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UC Connection

I got a message today that the woman who lost her baby through UC wanted to talk to me. I called and left a message for her and she called me back this evening.

She is, indeed, the woman I spoke with at my session during the conference. She wants to process things with me. I am more honored than words can say that she would choose me to speak with. She said she’d been wanting to talk with me since it happened (a few weeks ago). (It’s hard not saying everything… wanting to protect her privacy as much as I can.)

One thing that MUST be said that she said. UCers are going to have cow patties over it, but every UCer I know that lost their baby or had a horrid outcome says the same thing. She says she feels betrayed by the UC community – that they led her to believe it would all be fine – and it wasn’t. She said she is a different woman now. She said she would have a midwife next time.

I explained that almost all of the UCers I know who had bad outcomes have the rest of their babies in the hospital, mostly because of their husband’s desires… that the women wanted to birth again at home, some even alone. She said, “never.”

I shared with her my own pendulum swing from “glorious” hospital birth with Baby 1 to my UC birth with Baby 2… with a shoulder dystocia that required resuscitation and EMS assistance… and then, when I saw that woman die, well, there was simply no going back.

I told her she must not allow the UCers to blame her for not having her house in proper fung shui or that she didn’t pray to the right God, or whatever. That she was absolutely right to take the experience and learn what she can from it… even the painful parts… but that some of the harshest critics will be UCers. I’ve heard this from several other UCers who ended up leaving that community because of their cruelty in the face of their poor outcomes.

Sweetly, she told me she wanted me to be one of her midwives at her next birth. Again, I was honored.

We are going to meet next week for a couple of hours to talk, and cry, I am sure. I’m glad I can be her friend.

So, so interesting how I find myself in this place. Why me? Who am I?

Reader Comments (9)

You are a magnet who draws people to you for healing and compassion. You really didn't know? ;)

June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDynamic Doula

As someone who chose to birth her baby in complete privacy, I have a hard time with your obvious disdain and stereotyping of UCers. I would think it would be possible for you to explain why you do not support the choice to UC without the negative generalizing. I'm sure you've seen hospital workers do the same to homebirth midwives; is it really any different?

In any case, I'm so sorry for this woman's pain, and that it has been so difficult for her to find support and open ears. I have to wonder where she's gotten the feedback she has, because of all the UCers I've had contact with -- the "community" as I'm aware of it -- there has been nothing but compassion when confronted with a death occuring at an unassisted birth. Here is an example: http://www.mothering.com/discussions/showthread.php?t=251972

As far as the belief that nothing could go wrong -- not all UCers believe this, but regardless of whether they do or not, it's hardly fair for a person to blame those who do for *her* choices and chosen beliefs. I just don't understand when people who choose UC still insist on giving over their power and responsibility to a "cult of experts" (as Jeannine Parvati Baker put it,) transferring their blind trust from doctors and midwives to other UCers.

June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

On the contrary, Linda. I do not have "disdain." I think, as midwives go, I have one of the most liberal and accepting attitudes around as far as UCs go. How many midwives do *you* know that would sit outside the door during a birth? Not very many.

We are ALL colored by our experiences. You, me, and now this woman. I have an absolute right to believe that it isn't the end of the world to hire a specialist when needed.

Do you grow your own cotton and weave your own clothes?

Do you mine your own metal to make your car? What about doing ALL repairs on the vehicles, appliances, etc. that you own?

What is so wrong with asking a midwife - a specialist in keeping birth safe - to be near in case of an emergency? Not to have her hands "all up in there," but for *true* emergencies that most folks don't have the training for or inclination to learn.

If you read me at all, you know darn well I work hard to respect ALL aspects of a woman's autonomy. I *honor* your need and desire to birth in "complete privacy." But, what if that baby dying was yours? What if (and here is the What If game) another pair of SKILLED hands could have saved that baby's life?

I do not, in any way, equate this thinking with the stupidity of what doctors shove down women's throats about the safety of hospitals or even cesareans. *I* believe in birth! I believe in the normalcy of almost all births.

HOWEVER, shit does happen. It is a blessing that it wasn't you - and I don't mean that mean... I mean that truthfully.

Of course, the grand majority of births - including UCs go off without a hitch. Even complicated, difficult, and scary ones. But, for women who want just that added buffer of skill, *that* is what I am around for.

Not to "save the day"... or to "rescue" anyone... or to take the woman's power or autonomy.

