Aquila’s Story

by Mrs. BWF on March 1, 2012

Liz and I ‘met’ online a year ago. Unfortunately it was not a good experience for either of us. Neither one of us understood where the other was coming from and it became heated very fast. My reactions were nothing short of ridiculous and full of hormones and emotions one might expect from a 10 month pregnant woman. I regret my actions. Over time, Liz and I finally let down our walls, started to believe each other, offered apologizes and gave forgiveness.

I share my thoughts with you first for two reasons. The first being that communication is only 30% of what is said. The rest can not be seen or heard (body language and tone). Communicating via the internet, while a wonderful tool, can go bad fast. Please be aware of this. Second, because I want to let others know that even if you feel wronged, attacked or hurt, there is always hope for healing and unity. I am regretful of my actions towards Liz and I am grateful she accepted my apologies. I am humbled by her generosity to do the same for me.  I have always believed Liz and Aquila’s story should be heard and am honored to share this brave family’s story here. ~Mrs. BWF

Aquila’s Story

My daughter died at my home birth from a combination of a severe Chorioamnionitis infection, followed by a complete placental abruption. Unfortunately my midwife, a Cpm with only 150 births under the belt, was completely unprepared and under trained for handling such severe complications. The midwife, Faith Beltz was found guilty of failing to transport by the Texas board for midwifery here, but unfortunately no lawyer would take our case, because Faith, like almost every other home birth midwife, does not carry malpractice insurance. This is Aquila’s story.

The week before: December 10th 2009

I went in the morning to the last bible study meeting of the year. About halfway through, I started getting contractions and feeling very cold. I left early, gathered kids and drove us home. I got home and could not make it past the couch, the contractions were bad and I was shivering. I called Gabe, and turned on the TV. I went up to take a hot shower. The hot water ran out after I had been in there for what seemed to be a very short time, but must have been quite long.I turned off the water, but could not stop shaking enough to get a towel. Just then Gabe came in the bathroom and wrapped me up in one. I remember my teeth were chattering like crazy.

We called Amy (best friend and doula) who came right over. This started the -fill the tub, bring labor tea, rub back labor support from both of them. Amy took my temp, which was over 102. She called the midwife – Faith Beltz, who came over soon after. By the time Faith got there the contractions had puttered out. She listened to fetal heart tones, which were 190-200. She said this was caused (probably) by the fever, and she wanted to make sure I did not have a bacterial infection. So, she drew blood for a CBC and left to take it in.

Four hours later the numbers were in. The numbers were confusing for Faith, so we went into the hospital. They decided I have a virus, not the flu, and that my Ketones were VERY high. This was caused by me getting dehydrated from the fever, and the high ketones where irritating my uterus, causing the contractions. They had me eat and drink, and the doctor offered an induction, which I said no thanks. He smiled and said it was fine with him, I should have a great home birth. I spent the next three days in bed recovering.

The Day Before: Dec 18th 2009

I was 3 days overdue and miserable, so I took Castor oil in the morning (2T). This produced it’s designed effect, but no contractions, but I was sure I would go into labor that night. I laid a water proof pad on my bed and went to sleep.

Labor: December 19th 2009

Midnight, on the dot, my eyes opened. I thought “Why am I awake?”. Then a I felt a pop, followed by a gush. I felt so relieved I had put down that pad! I waited for the gushes to subside so I could waddle to the bathroom and grab a pad. I texted Faith and Amy 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 6am.

A while 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.

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 Katie Jo 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. Aquila’s heart tones are in the 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 3:45 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 hear tones are at or above 180 almost every time, but on the records it shows them as 170′s…

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 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”. This is backed up by the other 3 people at my birth.

Faith was not even in the room for me asking to go- she was gone out of the room for at least 20 minutes, on the phone.

When she gets back she check 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…

Please pay close attention to these words…the hospital was 3 MINUTES from my house. But that means NOTHING when bad things are happening and you are in hard labor. It took at least 30 minutes to get to the car. 30 MINUTES. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you are safer than you are.

