My response to a traumatic home birth making rounds on the internet: “My True Feelings Regarding My Home Birth Experience”

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Author’s note: This response to a home birth story in no way is meant to put down this mother’s experience or to question it.  I was fortunate to have well trained midwifery staff at my birthing, but this woman feels she did not. Her story further shares the importance of finding well trained birth professionals whether OB or midwife that you can trust. My intentions are to highlight the unpredictability of labor whether at hospital or at home.

So there’s this scary home birth story that was published today and I feel inclined to address it. It hits home for me because some aspects of our labors were similar. The difference is that she states her “baby almost died” and that she almost died because of her home birth.

To break it down, her baby was reportedly born in the brow presentation and also had shoulder dystocia. Her post quotes, “Brow presentation is the least common of all fetal presentations and the incidence varies from 1 in 500 deliveries to 1 in 1400 deliveries. The incidence of shoulder dystocia is generally reported to be between 0.5 % and 1.5%…” Both types of presentation make labor hard on both mother and care provider. There are 2 types of brow presentation and the landmarks on the baby’s skull can distinguish them. One type can snap the baby’s neck and kill it. The other can be delivered vaginally, but can be stressful on the baby. Of course, with an obstetrician, one alternative to a stressful vaginal delivery would be a c-section.

This mother’s post bleeds pain, confusion, and regret. Her wounds are deep and I sympathize. They deserve comfort and consolation. While her story is meant to bring attention to the risks of homebirth, I can’t help examine her story and that of her photographer’s. I can’t help try and understand exactly what happened so I can come to a conclusion, “would she have been safer at a hospital from the beginning?” After all, that’s the million dollar question in the natural birthing world. Which is better: Hospital or home? You can read my post here about why I made my own educated decision to birth at home versus with an OB at a hospital. 

While my home birth did not end up at the hospital, it could have. Much of what this mother describes is all too familiar: the meconium, (meconium show is a sign of possible fetal distress and can be toxic to the baby), the oxygen tank, baby not breathing immediately after birth. I went through it too. The only difference is that my midwives followed different protocol and at one point stopped my labor contractions to physically insert their hand into me and move the baby.  In my case, I feel my midwives saved me from major abdominal surgery.  They informed me every step of the way. There was not a single moment where I felt out of control. In this woman’s case, she says there was no informed consent. There aren’t enough details in this mother’s story to conclude if anything else could have been done in her situation by the midwives.

In the end, what matters is that she feels regret for not laboring next to an OR. She feels that she endangered herself and her baby.  The only issue I have is that I’ve read other stories about complications like brow and shoulder dystocia that end in death even when delivered in a hospital. So would she feel the same sense of regret had she been at a hospital? It is totally possible. After all, some of the pictures like the one below exhibit how big of a home birth supporter she was.

[photo was removed for copyright issues. The photo was a picture of a bumper stick on her dresser that states, “DARE to keep your baby off drugs. Have a home birth”]

It’s possible if things went badly at the hospital she would have blamed her OB.

In this case, would a c-section have been better? It is highly likely if the complications were diagnosed with enough time. However, there is a possibility that the complications were undiagnosed until it was too late. This can occur at a hospital as well. And in the end, the baby did come out vaginally, the baby had a 2 day stay at the hospital, and is now healthy. It is very possible that things could have ended up exactly the same at the hospital.

All in all, we cannot control birth. It is unpredictable and that can be scary. So is being in a hospital for birthing the safest? Not necessarily. There are benefits to a home birth that a hospital cannot provide, and benefits to a hospital birth that a home birth cannot provide. In an ideal world we would have the best of both. This is the case in countries like England and Japan where midwifery care works with obstetric care. In the U.S. however, side-by-side midwifery and OB care is only found in a minority of hospitals.

There are risks to birthing in any case. Some emergencies cannot be helped no matter where it happens.  I personally know a mother who  died giving birth at a  hospital. I know a baby who died being born at a hospital. There is no complete safety net in labor. The benefit of a home birth is a more relaxed environment with a lower chance of medically unnecessary interventions. For some, this factor doesn’t matter. For others, it’s huge.

Instead of focusing on “I almost died,” I hope this mother can one day say, “I survived, I endured.” It is a lesson for everyone that well trained birth professionals are important whether midwife or OB. There is a time and place for both. At the same time, no matter how experienced a professional may be, sometimes unpredictable, uncontrollable issues occur. Life can be scary, but labor taught me that I always have two options: to stress out about all the pain, or  just chill out and release myself to whatever fate God has in store. After all, what is it really that we control? The weather? Our health? Our heart beat? I’m not all too sure we control anything, really. When I was able to give myself up during labor, to go deep within myself and surrender all fear, that was when I felt absolutely no pain. I hope other women can experience this too. There does not have to be fear in labor. We can make our best educated decisions to labor at home or at the hospital, but in the end we can’t control everything. C’est la vie.

Final note: if you are looking into doing  a home birth, it is the safest route to make sure your midwives are not only equipped with all the emergency equipment necessary, but are trained and educated enough to understand when a transfer is necessary.


This post was in reference to the following Popsugar articles:

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Founder at Dymin Collective
Mindy Song is a mother of one, a video artist, and musician from Orange, CA. She is an advocate of social justice with interests in globalization, socio-economics, and the history of women’s rights in developing nations. By day she is a marketing specialist for a dental imaging company, milk pumper, and wannabe supermom. By night she is an asian fusion chef, art critic, and blogger.
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