I know, I KNOW, Linda... I know that most midwives don't practice as liberally as I do with regards to laying low. But, the learning and teaching has to begin somewhere.

*shaking head*

It is so difficult to explain so many deep emotions. I keep trying. It is vital for me, though, that UCers do not see me as their judge and jury... and for goodness sake, I have enough positive strokes from the UC community to know they don't! But, that you think I am stereotyping? Where would you see that in what I have written? I *was* a UCer!! Remember?


Continued success and blessings in your life.

June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Barb, I think you missed the true meaning of what Linda was saying.

OBs have asked me, "why risk one or two babies out of a thousand for a homebirth?" Your response was exactly like that question.

Truth is, Barb, your hands are not skilled enough to prevent death. None of ours are. To imply that a woman should have someone closeby "just in case" totally disregards the women who really want PURE birth - not a birth in which someone sits around so "liberally" as you say it.

You seem to want to "save" those unassisted birthers. You put out a booklet to "show" them the "right" way to do things, the "danger" signs, the "correct" way to handle complications.

The fact of the matter is that women need to hone their instincts. The UC community does not lie about death. It does not promise a live baby at the end. However, fewer women have been hurt by birthing alone than by birthing with someone who has energy around danger (and some of your posts point to your nervousness with various situations) and expecting complications. We, as midwives, all bring fear that has come from our experiences. Some women just don't want that. That's ideal for them. It's not for you, but that's ok.

I cannot count the number of complications I've seen caused by "non-interventive, liberal" midwives. Shoulder dystocias, hemorrhages, etc. We are not all knowing. We are not as safe as a woman's instinct.

So, what? birth is as safe as life gets - but only with a midwife in attendance? Bunk. There are hardly any mws that practice on faith and openness - but women/mothers can birth their babies with their instinct guiding them. That's more than I can say for many midwives.

As a whole, we are a profession that is not honoring women or birth. We bring fear, judgment and a feeling that we know best to our clients. We do not serve women the best way we can.

I will, and do support UC couples because they are informed and responsible. Granted, deaths happen. As they will at home with midwives and in the hospital. However, if a person is unwilling to look THERE, they only have themselves to blame. When we get in the car every morning, we don't expect to die, and our loved ones may be pissed if we do and genuinely upset, but we all know this is how life is. It just is.

June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous


I have never said, nor implied, that my hands can guarantee a saved life. I even said that to the mom whose baby just died... that her baby could have died in my hands, or a CNMs or an OBs hands just as easily.

I guess I don't have the right words to explain it.

I do not put my booklet out to show the "right" way to do it. I share information I have so others who wouldn't normally have access to it have the information - if they want it. I've been asked for the information; I wrote it down. I don't understand how that would seem like I am believing that it is THE way. I share ideas and thoughts and experiences... women/people still make their own choices and I honor that.

And, perhaps we will just have to look at each other at an impasse, but I cannot figure out what in the world sharing warning signs and ways around them is wrong or bad. I suppose if someone wants a *true* PureBirth... never mind. I don't have anything nice to say about it. There is no such thing as a PureBirth in this culture. If a woman was raised here in our culture, she has already been brainwashed. She can take classes, therapy, be hypnotized to undo the cultural brainwashing, but I cannot believe it all disappears so completely she can just be in a 100% primal state. Of course, that is my opinion.

It's funny, in this discussion here and in the other areas of my life. It's like you who challenge me here are drawing a line in the sand... asking me to prove I support women and their choices. A part of me is exhausted trying to explain myself and I wonder why I even try instead of allowing myself to just Be who I am. And, if you don't like my "style" of midwifery, then don't hire me!

I find it interesting... how hard I work to listen... to learn... to keep my heart open. How different I am from all those around me who would never, ever sit in the driveway or outside a door, much less not take a heart tone... yet, even as I work so hard to understand and believe... I am still not good enough. For some, just because of my "title" I will always be the Evil That Exists in Birth. I can't help that.

All I can do is be who I am. A midwife, mother, lover who continues her walk through a really cool, really hard walk that seems to find amazing controversy along the way.

And why the heck do I blog all this anyway?

A lesson in itself.

