you pick him as your caregiver next time, you will be convinced that anyone who doesn't do the same is crazy, and you'll say so on message boards whenever you hear about anyone who has made another choice. I'll give you an example. Just the other day I heard the 'reason' it was 'a good thing I was in the hospital' was because the birth was a 'dry birth', meaning the amniotic bag released some water. She knows this is a bad thing because her doctor told her so...even though there is no such thing as a 'dry birth', Amniotic fluid is continuously replenished as long as the mother is hydrated. You'd be surprised how often this particular one comes up, often with part of the story being that the doctor broke the water! In any case, the purpose of the amniotic fluid is NOT to 'lubricate' the birth canal. It is to protect the baby.
That is not to say that doctors don't save lives (because invariably, when anyone dares to say that doctors are human, someone else will insist that means to acknowledge it is obviously anti-doctor), but to say that people should do some research if they are going to comment on a subject.
Because here's the irony: homebirth couples typically do far more research about birth, both here and abroad, then the people who call them selfish and clueless. Ask a homebirth mom and she'll tell you about every risk and benefit of her decision, and back it up with statistics. She has a plan for every contingency, and she takes responsibility for her actions.
Ask a healthy mother off the street who is choosing to birth in a hospital where the US ranks in infant or maternal mortality. Ask her what the possible immediate and/or long-term effects of pitocin, or cytotec, or nubain, or stadol are. Ask her how accurate a late ultrasound is in evaluating 'due date' or fetal weight. Ask her what the effects of early separation are on her infant. She doesn't know or she wouldn't be there, unless she is taking a HypnoBirthing class (because we teach families how to effectively and respectfully communicate with caregivers who may be unfamiliar with natural birth, and support them in finding a better fit if that proves non-productive) or has a really special physician who practices evidence-based care.
Another women felt the need to remind those poor, selfish homebirth mothers (who I guarantee are more informed than she) that there is another person to consider here...the baby. Like they never thought of that. Homebirth mothers I know made their decision to birth at home BECAUSE it's not only safer for baby, (for I'm sure the commenter knows that 41 countries have better infant mortality rates than the US and they all include midwives and homebirth as options for safe maternity care) but far less traumatic for baby. She stated that if 'one baby' was saved by being born in the hospital, it should be standard of care. Using that logic, I wonder if her stance would change if she considered that hundreds of babies die needlessly every year BECAUSE they were born in the hospital, due to some of the routine interventions mentioned above. Born in the USA: How a Broken Maternity System Must be Fixed to Put Women and Children First, by Dr. Marden Wagner, one of the physicians featured in Orgasmic Birth, breaks it down to real numbers that represent real babies and moms.
I believe that everyone has the right to choose where and with whom they will birth. I just believe that they owe it to their baby to actually make truly informed decisions.
This is just as compelling now as when I first posted. Maybe more so.
Reducing Infant Mortality from Debby Takikawa
My name is Kim Wildner. I am the author of Mother's Intention: How Belief Shapes Birth.