Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mary Beth's story

(as told by her mother Bambi)

On June 5th 2008 (24 days before my due date), after a very long labor, I gave birth to a 5lbs 8oz 21 inch long baby girl. Throughout the labor, I had kept my midwife, Brenda, posted on my progress. Of course, she didn’t bother to hurry up and get to me when she knew contractions were only 3 minutes apart. She received a phone call from me at 4:10am. She arrived here at 5:45am. This woman lived 20 minutes away.

My husband was forced to call medics because it became obvious that delivery was imminent and we would have no midwife here. As soon as he hung up with them, he had to catch our daughter, then minutes later let the medics in. If I recall, one had been at a delivery and the other never had, so this tells you how much birthing/newborn experience they had. They thought, planned homebirth, but just a few days shy of term, shouldn't be an issue so they waited for my midwife to arrive so she could assess the situation. They thought she was fine.

An hour later, in waltzes Brenda. Of course, our daughter is healthy and there is no need for transfer! She helps us to bed and proceeds to do the newborn exam. We bring up our daughter’s breathing and are told it's just mucus. Ok. The odd bluish purple coloring around her nose is just bruising. Her sleepiness was due to the long (18 hour) labor. Her floppiness was due to just being a tad early. I was also told she wouldn’t be able to regulate her temperature so she needed lots of skin to skin contact. Her jaundice could be helped by spending time in front of the window. She wasn't interested in nursing because she was tired. Everything was explained away and none of it seemed far fetched to me. I believed her when she told us Mary was healthy. Brenda then left.

I then took an hour nap with her as I had been up for 26+ hours, with 18 of them being in labor. When I woke up I tried nursing her and no latching. That concerned me, but I figured if I just pumped she would take a bottle. So, I sent my husband off to the store to buy a bottle for her. When he got back home, I pumped and she wouldn't take the bottle. Maybe she was just tired.

We spent time as a family while letting our other children hold and love on their baby sister. They were quite proud!! Around 10, my husband offered to let me get more sleep while he kept Mary in the living room with him and the kids so she could be in the sunlight. That sounded fine with me. Little did I know, this would be the last time I would see her alive.

At 11, my husband woke me up because he didn't think she was breathing. He thought she had just went to sleep. Mary was lifeless. I remember calling 911 and doing CPR. One of the medics from just a few hours before came running up to our door, took her right out of my arms, and ran to the back of the ambulance while I got in the front. I remember thinking "This can't be happening."

When we arrived at the hospital, her room was filled with doctors and nurses. I was set on a chair in the hallway watching the commotion. There was a social worker who was keeping me posted on everything they were doing. She told me that they had given her two shots of epinephrine, but if they got her back, she would be brain damaged. After what seemed like forever, I was told there was nothing more that they could do and a time of death was called. How could this healthy baby be laying there dead? How could this be happening?

Mary was then wrapped in a blanket and handed to me. At one point I was asked about having our pastor come in and I gave them his name so he could be called. I don't remember if this was before or after she was pronounced. Dr Bailey arrived, then my husband James arrived. While we did CPR and called 911, we had our oldest son, Cody, call my mother at work to tell her what was going on, so James had to wait on her. A photographer, Teresa, arrived to take Mary's pictures. While she took photographs, James and I took turns being questioned by a detective and medical examiner. The chief from the fire department also came to give us his condolences.

Dr. Bailey held our daughter and baptized her. The social worker asked me her name and I chose the name Mary Beth. Our oldest daughter, Paige, had mentioned the name that morning while we were discussing names. So, when James arrived, he learned of her name. When he held her, he completely broke down.

While we were at the hospital, my mother had had my sister Jaime come down and then the police showed up to our home to ask them questions as well. Once my mom knew that our daughter didn't make it, she rushed to the hospital. When she walked in, she came up to us and hugged us both. I then asked her if she wanted to hold her granddaughter ad she did. I had never seen my mother like that. When she learned Mary’s name, it hit her even harder as they share a name.

By this time, we had the medical examiner breathing down our necks to just hand our daughter over. He had been at the hospital for several hours and was tired of waiting around. So, just 4 hours after our daughter was pronounced, we left the hospital with a brown paper bag containing her belongings. I called Brenda on the drive home to tell her, but she already knew as the police had already been to her house. She then asked what happened and I told her.

When we arrived home, our youngest son, Joshua, asked if the new baby was in the van. We had to then tell our children that their sister went to heaven. No parent should have to tell their children that their sibling is dead. My sister hugged me and told me she loved me (and she still tells me this every year on Mary's birthday). My mom sat on my couch and held me like a small child, literally. I was hurting and needed my mommy, but, she couldn’t make this better like she could 20 years ago.

