Letters to the Editor

"Just as women have the right to choose whether or not to give birth, they have the right to choose where and how their babies are delivered. . . . "

Thank you for Nina Shapiro's well-written article about home births, specifically about midwife Debra O'Conner ["Birth Rights and Wrongs," March 24]. One quote continued to haunt me for several hours after reading the piece. Perhaps I can best explain in a metaphor.

Imagine you're on a 747. Suddenly, the plane jolts, and you hear a clanging noise. You go to the cockpit to investigate. The person inside smiles, invites you to sit in the co-pilot seat, and says, "Looks like we've got mechanical problems." You ask, "What should we do?" She says, "We could eject our fuel and coast to the nearest airport, or we could push this red button or turn that green dial. But research has shown none of those things necessarily prevents crashes. I recommend we ride it out and see what happens."

You, not being a pilot, are at a loss. Heck, this is your first time on a plane. So you decide to follow the advice of the authority in the cockpit. Unfortunately, the plane spins out of control, sending you to your death. The person in the cockpit had a parachute, so she lands safely. But she's greeted by angry family and media. They find out she isn't even a certified 747 pilot. They ask, "Why didn't you eject the fuel? Why didn't you push the red button or turn the green dial? Why didn't you call to ask a certified pilot what to do?" She answers, "I gave the passenger all the options. It was her choice."

O'Conner is asking her clients to make choices someone with expert credentials should be making. Saying it was "her choice" is a sad cop-out with sad consequences.

Meredith Fane



Nina Shapiro's piece on Debra O'Conner was really disappointing ["Birth Rights and Wrongs," March 24]. While she quotes the statistic that the U.S. rates a very poor 28th in infant mortality, she doesn't seem to understand what that means to a woman contemplating where to give birth. It would not take long to compile a very long list of women who bitterly regret following hospi­tal protocol over their own instincts. There's a reason obstetricians in the U.S. pay over $150,000 a year in malpractice insu­rance. Birth is risky—not all babies survive birth, not all women survive childbirth. Women who want to opt out of the medical model of childbirth should have that option.

I have had four children; the first two were in "hospital hell": The first was a three-day induction followed by a 16-hour labor; the second, the epidural was botched. The third was a heavenly home birth attended by a midwife. The fourth I chose to have in the hospital because of an intuition; she was delivered by C-section. Whether it was necessary or another hospital overreaction based on their inability to get a clear reading from their monitor, I'll never know, and I don't care because I made a choice to be there.

Just as women have the right to choose whether or not to give birth, they have the right to choose where and how their babies are delivered, and they should have the guts to take responsibility for their choices.

Lauryn Christean


Militant Midwives

Thank you for Nina Shapiro's intelligent, well-researched article about the dangerous practices of midwives ["Birth Rights and Wrongs," March 24]. I acted as a birthing assistant to my best friend during her and her husband's at-home birth of their first child. She suffered 23 hours of difficult labor under the "care" of a single-minded, militant midwife. By the time their son was born, it was too late to save him. The excellent medics and doctors who were called and worked hard to resuscitate their son, whose lungs were filled with meconium, say there is no reason he should not be alive today.

Women who defend midwives remind me of spineless jellyfish who defend the antics of a bully because "he never hurt me." It's easy to like your midwife if your baby is alive; never mind the trail of infant corpses she and her kind have left behind. Their screwy ideology is so convenient: big, corporate, overpriced hospitals—bad; all-natural, at-home women's circle—good.

Midwives are a tight group who encourage putting their agenda before the safety of the mother and child. They are selfish, poorly informed militants who should be regulated in the same way doctors are. It is a crime the state allows these loons— operating under the guise of naturopathy, an easy sell to Seattleites—to serve a woman on the most important day of her child's life.

Wake up: There is a reason babies frequently die in less-developed countries, born under the care of the equivalent of this country's midwives. What kind of person would make the choice of putting the most crucial day of their child's life into the care of a partly trained, perhaps well-meaning, but incompetent nonprofessional? Take it from someone who felt a beautiful boy grow cold and still in her hands: It isn't worth it.

Ali Basye


A bad Example

Debra O'Conner's beliefs come across very clearly in Nina Shapiro's article: Entering a hospital is a big risk, women (or her clients) don't want what's offered there, and she offers choices they wouldn't otherwise have ["Birth Rights and Wrongs," March 24].

I have practiced and taught midwifery, attending births in homes and birth centers, for nearly 30 years in Seattle. I provide safe care, offering my clients choices and working collaboratively with physicians and hospital-based midwives when the care they provide is needed. The women who seek my care seem to share my belief that obstetric intervention is not bad but in our country is too often used inappropriately. They, like I, wish to avoid unnecessary interventions, but appreciate when they are needed to achieve a safe outcome.

There is a standard of care for out-of-hospital midwifery practice in Washington, and O'Conner does not exemplify it. In a tragic distortion of "informed choice," what she did in the case of Donna Cromie-Nguyen was lead the client to make a "choice" compatible with her own beliefs, and then blame the client when the outcome was bad.

Had O'Conner been judged by her peers (licensed midwives who attend out-of- hospital births in Washington), I suspect they would have reached the same conclusions as the Nursing Commission panel. I agree she raises legitimate issues about how midwifery practice is evaluated; it's just that she is a poor test case of these issues.

Suzy Myers

Faculty, Seattle Midwifery School

Should we have stood by and watched the horrors that occurred in Iraq, even though war would cost the lives of many Americans [Buzz, March 24]? Should we have removed a brutal dictator, who slaughtered hundreds of thousands? Should we have believed him that he would allow women rights of any kind, that he wouldn't use poison gas on his population, that he wouldn't repress his people? Sanctions only caused starvation, while Saddam lived richer than most kings.

Imagine if the world had stopped Hitler before World War II. The world didn't act in the late '30s or when the Holocaust began. The world didn't act when it should have many times, and we all carry the shame of that.

Rick Richards


I enjoyed Roger Downey's "Words on Wine" [Sips, March 17]. Beyond the baffling jargon, I've often wondered why wine tasting (at least among critics) must exist in a food-free vacuum. After all, outside the confines of the tasting room, wine rarely stands alone. And if a bottle of wine shows itself differently when paired with various foods, shouldn't we be evaluating a wine's virtue in relationship to its partner in dine? If we did, the big fruit-forward wines that taste great in solitary confinement might not bring down such dazzling numbers.

Not long ago, I took part in a food/wine pairing. We tasted the wines all by their lonesome, rated them, and then paired them with food and ranked them again. The rankings were completely turned on their head.

Anyway, it all goes to show: There's wine for thinking, and there's wine for drinking.

Carl R. Hanson


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