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Meghann's UC Birth Story

I wrote a tad about how whiny I was during Meggie’s birth, but I haven’t actually ever written her birth story in my blog. I’ve written Tristan's birth story and Aimee's birth story and now it’s time to write Meghann’s.

I haven’t written hers, some because I am ashamed of what I did, some because it was scary and much because I now know how incredibly stupid I was to have an Unassisted Birth. At the risk of alienating a segment of readers, I’m going to plow forth and write the story… including how I saw things then – and adding how I see things now. It might jump around a tad, but I will do my best to keep things in a chronological order.

Included in the narrative are photos that have yellowed terribly with age and while I am decent with Photoshop, I don’t know yet how to restore old photos; please forgive their discoloration and blurriness. I have also blurred out the faces of the others in the photos because I don’t have permission to share them.

After my pregnancy with Tristan, where I gained 80 pounds, had pre-eclampsia, magnesium sulphate in labor, Demerol x 2, a medio-lateral episiotomy that went into my thigh muscle, nursing for a mere 4 months and still being really fat, I needed things to be different with this next pregnancy. We moved from Orlando to Tacoma, Washington when I was 3 months pregnant – arriving the day before Thanksgiving 1983. It was dark! Growing up in Florida, I never understood the Christmas song about “a long winter’s night”; I got it then! Not knowing I would suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder when living in Northern climates, I cried my way through the rest of the pregnancy, hating living so far from home, hating the prenatal care I was getting and not having any friends.

During one prenatal visit, I saw a social worker (we were in the military and our household goods didn’t arrive until January 1984, so we had to pilfer the Army’s loan closet, but had to qualify first) and cried my eyes out about my loneliness and fears of getting so fat again; I hadn’t even lost my pregnancy weight from last time! She looked in her Roladex and gave me the number to a pregnancy exercise instructor, Marie. I called her that afternoon.

Besides leading dancing pregnant women around a room, Marie was also a La Leche League leader and a Bradley teacher. I fell in love with her and the groups immediately. It reminds me of how people fall into cults, the place of intense vulnerability and finding a group of kindred spirits who embrace your whole being, quirks and all. It was like that.

I took Tristan’s birth pictures in to show them off and the women gathered around, saying kind things. I, oblivious to their horror, proudly told them of my beautiful hospital birth, induction, rupture of membranes, medication, episiotomy and all. They never said a word – letting the veil of ignorance slowly fall from my face over the next few weeks.

Marie invited me to read and I voraciously devoured her entire library. From Silent Knife, Spiritual Midwifery and Transformation Through Birth to Sheila Kitzinger’s books, Penny Simkin’s early writings and on to the extremely radical Marilyn Moran, the mother of Unassisted Birth in the United States.

Marilyn wrote Birth and the Dialogue of Love and a newsletter called New Nativity. Her belief was that birth was meant ONLY for the husband and wife, no outside interferences at all. No midwife, no on-lookers, no other children there. She felt birth was as sexually charged as intercourse and encouraged, even more than Ina May Gaskin, sexual expression during labor and birth. I thought Marilyn was the greatest, writing her and then talking to her on the phone as she really insisted my then-husband and I birth alone. It took more convincing, but not much.

We started our Bradley class with Marie in early March. 12 weeks of gobs of information about interventions and how to avoid them. I was in heaven! I couldn’t get enough of classes, exercise class (which was every day!) and La Leche League meetings (once a month), so continued reading like a madwoman and talking to Marie and the others about birth; I was insatiable.

During this time, I was going to Madigan Army Hospital, seeing the doctors who tsk’d tsk’d about my weight (I’m remembering I was about 250 pounds at delivery), whined about the size of the baby (too big, of course) and were baffled that I’d passed my Gestational Diabetes screen.

As the Bradley classes advanced, I wrote up a birth plan to take to the doctors to sign off. Shockingly, none of them would! Birth plans were a brand new phenomenon in 1984, yet the obvious liability aspects weren’t lost on the obstetricians.

My Birth Plan demanded that I not be induced, no artificial rupture of membranes, no IV, no episiotomy, no fetal heart monitoring (only a doppler), no silver nitrate for the baby’s eyes (they didn’t use erythromycin back then), no Vitamin K shot, able to eat and drink at will throughout labor, wearing my own clothes, able to ambulate as I wanted to and squat for the actual delivery. In class, we saw films that showed women in the hospital having births like this – I wanted that, too!

How the doctors didn’t bust out laughing is beyond me!

Now, If women are going to write a birth plan, I encourage them to write nothing more than will fit on a 5x7 index card because so many things are Birth Plan Standard Operating Procedure. But 24 years ago, you’d have thought I was asking to build a manger, lay hay in it, bring a cow in and then moo along with her as I squatted alone in the corner while everyone just watched.

My Birth Plan didn’t go over so well.

When I left crying, I’d decided to find a midwife. I was 38 weeks pregnant.

I began calling the referrals I was given, but because we didn’t have money, none would take me as a client. I called all the way up to Seattle, trying to find someone who would help me. I shake my head thinking how I sounded, hearing myself now as a midwife. I wouldn’t have taken me as a client, either!

Resigned, I decided my odds at a normal birth were better alone than at Madigan (which had over a 40% cesarean rate – even back then!), so I began planning for my DitY… (pronounced “ditty”) Do it Yourself… birth. I was going to do it.

(My former husband was along for the ride, learning, growing, changing as I read paragraphs aloud and he attended class with me. Because he reads here and doesn’t often like what I write, I am writing from my experience and will leave much of his experience and feelings left unsaid.)

My pendulum had swung so far to the left that, near the end of my pregnancy, I tried to get Tristan, 19 months when Meggie was born, to re-learn how to nurse. He’d been diagnosed with a protein allergy and was drinking donated breast milk, so I thought it’d be dandy if I could re-lactate or could re-nurse him once the baby arrived. He lay in my lap, lips on my breast, not having a clue what to do. Sadly, I just had to keep giving him the milk in a cup (I’d abandoned the bottle because of the stigma). We did bring Tris into our bed, too. That, we all enjoyed. Once Meghann came along, Tristan was relegated to his crib mattress next to the waterbed.

Getting ready for the birth, I invited Marie to attend, much to Marilyn Moran’s horror. She said she would come except she would be camping if the birth fell over Memorial Day weekend. I invited her 16-year old daughter, too, a budding photographer. I invited two women from the exercise class, Eileen, a former L&D Nurse and Candace, working on her Bradley certificate. Both women had nurslings that would also come to the birth.

On Friday, May 25, 1984, I went to my usual OB appt. I was 41.1 weeks pregnant when I was shown to the room, I was told to undress from the waist down. I told the nurse I wasn’t going to have a vaginal exam, but she insisted. Mad at myself, I grudgingly took my pants and underwear off and sat on the table waiting for the doctor. When he came in, I was really upset to see the nastiest of all the OBs. He repeatedly told me I had to be induced, that the baby was too big. When I said I didn’t want a vaginal exam, he said he had to see how “induce-able” I was. I laid back and put my feet in the stirrups.

