Who cares about the babies who die at homebirth?

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Bitter grief is often an unselfish motivator.

Consider organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, started by parents who suffered the ultimate loss, to ensure that other parents would not have to endure the death of a child. Consider the various laws named after children who were abducted and murdered, championed by parents who wanted to make sure that no other family’s life would be shattered by crushing grief. Consider websites like Love, Light, Laughter and Chocolate – One Mom’s Journey where a mother shares her excruciating grief at the loss of her beautiful daughter Meghan in an effort to prevent other children from dying by pulling down heavy furniture on themselves.

Where is the organization to ensure that no other mother has to endure the preventable death of a child at homebirth?

There is no such organization.

Why? Because the mothers who have lost a child to a preventable homebirth death often collude in protecting the very individuals who have contributed to or caused that death.

It’s quite remarkable when you think about it. It’s not because of guilt over the deaths, since many campaigns are started by women like Meghan’s mother who feels terribly guilty that she did not bolt the heavy furniture to the wall. Yet she is willing to admit to and confront that guilt in an effort to save your child.

What’s even more remarkable is that not only do most homebirth loss mothers fail to make any attempt to prevent future infant deaths at homebirth, they work hard to prevent any homebirth midwife from being held responsible for the actions that led to the death. They refuse to participate in prosecution or disciplining of the individual midwife involved; they refuse to testify against their midwife; they actively oppose any attempt to restrict homebirth midwives’ scope of practice; and they promote increased licensing and reimbursement for obviously incompetent practitioners.

Why the big difference? I suspect that its because homebirth is an integral part of the self-image of homebirth mothers. Meghan’s mother Kim is wracked with guilt that she did not bolt the heavy dresser to the wall, but she recognizes that if she had realized the danger, she would have done; now she wants other mothers to recognize the danger before a tragedy occurs. In contrast, homebirth mothers have been told repeatedly by relatives, friends and medical professionals that homebirth poses a real danger of death to their baby, and they have denied, or even embraced that danger in an effort to bolster their self image within a community of like minded believers. To admit that homebirth led to the preventable death of the baby is to admit that they weren’t educated at all; that rather than being special for choosing homebirth, they’ve marked themselves as gullible and selfish.

Homebirth mothers are different from other mothers in another important way. Homebirth is about them, their needs, their desires, their self-image. The baby is nothing more than a prop in a piece of performance art. Given the choice between protecting the star or the prop, homebirth loss mothers usually choose to protect themselves.

Why can’t they hold homebirth midwives accountable? Homebirth midwives lack the education and training to provide actual medical care; indeed many boast that they fully intend to do nothing at the birth. Their primary function, then, is praising the mother for her outstanding performance. Holding the midwife accountable will inevitably turn a source of support into a source hostility and many homebirth mothers are so desperate for praise that they crave it even from the women who let their babies die.

Think about just how aberrant and abhorrent that it. Can you imagine the mother of a child who died because someone drove drunk praising the decision to drive while intoxicated and refusing to testify against the perpetrator? Can you imagine the mother of a child who died at the hands of a sexual predator advocating for the freedom of sexual predators to follow their urges? Can you imagine the mother of a child who died after pulling down a heavy piece of furniture on herself announcing that “death is a part of life” and “some children are just meant to die”?

No, I can’t, either. Yet time and time again I have read and written about homebirth loss mothers praising deadly midwives, praising the “experience” of a vaginal birth of a dead child, refusing to cooperate in disciplining the midwife responsible, advocating for more “freedom” for homebirth midwives, and, most grotesque of all, choosing to risk their next child’s life by having a homebirth.

Who cares about the babies who die at homebirth?

No one, apparently. Certainly not the mothers who insist that they “would do it all again even knowing the outcome.” Certainly not the mother’s friends who brazenly insist that no one should publicize even public stories of homebirth death in order to “protect” the mother. Certainly not the midwives who make no attempt to learn from their mistakes. Certainly not the homebirth midwifery establishment, which is actively engaged in a campaign to hide homebirth deaths by refusing to release their own statistics.

I am fortunate to know a few brave women who are working privately to prevent any mother from experiencing the devastation of the homebirth loss that they experienced. They are working without benefit of lobbyists, support groups or donors. They are working, despite the pain, to make sure that other mothers never experience that same pain.

There is one other person who cares about the babies who die at homebirth: me. That’s the primary reason why I started the predecessor of this blog nearly 7 years ago, and why I maintain it to this day. I fervently believe that most babies who die at homebirth did not have to die. I fervently believe that American homebirth midwives shouldn’t be taking care of houseplants, let alone mothers and babies. I fervently believe that homebirth advocates dupe women into risking their own babies’ lives because they are desperate for validation. I also fervently (and probably naively) believe that when the American public becomes aware of the death toll that homebirth midwifery organizations are strenuously trying to hide, there will be consequences.

I would not describe myself as selfless since the fact is that I cannot stop myself from doing this. I am angry that women opt to risk their babies’ lives by choosing incompetent American homebirth midwives; I’m angry that American legislators have been duped into licensing these woefully undereducated and undertrained self-proclaimed “midwives” believing that they are no different from midwives in the rest of the world; I am angry that homebirth celebrities and industry leaders, many of whom are just as aware of the appalling death toll of homebirth as I am, are deliberately hiding their own data.

