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Open Letter to Janet Fraser (JoyousBirth.info)

(Janet Fraser, owner of JoyousBirth.info, recently reportedly labored for five days before delivering either a stillborn baby or a baby that died at the birth [facts haven’t been clear yet]. Janet was having an unassisted birth, aka “freebirth.” She has long been a proponent of natural and homebirth as well as a biting critic of hospital, physicians and nurses. Having had a cesarean for her first birth, she is especially venomous regarding cesareans. Reading through her site and the forums, you can see the disdain for midwives, too, making it seem a magnetic draw for those that want to eliminate all interventions/technology from their birthing experience. 

Janet and I have had numerous discussions regarding birthrape and birth abuse. I have my “Checking Your Own Dilation” article on her site; I hadn’t realized quite how deep the UC fervor had gone since I hadn’t read the site in awhile.

Here, then, is an open letter to Janet regarding her choice to UC.)

Dearest Janet,

While you were still in labor, I read the piece the reporter was doing on you. Having had some emotional and cognitive shifts regarding my support for UCs, I squirmed a little in my chair and sighed reading things were going slow and you said, “I could do this for days. My daughter's birth was 50-something hours. You just do it — it's just birth, a normal physiological process." Sadly, you have learned it wasn’t “just birth,” but it was also the normal physiological process of death. Very sad.

I know this must be a very difficult time for you and I am sorry, but I feel compelled to talk with you anyway, perhaps touching you in sore and raw places, but knowing you, you would expect that from me – and even welcome it.

You’ve said, “How do we organise a revolution without offending anyone?” and “If I’m offended by something I look to myself first to see why I’m responding that way. Let’s take responsibility for our own actions.” 

It is in these words that I feel I can speak freely to you.

How do you feel? Are you healing? Have you had time to reflect on your choices and your actions and see if you might have done things differently? I (and I am sure many others) look forward to hearing your thoughts on homebirth, UCs and even midwives after your experience. Have you changed your mind?

In your essays, you have talked about the pain (emotionally and physically) of hospital births, cesareans in particular. I’ve read through the boards and have listened as woman after woman rails against her birth experience, each one more horrifying than the last.

Yet, playing armchair quarterback, many of the stories can be explained, not excused, but explained as to why the births unfolded the way they did. As contrary as it might seem, doctors do not hate women (as a whole). I agree some are horrible; I have seen them, but the majority do care and want women and babies to be safe during the labor and birth. Sure, their orientation is different, they are surgeons and do cut more than they should, but women have to take some responsibility for that because so many sue doctors for not doing a cesarean soon enough. If women sued doctors for doing cesareans, it might be a different story, but when the birth story is told in front of a jury, the doctor did do what was right, protecting the mother and baby, even if the mother was traumatized by the experience. In our culture, we expect perfection and when we don’t get it, someone is to blame. History blames it on the doctor.

But, you epitomize what UCers say: I will take the responsibility on myself. If my baby dies, I am the only one to blame. How does this feel? Is the weight heavier than you expected? Will you be able to eloquently convey what the responsibility actually feels like when it happens? This isn’t to say women should go to OBs so they can blame someone... not at all... but to bring close to home what it means to accept the blow of a child’s death in your heart.

So, if going to an OB is traumatizing and the pain lingers long past the delivery, what are women to do? Is there even the option of going to a midwife where she lives? Would you now consider a midwife? Do you now believe there is a point where a long labor might be too long? Diverse questions that all need to be answered by each individual woman.

Reading the posts on your site, I read with interest, the disdain women had for midwives as well as the doctors. One thread in particular highlighted a midwife releasing the woman from care for non-compliance and the midwife’s being unable to satisfy the woman’s requests for a totally hands-off birth. No understanding of the midwife’s position was expressed, only derision and hatred for her actions. Fairness doesn’t exist.

I also found other things on the site that were equally disturbing. Groups of women with no or very little midwifery or medical knowledge were giving advice (not just information, but actual advice) that could lead to women losing their lives or losing the lives of their babies. Telling women to lie to their providers, skip appointments, fire the midwife, “do what your body tells you to do,” and other equally sad threads were easy to find.

Midwives are hired to be the lifeguard at births. How is she supposed to be that guardian if she isn’t permitted to do even the most basic procedures such as listening to fetal heart tones or be in the room during the labor and birth? Do you believe that a midwife at your labor might have saved your baby’s life? Was the risk of an “interfering” (by listening to heart tones) midwife worth the damage that was caused by losing your baby? Is there a tipping point where having a midwife, even if she is so intrusive as to listen to the baby throughout labor, becomes preferable to a dead baby?

I’m confused why UCers ever go to the hospital. If the body is perfect, why not stay home until the body completes its task, even if that task is a mother and baby dying? What drove you to the hospital? Did some self-preservation kick in? If the body is so perfect, how do UCers explain placenta accreta, placenta previa, PIH, eclampsia, miscarriage... any illness for that matter... a cold, the flu, cancer? Do UCers forego treatment for all illnesses/imperfections, relying on the body’s “perfection” to heal it? If birth is not like illness, is a normal function of the body, why do mothers and babies die at all? What if there is a heart defect that can be repaired with surgery, do UCers still believe in the body’s ability to heal itself? That the baby has the power to create a whole heart?

I also believe birth is normal - to a point. I believe we work well without help... for awhile, but eventually some assistance can be beneficial. Bodies are not perfect. Birth is not perfect. Birth is not as safe as life gets. Birth can be precarious, as you have learned first-hand.

I do not say these things to be a scare-monger, a “med-wife” among the homebirth midwives. Those that know me, have utilized my care, know I am judicious in my interventions on the norm. I have skills I rarely use, but am damn glad I have those skills. I have skills I use all the time, insist on using and if the potential client asks me not to, I will not accept her as a client. I will not be responsible for her child’s death as I sat by not listening. I am being hired for a reason. I sit quietly unless the labor needs help or the woman asks for help. If labor slips out of the realm of norm, I am there to gently nudge it back in so the homebirth desire can continue. If it steps even further outside and safety becomes an issue, I do not hesitate to move into the hospital. My very low cesarean rate (less than 5%) and my very low transfer rate (less than 10%) speaks for itself as does my intervention rate. Most midwives have very similar beliefs and numbers.

After I read that your baby died, I wanted to see what your forums were saying about it. Nothing. Apparently some serious editing and back-room talking is happening somewhere. Note: Just because it isn’t being talked about publicly doesn’t mean it isn’t noticed. Believe me, people are watching – and judging – and if you don’t talk about it, then UCers will continue in the beliefs that birth is perfect when unhindered. It isn’t always true, especially when the birth simultaneously brings a death.

I am so sorry for your loss, Janet. I cannot imagine the pain you must be experiencing. I feel so sad for you. But, I also pray this time brings some reflection about your UC beliefs and a re-consideration about what constitutes a safe birth. I look forward to hearing the evolution of your grief and watch as you heal from an experience where complete healing is never possible. You are a public personality who is very vocal in your beliefs. If this happened to me, I would expect you to say very similar words in just as public a way. Both of us express ourselves publicly and vocally. Your future words are eagerly anticipated. And know that my heart goes out to you.