He stripped my membranes. Hard. Tears leaked out the sides of my eyes and I asked him, “Are you stripping me?” and he denied it, but still was digging around in my vagina. He said he could barely reach my cervix and while it was soft, it wasn’t open very much. He got his hand out, told me I had to be induced on Monday if I hadn’t delivered over the weekend and walked out. The nurse came back in, helped me up and gave me Kleenex to wipe myself before I got dressed and, in pain, went home angry and sad that I had buckled under the pressure of The Man.

Before I even got home, I was having contractions. Small waves, every once in awhile, while also having constant aching in my thighs and butt.

In all three labors, I never felt contractions in my belly. I felt them in my upper thighs first, then my whole thigh and butt joined in as the contractions came and went, came and went, came and went. I hated to be touched from nipple to knees (the exact expression, “nipple to knees,” that was used at the time for where an epidural numbed a woman) – and anytime anyone tried to massage me, comfort me or guide me – touching in those places, I about crawled out of my skin, snapping at them to STOP TOUCHING ME!

It was Memorial Day weekend. Marie was leaving to go camping Friday night, but her photographer daughter said she’d stay home to photograph the birth. I’d wished Marie would have changed her mind, to stay with me, but she didn’t. It was hard and sad to see her go. But, I kept in touch with my other “doulas” (there was no such word until about 1988) and puttered around, knowing I was in early labor, baking bread and swaying with contractions.

I barely slept on Friday night, had slightly stronger contractions during the day on Saturday and felt I wanted/needed company about 6pm on Saturday night. Eileen, Candace and their nursing babies came over and I remember labor kicking in pretty good about then.

I was miserable.

Back then we thought (and some folks still think) laboring women had to walk continuously to get the baby out. It was heresy to lie down during labor and whenever I did, I was exhorted to get back up! I was flippin’ exhausted.

As labor progressed, this is how I spent a lot of the time... hanging on my partner.

Here, you see how miserable I was. I had no humor about this labor. None. I am sure I never smiled, simply whined and cried and felt way sorry for myself. It would have helped to be reminded there was a BABY in there – that I was laboring to birth a child – but, back then, in Bradley, we were taught to “do what felt natural.” I felt anything but “natural.”

My former husband, the primary attendant who’d read Gregory White’s Emergency Childbirth with me, was amazing as my partner in this journey. He never wavered in his care of me, loving me throughout the entire long labor and birth. You see his love and concern easily in the photos. However, the last thing I ever considered was being sexual with him while I was absorbed in all this pain. Was Marilyn Moran crazy?!

I walked, took several showers – where I sobbed alone – had cold cloths put on my head and neck and leaned on my then-husband.

When Eileen and Candace and the teen photographer were settled, I begged for drugs. I was damn serious, too. I was in so much pain I could barely stand it. But, that was during the contractions. I remember standing straight up after one particularly horrendous contraction, completely out of pain, and saying, “I could do a jumping jack right now. The pain is gone!” And then another contraction smacked me on my ass.

I begged the women to find me drugs. Didn’t someone have a lost joint in their coat pocket somewhere? (These were the straightest women you could ever imagine – and I hadn’t done any drug since I was a teenager!) Couldn’t they go downtown and find me something? Eileen calmly told me if I wanted drugs, I could go to the hospital… they had plenty there. She was very soft and kind in saying this. I don’t think I heard judgment at all, either. I just remember the hospital being an alternative, not a threat.

I gritted my teeth and said I wasn’t going anywhere, that I just had such a hard time believing I was going to have this baby at home. I couldn’t see it. Eileen and Candace, almost in unison, said, “Well, no wonder it’s taking so long!” and exhorted me to squat and visualize the birth over and over.

I hated squatting. I was fat and it was hard even though I’d practiced during the entire Bradley series. (We know now not to have women squat in late pregnancy until we are sure the baby is in the proper position and deep in the pelvis lest s/he get mooshed in there in a not-optimal position.)

Look how humorless I am. laughing I so wish I could go back and do that birth again. I would do things a whole lot differently. But, in the scheme of life, I know I had to birth Meghann this way; it was a huge part of my walk towards becoming a midwife.

Once I began squatting, Meggie must have come down a lot because I began feeling pushy and changed into my Birthing Shirt.

I got this shirt when I was pregnant with Tristan and we’d attended our Lamaze class at Florida Hospital in Orlando. It was one of the few things that fit me – I always wore huge sweat pants during that second pregnancy – and knew I wanted to wear it in labor as a closeness to the birth with Tristan.

I don’t even remember what Tristan was doing during the whole long labor. He was always such a good baby; it isn’t surprising I don’t have any memories of his fussing or crying. I’m sure I was the one who cooked for him and fed him – and I know he was in bed early the night the gang came over – we’d put him in his old room for the night. He went without any problems that I can recall.

See how they still had me squatting? I wasn’t even pushing yet… knew I wanted to have the baby in a squat (it was THE preferred Bradley position and as an obedient acolyte, I was going to push this baby out in the squatting position)… no one considered how flippin’ tired I’d be after HOURS of squatting. So much for doing what felt natural, eh?

My former husband was sitting in a chair and I was dangling between his legs in a squat. My arms were over his legs. In the above picture, I am sure I am flailing in frustration.

Look! They let me get up!

I say “let me” because I really was directed what to do and how. I was reduced to an infantile state, whining, “It hurrrrrrrrts” for every contraction, my mantra annoying the crap out of them all. I obeyed all instructions even though I complained the entire time about it. I had no independent thoughts about what to do or how to do anything once getting drugs was out of the question. I was drowning in my own labor – and I hated it.

We are wont to say these days that if labor brings on suffering, then medications are absolutely appropriate. If a woman is noisy and cruising along in her labor, then she’s most likely just fine without meds. But, using the word “suffering” designates the line between tolerating the birth and enduring the pain of labor. I was beyond suffering and wish someone would have known the distinction and helped me. I didn’t have any other words beyond, “It hurrrrrrts” – was non-verbal except for that evermore-grating expression.

I am sure a flopped myself dramatically over my husband’s shoulder. Vain, I usually have my hair meticulous (even now when I go to births, I always have make-up and hair done), but look at it… messy as all get out. I cringe looking at the pictures, thinking how I must have looked and smelled.

Aren’t I having a blast? Didn’t someone wonder why things were taking so long? I was in labor for about 36-37 hours by the time this picture was taken.

People talk about women knowing when something is wrong and taking care of it. It isn’t true. I’ve known more than one UCer to lose her baby and not realize something was wrong until the baby was already dead. As smart as I was, as educated as I (thought I) was, it never dawned on me that that long labor and all that pain could mean something. I had been taught that there was a wide spectrum in the realm of norm and surely this was just part of that, right? I was enveloped in my pain; I couldn’t have made any decision after making the one to stay home. I was, quite literally, out of my mind in pain.

