Off the Line
Sweet Homebirth (Video)
Midwives have existed since
the beginning of humanity. Why, then, is it so difficult to find a midwife in
America? What events occured between the mid 1800's until the present day which
nearly made midwifery extinct in America? And why are more families now looking into
homebirth as a refuge from hospital care?
Home Sweet Homebirth
provides the answers. Interviews with noted doctors, historians and midwives. Very
interesting and informative video.
Jock Doubleday's response to Susan
Gerhard's article in Salon
about her "botched homebirth."
August 5, 1999
To the Editor:
Husbandless city girl Susan Gerhard chronologs her botched home birth in "Take
me to a hospital!" (Salon, August 4, 1999).
Desiring a "supportive" birth, Susan for some reason hires a midwife whose
manner she dislikes and whose advice she distrusts. And she hangs onto a
boyfriend too busy to help her shop for receiving blankets, a special
rehydration drink, and "myriad herbs."
A big girl in a big city, Susan schleps whining through the streets, detailing
her every lonely labored shopping step.
Annoyed that her midwife constantly offers her tea and frets over her due
date, Susan brightens when a false alarm sends her prematurely to the
hospital. Here she meets "a calm, nonchalant staff" who give her tests, a
tour of the facility and "warmly" invite her back.
Back home, baby on the way, the annoying midwife breaks her water. Susan pushes too soon
and swells her cervix shut. The midwife is not allowed (or has no competence--we
don't know which) to push the baby's head back so the swelling can go down.
So Susan goes to the warm and friendly hospital! . . . where she cascades through the
usual interventions: IVs with Pitocin and glucose and water, an intrauterine pressure
device, catheter, antibiotics, monitoring devices screwed onto her baby's head, and two
Like taking a cat-trespassing to the police, Susan surrenders her bruised cervix to the
awesome powers of the birth machine. Her miraculous escape from that great
revenue-enhancer, the cesarean section, is testament, perhaps, to surgeons gone golfing.
Had she read Joseph Chilton Pearce's 1993 book "Evolution's End" instead of
spending her time cataloging her miseries, she might have discovered that hospital
childbirth has been found to be the first and foremost cause of the epidemic increase of
violence in America, and six times more likely than home birth to lead to infant death.
Had she not pooh-poohed "fresh-baked" Mothering magazine but actually read it,
she might have benefited from Nancy Griffin's article "The Epidural Express,"
which lists some common side-effects of epidural anesthesia: paralysis of
lower extremities, headache, severe backache, septic meningitis, prolonged
first- and second-stage labor, malpositioning of the baby at the end of
second-stage labor, cranial nerve palsies, respiratory depression, nausea,
vomiting, and seizures. Local anesthetics also rapidly cross the placenta,
resulting in lowered infant neurobehavioral scores, infant respiratory
depression, and fetal heart rate variability, a C-section lover's dream.
Stuck between an incompetent midwife and a cold, hard place, Susan seems to be
a victim. But she should have done research (she's a journalist) to find a
truly competent midwife, one engendering trust and one worthy of trust. She should
have read books and articles to know what to expect. She should have talked to women
who had given birth--her mother, for example, or her sister, or her friends--all of whom
are missing from the life portrait she offers us.
Susan's ditzy "just cut me" style makes for an easy read but an uneasy
feeling. She condescends to what Suzanne Arms calls her "ancient female
lineage" and dismisses traditional cultures' birthing practices in a single
swipe: "how many women would enjoy the method . . . the Guarani of northern
Bolivia use to get the placenta out: making the mother gag on a chicken
What is missing from Susan's life is community, respect for nature, a sense of
history or connectedness to things, and an ability to surrender, not to masked
technicians ready for gain, but to human being.
Her unfathomable crowning glory, "Why do homebirth teachers like to refer to
birth as 'sacred'?" invites us to recommend to her a 3-month vacation from her
nonhusband, her work associates, and city life.
Natural Woman, Natural Man, Inc.
A California nonprofit corporation
And yet another response from Leilah McCracken:
to the editor:
I just read Susan Gerhard's article ("mothers who think- take me to the
hospital!" 8/4/99), and I am less than moved to tears by her birth story, nor by her
A monitor "safely" screwed in her child's head? Cut me open? This woman is
letting her dead fear of giving birth run her entire writing ego; fear, fear, fear
resonates throughout the whole piece. She mocks the gentle talks and endless offers of
herb tea (though granted- herb teas are inherently
funny); yet her fear of her own body shows through in her comment about how in such homey
tea-drenched prenatal visits- "every now and then, a heart tone would be taken."
Most midwives try to downplay the clinical side of prenatal care and birth; and most women
prefer it that way.
Not all women want homebirths; there is no shame in this. But trying to castigate the
entire homebirth movement as half-crazed, estrogen-stoned, nazi-like hippies is somewhat
My sixth child was born at home; as will my seventh... and giving birth without tubes,
needles, knives, toxic drugs, and strangers' fingers- nor the fear they all imbue- is more
than getting in touch with one's "ancient
female lineage": it is staying safe, and giving birth in dignity, privacy and
physical sanctity... and these things matter very profoundly. They are- as Ms. Gerhard was
curious about- sacred.
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