My contractions at this point were what is called Tetonic- 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 her. At the time this 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 the ‘I am 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.

After birth: 5:30 pm December 19th 2009

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. Her 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 her 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 (the birth records says it was a cup sized). 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 home birth with a “hand’s 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). The said they would take me to Brakenridge, 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 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, possibly after being cut up. This is part of my story I have never written, because it is the biggest nightmare. All I wanted was to hold my daughter, to 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.

This is first time I saw her, at the funeral home.

We buried her 2 days before Christmas. I held my daughter in my arms during the service while she sobbed. My milk came in that day, throbbing, with no baby to feed. Every day I miss her……

Liz Paparella

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{ 89 comments… read them below or add one }

jennifer stover March 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I weep for all the babies that die; whether at home or in the hospital, and the mothers whose arms ache to hold them. The beautiful book, The Anguish of Loss, is full of sculptures and poems one woman created as she learned to live with the devastating loss of her baby.

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Heather March 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I lost my son following an unnecessary cesarean, in November of 2005. The standard lament is, “I’m sorry” but those words can’t do justice what I want to convey to you. I don’t know if any words can.
Your midwife was awful. I hope that with time you can heal a little from her fraud. What she did to you was terrible. Please know this is not the case with most midwives, or any care provider (home birth or hospital). What she did was criminal, neglectful and ignorant… you deserved so much better. Not just from her, but from everyone who handled your case.
Like you I was also a mishandled case, but mine occured only at a hospital. In time I also realized this was not a case of “all hospitals and doctors are bad” but rather a case of getting the pick of the litter…. in all the wrong ways. :( Much like you did.

It’s been six years since my son died. The wound never goes away, but it does stop bleeding. You learn to live with it. Time doesn’t heal all wounds… that’s bullshit. It just becomes a little more livable, that’s all.
I never wanted mine healed anyway: I want to always feel for my son.

I wish you peace during this time.

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Michelle March 4, 2012 at 1:58 am

Liz… I couldn’t believe my eyes when I followed a link to this page and saw the picture of you and your family! I recognized you right away. I was one of your nurses at Brackenridge, and I remember the night you came in pretty clearly. I’m glad you are telling your story, if only to help educate women and help your grief. I remember talking to the medical examiner, and even Sarah trying to talk to some people, to try and get Aquila to you. Your mom fought really hard for you. I’m so sorry we never were able to do so… I hope you and your family are healing, though I know you will never get over the loss of your little one.

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liz p March 6, 2012 at 9:20 am

wow Michelle! i am amazed you found me here :) thank you for being so kind to me then and still <3

liz

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Dou-la-la March 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

I am really happy to read this story here. I think it is an incredibly powerful one – and I am also glad that some understanding has come between January and Liz.

Reading Aquila’s story has had a really profound effect on me (along with some other terrible loss stories). I remain a birth choice advocate, but my feelings about licensing, education and regulation have been changed dramatically.

I thank Liz for having the courage to continue to share her story. I am so sorry not only for your loss, but for the OUTRAGEOUS way you were treated in the aftermath. I hope this helps to change things for the better.

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The Joy of This March 5, 2012 at 12:48 am

Mrs. BWF, Thank you for being brave enough to share Liz’s tragic story with all of us. I APPLAUD you for giving this mother a voice in the natural birth community, and for not censoring her story, BRAVO! How can we truly educate ourselves if we do not see both the tragic and the triumphant of birth?

In reading this I know, I must honor this mother’s story, I must honor her experience and give space in my heart to grieve with her. I bless the life and memory of her daughter, Aquila, by allowing this story to awaken me to the urgency of asking for higher quality homebirth care.

If we love women and babies, then we are charged to carry a reverence for birth. Respect birth, let it humble us, let it teach us, but make no assumptions we cannot contain it. Birth is like nothing else in the world. Being the most beautiful, gives it the ominous potential of being the most devastating.

