Not Buried Twice: Why the Fight for Birth Safety Matters
The backlash to the so-called “Mommy Wars” has been, in some ways, as misguided as the “wars” themselves. There’s a mentality that anything a parent (but usually a mother) does is just as valid, right, or safe as the alternative. While that holds true for some things, like breastfeeding vs. formula, or work vs. stay-at-home, it’s disingenuous to apply it to other topics, like vaccines and homebirth.
As vaccine-preventable diseases continue to make a comeback, the societal implications of vaccine denialism and refusal are clear. The consequences of out-of-hospital birth are a little less straightforward. Why would anyone want to stand in the way of a mother’s decision to give birth at home? Well, they don’t, really. They want expectant parents to be informed, and they want properly trained, accountable midwives.
We are a group of families and professionals in the Lansing, MI area advocating for improved midwifery standards and safer midwifery practices. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, midwives, doulas, midwife apprentices, nurses, and physicians whose lives have been touched by unsafe midwifery practices in some way. We hope that through advocacy and education we can improve birth options in our state and enable families to find the safest care possible.
I believe education and standards and insurance and transparency are so incredibly important for home birth midwifery. My advocacy comes from a place of not trying to limit options — it’s from a place of believing that women deserve the best options.
From 10 Centimeters:
My agenda is not to make homebirth illegal. I have no naive illusions that if all I hope for comes to pass, the Gloria LeMay’s of the world will suddenly stop taking on risky clients and hiding in the closet when the sh*t hits the fan. […] I do not support prosecuting parents for making risky choices that end in disaster. I do, however, support the prosecution of those who call themselves midwives and do the same. My desire is that women have the information they need to make the appropriate decisions for themselves and their babies, and that midwives are held accountable for their actions.
As you can see, this isn’t about moms who give birth in the hospital being mommier-than-thou. It isn’t about doctors trying to get rich by suppressing “alternative” practitioners. It’s about fixing the broken homebirth system in the United States.
While our medical system has its fair share of flaws, its practitioners are held accountable. There is recourse for those who have been harmed. Not so for those whose babies have died or been permanently disabled due to a homebirth midwife’s substandard care. Regulation of midwives varies, so many of them practice without any kind of meaningful education or training.
In 2009, only 0.72% of all births in the United States happened somewhere other than a hospital, so it may not seem like much of a concern. However, that figure represents a 29% increase from 2004. With celebrity homebirthers taking it upon themselves to promote the cause, making it seem like a reasonable, or even superior, alternative to hospital birth, this number may rise further.
As a woman and a feminist, I see how women’s health issues are cast aside in this country. While homebirth midwives sell themselves as more respectful of women, more empowering than doctors, they’re quick to ignore a mother who begs to go to the hospital. They’re quick to dismiss a grieving mother. Politicians, meanwhile, take no interest in it because it has to do with women’s health– and some even support the homebirth agenda, if only because they think it will make Medicaid patients’ births cheaper. About that…
Let’s say a homebirth costs around $3,000, and a hospital birth around $10,000. For a person with insurance, the homebirth will likely not be covered, whereas the hospital birth would be, making hospital birth considerably cheaper. For someone without insurance, homebirth is cheaper… if everything goes right. If not, factor in the cost of an ambulance, a NICU stay, and possibly funeral expenses. And the frugal politicians would probably not relish the SSI payments for babies who are permanently disabled during a homebirth.
That doesn’t take into account the people behind the homebirth statistics. These families were let down by the people they trusted to safely deliver their babies. In some cases, the midwives were ignorant; others, dishonest. None of them did their jobs, and so far, none have been held fully responsible for their actions (or inaction). That’s where the Not Buried Twice campaign comes in.
From the campaign:
The purpose of the video and the #notburiedtwice campaign is to raise awareness. Planned home birth for LOW RISK women in the USA increases the risk of intrapartum and neonatal death at least 3-5 times compared to low risk women giving birth in a hospital. These are preventable deaths.
We are here to let those families know they are not alone. We support them. Their stories matter. Their babies matter. Home birth advocates are trying to silence them and pretend that their babies never existed. They try to bury these babies twice: once in tiny coffins in the ground, and a second time by erasing them from the public consciousness. We aren’t going to let that happen. They won’t be buried twice.
Homebirth vs. hospital birth is not the same as strollers vs. slings or purees vs. finger food. It’s much more than the words of one controversial blogger. It’s about remembering loved ones and preventing further tragedies. Homebirth advocates should not be threatened by the push for higher standards. Implementing safe, ethical practices is critical in order for homebirth to remain an option. Lives are at stake.