A woman who is simply going by the name Lisa is receiving an odd mixture of sympathy and harsh judgment after she opted for what is called “free birth” and her baby was stillborn. Free birth is having your baby outside of a hospital with no medical intervention. This means no midwife, no doula, and no doctor.
The Daily Beast says that after six days of hard, painful labor with only her husband and a”virtual” Facebook group, The Free Birth Society, in her remote desert home, Lisa gave birth to a stillborn Journey Moon. Lisa updated the group about her contractions, her intense pain, and her doubt over the six days, but the group encouraged her to keep going and that she must “trust the process.”
Lisa posted her last update to the private Free Birth Society group on October 8th.
“Journey Moon was born a sleeping angel on Oct. 7 at 8 lbs 13 oz. She passed due to a massive urinary tract infection I had … I’m laying in the hospital writing this and get to go home tomorrow. We will be having Journey cremated.”
Lisa received a lot of support from the group but also received unexpected backlash from those who doubted the wisdom of eschewing all medical assistance at a time when it is so readily available.
“Freebirthers” believe in a birth outside a hospital with no assistance or intervention. There are social media groups, blogs, and podcasts dedicated to the freebirther movement which support it as a lifestyle choice. The group initially started as a backlash against the c-section rate in the United States, saying that many women were having the surgical birth against their will. The movement is an outgrowth of the idea that the only way to have your rights and wishes upheld is to subtract any and all medical authority.
Dr. Bruce Young, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, says that the average American woman could expect a home birth to be uneventful approximately 80% of the time, but the other 20% involved complications which threaten the life of the mother, the baby, or both.
“If you define the adverse outcome as having a dead baby or a dead mom, then [the risk is] much less than 1 percent. But if you define it as having a cesarean birth, it’s 20 to 25 percent, so that’s the trade-off. I’d rather have a living baby and a cesarean birth than have a dead baby or be dead myself.”
In retrospect, even someone with the slightest amount of medical experience would have known that Lisa and Journey Moon were both in terrible trouble after she had been in hard labor for three days and her water still hadn’t broken. After the sixth day when the baby was stillborn, Lisa documented her experience in writing, and shared it with the members of the group, thanking them for their support.
But within the Facebook group were several people who had infiltrated it under false names and false pretenses, and they were harsh with their criticism after the death of Journey Moon, largely blaming the founder of the freebirthers group, sharing memes in which she was called a “baby killer.”
Lisa explained to The Daily Beast that instead of mourning her daughter she spent the time after the stillbirth defending herself.
“What should have been a time of grieving and mourning alone with my family was now a time of defending myself from evil people and their horrible words. I could spend hours defending myself and family, but I feel like these are people who will never admit to being wrong. They will always fight you even dirtier than before.”
The stillbirth of Journey Moon is not the end of the free birth debate, but perhaps a new beginning, as both sides seem to have further dug in their heels, taking the fight to the mainstream media.