Thursday, November 15, 2012

First homebirth victim in Bulgaria

Until recently, Bulgaria was spared from the problem of homebirth. Practically the only births outside hospitals were precipitous births due to inability to reach the hospital in time, and secret births by women of very low socio-economic status with the apparent intention to get rid of the newborn. We were a small, poor post-Communist country isolated from the West economically and culturally, so we had little exposure to trendy Western quackeries. We were living in blissful ignorance about "celebrities" like Ina May Gaskin and the Sears family, and theories like Attachment Parenting and Natural Childbirth. Alas, this honeymoon is over. Burgas, the same Black Sea resort where Israeli tourists were bombed in July, now became scene of the first Bulgarian homebirth death.

As is typical for "true" homebirths, the parents are educated, middle-class people. The mother is a 24-yr-old student at the Musical Academy, and the father an accountant. The mother was not sure whether her due date was Oct. 17 or Nov. 17 (!), but was sure that she wanted no blood transfusion and no vaccines. She wrote, signed and submitted requests about this.

The birth took place in the early hours of Nov. 11, most likely starting between 1 and 2 AM. Nobody tried to drive the mother to a hospital or to dial the emergency phone during the birth and for hours after the baby girl was born not breathing. Only in the morning did the mother in-law call the paramedics. When they arrived shortly after 8 AM, they found the newborn stiffened, indicating that she had been dead for at least 3 hours.

The mother and other family members denied that they had planned a homebirth and said that it "had just happened" so, they had waited of true labour pain, then had panicked. Their explanations do not sound coherent and convincing to anyone. The forensic experts are still working on the baby's body, but the inofficial information is that she died before or during labour and never took a breath. The prosecution is now considering whether to charge the mother with causing her infant's death.

I see this totally senseless and preventable tragedy as inevitable result of Western charlatanism spreading to Bulgaria. During the last year or so, I have read - in English - the writings of Dr. Amy Tuteur exposing the toll of homebirth in Western countries, the deaths and disabilities resulting from the absurd decision of first-world women to deliver their babies in intentionally created third-world conditions. At the same time, I was reading - in Bulgarian - claims by newly baptized domestic advocates of "the natural" how much better it is for babies to be born at home or at a birth center under the care of a midwife and to skip the vaccines. The most influential human rights organization in the country - the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, embraced the cause of homebirth and proclaimed that it is the mother's human right to choose where to give birth, and to do it at home if she wishes. The Committee is currently suing Bulgaria for not allowing doctors and midwives to preside over homebirths. Now, the organization is "reacting" to the tragedy in Burgas with deafening silence, and some commenters say it should accept part of the blame.

I hope that the little girl's death will not be in vain, that gullible parents-to-be will learn from the Burgas couple's fatal mistake and avoid it. Let's leave the pink clouds of woo and face the harsh reality: birth is inherently and highly dangerous and, as in every dangerous situation, stupid acts can turn too costly. It is not about "rights" and "choice", it is about life and death. Do you feel lucky? That young musician did, played Russian roulette with her baby's life, and lost. Now, she is alone, lying in a hospital bed without her baby and, of course, without the company of all those smooth-tongued people who brainwashed her that homebirth is OK.

Update: Commenters informed me that there had been other homebirth cases in Bulgaria about which I had not known. The first fatality seems to have been a dead postdate baby born at home by a 32-year-old vet in Sofia. The mother and her husband (also a vet) wanted to have a natural birth, to avoid medical interventions allegedly causing complications and, as the mother said before the birth, to do it like their patients!