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Tracy Lowman March 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

There are no words. The unbelievable pain – and we all feel it reading the story. Thanks to you Liz for being brave enough to share – and to survive when I don’t know that I could have.

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JGuest March 5, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Thank you both Mrs. BWF and Mrs. Paparella for sharing Liz and Aquila’s story. I have been following it but am still floored, absolutely floored, by the lack of quality care.

I have a similar account of a very poor midwife though she did get us in for a c-section in time. For that, and my daughter’s life, I am thankful.

The rest? Well, for those of us who have suffered at the hands of lackluster care, you can never erase the wounds and you hope, somewhat irrationally, at times, that no one ever has to go through it again.

For those who birth beautifully and with reverence and positive care, take heart for those of us who have lost a lot at the hands of those we were told to ‘trust’. Mine was a hospital midwife who I had no choice but to be under her care. I had no other options, the system dictated her to me.

If I am cautious about homebirth and midwives practicing in the lay, it is only because I have seen the horrible aftermath of someone who was licensed legally and practicing with doctors.

It is not that I discount you, your stories or your midwives; it’s that I wish to protect others from mine.

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Rachael March 5, 2012 at 10:35 pm

If I said I’m sorry a thousand times, it would not be enough, and it wouldn’t give you Aquila back. It’s heartbreaking, and I can only hope with everything in me that the midwife who treated you takes a huge lesson away from all of this about her place and how to treat a patient. I’m sorry there is nothing else I can say. I hope you are somehow able to find peace and be surrounded by the love of your family.

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Veronica March 5, 2012 at 11:07 pm

Liz, God bless you and yours. I want to thank you for sharing your story. I am looking into becoming a CPM. Your story helped me learn something that could not be taught in a class. Angin thank you for sharing your story.

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Cindy March 5, 2012 at 11:40 pm

I have no words for such a loss. I’m so sorry.

I was shocked to see the name of the midwife… I interviewed her and almost went with her in 2010. This story makes me glad I decided not to go with her (the only reason for my decision was distance from my home)

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Kimberly March 6, 2012 at 12:30 am

This story makes my heart ache. Thank you for being so brave to share your story…I could not imagine the feelings you must have been going through, and every day since. I agree with some of the other commenters that stories like this need to be told so that we can not only understand what can happen but to help continue to make home and hospital births as safe as they possibly can be and keep women like your midwife out of birth until they are properly trained and can deal with these types of emergencies.

I hope that Liz and her family have been able to heal over the last two years. <3

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Jen March 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm

I cannot express how sorry I am for your loss. As I was reading this to my husband, I was overcome with sorrow for you and also realized that he lost a son (age 4, drowning) that passed at Brakenridge as well. My thoughts and prayers are with you as I know that this will never be something your heart will heal from. The loss of a child is the most devastating of things and the care that you received from someone that you trusted with everything was deplorable. Again, I am so sorry.

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Andrea G. March 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

That had to have been the hardest thing for you to write out. Thank you for sharing your story with us. See, it is particularly important because I’m from Austin, Texas. You have given me a lot to think about. Thank you for posting the link to the Texas Board of Midwifery. I hope you find peace, healing, and I admire your strength.

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Cassandra Artemissa March 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm

My heart aches for you. I am so, so sorry that you had this experience. You did the most amazing thing a woman can do by giving birth, and you are an amazing woman. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to read your story. Blessings Sacred Woman, I will pray for you everyday, and truly thank God and Goddess for life.

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Ariel March 14, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Liz, I I am so, so sorry for your loss. My heart broke for you as I read this. Wishing and praying for infinite peace and healing to you and your family.

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Krysann March 17, 2012 at 2:09 am

There is no way I could express how sorry I am… But to add to the plethora of condolences my own heartfelt sorrow on your behalf. Your beautiful Aquila is truly honored by her mother’s legacy. Thank you so much for bravely sharing your story.

