Those of you who may have been reading this thread may have noticed that I didn't feel comfortable elaborating on the experiences that that lead to my opinions about homebirth. I didn't feel comfortable using the experiences of others to bear the standard for my own attitudes. After talking a bit with the person, I'm a bit more free to do so.
A close friend had a homebirth in a state where homebirth isn't covered by insurance. To make a very long story short, the midwives botched the delivery. They were well intentioned, and I'm sure quite knowledgeable, but they made a mistake. Despite fetal distress early in the delivery, the midwives first delayed taking her to the hospital, then transported her improperly. This resulted in oxygen deprivation during the birth process. The mother was blessed with a beautiful child born with cerebral palsy.
The baby is certainly a blessing- but the mother, now having expensive educational and medical needs to meet, is unable to work. The father, unwilling to cope with his new responsibilities, is nowhere to be found. The silver lining in all of this is that mother and child love one another to death. Love conquers all.
The midwives, who should have had the dignity to try to atone for their well intentioned negligence, dismissed this case as "one in a million." Unfortunately, these women are still practicing in our town. The midwives were never forced to own up to their role in the process, for the following reasons:
1- The full impact of CP is hard to assess at birth. In order to press charges against the midwives, the mother would have to spend years documenting the "damage" done to the child. This is a difficult battle for a single mother with very few resources and a new baby to undertake;
2- Because the midwives were uninsured, lawyers were reluctant to take the case, fearing a long, drawn out legal battle with little potential reward;
3- Since the midwives had convinced our friend that prenatal scans were excessive, there's very little information on how the baby developed over the course of the pregnancy;
So, in the end, this story will never be told. Our friend, her daughter, and this birth, aren't reflected anywhere in the statistics. Mistakes made by someone else's hands that most likely caused, and certainly compounded her condition will cause a lifetime of implications for both our friend and her beautiful daughter. Fortunately, our friend has risen to these new challenges very well, and my wife and I are both impressed by her. Hopefully, the next person harmed by these people will have the resources to take them to task.
This isn't to say that midwives are bad, evil, or homebirths are bad or evil, or even inherently more dangerous than hospital births. It is to say that birth CAN be a complicated, and risky business, which I'm sure everyone understands. Because it is risky, the people that practice it have an ethical obligation to be adequately covered in the event of an accident or poor judgement on their part.
I have insurance on my car- not to protect myself, but to give someone I may harm as a result of an accident adequate protection to cover their care should they need it as a result of my mistake. That's not paranoid, nor does it mean that I let liability rule my life- it merely means I'm trying to do right by the people I may hurt. I can't understand why someone would expose their child to that risk.
For those of you that are reading this list looking for objective info- remember the vitriolic tone of many of those that responded to my postings (which echo the tone of many hospital birth advocates). Please consider that a reactive tone usually reveals an underlying prejudice or insecurity that certainly taints objectivity.
Both of my children were born with a midwife present, and we were extremely grateful for their help and support. My first son was born by C-section after a long labor and our midwife told us she thought it was best. (Not because her partner was unsupportive, as someone suggested earlier.) Thank god we were in the hospital! Our daughter was born in a hospital without any intervention- although our midwife was present for only the last hour of labor. I still believe that the best birthing option is in a hospital with a clear birth plan and a midwife or doula serving as your advocate.
Perhaps, if our friend had been in a hospital, things could have turned out differently- who knows? I'm sure she'll be thinking about that for a long time. But, in the end, she was blessed with a beautiful baby, and that's all that really matters.