NY Magazine crowns homebirth priestess…and then royally screws her

26 March 2009 at 11:05 am Leave a comment

New York magazine profiled Cara Muhlhahn, CNM, the New York City hombirth midwife followed in The Business of Being Born, whose practice dramatically increased after the documentary made her famous.

Andrew Goldman chronicles his wife’s journey of choosing a care provider. Her autoimmune condition labels her high-risk, but his wife is eager to have the empowering birth she saw in the documentary. They interview Cara, but ultimately choose an obstetric hospital birth after his wife’s rheumatologist threatens to terminate her.

I found the second half pretty unbalanced. Goldman seems to have personally decided that the homebirth experience is inherently risky (because his wife may not have been low-risk), which it is proven not to be, and focuses on two of Cara’s complicated births out of her 700 births. The Business of Being Born showed a competent care provider, encouraging a hospital transfer, during her only birth in the documentary

I also found the lack of information about homebirth as being far more mainstream in countries like the UK, Australia, and the Netherlands where doctors and midwives all have a very open and collaborative system to be unfortunate. There is no cult of homebirth. It is a necessary new direction to curb national healthcare costs and maintain, and even improve, health standards.

It is critical to continue educating about how poorly our ghastly American maternity system stacks up to every other country in the developed world while acknowledging how different our system is. Our racial disparity of birth outcomes are indefensible. Moving to have more CNMs care for more women in hospitals or birth centers dramatically lowers c-section rates and improves birth and maternal health outcome regardless of race, education level, citizen status, and income.

I think the unfortunate thing here is that when members of the media cover birth (or marriage and death), it is difficult for them to separate from their personal experiences, and in this case, the American experience of a hospitalized birth where an OB “saved a baby in danger” from the very care model they perform. This system is perfect for perpetuating how dangerous and risky birth is and to show proven solutions to our problems in a negative light. Taken straight out of a despotic political model, it keeps the masses from waking up and overthrowing their leaders.

Post Script

I can’t help but add this great comment from the New York Mag website provided by a client of Cara’s:

My name is Leigh Pennebaker and I was interviewed for this story. Throughout the interview I thought it was obvious that Goldman had an agenda that sought to establish me and other people who have home births as hippie-dippy flakes. Here are two of the questions that he asked me:

Are you a vegetarian?
Do you only buy organic food?

I don’t know how these questions relate to the stated topic of our conversation, home birth/Cara Muhlhahn. One of the most upsetting points in the interview was after I went to great lengths to tell Goldman about my personal experience with home birth, which gets into my family history and the fact that mother had a home birth. She had me (her first child) in a hospital with all the technological bells and whistles of the day — she was strapped down and hooked up to all the monitors, I was pulled out with forceps, she was immediately separated from me, and hours later when a nurse returned with a baby…it was not me! The experience was traumatic for both of us and it began the journey that led my mom to do her research and stay at home with a midwife by the time her third child was born. The home birth proved to be a far more positive and healthy experience.

Goldman seemed to be listening, but when I reached the end of the story, he simply asked, “would you say that your parents were hippies?”

As a reader of New York magazine for nearly two decades, I appreciate their witty and sensationalist style. They could have offered a piece with far greater press impact to their readership by framing homebirth as the safe and increasingly popular choice for New York women, “Homebirth: Coming to a Coop Near You.”

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

So just what do docs learn in medical school? Dwindling options in the Boston area?

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