Why do homebirth advocates tolerate emotional abuse from their midwives?

erasing abuse, hand written word on blackboard being erased concept

The stories, tragic as they are, begin to run together in my mind.

I’m not talking about the part where the baby dies an easily preventable death (nearly all homebirth deaths are preventable) … and according to the most accurate data available, homebirth increases the risk of perinatal death 9-fold or more.

Unprofessional, abusive behavior from a homebirth midwife during labor? Ditch her and head to the hospital.

And I’m not talking about the part where the homebirth midwife is utterly clueless that, although the labor is progressing, the baby has been dead for hours. Most American homebirth midwives have no clue what is going on during labor; they “trust” birth and usually nothing bad happens.

No, the most striking aspect to their sameness is how many involve the abuse of women at the hands of their homebirth midwives.

Midwife Cindy Morrow, CPM is currently in the spotlight for recent disasters. What’s most remarkable is how contemptuously she treated her patients.

In one case, the baby’s parents are seeking #JusticeforAsa.

You can read the entire story of Asa’s tragic — and totally preventable — death here.

Asa’s mother’s labor began on Wednesday evening.

On Thursday evening:

Later in the evening, I lost my mucus plug and had bloody show. We told Cindy to come on to the home and I have messages showing that we were expecting for our midwife to be coming around 9:45 pm … [A]bout three and half hours from that timing. Midwife had not arrived … Gabe called Cindy, letting her know my contractions were tough and she could hear me in the background. Cindy said, “Oh! It sounds like it may be go time.” …

Friday morning:

5:50 am I was going through tough contractions and my water broke. The water was tinged green. We told Cindy, she came in the room twenty minutes later. She wanted to get ready before coming in to check on me. Said everything was fine and she went back to bed for a bit because she was extremely tired. Cindy and the assistant Zoe, left to go have breakfast, somewhere.

Friday evening:

… The doula said she thought I must be progressing but she wished Cindy would’ve been there to actually take care of me and to be checking on me… Gabe then called the midwife and said she needed to be at the house. She came back around about 1.5 hours … That evening, Cindy was telling me that I was about 8 cm dilated and that probably by morning I should be pushing…

Cindy and Zoe then both left again to stay at THE HOTEL (my emphasis).

Saturday afternoon (approximately 60 hours after labor had begun):

Midwife and her assistant went outside and started talking. Gabe came outside and they immediately stopped talking and seemed bothered that he interrupted. They told him to go rest and that they were going to try and help me progress. They asked him to leave the room, three separate times… They were not letting Gabe come into the room and would not answer when he asked about my blood pressure and baby’s heartbeat…

Later:

During all that time, nothing is progressing and so Cindy came into our room to speak with us… She said that she thought we ought to head to the hospital to maybe get an epidural to help me better progress … She always kept telling me…. “This isn’t an emergency. Everything is fine.” She wanted me to travel to a hospital that was 2.5 hours away, in ATL traffic. The key to this hospital is that this is where Dr. Bootstaylor is. The doctor who is for midwives and home births…

Asa’s father insisted on a closer hospital:

On the way to the hospital, Cindy told us this exactly,” When we get to the hospital, I am going to tell the front desk I had called ahead to let them know we were coming. But I’m not actually going to call.”

And:

According to Cindy’s notes, which I have, Asa had a heartbeat of 120, an hour before we arrived to the hospital. We arrived around 8:45 pm.

But Asa had already been dead for many hours.

Asa had passed for over 15-24 hrs inside of me. She began deteriorating inside of me which led to a large infection. Her skin peeled completely off at the touch.

Asa’s parents will have to live with their grief for the rest of their lives.

Why did they tolerate such contemptuous treatment from the homebirth midwife? Why did it take them literally days to finally head to the hospital?

Homebirth midwives emotionally groom their patients and one of the keys to emotional grooming is isolation. They ensure emotional isolation of their clients by promoting distrust of real medical professionals and advising them to ignore friends and relatives.

When things start to go wrong — and Asa’s parents were suspicious things were going wrong DAYS before they went to the hospital — fear of opprobrium from medical professionals, relatives and friends, is enough to keep them from heading to the hospital until it’s too late.

