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Don't Try This At Home

Posted 7/9/2008

Your coverage of the "home birth" trend ("Home Made," Feature, June 25) is further evidence of a deep-seated fallacious thought amongst the American left rooted in the "naturalistic fallacy"--that is, the bogus belief that "the natural is better" and sustained by systematic ignorance of history and science endemic in America. It is a dangerous belief that mirrors and shares many of the characteristics of right-wing attacks against evolutionary theory and other knowledge. In fact, it may ultimately prove more detrimental to our existence because it will lead to the unwarranted and dangerous rejection of the technological improvements and progress that have improved the quality of life for billions of people.

Turning to the article, the promoters of "home birth" reveal a dangerous tendency to trust nature for the answer. Known as the "naturalistic fallacy," it ignores the very real fact that nature is pitilessly indifferent about us, or any other creatures spawned over the eons that life has existed on Earth, and that depending on nature has routinely failed. We are all products of evolution, which is far from being a process that generates the "fittest." Evolution (or more accurately, the process of natural selection) builds living organisms that are merely good enough to survive and are frequently flawed by handicaps obvious to most people.

Humans and our birthing process are no different. The reason that the medical profession treats birth as an "emergency" and intervenes rather than "trusting the human body" is that a cursory examination of the human body reveals that human females are poorly equipped to birth children. As noted by Leonard Shlain in his book Sex, Time and Power, over the last few million years human heads have tripled in size while "mother nature" has failed to provide the capacity to properly birth such children by way of making the area where babies come out of bigger. As Peter Ellison has found, the result of this failure to provide better birthing capacities is that the 96 hours after onset of contractions is the "greatest period of mortality that a typical human will ever face." It is believed that human beings alone among primates have females who die in childbirth. Evolutionary biologists and psychologists have discovered that birthing children is so dangerous to females that it has fundamentally altered female evolution. For example, death in childbirth has led to the evolution of menopause, anovulatory cycles in teenage girls, and the stereotypical female squeamishness about having sex--just to list a few!

The ignorance of history is shown by the fact this phenomenon actually gained traction. A basic survey of history reveals the frequency of females dying in childbirth. It would also have revealed that it is a near universal among the human cultures that birthing women seek out help from the most experienced people possible to ensure a successful birth--in Western society, that would be doctors. In fact, ultimately, this home-birthing fad is unnatural.

Matthew Hood

However a family births their child is their right, at home or in the hospital, with or without intervention. Medically necessary C-sections have been a lifesaver for many. But the Cesarean rate in the United States is a problem.

I have given birth to six children; the first four were delivered outside of Maryland with no medication and were uncomplicated. My most negative and positive have happened here. I chose to go to a particular hospital in Baltimore city to have my fifth. To be brief, the on-call doctor there appeared to have an agenda. They broke my water within an hour of reluctantly admitting me (I was only 3 or 4 cm dilated at that point), inserted a fetal scalp monitor without my consent, and sent an anesthesiologist in to give me an epidural though I had repeatedly told them no. He said, "But what if you need a C-section?" I should have seen this as a huge red flag. Still, I refused, and not another hour passed before a nurse told me I was going for a C-section NOW because the baby's heart rate had dropped momentarily. This is not terribly uncommon and has happened with all of my children at one point. When my husband and I protested, she said I had no choice and to "get a lawyer." What I didn't know was that this is completely false and unethical. The risks were never explained. I was given a consent form to sign on the operating table, away from my husband who was not allowed to attend. My husband asked to speak to the doctor immediately after the surgery but was told that the doctor was asleep and we should just be happy that our son was perfectly healthy. I don't know if the surgery was necessary--I never saw that doctor again, and no one ever explained what happened.

My sixth child was born at Maryland General, and I could not be happier. This is the most forward-thinking birthing unit I've seen. I said I wanted a VBAC [vaginal birth after cesarean] with no intervention. I was informed of the risks, but they agreed that it was best given my history. I had the most patient, calm midwife. I was allowed to labor as long as I needed, and no one tried to speed things up or force me to do anything. Though this baby's heart rate also dipped slightly during labor, I was watched carefully but allowed to continue. My son was healthy and so was I. I recovered within days and I will tell anyone that will listen about my experience.

Please don't let any medical professional say that you don't have a choice. Run out of any facility that says you do not have the legal right to refuse a medical procedure of any sort.

Laura Wolff

Don't Count On The Inspectors

As a contractor working in the city of Baltimore I am familiar with Mr. Ericson and his reporting of illegal activities, poor workmanship, street hustle, unconcerned bureaucracy, and criminal behavior ("Falling Through The Cracks," Mobtown Beat, June 25). He is Baltimore's version of Damon Runyon with his monitoring of every hood, politician on the take, and unlicensed ne'er-do-well.

If only Baltizens would heed his warnings they could keep some of their hard-earned money instead of fatting the wallets of these crooks.

Don't count on the inspectors and the permit office to screen for licensing of a contractor, do it yourself. Go to the Maryland Home Improvement Commission website and check the MHIC number to see if the person that you are contracting is in fact licensed.

George Waldhauser

Correction: In "Cashing Out," the July 2 cover story about the bail-bonds industry in Baltimore, we mistakenly reported that property bondsmen in Prince George's County were unregulated. Although property bondsmen in that county are not regulated by the Maryland Insurance Administration, they are overseen by a bail bonds commissioner who is paid by the county. Other districts, Baltimore included, do not have such a position. We regret the error.

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