The Other Side of the Glass

Part One was officially released June 2013 in digital distribution format. To purchase to to If you were a donor and want to download your copy send an email to

The trailer

Friday, December 08, 2006

Homebirth IS about the baby

Contributed by Heather Burke, Co-Moderator

"The likelihood of fetal distress is decreased by simply NOT giving an epidural, NOT introducing pitocin, and NOT rupturing the membranes."

It is being said that homebirth is about the mother, never the baby, and that homebirth is less risky for the mother and moreso for the child. This inaccurate remark is based on statistics comparing home and hospital mortality rates, predominantly the ones funded by hospitals, obstetrics and gynecologists, and drug companies to show the superiority of hospital birth. Studies exist concluding the opposite, which were mainly funded by midwives and homebirth advocates; however, those against homebirth discredit, disregard, and dismiss those studies and chose only to recognize the ones in favor of hospital birth.

For the purposes of this article, which studies are correct is irrelevent, as this is not an argumentive piece debating statistics or the validity of statements. The purpose of this piece is to provoke thought and to introduce concepts to the reader that studies do not consider, to disprove this false statement that hospital birth is safer than homebirth, and to demonstrate how homebirth is most assuredly about the baby who is being born. Homebirth just might be the most loving and protective thing a woman and man can do for their child.

Let us first discuss birthing environments. While safety is certainly an issue and will be discussed later in this piece, many women chosing to homebirth do so because of the comfort factor--not just for them, but for the baby. The child has, for the last nine months, been living in a slowly-moving world of warm liquid, soft yellow glow, and faint echoing sounds. He has felt very little discomfort as he's floated in the waters, cushioned, protected from the outside world. He has known no pain, fear, or hunger. Life is gentle and predictable. He is always with his mother, always in solitude but never alone. Leaving this world, his home for nine months, is a very dramatic change.
The world outside of the womb is full of sensations that are completely new to the infant. Our fast-paced world is dry and full of a variety of sounds, smells, and colors. The transition from womb to world is a difficult ordeal, but we can seek to lessen the trauma and make birth much less overwhelming for the infant.

Why would we want to do this? Our body must constantly adjust to its surroundings to maintain stability, and we react to any change that threatens this equilibrium. The stress response causes hormones to be released, which has several effects, such as causing sounds to resonate more loudly in our brains. Our heartbeat speeds up, blood pressure increases, and breathing quickens. Stress has many effects on the mind, the most pertinent to this discussion being confusion, which inevitably clouds the mind of any child so overwhelmed by new stimulus. The physical effects of stress include headaches, digestive problems, muscle tension and pain, sleep disturbes and fatigue, chest pain, weight gain or loss, asthma or shortness of breath, skin problems, immune system suppression, and more.

There is no reason to elaborate on how any of these effects would be detrimental to the well-being of the infant. Some of these things are caused immediately, and some are the result of chronic stress. With all of these issues being linked to stress, which is caused by change, and with stress being so definitely related to birth, is it possible that some children who fail to thrive or develope digestive problems in the early years do so because of stress related to their birth? This is only a theory; there is no real proof, only a common sense link. There is also quite a bit of speculation suggesting that birth trauma contributes to cholic. (Read more here.) The fact of the matter is that stress is caused by change, that birth is a tremendous change which inevitably causes stress, and that stress is proven to not be very healthy for anyone.

In a typical hospital environment, a child is born into a cold, sterile room of bright lights, loud and unfamiliar voices, and beeping machines. The umbilical cord is immediately cut, and the child passed off--generally handed roughly--to strangers who suction her nose, place her on a cold scale, scrub her with a rough cloth, and tightly wrap her in dry blankets, evaluating her before finally placing her in her mother's arms. She is denied skin to skin contact and immediate nursing, which faciliatate the bonding process and comfort the child. Even without medical intervention, a hospital is not a very comfortable place to be born and can in, and that environment itself cause quite a bit of stress.

Over the next few days, the child is subject to many uncomfortable procedures from needle pricks to circumcision, often separated from his mother, before finally being allowed to head home to adjust again to another new environment. When an epidural is used, the child is often groggy, has breathing problems, and is a bit doped up throughout the process. When pitocin is given, the child is compressed by violent contractions much stronger than ones that occur naturally, which can cause fetal distress and result in a C-section. This is especially true if an amniotomy has been performed, which destroys the natural protective cushioning of the amniotic sac that would have absorbed most of the shock of the contractions. There is no denying how stressful a birth in a hospital must be for the infant, who is in constant discomfort and even pain because of the meddling of the doctors.

