Because Sometimes It Is Someones Fault.

Ryan and Susan Gatti’s baby girl  Rebecca will never live a normal life and it is Dr. William J. Erwin’s fault.

Teresa Bailey’s baby boy died and not only was it Sharp Mary Birch Hospital’s fault but they also tried to blatantly lie about it.

Dr. Leonard Bienkowski is responsible for the death of Sandra and John Ketterman’s baby boy Benjamin.

If your baby died or was injured due to negligence what would you do to make sure that the parties responsible were held accountable?

What would you do if someones incompetence was the direct cause for the death of your baby?

How far would you go to see justice served and to make sure no other mothers and babies were put in harm’s way by those responsible?

What lengths would you go to make sure that yours was the last baby to die under their watch?

What if the person in question was a well-respected and trusted health care professional in your area and  many of the women you know have had babies with them and LOVED the treatment they received?

Now take all of those questions and apply them to a homebirth setting with a C.P.M.

What would you do?

For many reading my blog, I just made you uncomfortable.

I know that I just made you uncomfortable because when I first had to ask myself that question I felt the same way.  It is sort of an unwritten rule in the AP community “Thou shall not complain about thine Midwife.” and you are absolutely not supposed to take said midwife up against a review board to try to get their licence revoked.  It may be an unpopular belief in the natural birth and AP community but sometimes a birth does need intervention.  Sometimes a peaceful loving atmosphere and a confident relaxed mother is not enough.  And when those “sometimes” situations happen you need to know that the person that has your back knows what to do.  And when that person fails you and your baby through incompetence you need to be able to have action taken against them so that they can not hurt anyone else.  After all shouldn’t the true test of someones competency be when something goes wrong and not when everything goes right?

The answer to all of this should be easy, but for many of us it is not.  This subject is wrapped up in so much baggage that our combined checked bag fees could pay off the national debt.  The conflict comes because women are sick and tired of being told how to birth.  We are tired of the doctors and nurses that have grown complacent and lazy in the medical field looking at us like we are a product on an assembly line.  We are fed up with hospitals telling us we have to lay down with our feet in stirrups to push our babies out, sick to our stomach with being told we are not going to “win a medal” for having natural childbirth and for us to shut up get the epidural and go along with the program.  We want to scream in frustration at the doctors who really do believe that 39 weeks gestation is “close enough”.

For many of us we can no longer tolerate even one more birth were we are told to be quiet, lay down, take this, gown up, zone out and let them do all the “work”.

What I am afraid has happened is that in our zeal to improve care and empower women during birth in the U.S. that we have overlooked some things that are wrong with our alternatives.  The medicalized birthing world has a way to report negligent doctors, nurses and hospitals. Many easy to understand and to find tutorials can be found online outlining how to seek justice when mistakes are made in the medical community.  For the most part you will receive an overflow of compassion and genuine concern from those around you when you take your ob/gyn to court for malpractice that resulted in the death of your baby.  So what can we do if we need to report a health care professional in the homebirth community?  How will your friends and loved ones, that fight for and support homebirth, react when you put your homebirth midwife up for review?

I have reason to believe that it may get pretty ugly if you do.  Why do I believe this?  Because of my dear friend Liz and her and her family’s painful story of baby Aquila‘s birth and death and everything that has come after.  You would think that after what happened there would have been an outcry, from at least her local homebirth community, to have her midwife go under review and receive fitting disciplinary measures.  Sadly that is not what has happened.  She has been shunned, black listed and even booed at the hearing concerning her own child’s death.  What is more even the homebirth community at large has criticized her for being too outspoken and of being unfair to her midwife by sharing her story.

For those interested in the status of this case the previous minutes can be found on the Texas Midwifery Board website.  Liz’s case was heard in June (item 7) and again in September.

So why do I care enough about all of this to stick my own neck out for criticism by writing this?  I, after all, did not lose a child.  I don’t live anywhere near where her midwife practices. I didn’t have a homebirth go wrong, shoot I have never even had a homebirth at all.  I am, however, an advocate for natural childbirth and medical practices that treat birth as a beautiful natural act.  Basically the question is how is it any of mine or your business?

