Riddle: how many homebirth advocates does it take to change a light bulb?



One to teach the course “Empower yourself by changing your own light bulb.”

One to whisper affirmations encouraging the light bulb to be in the correct position.

One to photograph the event.

One to tweet the event live.

One to fill the plastic kiddie pool. (Note: professional electricians claim that standing in water while changing a light bulb is dangerous, but they just say that to ruin your light bulb changing experience.)

One to call 911 if you get electrocuted while standing in water while changing the light bulb.

One to reassure you that people get electrocuted changing light bulbs even when they are not standing in water, so you shouldn’t let the warnings of those stupid electricians scare you.

One to help you eat while changing the light bulb in order to keep up your strength.

One to tell you to turn the bulb only when you get the urge.

And finally, one to actually change the light bulb and pretend to have an orgasm while doing it.


This piece first appeared in April 2010.

49 Responses to “Riddle: how many homebirth advocates does it take to change a light bulb?”

  1. Realitybites100
    December 15, 2015 at 11:58 pm #

    And one to tell you the lightbulb was made to be changed. That it can do it itself without assistance.

  2. KeeperOfTheBooks
    December 9, 2015 at 10:39 am #

    My former ER volunteer persona wants to know which inexplicably naked advocate will inevitably slip on the spilled water while trying to change the bulb and get the bulb lodged in a Very Private Area. *giggles in a decidedly juvenile fashion*

  3. Dr Kitty
    December 9, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    I think you’re going to have to add another CPM to justify why the WHO safe childbirth checklist shouldn’t apply to them.

    It is designed for even resource poor settings and recommends the use of partographs, actively managed third stage and has prompts to remind you when to start antibiotics and anti hypertensives (or to refer to somewhere that can).

  4. crazy grad mama
    December 8, 2015 at 11:30 pm #

    One to insist that that you must turn the light bulb on and off every two hours, lest you fail to properly bond with it.

  5. yentavegan
    December 8, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    OT Happy Channukah Dr. Amy.

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      December 9, 2015 at 1:22 am #


      • sdsures
        December 9, 2015 at 11:54 am #

        Happy Hanukkah!

        I didn’t get an orgasm lighting the candles for the past two nights. I must be doing it wrong, eh?

        • Roadstergal
          December 9, 2015 at 11:57 am #

          Passover is the one where you’re supposed to ‘hold the space.’ :p

          • sdsures
            December 9, 2015 at 12:01 pm #

            If I don’t have an orgasm each night on lighting the candles, I’m doing it wrong.

  6. MLE
    December 8, 2015 at 3:44 pm #

    Infinity to run away when someone fumbles the lightbulb and Mercury gets all up in your face

  7. Roadstergal
    December 8, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    One to convince you that the bare wires visible in the housing are not a reason to call in a real electrician.

  8. Zoey
    December 8, 2015 at 12:49 pm #

    Can’t forget the one to ignore you, preferably while sitting in a rocking chair and knitting.

    • Inmara
      December 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

      Knitting is not the worst, my cousin got midwife who was eating roasted chicken leg while said cousin was laboring.

      • Zoey
        December 8, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

        Sounds lovely. My husband brought a fast food sandwich back to my hospital room while I was labouring and smell alone was enough for me to kick him out until he’d eaten and washed his hands. Watching / smelling someone else eating while in pain and nauseated is no fun.

        • SporkParade
          December 9, 2015 at 6:42 am #

          Worst I’ve ever heard was a tuna fish sandwich brought into the delivery room by a husband.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            December 9, 2015 at 10:34 am #

            There’s a double entendre in here somewhere, I’m sure of it.

            But in other comments, Ew. I don’t want want that smell in a medical setting. Yes it’s tasty but not right now!

          • KeeperOfTheBooks
            December 9, 2015 at 10:40 am #

            Bacterial vaginosis, anyone? Oh, sure, they SAID the smell was from the sandwich, but…

      • Medwife
        December 8, 2015 at 3:35 pm #


        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          December 8, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

          When I was pregnant with DD and really into the woo, one of the reasons (hey, in retrospect, I’ll take what I can get!) I decided against a local CPM-staffed birth center was the review describing the midwife microwaving *fish* in the room adjoining the laboring reviewer. I gagged just thinking about that, and I love fish!