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Reader Comments (92)


Barb, you do not want women to THINK. What you want is for women to THINK LIKE YOU. I have seen this over and over again in your blog (which I rarely visit anymore). Your heart is not open. Your questions to Janet are the extreme of pompous, egotistical arrogance. You are not speaking from kindness or even true curiosity. You just want to rub it in; you just want to hold Janet up as your great big SEE????? SEE WHAT I'VE BEEN SAYING ALL ALONG ABOUT UC?????

As for silence on the forums, now really--though clearly true empathy eludes you utterly, can you not imagine how YOU might feel if you'd lost a baby under any circumstances? Would you not hope that those who love and respect you (however personally or only as an icon of a movement) would grant you some needed privacy?

You only hate that silence, given to Janet now in her time of grief, because YOU WANT TO GOSSIP AND DIS about it. YOU want to point and laugh at any who defend her, point and say SEE? at any who change their mind about UC based on her experience. HOW DARE WE REFUSE TO GIVE YOU THAT SICK PLEASURE.

How dare you, Barb. How dare you.

I am proud to be a midwife who trusts birth, and just as proud to be a UC mama, UC grandma, and UC supporter.

But I'm embarrassed to call myself midwife in the company of the likes of you. No wonder so many women now prefer UC to midwifery care. Shame on you.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Others have already expressed my disgust and shock at your ghoulish post succinctly and powerfully, so no need to say much, other than: it's precisely because of this sort of appalling behaviour by *some of* those who purport to be "with woman" that *I* had a freebirth.

I suspect the point you have proven here was not the one you intended to highlight, as your post demonstrates little about freebirth and Janet Fraser, but rather a lot about yourself.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFelicity

Harsh? Well, I guess it is, because we are talking about the death of a baby and the grief of a mother. Things that all of us mothers feel a whump in the gut when talking about, because it hits too close to home and heart. It's painful stuff, and I feel pain thinking about labouring for so many days with nothing but empty arms and aching breasts at the end of it.

I am no fan of freebirth, or UC, or whatever pretty, powerful sounding name one wants to give it. I think it's reckless, dangerous, selfish and foolhardy. The one theme I read consistantly in freebirth message boards is "death, like birth, is a part of life" and other such sentiments, implying that freebirthers are willing to accept and "trust" in what an "unhindered birth" will bring into their lives.
So why the backlash? Why the anger? is it because NGM asked these questions? Or is it because they can't regurgitate the rhetoric about trusting birth, trusting bodies, trusting babies, and the faith that if left alone, birth will unfold just the way it should?
Yes, death is a part of life, but that doesn't make it less painful, or something that shouldn't be prevented, if at all possible. And if one wants death accepted as part of life, we should be willing to talk about it freely, just as we are willing to talk about a powerful, beautiful birth that results in a live baby. We should be willing to talk about death being a part of life, even when death does happen, not just before the birth when we want to convince others of our "rightness".

I also see a trend that the deaths are not talked about, swept under the rug, the UCer who doesn't have a glowing account of a powerful, ecstatic birth with a live, healthy baby shunned forever, maybe thinking she shouldn't have trusted birth and her body/baby quite so much.

And the fact that some midwives actually support and encourage it blows me away. Haven't they experienced ANYTHING? Haven't they attended a birth where their skills saved a baby/mother's life? Or, at the very least, prevented harm? I am not being egotistical when I say that I have attended a few births where I absolutely saved a baby or a mother from death or great harm. I could never, with my experience and knowledge of birth, encourage or support a woman choice to go it alone with good conscience.

Birth will go so incredibly right when allowed to unfold 90% of the time. 90% of the time, I am quite content to listen to heart tones every so often, pass a drink, sit on my hands........let mom and baby dance together as they find their power and voices and let birth be. But for that 10% of the time, I, and I am positive, the families, are happy I am there with my skills at resolving shoulder dystocia, or poor heart tones, or malpresentation. I'm sure they are very happy I carry pit and O2 and have an ambu bag, and that I know how to use them, when they or their babies needed help. I know they are appreciative when I can call ahead to my back up doctor, and arrange a smooth, prompt transport to hospital.

The odds are stacked in the healthy birthing woman's favour that birth will progress and result in a healthy, live baby and a unharmed mother. Even in a UC, the odds are stacked that birth will go just perfectly. The odds are comforting when birth is attended by a skilled provider. The odds become deceptively comforting when there's no one to help.

May 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterColleen

Rachel: thank you for taking the time to speak to me in a way that I can understand. As well-versed as I am in human communication, I had not known or noticed the "but" meaning in speech and writing. I absolutely hear what you are saying and won't ever use the word "but" without thinking about what I am *really* saying, or wanting to say. Thank you for the information; it was very illuminating and I am considering what you pointed out. Thank you.

May 1, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

It looks like the UC board members marched over here to berate you for speaking up.

I think you proved a very tragic and sad point. It is not lost on me or many of your regular readers that this post about Janet is a continuation and related to the whole issue of UC you struggled with writing and posting for many months.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdewi

Wow. You got some nerve lady writing this letter to a woman who just lost a child. You're a disgrace.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNoel

I really feel that this post offers nothing of positive value because the entire piece is invalidated by verbally sucker punching a grieving mother. Perhaps it would have been a different story if this had been written about UC and simply referenced the mother's situation. But calling her out like this at this time is completely inappropriate.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDallas Ann

Wow. I am appalled that you think this post is in any way in good taste. A woman's baby has just died and here you are demanding she explain the details of her child's death to satisfy your curiosity while also pointing your finger at her and blaming her while not knowing any of the facts.

I agree with Ani in that the only thing missing from your "letter" is a giant "I TOLD YOU SO" at the very top.

This post goes way beyond having concern for women and their birth choices. You sound like a self-righteous and arrogant bitch.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCaralyn

Name calling is always so flattering. For the person calling names, of course. It negates anything said in the rest of the comment since you cannot even express yourself adequately without expletives. Attractive. Sooooo attractive.

May 2, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

When I first read this post I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. Not because I am a strict UC supporter, but because I know the pain of losing a baby. It is impossible to know the depth of grief a mother feels after the death of a baby. Unless you have experienced it, you can't even being to imagine. There is a time and place to discuss UC vs. midwife attended birth vs. hospital births, but why now? Waiting until the mother herself reappears and is ready to speak isn't the same thing as shoving what happened under the rug.

And aside from that, how are you sure the baby did not die from a birth defect or something else totally unpreventable? What if that is the case?

