Saturday, October 18, 2008


I have seen commercials for this program for a few weeks now. I have debated mentioning it here because I really want this space to be about Caleb, about my journey in life after him. But this particular topic is so wrapped up in all that I have come to know here in db land, I felt the need to say something.
I am really angry about it. I haven't seen it yet, as it hasn't aired, but everything I have read so far, shows me a really irresponsible and heavily slanted perspective of what I can only say is a ridiculously naive decision by mothers who think they are doing right by their babies.
The US has a relatively high morbidity rate for childbirth given the 'development' of our nation. Some of this can be attributed to lower income, uneducated, young mothers who don't seek out prenatal care, who are substance abusers or who literally choose to ignore their pregnancy because they just don't know what else to do. In my state, where we have a very high percentage of illegal immigrants, many are afraid to seek out medical care because of deportation. But when their babies are born here, with a 'poor outcome' they become a part of the US birth statistics, good or bad. Another part of the statistic is us. The dead baby moms. We all know that for most of us, ending up here on the wrong side of the numbers, had nothing to do with the medical care we received. Not all of us, but most of us. In fact, as some of us here have managed to get lucky enough to have a subsequent pregnancy, we have invited, if not begged the medical community, for even more intervention in a desperate attempt of avoiding another 'bad outcome'.
What gets me so angry about this show is that it defies all of the medical advances made in bringing babies into the world safely. It encourages simple-mindedness and uninformed decision making. It tells women that the medical community is suspect and has nothing to offer in childbirth that they can't do at home. The women I have seen interviewed so far for this 'show' have said things like "I am the safest one to deliver my child into this world" or "I don't need any prenatal care from a doctor, I can do it at home". And while I am quite aware that in many cases you can get lucky and be right about either of those statements, there are also many cases where that is 100% wrong and the baby is put into far worse jeopardy because of the blind arrogance of the mother.
The irresponsibility of a program like this shakes me to the core. And while it remains to be seen I seriously doubt that they will do justice to all of the 'bad outcomes' that result from the 'free.birth' philosophy. They will not talk about mothers who lost babies because of undiagnosed GD, or other manageable blood disorders, they will not talk about babies lost to IUGR or babies born with undiagnosed congenital defects that could have been treated in utero or at least could have been born where a neonatology team was waiting for the baby. They will not, I am sure, feature any babies STILLBORN, to these 'mothers'. They will feature only successful outcomes, happy babies, happy families beaming proudly at how they 'escaped' the big bad medical community and all of its invasive technology and went and had a healthy baby anyway. They will encourage other mothers to make the same misguided decision. They will, intentionally or not, put other mothers and babies at risk by featuring this "birthing philosophy".
I wish they would produce a program that spoke to the issues of what can go wrong. A program that talks about what life looks like on the other side of the statistics. I wish that someone was brave enough to put our faces on a program to show that pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death happens to 'normal' people like us. We are not freaks, we are not drug abusers or impoverished, malnourished women living in huts. We walk by you on the street, we smile at you in grocery stores, we drive by you on the highway. We are not mothers who shunned the medical community and then had our babies die. We did everything we could that was available to us and still came home with empty arms and tiny ash filled boxes. I wish when they produced a show like the one I talk about here, they would show the real story, the real consequence of a bad decision like the one these mothers make. I wish they would talk about the real meaning of the numbers behind the statistics and instead of saying "Is this the right way to go in childbirth" they would say "Why this is such a ridiculously dangerous decision..."
I want to watch the show but I am already so jaded by what I have seen I don't know if I will be able to stomach it.
I get that sometimes babies die, I get it. I know we will never ever be able to eliminate entirely that horrible tragedy from this earth. But seriously, do we have to watch while others choose to make it more likely? Seriously?


Sue said...

I have also seen ads for this show, and it infuriates me, too. The idea that "I am the most appropriate person to deliver my baby." doesn't make any sense. I mean, yes, the mother is the most important person there, and our infant mortality rates are nothing to brag about, but back in the days when women *were* the only ones to deliver their own babies, far more women and babies died on a regular basis.

What really got me was one quote they used on the ad: a woman sitting on the edge of her bed saying, "well, if anything goes wrong, I have only myself to blame..."

Makes me so angry I don't even know where to start.

Cara said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say. Well...maybe glad I don't have tv?

Really unbelievable.

G said...

Stupid fucking ignorant people. Only have myself to blame? Like that's an easy pill to swallow, trust me. Dumbasses.

