Homebirth advocates ignore baby, rally for midwife

Another day, another homebirth tragedy:

… [A] newborn was born in an east Charlotte home and rushed to the hospital.

Family members of the 24-year-old mother said the baby was still in the hospital Wednesday night and was not doing well.

The birth was attended by a homebirth midwife, also known as a certified professional midwife (CPM). Certified Professional Midwives are grossly undereducated, grossly undertrained and are not eligible for licensure in ANY other first world country. They lack a college education, and sport only a post high school certificate awarded by other CPMs.

You might think that this would be an opportunity for soul searching in the North Carolina homebirth community, but you’d be wrong. The North Carolina Friends of Midwives and the Charlotte chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) view this as an oppportunity to promote the interests of CPMs. No one knows whether the baby will live or die, but homebirth advocates have already “moved on” to the really important issue, the fate of the midwife.

Amy Medwin, the CPM in question, was arrested after the baby was transported to the hospital. CPMs are illegal in North Carolina. Certified nurse midwives (CNMs, the equivalent of midwives in every other industrialized country) are the only legally recognized midwives in North Carolina. Medwin was arrested for practicing illegally and for failure to provide appropriate medical care to the infant, resulting in serious injury.

This isn’t the first time Medwin was arrested. According to the Charlotte News and Observer, she was arrested in the wake of another poor homebirth outcome in 1998.

The baby was big, 10 pounds, 15 ounces. But then, midwife Amy Medwin hadn’t been expecting a peanut. The mother … had had two other babies that weighed more than 9 pounds. Still, attending the woman’s home birth in Davie County last September, Medwin watched cautiously as this baby’s head emerged; it was coming a bit too slowly.

Then it stopped.

The infant’s shoulder had caught on the mother’s pelvic bone and wouldn’t budge. Medwin, who has attended more than 750 births over the past 19 years, ordered the mother into different positions. They tried seven until finally the baby dislodged. He wasn’t breathing, and his body was blue.

So began the case that ultimately led to Medwin’s unprecedented arrest March 5: … she became the first woman in North Carolina charged with practicing midwifery without a license.

That’s a misdemeanor under state law and, without a prior record, Medwin could easily pay a fine and walk away. But Medwin says she cannot in good conscience tell a judge she will give up her practice. She believes she is called by God to help women deliver their babies in the comfort of their own homes.

The baby was transferred to the hospital and survived after a 6 day hospital stay. The case was ultimately dropped because the mother, who had filed the original complaint, refused to testify.

Now, once again, Medwin has presided over a serious complication at homebirth, and once again, a baby fights for its life in the local hospital. But who cares about that? Certainly not homebirth advocates.

The North Carolina Friends of Midwives has issued a 450 word press release and NOT A SINGLE WORD is devoted to the baby. The Charlotte chapter of ICAN has also issued a press release with NOT A SINGLE WORD about the baby’s condition. Instead, the press releases have usual suspects talking the usual talking points. Katie Prown (Look at the death rate in Katie Prown’s state) expresses pious concern for the taxpayers money that will be “wasted” in prosecuting Ms. Medwin. Russ Fawcett bemoans the “bullies and special interests” who dare to place the health and well being of babies above the economic interests of homebirth midwives. They are planning a rally in support of Ms. Medwin.

That is what is known as “reframing the conversation.” North Carolina homebirth advocates aren’t going to persuade anyone of anything by discussing the babies injured under the care of CPMs. They don’t even bother to try to justify the conduct of the CPM, her medical judgment (or lack thereof), or the appropriateness of a homebirth in either case. That argument is a total loser, so effort is expended to divert attention from the homebirth disasters.

Only homebirth advocates could consider the life threatening damage sustained by infants at homebirth as an opportunity to rally support. According to them, the problem is not that babies are injured and die at homebirth. And the problem is not that CPMs have less education and training that midwives in ANY other first world country. The real problem, according to homebirth advocates, is that these underqualified, dangerous practitioners who have already hurt babies don’t have legal sanction.

Hopefully the people and the legislature of North Carolina will recognize these tactics for what they are, a desperate attempt to change the subject from the risks of homebirth to the economic and social welfare of homebirth midwives.

Addendum: The latest news reports indicate that Medwin’s current arrest was prompted by TWO bad outcomes in one month. The first case was an intrapartum death in which Medwin attended the labor but claims she left before the birth of the dead baby. The second is the case discussed above in which the baby is still hospitalized and fighting for its life.