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.


  1. There are no words that can express how very sorry I am. My deepest sympathies to you, your family and your friends.

  2. Thank you. Amy, you did a wonderful job!

  3. I love you, Mary and every one of those babies.

  4. I wish you and your beautiful family much healing. I can't imagine what you have been through and I will remember you all in my prayers. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. How is she still practicing? this is e biggest danger with HB MWs- ZERO accountability. it's very scary.
    This is heartbreaking, as are all the stories on this site.There is nothing worse than that tiny coffin with your baby in it.

  6. your daughter was beautiful. i am so so sorry for your losing her. the picture of your husband holding her breaks my heart....

  7. What a heartbreaking story :( I am so sorry for this family. This is a story about 'hurt by incompetent midwife' b the sounds of it, not 'hurt by homebirth.' so sad

  8. anonymous #2, the only reasonable response to your back handed sympathy and blinding ignorance is to say "Go fuck yourself and be ashamed. Very ashamed."

  9. I'm extremely sorry if that sounded backhanded I really didn't mean it to

  10. Oh, this is just so sad. Mary's momma you are so brave. My heart goes out to you and your family. I am so very, very sorry.

  11. I'm so sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter. My thoughts are with you and your family and I pray for healing of broken hearts.

  12. Please accept my condolences for the loss of your precious daughter.

    As for the troll, my baby daughter died (albeit not as a result of homebirth) and her pictures are beautiful and precious to me. I'm scandalised that anyone would be crass enough to use the words "sickening" and "disturbing" in response to a mother's treasured photographs.

    Well done for realising that your initial comment "could be seen as" insensitive. That's because it is insensitive. Even your apologies are backhanded.

  13. I'm sorry for your loss, no one should have to go through that.

  14. Oh Bambi, I am so very sorry. Thank you for having the courage to share your story with the world. Sweet Mary was a beautiful babe. Perhaps her death will not be completely in vain if other lives are saved because of it. I know that does not change your grief. Peace to you, your husband, and your children.

  15. I am so sorry! How horrible that she could continue to harrass you in a desperate attempt to cover her ass while you were in mourning. My deepest sympathies.

  16. I'm so sorry for your loss. What a tragedy for you and your family.

  17. So sorry for your loss :( Your daughter is beautiful and you should cherish the pictures. Nothing at all wrong with displaying them.

  18. I'm so sorry. Your daughter was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story and your lovely photographs.

  19. Thank you for sharing your daughter's story. She was a beautiful child. I am so sorry for your loss.

  20. I can not begin to tell you how much your story breaks my heart. I am a labor and delivery nurse with 12 years experience. I have worked at the largest most high risk hospitals and the smallest most low risk (although the high risk people show up there too!). At my small hospital we get transfers from a birthing center run by a "Licensed Midwife". That is a lay midwife -someone with NO medical training who takes a written test to be licensed to deliver babies outside a hospital. We have had so many disastrous transfers and we have managed to save them while I have worked there but some babies have died at the birthing center.

    When I first went into nursing I did so with the intention of becoming an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner/Certified Nurse-Midwife. I wanted as much medical knowledge as I could get and extensive training on handling emergencies so I could be a safe practitioner outside the hospital. I had read all the books about how terrible hospital births were and really bought it. The things I learned working in a high risk OB/L&D hospital (we did 10K deliveries/yr.) blew my mind. I quickly learned all the things that can go wrong but I still held onto the belief that the interventions we used in the hospital led to many problems. I even went to a birthing center for my second pregnancy for prenatal care. They completely mismanaged my care and me and my baby could have died as a result. The midwife there just didn't know what she was doing. I ended up having him at 36 weeks due to pre-eclampsia which had been ignored since 28 weeks. I even had to request the testing for it and then they did it wrong! I had pre-eclampsia with my first baby too and had developed chronic hypertension after that delivery at age 21. That alone was a complete contraindication to taking me as a patient there. It was out of her scope of practice and dangerous.

