Join Me!

Jill and Jessa Duggar's homebirths - done right!

On Tuesday night, I finally got a chance to watch Jessa Duggar's homebirth of her son, Spurgeon, on TLC. Just to recap, after a normal pregnancy and relatively normal, long first labor, Jessa delivered a big 9 lb plus baby boy in her home.  Fortunately, her vigilant and experienced caregivers noted that she was bleeding more than she should after the birth and Jessa was transferred to the hospital where she stayed the night and got a blood transfusion. Shortly thereafter, she returned home with her husband and new baby.

A few months before that, her sister Jill gave birth to her first baby, Israel. Jill was two weeks overdue and labored for a very long time at home. She finally transferred to the hospital where it was determined that the baby was not in a good position for a vaginal birth, and so her baby was delivered via Cesarean section.

There were many posts of congratulations to both women, and of course everyone thinks these two baby boys are simply adorable!  But these young women have gotten many derogatory comments as well.

But here's the thing- their birth plans actually worked!   There was a plan to end their low-risk pregnancies at home with trusted and skilled attendants, but there were also plans in place to transfer to the hospital if circumstances warranted it - and when labor stalled for Jill, and Jessa started bleeding heavily, they quickly moved into the backup plan for necessary medical interventions! That's how it should work.

How homebirth is handled in this country varies from state to state.  In Ohio, direct entry midwives are unregulated and their status is alegal (although they do face legal challenges from time to time). Certified nurse midwives do not attend home births at all in this area. And although Amish country, where midwifery and homebirth is the norm, is but an hour south of my home, medical professionals discourage and penalize women who want to attempt it closer to the cities.

My own experience with this happened 16 years ago with the birth of my daughter.  I had planned my third homebirth with her, but when her umbilical cord prolapsed, we immediately transferred by ambulance to the nearest hospital for an emergency cesarean. My care before and after the surgery can best be described as disrespectful, rude, shaming and punitive particularly by the nursing staff.

I'm happy that the Duggar women had good hospital experiences (and I'm sure having a film crew from TLC there helped a lot with that!) But I think all homebirth moms who transfer to the hospital should be shown the same respect and graciousness as they seek professional medical care for themselves and/or their babies. The reason many women are seeking a less medical environment in the first place is to find dignity and autonomy during the birthing process. Perhaps if hospitals and birth professionals started offering that, they could partner with homebirthing women instead of antagonizing them and driving them further away.