As a midwife, do you not completely advocate for women to have a babymoon in order to bond and rest? Why would you immediately write such a letter, as a midwife, without respecting a woman's right to rest, recover, and grieve? Regardless of why her baby died and how you feel about UC or any other topic, her arms are empty. Her milk is flowing and she has no baby to comfort and nourish. She is completely emotionally shattered. Midwives should be compassionate, caring, attentive, and in tune with the needs of women. Midwives are supposed to be guardians, guardians of women and babies both. Most of all, midwives are supposed to be respectful, a midwife is supposed to be a person a woman can trust 100%. Though your post was intended to address concerns related to UC, it was nothing I would ever expect to hear from a midwife who values her role working with women and her role in the midwife community at large. Lack of sensitivity may get your point across and your voice heard, but it certainly does not gain you respect or trust as a midwife.

What ever happened to just sending flowers and a "thinking of you" card?

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

As far as I am concerned, you have asked good questions on a very loaded subject.

But, those who Believe do not want to hear about it....

And that is where all the anger, name-calling, being "appalled", etc comes from.

This is a public blog for goodness sake. You write for the public.

I learned a few years ago (it took me a long time) that when I read on blogs words that made me fume or words that made me think "how could she/he say that!!!" etc it was usually because I had found a crack in my armor worth exploring.

I used to 'follow' P's blog and words....thinking 'what a cool midwife'...but now I feel very differently. Words of reason are needed in this discussion/debate. But, so many don't want to hear them. They want to believe SO badly in "trusting" birth, in "trusting" their body (and their baby) that they are willing to risk lives for it.

There is blind trust. And there is common sense. They usually don't go together. And unfortunate things arise.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAdrianna

Once upon a time I read this site often.

Then things seemed to change, and I felt less and less comfortable with the views, but I still checked up occasionally. There were often lovely things, as there were often not-lovely things, in my view at least.

But this...my goddess. We don't know what happened. She may not know exactly what happened at this point. I understand the need to question, and for realistic looking at things, but really? Now? When we don't even know what happened? And you expect her to have come out and announce whether her child had a defect incompatible with life, or whether the UC had any effect, or whether it was some additional factor or combination of? Do we ask this of all mothers? That immediately after they lose a child, they tell the world what caused the death, letting them into their intimate sphere before they've even begun to grieve?

Ask all you want. Speculate all you want. There are those of us who choose a UC because it's what we need: what our BABIES need. My son was forced out too early and too roughly by a midwife. I don't know that I can ever trust one again, as I am too often reminded of the roughness and the complications, over 8 years later, when I take my son to weekly, biweekly, and other checkups, therapies, and appointments, all directly connected to his birth.

I UC'ed with my daughter because it's what we needed. It's what I deserved, as an intelligent and educated mother, desiring a peaceful, uninhibited birth. It's what my daughter needed, as a healthy child to be, entering the world as she saw fit.

My husband and I did not take the decision lightly at all, and we worked with education on our plans. But we also worked with intuition which, contrary to the belittling tone above, has saved many a baby and mother. Science, technology, and medicine give us much, and for that I am ever so thankful. But my body, and my mind, and my family and my friends: they give us much as well. To belittle them is inappropriate.

To attack a woman for her decisions, before you even know whether her decisions had any impact on the outcome, I cannot understand.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTara

"It looks like the UC board members marched over here to berate you for speaking up."


In my opinion, Barb has become a target for the defensive and conflicted feelings the UC community must be understandably be feeling right now - specifically because no discussions on it are happening anywhere else, at least not any open ones. Those feelings would surely be there no matter what, but since it's apparently verboten on MDC and on Joyous Birth, this is the only place people get to vent.

One thing that is really, really bothering me about all this: all the people who are so full of righteous indignation and theatrical disgust that someone dare talk about this "so soon" - are they aware that it has been over a month since this death took place?

Don't mistake what I'm saying. I know the grieving period can take a mighty long time (if indeed it is ever over at all), and I am in no way assigning a time limit. Nor am I saying that she should be out doing interviews, or posting on boards, or anything of the sort. But by now, BECAUSE she has chosen to be such a vocal freebirth advocate and so many people have flocked to her community, somehow an explanation of some kind is warranted. A brief statement, maybe from the father or even a friend, would clear up MANY of the questions being raised.

People have railed against Barb for speculating about what may have happened when she hasn't "seen the chart". No, she hasn't. Some UCers here have suggested that it may have been something that was unpreventable no matter where she was. Absolutely true. Yes. So why not tell us so, over a month later?

I stand by Barb's post and her very legitimate questions, and I do believe her concern and caring for women and their choices are genuine. Those qualities emanate from her words in every post she writes.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

I'm not a member of any "UC board". I'm not an advocate nor even a blanket supporter of freebirth, though I am a supporter of choice. I did have one freebirth. I have also had one hospital birth and was happy with it. From the viewpoint of someone who has stumbled across this blog in my own personal internet travels (and has neither spoken to anyone else about this blog or the issues discussed herein, nor had any external input as to my thoughts and feelings on the blog), I still find it completely disgusting.

The attempt to invalidate the contribution of those of us who feel this way by dimissing us as "theatrical" hordes descended from some covertly united "UC board" is transparent and ineffective. The blog post in question (and some of the revolting comments, though obviously the majority of commenters were unable to feel anything other than shock) speaks for itself. It. Is. Appalling.

As far as I'm aware, Ms Fraser is not some Hollywood starlet who is paid millions for her public lifestyle and therefore can be seen to owe some sort of duty of faciliated voyeurism to her public. She is simply a mother who is very well informed and passionate about birth, and has in the past spoken out for the rights of herself and others - and now she is a mother who has lost a child only a single month ago. I fail to see how this gives you a right to carrion-feed off her grief, nor how it indebts her with a responsibility to faciliate you to do that. How very sick.

Your overt morbid fascination and cruel soap boxing is so far from healthy it's startling. It deeply disturbs me that you interact with birthing women in a professional capacity whilst carrying these attitudes. It further disturbs me (though doesn't surprise me) that several of your colleagues have popped up to match your behaviour.

My heart goes out to Ms Fraser and her family. I hope they have the support and love of compassionate family and friends to protect them and carry them through these horrific times. I hope they never see the petty words of people like you, and I hope Ms Fraser never feels obliged to answer your demands.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSydney

For someone who has witnessed (NGM) and participated in rapes during birth under the guise of medical procedures, it is beyond my understanding of how it is not implicitly understood that some women are doing their best to protect themselves and their babies by not going back to the scene of the crime and putting themselves in the same position.

After enduring repeated and refused non-consensual contact during my second birth, including vaginal penetration by force, I sure as all get out would not return to the hospital for another birth unless it was a true emergency. I have chosen a midwife for this birth at home ONLY because I could not expect myself to know when there was an urgent need for transfer because I lack the training. Fortunately, my midwife is very experienced and I don't feel the need-like I thought I would-to hire a security guard to throw her out if I felt threatened by her actions during the birth.

Women are not told how inappropriate it is to have had a baby die in hospital due to improper or excessive interventions, though this is where the vast majority of babies loose their lives.