My mom and husband at one point let family know that she was born and passed away. Friday, we paid for her plot at the cemetery and made funeral arrangements. When they walked in the room with this tiny casket, I broke down. There should be no need for caskets that small. We should have been buying her a bassinette, not a casket. On Saturday, we took her burial gown to the funeral home. Sunday, we were allowed to come in and see her and get her footprints. It was a tradition for us to do our babies feet and I didn't want to miss out on it with her!

I will never forget being led into this tiny room and seeing our tiny daughter laying there. It seems like we stayed in there with her for hours and cried. We gave her her part of my mother daughter necklace and one of my husband’s dog tags from his military days. At one point Brenda showed up to my home with a cheap engraved locket for me and gave us her copy of Mary’s newborn exam. We mulled over that during the weekend and noticed several inconsistencies which my husband took to the police early Monday morning. We had multiple visitors that weekend, too. I couldn’t eat or sleep. When I did fall asleep, I woke up hearing a baby cry. Oddly enough, my husband suffered from the same.

The funeral for our daughter was small and intimate. My mother bought a bunch of plants to have there that we could take home and create a garden with. I don’t think I left the casket. I wanted, no needed, to remember everything about her. I still remember the way her tiny hands felt, the silkiness of her hair, the softness of her cheek, and the way she smelled. Having to tell her goodbye forever was probably harder than leaving the hospital. I couldn't walk or breathe.

At the cemetery, my husband carried her from the towncar to the resting spot. There was a small service and we had to leave her there, knowing soon she would be in the ground beside her great grandfather. In a way, it felt better leaving her "with him." There were a few lighthearted jokes that his peaceful slumber would be over with now that he had a baby to take care of.

Earlier that morning, my husband talked to the police. It turns out Brenda supplied them with another newborn exam form different than the one she gave us. When the police found this out, she was interviewed again! This time, she gave them and us another newborn exam form, also different than the other two. The notes taken by medics (people unskilled on newborns and childbirth) were copied by her. Our daughter had been given APGARs of 9 and 9.

Brenda had the audacity to be waiting on our front steps when we stopped at home to drop off the flowers from the funeral home all kinds of pissed off because there was talk about her possibly being arrested. Interestingly enough, it was other midwives talking about this. Just one week later, she showed up to my home begging me to not be angry with her. Three weeks later we got the death certificate. Cause of death, prematurity. Major contributing cause, homebirth.

I called the medical examiner. I got an answer about the "bruising." It was called cyanosis and occurs when there is oxygen deprivation. She should of seen the signs that our daughter was in trouble. Had medical care been sought, our daughter would have lived.

In between the time of our daughter's death and getting the death certificate, Brenda had been telling people that our daughter died from liver failure. When I asked for copies of my records, she obliged, but also asked if we got the Death Certificate yet, to which I told her No. My records were falsified. You could see clear as day where she had crossed out the number of weeks at the top to reflect me being farther along at each appointment.

When my friend shared that I had indeed gotten my records, Brenda flipped into panic mode. One email stated that all babies who stop breathing are labeled respiratory distress, we didn't share any concerns with her, if we sued we would put her and her kids on the street, our anger would cause a divorce, we should sue the medics, her heart is breaking, she volunteered for a peer review, she loves us, and "Trying to find a place to unload blame doesn't give the answer and it doesn't heal the hurt."

Email two was a basic, medical examiners only know about death so I shouldn't take his word for it and we can figure out why she died together. Email three stated that our daughter wouldn't want us fighting against midwives or home birth. All the emails were quite manipulative.

Come to find out, she had had multiple stillbirths just in the months leading up to our daughter's birth, one brain damaged child, and two other babies that she went in front of the grand jury on. Of course, she is still practicing while we are broken hearted.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Aquila's story

My name is Liz. I am a mother to 7 wonderful children, but only 6 are here on earth. My daughter Aquila died on December 19th, 2009 during my homebirth. I remember so much about the day, as it was burned into my head like an iron brand. Some things time does not heal, it only solidifies.

Labor: December 19th 2009

Midnight on the dot my eyes opened. I thought, "Why am I awake?" Then I felt a pop, followed by a gush. I waited for the gushes to subside so I could waddle to the bathroom and grab a pad. I texted Faith (my CPM-midwife) and Amy (my best friend/doula) to tell them my water broke. I was having contractions every 5 minutes, and was very excited, so I played on the computer till about 4am. Then I decided that nothing much was happening, so I should try to sleep. Surprisingly I fell right asleep and slept in till 6 AM.

Awhile after I awoke, I called Faith to check in, and went about my morning. By 11 AM contractions are regular and Amy had come over, along with Yoshimi (a hair braider). I bounced on the birth ball while she braided my hair and told me about births in Japan. Amy and I joked.

