Oops! Save the Children illustrates US neonatal death by using a CPM attended homebirth

Angela Rodman

Save the Children has issued a report on the State of the World’s Mother’ 2013, entitled Surviving the First Day. This report concentrates on death on the day of birth.

Unfortunately, the analysis of developed countries used deeply flawed data to reach an erroneous conclusion about the first day death rate in the US. What shocked me most, however, is that to illustrate first day death in the US, the organization (?unwittingly) used a photo that I recognized as a CPM attended homebirth death that was almost certainly preventable.

In other words, the face of first day death in the US is preventable death at homebirth.

Why did Charlotte die shortly after birth? Her mother, Angela Rodman, tells the story on her blog.

Charlotte was born at the Bella Vie Birth Center, owned by Desiree LeFave, CPM. It’s not an accredited birth center. Indeed that appellation “birth center” is a misnomer. It is homebirth at a rented house.

In the typically clueless way of American homebirth midwives, Charlotte, unexpectedly dropped nearly dead into the midwives’ hands. And, unbeknownst to the midwives, Charlotte was suffering from intrauterine growth restriction.

When they placed her in my arms, this bloody tiny bundle they kept calling my baby, I knew something was wrong. I felt, with that bone deep Mama knowledge only mothers posses, that my baby was not long for this earth. I could feel her soul struggling to depart even as I held her close for those few precious seconds.

Then my primary midwife took her from me, I heard someone say I need resuscitation now and everything went crazy…

I sat on the birthing stool, rubbed her foot and talked to her. She opened her eyes and looked at me. Jonathan moved next to me and started talking to her. She opened her eyes and looked at him. There was blood being pulled out of her stomach. They were trying to resuscitate her. Everything was very chaotic…

A midwife I had never met was crouched next to me, rubbing my leg, checking my bleeding, and I asked her over and over: “Will she be okay? She’s too small. Is she too small? Will she be okay? What’s wrong?” She rubbed my leg and told me they were doing everything they could.

I was losing a lot of blood. I watched the blood spill onto the floor and roll underneath the board Charlotte was laying on. I don’t do well with the sight of blood; I thought I was going to faint. I kept thinking I should point out the blood loss, but I couldn’t form my thoughts into words.

Someone said, “Hey, where is that blood from?” and Jonathan said, “She needs Pitocin, give her a shot of Pitocin!” I had a midwife crouched on either side of me and I received two shots of Pitocin in each thigh.

… Charlotte struggled to breathe. Her color was terrible, grey and pale. It was obvious her connection to me was helping her stay alive and allowing her to be resuscitated.

Charlotte was transferred by helicopter to the NICU at Salem Hospital. Unfortunately, they could not save her life.

Charlotte’s mother had difficulty getting to her daughter’s side. Because of her hemorrhage, she could barely stand, but eventually, she made it to the hospital.

I don’t remember when a nurse came in with the baby, but I remember her being placed in my arms. I was absolutely freaked out by her weight, the blood around her mouth and nose, the tube that was still in her mouth. I didn’t understand why she had tubes in her when she was dead.

When I next looked up everyone was gone, it was only Jonathan, Charlotte and me. We sat in those awful plastic chairs, he wrapped his arms around us and for a moment we were three, just like we had planned.

Fortunately, for her next pregnancy Angela Rodman was followed by an obstetrician, delivered in a hospital and has a healthy baby to show for it.

Why did Charlotte die? Obviously no one can know for sure, but it couldn’t have helped that Charlotte’s mother gave birth at home (not a real birth center), that her midwives, self-proclaimed “experts in normal birth” didn’t pick up on Charlotte’s probable distress during labor and were incapable of performing the expert resuscitation that may have saved Charlotte’s life. They were in such a panic that they didn’t even notice that Angela was hemorrhaging on the floor.

And now, in a report that will be widely read and make its way around the world, the face of neonatal death in the US is a CPM attended homebirth.