          • Who?
            December 9, 2015 at 2:17 am #

            I seriously don’t get this ‘eating in the labour room’ thing. At all. It’s a medical space, people.

            If huzzy needs to eat, he can step out or risk having his food of choice rammed into an inconvenient orifice. Professionals have meal breaks so they can eat in peace, clear their heads, and come back and get on with work. There is no need for anyone other than the labouring woman (should she so desire) to be eating in there.

            Is the idea it is somehow more homey if random people are filling their faces? Sounds horrid to me.

          • sdsures
            December 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

            How soon after delivery is the mom allowed to eat, if she wants to?

          • Rachele Willoughby
            December 10, 2015 at 11:53 am #

            I sent my husband for burgers as soon as they cut the cord.

          • Realitybites100
            December 16, 2015 at 12:00 am #

            I was never hungry in labor. It didn’t even occur to me to want to eat.
            Why is eating such an expression of freedom in the woo? I never understood it.

  9. Azuran
    December 8, 2015 at 11:20 am #

    And then, when the light bulb doesn’t light up, another one to tell you that some light bulb just aren’t meant to work.

    • Brooke
      December 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Wouldn’t that be the OB?

      • Azuran
        December 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

        nope, that’s actually pretty much the entirety of the CPM organisation.
        they are the one shrugging off death with ‘babies dies in the hospital too’

      • Roadstergal
        December 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

        The OB is the electrician you call who works desperately to get your lights working before someone gets electrocuted after the CPMs have poked around until the wiring is all to cock. And gets blamed when it’s not the wattage the CPMs promised you.

        • Mishimoo
          December 8, 2015 at 8:30 pm #

          And gets yelled at over the price of the rescue.

          • Daleth
            December 8, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

            And accused of only being in it for the money.

        • Sue
          December 10, 2015 at 1:00 am #

          While the CPMs rush around falsifying the record so nobody knows they got the wiring wrong. Then they can say “The lights were still working last time we looked.”

      • Haelmoon
        December 8, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

        Today, I told two women that their babies would not live. Never do I tell them that some babies aren’t meant to live. I will admit that we can’t save all babies. The first is a 12 week pregnancy with an encephalocele (inspite of good folic acid intake). The second is a 24 weeker with sever IUGR and severe preeclampsia. I work with the families so they understand what is happening, and what their options are. I do not tell them what to do, rather what they can safely choose – both cases (medical or surgical termination or conservative care). Sadly, for the family with the 24 weeks, the concervative is futile, becuase the Dopplers show me the baby is already moribund. I am not trying to keep mom safe, and hope she will choose the induction. The other family has choosen to continue their pregnancy. I will watch them closely and we will work together to make a plan on when and where to deliver. Close to home with pallitive care or in the tertiary centre where neurosurgery is available (unfortunately still a grim prognosis).
        However, we don’t tell them some babies were not meant to live. We investigate, look for things that can be done differently, and we greive with the families. Obstetricians are no the heartless professionals some people think. We care about our patients and we are actually the ones providing personalized care.

        • Gatita
          December 8, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

          I’m sorry, that sounds so awful and difficult to deal with.

          • Haelmoon
            December 9, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

            I don’t tell these stories because they are distressing to me (although my kids have already learned that a bad day at work for mom means someone lost a baby). I tell them because I cannot believe the audacity of some women in the NCB circles who “write-off” babies at the expense of an experience. I am all for supportive care, respect for autonomy and patient preference. However, I think their expectations and what they consider to be a bad outcome has no reflection in biology or nature. A bad outcome is a dead or damaged baby (or mom). This does not give medical providers a right to treat women poorly, but lets be realistic. My patients would trade a day of labour and a c-section for the situation they are in now. I have said it before – I have a part-time general OB practice and a part-time MFM contract. I still get frustrated with patients who require 45 minute consults about the risks and benefits of VBAC (which they have already discussed with their primary care providers) when I can have the same time to discuss more devastating diagnoses. Maybe I am going bitter, but it is not devastating if I recommend a repeat c-section (may not be you preference, I am sorry for that), it is devastating when I tell you your baby is dying and i can’t do anything about it. I almost wish I could introduce the crunchy granola types to my high risk women – they need some perspective.

