Unassisted Childbirth raises eyebrows

Unassisted Childbirth raises eyebrows
As far as I know this is the only archived version of the original Boulder Daily Camera article on Unassisted Childbirth that is on the web. The story was picked up by news agencies all over the country.
I share it here in its complete text. The Camera was the only paper to give us press when I organized the Homebirth Conference in 2001.

Here is the text, with my quotes highlighted… (Lisa Marshalls original title for the article was BORN FREE!)
Unassisted childbirth raises eyebrows
Childbirth: Some parents opt to deliver babies on their own
6:55 p.m.
10/7/2001
By Lisa Marshall
Scripps Howard News Service
Christopher Burke was born in a tent in the back yard, with no obstetrician or midwife in sight.
Aden Cross was delivered in the kitchen, where her mother labored alone in the water of a blown-up toy swimming pool.
Willie Shanley arrived feet first in the bathroom. As his father and brother looked on, his mother, Laura, stood and calmly pulled him out into the world.
It wasn’t an accident. These babies weren’t born too fast for the trip to the hospital or for the midwife to arrive at the house. Rather, they are products of a very small but growing movement of American women choosing to give birth at home without the assistance of a doctor or midwife.
Of the 65,679 babies born in Colorado last year, 619 — less than 1 percent — were born at home; 441 were delivered by a midwife, 65 by the father, 34 by the mother, and 85 by another friend or family member, according to state birth certificate records (which don’t reflect accidentally unassisted births).
Some obstetricians shun the practice of birthing alone, or with only family or friends present. They say it makes the “risky” choice of homebirth even more irresponsible. Registered midwives, who say they can offer a safe birth at home without the technological intrusions of a hospital birth, question why a woman would deny herself the support of another experienced woman during labor. The state of Nebraska has gone so far as to outlaw unassisted birth outside of emergency situations.
But advocates, who flocked to Boulder, Colo., from as far away as California and Utah for the Second International Husband/Wife Homebirth Conference in July, say birth, like sex, is a private affair. Without the interference of midwives, mandated by law to periodically monitor mother and baby during childbirth, the homebirth experience is more empowering, less painful, and often the safest option, they say. Through a book, videotape and more than a dozen Web sites and chat rooms, they’re spreading the word about yet another option for bringing children into the world.
“This is not a step back; it is a leap forward. It is a new way of giving birth,” says Laura Shanley of Boulder, author of “Unassisted Childbirth” (Bergin and Garvey; $19.95) and mother of four children she delivered at home unassisted. Her experiences are highlighted in the new film, “A Clear Road to Birth,” by Judy Seaman.
Aside from some tribal cultures, women have historically elicited help with their labor. Shanley opted not to.
“All the births were easy,” she says. “The hard part is dealing with a society that says you are nuts.”
In contrast to the violent, unbearably painful labors often portrayed in the popular media, Shanley’s births seem almost too easy to be true.
Her husband, David, had long believed that traumatic childbirth diminishes the mother/child relationship, starts a person off on a rocky start, and is to blame for many of society’s ills; he vowed to do things differently when he had kids.
Laura agreed, and they did.
After a brief labor, Laura got up on all fours and delivered her first son into her husband’s hands. He tied the umbilical cord off with a string, cut it with a pocket knife and lay the baby down to nurse.
Child number two, Willie, was breech, often considered cause for a cesarean section in the hospital. Shanley gave one push and pulled him out.
With Joy, the third, she labored alone in the bathtub while her two older boys slept and her husband read a book at the University of Colorado library.
“I looked down and saw her face looking up at me through the water bag and it was such a beautiful image,” she recalls. “I stood up, and she just slid into my hands. I felt this bliss that has stayed with me ever since.”
She took a shower, placed her newborn in a white wicker doll carriage and walked off, her two older children in tow, to find her husband and introduce him to his daughter.
Her fourth delivery went just as smoothly.
Monte Magill, technical director for Outlast Technologies in Boulder, also is in favor of unassisted childbirth
Since his twins were delivered via C-section in the hospital, he and his wife, Julia, chose to have the rest of their three children at home, unassisted.
“I read everything I could get my hands on and talked with everyone I knew who had done it,” Monte says.
For the latest birth, 4 1/2 months ago, he had a nasal bulb ready, in case the baby needed suction, a stethoscope, and a sterile set of scissors to cut the umbilical cord. The older kids were instructed to call 911 in case of emergency.
There was no need to make the call.
“It’s been a very bonding situation certainly for me and my wife, and especially for my wife and the children,” Monte says.
But not all the stories are so positive.
Outraged at the medical “micromanagement” during her third hospital birth, Jenny Hatch, once a natural childbirth coach, opted to have her fourth child at her Louisville home.
While her husband made breakfast downstairs and her older children watched cartoons, she labored alone in the upstairs bedroom. When her 11-pound, 12-ounce son arrived, he wasn’t breathing. Then the blood came, and didn’t stop. Hatch was hemorrhaging.

Her husband called 911.
“Pretty soon, I had seven firemen in my bedroom and I’m sitting in a pool of blood naked,” she recalls.
Newborn Andrew was flown via helicopter to Presbyterian Hospital in Denver. Hatch was taken in an ambulance to the hospital where she spent three days in intensive care. Today, Andrew is 2-1/2 and healthy.
Remarkably, Hatch remains one of the most outspoken advocates of unassisted birth, heading up an Internet group of Mormon women who have chosen to birth unassisted.
Many in the church home-school their children, shun vaccinations and look to natural remedies for illness. Unassisted birth is just a natural extension of that self-reliance, they say. In recent months, 26 in the group have had babies at home with no medical help.
While tragedy sometimes happens at home, it can happen in the hospital too, Hatch says.

“This is such a paradigm shift. The midwives hate us. The whole medical profession sneers at us. They don’t understand our hearts,” she says, flashing a loving look at Andrew. “It was the most sacred experience of my life.”

Jan Lapetino, a registered midwife in Denver, says she occasionally gets calls from couples who want prenatal care but want to be left alone for the birth itself. More troubling, though, are the calls she gets from concerned couples during or immediately after the labor, she says.
“You can do all the reading and the studying there is, but when you haven’t attended a lot of births, it is really hard to know what normal is,” she says.
“Why wouldn’t you want someone who is basically non-interventive — and knows what is normal and what is not — to be there?” she says. “I believe women need other women.”
Boulder obstetrician John Imig has delivered 4,000 babies in his 25 years of practice. He calls the unassisted childbirth movement “scary.”
“Any home delivery is Russian Roulette,” he says. “I can’t imagine that this doesn’t add another layer of risk.”
It was interesting to me that the obstetrician quoted mentioned risk. The most risky thing about birth these days is in fact the C-section rate. I have learned since Andrews birth that liver cleansing can help prevent a post partum hemorrhage. I have done about 35 Liver cleanses in the past nine years, and I am convinced this is the key to birthing a healthy baby safely at home.
Jenny Hatch

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