** Trigger warning: birth trauma, birth injury **
What if something goes wrong at a homebirth?
What if the woman hemorrhages and there’s no one there to attend her? What if the baby shows signs of distress and they can’t transfer in time? What if they live far from a hospital? What if the weather’s bad? What if the baby gets stuck? What if the cord prolapses?
What if mom dies? What if baby dies?
We should consider these implications for 1% of birthers.
But what if something goes wrong in the hospital?
What if a woman is tangled amongst wires to machines and medications that increase her chance of a surgical birth and a bad outcome? What if the robotic voice holds more weight – more validity – than the signals of the woman and her baby?
What if her water bag is snagged open and she’s brought to her knees in defeat and surrender? What if her baby’s cord rushes down between her legs – her peaceful labor turned emergency in one plastic-hooked swoop?
What if her contractions, fueled by the IV line, crush her baby between the walls of her uterus, and his sweet body, meant to dance to the rhythm conjured between him and his mama, loses the beat and falls tired, beaten down, compromised?
What if the numbness that seeps into her body from the cord in her back keeps her from the force of the electric current within? What if she must be rescued from her labor? From herself? How can you undo the first step that led to the second – the one that left bruises and scratches and bleeding on the brain?
What if his pulsing lifeline is squelched too soon? Or she’s pumped full of medications no one asked her consent for? What happens when her doctor is impatient and tugs on her placenta, leaving chunks and hunks clinging to the banks of a gushing river of blood?
What if the intimately connected unit is pried apart – mother left longing, reaching; baby screaming, cold and frantic on a hard, bright table? What if he’s poked, pried, handled roughly? And given things that his parents haven’t consented to? What if all this fuss confuses baby? Confuses mom? Confuses the entire family? What of attachment? What of breastfeeding?
What if the surgery was unnecessary? Or the episiotomy leaves her unable to sit comfortably for months? What if his gloved hand thrust into her vagina leaves her feeling powerless, violated, confused?
What if most women receive care that increases risks to them and their babies? What if many women describe their births as traumatic? If some of them go on to develop clinical PTSD? How about the multitudes of women who have trouble navigating the waters of new motherhood amidst the residual physical and emotional trauma?
What if despite the fact that the U.S. spends the most money on maternity care and that most women birth in hospital, women and babies die at alarming rates?
What if we considered these implications for 99% of birthers….