So, so tired. And miserable.

Oh. My. God. They FINALLY let me lie down. They said, “two contractions, then you have to get up again.” I remember snoring inbetween contractions.

And look! My hair’s fixed again. shaking head and laughing

I think I was in the bed for about 8 contractions. I stalled them as long as I could (I took control for a second!), but once I was up, I was squatting again.

Only this time, I felt the urge to push.

It’s a head!

Eileen is now behind me and my husband in front of me. I can still remember that chrome, curved armed dining room chair they sat in.

Okay, so I was critiqued for YEARS about my pushing position. And closing my eyes. I even used this picture to show women how not to push! sigh

In Bradley (at least back then), one was supposed to put chin on chest (still de rigeur) and open one’s eyes, calmly pushing the baby out. I’m sorry, but there wasn’t a baby in there; I had a semi-truck coming through me. Full of cargo.

Eileen and Candace kept telling me, “Open your eyes!” and I would try for a second, but it just felt wrong, so I’d close them again. “Put your chin on your chest! Open your eyes!” Too many instructions, for crying in a bucket. Leave the birthing woman alone!

My head would bob up and down, mimicking one of those glass cocktail birds that dips his beak in the drink… moving to the instructions barked at me. Trying to do their bidding, I felt like I was patting my tummy while rubbing my head – and I’m not very good at doing those at the same time.

It’s still a head.
And still.

And still.

These are not a quick succession of pictures. And my husband kept telling me to lift up! I was sitting on the baby’s head. (Again, so much for being “in touch” with my body.)

Meghann’s head is finally born.

She sat still for a long time. No rotation. Who knows if she turtled, no one was aware enough to look for it. A cord was felt for, but nothing found. It hurt like crap while they dug for the cord.

Meghann began to rotate, but stopped.

And then, oddly, she began rotating the other way.

Now, of course, I cannot thank the angels enough for doing what an attendant would have done and that is do the Wood's Maneuver to get her out. I was already technically in the McRobert's position since I was squatting so deeply I was on her head.

And she’s (finally) born!

At 2:56am Sunday morning, May 27, 1984. 39 hours of labor. 2 hours of pushing.

Eileen sees this child, not yet in her body, needing help and begins suctioning her (?!). She also does mouth-to-mouth.

The suctioning isn’t doing crap but stimulating her. We could have rubbed her up for all a’good the bulb syringe did.

I sat there dumbfounded, unable to do anything but look at my daughter be worked on.
Meggie gasps.

Meggie collapses.

Meghann gasps.

She collapses.

The decision is made to call for the ambulance. There was no 911 back then.

Nice cord, though.

This is an extremely depressed baby needing resuscitation.

Instead of tending to the gasping child, everyone else is cleaning up the room to make it look like I precip’d. We conjured a story quickly about how I was having a baby shower and PLOP! the baby just came out!

The fire truck got there first, several men traipsing in with equipment. Immediately after were the police and ambulance folks. In all, I had 8 giant men in my small bedroom, looking at Meghann, who had finally begun to perk up. She never left my arms, but they listened to her heart and lungs and I look down and notice one of the guys with my cord in his hand. I told him to let go of it! He said, “I’m just going to do some cord traction to get your placenta out.” I told him to let go, “No you aren’t!”

I learn later that my husband is in the living room having a “discussion” with the ambulance captain about transporting me to the hospital. “She’s fine. It’s cold. We’ll go to the hospital in the morning.” The captain was incredulous asking, over and over, if we planned this – was there a midwife? and my husband explained the baby shower story again – as if we’d rehearsed it the whole pregnancy (which we hadn’t).

I’m sure the whole group of them were disgusted with my not getting on the gurney to go to the hospital. They left before the placenta was born. Today I am shocked they would do so, but they said, as they were leaving, “Call if you need us for the placenta.” Isn’t that odd?

Once we were alone again, we congratulated each other and I stood to deliver the placenta into the bowl. The cord was then cut and… what… did we use a shoelace? I think so. A new clean white one.

I got up into the bed.

And tried to nurse my baby.

It’s a miracle she didn’t end up seriously hypoglycemic as big as she was. It didn’t dawn on me how big she was, though. I saw she was fat and she had this weird thing on her forehead, but was pretty oblivious to her size. I should have known when, later, the newborn diapers we’d bought didn’t fit without snipping the elastic legs.

Meghann isn't even 45 minutes old and I am on the phone.

I hadn’t told anyone we were having a homebirth. My family would have crapped. When I told them on the phone, they congratulated us, but withheld their surprise. Later I learned they actually weren’t at all surprised I’d had a homebirth without a midwife; it seemed in character.

(Once, after having the homebirth, becoming Christian, coming out as lesbian and then telling my mom I was converting to Judaism, she said, “Barbara Ellen, if you told me you were going to be African-American I wouldn’t bat an eye.”)

Eileen and Candace trying to help me nurse a not-wanting-to-nurse newborn. I struggled with nursing while lying down until Aimee was born two years later. Until she could crawl up to me, I had to nurse her as if she was a Miss America sash, cross-ways on my chest while I laid flat on my back. Not comfortable.

Dad went to wake Tristan up to meet his new sister. Egads that boy had patience for us!
Tristan was more interested in his thumb than visiting anyone at 5am.

The girls left, picture-taking ended. Dad, Tristan and Meghann slept. I got up (alone!) and took a shower. Dang did that feel great! As tired as I had been, that’s how buzzed I was now. The intensity of the pain had vanished from my memory and I was in bliss. Look! There was my family asleep on the waterbed… pillows, blankets and all.

(Donna and I laugh about how we co-slept with our kids in waterbeds with fluffy pillows and tons of blankets. The SIDS people would have a fit if they knew!)

About 9am, I couldn’t stand not knowing how much Meghann weighed, so woke my husband up to go to the hospital.

This is 6 hours postpartum.

This is the picture of Meggie right before we left for Madigan Army Hospital. See the funny thing between her eyes on here forehead? That line?

Once we got to Madigan, Meghann was “isolated” since she was born outside the hospital. She was taken into the NICU and I went to be checked out by an OB. Dad stayed with Tristan while they checked Meggie out behind the glass.

I tore over my old episiotomy scar and they asked if I wanted to be sutured. It seemed a weird question and I said, “Of course!” Now I know that many homebirthers would rather heal without sutures. I hadn’t learned so much yet after all.

Once sutured, I went back to the nursery where I was bombarded with questions about the birth. We answered in our rehearsed words; they couldn’t crack us! At one point, a nurse spit out, “Do you VACCINATE?!?” Again, I was confused and said, “Of course we do.” She was startled and pulled back some of her venom. We didn’t stop vaccinating for another 2 months when Meghann had a horrendous reaction to the Pertussis vaccine. Even then, we selectively vaccinated after that.

