Is dolphin-assisted birth awesome or crazy?

Jun 3, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET

A North Carolina couple has departed for Hawaii to spend time swimming with dolphins. They are also planning to swim with dolphins during her labor and delivery, but their plans have been denounced across the globe. Is this a cool idea, or are they taking a huge risk?

Dolphin assisted birth

Adam and Heather Barrington, expecting their first baby, have traveled from their home in North Carolina to Hawaii in hopes of having a dolphin-assisted birth at the Sirius Institute. Their decision has sparked controversy as parents and experts have deemed their plans completely crazy and dangerous. Does the idea appeal to you, or do you think they are out of their minds?

Birth and wild animals don’t mix

Swimming with dolphins is a popular pastime, and the Sirius Institute, located in Hawaii, claims that it gets several requests a week for what they are terming dolphin-assisted birth, which pairs water birth with swimming with dolphins. The couple hopes to bond with the dolphins both before and after the birth of their baby. “It is about reconnecting as humans with the dolphins so we can coexist in this world together and learn from one another,” Heather told the Charlotte Observer.

It sounds lovely, peaceful and relaxing, but most feel that giving birth around dolphins is a really terrible idea. “This is definitely not a risk I would be willing to take,” said Stacy, mother of two. “Dolphins can be aggressive, particularly to newborn babies of their own kind. Why would you put yourselves and your brand new baby in that kind of danger?”

Kelly, mom of two, felt the same. “I think a water birth would suffice just fine,” she said. “They are in fact a wild animal. I wouldn't risk it. Ever.”

Marginalizes natural birth

Another aspect of this story is the fact that it serves to lump other natural birthing practices, such as home birth and water birth, into the same category — strange or dangerous. “I think arguments like this make really important labor issues and birth choices look silly and trite, and potentially threatens having the real issues get lost because some hippies think dolphins are so ‘far out’ and want to get in touch with nature,” Kay, mom of one, told us.

Memorable birth story?

The only somewhat positive comment we found was from Danielle, mom of two, but overall she didn't feel that a cool story was worth the risk. “I support some natural things in life, but not this one,” she explained. “It just seems like a bad idea. On the other hand, I guess it's an interesting birth story for the kid?”

Dolphins are beautiful and inspiring, but experts agree that having a baby in an ocean surrounded by dolphins is probably not the best way to write up a birth plan. Locals to the area (Pohoa, Hawaii) have commented that there really is no ideal place to access dolphins in the ocean, and the trek to find them could be dangerous itself. The couple has an alternate plan if they don’t birth in the ocean with the dolphins, and moms and dads around the world are hoping that this is what ultimately happens.

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