Homebirth in CT, Part I

Sep 13, 2011 by

Yesterday I was asked if I would attend a meeting with the new Commissioner of Public Health to discuss the legal status of homebirth in Connecticut.

Well, sort of.  I have no idea if the Commissioner has any idea that a few homebirth supporters will be stopping by to pay her a visit.  Not yet, anyway.

To make a long story short, I’m in the process of relaunching a CT nonprofit called United Families for Midwifery Care.  UFMC was organized to protect and support both women who want homebirths and the midwives who want to attend homebirths.

I got a call yesterday from Ms. M., who is a lawyer (like me) and the head of a nonprofit (also like me), and who happens to play both of these roles at the same time due to her current employment (so not like me, being a management-side labor attorney in a conservative firm).  Ms. M. is interested in representing a group like UFMC in requesting that the Department of Public Health push for legislation to license Certified Professional Midwives in CT.  The CPM is a certification granted by a private professional organization, and is not currently recognized by the State of CT.  By “not currently recognized,” I mean not illegal, but not expressly legal either.  Just alegal, if you will.

Ms. M. is very excited about this.  She wants me to go with her–just me and her–to talk to the new Commissioner about legislation.  Or regulations.  Or just making homebirth a focus of her tenure as Commissioner.  I’m not really sure which yet.  I assume we will discuss this soon enough.

I tell her UFMC is not exactly reorganized and up and running yet.  Can we wait until then?  No, she says.  There is political pressure to do this now due to pending litigation (more on that in Part II).  I tell her I would go in and give the layperson perspective (i.e., the birthing woman, not midwife, perspective).  I can give the Commissioner–I imagine her sitting there in her smart cranberry blazer, with her interns and assistants and a colorful block of sticky notes adorning her oak desktop–the emotional component of why homebirth was the best choice for me and my baby.  I can explain how I knew before I was pregnant that I wanted to avoid the “cascade of interventions” that flow from a medically managed birth attended by nurses in shifts and doctors who barely acknowledge you during labor.  How amazed I am at my own power and endurance, when I remember how the excruciating pain of back labor forced the tears to flow freely down my cheeks, as I prayed that I would either die or just pass out and wake up with a baby.  I can smile and talk about that amazing moment when, without the grogginess of an epidural or the panicked shrieks that accompany being snatched away to be poked and prodded, my baby was placed on my chest, alert and ready to meet the world.  Right on my bed, where we continued to sleep side-by-side with Daddy through every night of our baby’s first precious months of life.

Yes.  I could tell her how, if the State of Connecticut attempts to legislate or regulate homebirth into illegality, I and hundreds of others like myself who live and work here, who pay taxes and raise our families here … who vote here … will not let our rights be taken away without a fight.

But then …

I cannot, as I sit here today, be prepared this week or next to march in to the Department of Public Health as THE ACTIVIST! and display comprehensive, meticulously detailed bar graphs and pie charts demonstrating why homebirth is safe and should be legal.  Explaining how epidurals and pitocin and c-sections are forced upon women by OB’s who were never trained in healthy, normal birth, leading to women to feel like their bodies failed them and to struggle to bond with their babies and get breastfeeding off to a healthy start.  Explaining how my midwife is trained in neonatal resuscitation, and has only needed to use it a handful times out of the approximately 400 babies she has caught in women’s homes across the state.  How homebirth is safe, smart, and must become a viable option for all women now. 

No.  You need THE ACTIVIST! to do these things.  Not a burnt-out, disheveled lawyer mom of a 13-month-old who wears the same pantsuit 2-3 times a week to work because she never got back down to her pre-pregnancy size, who will tell you that homebirth was “just the right thing to do” but can’t off the top of her head articulate the SCIENCE and STATISTICS of why that is.

Ms. M. doesn’t care.  She thinks I am perfect for the role.  Someone said something really nice about me, because it looks like this is happening, notwithstanding any pesky bouts of frumpiness or lack of ready access to empirical evidence on the safety of homebirth (and the dangers of hospital birth).  Ms. M. is very persistent.  I will do the meeting with the Commissioner.  I am stunned.  I have a book by Henci Goer, “The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth.”  I think Henci Goer has an M.P.H., but I’m not sure.  Either way, that book has some useful statistics, and I have precious little time to review them and start committing them to memory–or some approximation of memory.

Maybe I’ll bring my copy of the book with me.