Standing next to a nurse, I pointed to Meghann’s forehead and asked, “What’s up with that? Why does it look like that?” She blinked and looked at me funny. “She’s FAT! That’s a fat roll!” I couldn’t believe she was that fat.

On the scale, she weighed 9 pounds 15.5 ounces. The nurse and Pediatrician said she probably weighed 10 pounds 6 ounces at birth, but since she’d pooped and peed a couple of times, she weighed less. I use the 10 pounds 6 ounces as her birth weight. She was 20 inches long. Fat AND short!

“I’m a little Meghann…
… short and stout…
… here is my handle, here is my spout.
When I get all steamed up…
…here me SHOUT!”

This child was noisy! Unless she was nursing or sleeping, she was hollering. She probably had a headache for two years.

This is right after we got home from the hospital (you can see the Triple Dye on the cord stump). Medium diapers on her.

The day after she was born, Child Protective Services showed up at our door. I stayed in the room, but my husband had to bring Meghann out and talk about the birth, about vaccinations, about how we parented. I don't remember the details, but know the gentleman was satisfied that we were decent parents and the case closed.

I also had a meeting with the Chief of OB to discuss the birth. I brought Marie with me. Mostly we talked about interventions and the purpose of them, each "side" saying pretty much what you would expect. I was very nervous during this meeting, so let Marie talk most of the time. The meeting left us at an impasse (of course), but I (at the time) felt my decision to UC was the right one.

Meghann grew up to be left-handed. I’ve noticed many oxygen-deprived babies are left-handed. I wonder if anyone’s studied that.

Meghann at 4 months old (she’s smiling!) and Tristan at 23 months old.

Meghann right before we shipped out to Frankfurt, Germany. She’s about 14 months old here.
One of my favorite pictures of my daughter nursing her baby Rosie.

My ballerina… so serious!

Gay Pride Festival 2003

Disneyland! 2004

Meghann, October 2006

Meghann today.

My daughter is a brilliant woman. She made straight A’s as a student… from kindergarten through college. She’s mathematical, scientific, well-spoken, a wonderful writer, musical and an absolute delight to be around.

I worried for many years that I had somehow damaged her during her birth. After the initial bliss wore off and I realized that what I had done was a really incredibly irresponsible and reckless thing to do. I am infinitely grateful I wasn’t given a harder lesson than I already was. The weight of worry wasn't worth the fleeting pleasure of the Unassisted Birth.

Life is precarious.

Use lifeguards.

I chose midwives for Aimee’s birth. I’d sufficiently learned the error of my ways.

I know that Meghann’s birth was important for me – so I can empathize (if not sympathize) with UCers. I was there, but as I recently said, I was so ignorant of the realities of birth… I hadn’t even seen another baby born in real life yet!

When I talked to Marilyn Moran after the birth and told her the story (which I also wrote and had published in the New Nativity), she said there were complications because I had others in the room with us. She swore that if we had no one else in the room, those things wouldn't have occurred. She actually told me to get pregnant as soon as possible so we could do it again - the right way. I never spoke to her again and realized she was quite a kook because of her beliefs in sexual birth being the ONLY way to have a baby.

Yes, birth is phenomenal most of the time and perhaps some will see Meghann’s birth as proof positive that even complications aren’t devastating when left alone to resolve, but I saw her birth as a giant THWAP on my knuckles to wake up! and see birth for what it is... a wonderful event in the lives of families, one that almost always works out great, but that sometimes, when you might least suspect it, babies or moms might just need a hand.

(That powerful lesson brought me to my knees 2.5 years later as I watched a woman die in birth.)

I am blessed to be called to be that hand for the women choosing homebirth. I don’t take the role lightly.

I’m flying to San Antonio to hang out with Meghann (named for Meggie in The Thorn Birds) next week. We’re going to go see Sex and the City together. I’m going to photograph her as she does her job as a wedding coordinator (during a wedding!). We’ll swim at her dad’s house and yack and laugh – she makes me laugh so much! And I’ll tell her stories. I love telling her stories. And she laughs and laughs and laughs.

She’s never heard her whole birth story. She’s reading it now.

I can’t wait to kiss and hug her.

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Reader Comments (45)

Your daughter is beautiful....The progression of years and lessons-I can't wait to be in that place...

I've never agreed with UC because to me it just isn't worth it. My children, your children-they're worth being watched over. Women died in childbirth for thousands of years-why would now suddenly be ok? I understand the urge, but not the application.....

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterthordora

Wow. That was really interesting and honest.

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpinky

If you don't mind my asking, what do you think of the Bradley method now? Do you still find the Bradley folks dogmatic, or do you think they've eased up a bit?

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Wow. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful birth story and intimate pictures with everyone! I don't really think it's right to critique others births stories but I would like to comment on your current take on an old event. In the end, didn't everything turn out okay? Your daughter is obviously very intelligent, succesful and fit. If you had been told she was damaged at birth or too large for a vaginal delivery might you have set up different expectations for her? Ironically, in your ignorance, did you do just the right amount of nothing to make it work? I completely agree that unassisted birth, especially without all the information, is risky at best, but your reflections on your experience seem so negative, while at the same time acknowledging that you were, at that moment, doing what you thought was right (or what you have commited yourself to do).

I have to admit that I do often disagree with your writings but yet always come back to see what you have said because it is usually said so weell, whole heartedly and openly. Thank you for that!

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKate

About left-handedness, I'm a lefty and was never oxygen-deprived at birth. My firstborn is also a lefty and as far as I know neither was she; she was pink and screaming when she came out. She was also my only hospital birth, the other three were midwife-attended homebirths and two of them are righties and I cannot tell about my youngest child yet because she is only 21 months and still uses both hands so much that I cannot tell which hand is her dominant hand.

I know they say left-handedness is not hereditary, but I think it is. My father is also a lefty as was my maternal grandma; my guess is it is a recessive gene, to some extent.


May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Thank you for posting that very personal story Barb!

I am curious to know, what do you think could have been done by a midwife or doctor to improve the outcome?

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Great question!

I think that sometimes it's luck that keeps kids safe and if a midwife had been there, she would have resuscitated with oxygen and PPV (bag and mask), making *sure* my baby had oxygen.

I think that looking back 24 years and saying, "Things turned out great!" is a damn long time for a mother to worry. Of course, I didn't worry *all* that time, but it was certainly too long for my taste.

I mean, Meggie screamed for much of her first two years. I know now that sometimes kids are just screamers, but then, I was worried sick that I might have done something to her. Well, silently I did, because outwardly, I flaunted my UC for years... saying:

Look! She's holding my hand in that picture. She's taking breaths in that one. She perked up right after we got off the phone with the ambulance people.

Crap like that.

I didn't know what gasping was back then and gasping is a SERIOUS sign of distress in a baby. I *am* lucky she is fine and maybe an attendant wouldn't have changed a thing, but if something HAD happened to Meghann - as does to too many UC babies - I would have died because of the neglect I ignorantly showed my daughter.

