Sunday, April 4, 2010

Women used to die in childbirth, too

posted Mon, 11 Sep 2006

You guys know that I don’t let something as basic as lack of actual knowledge of a subject get in the way of my having an opinion on it, right?

That said. The opinion du jour.

Leigh stayed at home as long as possible before she went to the hospital. With each contraction, she squatted in pain, then looked down at the carpet. “This carpet is filthy!” she told her doula. “I want to vacuum.” The doula told her to lighten up. But after the third time Leigh complained, the doula said, “Sure. Why not? If you want to vacuum, then vacuum.”

My neighbor just had a baby.

At home.

Everything turned out OK. This was her second child. She had two midwives. She’s kind of a crunchy granola type anyhow, which I suppose is neither here nor there, as there are many non-crunchy women who have midwives.

I don’t have anything against midwives – as long as they’re licensed (that is shorthand for "qualified"). Or against wanting to have a baby at home. Hospitals are noisy, brightly-lit places where it’s impossible to get any rest. I remember staying overnight with my dad in the hospital when he first got sick and being so exhausted the next day that I was almost nauseated. There were nurses coming in every hour or so to check on him and his roommate and the noise from the hall was unending. You’re not in your own bed. You don’t have your own stuff. It smells weird. It’s just not home.

And the ultimate hospital indignity – you probably have about a gajillion people coming in to look at your hoo-hah. Leigh said she lost count of how many people came in and out of the room while she was delivering Sophia. Her only requirement was that they be introduced before they poke her. This is the south, after all.

I have heard the arguments against having a baby in a hospital. A hospital is where you go when you’re sick and having a baby is not a sickness. Women have been having babies at home for thousands of years. Having a baby in a hospital turns the control over to the patriarchy. And so on.

But I would be scared to death to have a baby at home. Yes, I know a midwife is probably not going to let a high-risk pregnancy deliver at home, but what about those things that happen at the last minute that can’t be anticipated? That’s what I would worry about. Don’t they need to do emergency C-sections? What happens if the cord gets wrapped around the neck? I suppose you could rush the mother to the hospital, but aren’t these things where minutes, if not seconds, make a difference? I just don’t think I would risk it.

I asked my neighbor who cleaned the sheets. “That would be a reason to have the baby in the hospital,” I said.

“The midwives do everything,” she told me. “I didn’t have to clean a thing!”

I looked at the baby – a rosy-cheeked, dark-haired, plump little boy. Who weighs ten and a half pounds. Ouch.

“But if I had known he was this big, I would have gone to the hospital and had them throw every drug they have at me,” she said, shaking her head. “I still can’t sit!”

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