    My baby was so sick when he was born he spent a week in intensive care. He had severe respiratory distress that began at about 20 minutes after he was born. He was fed through a central line IV for 5 days. He was on c-pap, had a collapsed lung, had his head in an oxygen tent, and struggled for every breath he took. He had to lay on his belly because if he turned over on his back he could not expand his lungs and his chest would collapse to his sternum. We couldn't touch him or talk to him because the stimulation caused stress and he could not keep his oxygen saturation up. It was pure hell. I can't even imagine what would have happened if I had not been in the hospital, had a midwife with no medical training, and had none myself.

    I have seen so many tragedies. Now, I wouldn't dare deliver outside a hospital or advocate it. What I learned from my second child is that the goal is taking home a healthy baby, not having the perfect fantasy delivery. It is a small sacrifice to be strapped to a monitor and have an IV for the safety of having trained medical professionals watching your baby throughout your labor and for at least 24hrs after birth.

    I am so sorry for your loss. This should NEVER happen. Thank you for sharing your story. It needs to be told. I will be sharing this site with my OB nurse friends.

  21. Thank you for sharing your story, I am so grieved over the loss of your Mary. We have a Mary too.

    I am just so sorry. ((((hugs))))


  22. Thank you again for sharing your story. I am so sad it happened.

    Thank you to whomever is doing the moderation now, this is not the space for trolls.

  23. How heart breaking.
    I am so sorry for your family's loss.
    This midwife clearly was in the wrong. She should have transferred you.
    Your choice to homebirth wasn't what did this, your midwife's choice not to come and choice not to transfer knowing the baby was early and knowing you had very real concerns is what did this.

  24. This story is soooooooooo heartbreaking! You little girl looks a lot like mine when she was born, but the picture of her in the little casket - looking soooooooo heart-breakingly beautiful had me sobbing. I am so sorry for your loss. It is painful enough to lose a child, but I imagine having to deal with this insensitive midwife who is trying to cover her ass made it so much worse.

  25. Thank you so much for the courage to share your story, this is a needless, sad loss. I am so sorry. Mary is beautiful, and I am so sorry for your husband and children. No one deserves this kind of treatment. I will remember your story form here forward.
    I hope that the grand jury charges this woman with every conceivable charge they can possibly find she is a menace to society and mothers and babies. I know that won't bring Mary back or heal the wounds this caused, but maybe just maybe some kind of closure will happen for you if she is held accountable, she was reckless with two lives and she cared for one: HER OWN. I hope the DA in your area will follow through.

  26. I'm so sorry this happened, and hope that this particular practitioner stops practicing. As a physician I can say that those photos are not of an infant with apgars of 9 and 9. They are the pictures of a very ill infant, based on appearance alone. I am so sorry that nothing more was done.

    I am very mixed on homebirth, seeing some value in it as long as there are appropriately trained people in attendance. Your midwife lacked the training to recognize that your infant was ill.

    I'm so sorry.

  27. My son Thomas died from lack of oxygen after birth and could have easily been saved as well if born in a hospital. I was on a web site for large families and everyone gave statistics that I now have found are false about the safety of home birth. I am so sorry...thank you for sharing... I understand...

  28. Bambi,
    Mary's story is utterly heartbreaking I am so sorry for you and your family's loss.

  29. I can't stop crying. I'm so, so sorry this happened to you and your family. I can not imagine the intense pain it would be to be holding a dead baby and burying the baby in such a small casket.

  30. "As a physician I can say that those photos are not of an infant with apgars of 9 and 9. They are the pictures of a very ill infant, based on appearance alone."

    It doesn't take an MD to say that, based on those photos of your children holding Mary, that is one sick baby! She's very obviously pale and limp. I'm appalled that your midwife would give her a clean bill of health.

  31. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm at a loss as to what to say. You shouldn't have suffered so.

    I'm sorry to do this, but I'm going to have to respond to one of the anonymous commenter.