Thinking about homebirth?

Think about protecting yourself from emotional grooming. Ditch any provider who speaks disparagingly of other medical professionals. Don’t let the midwife separate you from family and friends. Most importantly, if you experience unprofessional and abusive behavior from the midwife during labor, ignore her and head to the hospital.

Yes, you might have to deal with medical professionals who think your choices were irresponsible, but you can console yourself with your live baby … instead of keeping your pride intact while you bury your dead one.

  • Anion

    And the irony is, lots of women who go with homebirth midwives say they do so because “doctors are so uncaring, they just give you a few minutes every hour or so during labor and then show up to take all the credit,” or “midwives give you real attention,” or “doctors just want to get your baby out so they can get to the golf course.”

    Yet time and time again we see these stories of Homebirth midwives who act like laboring women are just annoyances, and don’t want to do even the basically-useless things they are actually able to do.

  • Anj Fabian

    The Debbie Disch story (baby born nearly flat, severe maternal PPH) story has similar elements. At one point she tried to send EVERYONE home but the couple but the relatives refused to leave. Good thing too because they were the ones pressuring Disch to call an ambulance.

    • RudyTooty

      I apprenticed under a CPM years ago – and it was extremely confusing to me how she would accept VERY GREEN assistants and “student” midwives into her practice. I’ll even admit that when I started, I was one of those.

      Looking back – I can see how that CPM would want an extra set of hands at births- but not someone with enough knowledge to question her reckless behavior and lack of judgement.

      So the greener the better.

      Homebirth midwifery is about indoctrination, not education or skill.

      • Mel

        The first school I worked at was an alternative education program in an urban district. The staff had about 5 teachers who had previous experience teaching within the adult education programs of the district (which a completely different program) and everyone else in the program was first-time teachers.

        I didn’t think much about it – and if I did – well, alternative education programs in poor districts are hard to staff so I’d have assumed that first-year teachers made up the entire applicant pool.

        Still don’t know about that talent pool – but the principal was using the complete lack of experience of all staff members in traditionally funded education to run a multi-million dollar fraud.

        So….yeah. I know look askance at anywhere that is willing to run with one knowledgeable person and a lot of inexperienced followers….

    • ozlsn

      I just went and looked her up. What a debacle. I’m glad there is a warrant out for her arrest, and it will be interesting to see if the charges from Arkansas are pursued as well.

  • MaineJen

    Cindy knew that baby was dead for HOURS and she didn’t tell them.

    No words for this evil.

  • rational thinker

    The worst part is Cindy will probably get away with this. One question about the back up doctor. If there is a back up doctor for a midwife doesnt the midwife have to be an actual CNM for a doc to back them up not a CPM?

    • Mattie

      I don’t think it was a proper ‘back up doctor’ just a doctor sympathetic to ‘the cause’ of NCB/Homebirth midwifery. A back up doctor 2.5 hours away is not sensible or reasonable.

    • RudyTooty

      Have any illegal midwives in Georgia been held accountable – ever?

      I thought a NARM employee was ‘investigated’ in Georgia after the GateHouse story last year. Anything happen with that?

      https://www.onlineathens.com/news/20181222/top-narm-official-under-state-scrutiny

  • no longer drinking the koolaid

    Callous?

    Luckily this midwife is no longer a midwife.

    When a mom called to talk about what could have been done differently during the labor where her baby died, the midwife stuck to her story that nothing could have been done differently.
    Not getting any satisfaction, mom mentioned that the dad wanted to sue.
    Midwife’s response, “Well, I hope he knows that the going price for a dead baby is $60,000.”

    I was standing in the room when she said it, and it’s verbatim.

    • Anj Fabian

      It’s so painful when the parents are asking the midwife to help them understand what happened and the midwife’s response is some flavor of “There’s nothing to understand.”.

      They don’t care about the parents’ grief or needs, they just stonewall. Families carry the pain for the rest of their lives, midwives walk away.

      • RudyTooty

        The midwife:
        “Sometimes babies die.”
        “I told you that.”
        “You knew the risks going into this, and I was just providing you the experience you said you wanted.”

