Navelgazing Midwife takes on Jennifer Block

Barbara Herrera (Navelgazing Midwife) has some advice for homebirth advocates. Apparently she is disgusted with Jennifer Block’s attempt to divert attention from the facts in Michelle Goldberg’s piece, Home Birth: Increasingly Popular But Dangerous.

She notes that difference between Goldberg’s original piece and Block’s obsession with me:

Out of 39 paragraphs, Dr. Amy Tuteur (the Skeptical OB) is quoted in four and mentioned in a fifth, yet the afterquakes have, almost exclusively, have centered around including Tuteur as a source for Goldberg’s article.

In fact, in The Slate, Jennifer Block’s piece entitled, “How to Scare Women: Did a Daily Beast story on the dangers of home birth rely too heavily on the views of one activist?” contains 16 paragraphs and Tuteur is highlighted in ten of those, not including the obvious reference to her in the title…

So, why am I up at 2am counting paragraphs in tit-for-tat articles? First, because I cannot believe the energy spent on Dr. Amy… so many people arguing for or against her as a source. It’d be amusing if it weren’t such a serious topic. It’s really important for people to know that Dr. Amy isn’t going anywhere and that she will continue to be used as a source protesting Certified Professional Midwives and much of home birth. I know women who begin reading an article or post and if Tuteur is mentioned, abruptly end their reading session. Dr. Amy has been a source in over a dozen articles, from the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and; it’s unlikely she’s going anywhere.

As NGM points out, whining about me is not simply a losing battle; it is a losing strategy in any effort to defend the poor safety record of homebirth midwives:

As much as Dr. Amy Tuteur makes some people crazy, she has proven she is not a force to ignore. While I have issues with her delivery and am unsure about all she professes as fact, the woman has things to say that need to be heard and she’s going to be heard, whether we like it or not. Instead of trying to make her go away, how about we find people who can argue with/speak out against what she says in the same articles. And for crying in a bucket, debating statistics is not the way to do it! If you haven’t figured it out yet, the stats’ results are in the eye of the beholder, so finding alternative discussions is crucial. One of my favorite topics is why women want an out-of-hospital birth in the first place. And then it needs to move quickly to choosing safe home birth midwives. I believe until we have clear, fantastic midwifery education and a way for them/us to learn the advanced skills necessary for out-of-hospital births, we’re fighting a losing battle. Dr. Amy has the information about CPMs down to a sound bite; we better have an answer about them/us when asked.

I have an even better idea:

Instead of attempting to counter my recitation of the abysmal homebirth death rates, how about actually addressing the issue.

As one of the commentors on NGM’s piece notes:

I am profoundly uncomfortable with all the Amy-bashing that goes on. Granted, the woman is strident, vocal, and opinionated, but what the heck?, since when are we all supposed to be shrinking violets? I suspect that she makes people profoundly uncomfortable because she zeroes in on all the stress points in midwifery care like a homing missile. Uneven/inadequate training? Check! Lack of accountability? Check! Absence of informed consent, good backup, timely transport? Check, check, check! She pushes people to address issues they’d rather gloss over. And THAT in my opinion is why she is so reviled.

Jennifer Block has made a fool of herself attempting to divert attention from the appallingly high death rates at the hands of homebirth midwives. Her grade school tactics of attacking the messenger instead of a addressing the message merely aids me in my on going attempt to abolish the CPM (certified professional midwife) credential. CPMs are grossly undereducated, grossly undertrained hobbyists who have appalling rates of neonatal death, and to the extent that they address those unacceptable death rates, it is only to find new (and particularly ineffective) ways to hide them.