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Last weekend I hung out with a student just beginning her journey through nursing school. She’s planning on working in labor and delivery when she graduates and had a few questions. Not surprisingly, her questions are ones I’m asked a lot.
My young friend thought I’d say they’re dangerous and stupid and all women should deliver in hospitals. I actually shocked her when I said, “They can be some of the best, safest and most lovely births, especially if the mother is well-prepared, has a really experienced midwife and an excellent emergency back-up plan.”
“But,” she said, “the nurses at the hospital say it’s too risky and when labor goes wrong and mothers have to be transferred to the hospital, it’s a mess and mothers and babies are in deep trouble.”
I asked her to consider why women might not want to deliver in the hospital in the first place and to imagine how they’re treated at the hospital when laboring at home doesn’t work out. We talked about how high rates of unnecessary interventions and c-sections make some women feel safer at home where the natural course of labor is respected. When a ‘home-birther’ is transferred to the hospital, frightened mothers and fathers are too often treated like idiots or bad parents. They’re scolded, bullied and guilt-jerked when they question hospital procedures. Eyes are rolled, judgments are made and parents are left feeling defensive and wounded.
I asked my friend to consider that the only home birth patients most nurses and doctors see are the ones where something’s gone wrong and they’re expected to rescue a sick mom and baby. It’s stressful for healthcare providers to take care of patients they don’t know in emergency situations. Is it any wonder there’s not a lot of love lost between the home birth and hospital birth cultures. Most home births work out just fine and most hospital transfers go smoothly when a home birth is no longer a good plan go smoothly. But if all you see are the disasters; that’s going to put a sour taste in your mouth.
See more: The perks of home birth >>