Batshittery Redux: Sisterhood Before Safety

Ever since I wrote the post This is Batshittery, I remain appalled and aghast at the continued support the homebirth community offers to killer midwives. At the time, I received several comments along the lines of, “Don’t lump us together with those extremists!” or “They really aren’t getting THAT much support.” Unfortunately, the more I observe this horrifying phenomenon, the more I believe that it simply isn’t the case. These midwives have large numbers of supporters, including the leaders of the natural birth movement, and these advocates are putting the cause before the lives and health of women and babies.

Lisa Barrett has presided over five deaths in four years. Even if she were attending 100 births a year (which I’m sure she isn’t), this would be a shockingly high and inappropriate death rate. She revels in her maverick status and her website is full of birth stories which showcase her questionable judgment. Is she being called out by members of the homebirth community? No, but there are TWO facebook groups (Including one brilliantly named “I support Lisa Barrett and That’s Final“) with more than 1600 members showing their support and raising money for her. She was also a featured speaker at this year’s Trust Birth conference.

But there are no facebook groups raising money for her victims.

If Lisa Barrett were an isolated incident, maybe I could be convinced it’s just a few supporters showing their cultish devotion. But it isn’t. Not only did she take on a 43-year-old first-time mother (in an of itself a high-risk situation) with a breech presentation, whose baby ultimately died and preside over the death of a twin shortly after birth, Karen Carr also told a hemorrhaging mother who was being transported not to tell the hospital about the drugs she’d administered. This behavior is unconscionable for a midwife. In spite of the behavior, however, Karen Carr has more than 1500 supporters sending her money in the Legal Defense Fund for Karen Carr, CPM Facebook community and a whole bunch of people showed up to protest at her hearings.

But no one is raising money for her victims.

Sara and Jarad Snyder’s son Magnus died at the hands of midwives at the Greenhouse Birth Center in Michigan. In spite of the fact that the midwives carry no malpractice insurance, the Snyders managed to find an attorney to take their case, and they are suing. Are any homebirth advocates raising funds to assist them with their legal bills? Hardly. There are homebirth advocates, however, banding together with the midwives to raise money for their legal assistance. In fact, the leader of the natural birth movement, Ina May Gaskin herself, is lending her support to these midwives. You can’t get more mainstream (when it comes to NCBers, at least) than that. Other supporters include Barbara Harper of Waterbirth International; Peggy O’Mara, former publisher and editor of Mothering magazine and mogul; Jennifer Block, author of Pushed; and Geradine Simkins, president of MANA.

And the latest batshittery? At a birth center in Idaho, there were three infant deaths between October 11, 2010 and August 9, 2011. That’s THREE DEATHS IN LESS THAN A YEAR (side note: 2010 and 2011 are going to be banner years for CPMs. I can hardly wait for the CDC numbers to come out.). In one case, they neglected to clamp the cord before they cut it. In another, they took on a mother with Type 1 diabetes, a situation that many obstetricians will refer to a MFM and then neglected to transfer when the baby’s heart rate dipped dangerously low. When paramedics were eventually called, the midwife delayed them in reaching the mother. And finally, they allowed a woman to push for more than 10 hours after discovering meconium in her amniotic fluid. After these deaths, was there an outcry? Were there facebook groups created to raise money for these stricken families? No, but there was an outcry that the midwives are being investigated.

And we can’t forget Clarebeth Loprinzi, who abandoned a woman for hours with her placenta still in her uterus and who’s license was finally revoked years later after yet another infant death. Midwifery Today, the banner publication for homebirth, is hawking “educational” recordings she made with Anita Rojas, another midwife involved in Oregon infant deaths.

Then there’s Gloria LeMayAlison OsbornEvelyn MulhanAmy Medwin. Diane Goslin. Janet Fraser.

I’m sorry, but it looks like you homebirth supporters who find this bizarre phenomenon distressing are actually in the minority. The people who are supporting these mavericks are making a statement, “It is more important to make homebirth look good than to make it safe for women and babies.” But in reality, this blind devotion isn’t even serving your purpose. As homebirth becomes more mainstream and these bad midwives continue to practice, they will be hurting more and more families. More attorneys will take on civil suits.  More legislators will be appalled. More arrests will be made. Why not pull your support now and throw the bums out?

