Monday, March 28, 2011

Zen's story

As told by his mother Elizabeth.

Half way through my pregnancy, I made the mistake of watching The Business of Being Born. It absolutely terrified me. I was convinced that should I allow the hospital to be a part of my birthing experience, I would be given Pitocin. The Pitocin would make the contractions unbearable. I would then be given an epidural, forced to labor on my back with a fetal monitor attached to me, unable to move or feel my first child come into the world.

As a young, single, soon to embark on the greatest journey of my life, I was beyond concerned. Also, as a prior victim of domestic violence, all of my hospital experiences were very negative. I wanted the organic experience- as close to nature as I could, within reason and safety, get to. I wanted to eliminate the chance of succumbing to the temptation of drugs to bear labor, not just for the experience, but for the safety of my son. I wanted immediate skin to skin contact, the first crawl to the breast, and mother to mother support in an environment I was most comfortable with- my own room, my own bed, in my own clothes, on my terms. I had extreme faith that I was strong, young, very capable, and that my body would know what to do.

When I asked my obstetrician about natural, active childbirth, she said, "We'll see." That was not good enough for me. We'll see?! Was it the folly of youth that gave me such a strong desire to need a guarantee of safe passage into motherhood? The fear of the unknown? Being alone without a partner to ease into the rhythm of parenthood alongside me? I did not want whatever obstetrician who happened to be on call to deliver my child- I was looking for a wise, experienced shaman to guide me safely through the oceans of fear, pain, and uncertainty and dock me safely in the harbor motherhood- a journey, rite of passage, centuries of women took before me.

I transferred care to a midwife. Towards the end of an uneventful pregnancy, my midwife asked if I wanted to be tested for Group B Strep. She said not many midwives tested for it- that OB's had just begun, within the last 5 years to routinely test for it. Since my prenatal care had begun with an OB, I had been tested for everything under the sun and the results gave me a very a strong peace of mind. Knowledge is power- of course I would take the simple swab for more knowledge.

The result was more than a hiccup in my birth plan. I was GBS positive. Which meant, according to my research, that I would need at least four hours of antibiotics before the birth of my child. IV antibiotics my midwife could not provide. I was heartbroken and began mentally preparing for a hospital birth. My family was relieved. However, my midwife was unconcerned. She kept repeating over and over, "According to state regs, it does not rule you out of homebirth. So many midwives don't test for it- their clients have GBS and don't even know it. They still birth perfectly healthy babies. We can use garlic and a clorohexidine douche during labor. It just means after your water breaks, you only have about 12 hours to deliver the baby." After a while, the repetition of that mantra placated me. I trusted her deeply.

I was two weeks overdue and my midwife was stressed. She kept calling me to see if anything had changed. I had terrible Braxton Hicks contractions without progress or dilation for over 2 months. We had an ultrasound done to check the fluid levels to make sure the baby was still doing okay. She said she thought I was lacking oxytocin to progress my labor and she actually gave me oxytocin pills to take while she monitored the baby.

That night, I went into labor. When my midwife arrived, I was 5 cm. All I wanted was to be on my hands and knees, but she kept forcing me up, forcing herself behind me and pulling my belly up with her hands. It was beyond painful. After nine hours, she broke my water, something we had agreed that based on the GBS, she would not do. She told me there was "slight meconium," and I learned days later from my family who had witness the gush, that it was all meconium. She cleaned up the soiled Chux pads so quickly, I did not see them. We repeatedly did clorohexidine rinses.

I could tell she was panicked because she kept leaving the room to converse with her assistant. Upon returning, she told me we needed to get the baby out immediately and that I could start pushing. So I did. My midwife yelled at me with each contraction, that if I didn't push for 10 full seconds, I was wasting the contraction. She accused me of not wanting my baby enough, of not putting enough effort into labor, she even began separating my mother and sister (people whom I wanted with me!) from me, accusing them of "negative energy and keeping the baby from being born." They kept saying that the head was right there- but I couldn't feel it. I am 22 years old. Very fit. I danced classical ballet for 16 years. I practiced prenatal yoga every day of my pregnancy and walked two miles a day in my last trimester. I know how to use my body, and trust me, every atom inside me wanted to bring my son into the world.

After three grueling hours of being yelled into pushing every ten seconds, I was exhausted. I had not been offered food, water, or any breaks. I remember saying that I was going to pass out, so my midwife put oxygen tubes in my nose and left the room. I was thrashing around the bed, beyond frustrated and in extreme pain. "I can't do it...something is wrong," I remember saying. My mom looked at the oxygen tank. It was not on. When my mom told my midwife that she did not turn the oxygen on, she laughed and replied, "Oh, I forgot." At this point, I wanted to transfer to the hospital.

At the hospital, my midwife refused to give the nurses my chart. She was very combative and would not release any details of my labor or prenatal care. Upon being examined by two L&D nurses, a family physician, a resident, and an obstetrician, they all agreed that I was only 6 cm dilated. The "head" they saw was actually a blood clot on my bladder. An ultrasound showed that my son was asynclitic posterior. (Not only did my midwife constantly assure me that a doppler was very accurate, she told me that my son was LOA- the "easiest" position to labor in! Later she admitted that she should've known he was posterior because she was getting fetal heart tones from the lower left quadrant.)