Doctors, nurses, and hospital midwives are not generally held accountable for their actions, hence the increase in c/s, inductions, and other interventions, but it is OK to take this grieving women to task for protecting her baby as best she knew? I hope that the self-righteous posters never know what it is, by experience, that some women have gone through at the hands of health care professionals during birth, but to instead hear and acknowledge that abuse and battery and rape DO happen in hospital, and that there uncountable consequences for continuing to ignore it.

May 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSamQ.

I read this post and was a little confused, first because it seemed harsh and innapropriate, but then if you know each other, the grieving mother will have expected the questioning. It was not very clear at first what was so disturbing, and it was the tone as so many said and the buts, nonetheless, what people don't seem to understand is that you did not attack her, but confronted her on the terms you both agreed to communicate on.
I am thinking about the possibility of UC and your blog is one important resource for me becuse is so open about death and things going wrong. I read more than one tragic story and was left asking myself what really happened and how could it have been prevented. So I believe asking questions and looking for answers is legitimate and immensely beneficial to make informed choices. I live in Romania, where there are no options for women, everyone births in the hospital and the service is disgraceful, and sometimes downright dangerous, not because they do to much, but because nobody cares (women are treated worse than animals) and nobody asks questions and babies and mothers die needlessly. So my only choice is to UC, if I want to avoid trauma for me and my baby, but that does not make UC the epitome of safe, of natural, of empowering. It comes with it's risks and I would like to know what they are. Surrounding ourselves with the fanatic belief that birth and the body are perfect is not the answer. Speaking about the times things go wrong and why, might get us closer to the answer.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteralexa

"Some UCers here have suggested that it may have been something that was unpreventable no matter where she was. Absolutely true. Yes. So why not tell us so, over a month later? "


Janet owes us nothing. Is that so hard to understand? Who cares if she WAS a 'public figure'--maybe she will retire entirely from public life now and that would be HER RIGHT. Maybe she will return to public life and never mention her loss--also her right. And it never was her job to provide entertainment, or fodder for your cannons, by the way.

And OF COURSE the UC supporters are saying that her loss may well have been unpreventable--it is the only reasoned response to those, starting with Barb, who clearly assume that UC itself was to blame. Or who at least feel, as you seem to, that Janet owes anyone any info at all. Why wouldn't we insert the fact (the actual fact of life) which seems to have escaped you all, that most stillbirths are unpreventable?

I have to laugh--albeit a sad and disgusted laugh--at the lot of you Anti-UCers. Get a life, will you? Get your own life, that is, rather than spend so much time over on MDC gathering 'evidence' to support views you cling to, without much basis in fact.

As if Dr A T's Dittoheads weren't bad enough! At least with them it's obvious that they do not believe women have much intelligence nor right to self-determination....

Oh Barb, what a plum the Universe handed you, eh? So soon after you write your Big Piece Against UC (which I frankly found to be ridiculous to such an extreme that I didn't bother to respond--or even to finish reading it), you get this Big News to use in your own favor. Whoo hoo....your chance for a field day.

Too bad you didn't see it as your chance for loving compassion toward someone you call 'friend', and for restraint due to the mature recognition that such an event in someone's life is, ALL BY ITSELF (without YOUR 'help'). cause for deep reflection and reorganization.

But see, that is what ticks me off the most about you (and why I so seldom visit here): you are so condescending. You could only write that letter to Janet by believing it likely that without you, she might not think about this enough, or in the 'right way'. You really think that you're All That--and unfortunately, your 'followers' only pump your ego up all the more. You speak of women's empowerment and all that jazz...and al I see is someone who needs her superiority SO badly that she will even write a post like this, even about someone she calls 'friend'.

Anne--NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Not now, not ever. Got that?

Barb--whatever 'thinking' you may intend to promote, you're just not there yet. And this is the best example ever of how far short you fall of promoting actual 'thinking'.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

Au contraire! I see women thinking LOTS. But, perhaps that is difficult to see what with all the personal attacks in the way. Those who don't have cogent argumentative skills resort to epithets and "I don't read your blog anymore." Wah! Doesn't bug me at all. Obviously, I don't write to gather "fans." I write from my heart and if it resonates, great. If not, no big deal. These nasty posts speak volumes about the writer. (Just as you say my post speaks volumes about me; GOOD! It should!)

You don't like what I have to say, no problem. Tell me about it. But stop resorting to goofy comments about not reading me anymore or other equally boring words regarding my character. Discuss the matter at hand and then it becomes a conversation. Otherwise, it is just noise.

May 3, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Anne, have you ever lost a child? One month is nothing. I can understand if she waits a year.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermaria

What offends me about your post?

The assumptions.
You seem to be saying its Janet's fault? That she should answer?
She is damned if she speaks, damned if she doesn't, huh?
She doesn't have to say a thing. She does have that right.
As birth is a personal experience, I know I only share the story I want to share. If my baby passed, not sure I could share that story.
I have been told I was lucky nothing 'bad' happened in my UC. Why? Cos lots o bad happened in my hosp births?
I sure as Hell couldn't trust a midwife in my birth space anymore.

Rhetoric is one thing. The judgement is another.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFree

NGM, I think you asked all the right questions. I am a doula, I have known moms who have lost babies (in a hospital), I know moms who have had maternal trauma at home and almost died (planned homebirth with medical personnel present). Regardless of the situation, the trauma surrounding it is the same. I have found these moms WANT to talk about it, I believe it is healing for them to speak to their feelings - whatever they may be.

Many responders shame you for addressing Janet in this way, but only when you have experienced this situation with mothers in the past can you know that it's OK to talk with them regarding the outcome. Yes, moms need to mourn such a tragic loss, but eventually talking about it is going to help them heal.

I think Sarah is right, you need to accept that UCers have the right to make that decision. It is hard for me personally, but I do accept it. What I cannot accept is that some women are making that decision based on inappropriate or untrue information. Statistics show us that unassisted birth is not as safe for babies and moms as hospital births, but that midwife assisted homebirths ARE as safe as hospital births.

I think what we need are for women to DEMAND better treatment and better care from their providers for labor and delivery. Hospital birth will not change from the top down, it needs to change from the bottom up - with women demanding the care they want/need. This may, for many women, mean having their baby at home. However, unassisted birth is taking unnecessary risks. Some will truly recognize this and choose to UC anyway. I, however, could not shoulder the responsibility for the outcome of my birth in that way.

My heart goes out to Janet, I cannot imagine such a loss. I do think that talking about it - about her decisions, about her responsibility, about her loss - is going to be a necessary step in her healing process, when she is ready.

May 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSJC

The Australian press reported it was a heart defect.
How does a women alone detect if her baby was not tolerating labor?

May 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterdewi

You cannot always tell if it is a fatal heart defect in labor, even with a doppler. Sometimes we can hear it, most times we cannot until we see the baby turning blue postpartum; that is the first clue oftentimes. Most babies' hearts either heal themselves or can be fixed with surgery.

