Dooce has discovered stuntbirth, also known among aficianados as freebirth or unassisted childbirth (UC).

…I accidentally stumbled upon a show about a new fad in childbirth called Freebirthing where women have their babies at home without the aid of a nurse or midwife or any trained professional. And at one point there was this three-year-old kid going WHY IS MOMMY SCREAMING LIKE THAT?! And the woman is clawing at this head coming out from between her legs, and she’s all GET IT OUT! GET IT OUT! Except, there is no one there who knows how to get it out, and her husband is just standing there shrugging like DUDE, THIS WAS YOUR IDEA!

She says, “…you’ve got to have a special combination of bravery and stupidity going on to attempt such a thing.” I agree with the stupidity part, but I suspect that bravery has nothing to do with it. It’s all about competitive mothering. Hence the progression of ever more bizarre claims and practices in an attempt to claim superiority for one’s self. A says, “I had my baby in a birth center” and B says, “Oh, yeah, well I had my baby at HOME” and C says, “Well, ladies, I can top that. I had my baby at home BY MYSELF!”

Stuntbirthers like to pretend to themselves and others that this is how birth happens in nature (no, across all times, places and culture, birth is assisted), that birth is so deeply personal and “sexual” that a couple must experience it alone (really, then why are you posting a video of it on YouTube for all the world to see?) and that it is safe. The entire practice would be nothing more than a punch line were it not for the fact that it kills babies, in fact a startlingly high proportion of the babies whose mothers were ignorant enough to embrace this stunt.

On one of the leading UC support boards, there was recent crowing and self congratulation among the members that their neonatal death rate is 8/1000. They seemed to have no idea that this is 20 times higher than the neonatal death rate for uncomplicated, low risk hospital birth. Unassisted childbirth is nothing more than medical neglect, and babies are dying or rendered permanently disabled because of that neglect.

Perhaps more compelling than the statistics is the fact that both the leading American and Australian advocates of UC have ended up with dead babies as a result. Laura Shanley, the American, likes to boast that she had 4 wonderful unassisted births, but she has actually had 5. She deliberately and knowingly gave birth to a premature baby alone at home and, over the next several hours, watched him die without ever summoning help.

In April of this year, Janet Fraser, Australia’s leading advocate of UC, experienced the death of her baby during labor. Fraser had proudly boasted to an Australian paper that she had no prenatal care of any kind, and planned to have no medical assistance at the birth. Her baby paid the ultimate price for her idiocy.

Tragically, unassisted childbirth has no benefit for the baby and poses very serious risks. It is a form of medical neglect based on appalling ignorance and extraordinary selfishness and self-absorption. In short, it is nothing more than a dangerous stunt.