Hannah Dahlen, perhaps you can explain how a mother bonds with a dead baby


She’s back!

Midwife Hannah Dahlen is once again trying to set straight those of us who prefer to deliver live babies instead of dead ones.

You may remember Dr. Dahlen as the author of the heartless claim:

When health professionals, and in particular obstetricians, talk about safety in relation to homebirth, they usually are referring to perinatal mortality. While the birth of a live baby is of course a priority, perinatal mortality is in fact a very limited view of safety.

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#497a1a”]Why do natural childbirth advocates require specific conditions to bond with their babies, while the rest of us love them unconditionally merely because they are ours?[/pullquote]

It’s not simply a priority. Protecting the life of both baby and mother is the sine qua non of competent childbirth care.

Dahlen is also a hypocrite, publicly wailing about toxic postnatal experiences while she and her colleagues promote the conditions that lead to toxic postnatal experiences.

Women have told us there is something worse than death – there is being alive but dead inside. There is being so traumatised by pressurised interventions in their birth plan that they can’t care for their newborn or have a relationship with their partner, and their own mental health is affected.

That’s like the fashion industry bemoaning negative body image. Pious concern for women’s feelings is difficult to take seriously when it comes from the very people who make women feel bad about themselves. In the case of the fashion industry, idealized representations of the female body lead to self hatred when women’s bodies don’t meet the fashion industry norm. In the case of the natural childbirth industry, idealized representations of birth lead to self hatred when women’s birth experiences don’t meet the natural childbirth industry norm.

For example, in a recent piece for The Conversation on vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC), Dahlen made a claim that is both cruel and outrageous.

The advantages of a VBAC include … enhanced mother-infant bonding.

There is no scientific evidence for that claim; it is precisely the kind of gratuitously cruel remark that leads women to hate themselves when their birth experiences don’t meet the natural childbirth industry norm, something that Dahlen supposedly deplores.

Perhaps Dr. Dahlen can explain to us how a dead baby affects the mother-infant bond.

The primary reason for repeat C-section is to avoid the risk of uterine rupture and perinatal death. Women who choose repeat C-section often do so because they’d rather carry the risk of surgery rather than foisting the risk of uterine rupture and death on the baby. Yes, the absolute risk that the baby will die from an attempted VBAC is small, but it is real and it WILL happen to some babies. Faced with the small, but real risk of the baby’s death, many mothers will opt for abdominal surgery with the pain, potentially harder recovery and increased risk of infection or bleeding. In other words, women who choose repeat C-section want to protect their babies from any risk, no matter how small, at the cost of pain and potential suffering to themselves.

It seems to me that mothers who choose repeat C-section for that reason have already bonded with their baby in utero.

Midwives like Dr. Dahlen fail to grasp one of the most important things that any pregnant woman could tell her: women bond to their babies before birth and don’t need a specific birth experience to create that bond.

I’ve always loved this quote from Maureen Hawkins:

Before you were conceived, I wanted you. Before you were born, I loved you. Before you were an hour, I would die for you. This is the miracle of love.

It beautifully describes how fiercely I bonded to each of my four children, even before they were born. I had no control over it. It happened without my doing a single thing.

The idea that a vaginal birth is required for a mother to bond to her baby, or enhances the bonding process, is an utter lie.

That’s not to say that every woman bonds to every baby immediately. It can take days or weeks or more, but nearly every woman manages to bond fiercely to her child and nearly every child bonds fiercly to his or her mother.

Perhaps Dr. Dahlen can explain this to us as well:

Why do natural childbirth advocates like Dr. Dahlen seem to require specific conditions in order to bond with their babies, while the rest of us love them unconditionally merely because they are ours?