Are you still a birth goddess if the baby is dead?

I admit it; I don’t understand it.

I understand if you let your baby die by choosing homebirth because you gullibly accepted the “trust birth” nonsense and didn’t believe that it could happen. And I understand if you let your baby die by choosing homebirth because you had faith that your God would not let it happen, or if He did it would be for a good reason.

But I don’t understand how you can let your baby die a preventable death at homebirth just because you valued your the birth experience more than the life of your baby. Most women I know (including me) would cut off their right arm rather than let harm come to one of their children. But as Lisa Barrett and her supporters make clear, they don’t feel the same way. Homebirth, for them, is about their experience and their rights, indeed ultimately their right to let their baby die if they feel like it. They don’t even bother to pretend otherwise.

Barrett herself has no qualms about the 5 deaths over which she presided. She doesn’t bother to insist that homebirth is a safe choice. She doesn’t bother to insist that it is a loving choice. The key point is the element of choice itself. Sure, 5 women chose to have Barrett preside over the preventable deaths of their babies, and, according to Barrett, that is their right. At no point does Barrett express any regret for 5 separate completely preventable tragic outcomes. Why would she when whether the baby lives or dies is beside the point? She facilitated women’s choices. That’s all that matters for her.

The comment section is filled with one stomach-turning diatribe after another. Not a single one of Barrett’s supporters expresses any regret over the deaths of 5 babies, either. Instead, they are deeply incensed that their “right” to let their own baby die might be threatened.

But for sheer cold-bloodedness, nothing beats yesterday’s testimony of Sarah Kerr, mother of the twin who died less than 2 weeks ago. Kerr asserts, and offers evidence, that she was well aware that one or both of her babies could die.

She had been told by a doctor that homebirth was dangerous for twins:

Ms Kerr said she was admitted to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital for rehydration during her most recent pregnancy when a doctor advised against home birth and said an epidural was mandatory for the delivery of twins in hospital, which she opposed.

She knew that Ms. Barrett had presided over at least 2 neonatal deaths. Indeed, she was at the recent coronial inquest to support Barrett.

In the Coroner’s Court yesterday, Ms Kerr said she was not discouraged from a home delivery despite in August hearing of the adverse outcomes of home births. Ms Kerr told Deputy State Coroner Anthony Schapel she took full responsibility for her actions and was aware of the increased risk of the delivery of twins.

“No one can say I didn’t make an informed choice, I sat through every day of evidence,” she said.

And:

Ms Kerr told the inquest that she and her partner understood and had weighed up all the risks before deciding to have the twins at home.

“My babies aren’t expendable. I love my babies,” she said.

“I didn’t make decisions to put them in danger.”

But her actions belie her testimony. She did make decisions that put those babies in danger and one of the babies died as a direct result. Evidently, those babies were expendable when compared with the birth experience that Kerr desired.

Lisa Barrett has done us a favor. She has stripped the issue of homebirth down to its essentials: the right of the mother to choose her birth experience regardless of whether or not that choice kills the baby. That’s the essence of the homebirth debate, not (purported) safety. It’s all about whether the pursuit of the birth goddess fantasy is more important than the life of a baby.

So here’s what I want to know;

Are you still a birth goddess if the baby is born dead?

After all, you exercised your rights. You didn’t submit to any of those evil interventions. You were free to move in labor. You “trusted your body,” and most importantly, the baby came out of the only approved orifice. Does it matter that the baby was dead?

I suspect that for Lisa Barrett, her supporters, and above all for the mothers of the 5 dead babies who continue to champion her, the fact that the baby was dead is perhaps unfortunate, but definitely not the most important thing.

  • Jtotzeg

    A friends cousin died from a misplaced epidural in childbirth. This past week a dear friend was rushed to the hospital at the beginning of her third trimester, she lost that baby. Hospitals are not a guatentee to live. I do respect your opinion. There is more than one side to everything.

    • Paloma

      Nobody ever said a hospital is a guarantee to live, but it sure is the best chance possible, which is the whole point of the post.

  • Hecate

    Of course delivering healthy babies is a goal of any birth professional. However, I would sympathize with skeptical OB more if the medical establishment was open about the maternal mortality. The US has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Moms – and babies – die in the hospital too. Data collection about what happened and why is woefully haphazard. http://www.mothering.com/community/a/masking-maternal-mortality

    • Anj Fabian

      …annnd ignores the topic presented in favor of an unrelated topic.

      Cites mothering.com and Ina May Gaskin instead of reputable source.

      Go away, little troll. Come back when you grow up.

    • Dr Kitty

      What are these women dying of?

      Peripartum cardiomyopathy, amniotic fluid emboli, VTE, Haemorrhage, PIH and eclampsia. None of which are less frequent or more manageable at home.

      The maternal mortality rate is 3-4 times higher in African American women compared to white women, regardless of income, class or education level.

      The maternal mortality rate has fallen massively since 1920- a time when Homebirth and non-intervention were the norm.

      The causes of direct maternal mortality that are rising are CVA, cardiomyopathy, cardiovascular causes and co-morbid medical problems. Deaths from bleeding, infection, eclampsia and anaesthesia are falling.

      Murder, suicide and accidents remain very, very common causes of indirect maternal mortality.