Who cares about the babies who die at homebirth?


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.