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arwen April 8, 2012 at 1:26 pm

There are no words to explain what I am feeling right now. From a mom with 4 csections–none that I wanted–and 4 NICU babies–all survived I am shocked at the lack of care you received. I have given birth in the US and in Iceland and have never seen anything like this before. You are a wonderful and strong person to share your story with all of us who are strangers to you. Please know I will carry this story with me forever and will never forget your beautiful daughter. I believe she will be carried in the memories of all who read this story.

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Megan Casey May 25, 2012 at 8:52 pm

I read before on another site how Mrs. BWF censures her stories. I didn’t believe it then. But this story just reminds me of my gut how truly wrong and evil that other site was.
I cried for this family. I had a great CNM in the hospital, but I understand not everyone can be so lucky. God be with this family. May he grant this family the peace their daughter has had since the moment he brought her into0 his arms.
I strongly pray this story opens the eyes of people that OB or midwife malpractice can happen anywhere. Shame on the spineless lawyers who wouldn’t take this case. Praying for this family!

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Comadrona September 29, 2012 at 12:46 am

This is hard for me to read because, many years ago, I too suffered a stillbirth as a result of a midwife not recognising symptoms which really needed immediate help. It took me years to acknowledge that my daughter might have lived if the steps had been taken and that reality stays with me in my journey as a midwife who also cares for VBACs at home.

I don’t think there should be an arbitrary figure of 150 births under a MW’s belt before she takes on home births. Some are ready after just 20 and others will never be ready. I also don’t think that “hands off” is dangerous as long as, the minute birth stops looking normal, we take action. Just judging by the information in the story, I would have had the mother in hospital, or at least referred to a doctor, after the high temp. and rigors she reports. I would certainly have transferred when she started passing large clots and was only 5-6 cms dilated. There were definite signposts which called for another opinion, especially when dealing with a mother who has given birth before and reports strange pain. This next comment is in NO WAY condemnatory but… I will never use or recommend Castor Oil again. It so happens I used it prior to my daughter’s birth/death and she passed thick meconium which I think is related. Castor Oil is rough and doesn’t even have the desired effect of initiating labour much of the time. For me, labour must start naturally or I’m not happy to be at home with a mum. I hope you can recover and renew your faith in the intrinsic safety of birth, I wish you peace.

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Dion November 23, 2012 at 1:28 pm

As a Midwife with about 100 births experience plus my own 4 home births, I agree completely. Hands off is fine, however in my practice protocols I require listening to FHT’s and Placental sounds during Prenatals and labor – I know how to use a foetoscope if parents don’t want the electronic doppler used. If I discover the Placenta is low-lying and gets lower as the Uterus enlarges, I am even more interventive and watchful. I do definitely refer out to an OB with a high temp, and do transport with complaints of unusual continuous contractions, and /or large clots! FHT’s over 160 that are constant is another red flag (a Midwife needs to get a baseline during Prenatals to realize this). I have my practice protocols and things that would risk-out a mom prenatally or during birth written. The parents agree & sign so we’re all on the same page. Even if potential clients decide to go with a Midwife who is more hands-off or do an un-assisted birth, my written protocols might cause them to realize something is very wrong with high temp, abnormal contractions, blood clots, etc – and get themselves to the ER!
I think this Midwife assumed that because the mom had so many babies already, mom would be able to tell intuitively when something was wrong. However, a Para 6 is a risk factor by itself.
Many blessings to this family for their loss.

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lynette polinder November 13, 2012 at 11:08 pm

I am so sorry. So sorry for all you went through and for the pain of not being able to hold your baby in your arms. I lost my daughter after four months due to complications of being premature. I know how important it was for me to be with her while she was dying and for the next few hours after. I beat myself up for a long time for not trusting my intuition and for trusting the medical professionals who sent me home not believing I was in premature labor. It has taken me a long time to forgive myself and them for this. Sigh. I am again, just so very sorry for the termendous loss you have experienced.