28 thoughts on “Batshittery Redux: Sisterhood Before Safety

  1. It’s like a cult. Almost creepy. And scary, because these are babies’ lives we’re talking about. I would think the good, responsible midwives should be absolutely outraged that these careless, reckless midwives are still encouraged to keep practicing, making it so that all midwives are painted with the same brush. But no, they rally around them. It’s mind boggling to me.

    • Emily, the good, responsible midwives might be outraged but I imagine most of them are outraged… in secret. Really, this attitude of ‘we midwives should stick together’ might lead to anyone who disagrees being outracized by their peers. That’s about CNMs. Regarding CPMs and DEMs… well, what could they do? I’ll bet that most of them are fully aware that something like that can ‘happen’ to them. Not that they may cause it, mind you. They are not educated enough to realize that sometimes things ‘happen’ because their own incompetence makes them happen. So they know they cannot rest assured it won’t happen to them and if it does happen… well, they’d love to get some sisterhood then, right?

  2. I would think they would fall all over themselves to exile these inept members, they cast a bad name over all of midwifery. When I think of midwives, I think of Lisa Barrett and Amy Medwin. Both of whom are delivering babies under the guise of a doula.

  3. Hi — I just discovered you blog and have spent a good part of my afternoon reading the different posts and stories. I consider myself a home-birth advocate, and gave birth to my second son at home with a CPM who I love dearly. I can’t imagine giving birth anywhere but at home, and I think it should be an option for low-risk women. That being said, I’m more and more concerned about the home-birth movement and the truths you lay out here. I’ve written on my own blog about the risks of home birth, and what it means to make an informed decision, but I’m seeing now how much more women need to consider. I appreciate your advocacy for informed choice, and for midwife and home birth safety. Midwives do need to be held accountable, and I hope the United States will come to a place where women can birth more safely at home.

  4. If you have to lie, if you have to obfuscate, if you have to encourage others to lie, distort the facts, hide the truth in ANY way, you are DOING THE WRONG THING. Plain and simple. Wrong. That’s why I’m a former apprentice for lay midwifery and I am now a nursing student, on the way to an RN, then planning to become a Nurse Practitioner. It’s ridiculous that lay midwives, however much experience and knowledge they think they have, think that they have anywhere near the same understanding of physiology, of bio-mechanics, of the pathophysiology potentials in labor and delivery as OB/GYN’s or other actual medical birth professionals do. There isn’t any trusting birth, there’s RESPECTING birth and the power of the human body, and understanding what normally goes right, AND knowing what can and does go wrong, and how to fix it.

  5. And the more I read the more disgusted I am by the behaviors of cpm’s and lay midwives. How can they think that it is acceptable behavior to lie? How is it ok to obtain meds illegally and administer them to people and then ask those mothers to NOT tell their doctor what meds they have on board? This is extremely dangerous!
    UNfortunately, one of the things you learn in medicine is to assume your patient is lying. Isn’t that sad? But they lie, so often, that as a practitioner, whether it’s in the ER or an office visit, your patients will lie to you about drug use, smoking, abuse, etc. But to have another so-called care provider encouraging the lying! That’s outrageous, stupid and dangerous! GAH

  6. You forgot Annie Bourgault, who lost one of her own twins at home birth. And Cara Muhlhahn, the celebrity CNM of BOBB who settled $95,000 for a brain damaged baby, and still in a lawsuit for a baby death after a three day labor in a Manhattan apartment.

  7. Ok, I’m not in anyway defending the harm caused by these women. To be clear, their words speak for themselves.

    But…unless this aspect of Facebook policy has changed, anyone can add you to a group without your knowledge or consent. I wouldn’t hold membership in a Facebook group against anyone without knowing if they were aware or active in the group.

  8. And now Clarebeth Loprinzi is TEACHING others to become “traditional” (what does that mean?) home birth midwives! And get this,…. her classes are ONLINE!!!

    I consider myself a member of the natural birthing community, and fully support home birth attended by a Registered Midwife. Here in Canada we have nothing like CPMs. Our RMs attend both home and hospital births, have full hospital privileges, university degrees in midwifery, and because competition to get into the program is so competitive, usually have another health related degree as well. I’m from BC, home of Gloria Lemay, and I too have spent a lot of time wondering why these incompetent “midwives” are always rallied around instead of publicly shamed by their peers. And it always seems like the stupidest things they could possibly do, they do. Not clamping a pulsing cord before cutting it (and why are they touching that cord, anyway??!)? Letting a woman push ten hours? COMMON SENSE, please!

