Henry’s Story: Did Lax Oregon Laws Contribute to His Death?

Last week, KVAL in Eugene did a series on midwifery in Oregon,  highlighting the experiences of Kristine Andrews, Mindy Bizzell, and Margarita Sheikh with homebirth midwives:

 

I applaud these women for their courage and strength to tell their stories in the face of criticism from random strangers and homebirth supporters alike. These are things that we all need to hear, and especially those of us who are considering giving birth at home in Oregon.

Of course, while I commend Beth Ford and KVAL for bringing these stories to light, I understand that it is hard to give them the attention they deserve in a scant two minutes on the evening news.

I discussed Mindy’s story with her, and there were a few things that didn’t make the cut that she wanted to get out there.

10Centimeters: Is there anything that didn’t get said in the KVAL story (or that did get said) that you’d like to highlight?

Mindy: The KVAL reporter didnt note that Henry was in fact frank breech, she reported he was footling breech, which was not the case. She highlighted the fact that we didn’t know the difference between midwife care and hospital care, which just isn’t true — obviously we know the difference; what we were trying to convey was that Tamy Roloff was licensed in the state of WA, and we expected a professional who had a certain degree of education and experience. We inquired about what school she had gone to, we asked how many births she had attended (somewhere in the 300 range). We were not just picking up someone from the street to help us have our baby, we hired someone who had a credential and who was state licensed.

10Centimeters: When did Tamy tell you that Henry was breech? Was it before you left for the hospital? Or not until he was delivering in the car?

Mindy: Tamy told us that Henry was breech after my water broke and there was VAST amounts of thick meconium on the bathroom floor and I asked her to check me internally (because I reached up and checked myself and mistakenly though I felt a cord, which had been my worst fear concerning homebirth, I never imagined that he would be breech and Tamy wouldn’t know.  He was a huge baby — 9lbs — and he had evidently been breech for awhile. She was not competent enough to know or to catch it when she palpitated my stomach at our weekly visits). It was at this point that she told us that protocol dictated we go to the hospital, and that she “didnt like it,” but we would go ahead and go. I remember thinking, “WTF, I WANT to go to the hospital lady!” I had no intention and never had of giving birth to a breech baby at home.

10centimeters: Was there any indication that something might be wrong before labor started? In early labor?

Mindy:  In hindsight I can see that absolutely there were indications he was breech. I called her the night before labor started and specifically told her that I thought he was in a strange position and it did not feel like his head was engaged in my pelvis. She told me outright that “I know you want to hear that something is wrong, but that nothing is wrong, Trust me, I hear this from all my mothers.” We talked for 20 minutes about my fears about his position, which she would later deny to the state investigators (I had to produce phone records to prove it). I was also leaking brown fluid before my water broke, and asked her about it at least two separate times, and she told me that it was “fine and normal.” I showed my husband a third time and told him I thought it was strange but we both trusted Tamy when she said it was normal; we presumed she had seen this before. This was the same brown fluid that covered my hands as Henry was being born in the backseat of our car over the Astoria bridge.

10centimeters: That was one of the things that really stuck out to me about your story. Why on earth would your midwife have you drive from your home in Washington more than 45 minutes to Oregon when there was a hospital just minutes away?

Mindy:  At the time, Tamy did not tell us we were going to Astoria until we were in the car and pulling away.  I thought we were going to the hospital two minutes away from our house. She claimed they “would not take me” and that we had to go to Astoria. My mother had asked her earlier in the house why we didn’t call and ambulance and she told her that an ambulance would have to come all the way from Astoria to pick me up (Which we found out later was a lie.  There are ambulance services all over the peninsula. The WA state investigator said she called on of them and their estimated time for getting to me at my home would have been 2 minutes).

I honestly think that a big part of Tamy’s decision to go to Astoria was because she felt that she could still deliver the baby, and if she had me in the car on the way to the hospital and the baby was born in the car then she couldn’t have been held liable for trying to do a breech at home. During my pregnancy she had frequently bragged to me about a birth she had done in a car where the baby was born safely, she had clearly felt like a hero and it was a story I heard her tell many times. I think she felt that she had the power to make any baby be born safely, because she had an incredible earth-mother goddess trip where she felt like some kind of all powerful purveyor of birth. She also told me when we got in the car, after I told her that I was needing to push (and she knew full well that Astoria was 45 minutes away), that “well, we’ll just have the baby in the car then”. She really and truly believed she could do it, I don’t think she ever imagined that he would get stuck like that. She told me outright that she had never done a breech birth before after Henry died, but at the time she behaved as though she knew just what she was doing. I trusted her implicitly. This woman had thrown me a belly casting/baby shower party two weeks before. She was a friend, a confidante, and at the time I was in transition, I had no part of my brain available to question her or to wonder at the sense of what was happening. In hindsight it all seems absurd that none of us called an ambulance, but we had really and truly trusted her. We believed that what she told us was the right thing, we even believed her when she said no ambulance would come for me in time and that the local hospital wouldn’t take me (which we found out later was also untrue).


