Hurt by a homebirth

In memory

“When most families plan for a home birth, they don’t also plan for a funeral. I certainly didn’t. But that is how my home-birth story ended.”

It’s about time. The mainstream media has finally learned that homebirth can lead to preventable neonatal death.

Danielle Friedman, writing for The Daily Beast, explains:

While most home birthers rave, even evangelize, about their choice, for a small percentage, the fantasy becomes a nightmare. Beyond the statistics, these women’s stories often go untold. They’re not publicized by home-birth advocates …

Of the four stories told in the article, three are from women who have posted on this blog or on Homebirth Debate, Bambi, Liz and Erin Newman Long. All three were healthy and had uncomplicated pregnancies. All three experienced complications that required emergency C-section or expert neonatal resuscitation. And all three lost their babies.

Bambi writes:

I became a hardcore home-birth advocate. You couldn’t argue with me, because as far as I was concerned, I was more educated than you were. When I became pregnant again a few years later, I planned for another home birth.

In June 2008, more than three weeks before my due date, I went into labor. I kept my midwife (a certified professional midwife) in the loop about my progress via the phone. In the wee hours of the morning, we let her know that my contractions had picked up and were getting closer together. But she didn’t immediately come over…

… More than an hour later [after the baby’s birth], she arrived, and said [our daughter] was in perfect health—despite bluish/purple spots on her face, jaundice, an odd sound when she breathed, floppiness, and no rooting reflex. She brushed these symptoms off as the result of my long labor.

Later that morning, I passed Mary to my husband so I could rest. This was the last time I held her alive. An hour later, he woke me because she had stopped breathing. Our new baby girl was lifeless. We performed CPR, while paramedics rushed us to the nearest hospital, less than five miles away, where doctors and nurses tried in vain to resuscitate her.

After taking her handprints, footprints, and a lock of hair, we named her and baptized her. We then took turns being questioned by the police. Shortly after, we left the hospital carrying a brown paper bag with our child’s belongings.

Liz lost her daughter Aquila:

My daughter Aquila was born on my living-room couch last December. She was perfectly formed—eight pounds even, with a head full of dark hair. Tragically, she died minutes before her birth. She had developed an infection called Chorioamnionitis from prolonged rupture of membranes, and during labor, my placenta peeled away from my womb, depriving her of oxygen…

After Aquila’s death, I tried to seek justice for her. Yet no lawyer will take a case against a CPM, because these midwives don’t carry malpractice insurance. There is only one entity for complaints against CPMs in Texas, where I live: the Texas Midwifery Board. While it cited gross negligence, this group merely slapped her hand, as many of its members are friendly with her. My midwife went on to argue the ruling, and it’s still being processed. Meanwhile, future clients of this midwife are potentially at risk.

Erin Newman-Long (Birdie’s Mama) lost her daughter, too.

Visions of giving birth danced merrily within my head, many times a day. I was euphoric to think that, like the millions of women who had given birth in caves, forests, and at home, I, too, could be that primal, natural mama. I was certain that my birth would be ecstatic and perfect as nature intends all birth to be.

Labor day came, and somewhere near the 27th hour of a very “normal” labor, my baby’s heart rate became dangerously low. She was clearly in distress, and there I was AT HOME. Everything around me became a mass of slow motion, and I became silent. Getting out of the damn house seemed to take an eternity, to RUSH me to a place that might be able to SAVE MY BABY…

When we arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night, the door was LOCKED, with nobody waiting to ZOOOOOOOM my giant, laboring body to the hospital’s birth center. Eventually a nurse let us in, and quickly gave a room…

Nurses prepped me for an emergency C-section, and when the doctor arrived, she got my baby out of me in three minutes. But my daughter wasn’t breathing. The pediatrician and nurses tried in vain to bring her to. I later learned that the pediatrician had said, with tears streaming from his eyes, that she looked like she would start to breathe at any moment, that she was still so pink.

All three women expected to have an uncomplicated birth. None ignored warning signs or took unusual risks. All experience complications that were entirely unforseeable and could only be treated by surgery or expert resuscitation. And all three lost babies to complications that could have been promptly and easily treated in a hospital.

Erin Newman-Long sums it up eloquently:

Families who have lost a baby perhaps because of choosing to have a home birth are hidden away, aside from the few (like myself) who have blogged about what happened. My hope is that people who are considering a home birth know the risks of this choice.