  9. Facebook does send notifications, but you have to read them. The point is: Facebook group memberships are opt-out. I wouldn’t read too much into that specific aspect. There’s enough incriminating material out there. Thanks for reporting it !

  10. As an RNC in Oregon, I am constantly faced with the “failed” homebirthers coming into our unit and hating our “interventions”. I still cannot help but be wounded by their hostility when all we want is to help them unfuck their baby’s life and their own. Sorry for the profanity, but crying out loud, why do their babies mean more to me than to them?

  11. “It is more important to make homebirth look good than to make it safe for women and babies.”

    Actually, it is more important for a few women to get doctor level pay for a high school degree education and to have a “career” that fits well with their family obligations.

    Its all about the midwives. Babies can easily be human sacrifices to these “important” goals.

    • That infant would have died no matter what hospital it was born in. The medical examiner determined so. This is a local case to where I live and Goslin has delivered over 6,000 babies to date, is very experienced and well loved in our area! Babies die in hospitals as well dispite medical treatment.

      • Please provide documentation. Healthy, full term babies are not known to randomly die in hospitals, and if they were, the outcry would be vast. If a midwife loses a healthy baby because a complication arose that was beyond her skill, then she is negligent. The number of healthy babies that she did not lose does not negate this. She(and the baby, and mother) merely lucked out.

        • I wasn’t very clear in my response. The babies who also die in hospitals to are the ones just like in the Goslin case where there is not medical treatment for them after birth and ultimately they will die. In the Goslin case, had the mother received an ultrasound, she would have been told by the Dr that her baby would die upon birth. Most Dr’s would have asked her if she wanted to abort but I know the majority of the women who see Goslin do not believe in that and would have carried the baby to full term non the less. Goslin’s case was blown way out of proportion when there was nothing the women or any Dr could have done for the infant. She was harshly attacked and the case was thrown out because it was an absurd charge to begin with. It wasn’t the family of the infant who died who took her to court. It was the medical community who later received much negative press for their treatment of her.
          All I’m saying is that families have the right to decide for themselves what they want to do. I won’t argue with anyone that there are more risks to delivering at home but that still doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be allowed to do so. I for one considered a home birth for my 2nd but ultimately decided that as long as we still have insurance coverage and can afford to deliver at the hospital, we will do so. With everything in the health care system changing, it may soon become much more affordable for families to deliver at home and if that should be the case down the road for us, we would strongly consider delivering at home!

  12. I’m glad I found this article. I was saying earlier on another post that I respected Ina Mae Gaskin, because she is very intelligent and skilled, and doesn’t fool around with transporting. But now that I see what she is supporting, I have lost a lot of respect for her. These women idolize her.

  13. Shouldn’t each family have the right to decide how they want to birth their children? Your article seems a bit heavy handed. I don’t have time to research all the names of the midwives you listed but Goslin is local and I’ve read many similar articles to this one about her.
    She has much experience and should not be made part of the list you seem determined to scrutinize! Makes me seriously question if you knew your facts before writing this.
    No doubt there are risk factors with home birth but there are also the same with hospital deliveries. You should read Goslin’s personal story as to why she chose to become a midwife. After her bad hospital experience, I can understand why families choose home birth.
    Why are you so critical of people who choose to enjoy that experience? They know the risks and should be allowed to birth in the comfortable environment of their own home if they want.

    • Unfortunately, they DON’T know the risks. Many women who choose homebirth are lied to by activists who tell them homebirth is as safe or safer than birth in a hospital. Homebirth midwives don’t tell them their “education” is following another uneducated midwife around for 20 births and that they aren’t required to have any didactic education at all. They aren’t told that babies born at home with non-nurse midwives have at least a three times greater chance of dying. Yes, “babies die in hospitals, too…” Babies born prematurely, babies with congenital conditions…ALMOST NEVER the full term healthy babies that are dying in homebirths because of the midwives lack of education and misguided “trust birth!” world views.