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Kathryn December 19, 2012 at 8:16 am

I still think of you, Liz and wonder how you are doing. If you don’t mind, please update us…..

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Jen Meyercheck December 19, 2012 at 8:22 am

Oh God, this is the most heartwrenching story I have ever heard. My heart just aches for this woman and her family. I am so sorry you had to live through this.

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Diane December 19, 2012 at 8:31 am

My son died from choriamnioitis and an abruption too. I was 23 weeks 5 days. I had begged for help from my OB who was head of the maternity ward in our hospital. He ignored me for weeks until the day my water broke. My son was born alive and died in my arms. After he had been dead 12 hours my OB said “too bad we didn’t send him to the NICU he was viable at this size” WTF? Too late now but thx. I too was denied justice. A hard reality to face. My heart breaks for you. I hope time brings you a level of peace

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Johanna December 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

I am so sorry for your loss! I am so sorry for the pain you have had to go through and continue to go through! My heart breaks for you and your family and I pray you will find healing.

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Megan Casey December 19, 2012 at 9:52 am

There arent even words. I wonder after you and your family as it is almost Christmas. All I can think of is I hope God has given you peace. I realize probably nothing will ever heal your heart but I pray it has at least scabbed enough for you to smile.
I hope this woman is kept FAR away from any other mothers. Its probably to much to hope she was prosecuted for her clear malpractice and falsifying records

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Priscilla December 19, 2012 at 10:20 am

I am so very sorry for your loss, I cant even begin to imagine the pain you’ve had to endure. It is not ok for this to happen, and I’m very grateful that you are sharing this with others and spreading awareness.
Im sorry it came at such a price though. I know your sweet angel waits for you in heaven. God bless you and your family.

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Cece G December 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

I am so so so very sorry for your loss. The pictures absolutely broke my heart. I am so sorry it took so long for you to be able to hold your precious baby.

I applaud you and January for sharing this story with such open minds. We all make decisions for various reasons, but this certainly shows the need for caution when it comes to birthing a baby, anywhere. I had a homebirth with a CPM who had caught over 2000 babies in 30 years and I chose a place closer to the hospital than my own home just in case of an emergency. I remember asking my midwives about situations that would make them transfer me…. they had a very long list… I thought man, they will transfer over anything! But now looking back, I realize I would rather have a transfer I didn’t need than to not have one that i did need.

Many hugs and much love to you.

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Chelsey December 20, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I am so very sorry for your loss and for the everything you have suffered through. I know the words don’t help, but I just wanted to show my support. You are a very brave soul, thank-you for sharing your story. May God bless you and your family. My prayers are with you all.

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Jennifer N April 2, 2013 at 4:23 pm

I came across this page while researching HBAC. I very rarely comment on anything, and I don’t know why exactly I feel the need to comment here because there is absolutely nothing I can say. I’m just so sorry. I can’t NOT say I’m sorry, that my heart breaks for you, that I am crying at my desk. I know it doesn’t change a thing about the experience to hear that some stranger is sorry, but I don’t know what else I can do. If I could take away just a little of the pain and bear it myself, I would in a heartbeat. My condolences to your family.

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Angela Heffner December 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

I am so sorry for your loss! It is obvious you are still angry. Please find it within yourself to forgive the midwife, and all those that had a hand in the things that went wrong for your home birth.
I just had my first home birth 8 months ago…. my midwife was ‘hands-off’ which I requested. I took in all the knowledge I could for the signs of things that could go wrong and I was prepared to step in if needed. Someone should have done that for you mama! Someone there should have dialed 911…
I’m so sorry for your loss!

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Ariel December 19, 2013 at 10:02 pm

My daughter got the best care from a midwife who sent her to the hospital and there she got the best care from the hospital staff. But her little one died of an extremely, extremely rare disorder that is untreatable. We just buried her a few weeks ago. The pain is excruciating. Your baby should be here. I am so sorry she isn’t. Much love to your family.

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