Fast Food, Assembly Lines and the Myth of Home Birth in the Hospital

I was eating today in a fast food chain restaurant (to remain unnamed of course)
and struggling to pick something out on the menu that I could eat. I have been restricting my diet lately to see if it would improve a little annoying health issue I have been having and so I have removed dairy, gluten, eggs and sugar from my diet.

First, I felt like a freak. When I asked the guy behind the counter if dressing XYZ had dairy in it he didn't seem to know anything. I was obviously not your average customer. I was a little embarrassed too because I was holding up the line and people behind me were starting to get irritated about my neurotic ways.

Finally I decided on a salad with no croutons and a balsamic dressing on the side. It seemed like it should be be fine with my restrictions.

When I got the salad it of course had cheese all over it. I had not known that would be on it. I scraped off what I could but inevitably there was some left over on top. I ate it anyway and it filled me up even though it would have been easier just to make myself something at home.

And your point is...

I have recently been hearing the term "home birth in the hospital". I have even seen a local hospital midwife use it in her advertisements. It is a nice idea when you think of it. You get all the benefits of the hospital (drugs and surgery available on demand) but you also get (hopefully) natural birth in a home like setting (you know, there are curtains on the windows).

Natural Birth

 I am not saying that you cannot have a natural birth in a hospital. You can. I have done it. It is done every day. It is however, generally not easy. Women usually have to work very hard for it and know their stuff but - it is totally doable.  (This is where the serious importance of hospital choice and care provider choice really comes into play- policies vary widely.  It is hard to buck an actual hospital policy, so pay attention and ask questions.)

What they experience is generally akin to what I experienced in a fast food restaurant today. You can go to fast food joint X and ask for a gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, egg-free meal, but they do not have it on their menu. That is not what most of their customers want. The people that work there do not know how to "deal with you".

You might be able to get something close to what you were looking for, but it WILL NOT be exactly what you wanted because that is simply not what fast food joints do.

How does a fast food restaurant make its money? They make burgers fast and cheap and they sell them all the same: two pickles, special sauce, and a piece of lettuce on a white bun. Guess what- modern US hospitals, work much the same way. Birth is now a money making, assembly line business.

Home Birth

Food is more than white flour and grease and corn fed beef. Food can be amazing. It can taste good, it can make you feel good, and it can feed your body exactly what it needs.

Birth, like a burger, can be assembly line. It can be a money maker. It can be sped and slowed and controlled. It can be timed, planned and kept in a box.

That is not however what a burger should be like, and it is certainly not what birth should be like. Birth can be so much more than this.

It can literally be orgasmic. Life changing. Amazing. Trans-formative. Beautiful. Empowering. Birth can be the best experience of a woman's life. It can make her feel more powerful and womanly than anything she has ever experienced. It can also, like that burger, make her feel sick, depressed, violated and disgusted.

Now if you want a home birth- HAVE ONE. I am going to say it again, because I hear so many woman say that they WANT a home birth, they are medically able to have one, and yet they don't. They do not do it because they feel safer in the hospital (just in case) and because they believe the idea that you can have a home birth in the hospital. Hospital birth is a VERY viable option and can be a wonderful choice.  The vast majority of my students have fantastic hospital births.  But, if you want a home birth, you can only have one at home.

You can have a natural birth in the hospital, but you can not have a home birth in a hospital. I have had both. The first home birth I attended made me realize that I would not (unless I needed to or felt deeply that I must) have another hospital birth.

My hospital birth was amazing, but my home birth was untouched, un-technical, uninterrupted. It was a home birth. It was magical. It was birth as all it could be and all it is meant to be. And it was much better than a greasy burger.


Anonymous said…
Oh my gosh! I love, love, love this! What a great analogy. I've been reading way too much on homebirth lately. Well, not too much. I just can't wait to have another baby so I can have a homebirth.

I am one of the lucky ones that had a very simple and easy natural birth at a hospital with an OB who is a proponent of natural birth (she should've been a MW). Even though, I want a homebirth. (I don't EVER want to get in a car while laboring hard, again!)
Carol said…
So I know that this is a parallel for birth and I do this with my dad and politics all the time but I have to say... next time they will make you a Caesar (that's what I am assuming you got) without the Parmesan if you ask and if they don't as a manager at this unnamed fast food restaurant I would be appalled.. You might have to wait but they will still do it for you. In the end we want our customers coming back at the end of the day. The side salads don't have cheese FYI..
Mama Birth said…
Thanks Christy and Carol!
Thank you- I am sure they would have-
I guess the point for me in the analogy was that I didn't know to ask for it without?!
I think this happens to women in the hospital often too, they don't realize that something is "policy" until it is already done to them-
But thanks! My kids love the place and grandma loves to take them!
wtf said…
Wonderful article! Very enlightening! I hear the same thing all the time as well. It's just not safe to have a baby at home. Wow what a statement. What if something goes wrong. Then you drive to the hospital. Truly even when they spurt the words to a mother you must have a cesarean it's an hour before that happens. My youngest daughter kicked through my uterus at 8pm. Yes I was at home. However I did not receive a cesarean at the hospital until after midnight just a few minutes. There was a problem with the anesthesiologist and everything else. So even when you are 'in' the hospital true emergencies may not be handled in a timely matter.