As Ms. M. explains her professional background and experience to me over the phone, I pause and consider the proposal again.  I’ve slowly been growing more involved in the homebirth/natural family parenting/attachment parenting/crunchy granola weirdo community for the past couple years, most likely due to certain choices I made in planning for Mackenzie’s birth.  After dumping my OB practice for a “lay midwife” (derogatory term for a CPM/CM, as these people are highly skilled), it was only a matter of time before I progressed into the world of cosleeping, cloth diapering, babywearing, and extended breastfeeding.  I even picked up a copy of The Vaccine Book by Dr. Bob Sears, although I ultimately concluded that my kid should be vaccinated (and didn’t have a choice anyway, due to daycare policy).

But me, the face of the crunchy-natural-whatever-you-call-it parenting community?  I mean, to the extent that this label applies to homebirth supporters, or at least the stereotype of what a homebirth supporter looks like?

I’m a working professional, and I’m satisfied and proud that every day, I provide for my daughter’s needs within the home, as well as provide for her in the stricter financial sense of the word.  There is no reason why a full-time working mom can’t also be an attachment parent (or engage in so-called “natural family living”) at the same time.  And, to return to the subject at hand, there is absolutely no reason why a working professional woman who had a homebirth, and wants to support the rights of other women to have homebirths, can’t be the spokesperson for homebirth supporters in particular, the natural parenting community in general, or something in between.

So why do I feel like the person Ms. M. is looking for should be wearing a hand-sewn skirt, have organic homemade cookies cooling on her kitchen counter, and be planning her homeschool lessons for the next day while tandem nursing her triplets on the way to her La Leche League meeting?  This would be a SAHM who also finds the time to draw up those pie charts and bar graphs that will be so useful when the Commissioner asks for some proof positive of the safety of homebirth (despite the fact that no one, not even for a moment, ever questions the alleged safety of hospital birth).

I hang up the phone.  There are now at least a minimum of 3 lawyers involved in what I’ll call the “homebirth movement” in Connecticut.

I’m now one of them, sort of.  But I’m just a mom who happens to be a lawyer.  Or maybe a lawyer who happens to be a mom.  A mom who feels that strongly about homebirth.

This is going to be interesting …

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Melanie Dunn tries her best to raise a family and nurture a marriage while working as a special education attorney, representing parents of children with disabilities. Her two daughters, a preschooler and a toddler, were born at home two years apart, and breastfed into toddlerhood. She is a mompreneur who loves discussing the intersection of the practice of law with the practice of parenting. Melanie also geeks out over difficult questions of gender roles, employment discrimination, and the challenges faced by parents in the workplace and in the public schools. She is a crunchy mom advocate for attachment parenting who nonetheless dresses up for work everyday.

4 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Great post Melanie! Homebirth should absolutely be an option. I went for a hospital birth but had a doula. After 35 hours of labor I ended up having an emergency c-section. What you mention about doctors barely acknowledging you when giving birth is exactly what happend to me. I had never met him before (there are 8 or 10 docs in my obgyn practice) and he literally did not come in till I was, 9 cm dialated. He NEVER introduced himself to me, he just checked me a few times, came back for pushing and then told me I needed a c-section…

  2. I hear this story a lot but it doesn’t get any less upsetting every time I hear it. :'( I’m so sorry that was your experience. Check out I-CAN for support and information about things like VBAC, should you be interested … their website is hard to find for some reason so I’m posting it here: http://ican-online.org/chapter/search.

    You can read my birth story on my FB page. I was in labor for roughly 72 hours, but not “officially” because the first day or so was so-called prodromal or “false” labor (it sure felt REAL to me!). Mackenzie was posterior or “sunny-side-up” and this caused extremely painful back labor and what the hospital would have called “failure to progress.” I went into labor on a Saturday morning, and by Sunday evening I would have gone in for a c-section for sure if I had been in the hospital. However, none of this put me or my baby in danger … it would have been a c-section for the convenience of the doctor, not for any emergency reason, as is often the case. I am so thankful for the support I had that prevented this outcome.

    Unfortunately I have never heard a single woman say to me that she was completely satisfied with her hospital birth experience, and usually the source of discontent was a major one, like unwanted surgery, something that interfered with breastfeeding, etc. That’s why I knew from the beginning it was not for me. However, rather than just dismissing hospitals altogether, I do wish that more OB’s, CNM’s, and L&D nurses were properly and thoroughly trained in birth as a natural process, not something that needs to be treated like a disease and managed with interventions. This would increase the choices for birthing women who want every opportunity for an intervention-free birth, but may not have or want the option of a homebirth or birth center.

  3. I never ever heard about this CT and after reading your blog I came to know about this and it really helps me in my presentation. Actually I’m preparing a paper presentation on Home Birth and your blog will also help me. Really thanks…

    • Melanie

      Thanks for stopping by … I keep meaning to write Part II to this story, hopefully soon!

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