At a homebirth, the child can be born into a warm, dimly lit room of soft, familiar voices and friendly faces. He is received by the gentle hands of a midwife, or one of his parents, and usually immediately placed skin to skin on his mother's chest to nurse. He is wrapped in soft blankets, suctioned if necessary, and weighed only after he has bonded with his parents and been comforted by their touch. In a water birth, he transitions from one liquid environment to another, emerging into the world clean and not needing to be scrubbed vigorously to wash off the residue from the womb. Generally, vaccinations are not given, and circumcision is not performed--at least not for a few days, if at all.

The child is with his mother or father almost constantly. He is not nearly as overwhelmed by the sensations, as the home environment is much closer to the womb world than a hospital, and thus not as stressed. He is safe from drugs, violent contractions caused by artificial hormones, and sheltered throughout the birth by an intact amniotic sac.

There is not nearly as much intervention at midwife-attended birth, and there is no doubt that a homebirth is much more comfortable and less stressful to an infant than a birth in a hospital as things stand now. With stress having such real effects on health, it is obviously beneficial to make birth and life as stress-free as possible for the fragile newborn.

We could attempt to duplicate the environment of the womb as much as possible in a hospital birth, and eventually make hospital birth much less stressful and more gentle on the baby. This would be wonderful for mother and child. However, the current reality is that it is next to impossible to have this type of birth in a hospital. The rate of interventions is quite high, and the risk of C-section is 30%--even higher in some hospitals.

These interventions and risks are not just unfavorable for the mother but for the child as well. Amniotomy, as we have already established, causes contractions to become stronger and much more violent than natural ones, as does pitocin. With the bag of waters broken, the baby has lost the cushion protecting him from the force of the compressions. This can cause the infant to go into fetal distress, resulting in other interventions or even C-section.

Epidurals often slow down contractions, leading to pitocin or amniotomy, and causes serious side effects for the baby, such as the inhibition of after birth bonding because both mother and child are doped up. Babies born under the influence of epidurals are more likely to have breathing problems. Once on an epidural a woman can no longer get out of bed to walk around to speed up labor, and she usually must lie on her back to birth. This is one of the worst positions despite its popularity with ob/gyns, as it doesn't open up the pelvis near as widely as squatting or employ the natural force of gravity to assist with the birthing. Women birthing on their backs are much more likely to be assisted by forceps or vacuums, which can injure the infant and at the very least cause a bit of pain and stress.

IVs inhibit a woman's movement and thus increase the likelihood of amniotomy or pitocin being given to speed up labor; they can also overload a woman with liquid and/or drugs, causing negative effects for the child. Fetal monitoring increases the likelihood that a woman will be given an emergency C-section, due to fetal distress, when it could be true that a child is just having heartrate dereases as a natural response to the contractions. The likelihood of fetal distress is decreased by simply NOT giving an epidural, NOT introducing pitocin, and NOT rupturing the membranes. Eliminating these practices could make fetal monitoring much less necessary. The only consistent finding of studies of fetal monitoring is a higher rate of cesarean birth and no declines in cases of cerebral palsy.

Vaginal checks are likely to cause infection, as they give bacteria in the vagina a free ride up to the cervix. Instructing a woman to breathe as the doctor or nurses instruct can cause her oxygen supply to decrease, thus decreasing the oxygen supply of the infant making him much more likely to have breathing problems after the birth. Disallowing a woman to eat can cause her level of energy to decrease, and with her not getting any nutrients, the baby isn't getting any nutrients either. With labor often lasting more than 15 hours, this obviously is not a safe or healthy practice. Not allowing a woman to drink water can cause her to become dehydrated, which can cause a number of symptoms including fainting, which could lead to doctors deciding to do Caesarian rescue.