At the time, if she'd have died, I would have said it was meant to be, that sometimes babies die in birth, that she was still safer at home than at the hospital.

*I* was safer/more comfortable at home - avoiding what surely would have been a cesarean... loads of monitoring, the bed, all that stuff birth plans try to get the woman out of... but was Meghann safer at home?

Retrospect is safe - and easy.

What about in the prospective?

Do I think ALL babies should be born in the hospital? Absolutely not. I still believe in choice, weighing risks and finding the balance that works for the family - WHEN THE FAMILY IS CLEAR ABOUT THE RISKS!

We're back to the Informed Consent thing again, right? How informed IS Informed Consent?

And risk *does* go both ways; I know and believe in that.

But, I was nearing 42 weeks post-dates, surely had undiagnosed PCOS, was over 100 pounds "overweight," hadn't had an ultrasound or NST or BPP, had a giant baby with the risk ahead of shoulder dystocia - and was terribly non-compliant. I was a walking risk. A care provider would have helped me open my eyes (maybe... I was pretty stubborn at that time... pretty fierce in my convictions).

It's probably why the midwives around town and Seattle didn't take me! It might not have had a thing to do with money. I might have been screaming, "WATCH OUT FOR ME!" with my pleading for just their attendance at the birth... no need to see them for anything else, you know. Why bother paying for that? I already see the doctors.


Complex. 20+ years of thinking, learning, growing on this issue. And then watching as the UC movement continues growing in light of the casualties (deaths) of babies.

And you know, all the UCers I know who have had a baby die chooses to birth with a provider the next time. Doesn't that say something? Blessedly, when I made that decision, I didn't have to have a child die first.

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

What do I think of Bradley?

I think the Bradley Method is sexist (#1), puts dads in too much of the role of "coach" instead of a laboring father... and along with coach comes Defender of the Birth Plan.

I think Bradley is pretty good in educating hospital couples about upcoming expectations, but it is an extreme disservice to send them into the hospital expecting to change the outcome because of a childbirth class.

As I've said before, you buy the hospital ticket, you go for the hospital ride (with the rare exception).

I'd say, "You want a Bradley birth? STAY HOME!"

Bradley, to me, is self-defense class for birth and sadly, being on the defensive is a rotten way to have a baby.

Besides, whether they try to consciously or not, the hospital staff LOVES to sabotage Bradley births. How many times those of us who have done doula work heard the staff say, "Oh, they're BRADLEY. Might as well stamp 'cesarean' on her forehead."

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Oh! I forgot to add the part about how much vernix she had on her and how I smugly thought that meant she wasn't late at all.

In fact, over and over again, I see LGA/macrosomic babies covered in tons of vernix no matter where they are on the spectrum of due dates.

I wish someone would speak about that. I've only heard a few other midwives speak about that phenomenon.

She wasn't pre-term... she was just FAT!

I also forgot to mention she had polycythemia starting 24 hours postpartum. I thought it was jaundice - which was normal, of course - so didn't take her anywhere near the hospital or a doctor.

(Search "polycythemia" in Google.)

Meggie was a bright red that lasted for days and should have been seen. Yes, she did fine in the end, but I presumed she had a condition she did not have - so little I knew! - and she *could* have gotten very, very ill while I withheld care from her.

*shaking head*

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Curious for personal reasons...
What are the implications of PCOS on labor and delivery?

Do you have any recommended reading on PCOS and pregnancy?

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I am glad to read about the other side of UC birth. As a midwife who has taken a stand by not supporting UC births I have come into great criticism from members of our consumer groups who see it as just another birth option women should know about. I even had a little e-mail discussion with Carla Hartley and the Trust Birth initiative and am saddened by the direction she has taken because I had great respect for her Apprentice Academics which I worked on in the 1980's. Perhaps we have done our job too well when women believe midwives are extraneous.

May 31, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

My son was oxygen-deprived at birth and is now a left-handed 18 month old. Left-handedness runs in our family though. I'm a lefty, so is one of my six siblings, as well as my paternal grandmother. Also, my MIL and her mother.

June 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commentervbacwarrior

What a beautiful story, and what an amazing journey you have been on. Thank you so much for sharing it.

As far as the fanatics, I know that you know that they are out there still, and they are scary. It terrifies me to think that women are giving each other such dangerous information.

June 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMommy Dearest

Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story! Your sense of realism and humor now are refreshing and it was just a great, great read. I am so sorry that you suffered so much and that you had to sort of navigate as best as you knew how throuhg all of the voices in the room and the voices in your head and the stuff you "knew" etc etc etc. I too have had a birth where intuition and peace and certainly sexiness were so far from what was happoening as to be laughable...worried much more about what I should do or what the folks in the room were bossing me about, and just wondering where I could get a nice shotgun to kill myself was!
She is wonderful and so are you---great great story.

June 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHousefairy

Thanks so much for sharing your birth story! I've been thinking about having a midwife attended homebirth for our next child and am trying to weigh the risks. My now seven month old son was born in a hospital after induction a week early and was nearly 10lbs. He came out relatively quickly (25 minutes of pushing) but I hemmorhaged, which is the biggest reason I am thinking I might be better off in a hospital. Also if babies get bigger as you go (is that true?) then I don't know how easy it would be pushing out an 11 pounder without some pain medication. What do you think?

June 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersherrie0568

That post was amazing and left me breathless. I hope we can get together in Las Vegas- I would love the chance to meet face to face and dialog. I'm discussing compensation on my site and hope I can get your input.

June 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLaborpayne

I'm so glad you wrote this amazing story! On one of my earliest blog posts, I wrote about my son, Paul, who was a UC birth and was born with a genetic variant of pena shokeir and died 6 hours after birth. We lost a second son, Samuel, to the same disorder at age 10 months in 2005 but, he was diagnosed by scan at 21 weeks and delivered by c section. With Paul, though, and years of midwifery behind me; I simply did not "see" his anomolies; I was him as a "mother" and he was a beautiful baby...I noticed the rocker bottom feet, overlapping fingers and his small size, strawberry shaped head ( pena shokeir phenotype is easily mistaken for Trisomy 18 ) in a vague, disconnected way and even when it was clear that he was not exchanging gases; his color was poor, no muscle tone--I did not see it or respond to it. My husband and our friend did but I was in "Motherland". That is exactly why UC now makes me swoony and I too, really empathize with the desire and the "story"; it seems to makes sense, it all sounds so right.....but, the fact is, human beings need skilled help in childbirth. A birthing woman should only have to be just that; birthing and hormonally prepped to accept and nurture her newborn....she can't do those things and "monitor" her own, and her baby's health and well being. Great job....thank you for writing this. I love the pictures too and I love the "hair" fixes during the labor; I connect with that very strongly as I was constantly fussing with my hair during a couple of mine! Beautiful.

