Why Gloves?

NoGlovesI snuggled in bed with my 6-year-old son Etani last Saturday and we decided to watch some home birth videos on the Internet. In order to feel prepared for this labor, I’ve been reading everything I can about home birth, practicing breathing and vocalizing, visualizing the kind of birth I hope to have, and talking to my kids a lot about what to expect.

Etani wants to be there. He says he doesn’t want to be involved but that he’ll peek around from the door and watch. My daughter Athena, who’s eight, also wants to be at the birth. My oldest daughter, who turned ten this summer, says she thinks it’s “gross” and has plans to walk to a friend’s house once I’m in labor. (I’m secretly hoping she’ll change her mind … I’ll let you know what happens.)

There are dozens of home birth videos on YouTube and the one Etani and I watched was of a baby born on Christmas Eve. It was a calm and inspiring birth but there was one thing that bugged me: The midwife who caught the baby was wearing these bright green latex gloves, which means the first thing that touched the baby’s skin was latex.

Isn’t it better for a baby’s first tactile experience to be a human being’s hands? If your hands are washed, what could the danger of touching a baby possibly be? I guess midwives wear gloves in case something goes wrong and they have to put their hands up the woman’s vagina, but it seems like we should trust the birth process enough to skip the gloves. If they become necessary, a midwife (or doctor) can quickly put them on.

Athena and Etani were both born at home. James was hoping to catch them but I needed him beside me and we let the different midwives who attended each birth catch the babies. I’m sorry to say the midwives were wearing gloves. This time we’re hoping to do it differently: either James or I will catch the baby. And we won’t be wearing gloves.

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on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 at 10:11 pm and is filed under child birth, home birth, rejecting modern medicine.
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8 thoughts on “Why Gloves?”

  1. I agree, it’s a shame that the first thing to touch the baby’s skin is latex and I’m sure there are ways around that if you think about it enough. But probably the midwife was protecting herself from the mother’s blood or protecting the mother or child. If she had a cut on her hand. You see what I’m saying?

  2. Most gloves now are not actually made out of latex due to latex allergies. I also agree with Susan, it was probably the midwife protecting herself against the myriad of blood born pathogens, rather than the other way around.

  3. It seems silly that it did not occur to me that doctors and midwives are actually protecting themselves. Thanks for pointing that out, Susan and Maria. All the more reason to argue against having gloves be the first thing to touch a newborn’s skin.

  4. Jennifer, it’s Hebrew. It means “my strength.” It’s actually a name you know because the Hebrew is where the name ETHAN comes from (which means strength or force)!

  5. This reminded me of the story of my cousin’s birth. It was in a birth center attended by midwives and my mother got to catch the baby.

    The midwives asked my mother if she wanted gloves or not and she said, “No! I want to touch my niece!”

    So, she caught her skin to skin 🙂

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