C-section can cause surgical adhesions which may interfere with subsequent births, which may not be a problem for the baby rescued by Cesarean section but could be one for his future siblings who will be babies at some point, too. Adhesions develope in 93% of pelvic surgery patients and are very common after C-sections. Uterine rupture can occur during subsequent births following cesarean sections, endangering the child and increasing the risk of another C-section. C-sections may be contributing to the number of babies born 2-4 weeks prematurely, who are usually healthy but are still likely to have medical problems. C-section babies are more likely to have breathing problems. They are less likely to be breastfed, which deprives them of the wide spectrum of enormous benefits of nursing.

Cesarean also causes side effects in the mother, sometimes so severe that they hinder her ability to care for her child, which is definitely not good for the newborn. The risk of maternal death is much higher, and besides the death of the infant is, in this writer's opinion, the highest price for an infant to pay for a overly medicated birth. Women with prior C-sections are at higher risk for placenta previa and accreta in subsequent pregnancies, which tremendously endanger the lives of her future babies as well as their birth experiences. Clearly C-section is a danger not only to mothers but the babies born by them, as well as the babies of tomorrow.

A more comfortable environment means a much less stressful transition into the world. Allowing a mother to trust her own instincts and birth in the way that feels right to her results in a much healthier mother, baby, and mother-child bond. A lower rate of intervention, unnecessary meddling, and harmful restrctions on the mother means a safer birth not only for the baby being born but for his future siblings. With all of this to consider, how could anyone make the claim that homebirth is about the mother rather than the baby? There are most certainly many benefits for the mother of birthing at home, but homebirth is also greatly beneficial and much safer for the infant in a wide variety of ways--regardless of what statistics doctors like Amy Tutuer chose to quote.

Sources include Helpguide, March of Dimes, Pregnancy-Info,
Henci Goer's "A Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth," and the writer's own common sense.

Copyright © 2006 Heather Burke


Melanie said...

It's nonsense to say that maternal death rate is increased by C-sections. 600,000 women die each year in "natural" childbirths BECAUSE they do not have access to live-saving medical interventions such as C-sections. In Africa, a woman has a 1 in 10 lifetime chance of dying in childbirth. "Natural" is not always safest or best by any means.

That said, any major surgery carries a risk of death. It's better to avoid C-sections if possible. However,100 years ago five out of a hundred women would die in childbirth. The advent of C-sections and sterile, medical procedures changed all this.

Is a hospital birth ideal? Not always. Do C-sections save lives overall? Absolutely.

Safe Baby Partners said...

Melanie --

No one that I am aware of disagrees with the use of cesarean section to save lives of women and children that previously would have died in childbirth. The discussion is about the conditions of medical birth, dictated by hospital lawyers and the avoidance of malpractice. It is about the wrong and disproportionate responsibility of doctors for the outcomes of birth that are so far out of their control. Obstetricians talk about all of this among themselves but not to you, the woman.

This site isn't about arguing specific numbers to the point of changing someone's mind to support homebirth over hospital or vica versa. It is about creating safer conditions for low to medium risk women, choice about where to birth and with whom, and FINALLY holding woman and obstetricans' "feet to the fire" to use drugs and interventions when MEDICALLY needed and with CONSCIOUSNESS that it MATTERS (pun intended) to the Baby and the baby's brain.

We could talk Africa, but why? I just read somewhere in Africa is an 80% cesarean rate. More alive babies? Sure. A whole new set of human problems to deal with? You betcha -- physically and psychologically.

I also heard this week that Bill Gates has more money than three countries in Africa. Does it affect us? Well.... yeah... because in the US we have 5% of the population and use up 70% of the world's resources. We have the best medical care available and yet we lag behind other industrial nations in infant mortality.

We are just about saying, "let's work together here to make AMERICAN birth safer and more peaceful." And, that involves not promoting our medical model over natural, physiological birth.

Do cesections save lives overall? Absolutely. Is there a HUGE person and social price to pay for it? Absolutely.

Heather B. said...

Melanie, what is your source for that number? Do you have proof that all or most of those women would have lived had they had a C-section? Do you have any record of where it is those women live, what the conditions in their community are, what their lifestyles are like, and whether or not they are high risk? There are many factors to consider that you have not presented. Moreover, the conditions of Africa have very little to do with America. Access to healthcare is NOT the only difference we have with Africa. Sanitation and nutrition are also better here.

