Disappointing Homebirth

I received my first request for a blog topic this week…and I’m finding it near impossible to write. Anyone that knows me would say that I’m NEVER at a loss for words (and a quick glance at my previous posts would prove their point), and yet I’ve stared at this stupid blank MSWord page for too long and need to write something on this subject.

Before I continue on let me remind everyone that I am part of the national community of midwives, doulas, childbirth educators….all kinds of birth professionals. Therefore, while what I am about to write about may remind you of someone you know – I could be writing about someone in New York or Hawaii or right here in Arizona….and just because it resembles someone you know doesn’t indicate that it is. This is why I’m writing on this…because it could be anyone.

Someone had a bad homebirth. Not a bad outcome…a bad homebirth.

Uh oh, you look confused? You’re wondering what the difference is between a bad birth and a bad outcome? Well, you see, a good outcome is so much more than a healthy mom and baby physically speaking – this is why the cesarean rate is such an atrocity! Not only do unnecessary cesareans put mom in a much greater medical/physical risk…but there is an entire emotional side that is affected by it. A good birth is one in which the mother was respected, empowered, loved and nurtured…

With the cesarean rate above 30% nationally, why am I not talking about that? Why is it that I’m choosing to talk about the ONE bad homebirth? Because it’s not one…it’s not two…and it’s not being talked about. And, in many ways, a bad homebirth is one of the worst traumas that a woman can experience.

Again, please let me explain (and you will see why I sat here for a long time before writing this).

A typical birth in this country: a woman finds out she’s pregnant, she asks her friends for the name of an OB near her. She sees the OB/practice, delivers at the hospital of their choosing, and expect certain treatments. She doesn’t expect them to be nurturing and loving, she doesn’t expect them to empower her or to be hands off. In fact, usually the only thing that really surprises her is if she has a cesarean, because that happens to other people….but even then, it’s not too surprising.

But then there’s the woman who empowers herself…she reads, researches, finds out how safe and wonderful a homebirth CAN be. She begins to dream of a world where she is safe AND nurtured….where she can explore and discover a part of herself she didn’t know she had…that wonderful animalistic she-woman that can accomplish anything – even bringing forth life into this world under her own power!!! She hears stories of homebirths and how wonderful they are…hires a homebirth midwife…and dreams of a better birth.

Not all homebirth midwives are the same. Of all of the tests I had to pass and qualifications I had to prove in order to get my license, “Nice person” was not one of them. I never had to prove my skills at “nurturing” or “empowering”.

So this mother who hires her homebirth midwife and dreams of her birth being beautiful and a family event….gets a highly interventive, intrusive birth with a bully of a midwife. She is upset, disappointed, crying. Like the woman with the unnecessary cesarean who is told, “Why are you upset, you have a healthy baby…you should be grateful!”…..THIS mom is told, “Why are you upset, you got your homebirth?”

And this woman is left feeling like maybe she did something wrong – after all, the stories she heard were always wonderful, right? She feels defeated rather than empowered…she was bullied and beaten and now feels that maybe it was her fault. She is angry at the midwife and yet is afraid to say something because she feels like she’s the only one….because nobody else is talking….because they all feel like they are the only one.

I’m not saying that I think that this family should go public with the NAME of the midwife…but they should certainly go public with their story, helping others avoid the same situation. But this family doesn’t even want to share their disappointment with the midwife!! I’m sure the midwife doesn’t know anything is wrong!! That being the case, why would the midwife change anything in the future??

We need to talk about this, so I will say it out loud. Not all homebirth midwives are nice, not all homebirths are good stories, not everyone who had a homebirth will be happy. If you have a bully of a midwife, YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO BE DISAPPOINTED!! And you should not be afraid to communicate that with your midwife. It would KILL me to hear that a client of mine was disappointed with the services I provided…yet even still, I would want to know so that I could be better for the next family and hope and pray that they feel enough trust in me to be able to tell me.

This situation breaks my heart…because I believe that we (midwives) should be held to a higher standard and that the point of having a homebirth isn’t the location in which she pushed her baby out. It’s so much more than that.

So I’m going to ask you…my wonderfully brilliant friends and readers….what should she do? What would YOU do?