It is our business because it is important to support those who are being ridiculed and defamed unjustly.  It is important to not be so caught up in a cause, such as natural childbirth, that we lose sight of our goals.  Because if we turn against each other when one of us are at our weakest and most vulnerable it does not show our strength it shows a glaring weakness.  If the natural birth community will not demand that we hold the people that we trust with our and our babies lives accountable then how serious can we really expect to be taken?  Let us, please, hold homebirth professionals to at least the same level of accountability as we do our ob/gyn’s and other health care providers.  Let’s support each other, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Liz and Gabriel Paparella’s baby girl Aquila will never share this world with us and the Texas Midwifery Complain Board needs to hold her midwife accountable.

16 thoughts on “Because Sometimes It Is Someones Fault.

  1. I absolutely agree, Sasha. I see this in our community and it makes me sad. So many act like midwives can do no wrong and that it is our job to protect them and glorify them even when they make horrible mistakes. I believe we must seek justice when such a huge error was made whether it is a midwife or a doctor. They both should be held up to the highest standards and we should be able to trust both to look out for us and our children. I have used midwives and doctors (currently seeing a OB since I am high-risk) and I would hold him accountable if he caused my child to die, just like I would if it was a midwife. We need regulations in place to make sure our midwives are skilled and prepared to spot when something is wrong. I have read the story of baby Aquila before and it is heartbreaking. The family needs justice and the midwife needs to be held accountable for what happened. I love and support midwives and natural births and feel that they are a huge blessing to our community but we still need to make sure they are held accountable like doctors are and they know what to do when bad things happen. I want to see births as safe as possible for all women no matter if they are with a doctor or midwife, at home or at a hospital. Let’s advocate for safer births for all and accountability for all.

  2. Beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your friends loss. Sasha, you are a bold voice for your friend. She’s lucky to have you and your bravery in her corner.

    Thanks for sharing this.
    Holly Smith

  3. Thank you for writing this. Everything you talk about needed to be said.

    A big problem is that no one is demanding that midwives carry malpractice insurance. Every professional has to carry insurance, because every professional makes mistakes sometimes. Midwives are no different; they make mistakes too, and should be held accountable when they do. Insurance is one way to do that, and it’s a method that works. It makes mothers and babies safer, and makes the choice of going with a midwife safer as well. It is accessible, affordable, and it is inexcusable that the NCB community does not demand it of their midwives. Here is a great blog post on the subject. (I didn’t write it, a friend did.)

    • I have watched the insurance debate with homebirth midwives and have been able to walk away with two thoughts on the subject. 1. Yes, they should be required to have insurance. Even my local grocery store has insurance in case someone falls or is hit by a shopping cart, so why not my midwife??? 2. Before that can happen there has to be some changes in malpractice insurance. As it currently stands it is very difficult, and sometimes impossible , to get insurance as a homebirth midwife.
      I don’t understand why there is not a stronger voice from midwives to help push the changes that would make insurance more practical and possible for them. Maybe there is and I just have not heard about it? ~Sasha

      • You’d think the reasons it is difficult to get malpractice insurance would give people a clue as to why home birth isn’t a great idea. Doctors can get it, yet people with little training and no oversight can’t? Golly gee I wonder why!? The problem isn’t with the insurance, it’s with untrained wannabe midwives not wanting to bother getting proper educations.

  4. Insurance is not an option if you practice in a state that does not license homebirth midwives, as I do. There is no insurance company that will cover me, as there are no guidelines for them as there are for licensed professionals…..

    • This post gave me chills. It speaks so much to my own experience in losing our baby last year in the hands of negligent midwives. We’ve fought hard for over a year now to seek some sort of “accountability”. When there is none, it’s as if our baby didn’t exist, as if this never happened. Many of the NCB supporters in our community have called us liars or thrown at us the “it was their choice” excuse instead of realizing that our speaking out is an effort to protect other families. Some days I feel like I can’t scream loud enough for people to hear us. We believed so much in natural birth, & in the capability & integrity of our midwives. Not only did our baby die because of their negligence, they lied about it afterward, adding an entirely new level of betrayal and devastation. Who were these people we had entrusted? If midwives hope to live up to what they claim “being with women” and for women, then they need to practice ethically. They need raise the bar in terms of education, ethics, responsible practices, and accountability. Our babies coming home alive matters more to any mother than the way he or she was delivered and by whom. Thank you for writing this post. (Our baby’s story is posted on Hurt by Homebirth, Magnus’s Story). We’ve also started a blog in MI to try and bring these issues to light and move forward in a way that is safer for families here. I hope our cries can be heard.