10Centimeters: When I heard your story, my first thought was that you were transported to Oregon because it was against Washington law for your midwife to attend a breech birth and she knew that she could not get in trouble if you delivered in Oregon. Do you think there is any truth to that?
Mindy: It didn’t occur to me, honestly, for the last two years to think that Tamy took us to Astoria to avoid the laws here but now that you said that it is definitely a possibility and it left me reeling. I do think it’s a possibility, but I never would have said that right after Henry was born. My eyes started to open about what kind of person she truly was after we saw the WA state investigators report, how she attempted to make us look bad, claiming we wanted her to “stand in the other room during our birth”, and all of the other lies and half truths she told (and how she omitted the leaking meconium fluid from her charts). The truth is that Tamy was in it to protect Tamy, and no one else. I don’t believe she cared about Henry more than she cared about her own professional career and her own lifestyle. So I suppose in the end I can say it’s a definite possibility that the lack of laws in Oregon influenced her decision, but I also think it was her own God complex, her need to prove any baby can be born at the hands of a midwife.


10Centimeters: Did she say anything else to you after Henry was born?
Mindy: This woman did her very best to brainwash me after Henry’s birth, immediately whisking me out of the hospital, into her own waiting car (a few hours after I had surgery to repair my severe 4th degree tear). She insisted on driving me home, and then insisted on driving me herself to Portland to see Henry (which is 3 1/2 hour drive from Ilwaco where we lived) who was at OHSU in the NICU. During the entire car ride she took great pains to talk to me about what happened and she kept repeating how “we” had done this or that, and how “we had done the best we could” — she was very intent on creating a bond between her and I and refusing any culpability whatsoever. She also repeatedly told me that my inability to urinate at all after his birth was normal and ok — resulting in permanent nerve damage and 2 solid months of catheterization for me. I still cannot urinate normally and frequently experience bouts of painful bladder spasms (the ER took 3100cc’s of urine out of me four days following Henry’s birth).


Mindy, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing your story. I know that it can’t be easy. I’m sure that I speak for everyone reading when I tell you that we are so, SO sorry for the tragic loss of your son.


Tamra Roloff, Mindy’s midwife, has had six Washington case investigations against her license: Case #2009-138744, #2009-142066, #2010-145607, #2010-142794, #2010-143829, #2010-143971

Margarita Shares Her Story on KATU

Great job, Margarita! I know the reporter didn’t put in everything you told her, but I think your story came across loud and clear, anyway. And kudos to Representative Greenlick. I’m looking forward to seeing what he puts forth this coming legislative session.

And the best comment award goes to Tara, for this:

This tells a good portion of her story but leaves out some of the most chilling details. The “midwives” Darby Partner and Laura Tanner looked great and talked a good game but failed to deliver on their promises. But worse than that, their actions were self-serving. This was Darby’s first primary birth and she wasn’t going to have a hospital transport as her first birth. So they in effect, kidnapped Margarita. They took away her phone and forced her friends to leave. M’s husband was in India and was not allowed to talk to her. Her friend called the police multiple times and got no help. So margarita was alone with these charlatans, and in pain and helpless. They actually left her so they would not have to hear her pleas to go the hospital. They didn’t even know enough to tell that they were picking up her heartbeat and not the baby’s. They also did not even have a bulb syringe or knowledge of CPR. They forced her to labor for 8 days with all the warning signs. Meconium in the fluid, post dates etc. They misrepresented themselves and because of the lack of a system that Oregon has there is no way to tell the difference. I saw Darby’s and Laura’s websites myself, they looked legit. Full of pictures of happy mamas and babies and Darby looking like some benevolent mother earth figure. This is why this mother is fighting so hard, so that no one else is duped by fakers like she was. But is goes deeper than that. Natural child birth and homebirth can be wonderful, but there is an undercurrent of sickly sweet lies that has overtaken the NCB world. The blame lies heavily on the false prophets of the community that peddle the most egregious tripe. They spew such platitudes as no woman can grow a baby she can’t birth, and breech is another variation of normal. They employ fearmongering techniques and tell mothers that doctors only want to cut them so they can get to their golf game. They are zealots and they are cult-like in how they maintain rigid control over the content on their sites. Margarita’s own story was deleted from the most popular of these pages. They do not allow dissenting points of view and commenters, myself included, are deleted for raising up a voice of reason. They deny that there is any risk to birth at all and scoff at known complications like pre-eclampsia, previa and gestational diabetes. Worse, they push bunk remedies like garlic vaginal suppositories for group B strep. They viciously cut down any women who have inductions and c/sections and their followers follow suit. It’s common to hear how women who have c sections are selfish and shouldn’t be allowed to have children. They have created an impossible ideal in the name of being “natural” and and any woman that doesn’t follow in this ideal of homebirth, breastfeeding,cloth diapering,not circing, not vaccinating, etc are denounced and verbally flogged by hundreds of women. I’m actually surprised there aren’t more suicides from this, although we hear of a great deal of postpartum depression and difficulties bonding with the children that result from the “failed birth” I personally know a mother that has spent the last year regretting her homebirth transport and feeling like a failure because of it. Is it any wonder that vulnerable mothers go running to midwives? And these saccharine phonies are there with arms wide open promising to give them the birth experience they always wanted and failing them in the 11th hour. There is nothing we can really do to prevent this kind of propaganda from saturating the internet, but there is damn well something we can do about the lying, self-proclaimed “midwives” that exploit a mother’s fears. We need to demand stricter educational standards(25 births, are you kidding me?) mandatory regulations, mandatory licensing, malpractice insurance and the strictest review board that will drop the hammer down on these incompetent wanna-be midwives. You know, what’s really sad? Because these midwives aren’t insured, there isn’t even any civil action that babyloss mothers can seek. They literally get away scott-free. And they go on to harm even more babies and mothers. If they want to be professionals, then they need to be held to professional standards.