Homebirth: sacrificing babies on the altar of normal birth


Last week I wrote about the theology of quackery.

Homebirth advocacy meets many of the same criteria. It imagines a Paleolithic Garden of Eden where every woman gave birth in a state of grace, easily and safely. It ascribes The Fall to the advent of modern obstetrics that “pathologized” birth. It believes in predestination; the elect can be recognized by their unmedicated vaginal births; and it has a religious hierarchy of midwives, doulas and childbirth educators who are needed to reach spiritual fulfillment.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Awe is reserved for women who insist on homebirth with twins, a breech baby or a previous C-section. The bigger the sacrifice, the greater the risk, the higher the praise.[/pullquote]

It also has stories of human sacrifice akin to the biblical story of Isaac.

You may remember that to test his faith, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son. God wants to find out if Abraham would be willing to kill the person most precious to him simply because He commanded it. Would Abraham being willing to make the supreme sacrifice to demonstrate his devotion to God?

If you know the story, you know that at the last minute, when Isaac is already bound on the altar and about to be killed, God sends an angel to stay Abraham’s hand. Evidently God never meant that Abraham should actually sacrifice Isaac. God does not want or need human sacrifice.

The sacrifice of Isaac is meant to demonstrate that the God of monotheism, of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, abhors human sacrifice. Unfortunately, it appears that Birth, the goddess in which homebirth advocates place such trust, has no such qualms.

“Birth,” like any goddess demands worship. Her power must be acknowledged and her essential goodness must be constantly praised through birth “affirmations.” “Birth” also demands constant evidence of belief. What could possibly be more demonstrative of true faith than the willingness to sacrifice your newborn child?

Unlike the God of the Old Testament, though, “Birth” does not send an angel to stay your hand. Quite the opposite, “Birth” sends tests; hence the praise for women who take the greatest risks at homebirth.

You can demonstrate your trust in “Birth” by having a homebirth in a low risk situation, where an unpredictable emergency can kill or maim you child. But women who really trust “Birth” are those who choose homebirth when they are at high risk of killing their babies. That’s why the greatest praise and awe is reserved for women who insist on homebirth with twins, a breech baby or a previous C-section. The bigger the sacrifice, the greater the faith, the higher the praise.

Unlike the God of the Old Testament, “Birth” apparently does want and need human sacrifice.

Babies die all the time at homebirth, and the biggest risk factors lead to the greatest number of deaths. As with any religion, believers must then deny that the deity had anything to do with it. Yes, they trusted “Birth” and the baby died, but that was just an incredible coincidence. They vehemently insist that the baby would have died in the hospital anyway, and they might have ended up with a C-section scar, too. A C-section scar is a horror because it is a permanent brand, marking its wearer as one who lost faith in “Birth.”

It’s easiest to figure out who are the truest believers. They are women who lost babies at homebirth but still trust “Birth.” To demonstrate their continued faith, they immediately being planning for the next “healing” homebirth.

Sacrificing your baby on the altar of “Birth” isn’t the highest form of devotion. That honor is reserved for deliberately placing your next child on the same altar and trusting that the goddess who killed your last baby won’t kill this one, too.


Adapted from a piece that appeared in September 2011.