Janet Fraser: dead baby not as traumatic as birth rape


You might think that freebirth advocate Janet Fraser would be chastened by the death of her baby at homebirth. You’d be wrong. In fact, according to Fraser, it wasn’t even traumatic.

My birthrape with my first child is traumatic. My stillbirth was not.

Fraser is the premier Australian advocate of unassisted childbirth (UC) also known as freebirth. That’s right, a birth unattended by any medical professional of any kind, no matter how poorly educated. And Fraser added an extra fillip, no prenatal care of any kind. As she went into the labor that eventually resulted in a dead baby, she actually gave an interview to an Australian newspaper on March 22,2009 in which she boasted of her choices:

Janet Fraser is in labour… Has she called the hospital to let them know what’s happening? “When you go on a skiing trip, do you call the hospital to say, ‘I’m coming down the mountain, can you set aside a spot for me in the emergency room?’ I don’t think so,” says Fraser, whose breathing sounds strained…

… She hasn’t seen a doctor or any health professional since becoming pregnant this time. No ultrasound, no genetic testing, no internal examinations, no stethoscope. Does she have any feeling for how long the labour will go? “I could do this for days. My daughter’s birth was 50-something hours. You just do it — it’s just birth, a normal physiological process.”

The baby was not born for another five days. The death was described in another newspaper report:

… [T]he natural water birth of her third child, a girl, at her home went horribly wrong in the early hours of March 27.

Ambulances were sent to the address following a triple-0 call made at 1.13am.

An ambulance service spokesman said paramedics were called to a Croydon Park address for a newborn baby who had suffered cardiac arrest and was not breathing.

Paramedics failed to revive the baby throughout the journey to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital at Camperdown.

“They were basically working on the baby all the way to the hospital,” the spokesman said.

It boggles the mind that Fraser could describe the death of her daughter as less traumatic than the live birth of her son, but evidently “having it your way” is much more important than having a live baby.

Fraser may not have been traumatized by her daughter’s death, perhaps a coroner’s inquest will change that. Fraser, like Australian homebirth midwife Lisa Barrett, has tried to argue that her irresponsibility led to a stillbirth, not a live birth, and therefore it should not be investigated. The New South Wales police investigators disagree:

A Coronial inquest will be held into the controversial death of a baby girl during a home birth where doctors or midwives were banned from assisting a delivery – a practice known as “free-birthing”.

The inquest comes two years after initial confusion as to whether the baby took a breath after delivery or died in utero. The latter instance would have prevented a coronial inquiry.

The Sunday Age understands New South Wales police have conducted an extensive investigation to present a brief of evidence to the coroner.

The matter is listed as a mention in the Glebe Coroner’s Court on March 18, almost two years to the day the controversy broke.

Presumably, Fraser is going to claim that her daughter was dead at the moment of birth. No one thought so at the time. Someone at Fraser’s house requested an ambulance and EMTs performed CPR all the way to the hospital.

Fraser may not have been personally traumatized birth the death of her daughter, but she certainly recognized that the death could have a traumatizing effect on others. Therefore, she deleted the story from her freebirth message board, Joyous Birth. Deaths are so very, very inconvenient when you are trying to pretend that irresponsible choices are safe. Better to obliterate all mention of it.

It’s hard to imagine anything more selfish and self absorbed than choosing freebirth, but Janet Fraser has topped that with something even more reprehensible. There’s nothing uglier than trying to erase all mention of your dead child and declaring that the death wasn’t that traumatic at all. Fortunately, the coroner is not going to let her get away with it.