June 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKneelingwoman


One of the most common reasons women have fertility issues is PCOS or Insulin Resistance. The most common medication for infertility now is Metformin - a drug that regulates glucoses and thereby helping the hormones do their jobs properly.

Back in the day, we didn't know about PCOS, but now, we can see the effects of it in the high rate of infertility issues among fat women. Just like too-thin women who don't ovulate, there is a point when there is TOO much adipose tissue (fat) that the body stops or stutters ovulation.

It isn't uncommon for women who need help *getting* pregnant to need help getting *un*pregnant - through induction/augmentation. Besides macrosomia, I believe arrest of labor is a major reason fat women have more cesareans; there just aren't the same flow of hormones helping out.

I also believe glucose/insulin will eventually be shown to play a key role in the labor process, including helping to signal its start.

June 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Thank you for being so true. I've been your faithful reader since before my last pregnancy, through a time in my life when I wanted to birth unassisted. You were always outspoken about your stance on UC and you shared enough about Meghann's birth then that your writings sowed seeds of doubt for me. I eventually did choose to have a midwife present and I have no regrets, no sense of loss of dream birth, whatever. You helped me with that, and I thank you for it.

I have to second the others with anecdotes about not knowing something is wrong. Here's mine in a nutshell. I did have a sense of urgency once she crowned that she had to get out fast (I was right about that; her fht had been dipping pretty low during what was luckily a short pushing phase) but once I was holding her, I didn't realize she wasn't breathing; I was just so lost in admiring her... it was my midwife who alerted me. She handled it great. She asked me to give her mouth-to-mouth. I did. It worked. I got what I wanted (all the empowerment stuff) and my daughter was safe.

June 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJudit

Thank you for this post.

Your daughter is beautiful.

June 6, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersuperlagirl

Who says that left handedness is not hereditary? I was taught in my genetics class in college that not only is it hereditary, but it is actually a dominant gene.


June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

sherrie0568, obviously I can't predict anything for you specifically, and I'm NOT a medical professional...but regarding your questions about hemmoraghe and size...

The risk of hemmoraghe is increased when labor is induced...so avoiding induction of labor may help you to avoid hemmoraghe. Of course if you have a good medical need to induce labor, that's a different story.

But inducing labor has also been shown to make labor more difficult even when the induction is done to avoid having a baby that is "too large." So it is possible that if you have spontaneous labor you might find it EASIER to birth a baby larger than your first.

I hemmoraghed in my first 3 births--the greatest hemmoraghe being with my second when I was induced.

With my 4th birth, based on a discussion I'd had with a midwife before even getting pregnant, I chose to be adamant about delaying cord clamping/cutting until the placenta delivered. I'd wanted delayed clamping with the first births (though only specified to delay until cord pulse stopped), but for one reason or another, the cord was cut pretty quickly with each of my first 3 children. So anyway...4th birth...NO blood loss prior to delivery of the placenta. My lochia was lighter than in previous births, and the cord stump fell off sooner. So I'm a big proponent of leaving the cord intact until the placenta delivers. I wonder if Navelgazing Midwife has any thoughts on this?


June 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

God Bless you all, that was an amazing story to tell...as I read it, the memeroies of our grandchildren be born came flooding back to me...we have another one on its way in the Fall...Thank You for sharing this with us...

June 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKarlene

With all respect, I would not say that this birth was an unassisted birth. I understand some people like a party, but it can be really detrimental to UC-ing, especially if some are birth/health professionals.

Also, there are many women who have lost a baby in a hospital or during an assisted home birth. There are no guarantees. Maybe for you UC is not something you would do again, and I understand your reasoning, however, it has nothing to do with UC. You say yourself you were a higher risk women to do a UC. A well educatd UC-er who has nothing to prove will do what is necessary to have this baby safely. There were a few things that should have spoken to you with regards to UC-ing this baby.

So then, make this about your choices and the consequences thereof, not UC in general. Your choice to UC was not made with all the right reasons. As you know now, UC is not to be taken lightly, at all. But things happen in a home birth and things happen in a hospital birth. In both situations, the mother needs to do everything that is in her power to be educated about birth, and she needs to take responsibility for her choices.

I don't know that many UC-ers who have lost their baby. I haven't been around that long though, 3 years, but my experience is the opposite. Not everyone planning a UC ends up having one, some people transfer or call their midwife, but that to me is part of UC: to know when to do that and to be in charge of that.

I am curious as to what happened and if it was the actual birth that caused the death, or if it happened afterwards, or before, and what would have prevented it. I would like to have more facts about this statement.

Thank you for sharing your story though. I had many more thoughts and comments when I read your story and I would love to sit down to discuss them as I can't formulate them well enough. This medium is so inadequate. Your daughter is beautiful.


June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

The maternal death I witnessed was an amniotic fluid embolism and happened in the hospital.


The two fetal deaths from UCs I personally (in real life) know - one was a shoulder dystocia and the other was a prolapsed cord. The babies died before help arrived.

June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

So, if I'd have had fewer people there Meggie wouldn't have been a shoulder dystocia? You sound like Marilyn Moran!

It doesn't matter WHAT my motives were; I had a midwifery/medically unassisted birth. It doesn't matter if I should have or not. There are PLENTY of women who have UCs for the "wrong" motives. Motives are in the eyes of the beholder, don't you think?

You are welcome to sound cogent in defending UC, but when your back is up against the wall with a fetal death (yours or someone else's) that didn't have to happen, then come talk to me about motives, parties and definitions.

(Yeah, the topic irks me.)

June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Maybe, but what I am saying, and I can only react to what you wrote, is that the people there made you do things you did not want. That can only work against you. That's the part that is not UC to me, not in the sense of a definition of the word, but more in how their presence influenced you.

No, your motives do not matter, but how one approaches UC does. I am sure there are plenty of women who have a UC for the wrong reasons. I am just reacting to what you yourself wrote about your choice.

I only want to defend UC as a free choice of women. It is not for everyone because we are all different. Again, reacting to what you wrote. There were reasons why UC may not have been the right choice for you and you wrote them down yourself.

Please know that my tone is in no way aggressive or nasty. I just meant to point out that your experience does not mean the same to someone else. Same as a midwife assisted birth or a hospital birth experience is different from woman to woman. Babies die with all the assistance of the world as well. I know statistics mean nothing when it is your baby who died.

You do not know if I lost a baby or not.


June 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

"And you know, all the UCers I know who have had a baby die chooses to birth with a provider the next time. Doesn't that say something?"

All it says to me is that you don't know very many UCers. I know a few UCers who had a baby die (including Laura Shanley herself) who--guess what?--still chose to have UCs for their future children. You can bet they looked at the whys and hows of what happened and educated themselves more than the average person would, and they still believed UC was the safest option for their future children.

It does sound like you have a personal bias against UC, which is understandable to a degree considering your experience. But I do take offense to you taking such a broad swipe against UC and women who choose it in general, rather than just reflecting that this was *your* experience. It is my experience that women who UC and take responsibility for their births are more educated about birth than any other women I have ever met.