That said, my post still stands. I *do* want to know how Janet feels about UC. Is she of the belief that she would rather her child, who, depending on the defect, might have died anyway... would she have rather the baby died at home where s/he was birthed? (I know *I* would!! I want to die at home if it happened today!)

Of course, knowing the press, it will be hard to get the whole story without their sensationalizing it or condemning her even if the baby would have died anyway. Until if Janet decides to share her story, we just won't know. I am sure if there was a heart defect, it must be comforting to Janet to know her UC wasn't necessarily the cause. I hope it helps her heart, even if it is just a tiny bit.

May 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

Ok... one LAST comment from me.

I just want to say that regardless of the intended tone, I believe it speaks volumes that you "approved" all of these comments -- even the awful and scathing ones. When I initially came on and called you bascially harsh, I fully expected to NOT see my comment displayed. I guess I just don't know you well enough! If you just wanted to appear "right" or as though you were the one true voice, you would NOT have chosen to publish these comments. You opened yourself up to the anger, hurt and ridicule of everyone else (which shows a strength I certainly don't have), all in an effort to encourage dialogue (even dialogue you disagree with!) and I think that is noteworthy and genuine.

Ironically, this post also gave the UC community a chance to express their feeling and opinions about this very personal and important life decision, many of which I found to be beautiful, some of which were heartbreaking. It gave the UCers a chance to jump on here and say, "Wait, here is why we do it, here is what drives us" -- a chance they wouldn't have had otherwise because it wasn't being spoken about. And I think you might have known that, even when you posted the original letter.

Although I personally wouldn't have written the original post, the fact that you allowed us all to dissect it (agree with it and/or have a chance to disagree and jump to Janet's "defense"), your follow-through with this dialogue is, in my opinion, ultimately very helpful and needed.

May 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRachel Clear

Rachel, It would have been extremely selfish and (I think) stupid to just show the good letters. I think it is extremely important not only for me but for others to hear dissenting views... as long as they are civilized... and for the most part, they were. Venomous, pointed and angry, sure, but they spoke volumes about how the women who were reading and writing felt. That is important to me. I write to illuminate how I feel; I know others do the same thing and I appreciate that.

Thank you for your kind words.

May 4, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

So. Here's the thing that *I* wish would be addressed in this conversation, that I'd love to hear how you respond to this, NGM....when I read that letter, I was struck, as someone else mentioned, by the similarities between the arguments you make against UC and those made against midwives by doctors.I could so easily see this letter being sent to someone whose baby died in the hands of a midwife, by a well-meaning but curious and anti-midwife doctor friend. NOW--I know there is a big difference, UCers are often not trained AT ALL, etc etc. But the thing I want to talk about is the blame game. As another commenter mentioned, if a baby and/or mother dies in the hospital, and the cause may or may not be hospital-related, people don't jump in and ask if the parent(s) are feeling guilty about choosing to be in the hospital...obviously, in part because that's just The Norm.

I am very uncomfortable with this sense of heavy blame resting on the parents in one situation when it doesn't in another. Wait, let me clarify--obviously, sometimes parents hold more blame for something like a baby's death than others. But it just seems dangerous to me to perpetuate the idea that if it's outside the norm, then it's okay to assume the parents hold the blame, that blame is the right and acceptable thing in a situation like a baby's death, etc. It seems like what would be best for everyone is if we can somehow turn the conversation away from blame and towards responsible decision making, individuality, and freedom of choice leading to making the BEST choice for each individual situation. And when a baby dies, yes, examine your assumptions, but mostly, mourn. And in some sense, yes, you have to accept that sometimes death happens. Prevent it by all means when you can, but I don't see the distinction of what prevents/causes it to be very clear or well-understood in quite a few cases.

Again, not sure if I'm being clear, but I really want to know what others think about this. It just seemed like the letter--which I could read as being simply curious about the mother's reactions and answers to these questions--still held the basic assumption that if it's a UCer, it's their fault if the baby dies, and of course, if it's not, it's not. Ya know? I'm not saying that's always cut-and-dried, but there's a cultural bias there and I'm just surprised to see a midwife coming down so clearly on the side midwives usually have to fight against. I personally hate to see so many people casually, without good information, support and/or choose UC, and I am not personally comfortable with UC, but I feel very strongly that each person's right to make his or her own choices should be protected. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes to advocating for responsible and informed decision-making...but why the assumptions and accusations of guilt? Why not be careful to highlight that babies die in hospitals and birth centers and midwife-attended homebirths as well, and people don't usually get BLAMED the same way? You know?

That being said, I understand how easy it is to feel like this mother could've done things differently. But still, it seems dangerous to me, like the doctors could take your letter, turn it back on you, and be just as sure of themselves as you are of yourself and put midwives out of business after UC is declared illegal.

May 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusanB

The discussion is parallel and *does* happen when a baby is lost in a homebirth with a midwife. "What more could have been done? If I'd have been in the hospital, would it have made a difference?" I think it is a valid question and one of the risks of delivering at home. Home is NOT the hospital and there ARE added risks in being there... we cannot do an emergency cesarean - we don't have many of the medications the hospital has for hemorrhages or infection - in many instances, the hospital IS safer for women. But, in choosing a homebirth, women weigh the risks and the benefits and then (literally) have to live with their choice. Just as UCers do.

My main concern with romantically idealizing UCers is (I feel) they are not looking at the real risks that come with being without a lifeguard. I *do* know some/most *do* research and learn and ask and learn some more. There is no quantifying test someone can pass or fail that can determine if they have been truly informed about the risks of UC/midwifery care/homebirth/epidural/hospital care/cesarean/etc. In many ways, it's a crap shoot until after the fact (something docs say... "It wasn't normal except in retrospect."). What do we do until then?

I *do* want women to think... not only about the idea of UCing, but also of the idea of homebirthing and birthing in a hospital or birth center.

When you said that there was the blame game going on for UCers, I think it is normal to ask, "Was there something else I could have done?" And for a UCer, the answer really is very simple: have a midwife present. It isn't so the midwife can be blamed or a release of parental blame if something goes awry, it is to be able to KNOW they did everything in their power to cover the bases of possibilites. Women who vascilate between home and hospital births play the same game: what would I do if the baby died at home? Would I feel a lifetime of remorse if I hadn't birthed in the hospital? No one can know for sure, but that is the ultimate question about where and how we birth.

Am I doing *everything* in my power to set myself and my child up for success (in living and health)? If there is a twinge of doubt, then re-examination must occur... and I do that with my midwifery clients all the time! Until there is the absolute belief that what they are doing is 100% the best, the labor and birth are at risk of being overshadowed by fear. (Of course, fears that seemed tended to *can* reappear during labors and births... and they should be re-examined again. I have absolutely taken women to the hospital when they found themselves overshadowed by fear they didn't know had been invisibly looming in the corner.)

I believe blame comes from within much more than from without.

