“Midwives don’t really talk about death…” Janis wrote me, and my first reaction was to defend my profession and peers. As my fingers hit the keys with all the reasons why a midwife wouldn’t talk about death (our pregnant moms would be too freaked out if we did?), I realized that I was writing excuses. Janis is right. Midwives DON’T talk about death much, not even among other midwives. We are always so busy and at times have superstitious or other beliefs that cause us to avoid this topic. Too, with the midwife persecution that occurs, we may worry that acknowledging baby death will have folks question our abilities or feel validated that birth with midwives or home birth is dangerous. Sometimes it plays into our own fears, too. I once had another midwife who had lost her own baby after a difficult home birth be angry at me and tell me she was offended by me in front of a room of midwives (years after her loss) because I had brought up some random legislation that reminded her of her experience – and, this was a birth I was nowhere near and had nothing to do with at any point. I was shocked at her outburst but recognized that this midwife had never healed appropriately – and, with the lack of support for women who lose babies, that is no surprise.
That is ok with me to use my story on your blog. Thanks for offering and asking. We are doing ok. We just lost our 5th baby since Brock in February; he was born at 15 weeks. He was born at home as well, and I was by myself for most of my delivery. We had to wait about 3 weeks for him to come, after he died. I am glad I got to have him at home. We are looking into international adoption since we think the chance of us having a baby is very slim. We thought we had figured everything out. I was diagnosed with Thyroid disorder, and MTHFR gene mutation and Protein S deficiency, and even with twice daily heparin, baby didn’t make it. So, I am done as far as I know…”
Women will go to great lengths and have "socially accepted" hospital births only to be somewhat freed from the stigma that comes with having a baby die. When a baby dies, other mothers who want to deny that death is a part of life, and who don't want to think it could happen to them, silently ask questions like "Was it the parents' fault?" or "Could anything have done to prevent this?" At least with the "normal" hospital birth, you are absolved from most guilt and shame.
I am reminded of a baby loss that occurred on my husband's side of the family about 10 year ago, a story that was told me over and over when I was considering home birth to show me why it was not a safe option. This lady had a baby die in the 9th month of pregnancy from an infection because, unbeknownst to the Mom, her bag of waters had broken. It was not a gush, just a minor trickle (because the baby's head often acts as a cork), and it was in the midst of a hot, muggy summer. At her next checkup a week later, there was no heartbeat. The baby's death had been blamed for years on the fact that the lady was cared for by a midwife. Even my husband used her as a bad example, back when he was skeptical of home birth. My immediate thought was wondering what would have been different with a doctor - they only have weekly checkups at that point. If the Mom didn't suspect anything was wrong, something I can very well relate to, why would the doctor call her in for an unscheduled checkup? The truth of the matter is that women want to defend their choices surrounding birth, so they will attack the "opposite" side in an attempt to make them look bad, while covering their own backs should something go wrong for them.
In reality, about the same amount of babies and moms die in the hospital as at home. Some statistics say the mortality rate is higher at the hospital. A lot of that has to do with the midwife's expertise, since they are not all equally knowledgeable and experienced. Basically, the worst midwife will have mortality rates close to that of hospitals, and the better the midwife the lower the death rate. But it is never zero. Yet, if one of our babies would die during a home birth, everyone would be sure to ask us about every painful detail, to either prove or rule out that it was our fault. Such is not the case when a death occurs at the hospital. People might ask those questions behind closed doors, but they would show the parents nothing but compassion and support.
The main difference between hospital and home births lies in the number of interventions and complications, both before, during, and after birth. Recovery at home is faster, safer, and better. Intervention rates are drastically lower, and women walk away from birth feeling confident that they can care for the child they just gave birth to without outside help.
I am not opposed to all hospital births. I understand that there are some VERY RARE circumstances where they would lead to a safer outcome because of some problem with the mom or baby. These problems can be detected during pregnancy, though, when there is still plenty of time to switch to a hospital. Sending all women to the hospital "just in case" is as ridiculous as saying "Let's give all women hysterectomies because some women will otherwise develop uterine cancer". I don't think women who go the hospital are bad moms, or that they are not concerned about their child's safety. I feel sorry for them because they have bought into the lies propagated by mainstream medicine, and they will be victimized by the doctors to some extent.
From the day I found out that I was pregnant for the first time (a baby that we lost), I have kept the knowledge in the back of my mind that things do not always turn out well. "Cautiously optimistic" would best describe how I feel about pregnancies, and about the lives of my children. The feeling never eases, only intensifies as there are more and more children to love, care for, and - yes - worry about. I am convinced that it will be with me until I die.
But instead of having it become a paralyzing fear, one that will make the helpless victim of a medical discipline that is 90% dominated by male perverts (= male ob/gyns), I have chosen what I believe to be the safest alternative.