How The Homebirth Movement Failed Me

172855684A home birth made perfect sense to me. I never even considered a hospital. More than anything, it just seemed convenient as hell. And it was. For my entire pregnancy I had the luxury of having all my prenatal visits at home. I followed the doctrine of “natural” childbirth closely. I read everything written by Ina May Gaskin, took childbirth education classes using the Bradley Method, I ate right, I did prenatal yoga. Not only was I going to have a natural birth at home, but I was pretty convinced it would be orgasmic. I would push out my baby at home while moaning loudly in my husbands loving arms. I crafted the story of my perfect labor and repeated it to myself and others like a mantra. A C-section was the worst case scenario and I never let the possibility enter my mind. Within the natural birthing movement, nobody mentions the “C” word except to demonize women who get them and the doctors who rush them into it. My midwife spoke of hospital transfers and C-sections as if they were something rare and foreign that happened to those “other” women and I eagerly accepted this narrative.

The night I went into labor I was prepared for everything except what was about to happen. I  labored all night long. My midwife, present and compassionate during my prenatal care, checked out during my labor. Between contractions, I saw her laid out on my couch. Thank goddess, my good friend who is also a student midwife was there with me. After hours without progress, my midwife broke my waters. Nothing. Hours later, exhausted and in pain, she suggested we transfer to a hospital and because she was a “midwife” and not an “doctor”, I put my trust in her 100%. I didn’t question or challenge her the way I know I would’ve done had she been an OB. I regret that.

A painfully long car ride brought us to the hospital where, after a series of interventions yielded no progress in my labor, a C-section was recommended. By this point, my midwife was long gone. Her “work” was done. See, she was a home birth midwife, and what good was I to her anymore? If anything, I was a negative tick on her track record.

Everything that followed happened too quickly. The anesthesiologist injected shots into my abdomen and then kept asking if I could feel him pinching me, “Yes”, I kept saying, “yes, I can feel it.” They sliced me open. “You’re going to feel some pulling” the nurse said… and then I screamed in pain as they yanked my baby out of me. I watched from a spiritual distance as my mother and husband held their breath while the doctors worked to get my son to inhale. And as he cried out, I trembled uncontrollably from head to toe, completely detached from the moment. This was the part where they were supposed to rest my baby on my chest, where we were supposed to bond. Supposed to, supposed to, supposed to…

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  • iamtheshoshie

    16 days ago I had gave birth to my beautiful boy by c-section, but I haven’t felt at all betrayed by my midwife or my birth class instructor.

    I also planned on an unmedicated birth outside of a hospital. I labored at home for 4 days– I never progressed passed 4 cm in that time, but I was in agony. My baby descended low in my pelvis at the very beginning of labor, so I had terrible back pain every time he moved. But he was anterior, so no amount of lunges or cat-cow pose would help. After 4 days, I asked for a transfer, because I was so exhausted. My midwife was super supportive, reminding me during the long labor that transfer was a reasonable option if I wanted it, but that so was staying at home. When I transferred, they found that my baby wasn’t responding well to my progressively stronger contractions, and labor was continuing to be slow, even once I went into active labor. That’s when the OB recommended c-section. At that point, I called my midwife to ask his opinion. He was reassuring and calm, walking me through my options at this point. I elected to have a c-section then, instead of waiting for the situation to become an emergency. I don’t think I’ve ever had to make a more difficult decision in my life.

    The OB sat down with me and I asked about things like getting the baby put on my chest right away and having both my mom and my husband in the OR. My mom took pictures. I knew what to ask for because my birth class instructor insisted on walking us through a c-section, even though everyone in the class was planning an unmedicated birth outside of a hospital. The OB was kind and acknowledged how hard the decision must be for me.

    Gah, this comment is super long and I’m still processing what happened, but considering how terrible things went, I can’t imagine a better way for the situation to have played out.

  • Jill

    Good lord this is the worst kind of navel gazing. If your midwife was crap you should have reported her immediately and found a replacement. That C-section probably saved your kid’s life. Get over yourself.

  • Survivor

    Two years is not a long time to recover from a traumatic birth experience. I should know, because mine was almost 40 years ago. I chose a home birth out of desperation. After I learned about the dangers to my baby of the cocktail of sedatives, pain killers and anesthesia that was standard hospital fare, I feared for my babie’s well being . Learning that hospital rules and the biases of medical practitioners would control the amount of contact that my son and I were allowed, use of ,,elective medical procedures , and even my ability to breastfeed both in and after the delivery room

    Contemplating spinal puncture anesthesia, episiotomies, forceps and c-sections, I feared for my own. And, of course, I wanted to experience the special closeness of working with my husband to bring a miracle into the world. And, I will admit, I wanted no part of the routine violation of my physical boundaries by multiple strangers with varying degrees of kindness and sensitivity.

    Having decided to deliver at home, I became free to imagine a safe and happy experience. Then, after fourteen hours of hard labor and prolonged, unproductive pushing, I went to the hospital ER, and had just the experience I had dreaded, with such inadequate postpartum care that I developed peritonitis.

    We made it home, and our beautiful baby helped us deal with the painful disappointment , sense of betrayal, and fears that we might never be able to have another baby. I still cried every time I read about or saw on the screen a “normal” birth for a year. I went on to have two other children by c-section, and got to see when my grandchildren were born that, really, birth experience doesn’t determine anything but the necessity of trying harder to overcome disappointment in order to be able to provide the sensitive and responsive caregiving that is your babies most important need.

    So I say “respect the trauma you endured, respect yourself and your spouse for surviving it, let others support you with their time and prayers”. Find a path through anger, whether it is prayer or running or anything in between. Find support and comfort in others’ kindness, while accepting that most of them really cannot understand the nature of your trauma.

    And, in twenty , thirty, or forty years, share your story to reassure someone else that the pain does end, and the love does not.

  • roehrjenn

    THIS. THIS. THIS. I have never read something that hits more close to home than this article. Thank you so much. I too experienced mostly everything you went through. I even paid upfront and in full for a doula, as well as placenta encapsulation (the c-section halted those plans, and I was never refunded for that…). The most defeating part of all was the complete lack of post partum care. There were no calls, texts, home visits. My daughter and I didn’t get a single mention on their Facebook page or website which was usually instantly updated upon the birth of the baby. I felt like I was a failure swept under the rug and kept away from expecting mothers at the office as I would be seen as a horror story. Once she escorted me to the hospital and dropped of my medical history she was long gone. More women need to be aware and there needs to be support set in place for all “what-ifs”.

  • Tanya Riches

    I’m so sad you can’t just see this as a powerful, liberating experience. As you read those words above, you walked through and accomplished so so much. Amazing. your body rocks.

  • mblackm2

    sounds like there might have been some PP depression to exacerbate the post traumatic stress. It’s too bad her doc or midwife or some professional didn’t offer some counseling and help for this lady.

  • Guest

    Thank you for this! I realize I am 10 months late to the conversation, but could not agree more with your points. So many home birth midwives in my area also lack fundamental social skills, are self-serving, and lack the ability to provide genuine (not conjured up) support – prenatally, during birth, and particularly postpartum. This includes preparing Moms for various birth possibilities and outcomes, remaining in relationship and remaining with Moms during all of those possibilities and outcomes. I also related with your frustrations expressed. My former midwife spent the day while I was in labor rearranging her schedule at my house, also slept all night on my couch leaving me alone, and was texting while my son was crowning!