It is not nonsense to say that maternal death rate is increased by C-sections. There are statistics backing that claim up. Go do the research. C-sections increase the risk of maternal hemorrhaging much more than vaginal delivery. Anytime you are having major abdominal surgery you are taking an enormous risks. C-sections very rarely save the life of the mother; they are most often beneficial to a mother with severe GD or PE, not to low-risk patients. C-sections are more often done to save the life of the child, at risk to the mother, for fetal distres--although unfortunately, in most scenarios, the child's life isn't in danger at all. There are times when C-sections save lives, but there is no reason to perform them in non-life-threatening situations. Moreover, I highly doubt acccess to C-sections would greatly reduce a number such as 600,000 unless every one of those women was suffering from severe GD or PE, the main two situations in which a C-section is actually beneficial to the mother.

The C-section rate is 30% right now. We should be at 15%. Doctors agree that half of all C-sections performed are unnecessary. This means that half of the time, C-section save lives. The other half of the time, they are putting them in unnecessary danger. Therefore, C-section do not save lives overall, and it's really a 50/50 chance not that you will live but that your C-section was necessary and that vaginal delivery might have been safer.

Heather B. said...

If Africa has an 80% Cesarean rate then it is no wonder that a woman has a 1 in 10 lifetime chance of dying in childbirth :(

Heather B. said...

Blood transfusions and antihemorraging medication usually do much more to improve the mother's outcome than C-sections, which make hemorrhaging more likely. Maybe what Africa needs is to learn how to treat GD, PE, and hemorraging as well as to handle problems with the baby without resorting to C-section immediately. Perhaps then their women would fare better.

Heather B. said...

"Twenty-five of the 29 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have rates of 5% or lower."

Unfortunately I don't think that 80% cesarean rate applies to all of Africa. Was what you read talking about North Africa or which area??

They could have inadequate access to C-section, but they also don't have good sanitation, nutrition, etc. and a load of other factors. Unless most African women have GD, PE, and other illnesses that endanger the mother, I doubt C-sections would make maternal outcome a whole lot better. :/

Safe Baby Partners said...

Oops, maybe it was Brazil -- my colleague who goes there frequently told me that 80% of the births are cesarean there.

It's so impressive to throw numbers around -- I heard that 80% of the time statistics are made up on the spot.

I don't know what the percentage is per country, but I have heard that the US way of medical care in obstetrics and surgical birth (like many American things) is spreading to third world and other industrialized nations. As world leader, the US ought to look at it's own rates and look to other countries for advice.

"Soft is the heart of a child. Do not harden it."

A public awareness reminder that things that happen behind the scenes, out of our sight, aren't always as rosy as we might think them to be. Perhaps its a restaurant cook who accidentally drops your burger on the floor before placing it on the bun and serving it to you. Here it's an overworked apathetic (pathetic) nurse giving my newborn daughter her first bath. Please comment and rate this video, so as to insure that it is viewed as widely as possible, perhaps to prevent other such abuse. -- The mother who posted this YouTube. How NOT to wash a baby on YouTube Are you going to try to tell me that "babies don't remember?" There is no difference to this baby's experience and the imprinting of her nervous system/brain and one that is held and cleaned by the mother or father either at the hospital or at home? By the way, this is probably NOT the baby's first bath. The nurse is ungloved. Medical staff protocol is that they can't handle a baby ungloved until is has been bathed (scrubbed if you've seen it) because the baby is a BIO-HAZARD -- for them. Never mind that the bio-hazard IS the baby's first line of defense against hospital germs.

Missouri Senator Louden Speaks

Finally, A Birth Film for Fathers

Part One of the "The Other Side of the Glass: Finally, A Birth Film for and about Men" was released June, 2013.

Through presentation of the current research and stories of fathers, the routine use of interventions are questioned. How we protect and support the physiological need of the human newborn attachment sequence is the foundation for creating safe birth wherever birth happens.

Based on knowing that babies are sentient beings and the experience of birth is remembered in the body, mind, and soul, fathers are asked to research for themselves what is best for their partner and baby and to prepare to protect their baby.

The film is designed for midwives, doulas, and couples, particularly fathers to work with their caregivers. Doctors and nurses in the medical environment are asked to "be kind" to the laboring, birthing baby, and newborn. They are called to be accountable for doing what science has been so clear about for decades. The mother-baby relationship is core for life. Doctors and nurses and hospital caregivers and administrators are asked to create protocols that protect the mother-baby relationship.