It is my concern for these babies and my anger toward those who cause and promote their preventable deaths that motivate me. That’s why people who like to write me profanity laced emails, post profanity laced comments, and generally deride me are simply wasting their time. I really don’t care what you think of me, because it’s hard for me to respect the assessments of those who are more interested in a mother’s self-image than a baby’s life.

I care about babies who die at homebirth, and the regular readers of this blog do, too. Now if we could only get everyone else to care, perhaps we could put an end to needless, preventable infant deaths.

  • I thought that infanticide was illegal in the US, lets start putting these idiots in Prison!!

  • TiffanyEpiphany

    Dear Erin,

    The fact that Dr. Amy doesn’t have a medical license anymore
    (I don’t know that for sure; I haven’t asked her) ISN’T because it was revoked or because she’s not allowed to have one. According to her profile, she left her practice to raise her four children. Um, lots of people do that, leave a career to raise children all the while one’s professional license expires. It’s not scandalous; it’s honorable…and understandable. It doesn’t erase or invalidate a person’s wisdom in their field or diminish their credibility any.

    So don’t try to discredit her by attempting to negate the actual experience she actually has as an actual OB in an actual hospital with actual pregnancies of low, medium, and high risk. She has attended upwards of 50,000 births of various risk in her career, according to an interview of hers I listened to. That’s sure a heck of a lot more than the 350 “normal” births the midwife (whom I was going to go with for a homebirth) had attended in 8 years.

    The comparison you’re making is not apples to apples anyway: CPNs and DEMs ARE NOT ALLOWED to have a license in all states, and that’s for
    good reason.

    It’s not like Dr. Amy is attempting to practice medicine without a license. She is relaying knowledge acquired from her vast experience and extensive education in her field of expertise. Those things don’t disappear just because her license lapsed or whatever.

    And anyway, the “license” that some lay midwives get to have (read: gave themselves) in states that allow it is hardly a real license that inspires faith in the homebirthing cult.

    ~ From a would-have-been-homebirther had it not been for Dr. Amy’s writings.

  • TiffanyEpiphany

    Dear Jenee,

    You sound real similar to a mis-informed writer I came across recently (see link below).

    It’s not that no one cares about the babies who die at the hospital. (That’s not what this post is about anyway.) It is very sad when any baby dies anywhere. The critical difference between the babies who die as a result of a hospital birth and those who die as a result of a homebirth is that those who die at home DIDN’T HAVE TO DIE! These deaths are PREVENTABLE!

    When babies die in the hospital, it is equally sad, but definitely not equally preventable. Those babies died IN SPITE OF the interventions and help they received while in the hospital, NOT BECAUSE OF them.
    Do side effects and complications and negligence all still occur in a
    hospital? Of course. Some babies unfortunately die in a hospital when
    they didn’t have to because of something that went wrong in the hospital. But choosing to flee from hospitals everywhere is not the answer.

    Hospitals and doctors aim to save lives, not take chances. Homebirthers take unnecessary chances with the lives and well-beings of their babies, and they should count themselves very, very lucky if they and their babies happened to escape unscathed from their irresponsible stunt.

    So here’s the link:

    http://www.homebirth.net.au/2008/06/homebirth-vs-hospital-statistics-to-die.html

    And my comments about it:

    Oh, for pete’s sake…this person doesn’t even interpret the data
    correctly!!! Yes, using the data presented, the raw number of deaths in a
    hospital is greater than deaths at home (6,067 vs. 129), but that is not what
    you look at when you are analyzing stats! One of the things you have to look
    at the PERCENTAGE (if you’re going to do a true comparison of apples to apples)!!

    So, really (using the data presented), we’re talking 6,067
    deaths in a hospital out of 7,007,412 (or .87 deaths per 1,000) compared with
    129 deaths in a homebirth out of 64,537 (or 2 deaths per 1,000)…um, idiots
    out there, that’s OVER DOUBLE THE DEATH RATE to a baby who is born at home
    versus one who is born in a hospital…AND THAT INCLUDES ALL (repeat: ALL)
    THE HIGH RISK PREGNANCIES at a hospital (as well as (possibly) any births who
    started at home and were finished at the hospital and NOT including any
    homebirths that were not even reported)!!!!

    The numbers are clear that (as I’ve read so many times in
    different variations) while a woman has a right to choose where and how to give birth, she also has a responsibility–an obligation or duty, if you will–to protect the life of her soon-to-be-born child. Birthing at home—anywhere in the world—is simply not safe for mother or child. Homebirthing is, quite frankly, irresponsible, reckless, and negligent (not including selfish, delusional, and foolish).

    ~ From a would-have-been-homebirther had it not been for Dr. Amy’s writings.

  • TiffanyEpiphany

    This is one of my most favorite posts on this site so far.

    When homebirth mothers refuse to admit that the death or injury of their baby at homebirth was their fault (since the death/injury most likely would have been prevented by being in a hospital or birth center within a hospital (i.e., a place where CNMS—not CPNs or DEMs—preside over the birth and where immediate access to the hospital’s resources and doctors is actually available)), it reveals the horrid self-centeredness of the homebirth cult.

    These homebirthin’ mamas love their right to have a certain experience more than they love their responsibility to protect the life and safety of their baby.

    Count me in: I, too, care about the babies who die at homebirth.

    From a would-have-been-homebirther had it not been for Dr. Amy’s writings.

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