This weekend Jessica and I had the privilege of attending the Blissdom conference. We got to hear amazing speakers and meet some awesome bloggers. The best workshop was given by Jeff Goins. He was challenging and inspirational. However, his final challenge left me with a cotton mouth: write what you are most afraid to write about….. and then publish it. Gulp. Here goes, Jeff.
The first time I was ever involved in a home birth gone bad was two weeks into my OB/GYN rotation as a medical student.
A screaming woman came in by ambulance. Her stretcher sheet appeared to be painted brown from her waist down. The trail of red behind the front tire and the salty smell of fresh blood revealed the source of the sheet stain. The team frantically evaluated the patient and attempted to stabilize her. She had been laboring at home for 3 days and had begun to hemorrhage. An emergency cesarean section was ordered.
The women began to cry.
”I don’t want a c-section,” she was in hysterics between the pain and blood.
The jaded resident just glared at her and responded rather harshly, “Shut up, I’m trying to save your life.”
A scurry of activity ensued. Minutes later the baby was born. As a newbie med student, I was stunned as I watched the chaos of the delivery suite.
The baby did not come out screaming and pink, like all the others I had seen. The nurses used two fingers to rhythmically push down on the limp infant’s chest in an attempt to circulate its blood. After several tense minutes, a heart beat was detected. We had hope. The mom received several units of blood and spent a week in the ICU. Sadly, the baby passed away a few days later.
My young mind could not comprehend the tragedy.
That experience has left me biased.
When I became a OB/GYN resident myself, I treated high risk obstetrical patients. Everyday I saw how quickly a normal labor could develop into a life threatening emergency.
Over the years of training, I saw many other home birth hospital transfers. Luckily, none with such a severe outcome – but with each encounter I had to fight my emotions. I always remained professional toward the patient, but internally my anger and frustration were often not proportional to the situation.
Why did these women value the birth experience itself over the health of the baby? I would often think.
Why did their choice make me so angry? Was it the memory of tragedy? Was it resentment for having to help someone who had initially ignored medical advice? Was it the fact that their decision also affected the life of their child?
The longer I was in private practice, the more I began to understand the home birth proponents’ point of view. In the real world, emergencies are rare and most deliveries are uncomplicated. Our national cesarean delivery rate is soaring to unacceptable levels. I read reports of doctors doing unnecessary CDs, not caring that by scaring a woman’s uterus, they are at that moment limiting the number of children she can bare.
I’m saddened by my fellow doctors who make decisions out of fear of lawsuits, rather than choosing what is in the best interest of their patients.
The longer I practice the more I have become an advocate for those women who desire natural childbirth and VBAC. I try to avoid interventions and work with women to reduce their risk of cesarean section.
Why does home birth still bother me? After much soul searching, I believe it’s because I take it too personally.
I sacrificed years of my life in training to be a doctor. The sleepless nights, 100 hour work weeks and hours of study. I saw horrific tragedies that my heart could barely process.
I missed kissing my own kids goodnight too many times.
I did not do it for money.
My passion is for helping women have the healthiest most peaceful pregnancy they can. I want to lay vigorous pink babies on their mom’s chest and watch beautiful tears of joy roll down the fathers face. I want to save lives. I don’t want another mother to ever have to bury her baby on my watch.
I feel like an engineer who worked for years to build a state of the art bridge across a river, only to discover that people were crossing the river on a rope swing because they don’t trust the engineers. Most of them make it across just fine, but every once in while someone will needlessly slip into the water.
I’ve read the studies. I know statistically that the risks of home birth are low. But they are still there. I understand the reasons that women feel that home birth is the best option for them. But the idea still makes me cringe.
When thinking about pregnancy and childbirth, what words or ideas make you cringe? C-section? Epidural? Pitocin? Vagina?