May 5, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

i find it interesting that many posts here are saying that barb is blaming janet for the death of her baby. i really found nothing in her letter that sounded as if she said "its your fault your baby died"
actually i think she was talking about the fact that UCers do what they do because they want to shoulder 100% of the responsibility for the outcome of their birth experience, whatever that may be.
when a UC birth is good, the mother gets to say "i did it all by myself, i am strong, independent and healthy" but no one ever gets to talk about when a UC birth goes bad, what happened, was it preventable, or did she do the right thing by staying home if there was nothing that could have helped the situation?
All these things should be assessed in time, i think barb asked pertinent and decent questions, and was gentle in the process, i found no blame, only wondering if she still would do the same things in retrospect. i would expect anyone, doctors, midwives or other to be asked the same thing with every birth, "would you do the same things in retrospect?" because you cannot learn from experiences without assessing those past choices.
I cant even imagine what janet is going through, it took my baby less than a minute to become responsive after birth, but it was the longest minute of my life.
more than a million thoughts past through my head while she was getting oxygen. one of them being, did i make the right decision by staying home. and i would do it all the same again, maybe janet will come to the same decision.

May 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJackieD

"Does anyone else feel like this letter, while eloquent & making very important points (points I agree with) is a little like kicking a woman while she's down? Losing a child has got to be as far down as anyone can get, I can't imagine having this experience and then reading or hearing about this letter."

Absolutely. This post was in such unbelievably poor taste it takes my breath away. Wow. You don't have all the information, anyway, nobody does. How presumptuous.

May 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah Costello

I have not published 4 nasty letters, 2 by the same hateful person, that contributed nothing to the discussion. They just talked about how awful I was as a person, blah blah and we all already know that is the general concensus amongst many/most UCers. Just thought you all should know I *am* keeping some comments from being published, but that is FAR from not publishing any dissenting views. And these last 4 have been from the last few days. I put through all the earlier letters.

May 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I was initially unsupportive of your decision to post this letter directly addressed to Janet herself. In fact, while I agree with your assessment that UC is not the safest option for birthing mommas based on research evidence, I still feel that your post was not sensitive enough to this individual baby's death. I must agree with Rachel though, in saying that this discussion that has been sparked has been invaluable to engage with; it has illuminated for me why many women choose to UC, and given me a depth of understanding for the variety of needs of laboring women, and the absolute horrors of birth trauma at its most gruesome. I think that it is important for me to know, as a doula and as a woman, what the full spectrum of needs is, and to learn to listen to voices from women who make choices I don't theoretically agree with. I would fight to the death for a woman's right to choose UC even if I think it not the safest option.

I did want to address SamQ's statement that:

Doctors, nurses, and hospital midwives are not generally held accountable for their actions, hence the increase in c/s, inductions, and other interventions,

and offer my opinion that a great contributer to the high rate of c/s, inductions, and other interventions is an inappropriate level of "accountability" via litigation. If a doc or midwife or OB is standing before a judge or jury it is far easier to defend themselves if they "did something," "acted," "intervened," or "tried everything," as opposed to the watchful waiting that is more appropriate and intuitive in the healthiest approach to birth. If birth stories were more open to healthy scrutiny without danger of litigation perhaps more open learning would take place, less litigation, and fewer actual interventions?
Just a conjecture. But I've always felt that overall accountability not to be lacking in obstetrical medicine per se. I can see that accountability is lacking in individual cases; if a woman is birthraped she has no legal recourse for charging the perpetrator, for example. Huge example, totally valid. Or if an intervention was unnecessary and caused "relatively minor" harm (ie destruction of breastfeeding relationship, etc) that practitioner will likely never be brought to task or even questioned regarding their handling of that birth. So yes, in those cases accountability is lacking. But part of the reason for that is a lack of an open forum for dissecting cases and evaluating care based on evidence based best practice research to date....and part of it is a fear that openness or willingness to evaluate one's medical decisions surrounding birth will lead to criticism, job action, and/or litigation.

Just something to think about, to add to the complexity of this issue!

May 11, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermv

I have not read all the responses. I am a "UCer" myself. I am almost 37 weeks pregnant. I have enjoyed a peaceful unassited pregnancy and look forward to an unhindered birth (for me).

I think this letter is very anti UC in my opinion.

I will say this. I never tell anyone that they should have an unassisted birth. EVER. What I do tell women is to educate themselves and make the best choice for them and their family. Then, don't waiver in that.

Also, what if there really aren't supportive midwives of what you do or do not want. What if you have raelized that you don't know a midwife that will respect your choices. What if you have worked through all your fears and the fears in our society regarding childbirth only to realize that you can't control the fears your midwife is bringing to your birth.

I am not anti midwife. I am about wanting the birth I want and having the support I need. I haven't found that in 3 midwives. For my VBA2C a lot of midwives wouldn't support me. Then, my midwife that did dropped me from care at 42 weeks when I went post dates the previous pregnancy. Then the CNM I went to after that treated me HORRIBLE.

See everyone is on their own journey. I think Janet's mistakes (I don't know Janet) is that she was so outspoken about birth to a default. Yes, we need to speak up. Yes, we need to make sure women know they have a choice and they should demand what they want. BUT, we can not tell all women what they should and shouldn't do. Just like I would like others to respect my choice to have an UC, I respect other women's choices in how they want to birth. It just makes my tummy turn when they don't realize they had choices.

So, in essence we can all agree that women have choices and we want them to know so!

One more thing. There are deaths in birth with midwives and doctors as well. The blame just isn't put on the mom. I don't know exactly what happened in Janet's case. As you said, Barb, it seems hush hush and I don't know why.

So, here is one UCer who is intune and confident in my unassisted journey. Who has a supportive husband. Who doesn't base my decisions on what others think and who will continue to educate, but not tell others what they should do!

May 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanuary

Well, I think I may feel slightly different than a lot of people. I am very pro natural, home birth. I do not believe birth is a medical event and I didnt like it being compared to the flu etc. However Walking is also not a medical event, but if you happen to be walking and get hit by a car, you seek the neccissary help. Birth IS natural and beautiful and MOST people have uncomplicated natural birth at home. I did three times. I did have a midwife present because she had the training to deal with things had it not gone perfectly. And also because I cannot sew myself up after a tear! Why does everything have to be so black and white. Why does everyone have to try to prove how "hard core" they are. We women are starting to sound like men. " I can last 5 days in labor!' Well, yes you probably can. Does that mean it's the best decision for your baby? Who are you trying to prove something to? I don't blame women or anyone for that matter for their fear of hospital birth. I have images in my head of going in and completely losing control while I am pumped full of unnessicary meds and then cut open for no good reason. And having many doula and midwife friends, as well as many MOTHER friends. I know this happens. A midwife friend of mine made a very good point in a similar conversation a few days ago. Women are willing to go so far as to birth at home, alone, to avoid the abuse of doctors and to achieve the vbacs that the midwives are no longer alowed to attend in many states. Why then, are they unwilling to fight the laws that prevent them from having the births they want and deserve in the setting they chose with the skilled attendant they chose? My midwife sat in a chair accross the room while I birthed, just like I asked, for 21 hours. She brought me water and gave me kind words of encouragement, but only as a friend. Then when my baby was born and after we cut the cord, she helped clamp it and then sewed me up and helped me take a shower and went home. Exactly as I asked her to do, when we met.And she is now one of my dearest friends in life. There has to be a happy medium in everything. There are choices between scheduled, drugged c-sections and five day long freebirths with no acceptance of help. There are in fact MANY choices in between and yes, as birthing women we should be allowed to choose those at either end as well. But why do we want to....? Our goal should be a natural beautiful drug free birth, with the option of help if it DOES become a medical event at some point. Just like swimming in the ocean, or climbing a mountain, or any other event that is natural, unless we start to drown or fall and do we turn away the lifeguard then?
You did seem a little condescending and rude to an already greiving woman.

