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Would You “Freebirth?”

Apparently there’s a new trend -- growing in England, but spreading stateside, too -- of “freebirthing,” giving birth at home, completely unassisted. No drugs, no doctor, no midwife, no medical support at all. A new documentary on Discovery Health, Freebirthing, tracks three women who chose to go it alone and deliver their baby outlaw-style (freebirths were originally called “outlaw births”) against the advice of nearly everyone around them.

At Babytalk, we’re all for having and getting the birth that you want. Last year, we gave one of our annual Golden Pacifier awards to Ricki Lake for her documentary, The Business of Being Born, in which she celebrates home births facilitated by midwives as a joyful, beautiful antidote to what she considers to be over-medicalized, cost-conscious hospital births. We applauded the former talk-show host for “presenting expectant moms with an oft-overlooked option -- and sparking an important conversation about the state of modern childbirth.”

And while we absolutely want women to at least try to be happy with their birth, we’re pretty sure that what makes them happiest is a healthy baby. All of the moms in Freebirthing happened to have seamless births resulting in healthy newborns, but we have no idea why anyone would want to press their luck. What’s next? DIY appendectomies? At-home bypass surgeries? (If you do it in a tub and simply “accept” the cutting of your flesh, there’s no pain!)

I was hospitalized for the last month of my pregnancy for placenta abruption and delivered my twin boys via c-section. I hated every single second in the hospital and cried just about every day there. Hospitals can be horrible places, and my birth experience was satisfying only in that I knew it meant I could go home soon. During the c-section, my doctors gossiped about work as I writhed in fear, pain, and nausea on a table with my arms strapped out at my sides. Not exactly the beautiful nativity scene I had hoped for. (A few months later, I watched The Business of Being Born and cried in mourning over the ecstatic birth I had apparently missed out on.) But three days afterward, I brought home two gorgeous, healthy little guys. So speaking as someone who did have an over-medicalized and generally sucky birth, I can say that I’d do it a thousand times again before I ever put my boys at any risk without any medical or emergency care on standby.

I don’t have too many qualms, then, condemning expectant parents who choose to freebirth. Putting your own wishes for an ideal birth ahead of all else is arrogant (do these people think complications just won’t happen to them?) and dangerous. But I guess it makes it for good TV. Let’s hope this “trend” is short-lived.