    • Ozlsn

      Holy crap. Really? That is.. I actually cannot think of the word, horrific is not quite strong enough.

      I hope they sued the hell out of them, and were awarded costs too.

    • RudyTooty

      Which midwife are you referring to here? Cindy Morrow? Or a different midwife?

      • no longer drinking the koolaid

        A former midwife in Michigan

  • Emilie Bishop

    And the part where she’s scamming families to feed her addiction to Ambien…smh. Real professional, Cindy. Ugh.

    • no longer drinking the koolaid

      Isn’t that a felony?
      Wonder if anyone reported her to law enforcement for that?

      • Emilie Bishop

        I would hope so. That element feels like a new low even for this crowd. I hope somehow she gets in trouble for it.

  • rational thinker

    What a disgusting piece of human garbage
    Cindy Morrow is. This woman lost a child and now may not be able to have anymore. Cindy should be thrown into a giant crock pot and locked in there for a few days cause that is exactly what she did to that baby.

    • mabelcruet

      I once got embroiled in a medicolegal case of a stillborn baby. It was from a standalone midwife led unit staffed by UK midwives (who are all professionally credentialled). The question was ‘how long before delivery did the baby die?’ I think the midwife had been picking up mums heart rate, not baby’s, because the pathological evidence that the baby had died at least 12 hours prior to delivery was fairly barn door obvious. The tissues go through a generally predictable series of changes over time, both grossly (naked eye), and microscopically. The hospital which had nominal supervision for the unit absolutely would not accept this, their insistence was that this was most likely an intrapartum stillbirth with accelerated changes because of maternal pyrexia due to intra-amniotic infection. Yes, pyrexia can accelerate the changes, but wouldn’t cause 12 hours worth of damage in a few minutes, like they were suggesting. And actually their line of defence made it even worse because they’d inadvertently admitted not diagnosing or treating intrauterine infection during labour. It was a thoroughly foolish and meaningless defence, and whilst I am a very proud NHS member of staff, I thought it was horrible that it took litigation for the parents to get answers. Luckily they had insisted on an autopsy, but one of the issues with some of our maternity units is that we have a very limited number of pathologists and there may be no one available in the region to do the PM, in which case you’re relying solely on clinical evidence.

      • Anna

        The skills of midwives using hand held dopplers really aren’t good enough for anyone to be claiming intermittent listening is good enough monitoring – especially for higher risk births. The amount of baby deaths where a midwife has heard a fetal heart when autopsy shows there couldn’t possibly have been one is frightening!

      • rational thinker

        Yes I would agree it was moms heart rate and sadly I hear this happens a lot with midwives but mostly the home birth lay midwives. Isn’t a baby’s heart rate suppose to be different than an adult or much faster? How easy is it to confuse the two?

        • nata

          If the mother’s heartbeat was high due to infection it could go up to 120 ish BPM, this is similar to baby’s – fetal range is 110-160. So it’s easy to confuse especially if maternal observations not done.

          • Azuran

            And yet it seems to me this should be something that is widely known and is very easy to work around
            If you know there is an overlap in possible heartbeat, then if you have a measure in this overlap you should instantly know to check the mom’s rate to compare or keep looking to isolate both heart rates.

      • nata

        If the woman had signs of infection, wouldn’t they transfer for antibiotics and ctg?

        • mabelcruet

          That’s the way it’s supposed to happen. So either they hadn’t recognised infection and that caused accelerated maceration after death, or they hadn’t recognised that the baby had died in utero and were picking up mum’s heart rate. In any event, infection would not accelerate maceration to the extent they were trying to claim it did (there were significant cellular changes, it was at least 12 hours the baby had been dead before delivery, infection wouldn’t do that), and there was no significant infection identified at autopsy anyway, no maternal or fetal inflammatory responses at all so their infection theory wasn’t correct (their argument was that the infection might have happened too quickly to allow a response to become established, which is nonsense too. There is a difference between clinical and histological chorioamnionitis, but histological chorioamnionitis is far more sensitive and is visible before maternal symptoms present, so even if she had been developing a pathological infection but hadn’t yet become pyrexial, there should have been inflammation microscopically and there wasn’t).