I was so swollen from pushing that I could not urinate, although I desperately had to. It took two skilled nurses thirty minutes and several tries to insert a catheter because the swelling was so extreme. A fetal monitor showed that my baby was going into distress and an on call obstetrician asked if I wanted an emergency c-section. Although I know I had no choice, I will always deeply respect that he asked- he made me feel like being rolled down to the O.R. was my decision- that I had chosen to completely surrender to his medical care.

My son had to be resuscitated and he was jaundiced - he had a very low APGAR score. Because of the level of care he required, I did not get to see him until after I was done in recovery. Had he not been born in a hospital, he would not have lived. We were both under constant surveillance due to the meconium and the GBS. He had a ruptured membrane in his eye and a bruise on his eyelid and brow from slamming into my pubic bone. I thank the universe every day that my selfish desire to birth in an environment I preferred, instead of what was safest for my son, did not result in death - and I have so much empathy for the women who have lost their babies to homebirth. My son is almost seven months old now, still breastfed, and in the 98th percentile on the growth chart!

My body, however, is not unscathed. There is much internal damage from pushing for so long before being completely dilated. My OB told me that my bladder had prolapsed- that he literally had to pick it up and put it back where it belonged. It is tilted now, which makes emptying my bladder fully impossible without a sit down/stand up/sit back down dance every time I have to urinate! It can be fixed by surgery, but it's not advised until after I have all the children I desire, so it is currently monitored by my OB and a urologist. Due to the internal damage, I will never experience vaginal birth. I will never be a VBAC candidate. Every pregnancy from now on will be considered high risk.

I filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies. The hospital staff, as well as my surgeon, also wrote in complaints against my CPM. The state board is currently investigating my birth and my midwife stands a very strong chance of losing her license due to negligence.

I only hope for the safety of future mothers that she will not be allowed to practice midwifery any longer. No woman should ever have to experience what I did, to know the guilt that I have, the permanent damage that I live with every day. And I was lucky. I know that every day my son wakes up, it is a day to be thankful for, a day that is thanks to an extremely remarkable staff at St. Mary Corwin hospital. I named my son Zen.

Homebirth changed my life forever. I am now currently getting my Bachelor degree of Science in Nursing, to help save women like myself. I can not only attest to the dangers of homebirth, but I will dedicate the rest of my life to telling Zen's story.


  1. I am so glad that Zen made it!! I'm glad you are alive!! I'm so sorry about the damage you have!

  2. what a sweet little boy-- thank God that you transferred in time. what a blessing

  3. Your story was so inspiring! My face, sober from reading it, broke into a grin when I saw you and Zen smiling. I picture you comforting another woman later on, and passing on that same sense of peace and power that the on-call OB passed on to you. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  4. I am so glad Zen made it through despite it all and because YOU insisted on transfer to the hospital!

    I am so sorry you have the pelvic damage you have because of how mismanaged the birth was.

    I was a labor nurse for 20 years. I started my journey as a young mom too. You will do much good for so many moms. It is nice to see two smiling faces at the end of this story!


  5. Have you looked into physical therapy for the bladder prolapse? I had a prolapse, although likely far more mild than yours, and physical therapy at a special center for women made a large difference, I stopped getting bladder infections and my incontinence greatly improved. It is something to ask your OB about.

  6. Oh god, finally a happy story on this blog. It still made me cry though.

    Such a beautiful, thriving baby!

  7. I am so glad little Zen is doing well! I'm sure you don't even like to think about the other outcome had you not transferred! I'm seeing a running theme here in these tragic stories. Most of these midwives are bullies! They should be ashamed of their behavior!

  8. Please share your story - you are very wise.

  9. Do let us know here what becomes of your complaint against the midwife. Congrats on surviving that ordeal.

  10. Oh, thank goodness he is okay! I am so sorry that you have lasting damage from what this selfish woman did to you. Good for you for trusting your gut and transfering to the hospital when you knew something was not right. I hope she does lose her license. I am glad you are sharing your story. I am confident it will help others in being more selective about who they choose to deliver their babies.

  11. I'm so sorry for what you and your son went through, and I am so glad that he made it out alive. Keep sharing your story, I know that stories like these really do help!

  12. I'm so sorry for what you've gone through. Your son is a beautiful baby. Thank you for sharing your story.

  13. I am a CPM of 30 years experience and I am appalled at the way this midwife handled your birth. I read through your story and cited six episodes of mal-practice, one instance of practicing outside her scope of practice, five improper interventions and four instances where she showed gross inexperience. She put you and your baby in danger and handled things extremely improperly. I am so sorry that you had this experience. You were abused and assaulted. It is my hope and prayer that your further experiences go well and you have many healthy babies to come.
    I do not support treatment such as this and would be shocked if any other midwife who is properly trained would either.

  14. Dear Elizabeth,

    Thank you for telling your story. It will undoubtedly help save lives.