        • Mishimoo
          December 8, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

          Those poor families! Thank you for being as kind as possible, so sorry that you had to deliver such awful news.

        • Dr Kitty
          December 9, 2015 at 5:57 am #

          Haelmoon, thank you for that.
          Your work is important, and hard and I am glad that someone as kind and sensible as you is doing it.

        • DelphiniumFalcon
          December 9, 2015 at 10:56 am #

          Thank you for sharing this. It’s so awful when patient, especially a baby, dies in a hospital. The hospital i work at is so small that everyone in the staff from the doctors to the custodial staff that cleans out the room after mourns that patient one way or another because deaths outside of the very old and very ill coming in from hospice aren’t especially common. It’s just worse when it’s a newborn.

          I don’t think I’ve seen so many doctors in tears trying to comfort each other than when a fellow doctor’s little son aspirated meconium. Despite everything they tried and so many doctors coming in even thought they weren’t on call or on shift they just had to try to get him stable enough for Lifeflight and pray. He didn’t make it. The entire hospital staff was in this weird fugue state for the whole week since we were all so close to the issue. The patients never knew because we had to be at our best for them but in the break rooms and private offices we mourned. A lot. Just because we have to show our game face to other patients doesn’t mean the hospital staff down to the volunteer greeters don’t feel the losses privately.

          We probably all knew them or of them one way or another because of room service, registration, labs, linen changes, and of course nursing and doctor duties. To see an empty bassinett and a crying mother asking why her, you can’t help but want to give everything you can. Or when a mother leaves with empty arms when you checked her in only yesterday when she was so ready to meet her baby. We don’t all know because we gossip. We know because we know these patients.

        • sdsures
          December 9, 2015 at 11:57 am #

          I’m so sorry. 🙁 It must be excruciating to have to tell patients this kind of horrible news.

        • Sarah
          December 9, 2015 at 3:06 pm #

          Very tough. I wish you all the best in providing the standard of care they’ll need and deserve.

        • Sue
          December 10, 2015 at 12:58 am #

          Thank you for your humanity and dedication.

        • nomofear
          December 10, 2015 at 10:21 am #

          “I am not trying” = now. We all know, but on the chance some jerk puts together who you are irl and takes a screenshot…

      • yentavegan
        December 8, 2015 at 10:18 pm #

        I tried giving you the benefit of the doubt.

      • Green Fish
        December 9, 2015 at 6:55 am #

        The infamous quote “You and I are of the unpopular belief that some babies are not meant to live” comes (AFAIK) from the book Home/Birth: A Poemic by Greenberg and Zucker.

        Zucker is a “doula”, not an OB.

        • Amy M
          December 9, 2015 at 8:06 am #

          I just can’t see how that can be taken as anything but callous. Do those women say that to the bereaved at funerals? “Some men weren’t meant to live [past 57]” or “Some women weren’t meant to beat cancer?” How about “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Or better still: “You have risk factors that lead us to believe you would be safest in a hospital” so maybe no one dies to begin with.

        • sdsures
          December 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

          I’m still fuzzy on exactly what a “doula” is.

          • Roadstergal
            December 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm #


          • Green Fish
            December 9, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

            It’s like that sign in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which says “Don’t Panic!” in large, friendly letters but doesn’t do anything else.

          • Roadstergal
            December 9, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

            “Although it has many omissions, and contains much that is apocryphal – or at least wildly inaccurate…”

          • AirPlant
            December 10, 2015 at 9:46 am #

            Doulas get a lot of shit for being just professional handholders at best and medicine without a license at worst, but I think for a certain type of woman they can serve a very important purpose. Hospitals are not meant to be warm and fuzzy and medical staff might not have to time to do emotional work with the patient in the heat of an emergency. We are social creatures though and in an extreme moment a lot of us look to other people for support and reassurance. Having someone there with enough medical knowledge and emotional intelligence to get the woman through a difficult situation can be a very positive thing and it takes the burden off of the doctors and nurses to have to provide human comfort when lives are on the line. As long as that is the clearly defined role and it doesn’t negatively impact the medical treatment of the patients it is no different than having a therapist coach you through a difficult conversation with your partner IMO.

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