      • I would argue with you that most women do know the risks. I know the risks and I’ve never talked with a midwife or had a home delivery. I have many friends who delivered at home and are fully aware of the risks they face. Most of my friends don’t do home birth for their first but after that they are more confident having been through it once before. Perhaps I live in an area where we have very experienced midwives who are worthy of our trust but I’m sure there are more around the country as well.
        Look, my argument towards this topic isn’t to disagree with anyone and try to say a home birth is more safe than delivering in the hospital. I’m not that naive but I do think each family should have the right to decide for themselves what they want to do. I am totally sick of all the government control in every area of our life and there are some things that they need to keep their sticky fingers out of.
        Think about this angle for a moment. Most of the medical community would be pro abortion right? Many Dr’s who know a baby is going to die upon birth or have down syndrome or any other medical issue would offer abortion as an option for the mother. Not all but most. Why are people willing to kill the life within them so easily without even thinking but yet want to deny a mother to be able to deliver at home because the baby might die then. To me this makes no sense whatsoever. Let’s kill them in the womb but don’t let a mom have it at home because we don’t want the baby to die then. I’m pro life and from my point of view, a baby is a person from conception. If pro choice folks really cared about womens’ rights like they claim to, then shouldn’t more be all for a women’s right to deliver at home?

  14. Clarebeth Loprinzi the woman responsible for the death of my beautiful niece. You won’t find the story of what happened to my beautiful niece or sister anywhere on the internet.

    My sister, 17 years old at the time, was under the care of her adoptive parents, Namahana Kalama-Panui and William Panui and her midwife Clarebeth Loprinzi.

    I could write a book about the cruelty of these three human beings but I will jump strait to the birth of my niece.

    I had gotten a text on an early Monday morning (6am) from my 17 year old sister informing me that she had gone into labor and she would be in contact with me soon.

    Through out the day I called and text messaged her and got no response. Worried out of my mind I decided to call my sisters adoptive parents (Namahana and William Kalama-Panui) also no answer from them so I moved on to contacting her midwife Clarebeth Loprinzi. She responded telling me that my sister was doing great, and that I should think happy thoughts for my sister and my “nephew”. Clarebeth referred to the baby as my nephew in every text. The text went on between me and clarebeth from Monday-Thursday. She told me not to worry because we don’t rush birth. To keep thinking and sending happy thoughts. When I asked to speak to my sister or have her call me I was told that they “clarebeth and my sister adoptive parents” were not allowing phone calls. She said she was having my sister dance the baby out???

    Thursday night I finally get a phone call from my sisters adoptive mother telling me that my sister is in the hospital and that they lost the baby. She wouldn’t give me any details, would not tell me what hospital my sister was in. Nothing.

    I called around on Friday looking for her and had no luck, called my sisters phone, tried to see if the phone company could track her phone for me but they said because she had her phone off it was impossible. Finally her phone was back on and ringing, but still no answer, so I left a text saying I had spoke to a lawyer and would be contacting the police and filing a missing persons report. I got a response in the next minute “of course”.

    So heres the story that comes from my sister.

    She went into labor early Monday morning. Her water broke on Tuesday morning. She was fully dilated and pushed from Tuesday-Thursday. Thursday evening they decided it looked like my sister wasn’t doing well and MAYBE they should get her help. They didn’t call the ambulance they drove her to the hospital, and they did not drive her to the nearest hospital they took her to one that was further away because the midwife suggested it.

    My niece had no heartbeat by that time, and my sister could barely stand. She passed out once she got there and they delivered my niece. A beautiful, healthy 9lb baby girl, who never had a chance thanks to Clarebeth Loprinzi.

    Autopsy results say that baby died from severe head trauma and suffocation. And the reason she could not be delivered is because my sisters bladder was too full. hmmmm sounds similar like another complaint filed against loprinzi.

    My sister is so brainwashed by these people that she believes that what happened was “what God wanted” and she shouldn’t report it to anyone because that would be blaming, and no one is to blame because it was Gods will. I am sick over this. What do I do? I need advice please.

  15. Please report the incident to NARM so that this midwife can be held accountable for her lack of judgment and failure to adhere to standards of care. I have witnessed this same attitude amongst parents who will not testify against their midwife when her negligence clearly cost them the life of their child. It is heart breaking. I am a CPM who is no longer practicing. I returned to school and got my BSN and my RNC-MNN certification. I worked for another midwife that was mentioned by “to each his own.” Her actions cost the life of a baby when I was working for her and she continues to practice recklessly. Recently, she took on a VBAC at home for a woman with a vertical (classical) incision. She was left at 8 cms in order to go and deliver a set of twins in which the second twin malpresented and died. This type of practice must be stopped. If you, or anyone, knows of a midwife that is making life-threatening decisions such as your sister’s midwife, she needs to be reported. Hopefully, there will be enough evidence to stop her and protect other women and babies.

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