July 1, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Doesn't sound like you had a lot of choices or that you chose UC but instead were forced into it. How can you enjoy something that you've been forced into.

Do you really think it's appropriate to condem UC because you had a bad experience and know of two more horrible outcomes. I only know three people in my life that have lost a baby during birth. Two were in a hospital and the other was a midwife assisted birth. Does that mean I can condem hospital birth and say it's reckless.

I wonder how your story would've been written if you'd had a midwife that made a mistake. Would you think midwife assisted homebirth was dangerous? Or if you'd had a c/s with complications. Would you then say c/s are bad for everyone?

I'm sorry you had the experience you had. It sounds like it helped you get started on your path to midwifery though, and I think that's a good thing. Seems like you want women to have the choices you didn't have.

Don't we have the right to choose UC as much as we have the right to choose a midwife assisted homebirth without being called reckless?

Besides this is how many of us UCer's learn, by reading stories and thinking, "what could I have done differently for a safer outcome?"

July 1, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterbreech

Thank you for sharing your story. I have a pretty specific question- and I don't know if you know the answer or if there is a specific answer that exists based on research (if so please direct me to available, reliable research). If a cord compression occurs after the water has broken, how long does it take for fetal death to occur (as in a range)? Can a doppler used consistently according to midwifery model, etc detect this compression before its too late? Specifically, if a fetal death occurs during labor because of (hindsight) cord compression, would adhering to standards of midwifery care regarding how often to check the FHR be able to detect it before its too late? Thanks

July 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Good question.

Cord compression doesn't just happen when membranes are ruptured. It can happen at any time during the pregnancy after the cord is formed.

After the membranes rupture, cord compression can be a tad harder to resolve, though, because the cord isn't "floating" inside and even with a change in position of the mom, there can be compression from... wherever... shoulder, knee, elbow, etc. The bigger the body part pushing down on the cord, the 1) easier it would be to move that part off the cord - or 2) the harder it can be to move the part because there needs to be a large surface area to move. The answer there (as in many questions) is: it depends.

How long does it take for a baby to die from cord compression? It depends. If the cord is mashed tight, it can take less than 2 minutes. If the cord is compressed at varying depths... pressed, released, pressed harder, released some, etc... then it can take longer, but can happen just as surely.

Now, can the midwifery model of listening to fetal heart tones (FHTs) catch a baby dying from cord compression. It depends. It depends on how often the midwife listens and whether she is listening at the right moments. It isn't unusual to not listen to FHTs for 30-60 minutes during some parts of labor. Some of us feel if a baby is awake, this is appropriate. If the baby is sleeping, then every 15-30 min is better.

In second stage, when compression is most likely to happen, most midwives listen every or every other contraction, at least immediately after the contraction and oftentimes before, during and after for a few contractions.

Given this information, you can see that intermittent monitoring is not the same as continuous monitoring and while research does bear out that intermittent has the same (or better) outcomes than continuous, there might be reasons (mother's wishes?) for continuous monitoring.

A midwife can hypothetically "sit" on FHTs the whole labor with a doppler, too, but that is rather unrealistic and not part of the whole homebirth experience. I encourage women who want continuous monitoring to birth in the hospital while working towards remaining upright, etc.

Does this help?

July 13, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

It seems to me that there is an abundant amount of arrogance involved in unassisted childbearing.
Who publishes the gospel of birthing? Is there a text, website, or experience that illuminates every variable of BIRTH?
Birth is fluid, changing from mother to mother, moment to moment.
It is arrogance to assume any labor will progress in a way that will enable a safe and successful unassisted birth.
And what of the babies lost at midwife assited homebirths?
And what of the babies lost in hospital births?

July 13, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermama

Again, making this comment is completly bias and out of line:

"And you know, all the UCers I know who have had a baby die chooses to birth with a provider the next time. Doesn't that say something? Blessedly, when I made that decision, I didn't have to have a child die first."

You are basing your experiences on anecdotal evidence. There simply are no statistics of UCs - neither current nor anthrpological and until they are, you CANNOT say that a midwife assisted birth is safer than a UC birth . This arguement simply has no statistical basis whatsoever.

Try to fear monger women all you want, but the statistics of babies who die in hospitals do exist and they are scary.

Does that mean you should scare all women away from hospital births if they feel the safest there?

True informed choice is not about fear mongering. It is sad that you resort to this.

April 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

Well, Joy, you've commented in every UC post I have, so I will simply address your comments here in this one.

We each have our bias. Yours is obviously at the opposite spectrum from mine. I know I am not "scare mongering" - I am sharing my truth. If it doesn't resonate with you, then it doesn't.

I don't have to "prove" anything because the law of natural selection is in effect and in the animal world as well as the human world, when left alone, mothers and babies die off if they aren't "fit" enough to make it to the next level (mothering). How come tribes in the Amazon have 50% infant mortality rates? These are typically UCs, the mother birthing alone or only with another woman standing by watching. You can argue that unhindered UCs would generate fewer fetal demises all you want but looking at UCs on Mothering.com prove otherwise.

There aren't any studies on UC, but if there were, women would be horrified to see how likely their baby would be to die. And while you say UCers understand that babies die better than hospital birthing women, it isn't until they hold a dead baby in their hands... one that didn't have to be that way... that they REALLY "get" what death means.

April 6, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Well, I don't think you can compare a UC in Africa to a UC in a developed country. There is so much going on there environmentally/politcally/economically that it is completely incomprehensible to us how people surive there period. Comparing the birth customs of tribes today vs the same tribes in the past (without the colonization, without the extreme poverty and hunger and poor sanitary conditions, without the cival wars) would likely yield extreme differences in infant mortality rates. But you are correct, natural selection by default would have likely resulted in a higher infant mortality rate historically than we can say it does in developed countries today, as happens to many mammals (one of nature's way to keep populations in check), but that doesn't mean UC itself is inherently dangerous, that just means that the conditions of the birthing environment were entirely different than they are today.

I think however, if a woman truly knows herself, and her body, she knows her health a lot better than any doctor could. I have IBD and allopathic medicine has never helped me, it took years of research and searching for alternatives for me to get better. How could a doctor possibly know more about me and my health after 5 min visits than I know about myself through research and listening to what my body tells me?

Of course it is not wise to have a UC if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, if you are overweight, if you generally have little knowledge about biology, about physiology, about your own health and what your body's limitaitons are.

So perhaps women with any of the above may have not survived childbirth a few hundred years ago - that still doesn't at all prove that UC is dangerous, only that typically it is wise to be fit, healthy and to know your body (as well as mind/spirit) darn well if you want to have a successful birth. Yes, western medical intervention can help high risk women give birth, but not all women are high risk.