May 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCerin

So babies never die in the hospital or at midwife assisted births? Then who is at fault.

I think it's ridiculous to assume and even blame her for the death of her child. Children die. With and without medical intervention.

We are designed to give birth. Our bodies CAN do it.

I have so much to say about the rudeness of your letter but I can't even put into words how angry it makes me. Your assumptions and presuppositions of UC are just too much for me.

I just want to end by saying many UCers KNOW when they need help...and no one is saying that doctors are never useful. They just arent gods.

June 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle

Wow. What an interesting discussion. And what a horrible, sad, tragedy. I am sure that the death of Janet's baby will overshadow her previous 'birth trauma' for the rest of her life. I'm not familiar with the website, but I intend to spend some time there. I want to learn. So not having a strong base for my insight on this issue either makes me look completely ignorant, or perhaps more objective than some might be? The women who have written here and pointed out the continuum of choice ring a bell with me. It truly is a continuum. And death happens all along the continuum. It may be less likely to happen (statistically) at certain spots on the continuum than others. But there's a quote: "statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off". Regardless of where one is at on the continuum, the death of a baby is felt the same way. And certainly women who have loss in hospital settings ask the same types of questions as those who do UC. The difference in the questions might just be semantics, but they are basically the same questions.

Perhaps this is my ignorance, because I haven't read anything over at the JB website, and don't fully understand the common reasons behind these women's choice to do UC, BUT, I don't think these women, who supposedly are seeking empowerment, are non-thinkers. Most feminists are consummate thinkers, from what I know of them. Perhaps these women might be reactionary- allowing their feelings about past trauma to overshadow their true understanding of the risks of UC? But I don't know. There's always the possibility that they know the risks and fully embrace them. I mean, I wonder about those first few births that Ina May attended in the caravan- was that safe? Were those women informed, were they thinking?

Sometimes it is just ignorance. I mean, women choose to go to the hospital a lot more than they do homebirth. Sometimes it is because they just don't realize they have an option. But sometimes, even when presented the option, it's because they have a perception (not evidence-based) that homebirth is unsafe. But it's still each individual woman's choice. Evidence-based practice, and choices, seem like the best bet to the rational person. But in the end, it's still a bet. As much as we'd like to believe we have control, we really don't. There's a local DEM midwife I know who has a belief that if a baby dies, it's Gods will. She's just as technically experienced as a licensed CNM, in my opinion. But she's not licensed, not certified. If a baby was stillborn in her care, would we point fingers at her and say that birthing with an unlicensed, uncertified midwife is dangerous? The women in her care would never say that because they are the type of women who accept life and death as God's Sovereignty. They put their trust in God alone.

There are some women (or their families) who do change their minds about their choices somewhere along the way, only later to point fingers back at the midwife who attended the birth. And we all know that too many midwives have been targets of larger political forces that are utilizing these women. So I agree with others here who have warned that this is mucky ground- "but there for the Grace of God go I...". Just because "evidence" may show that midwife attended births are 'safer' that UC in terms of mortality does not mean that bad things don't happen all along the continuum of childbirth. When we point a finger, there's always three pointing back!

So then, in my opinion, the real answer is not in preventing tragedies from happening by THINKING about the possibility beforehand, but in how we deal with them once they've happened. I mean, NM, you are right to ask where the line is in terms of medical intervention. There's not been one surgery I've had when they didn't ask me if I had an objection to receiving a blood transfusion, if needed. And I always marvel at that- "who in their right mind would refuse a life-saving blood transfusion"? But, people do (albeit a minority). And it's a value they hold so dearly that hospitals actually have to ask all patients about it. I think it's sort of human nature to want to say "see, I told you so.." if one of those people refused a blood transfusion and then died as a result of blood loss. But how I perceive and practice my faith is not the same as they do, and that really is the difference. Of course I believe that I am more sensible, that my choices are the better ones. But for people who hold tight to the belief that they are going against God if they accept a blood transfusion, living because of a blood transfusion is not really living rightfully, and dying for refusing one is an honorable way to die. So there is honor in life, and there is honor in death too.

It is so very sad that Janet will spend her life grieving the death of her baby, and dealing with the grief of her other children as well. But I am not so quick to assume that she made a mistake. She may have made choices differently than we would have made, but on some level she fully accepted the risks. I think we should honor that. I wouldn't expect her experience to radically change her beliefs. It might temper some of her *supposed* latent hostility that NM claims she has (or perhaps lessen her zeal/passion for the political cause of UC). It certainly will, over time, 'even the playing field' so-to-speak. But I think in many ways the death of her baby could actually beg healing for her in much deeper ways. Either way, she will emerge from the depths of the grief a more complete person (not implying that I think she wasn't complete before and this is why she made poor choices). What I'm saying is that in a spiritual sense, death is never senseless. It holds great honor, in my opinion. We shouldn't try to strip that out of it by taking the personal aspects out of it, putting it on a political level. I think it's far more productive to come around this woman's loss with as much grace as we can muster, lest we shoot our own selves in the foot.

I hear your frustration and concern, NM. I suppose that your own sadness at the news of this is underpinned by anger because you believe this death was preventable. I'm not faulting you that. I'd just like to suggest a spiritual approach might be better received. If there's things being said or shared on the JB forums that are dangerously erroneous and putting women at risk, find a way to make *suggestions* (that aren't overtly argumentative) on the JB site. People are more likely to take your ideas into account if they believe your motives are right...............

June 16, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAimee

Oh those silly unthinking UC mothers, they're completely oblivious to the possibilty of death, they need clever midwives to tell them *sigh*
I sure am glad Janet removed her link to this blog from her own!

Goodness me, shame on Navelgazing.

Others have already stated your bias quite eloquently.

As a Joyous Birth poster I too was worried sick when Janet stayed quiet, and wanted to know what happened to satisfy my own curiosity. But you know what? All that matters is she's ok. And supported.

Whatever happened DOES NOT detract from the brilliant work she has done in encouraging mothers to question again & again, to own their birth & be unafraid in the face of overwhelming bullying.

She's faced a worst nightmare & your crowing post made me feel ill.

