Michelle Duggar, with an unidentified midwife, assisted her daughter, Jessa, in a homebirth that went terribly wrong and resulted in a hospital transfer. Also assisting at the birth were Jessa’s sisters, Jana and Jinger, her mother-in-law, Guinn Seewald, and her husband, Ben Seewald.
With that many people in a small bedroom with a full TLC camera crew filming the birth, it’s difficult to imagine that the birthing room was the quaint, relaxing setting women anticipate for a home birth experience. In a video report posted by People magazine, Jessa admitted that she had not fully prepared for childbirth.
“It was very intense, very long. Everything was different than I expected.”
The first-time mother begged her caregivers to transfer her to a hospital after a painful 10-hour-labor.
“I said, ‘That’s it! I’m done! I am going to the hospital and I’m going to get an epidural.'”
But she wasn’t taken to a hospital at that time, according to a candid account Jessa gave to People magazine. At that point, her uterus was not fully dilated and the difficulty of her labor increased. Mother Michelle Duggar, who gave birth to 17 of her 19 children at a hospital and had severe complications several times, did not intervene to transport her daughter or to acquire more professional assistance.
Pictures now emerging of the happy couple and their newborn belie the danger that mother and child were in during the birth. Painful labor continued for another 37 hours before the water broke. (It has not been revealed whether that was induced or natural.) The large baby boy was delivered one hour later, at 6:24 p.m. on November 5, weighing 9 lbs. 11oz. He was 21-and-one-fourth inches long and appeared to be healthy.
But Jessa was in distress with uncontrollable bleeding. At that point, Ben could no longer handle being in the birthing room and was photographed carrying the baby around in a bloody towel. With so many people there to help, there appeared to be more interest in photographing the baby than in cleaning him and keeping him warm.
At this point, Michelle Duggar placed a call to the 911 emergency operator.
“Mother is bleeding after birth… We need her to be checked out… There was quite a bit of blood… The placenta is passed… The uterus is hard now… They are massaging the uterus… She’s better now, just a lot of blood…”
A fire truck and an ambulance were dispatched and Jessa was rushed to the hospital, where she spent at least one night. Her husband Ben and the baby joined her there later that evening. Due to severe blood loss, she required at least one transfusion.
A prominent obstetrician, Dr. Amy Tuteur, gave her take on the home birth in an article published on November 8, before the new details were released. She proved to be spot on with her analysis of what happened on the night of November 5.
“Ironically, Jessa gave birth at home almost certainly so she could spend the first hour skin to skin and breastfeeding her newborn. Instead, she probably wasn’t even in the same zip code.”
“It’s hard not to feel sorry for Jessa. She was probably contractually bound to news outlets to provide pictures of the baby, but she wasn’t there to be in them. She was probably contractually bound to provide a family photo as soon as possible so her husband brought the baby to the hospital and it appears that they hung a sheet behind her hospital bed; she was probably sitting in the bed (too weak to stand?) and husband was standing beside her.”
“She’s given birth, she’s suffered a serious complication and she’s required to be on display in order to earn money. So much for the intimacy of home birth.”
Dr. Tuteur also said that without modern obstetrics, both of Michelle Duggar’s daughters who gave birth this year would probably have died.
The birth of the Seewald baby is the eleventh birth in the Duggar family, which was filmed by TLC for television viewing. On-camera childbirth is a lucrative endeavor for Michelle Duggar, her daughter-in-law and in 2015, her daughters Jill and Jessa. Many in the family have also benefited from selling their stories and photographs in magazines.
Beyond the hype and commercialism of Duggar women giving birth, home birthing is a dangerous trend. In a report from the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, the rate of infant death in a hospital instead of at home is reduced by 75 percent “and by 85 percent if the woman is having her first baby. These are babies who could be saved if they were delivered in a hospital.”
Perhaps Michelle Duggar, the mother of nine daughters, will reconsider the birthing advice she presently gives to her daughters. Both Jill and Jessa Duggar had botched home births and both had to be transported to a hospital. Fortunately, they both made it in time. There is no guarantee that that will always be their good fortune.
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[Image via John Bunch/TLC]