Now was my home the issue of my daughter kicking through not at all. It could of happened at the hospital as well. However were they concerned that one foot was hanging out my hoohaa and one through my uterus in my abdomen. Not really.. they were pretty much taking there time.

I am currently pregnant and just dreading absolutely dreading having a cesarean. I'd prefer to not have to be in the hospital at all much less to have a baby. Natural birth can be so beautiful and wonderful.

I did have one of my children at a birthing center without Iv's or anything. It was not a home birth but they even used a stethoscope to listen to the heart beat instead of the doppler. I was free to labor how I chose which was nice.

But just as you said a home birth it was not! I've also had my other children without medication nor epidurals but it was very much still medicalized by the hospital and staff!
Anna Q said…
My first was induced at 41+2 so I was at the hospital from the start. I felt that I had to fight constantly. The prostiglandin suppository worked fine to start labour (I was probably on the verge of starting labour on my own and it just pushed me over the edge). But then they insisted on starting pitocing, which I refused. It took my husband standing up to show he was bigger than the doctor for him and insist that I was not getting pitocin to get the doctor to back off. He then said he would "allow" me to labour until midnight (9 hours later) and then start pitocin. We agreed to that as I was quite certain I would be far enough along to not need it, and even if I wasn't, I could just refuse it then and it would buy me 9 hours of no nagging for me to get it. This doctor had short, fat fingers btw, and was rather violent when doing my internal. I felt like I had beel violated.

Then I had the triage nurses badgering me to get pain medication. Thank God I had a wonderful nurse that was like a doula to me. She said, "You want a natural birth so water is how you will do it. Go in the shower, if that doesn't help, we'll fill up the tub for you. The tub was amazing.

When I asked for demerol, she waited until I asked for it twice to be sure I really wanted it, and then she went and got it but didn't give it to me until I asked for it again. It didn't help btw and I don't see any reason why I would ever get it again.

My 2nd baby was born at home, with 2 midwives, my mom, husband, sister-in-law, and doula in attendance. There was NO pressure for me to do anything. I did not have to fight with any doctors or nurses. I was free to walk around naked, scream whenever I needed without worrying about upsetting other labouring women, eat and drink whenever I felt like it, and I curled up in MY OWN BED with my newborn after it was all over.

I love being able to look at my living room floor and think of how he was born RIGHT THERE. I can't just go into the hospital room where DS1 was born whenever I want.

Barring medical necessity, if I am blessed with any more children, I will never birth in the hospital again.

I am now a birth doula and I see over and over the problems that are caused by doctors and the cascade of interventions.
Anonymous said…
I'm in tears. My hospital birth ( was beautiful, lovely, and transformative in the sense that it brought me to a point where I could become an advocate and educator for other women.

My home birth, though, was another story altogether ( It changed me (and my partner) to our cores. It was partner assisted (a happy unintended side effect of a precipitous labor), and completely physiological. I remember thinking, somewhere in my mind, during a contraction, that THIS WAS BIRTH. As it was meant to happen. All by itself. And it changed me.
Indie Pereira said…
I've had both a natural birth in a hospital and two home births. There was truly a world of difference. But I also work with many pregnant women who are poor and simply don't have a choice about where to birth. I've had a mom tell me she wanted a home birth but medicare won't cover it. How do I tell that mom that she should somehow make the choice to come up with $2000 out of pocket for a home birth when she had to scrape together the bus fare just to get where she was going that day? I can't.

Working at WIC, I can see that this message about birth is starting to get out, but for women who have little to no resources it is just leaving them with the knowledge that things could have been different but not the resources to change anything.
CK said…
WOW-zers! This is a great analogy!
Thank you!
-CK, pro home-birth giver!
Melissa Cline said…
Fabulous analogy. I am so grateful for people who talk about home birth--thanks (in part) to them I had my first baby at home (he's 14 months now). They told me I could do it and I would love it and I did!
Kiera said…
Love this post! With my first I knew nothing. I had an epidural, then catheter, and almost pitocin when even though I was dilating fine they suggested it (thank goodness my mom said no!) With my 2nd I went without pain meds, but I still had ALL The interventions and no freedom. It was a traumatic birth because I couldn't push when and how I felt/knew I needed to get my baby out NOW. With my 3rd I used CNMs at the same hosp to try for a waterbirth and I got there 20mins before my 10lb baby was born. She was born in a squatting position and hit the floor a little because they wouldn't allow me in the tub since they didn't have their full 20 mins of monitoring. With my 4th baby girl, I finally realized home birth was a viable and safe option and it was amazing! Free and empowering. I was trusted to be given ALL the information and to just birth my baby! HUGE! I wish more women knew this. I think we are getting the message out slowly but surely!
Tina said…
Fantastic analogy - just perfect.

"You might be able to get something close to what you were looking for, but it WILL NOT be exactly what you wanted because that is simply not what fast food joints do."

One of the biggest challenges I deal with as a doula is trying to explain to women why it's so important that the choices they make during pregnancy - especially about care providers and birth places - are congruent with what they want. It's so hard - we read about these beautiful births where women "breathe their baby down" and women want this in environment where second stage becomes abnormal if goes on longer than two hours, and where coached pushing is all that they know how to do. That's not to say women have to accept these things in hospital, but we need to be realistic about what is going to be doable in the place we're choosing to birth. If you want a completely intervention free birth, hospital is not the place to maximise your chances of having one. It's just not.
fortnite said…
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