(I am all for homebirth and such if that's what you want, but this, this seems so irresponsible.)

CLC said...

Wow, that is really angering. And irresponsible, to say the least. Maybe we should make our own documentary.

Tash said...

I've been having a conversation with someone recently on this very subject -- choices, fate, etc. It's a sticky thing -- on the one side, now that we're all here, many of us opt for more not less medical intervention. But some do not. On the other, we all know full well that stillbirth happens to the most monitored people, and that monitoring sometimes can mean boo.

I'm not sure where that leaves us all other than in the thick of really shitty luck.

But when it comes down to it, there are the remains -- like the woman said, the guilt. And based solely on looking around at who got what, the ones that are left with the least amount of guilt on top of their grief? Are the ones that chose with their eyes wide open, who felt taken care of, who are satisfied with the answers. I have no guilt. That woman is, by her own words, going to be saddled with ALL of hers. And that? Is really fucking sad.

FWIW, childbirth was the leading cause of death for women in this country until well into the 20th century. I have no desire to go back there regardless of how many happened to make it through.

Good post Kal, I don't watch enough tv to catch these things, apparently!

charmedgirl said...

i am one of the dead baby moms that carries the guilt of choosing the wrong provider, of choosing the non-medical. to choose to gestate and deliver without ANY health care provider? the guilt they will carry should anything go wrong will be their worst punishment. talk about learning that you don't know shit about shit THE HARD WAY. it doesn't seem like the show is balanced, but neither are those other baby shows filmed in hospitals. i've NEVER seen a baby die on those shows.

some of the unassisted childbirth moms will actually save their babies, some will kill them. we don't know which ones will be saved- we don't have the benefit of knowing alternative lives/choices- but it will happen nonetheless. the ones dead, that'll be obvious.

i can't help but think that if i was an unassisted childbirth mom, my baby may have lived! can you imagine?!?! i believed i had GD and was going about my business to control it (monitoring blood, diet, etc...would have sought insulin if the numbers couldn't be controlled by diet) UNTIL MY MIDWIFE convinced me i didn't have it.

i don't approve of UC. i would never do it. IF i ever got pregnant again, i would go straight to my conservative OB for the scheduled c-sec. what makes me angry? the fact that doctors and midwives can't work together, the fact that many doctors aren't more compassionate and communicative, and the fact that many midwives do not give the most competent care because they don't want to be MED-wives. it's all bullshit and women and babies suffer...from birth rape, from lacking care, from morbidity and mortality. so many looking at themselves and their "ideals," not enough looking to moms and babies. i feel the UC movement would not be growing if the other providers would get their shit together, already.

Coggy said...

I find it difficult to write about this post. I booked with independent midwives, but I did still have NHS care at the same time.
I was supposed to be having a homebirth, but then J died and ended up in hospital with an induction.
I hate the independent midwives, not for their ethos but for the fact that they have no back up plan. When it goes wrong they just bail out and the NHS (in my case) or your insurance medical supplier whatever in the US picks up the pieces. They are not responsible for the shit side of it, just the fluffy everythings perfect side of it.

I'm sure if I was sat here with J after my scheduled homebirth I would be singing their praises, but I'm not. Truth is whether I'd have had full on consultant care or none at all I would still be in my situation. It is not the policy to induce before 14 days overdue in my area especially with a text book trouble free first pregnancy, which is what I had.

You know half of me feels like I was mislead by the independent midwives, half of me thinks it really made no difference. I guess I'm pro-choice and if that means a woman takes her life and her babies life in her own hands by doing this crap than so be it. BUT and this is a big but, ONLY if they are fully informed as to the consequences of what might happen. Cut the fluffy every woman knows how to birth crap and tell the truth. If women still decide to go ahead then so be it. They can't say they weren't warned.

Missing Her said...

I have not seen this yet, but it already is making my blood boil.

kate said...

Yeah, what you said. I have not seen any adverts for this and i am glad. I am sure it would make me see red.

'i have only myself to blame' ???? Yeah, that'll be fun. DUH.

Michele said...

My husband and I watched one of these. It was rough.. We are all for assisted home birth for those who have low risk, in fact, before we found out Nick and Sophie were twins, we had a midwife and planned a homebirth. Once we found out, we switched to an OB with a level III NICU at his disposal. I mean, responsible parents dont take risks with their kids.

What made it so hard was that I kept thinking how we did so much and our babies were still born premature and died... How is that fair when these people took their babies' lives in their hands and everything turned out okay?