As the leaders convene in Copenhagen to dice out our future, a homebirth midwife in southern Mexico convenes under the rain- (it never rains in December) to ponder the carbon footprint of her life. Recently someone close to me decided to birth in the hospital and digesting that along with watching the daily updates on the Climate Summit in Copenhagen, I decided to ponder why homebirth is more environmentally sound.
To begin with you go to the hospital IN A CAR. Now, that for starters is a massive carbon footprint. What if you get stuck in traffic? The Carbon footprint of just driving to the hospital is immense.
Next you check in to the hospital, they look for your chart, take you, probably in a wheel chair to a room made of plastics. Plastics? Yup, all kinds that are washed down with very toxic antibiotic chemicals. Then you take off your clothes and put on a robe. A robe made in a factory. More carbon. Then someone will come in and check all your vital signs using more tools and toys made in a factory. Then someone will come and check your dilation. Using a plastic, disposable glove that will go to a landfill and sit there for about 100 years before it disintegrates, maybe. And the plastic glove was made with rubber in a factory in Indonesia and imported, using a boat or a plane to somewhere else where it was distributed by a truck to somewhere else before it finally made it to the hospital. If you are at a teaching hospital 2 or 3 more people will also check your dilation. More rubber gloves in the trash.
Then they will probably set you up with an IV. This means using a rubber (again, from Indonesia) tourniquet, rubber tubing, using rubber gloves, rubber, rubber, rubber. The needles are made of stainless steel that was extracted from the earth somewhere where people are probably lacking food and drinkable water. They will probably set you up to the fetal monitor which is a machine created in China with all kinds of copper and stainless steel tubing and parts, imported from the US and Europe, reassembled into a doppler type machine that is strapped to your body. That strap was probably made in the Phillippeans and taken to China to attach itself to the fetal monitor which was then imported to the US, again like the gloves. More Carbon.
If you are wise at this point you will call your Doula, who will get in her car and drive across the city to meet you at the hospital. Again, she may also get stuck in traffic. In her Birth Bag she will probably carry homeopathic medications made in California (you are in New York), herbs harvested in Colorado, tinctured in New Jersey and purchased in Virginia. She probably carries Ayurvedic Massage Oil imported all the way from India.
The the ritual continues- dilation checks with more rubber gloves every two hours, opinions, consultations, more gloves, more machines, more technology imported from China. By the way, if it is December the entire hospital will need to be heated. Oil from....??? Venezuela (right)
Eventually someone will suggest a series of medications: Epidural made from coca from Bolivia, Pitocin extracted from cows in New Zealand, Prostaglandin gel made from some bizarre sea urchin in the North Sea and antibiotics extracted from the Amazon Rain Forest (hey, you are in a Hospital, who knows what infections you might get!).
If you are lucky enough to push your baby out vaginally, then a Pediatrician will drive (more driving, more traffic) to the hospital to check your baby out. If you end up in a Cesarean like most women (don't kid yourself, despite your birth plan, you aren't that special to the HMO), that involves ridiculous amounts of rubber, stainless steel, vicryl (a plastic used to sew your guts back together), all sterilized with bleach which is then dumped into the sewage which goes into the water systems and bleaches bacteria from our soils.
After all at that your in laws and parents will drive (yet again) to the hospital and eventually you too will drive home. Only to drive to the hospital in a weeks time for your stitches to be removed, baby to be weighed and all those other postpartum rituals.
So think about it, you may eat locally grown produce and bike to your Yoga Class, but your hospital birth may be worth considering. Consider homebirth, for more reasons than you ever thought!