Posted by: emjb | January 19, 2007

I can’t help myself

Over at one of the midwife blogs I read, a commenter went off on a rant about her son’s birth; she’d planned a homebirth perfectly, heroically labored for 28 hours without meds, and then her midwife discovered the baby was breech, there was no safe way to deliver him, and they had to rush to the hospital and c/sec. She was devastated, and swore, next time, an OB! To make sure it never happened again!

And I was compelled, as I seem to be by this topic, to leap into the fray. She was hurting, she was angry, and she wanted guarantees it would NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. She’d done everything right; why had this horrible thing happened to her?

Boy, do I understand that one. And I’ve done my share of thinking what I would do if I could go back and redo Nathan’s birth, protecting myself from the bad things instead of depending on untrustworthy people to protect me.

But as clearly as I can see my mistakes now, I couldn’t then. And if I was in a birth situation again, I would still just have my own brain to rely on, with all its faults. Combine that with the unpredictability of birth and the humanness of even the best midwives and OBs, and you find there are no guarantees. Not one. At home, in the hospital, even with Ina May Gaskin herself attending you, something could go wrong. Homebirth is not any less safe for a healthy mom than a hospital birth*–and if you count the superbugs drifting around hospitals, it might sometimes be safer. Babies die in hospitals too. Ask any OB about surprise breeches…better yet, ask a nurse. They’ve seen it all.

The system we have is more imperfect than it should be, but it can never be perfect anyway. Given that, pregnant women have to understand that giving birth takes courage, toughness, and survival skills most women don’t know they have. Sometimes it may be a walk in the park, or a tough hike up a mountain. Sometimes it may be a deadly battle. You don’t know which you’ll have until the day arrives.

* and if we had a British style system with OBs allowed to support midwives, it’d be even safer.



  1. Hello,
    Thank you for your words, for your blog and for your reply on Sage Femmes site. Something about the way you write is so comforting. On my journey and all of the support I have received, no one has said to me “sometimes the baby flips late… Ask any OB about surprise breeches…better yet, ask a nurse. They’ve seen it all.” These practical statements have helped me a lot. Maybe he flipped late. Maybe all the fault in the world doesn’t lay on the midwives shoulders afterall. Thank you for the website link, that will help. You are very strong, and I appreciate you. I have decided to put all of the energy I spend on blame and pity and asking ‘why?’ towards healing and surrendering to what happened and believing it was meant to be that way, because despite all the pain and the blame, I have my son here with me. Good luck with your babies surgery. My nephew has something similiar. My son has had a surgery on his foot and an MRI (so I know how hard that must’ve been). I wanted to say good luck with everything, you all are strong, so I know all will be OK. I’m sorry they have to shave his hair. As you and I know, wounds heal, scars fade. Thank you for your words.

  2. Oh Kim, thank you for those kind words. And I’m not strong I’m just stronger than I used to be. But I had a lot of help getting there! Come talk anytime.

  3. Oh, emjaybee, I’m so happy you are at this point, of comforting and encouraging others (and obviously therefore being able to forgive & comfort yourself). That in itself an empowering thing, no?

    I’m not sure I’m expressing myself well — some good cough medicine is just kicking in — but your post made me glad.

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