The CNN headline has now been changed, but it originally asked if mother Aneka of Maryland was a "hero or a danger?" for defying doctor's orders and refusing to go in for a scheduled c-section after what she now realizes were three unnecessary previous c-sections, and choosing instead to birth with a midwife in her home.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists announced earlier this year that they would support vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC), even after multiple c-sections, because they were significantly safer for the mother, yet Aneka is under fire for risking her child's life.
But wait, isn't that hypocritical?
The idea of "once a c-section, always a c-section" is almost a century old -- seriously, that idea started in 1916. For 30 years now, we've known that women should be offered a trial of labor, meaning letting a woman try normal birth and labor before deciding if she needs a repeat c-section, yet so many doctors and moms don't ever consider that. It's "I WILL have a repeat cesarean" or "I WILL have a VBAC."
The reason that really happens is because we've stopped even considering the trial of labor at all, so women have to work really, really hard for that vaginal birth. If something does go wrong and they do end up needing a repeat cesarean, they're told that they shouldn't have tried in the first place, they risked their baby's life and their own, and "I told you so."
There are situations where a trial of labor of VBAC is not a good idea, but require intense discussion with the doctor and often tests performed to look at issues considered, not just one doctor's opinion.
These are things that Aneka learned, over halfway through her pregnancy. She saw Ricki Lake's The Business of Being Born documentary that really questions birth in the United States, and it raised some questions in her mind. The more she researched, the more upset she got that her doctor refused to even consider the idea of a VBAC. Even then, it's not like she just suddenly said, "Homebirth! Whoo hoo!" She tried three other hospitals, called around, and was told, "No, no, no, absolutely not!"
Despite all the facts out there that VBACs in most women are way, WAY safer than a repeat c-section, and even that they could just let her do a "trial of labor" first, everyone just flat out told her no and told her she had no choice but to schedule her surgery. The only place she found that would even let her try was over an hour and a half away, which she decided was just too far to be considered.
She got in contact with her local International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) leader and got a lot of information from her, including the name of a midwife who would do a VBAC with her in her own home.
Her VBAC was an amazing, emotional, healing success, and yet she's still being called a poor example. A spokesperson for the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says not to look at Aneka's story and come to conclusions because she took a great risk ... and yet their own release earlier this year discussed how much safer VBACs actually are.
Aneka wasn't a "hero" or a "danger." She was a mom trying to figure out what was safest for her and her baby, according to all the science out there, without the intricacies of business and malpractice suits getting involved in her birth.
Does this mean everyone should do a VBAC in their home? Of course not. But when we know that VBACs are safer than c-sections, when we know that c-sections are incredibly dangerous to both mom and baby, and we know that we do way too many c-sections in this country, doesn't it make a LITTLE sense to question why so many women are told they need a c-section when they haven't even been able to see if a vaginal birth is possible?
If doctors really don't want women doing what Aneka did, maybe one of those four hospitals she called in the first place should have actually followed the recommendations of the ACOG and allowed her to try. You can't villainize a person who you've backed into a corner.
Do you think Aneka made the right choice?
Image via CNN