Last week, Lisa Epsteen caused quite a controversy when she refused to have an emergency c-section at the request of her well-respected Florida doctor. Epsteen was a week past due with her fifth child and suffering from gestational diabetes. Most alarming, an ultrasound showed signs of fetal distress and doctors were worried that the child would die or be born with brain damage. The good news is that even though Epsteen waited days after the initial warnings before giving birth, her baby boy was born healthy on Friday, weighing 11 lbs.
The troubling news for me is that some women are taking Epsteen’s healthy birth as a sign that doctors really don’t know what they’re talking about and that we should always “Trust Mothers” to understand what’s medically best for themselves and their babies. Lisa Epsteen is being held up as a hero who was bullied by an awful doctor, Dr. Jerry Yankowitz, but did what was right.
Dr. Yankowitz did make an unfortunate choice and sent a threatening email to Epsteen saying that he would call the police and have them bring the pregnant women to the hospital for the emergency procedure. He later apologized and withdrew the threat once lawyers got involved in the situation. And he never called the police. Personally, I think he acted out of desperation, trying to coerce this woman to do what he truly believed was medically necessary to save her child.
I am truly happy that Epsteen and her child are healthy, I do not believe that we should consider her a role model. Honestly, I think she was lucky and that she needlessly put her child in danger.
I completely support the movement to give women more information and choice about their birthing experience. I think that moms-to-be should know their options and should be able to work with doctors or midwives who do their best to give each women the birth she desires. But those professionals also need to be trusted to make emergency medical decisions should it become necessary to keep both mom and baby healthy.
Lisa Epsteen had plenty of information. She had researched VBAC and she had a doctor who fully supported her attempt for the sometimes dangerous birthing choice. But when her child’s life was in jeopardy, Dr. Yankowitz needed to be able to step in and make the important medical call that was right for mother and baby. Epsteen did not allow him to do so. That doesn’t make her a hero. It makes her reckless.
We will never know exactly why Lisa Epsteen refused to give birth last Tuesday when her doctors warned of brain damage or death. The enormous pressure put on women to have the most natural, perfect birth ever could have had an impact. She could have been Â scared or confused or truly believed that the procedure wasn’t necessary at that time. But if Epsteen or any mother wants the respect and trust of her doctors, she needs to afford them the same courtesy. That means that when a doctor tells you that your child’s life is in jeopardy, you do what they ask to make sure you give your child the best chance possible.
This mom isn’t a hero of birthing rights. She’s lucky.