At 11:45 AM, I called Faith to tell her I was getting in the tub because the contractions were too strong for me. We call the photographer who comes out to capture the labor and birth.

We also call my dear friend Bethany to watch the children (because they are coming in every few minutes to "check on me").

Faith arrives at 2:15PM (14 hours after my water breaking). Aquila's heart tones are in the high 170's and my temp is almost 101. They all are trying to cool me off with cool cloths and tea. The pain is intense and when I check myself I cannot feel very much cervix. At around 3:45PM everyone is out of the room except me and Faith. I pass three chunks into the tub. I pick them up to throw them away. They are blood clots, hard, gelatinous, and about 1-2 TB in size. (Faith records this in her notes as "bloody show.") At this point Aquila's heart tones are at or above 180.

Faith checks me, because I am acting and feeling like I must be in transition- INTENSE, almost non-stop contractions, and "pushy" feelings, and retching from the intensity. I am only 5-6. This is where I lost all calm and got scared. There was no way I could do this, and now Faith was wanting me to get out of the tub to try to cool me down. After getting out I notice I am dripping blood, which I show to Faith.

I labor for some time out of the tub, and the contractions don't ever stop. I remember saying, "They just don't stop. They won't let go!"

I start SCREAMING with every contraction. I say (at least three times) "I can't do this. I want to go to the hospital. I want an epidural."(It is very important to note here that I said this at least ONE HOUR before we tried to transfer. An hour before she died. And in the birth records, Faith repeatedly states that i was refusing to transfer. She NEVER said "transfer" to me. She never said "emergency", or "abruption", or “hospital”. This is backed up by the other 3 people at my birth.)

Faith was not even in the room for when we were asking to go - she was gone out of the room for at least 20 minutes, on the phone. When she gets back she checks me on the bed. Still 5-6. When I get up the chux pad is stained the color of vomit. It perplexed me at the time, but later I figured out it was blood and meconium. In the birth records she states it was bloody show and clear fluid. At this point i say "My mom had a baby die from an abruption". Faith says nothing. Finally my husband and doula start dressing me to transfer, while Faith is packing her stuff. I realize how very far away the hospital really is...

The hospital was 3 MINUTES from my house. But that meant NOTHING when bad, bad things were happening and I was in hard labor. I t took at least 30 minutes to get to the car. 30 MINUTES.

My contractions at this point were what is called tetanic - never stopping. This is a huge red flag of an abruption. I could not take a step without a contraction. My doula at this point says to Faith, "Should we just call EMS? It will be faster than getting her dressed and downstairs?" Faith says no.

I make the most physically painful journey of my life down the hallway, downstairs and out to the car, only to find Faith wants me to go in a different car than hers, which at the time made no sense and still does not. Why would you leave the laboring woman to drive without a care provider?

As I am trying to climb into Amy's passenger seat I have the urge to go - you know that am I about to push out this baby feeling? I make it back to the living room, where I yell for my son to get off the couch. Bethany herds them upstairs. I don't even get my underwear off (those stretchy, post-birth, throw away ones). She slips out into my hands, completely limp, in a river of blood.

Faith had packed up all her equipment, so she had nothing to even suction Aquila, so she was sucking blood out with her mouth. She yelled for someone to get her the bulb syringe and call 911. She and Amy started CPR while I sat on the couch next to Aquila. I held her foot, limp and pale, and rubbed it. It took EMS 12 minutes to get there.

When they came in they took over with Aquila and Faith came and sat in front of me watching the paramedics work. I asked Faith if she (Aquila) could live after this long. She said, "She is not going to make it".

I had strong pains. She asked if it was the placenta. I said yes as I pulled up a clot the size of a placenta. Then I got pains again and passed the actual placenta. Faith's records say I stopped bleeding after this, but I didn't and she never checked my bleeding. She should have given me pitocin. (Note here - they DO NOT carry pitocin in ambulances, at least they don't in Austin TX. My paramedic also had NO IDEA how to do a uterus massage, so I bled all the way to hospital. I am so very lucky I did not die. A large percentage of mothers hemorrhage to death with an abruption bad enough to kill the baby.)

Here is my second biggest regret of my life (second only to choosing homebirth with a "hands off" midwife). The paramedics asked me where we should take Aquila. They suggested Dell Children's Hospital - saying that they had a better NICU than the hospital 3 minutes away (later to find out this was not true). They said they would take me to Brackenridge, which they said would let Aquila come to me at that hospital- completely untrue. Brack and Dell were about 20 minutes from my house. Longer to bleed for me, longer to not be in a hospital for her (though I wish the EMTs would have called time of death at my house, so I could have just had her with me).

