A midwife in North Carolina was recently charged with practicing midwifery without a license because her state does not offer licensure for Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs) and other direct entry midwives. There was some local news coverage of the arrest and the ongoing efforts of North Carolina families to legalize CPMs. One of the local news stories included a mother’s birth story from the “If I were at home, I would have died” perspective.
When I hear statements like this I cringe on the inside. Being a midwife, I hear it a lot. Women love to talk about their birth stories, as they should; Storytelling is a natural and beautiful part of our collective journey as women and mothers. In the park, at mom’s groups, among new friends, anywhere women gather there are stories of births and babies being told. When I hear a story being told from the “I would have died at home” perspective, I do my best to nod with genuine empathy. I want to support each woman’s telling of her own story. It does, however, feel like a double bind…
Three months ago I welcomed my baby girl into my arms. I have been deliberating whether or not to post my birth story here on my blog. I decided not to (if you email me, I will send it to you) but I do want to share news of her arrival and what a joyous and healing journey this past year has been.
Last month we saw the pre-release of a homebirth meta-analysis piece that claimed worse outcomes for babies born at home than in the hospital. I wrote about it and the ensuing Lancet insult to women’s rights here. Decades of well-conducted research does in fact support the safety of planned homebirth for women and babies, although here in the US the research has fallen on deaf ears among physicians, their trade union ACOG, and hospitals. In light of the solid new research of the past few years clearly demonstrating the safety of homebirth, how likely is it that “evidence” will ever win the medical industry’s approval of midwife-attended homebirth? I am doubtful. Here’s why.
I’ve held off commenting on the now notorious, and as of yet unpublished, Wax homebirth meta-analysis and the ensuing hullabaloo because I had wanted to keep negative birth politics to a minimum here on my blog. Then, the viscerally disturbing Lancet editorial came out a few weeks ago and WHOA. We’re starting to see some of the anti-homebirth roots coming to the surface. It’s time for each and every inspired individual to speak up.
A number of smart science minds have already broken down the methodological flaws of the Wax meta-analysis into comprehensible nuts and bolts so I won’t expound upon its junk science here, suffice it to say the authors’ conclusion of a tripled increase in neonatal mortality in homebirth is a gross misrepresentation of the actual data. Based on the ongoing anti-homebirth and anti-midwife smear campaign, one might reasonably surmise the misleading conclusion was crafted to incite more anti-homebirth rhetoric among the medical community.
For the vast majority of our history as a species, pregnancy and birth have been the domain of women. Not women physicians, surgeons, or even midwives — just women! We know, in our collective consciousness, that birth will always belong to women.
The trade union representing obstetricians in the US, ACOG, continues its smear against midwives and homebirth with regular press releases, garbage science, and other low-brow tactics aimed at securing their financial and medical monopoly over childbirth. Other OB/GYN groups and publications have also jumped in the bad-science ring in an effort to undermine the well-established safety of midwife-attended birth at home. In light of the physician groups’ continued demonstrations that they are threatened by safe, normal, woman-centered birth at home, I’d like to share some images in solidarity with birthing women everywhere.
Here’s to you, birthing women! Here’s to the power, beauty, and dignity of woman-centered birth!
This woman’s story could be told by tens of thousands of American women, but it is her story, her triumph as an individual woman that will inspire others. Like this warrior mama, too many women are coerced or led into cesareans for “failed inductions” and/or babies that “cannot fit” through their pelvises. Many of these women go on to birth even larger babies at home the next time around. Our stories give rise to our own courage and power as women and mothers, and they can also transform the lives of women listening, who may have gone through a similar journey.
At first you might think ‘Who would have thunk? Supermodels are choosing to have natural homebirths with midwives?’ But Gisele’s waterbirth at home is testament to the wide range of women from all walks of life who are choosing woman-centered, safe, instinctive, autonomous birth at home. Hopefully her birth story will inspire some much needed birth change both in the US and in her home country of Brazil where 36% of babies are born surgically via c-section. In some private obstetrics practices in Brazil the cesarean rate is a shameful 90%. But bravo to Gisele! Check out more about Gisele’s experiences with birth mothering on her blog.
“Giving birth was the most intense and life-changing experience of my life. I am blessed to have been able to have a home birth surrounded by love , where I was able to feel safe. It was a powerful experience. I never felt so vulnerable but so strong at the same time. It was amazing to experience my body become free to do what it was made to do by allowing my mind and my body to let go and be free to experience the changes taking place within… I was just there… focusing on my breathing and relaxing the best that I could… so present, to witness the biggest miracle in my life happen before my very own eyes….”
She told the interviewer that she had opted for homebirth with a midwife after watching Ricki Lake and Abby Epstein’s “The Business of Being Born,” a documentary about homebirth, hospital birth, midwives and the choices women sometimes have — and sometimes have to face — when bringing a baby into the world.
Other celebs who have had homebirths: Pamela Anderson, Demi Moore, Meryl Streep, Ricki Lake, Kelly Preston, Ani Difranco, Julianne Moore, Lucy Lawless, Alyson Hannigan, Maria Bello, Cindy Crawford, Erykah Badu, Nellie Furtado….