    • To see my opinion on malpractice insurance for homebirth midwives please see my response to Emily above.
      That being said are you familiar with a group that is advocating for changes in policy to make insurance more affordable and available to homebirth midwives? I have not researched it and do not know if such a group is out there but I am thinking there would have to be? I wonder what sort of roadblocks/progress they have made… hmm I feel another post coming on.

  5. I’m definitely for midwives, but I think it’s appalling how the NCB community will back negligent midwives. If it was a doctor who did that, they’d be all over him demanding that his license be suspended, etc.

  6. I had a midwife (CPM) for my son’s birth 8 months ago. I wasn’t happy with her but she wasn’t negligent and my son was born healthy. But since then I’ve learned how hard it is to hold a CPM accountable in the event something does go wrong, and how little the NCB community wants to talk about the situations that don’t go according to the NCB script. I will not consider using a CPM again unless there are major reforms in licensure and accountability. There are awesome CPMs out there but there is no way of knowing if you’ve got one of them, or someone whose negligence, ignorance and selfishness has caused injury or death..

    • I’m sorry to hear your relationship with your midwife was not as you hoped it would be.
      I understand your thoughts. I was very shocked and greatly disappointed (read sad) when I first found out how hard it is to seek justice for incompetence in the homebirth community. It took me a while to really be able to get my mind around it all and accept it as true. It is one of those things so confusing that at first you have to believe that it can not be true. ~Sasha

  7. It is darn near impossible to hold a doctor responsible for their negligence. There is no review process that really helps if the hospital, the other doctors, their practice, etc is willing to back them up. You cannot use the examples of what happens with malpractice payoffs as an example of accountability when the majority of women who have malpractice, negligence and bad medical care perpetuated on them and their babies are NEVER punished or affected by their actions. In many places, drs are not required to carry malpractice at all, or it’s paid for them. Malpractice insurers is one of the biggest reasons why doctors practice the way they do.
    So, the solution to the problem isn’t to apply faulty logic and bad existing systems to homebirth midwives. It’s to apply what already applies legally. If someone harms you, the legal system should be applied. The problem is that it’s all too hard to actually decide what harm is and when it is done. And licensure doesn’t fix the problem at all. It simply kicks the bucket of how to get blame accounted for further down the road.
    I have no idea what happened in your friend’s case. However, I know plenty of women who complain wholeheartedly about their treatment at the hands of their midwives, often because of licensure and the way it forces them to be treated or because certain decisions are made only because of insurance coverages.

    if anything, what this whole situation highlights is that we have no idea as a society what normal birth is like, no idea how to take responsibility for it, no idea how to handle birth and no idea how to move forward without taking personal autonomy completely out of the question and forcing women down certain paths of care, whatever those might be. Babies die. Mothers die. Some providers are bad, at every level. Some providers are well-trained and still harm mothers because of hteir training.

    The entire situation is broken because we just aren’t honest enough to fix it.

    • S.M. I would like to address the following parts of your comment.

      “I have no idea what happened in your friend’s case.”

      “if anything, what this whole situation highlights is that we have no idea as a society what normal birth is like, no idea how to take responsibility for it, no idea how to handle birth and no idea how to move forward without taking personal autonomy completely out of the question and forcing women down certain paths of care, whatever those might be. Babies die. Mothers die. Some providers are bad, at every level. Some providers are well-trained and still harm mothers because of hteir training.”

      Firstly, I linked directly to her story with her name and am saddened that you did not take the time to read her story so that you could fully understand what happened in her case.

      Secondly, I am confused as to why you would say this post highlights that “we have no idea as a society what normal birth is like”. I don’t understand how you arrived at that conclusion. My point in this post was to shine a light on how we treat each other in the natural childbirth/homebirth movement and how we need to acknowledge that not all homebirths that go wrong are without blame. I never said that all of them are, only that sometimes they are, and that we need to be honest about it and support the mothers in those situations instead of villainizing them while we rally around the midwife at all costs and against all reason.

      You say at the bottom of your comment that “The entire situation is broken because we just aren’t honest enough to fix it.” If you disagree with streamlining requirements for licensure, or even required licensure. If you disagree with requiring malpractice insurance. If you disagree with the need to repair a broken reporting and review practice then what is it that you feel will fix the situation? ~Sasha

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