I'm planning a HB with a midwife... my choice. Janet's choice was rational, thoughtful & researched. She suffered a tragedy. You seem almost pleased, although I'm sure you're really not.

Don't make this woman's tragedy your ultimate point. You just look silly.

October 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBel

What a sad loss for Janet and her family. This is very speculative as to the connection between UC and the babys demise which I think is what is being suggested. A similar hospital situation would have likely resulted in closing of the ranks, an official apologetic statement with no blame laid on the individual doc or midwife or other staff OR the mother but I'm sure serious neglect & intentional & unintentional fatal errors have occurred in hospitals as a direct result of the actions or inactions of a trained medical personnel & other reasons. Unless we know the full details we can't objectively speculate. If a woman was so hardcore to UC that she would intentionally override her intuition to GET help JUST so she could have a UC & in doing so threatened the life of her baby intentionally, that is not an informed choice ,I wonder how many UCers do this. Birth is very speculative by its nature but medics have finetuned the birth experience to conform to a particular model & placed timing & social/moral demands on the process. The 5 day labour sounds nuts, likely tabloid trash, if I had been labouring for 5 days in true labour I'd have been hauled into the hospital likely at my own insistence because I likely wouldn't have supportive back-up that may prevent me from HAVING to go to hospital in that instance, say for something minor& most importantly because I would act upon my instincts as most women do & get myself there. One thing I do feel is not very kind is the demand for details because this woman went UC. I dont think there would be such a vindication of that choice if it had happened in a hospital setting as the beurocracy would swallow up the blame factor & no one person would be held accountable if they should have been because 'hospitals are the safest place to birth' ,nor likely any real change & improvement in the care of women & babies there. The urge to somehow categorize UC as an inherently dangerous poor choice seems important here really& lots of people need no persuasion to take this line. Lets seperate the reality of a UC & the notions that a lot of people have of a selfish woman who wants the perfect birth experience at the possible, nay, likely risk of her or her child being harmed or a fatality. Theres a huge difference between UC where a woman has informed herself as best she can, prepared herself as best she can, family etc, arranged transport for a transfer if required, if it were me I'd love to have reliable trustworthy skilled non-violent, hands off unless necessary midwife as back-up who is not prone to taking over the situation just cos she may be needed etcetc such a lot we selfish women ask! So very generalized are these thought processes about UC that we know this subject isn't really being seriously debated or anylized with an outlook towards improving potential care services for these women and their families.Seriously it's more about blame.What I find shocking but not surprising is how difficult it can be to arrange and trust in good back-up care in case you would need to transfer to hospital or required appropriate and highly-skilled care at your UC. Surely we can provide that level of 'assistance' for women in that position but something is telling people these women are somehow 'asking for it'. Instead it can be very hard to request back-up help due to the very nature of the choice a woman makes to attempt UC. It simply becomes a blame game with the result that very deep-seated fears surrounding human birth & female bodies/choices in general are ignited & the actual assistance of the mother (and child) is overlooked, even discouraged & sadly sometimes actively denied, instead many women in that situation are subjected to some dreadful proceedings as a way of punishing them for what they 'failed at' and their refusal to go to hospital to birth from the onset of pregnancy. Many people simply believe that a woman can't & wouldn't want to give birth safely without an attendant and that simply isn't true. I have issues with the myths surrounding UC and women who feel they want to go this way should do serious research not just take on what some other woman says though some women can be inspiring I find a militant approach to UC not very helpful. I've Uc'ed x2.

March 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMary

I am curious if Janet ever responded (publicly or privately). It is a sad story and I would be interested to hear her side.

June 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRachel


June 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

I am expecting a baby in May 2011 and have been looking into birth options. I know I don't want an OB delivery (except in an emergency), and we will struggle to afford a midwife, so I started looking into UC. I came across the very sad story about Janet's baby dying (or being stillborn) during her UC. Since then, I've searched everywhere to try to find her story, because knowing the full story would go some way in helping me to make my decision one way or another. I also wanted to be able to defend her if it was, in fact, unavoidable.

But I can't find any information anywhere! I couldn't find any mention of it on her blog, or on the 'Joyous Birth' website and have tried a variety of google searches, to no avail. Apart from a few news reports from the time, and a mention of it on some blogs, there's surprisingly little information or even discussion about what happened to such a public and vocal figure. Yet, she still appears to be active and doing what she's always done, while remaining completely silent on this subject.

Am I missing something? Surely she has made a statement somewhere about what happened? I find it hard to believe that she has just carried on as if nothing happened. Perhaps she doesn't feel she has a good explanation, but then surely she would let people know as a warning to other would-be UCers, either against taking the risk, or if there is a particular situation/action that they should be aware of and perhaps learn from her mistakes (if indeed she made any).

I guess the other possibility is that it is a legal issue. I couldn't find anything to suggest that the coroner has returned his finding on her baby's death, so she may not want to/be able to talk about it until he does. In any case, I hope that in the end she will give a statement about what happened, for the reasons I've mentioned.

September 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

I've heard nothing, read nothing and no one has come privately to say anything. I didn't ever hear from Janet (didn't actually expect to). Continue to get MAJOR flack for this piece, too. I braced myself for your comment -and was relieved it didn't have spears attached to it.

Janet's writing, from what I can see, *has* changed somewhat in that she speaks much more about midwife-assisted birth than UC nowadays. I admit I don't scour her site for insight or therapize what she says, trying to decipher what's being said, but that's just my casual observation.

I hope you've also read the UC stories here on my site... my own as well as others that have been told to me.

I totally know the dilemma you are in; it was the same when I had Meghann. If I'd have been in the hospital, I would have had a cesarean. But, after having almost lost her to a UC shoulder dystocia, I don't know what I would do again if I knew then what I know now.

It seems logical to think, "If the baby died it would have happened anyway" or "If my baby dies I want her to die in my arms instead of the hospital's hands" but the reality is, babies CAN die from lack of care.

My homebirth consents blatantly address the reality that there are complications that are exacerbated by being out of the hospital. Homebirths do not have immediate access to teams of care, to an NICU, to blood products or to an operating room. And being out of hospital can complicate any emergency that requires assistance more than what a skilled homebirth midwife can do... the wait for and ride in an ambulance *can* make the difference between life and death.

HOWEVER! I continue offering homebirth services *because* the risk of such complications, I believe, are considerably lower *because* of being out of the hospital. The hospital offers an infinite array of drugs, procedures, inhibited positions and substandard care to the great majority of normal, healthy women birthing behind its doors.

It is crucial for women to weigh the minute risk of being ooh vs. the enormity of technology foisted on them in the name of safety. Relative risk vs. actual risk.

I'm not sure if I've softened a whole lot since writing this piece, but I do have more empathy for the myriad of circumstances women must face when deciding how and with whom to have their babies.

I am the first to admit my contradictions; I'm still trying to resolve them.

September 30, 2010 | Registered CommenterNavelgazing Midwife

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