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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Scheduled 11/11 births should expose broken maternity system

Photo: Hilde Vanstraelen/
Yesterday we heard of loads of special births on November 11 - from inductions to planned cesareans to doctors offering cash to patients if they'd deliver on that landmark occasion. Today, the details of these births surface: cue the Pitocin IVs!

A Groton, CT mom delivers her baby after her doctor "decided she needed to have her labor induced." The baby weighed just over 7 pounds. As the clock neared 11:11, her "sisters started yelling, 'Push, push!'" (Side note: they'd make great L&D nurses, I bet.)

A number of births were mentioned in this article, including two "natural" births and one planned cesarean:
But in Colorado, Cayson Childers’ birthday wasn’t left to chance. His parents ensured his arrival by scheduling a Caesarean section for Friday, and then doctors were able to make the operation work right at 11:11 a.m.
The casual attitudes about surgical birth mentioned here almost make me want to puke.

This Syracuse, NY baby was delivered because the doctors thought it was "big." The child weighed 7 pounds, 13 ounces. The delivery was originally scheduled for the following week, but was moved to Friday. Don't want to put on an additional six or seven ounces in the meantime, right? Way to play it safe.
Adriana Jones, of Baldwinsville, was originally scheduled to have her baby, via Cesarean section, next week. But because the baby was big, Jones’ doctor recommended the delivery take place sooner.
The planned C-section was rescheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday, but Dr. Suzanne Bartol-Krueger was able to get Jones in a little earlier. How kind of you, doctor!
It's important for me to say that really, I'm not so much criticizing these moms. They made their decision to go ahead with induction or cesarean plans, no doubt at the advising of their physician. Did they make the best decision? That's not really for me to say. But stories like this, and the media's reaction to them, make me kind of shake my head a little because it does several things, in my opinion.

First, it is often met with very casual attitudes about surgical and induced births. Both can be perfectly safe, if done for the right reasons. Sometimes, those reasons are clear, and sometimes not.

Many of these articles often feel the need to clarify whether they were vaginal or cesarean births, which is something I suppose readers are dying to know: did this happen all on its own or what? In any other situation, no mom should really have to justify how her baby came into the world. Some would argue that these women shouldn't either, but it should raise some eyebrows about what constitutes "medical necessity" these days. And when a birth wasn't cesarean, the media usually says it was a "natural birth," which we can probably translate as simply a vaginal birth. Is it news when the IV is hooked up and mom is pumped full of Pit in order for that baby to be born, practically dragged kicking and screaming into the world? Or when mom is laboring normally on her own after going into spontaneous labor? While some people will say, "Who cares?" it's clear there is quite a difference.

I can see how these timely births would start a new Mommy Wars debate: Why can't I schedule a birth on a special day like this? Does it have to be natural to count? Why not have a repeat cesarean because of this? Many argue that mom should have a choice of how she gives birth, even if it means something like a planned cesarean section for no reason other than she wants one. Fine, as long as you are well-informed of the risks and benefits of doing so, and get your information from someone other than a well-meaning but clueless friend or a doctor who is happy to oblige because it means he can finally go on vacation. Of course, you'd do it anyway, I suppose, but I can at least respect a truly well-informed decision. Doing it simply because you're effing miserable and 36 weeks and "It's time! The baby is practicing breathing movements!" is just stupid. But to each her own.

Really what this does is expose the often suspect practices in modern maternity care that have escalated exponentially in the last few decades. My mom told me of my 1974 birth, "The doctor told me he absolutely would not induce because of the risks and rushed in from a dinner party to deliver you while wearing a tux." Nowadays we hear, "Induction is perfectly safe. I don't want to have to come from my dinner party and deliver you while wearing a tux." What a change in thinking.

Are we accepting a woman's right to choose where and how she gives birth, but only to a point? If she wants to put her baby and body at risk, there are probably no shortage of physicians willing to accommodate her wishes. I hate to be a party pooper, but blas√© attitudes about surgical and pushed births are what makes people say, "So what? Who cares? So she wants to have a cesarean for absolutely no reason. Isn't that her right?" Like in my last post, I think the birth of a baby is always something to be celebrated, but these kinds of births so far remove us from the frame of 'normal' that we don't even know what it means anymore. We can schedule hair appointments, meal reservations and oil changes: why not birth?


seili said...

Well, the thing is, though, a woman can choose the risk of an elective c-section for no reason or a woman can choose the risk,of an emergency, from a home birth. A woman can choose to be only educated by friends or doctors; a woman can choose to be only educated by a midwife or the internet. There can be similar mortality risks. Risk for morbidity are higher in the hospital, but in an emergency, that is when a hospital is a good place to be. So, basically, it can go both ways. Especially, when people start mixing high-risk moms into the lot of home births.

The Deranged Housewife said...

I think any midwife who's worth her salt will automatically risk out a client who is too high -risk. Some levels of risk are questionable, however, and suddenly everyone becomes high-risk, it seems. Just being over 35 makes you "high risk," which is crap.

Education can come in many forms, and from many people. Those who are passionate about birth will direct their friends to reputable places to find info, as well as offer their own insight. We are told, when looking for a new gynecologist, to ask friends for recommendations, aren't we? Should we be wary if ten of our friends see the same doctor and all ten were induced?

I did publish the birth story of a friend who was risked out of a home birth - if you search for it in the box it should come up.

TracyKM said...

I have found this desire for a 11/11 baby a little upsetting. Here in Canada, it is a sacred day (although no longer a stat. holiday); it is Remberance Day. It's not a time for being selfish and self-absorbed; it's a time for being somber, grateful and aware. I really didn't see anything about a rush of 11/11 births here though, thankfully.
I'd compare it to 9/11. How many moms really want to have that as their child's birthdate?