We are put into separate ambulances. Gabe goes with her, Amy with me. When I get to the hospital I end up passing out from blood loss. They do two manual extractions of clots to get my bleeding to slow. I find out after this that she has been declared dead and Gabe is coming to the hospital. Gabe ends up in the ER about an hour after getting there from a migraine (stress) that makes it hard to see. They give him a shot of morphine.

At this point I am freaking out because they are saying they cannot bring Aquila's body from the other hospital - the only one who can pick her up is the medical examiner. Apparently, since she died at home they opened an investigation. At this point the med examiner was threatening an autopsy without our consent. I would not even be able to see my baby until days later, possible after being cut up.

All I wanted was to hold my daughter, see her and tell her goodbye. I never did, at least not until 3 days later. She was cold and discolored from time. I spent those 3 days hyperventilating and sobbing - not because she was dead - i could accept that - but because I could not even see her.

The first time I saw her, at the funeral home.

We buried her on the 23rd of December. I held my 6 six year old in my arms during the service as she sobbed like I had never heard a child sob ... like her heart was tearing out of her body. That was the day my milk came in, throbbing ...without a baby to feed. I cried in the shower as milk poured down. The depths I fell to there are unimaginable to most.

Since I lost Aquila I have lost much more. I have lost real word friends, online friends, family members. All because I was straightforward in sharing that my daughter would have lived if I had labored and birthed in the hospital.

I filed a complaint about my midwife, but 11 months after Aquila's death it is still pending. No lawyers would take the case because CPMs do not carry malpractice insurance. My midwife was not trained well enough to recognize chorioamnionitis, a common complication, or placental abruption a less common one.

She was without doctor backup to help her figure out these complications or facilitate a transfer. The Board that licensed her and regulated her is comprised of her friends and colleagues, so the 'punishment' she is set to receive is merely a slap on the hand and has been drawn out as long as possible to protect her career.

This is my daughter's story. She has no voice but me.
Aquila Jade Paparella 12-19-09 Forever loved and missed

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Hidden no more

In memory

Over the years I've received pleas from women who have lost their babies at homebirth. Each woman has suffered unimaginable tragedy and she wants to know that her baby's death will not be ignored.

She cannot change the choices that she made, cannot bring her baby back, but perhaps the story of her baby's death can open the eyes of other women to the dangers of homebirth. Each woman is different and the details of her story is different, but one refrain is common to them all: "if only I had known the truth about homebirth, I would not have chosen it." The irony of homebirth is not lost on them; they thought they were making a loving choice and instead they were taking a terrible risk.

As Liz Paparella eloquently wrote on the first anniversary of her daughter Aquila's birth and death:
All I can think about is how I chose homebirth ... and I gave my daughter death.
Unfortunately, women contemplating homebirth don't know the risks and homebirth advocates aren't about to tell them. In fact, adding insult to injury, when a bereaved mother attempts to share her baby's story with other homebirth advocates, the baby is figuratively erased out of existence. Homebirth websites delete homebirth tragedies. They don't want women to know the truth.

Who is trying to erase homebirth deaths?

MANA (the Midwives Alliance of North America), the organization that represents homebirth midwives, has a database of 18,000 homebirths attended by its members, the largest homebirth database currently in existence. That database has been analyzed and MANA knows how many of those 18,000 babies died at the hands of CPMs. But you can't find out that number. Why? Because MANA will only show its data to those who promise to use it for the "advancement of midwifery" and sign a legal non-disclosure agreement prohibiting them from telling the truth to anyone else.

Evidently, MANA has recognized that, as investigative reporter Paul Brodeur has written:
Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.
The numbers may be dry data, but each data point represents the tragic death of a beloved newborn, and, therefore, no one should be allowed access to their statistics.
deaths have been erased.

Private websites run by homebirth advocates frequently and proudly delete comments unfavorable to homebirth, and there's nothing more unfavorable than a homebirth story that ends in death.

Enough is enough. Hurt by Homebirth has been created as a safe place where women can tell the stories of the babies who died or who were left brain damaged or otherwise injured by homebirth. And though maternal death is far more rare, it is also a place where families can tell the story of mothers who have died at or in the aftermath of a homebirth.

This is not a debate board; there are other places for debate listed in the sidebar. But we will try to provide sources to research papers and other accurate information on the death toll of homebirth.

If you have a story to submit, you can send it to me at Please include a picture or pictures if you can. Babies who have been hurt by homebirth should be seen, literally, so everyone can understand that each death represents an unimaginable tragedy for the babies who never had a chance to live, and for the families who will mourn them forever.

The babies who have died at homebirth will be hidden no more.