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Comments: Week of April 6, 2009

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1. It would have made sense if Andrew Goldman’s story about midwife Cara Muhlhahn (Extreme Birth,” March 30) and her strong advocacy of home birth as the optimal method had touched off World War III in the blogosphere. After all, it’s a very personal and emotional subject. But the ensuing debate, while certainly intense, was notable mainly for its civility and empathy for people with different views. “I respect the women who believe that their bodies know how to give birth,” wrote a commenter on nymag.com. “But the truth is that women have died in childbirth in scary numbers throughout history. There’s no way to know if you’re one of the lucky ones who gives birth easily until you do it.” On Salon.com’s Broadsheet, Rebecca Traister argued similarly for women to make the decision that’s right for them in the face of the competing orthodoxies: “I have met babies born at home and in hospitals and through vaginas and through surgery, and I call total bullshit on the idea that there is any one path you can take, or any song you can play as your child is being pushed into the world, that can determine who that child is going to turn out to be. Make the choices that work best for your family, for your body, for your budget, and for your sense of well-being. But don’t buy into the idea that those choices become your earliest parenting gold stars, or your scarlet letters of birthing shame.” Two women who gave birth with Muhlhahn’s aid offered positive testimonial. “I had a home birth with Cara in 2008,” wrote one. “It was an intense experience. Extreme? Maybe, but only because every birth is: an extreme end of a pregnancy. I didn’t feel like I was in the hands of some crunchy hippie who is winging it. I felt that I was cared for by a competent medical professional who also happened to be very available emotionally, who was thoughtful and loving. Throughout the course of my labor, Cara kept checking in with me and my husband, including us in any decisions.” The other supportive Muhlhahn client told a slightly different tale, of how Muhlhahn ended up taking them to the hospital: “I had my first child with Cara in 2003. After a totally normal pregnancy, there were complications during early labor, and she made the call to transfer to St. Vincent’s. Unlike the image depicted in the article of Cara peeling away from the hospital after ‘dumping’ her clients, we drove to the hospital in a nonemergency state, and Cara worked alongside the staff there. I am pregnant again and back with Cara. Although I am grateful that my birth ended well, I don’t want to birth in a hospital again. Hopefully I’ll have a smooth labor this time, and I know Cara will do whatever she can to make that happen. However, and this is equally important, she is the person I trust completely to make the medical decision to transfer when and if things take a turn.”


2. Maybe the reason that readers didn’t get all that upset about “Extreme Birth” is that they were saving it up for AIG. In her Daily Intel post “Busload of Crazies to Tour Homes of AIG Executives This Weekend” (March 20), Jessica Pressler dared to suggest that the Connecticut Working Families outing was perhaps taking things too far, and commenters did not concur. We’ll give a mere taste of the bitterness: “I want them to really feel like the animals trapped in the zoo. It may be a ridiculously expensive and lavish zoo, but I want them to really feel the animal aspect of this all.”

3. Such is the distrustful mood these days that even the bearish banking analyst turned entrepreneur profiled by Sheelah Kolhatkar (“In Meredith Whitney We Trust,” March 30) got clobbered in the nymag.com comments section. “She is a puppet. A lot of people had the same call. She got more press because she is a woman.” Another reader even made a far-fetched comparison to Bernie Madoff. All of which incensed an acquaintance of Whitney, who wrote, “I went to high school with Meredith. She has never been nor will she ever be anyone’s puppet. All you Wall Street cats are just afraid of the truth.”

Please send e-mails to: comments@nymag.com


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