Men are asked to join together to address the vagaries of the medical system that harm their partner, baby and self in the process of the most defining moments of their lives. Men are asked to begin to challenge the system BEFORE they even conceive babies as there is no way to be assured of being able to protect his loved ones once they are in the medical machine, the war zone, on the conveyor belt -- some of the ways that men describe their journey into fatherhood in the medicine culture.

Donors can email to get a digital copy.
Buy the film at

The film focuses on the male baby, his journey from the womb to the world and reveals healing and integrating the mother, father, and baby's wounded birth experience. The film is about the restoring of our families, society, and world through birthing loved, protected, and nurtured males (and females, of course). It's about empowering males to support the females to birth humanity safely, lovingly, and consciously.

Finally, a birth film for fathers.

What People Are Saying About the FIlm

Well, I finally had a chance to check out the trailer and .. wow! It's nice that they're acknowledging the father has more than just cursory rights (of course mom's rights are rarely acknowledged either) and it's great that they're bringing out the impact of the experience on the newborn, but I'm really impressed that they're not shying away from the political side.

They are rightly calling what happens in every American maternity unit, every day, by its rightful name - abuse. Abuse of the newborn, abuse of the parents and their rights, abuse of the supposedly sacrosanct ethical principal of patient autonomy and the medico-legal doctrine of informed consent, which has been long ago discarded in all but name. I love it!

In the immortal words of the "shrub", "bring it on!" This film needs to be shown and if I can help facilitate or promote it, let me know.

Father in Asheville, NC

OMG'ess, I just saw the trailer and am in tears. This is so needed. I watch over and over and over as fathers get swallowed in the fear of hospitals birth practice. I need a tool like this to help fathers see how very vital it is for them to protect their partner and baby. I am torn apart every time I see a father stand back and chew his knuckle while his wife is essentially assaulted or his baby is left to lie there screaming.
Please send me more info!!!!
Carrie Hankins
CD(DONA), CCCE, Aspiring Midwife

Thanks for sharing this. It was very touching to me. I thought of my brother-in-law standing on the other side of the glass when my sister had to have a C-section with her first child because the doctor was missing his golf date. I'll never forget his pacing back and forth and my realizing that he was already a father, even though he hadn't been allowed to be with his son yet.

Margaret, Columbia, MO

In case you don't find me here

Soon, I'll be back to heavy-duty editing and it will be quiet here again. I keep thinking this blog is winding down, and then it revives. It is so important to me.

I wish I'd kept a blog of my journey with this film this past 10 months. It's been amazing.

I have a new blog address for the film, and will keep a journal of simple reporting of the journey for the rest of the film.

I'll be heading east this week to meet with a group of men. I plan to post pictures and clips on the film blog.

I'll keep up here when I can -- when I learn something juicy, outrageous, or inspiring related to making birth safer for the birthing baby.

Review of the film

Most of us were born surrounded by people who had no clue about how aware and feeling we were. This trailer triggers a lot of emotions for people if they have not considered the baby's needs and were not considered as a baby. Most of us born in the US were not. The final film will include detailed and profound information about the science-based, cutting-edge therapies for healing birth trauma.

The full film will have the interviews of a wider spectrum of professionals and fathers, and will include a third birth, at home, where the caregivers do a necessary intervention, suctioning, while being conscious of the baby.

The final version will feature OBs, RNs, CNMs, LM, CPM, Doulas, childbirth educators, pre and perinatal psychologists and trauma healing therapists, physiologists, neurologists, speech therapists and lots and lots of fathers -- will hopefully be done in early 2009.

The final version will include the science needed to advocated for delayed cord clamping, and the science that shows when a baby needs to be suctioned and addresses other interventions. Experts in conscious parenting will teach how to be present with a sentient newborn in a conscious, gentle way -- especially when administering life-saving techniques.

The goal is to keep the baby in the mother's arms so that the baby gets all of his or her placental blood and to avoid unnecessary, violating, and abusive touch and interactions. When we do that, whether at home or hospital, with doctor or midwife, the birth is safe for the father. The "trick" for birthing men and women is how to make it happen in the hospital.

Birth Trauma Healing

Ani DeFranco Speaks About Her Homebirth

"Self-Evident" by Ani DeFranco

Patrick Houser at

Colin speaks out about interventions at birth