    I am providing information about the dangers of lay midwifery to Colorado legislators who are currently considering a bill to extend midwife regulation (i.e. a sunset bill) in our state.

    I hope you -- and any other families hurt by planned homebirth -- will consider testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 19 (1:30pm, room 0107) at the Capitol in Denver.

    This Committee especially needs to hear about the harm that the "direct-entry midwives" can do, and that at a minimum, the legislators need to require adequate liability insurance.

    You can write me for more information: contact*at*

    I would love to talk to you sometime.

    Linda Rosa, RN
    Loveland, CO

  15. ^Did anyone get in contact with this woman? This would be wonderful for the mothers and babies who have been hurt by homebirth!

    @Zen's mommy! I am so happy to read that you and your son lived. I know that in many of the stories on hurt by homebirth, the worst happens. You were so strong to stand up and take control even while in labor. I wish the best for you and your adorable son!

  16. I am very glad that you are devoting yourself to getting the education and training needed to deliver responsible and truly caring - because informed and knowledgeable - medical care for those who need it. And I really hope that your story and your efforts will dissuade others from believing in the absolutely ridiculous idea that doctors and nurses are somehow the enemy. Zen is so cute too!

  17. I have been doing some physical therapy- basically to train my bladder and it has been very productive. I almost feel normal again!

    In other news, the state has closed the investigation of my midife, Regina (Gina) Gerboth and disciplinary action was taken against her. It is of public record. She is on 3 years probation, can't practice without a DEM mentor who's had at least 5 years experience, and she is required to complete continuining "education." While this doesn't seem like a lot, I was very relieved this will be on her record forever, as a warning to other women. Of course I would have preferred stricter penalities, in a state in which close to 90% of the complaints brought against midwives are dismissed, I felt not only was I (and best of all, my baby!) lucky enough to survive the gross negligence of Gina, but now our experience truly does serve a purpose.

  18. My first labor/delivery (many, many years ago!) was pretty awful, but I have a beautiful daughter as a result. I have the attitude that any childbirth ending with a safe and healthy mama and baby is a successful one.
    Good for you for turning your traumatic experience into something that will help others (and you!) so much. Congratulations on your beautiful little boy!!!

  19. Both you and Zen just radiate beauty and wisdom! You are such an amazing woman to dedicate your life to the wonderful profession of nursing! I have been a Labor and Delivery RN for 15 years and I am 100% positive it is the best job on the planet. One of the most important things I learned as a RN is that the birth experience needs to be shaped by what the mother wants, but that she has come to the hospital for our expertise. It needs to be collaborative. AND, my personal feelings have no place in it.

    I sort of go through a mental process when I change into my scrubs, where I tell myself that I am leaving my ego in the locker with my street clothes. When I put those scrubs on, I become a professional who is there to help my patient have the birth that she wants, as close as possible to her plan, whether that entails getting every intervention possible (we get loads of patients who want to feel as little pain as medically possible!) or not. I totally respect every woman's right to do what she thinks is right. There are lots of ways to go about giving birth, and I am okay with that. I don't claim to have a perfect recipe for everyone. But, I will always speak up if I feel the baby or the mom is in danger. That's my job. That's my calling.

    I have experienced one maternal death in my career, which was absolutely horrible to go through as a nurse--all I want is for healthy babies to go home with happy moms. I also had a patient who's baby died in utero while I was taking care of her. It profoundly affected me for months. A careful review of the whole birth confirmed that *I* didn't do anything wrong, but the OB did. It's too long of a story to share here, but I just mention it because it solidified my commitment to safety and vigilance for those little babies who can't speak for themselves yet.

    I've gone on too long already, but I just wanted to share some of the thoughts that your amazing story brought to mind. That midwife didn't leave her ego out of the birth room, and she should have.

    God bless you both!

  20. This midwife is still practicing:

  21. I live in England where homebirth is accepted and midwives must be licensed by the department of health and NHS. Such a thing would never happen here the miwives that do homebirths work out of the hospital and are medically qualified. seems they are not regulated in the US.

  22. Your story completely touched my heart! I know the midwife you speak of and I live in CO. I am in nursing school as well, and am involved in a group that is trying to bring the CM to Colorado and make midwifery better here. If you ever need support at all, and a place to find like-minded women who will support you in healing, please email me: No one should ever have to experience that kind of pain and trauma. So happy your outcome was a good one!

  23. I also became a labor and delivery nurse bc of a traumatic birth experience! Its awwsome ti helo women have the best experience possible!

  24. How's your BSN program going? :)

  25. I heard so many wonderful things about this midwife from the home birth community. I actually thought about hiring herself, until I saw her license history on DORA. This is the "awesome" midwife I had heard so much about? I feel like I don't know who I am hiring if I go with a CPM. I am birthing in a hospital because of this.

  26. THANK YOU for sharing this. I'm so sorry those women failed you so horribly. Shame on them! Congrats on your beautiful baby love <3

  27. You will make an awesome nurse! I'm so glad your little guy is ok, and so sorry you had this experience! Thanks for sharing your story so that other women can be spared your experience!