But as Odent is often cited as pointing out,culture has always intereferred with the birthing process, and that has shaped how humans evolved. That doesn't mean, however, that we must passively accept our present culture and just live with it. If Odent's primal health research is shedding light on how human beings are evolving due to today's cultural impositions on birth and parenting, then his arguement of the correlation to how we birth and aggression/violance in our society is a rather chilling one. But as he also notes, since this research is politically incorrect (much like daycare research is politically incorrect) I doubt there will be any major changes to our cultural concepts of birth and parenting any time soon.

In light of this, I don't think it is fair of you to compare apples to oranges - UC births in western countries vs UC births in areas of the world where they have extremly high infant mortality rates and not, as you assume, necessarily because of UCs. If there is no access to clean water, of course by default that would increase the infant mortality rate. If mothers are undernourished, of course there will be more complications.

It would be an entirely different story if we looked at pre-colonized Africa, when tribal communities had access to clean water and were completely self- sustainable and much better nourished.

Marsden has a great article on this too (http://www.birthinternational.com/articles/wagner03.html) - one problem of introducing western birthing technologies to undeveloped countries is that these contries simply cannot afford these technologies. Some hospitals have to reuse IV needles. Any suprise then that infant mortality rates are so much higher, and when you add to this poor sanitation, extreme poverty, malnourishment, lack of access to clean drinking water, etc etc...

I would love to read any mothering.com articles on UC - I have searched but could not find any.

I am a graduate student of philosophy with two undergraduate degrees (one in biochemistry the other in sociology), so argue away...

April 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

Opps, I was thinking Heart of Darkness - Congo - Amazon.

But in the end what difference does it make? The British and French colonized Africa, the Spanish colonized South America.

The infant mortality rate in Brazil is much lower than in most parts of Africa, so I am still not sure you make the association between tribal births in the Amazon an high UC rate = high infant mortality rate. On the other, the c-section rate is MUCH higher in Brazil than in a lot of parts in Africa (1-5% compared to 18-44% almost) - mainly due to the fact that the technology is available in Brazil and unaffordable to most in Africa. http://apha.confex.com/apha/129am/techprogram/paper_28333.htm

I'm sure you know that c-sections are far more dangerous to moms and babies than vaginal birth so could that be the reason why the infant mortality rate in Brazil is 23 out of 1000 births?

I still don't know where you came up with those numbers (that woman in tribal communities who UC have a 50% infant mortality rate).

April 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

You also realize that the infanticide rate in tribal communties in Brazil is very high?

In fact, some tribes even bury their children alive.

Merideth Small does a good analysis of this in "Our Babies Ourselves"

April 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

She's so pretty! Left-handedness runs in my family also President Obama, President Clinton, President Bush and President Reagan all lefties. :)

April 17, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRain

Just to offer a different idea on what could have happened had you gone to the hospital with this birth. (I'm not supper supportive of UC either, so I'm just offering this as an alternative view, cuz I like to think about things like that:)).

Say you went to the hospital...didn't progress, ended up with a c-section, hemorraged and died. Could have happened. Say you went to the hospital, baby was showing the turtle neck sign, physicians did what they do...with you on your back, not making enough room and pulling on the baby. She ended up with a fractured collar bone and again you torn extensively(due to position or other interventions made).

Say, you ended up needing to be up in the hospital with an epidural, arom, episiotomy, pit, small hemorrage, but other than that everything else ok. Could have happened.

I think my point is, birth anywhere, with anyone is unpredictable. There are so many what if's in a scenario like this that it's hard to say whether or not this really was the best birth you could have had or not. Maybe in protected you from unnecesary intervention and a c-section that could have ended horribly. Maybe not, maybe things would have been fine.

I think we need to look at a situation like this and start acknowledging that we simply don't know what would or should have happened. For this reason, we can't restrict choices. Unless we have some good hard data(which we don't-and I'm not sure we will ever), I think choices need to be the name of the game.

I loved the story, though, and it is a great teaching tool for showing women another side of UC, homebirth, and labor. I think so often women get the idealized view of it, when it isn't always honky dory. And having both views is just as important for making those choices as anything else.

May 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRachel

You're right, Rachel. Interestingly, my thoughts about Meghann's birth are softening, especially in light of Aimee's *really* more UC birth than Meghann's.


May 27, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Rereading this. Just wanted to say, my polycythemic 11 pounder was not bright red but actually beet red, about 8 hours after his birth. He had a kind of reverse transfusion, where they unclamped his cord and used it to take out blood and replace it with plasma. I should google it, because surely they know more by now than what they told me then, that it was associated with large babies and diabetic ones. They also told me all my kids after that would have it and it would get worse, which did not happen.
Will google.

May 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Peterson

I want to mention some thoughts on UC. Another term sometimes used is undisturbed birth. This is often what greatly attracts women to UC. Your birth was continuously disturbed by the ladies in attendance, who constantly instructed you to do things contrary to what your body wanted to do. A healthy woman will instinctively do various things during her labor and birth, but you were not allowed to do what you wanted. So, while you lacked trained birth professionals, you also lacked being undisturbed. Any woman with her labor directed as yours was would have been much more likely to develop problems as a result of the constant interferences, similar to how hospital protocol often creates problems. Your interference came not from machines and medicine, but from being denied to move or not move as you needed to, all of which women in hospitals must contend with. Unless there is a true need (mom or baby in danger) to interfere in birth, it can easily do more harm than good.

Having said that, you had some high risk issues, (both in this and your previous pregnancy), and likely not a good UC candidate to begin with. Couple that with your "medwives in training'" and it's no wonder you had such a difficult time. I am not at all suggesting that a husband and wife only birth is a magical recipe for safety and bliss, but your situation was not what a well educated, thoughtful UCer generally encounters.

Most women who UC put much effort into preparing for the birth, and have read and taught themselves a great deal on care during pregnancy, and dealing with any of the rare complications that may arise, and are willing to transfer to the hospital if needed. They also evaluate themselves if they are indeed safe candidates to UC. A healthy woman with no pre-existing conditions or past history of complications, who does not fear birth, and educates herself as to how to handle potential emergencies and complications can be a safe candidate to UC. Place of birth and attendants never guarantees safety, as babies and moms sometimes die in hospitals, at home with midwives, and without midwives, and each choice carries risks. There is no way to totally avoid risk in birth or daily life, but I believe that UC can be a valid and even safe choice for some women. I understand your very bad experience turned you against UC, but that is not a typical UC birth. I'm thankful we are all free to choose where and with whom to birth, whether it be UC, planned elective c-section, or anything in between.

May 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

Yeah, unhindered, it was not. And I wasn't a great candidate (if there is one at all), but I promise, I *thought* I was prepared. I really did.

May 28, 2011 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

My son has severe cerebral palsy from oxygen deprivation at birth (he has HIE III). He's always been tighter on this right side than his left (so his left hand is more often to reach out, to open his hands, etc). Interesting!

August 17, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOlivia

A baby shower at 3am?! How did you get that past them?

January 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSiri Dennis

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