Hillsdale Hos­pital Courtesy | Josephine Von Dohlen

“Get me lidocaine…a BUNCH!” The doctor’s voice was com­manding and urgent.

Ten minutes earlier, the baby’s heart monitor had clocked her heart rate in the 50’s, which (as the doctor put it) was “game over” – she was at severe risk of brain damage and death. Earlier readings had indi­cated that the umbilical cord was likely wrapped around her neck. In the pre­ceding hour, my cervix had dilated from a 5 to a 10 – I was in pre­cip­itous labor. Efforts to relieve pressure on the umbilical cord had failed. As I pushed, the baby’s heart rate dropped further and further, evi­dence that she was in severe dis­tress. The doctor tried to pull her out using a vacuum suction cup, to no avail.

Under normal cir­cum­stances, a doctor does not cut into a patient without an anes­the­si­ol­ogist present. Even if there is already an epidural in place (which there was in my case, though it wasn’t working well), the anes­the­si­ol­ogist is required to up the dose of the epidural or admin­ister a spinal block (which works quicker). This time, there was no time to wait for the anes­the­si­ol­ogist to arrive. This delivery was on fire. The baby’s life hung in the balance.

Mirac­u­lously, at that moment, the epidural that had pre­vi­ously not been working well kicked in, and in com­bi­nation with the lido­caine, I felt no pain as the doctor made his inci­sions. The cry of a healthy baby put a smile on everyone’s faces. The baby scored a 9 and 9 on her Apgar scores – there was no sign of her pre­vious dis­tress. There were tears of joy on many faces in the room as the doctor sewed me up.

I was the perfect can­didate for a home birth. The preg­nancy had been entirely healthy, I was healthy, and I had already had an unmed­icated natural birth with my son. But had I gone the home birth route, there is no doubt in my mind that my daughter would not be alive today.

As much as I can appre­ciate the warm feelings that could accompany giving birth at home, I appre­ciate having a daughter that is alive even more. The access to an imme­diate C‑section is a safety net that home births do not have. Sure, a mom could be trans­ferred to the hos­pital via an ambu­lance if things go south. But ambu­lances take time to arrive and get to the hos­pital, and time is some­times a critical safety issue. And how would I or the doctor have known about the nuchal cord without access to heart monitoring?

Home birth pro­ponent Lauren Scott, in her March 31 Col­legian article on this topic, says, “It is an insult to doubt women’s capa­bility of doing what they were created to do.” But that Pollyanna view of reality ignores the truth that child­bearing was cursed because of the Fall, and that until the inau­gu­ration of the new heavens and the new earth, child­birth will con­tinue to be a per­ilous and painful event. Let’s be mindful of the genealogical record, which bears out that until the advent of modern med­icine and obstetrics, maternal and neonatal mor­bidity was extremely common. Let’s stop valuing our emo­tional expe­rience and our visions of an ideal birth expe­rience over the health and safety of our children. Let’s stop playing Russian roulette with our babies.