June 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Hm. Well, let me try to be more clear. This is generalizing: "UCers are," "every UCer I know," "the UC community led her to believe," "the UCers," "the community's cruelty", etc. This is disdain: you think UC absurd (you ask, would you grow your own cotton?), you think UCers naive (you ask, what if the baby dying was yours?), and you make snide comments such as "UCers are going to have cow patties" and "she must not allow the UCers to blame her for not having her house in proper fung shui or that she didn’t pray to the right God, or whatever". This paints a picture of a perspective that sees UCers as a group with certain characteristics that you happen to have a low regard of. None of this, to me, reads like an "honoring of someone's need and desire to birth in complete privacy." Does it to you? I have, to be honest, never gotten the sense from reading your words that you thought UCers were anything other than deluded and judgemental and foolhardy, gaining your respect only when they see the light and come to you for help.

As to your specific points:

-Who said it was the end of the world to hire a specialist when needed? Not I. A specialist *wasn't* needed for me to give birth, and they often, of course, do more harm than help, but if one is needed one is needed. Who said there was anything wrong with having a "specialist" there? Again, not I. People have different needs that are equally valid. You seem to be putting me in the anti-midwife camp; why I don't know.

-The analogy to growing one's own cotton or mining one's own metal just isn't relevant, anymore than it's relevant to my ability to make love or have a spiritual experience.

-My answer to the "what-ifs" is that there are what-ifs no matter what choice one makes. What if the baby suffered or died from iatrogenic complications? What if those skilled hands created more problems than they prevented?

-"It is a blessing" that it wasn't me that was cut open. It is a blessing that it wasn't me whose baby was harmed by a doctor or midwife in their ignorance. It's really so condescending to point out that it's a blessing that my baby didn't die, as if you know for a fact that the best choice would have been birth with a medically trained attendant, and as if it had never occured to me (or any UCer) that something could go wrong.

June 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

"I cannot figure out what in the world sharing warning signs and ways around them is wrong or bad."

It depends, because not all info is objectively correct or applicable to a particular individual. If someone takes it as such, it could create problems.

In any case, I would object to someone putting out a primer for UCers if they did not themselves did not understand how UC can be valid. Same as objecting to an OB putting out a primer for homebirth when s/he was opposed to homebirth. Probably not all would find such a thing offensive, but I would.

June 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

I appreciate the (sort of) dialogue. I'm listening. It's so interesting hearing how I am perceived by others. It's probably the most intriguing part of all of this.

Even though I have my own UC experience, apparently it is not relevant because it wasn't angelic or that I haven't waxed poetic about every UC birth in the world. THAT is the experience that I speak about from the UC community. Of course that is a generalization... just as people say "midwives" and that is a generalization. Of course there are women in the UC community that aren't rabid or angry. I know several!

But, when I speak about the women who have had negative outcomes with their UCs, I have yet to hear them say that the UC community embraces them in their difficulty. Instead, hushed comments that the (Net) woman probably wasn't even pregnant at all or that she must not have done something right. THAT is the painful part for me.

That you want to birth in privacy is great! That you don't want a midwife anywhere near. Fabulous. That you understand and accept your choices... I love that! Go for it!

What I speak about are the women who do NOT "get" what they are getting when they plan their UC.

It's why I write and share. I wouldn't expect you to either buy or read anything I have to write about shoulder dystocia or hemorrhage - and that's perfectly fine. But, there are a whole LOT of women who either don't hear me the same way you do, Linda, or who don't care how I sound and utilize the information for what they need anyway. Your saying that the information might not be right in a certain situation is a crappy reason not to share it as far as I'm concerned. The same woman who can choose to birth alone can also choose if she wants to give herself a shot of pit or do bimanual compression on herself.

While UCers (and others) are reading my pieces as "primers," that is not how they are meant. The writings are for women who might find themselves alone - whether by choice or cicumstance. I cannot guide the intentions of others.

But, even if I were writing a primer for UC, even if you are offended at how I feel despite my being a UCer myself, a whole heck of a lot of UC women read Henci Goer or Ina May Gaskin as if they were gods incarnate and neither of those women finds UC remotely acceptable! At least I try to understand.

And, after the last few emails/blog posts with you and the midwife who doesn't share her name (which I find amusing because 1. if she believes midwives are so invasive, what kind of midwife is she? 2. if she is proud of who she is, why isn't she signing her posts?), I have thought two things:

I'm trying.


I'm learning.

Thanks for continuing the dialogue.


July 1, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

(What I removed was a repeat of the same post above... I didn't think it went through so sent it on again. Apparently, it did go through! Not deleting anything juicy.)

July 1, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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