    Anonymous said...
    "Your choice to homebirth wasn't what did this, your midwife's choice not to come and choice not to transfer knowing the baby was early and knowing you had very real concerns is what did this."

    That statement is absolutely false. In US today, choice of homebirth IS equivalent to having a midwife medically unprepared. Telling otherwise and quoting statistics from Netherlands is lying at best and criminal at worst. Shame on you.

  32. Bambi, I think it's just disgusting that this woman continues to "practice" and hurt other families. This woman knows she did wrong otherwise she wouldn't have falsified records and I can't believe that at the very least that didn't get her arrested or her license revoked.

  33. Sorry doesn't even begin to cover it. I am so heartbroken and angry for your family. Mary deserved a long, happy life with the family who loves her. It is sickening that people can be so selfish and deceitful, and that your sweet little girl paid the price for that woman's ignorance. I am so beyond sorry, and I pray you guys are able to find peace. She was absolutely gorgeous.

  34. My mind just can't wrap itself around the concept of a midwife having so little concern about a baby born at what...36 weeks 4 days???

    When I was pregnant with my first baby in 1998, "full term" was considered 38 weeks or greater, not 37 weeks or greater. My opinion is that the change only came because neonatal ressucitation techniques improved so that 37 week babies could be more easily treated...IN THE HOSPITAL. I think it really was malpractice right from the onset of labor not to advise a woman that she should birth in the hospital with a baby prior to 37 weeks, and for myself, even though I've had 3 homebirths, I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be homebirthing more than a couple of days before 38 weeks. Yes, I had a childbirth education client whose baby was born at 35 weeks and needed no special care...but I've also had clients birth at 36-37 weeks and have babies in the NICU.

    I'm so sorry this had to happen. This midwife really should not be allowed to practice.

  35. Bambi - I think about you all the time. My son Leo was born on the 18th and we were in the same online group during our pregnancies. I was so saddened to hear about Mary Beth in 2008 and often wondered what exactly happened since, like you, I am all for choices in birth. I have been praying for you for years and I'm so glad you were able to get Mary Beth's story out. I truly hope you are closer to justice for your sweet baby girl. You will continue to be in my heart and I am so very sorry.

    Continued prayers

    Lisa (Leo's mom)

  36. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a 41yo FTM, and after reading Ina May Gaskin's book at 20 weeks, I was considering a home birth. Your dear Mary's story has completely made me re-think that idea.

    My grandmother birthed all 16 of her children at home. 14 survived, and I never really questioned that was Irekand in the 1920's-40's, and that seemed like a good outcome. I internalized an idea that home birth was possible, that I'm from tough stock, tht I'd like to be like my granny. But what am I thinking by forgetting about the 2 who might have been saved with a medical staff and a good NICU?

    Thank you for bringing me back to earth. I appreciate your Mary, which would have been our name for a girl and was my granny's name. Thank you for sharing her photos with the world, and or sharing the tragic story of her death.

    I fervently hope that Brenda has been brought to justice and can hurt no more families with her arrogance, dishonesty, and negligence.

  37. Bambi - thank you for sharing this with me. I have three kids and lost one in the early months of pregnancy. I simply cannot fathom on ANY level the pain. And that little girl was SO precious. In my llimited view I see her as a beacon and representative of all that is good. Choices and errors are made - that's life. There is no shortcutting the pain and horror. This is know from a lot of life's experiences too. What is despicable and intolerable is the complete and utter lack of integrity, humility, and honesty of that midwife. There is probably nothing as frustratibg as someone who refuses to own their part. I find it repulsive and don't think punitive action could be too harsh on this midwife. Shame on her.

    What is amazing to me is that you and your husband find a way to love each other every day and to be not only survivors, but ambassadors of communication and good will. I admire you both in massive ways and my hope is that I will be of service to you in meaningful ways as we move forward in this life.

    You both are beautiful and your gifts are aplenty, in spite of this vicious twist of fate - (if that is what we attempt to call it).

    God BLESS you both .....