How to rationalize your baby’s near death at homebirth


Cognitive dissonance is very uncomfortable. That’s why when a birth worker’s own child is nearly killed by homebirth, the mother desperately struggles to maintain her belief in the safety of homebirth. It’s hard to acknowledge that you were wrong; it’s so much easier to delude yourself into rationalizing the disaster.

And when it comes to the capacity for self-delusion, homebirth advocates have few rivals.

Consider doula Nacia Walsh’s story of the homebirth of her emaciated, compromised baby, How My Homebirth Saved My Daughter’s Life. Nacia is not merely ignoring the fact that her homebirth midwives nearly killed her baby, but is delusionally praising them for “saving” the baby. Be sure to check out the birth photo of the baby who looks like a 3rd world victim of starvation.

Over the course of the last two months of my pregnancy my midwives noticed my blood pressure was slowly creeping up, but considering I had no other symptoms of preeclampsia (severe headaches, vision changes, retaining water, rapid weight gain) they decided to just keep an eye on things.

But incipient pre-eclampsia was not the only danger that Nacia and her midwives ignored. At 37 weeks:

I was checked for dilation but nothing seemed to be happening except that my abdomen was measuring smaller than the previous week.

This could’ve meant she had “dropped” into my pelvis or that my fluid was low. So they decided it would be best if I had an ultrasound to determine the cause.

To my relief the technician said that the amount of amniotic fluid was well above range, but that the baby was measuring quite small for her gestational age. She predicted she was about 5.1 lbs at 37 weeks 2 days and suffering from IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction).

Intrauterine growth restriction occurs when the placenta begins to fail. The baby no longer is getting enough nutrients or oxygen. The baby stops growing because it is literally starving. Ultimately, the baby will die of suffocation in utero.

In short, the baby she is carrying seems very small to Nacia (her intuition!). The ultrasound shows that the baby is indeed very small, so small that she is suffering from intrauterine growth restriction, which means that the baby is at risk for stillbirth and the risk increases with every passing day. Moreover, Nacia’s blood pressure is increasing, providing the explanation for why the placenta is failing.

In the real world, this would be a reason to induce labor. In the delusional world of homebirth midwives and homebirth advocates:

I was somewhat nervous about her being so small, but figured ultrasounds are notoriously inaccurate so I wasn’t too concerned. Because of my blood pressure and her size, the midwives put me on modified bed-rest that evening so that I could lower it to a normal range and give the baby the time she needed to gain a little more weight.

So Nacia and her midwives ignored not only the objective signs that the baby was profoundly compromised, they ignored Nacia’s own intuition about the baby’s size. Anyone with two functioning brain cells could figure out that a baby who is currently starving to death is not going to gain any weight, especially when the baby is simultaneously being starved for oxygen. Those midwives weren’t waiting for the baby to gain weight; that was never going to happen. They just didn’t want to lose control over Nacia as a patient so they hoped that labor would start before the baby died.

Nacia did go into labor spontaneously, and not surprisingly, since baby Anica was slowly starving and suffocating, she was born seriously compromised.

As I wiped tears from my eyes and I looked down at her in my arms, I realized she was so tiny. Her body had very little fat and she had a blueish tint.

As the midwife swooped around to the front of the tub to check her vitals, the doppler read that her heart rate was only 100 beats per minute, which is a dangerously low two minutes after delivery.

What the midwife did then was only a momentary blur to me, but to my fearful husband must have felt like an eternity. She leaned over to my listless little girl and gave her 4 life-saving breaths. Her lungs inflated and pinkish color slowly began to creep into her doll-like body.

That’s like claiming that you owe your baby’s life to the person who threw her into the lake, watched her founder and sink, pulled her out when she was near death and resuscitated her. Sure pulling her out of the lake saved her life, but not throwing her in in the first place was what put her at risk.

How much did the baby weigh?

Then came the all important weigh-in. The midwife placed her in a sling scale and the number was read. 4.6lbs.

Our hearts sank.

Never would I have guessed my nearly full-term baby would be the size and weight of a preemie.

She didn’t have to guess; she had already been TOLD that her baby was emaciated, but she ignored that.

And how did the homebirth at the hands of the midwives who nearly killed the baby save the baby’s life?

Born in a hospital or birthing center she would have been whisked away to a NICU with limited interaction, skin-to-skin, and breastfeeding until she was at least 5lbs, which would have meant at least two weeks of stressful hell for her and our family.

Really, Nacia? And how exactly does any of that prevent stillbirth? It doesn’t, does it?

And how would any of that have saved Anica’s life if she had been slightly more compromised and required an expert resuscitation with intubation? It wouldn’t have, would it?

You would have buried your baby is a heartbreakingly tiny white box.

This story had a happy ending and everyone got what they wanted. Nacia got her homebirth. Her midwives got to keep her as a patient and pretend that they were heroes. The only one who suffered was the baby and no one cares about her.

Nacia dodged a bullet and not only is she in denial about that, she’s so deluded that she’s praising the very people who fired the gun.