UPDATE: Please note that I have updated this post at 7:55pm on Tues night.
I’m approaching this subject with the extreme caution of a bomb disposal expert. But here goes.
Last time I ventured my opinion on the subject of a particular type of home-birthing called ‘free-birthing’ (which shuns all medical assistance including a midwife) I was pretty much lynched in cyberspace.
It was mid last year when I wrote a feisty criticism of the practice, suggesting those who chose to give birth that way were taking outrageous and self-indulgent risks with the most precious thing in the world – the life of their baby.
Naively, I chose not the best place to publish this criticism. It appeared in the weekly blog I was writing at the time for parenting website Essential Baby. Many of the people who hang out at that website are fairly….strident in their beliefs. About motherhood. About birth. And particularly about home birth.
My piece ignited a absolute firestorm that raged for days and despite several attempts by the site moderator to broker some peace, things degenerated almost immediately to full-on abuse and hate-filled flaming of me. Being called an ‘asshat’ at one point was the nicest thing anyone said. That bad.
In the end, the site moderator had to close comments. That didn’t placate the angry home-birthers who started up new threads to keep abusing me. So then they had to delete my post – at my request. Within a week, we’d decided to part ways (they sacked me at the same time as I decided to quit!) and I haven’t written for them since. I’m sure the Essential Baby community doesn’t miss me. The audience just wasn’t a natural fit – no disrespect to them. We just weren’t suited.
However, I didn’t back down from my stance then and nor do I now. Without going into all of it again in detail, my position is that to shun medical assistance during birth on the basis that it’s a ‘natural process’ is to ignore the fact that ‘nature’ routinely kills mothers and babies during birth. Has done since the beginning of time. I find it a bit…..ironic that women in third world countries would do anything for access to hospitals and trained professionals and yet some women in Australia choose to turn their backs on the help available to them.
If you’ve had a successful home-birth (and if you have you will no doubt be a passionate advocate of it) then I congratulate you. That’s a wonderful thing. But don’t assume everyone else will be that lucky. In fact, don’t even assume you will be that lucky next time because every birth is different.
Look, I will admit that I’ve just never understood how a woman’s desire for a particular birth experience can be so important. Personally? I have uncomplicated labours. Not too long. No need for cesareans. But with my first birth, my son had trouble breathing and needed assistance. With my third birth, I hemorrhaged afterwards and needed an injection to stop the bleeding. I have no idea if either of those things could or would have been dealt with as swiftly and effectively at a home birth as they were for me in hospital. But I’m glad I never had to find out. Me? I would care if a forklift was used to remove my baby through my armpit by a cast of 200 medical professionals. The specifics of birth are immaterial to me. All that matters is the safe delivery of my baby – which in my mind, means the closest possible proximity to medical attention and equipment.