Clearly these two stories cover opposite ends of the intervention spectrum and, as with all things, the right answer for most expectant moms probably lies somewhere in between - some medical supervision of their birth process but a hands off approach when things seem to be going well all on their own. But for those who want, sometimes desperately want, their birth to go a certain way, should it really be for the state to say what is allowed?
Yes. Sorry. And feel free to unleash your fury in my general direction.
The fact of the matter is that delivering a child is probably one of the most dangerous things women in the United States will ever do. Natural or not, the act of child bearing has been killing women for as long as women were women. Before that, childbirth probably killed females from the species Homo erectus, but you'd have to ask an anthropologist about that and despite the letters after my name I don't really fit that bill.
We live under the misguided impression in this country that pregnancies result in healthy, happy babies. We are lucky enough that this is for the most part true. But it is not luck and it certainly is not evolution that has brought us to this place. Just the opposite. Our enormous heads don't really help the situation much. So why are fewer women dying in childbirth than they did before? Medicine.
Has medicine overstepped the bounds on many different occasions? Yes. From the soaring rates of infection on maternity wards due to puerperal or Childbed fever in the absence of hand washing before Semmelweis instituted good hygeine practices in 1847 to the overabundance today of Cesarean births in the U.S. and abroad, there have been and continue to be missteps along the way.
But before you consider foregoing all that medicine has to offer, consider this. Group B Strep (GBS) is a bacteria that many women carry. Before the initiation of antibiotic prophylaxis for carriers, 7500 infants in the U.S. contracted GBS from exposure every year. Once an infant is sick, it has about a 50/50 chance of dying. Not in Africa. Not if you fail to bring your new son or daughter to the hospital. Even with treatment, these babies die, they hemorrhage into their brains and ooze blood from around their IVs. So fine. Hire a doula. Have a midwife attend your delivery, but get tested for GBS and if you're positive (as I was) get your freaking antibiotics.
And while we're on the subject, just a word about vitamin K. Yes, it gets injected into your baby's thigh and no, maybe that's not the kindest welcome into this world, but seriously, you think getting pushed out of a vagina didn't already ruin your baby's day? Without vitamin K supplementation, the incidence of stroke (again with the BLEEDING INTO THE BRAIN) is not 1 in a million. It's not 1 in 100,000. It is, in Vietnam anyway, 116 per 100,000 live births. Why are these numbers difficult to calculate in the U.S.? Because babies get vitamin K! So for these 116 infants (and keep in mind that more than 300,000 infants are born daily so that's 348 babies having strokes EVERY DAY), some die and about half suffer serious neurologic impairment.
If your baby didn't get vitamin K because you refused the injection and then he had a stroke and needed to be fed through a G-tube and never recognized you, would you still love him? I hope so. But I think you would find it hard to love yourself.
So pick out music and scented candles for your birth plan. Buy an enormous bouncy ball. Take control of your delivery. But then take a moment to think about what happens if your baby is in trouble and realize that it's not actually about you, is it? It's about getting your baby out safe. So have a back up plan that involves a hospital and an obstetrician. Do your research about these things, even if you want to try to avoid them, so that if your baby needs out now, at least you are not standing the in the way.
The difference for Emmaline was about a minute. She was fine and then she was not. And even though the one thing I wanted from my delivery was to NOT be cut open by a surgeon, when her heart rate was plummeting I was one hundred percent grateful to be going to the OR.