Danielle and Michael were ecstatic to be expecting a baby, and chose a homebirth midwife for what they thought would be a beautiful, relaxing, and safe delivery. A year on, they are left with a dead baby. What went wrong?
Just a little over one year ago, on February 20, baby Gavin Michael was born. You have probably seen YouTube videos in honor of a baby's first birthday before — they seem to be quite the rage — so there is nothing strange about the fact that Gavin Michael's parents made a video too.
Danielle and Michael's story starts almost like a fairy tale. "She didn't think she could get pregnant, and I didn't think I could get anyone pregnant," Michael says. Danielle, a bright-looking curly-haired young woman, excitedly shares what happened next. A friend had a strong feeling Danielle was pregnant, and told her so. "No, I'm, not pregnant! You're crazy!" Danielle retorted.
Still, not being sure, she asked husband Michael to buy her a pregnancy test on his way back from his night shift. Michael recounts that his wife was a little upset because he bought the "expensive test" that says "pregnant or not pregnant" on it, and that wasn't what Danielle asked for. She took the test, and found out that she was indeed expecting, Danielle says in her YouTube video.
They're seated in the baby's nursery, in front of the stylish crib, surrounded by baby toys and pictures of their precious son, and excited to share their story with the whole world. Danielle and Michael look like typical 21st century parents, and at first sight they look incredibly happy.
First impressions can be deceiving, though. Gavin Michael's crib is empty, you see, and while Danielle is holding a stuffed elephant, Michael is cradling a small urn.
Gavin Michael did not make it. What started as a fairy tale ended as a nightmare when Danielle's pregnancy took a turn for the worse and she had zero amniotic fluid at 42 weeks gestation. The homebirth midwife the couple had chosen for their prenatal care and delivery crowdsourced medical advice on the internet, posting the message:
"What would you do? Primip with accurate dates to within a few days who has reassuring NST at 42.1weeks, as well as reassuring placenta and baby on BPP, but absolutely zero fluid seen. 42.2 re-do of BPP and again, mom has hydrated well, but no fluid seen. Baby’s kidneys visualized and normal, and baby’s bladder contained normal amount of urine. We’re in a state with full autonomy for midwives and no transfer of care regulations past 42 weeks. Absolutely no fluid seen…what do we truly feel are the risks compared to a woman whose water has been broken and so baby/cord has no cushion there either. Cord compression only? True possibility of placenta being done although it looks good? Can anyone share stories/opinions?"
See Also: Tragic Homebirth Death Begs The Question: How Skilled Is Your Midwife?
Many of the midwives who responded to this question did not advise a trip to the hospital, and Danielle's midwife gave her and her husband the impression that everything was fine till the very end. Danielle and Michael went to hospital anyway, and their precious boy was born alive but died shortly after.
"Oligohydramnios", low fluid, was the term used on his death certificate. "So he actually died because there was no fluid and he had nothing to swallow but meconium," Danielle says.
'We Thought It Would Be A Beautiful, Relaxing Birth'
Danielle and Michael toured a few hospitals, but ultimately decided to have a homebirth. "We thought it was safe and it would be a beautiful, relaxing birth," Danielle told SteadyHealth. "We asked around and I was told to watch The Business of Being Born. We could not find any studies other than what the natural birth community puts up and tells everyone, which was all positive stories and feedback."
They chose Christy Collins, a "Certified Professional Midwife" or CPM they found online. "The appointments were normal and at first she was great." They paid their midwife upfront in cash, and the midwife in turn organized prenatal care. "I actually did not know about all the types of midwives," Danielle said. "I had no idea that CPMs are not recognized as medical professionals and have no actual level of training."
"Closer to the end, things changed and she acted like a completely different person," Danielle remembers. "I only saw Christy for my all appointments and never saw an OB until after we were rushed into a hospital at the end."
"We never had any issues through my pregnancy. It was the end that we found out we had zero fluid but didn’t understand what that meant. She told us that I needed to drink more water. She offered to do a membrane sweep and sent me home with herbs to help keep my contractions steady. She assured us that our baby looked terrific and everything was fine."
Despite knowing Danielle was already overdue and had no amniotic fluid, Christy Collins didn't advise her to go to hospital. "She did tell us that we could get more testing done by a perinatologist but said that since we were overdue they would only force us into being unnecessarily induced or do a C-section." As if being induced or having a C-section was the worst thing that could possibly happen! Danielle and Michael found out that it wasn't, all too soon.
Did the midwife take any moral responsibility for what happened to Gavin Michael, then? "No," Danielle says. "She made up many excuses and blamed anything she could on us instead of admitting what she did wrong. She even blamed me publicly using lies to cover what mistakes she had made."
Danielle is referring to a letter Christy Collins posted on Facebook, a letter that was addressed to Danielle but was never sent to her, in which she claimed to have told Danielle to go to hospital. The letter came after Christy Collins publicly denied having been Danielle's midwife at all. Collins was never held accountable for her actions or lack thereof, and though she has taken a break from active midwifery, she is free to practice again in future.
Certified Professional Midwives: How A Lack Of Education Can Lead To The Loss Of Precious Lives
The Certified Professional Midwife Credential
Gavin Michael died needlessly in a first-world country, a country with some of the best medical care in the world. Unfortunately, the US is also a country in which a tier of midwives that would not be allowed to practice in any other developed country exists.
Before being licensed, these midwives have to meet the requirements of NARM, the North American Registry of Midwives — an organization founded by the Midwives’ Alliance of North America (MANA). The requirements NARM sets now include the need to have a high school diploma.
CPMs do not have to be qualified nurses, they do not have to have attended any type of formal midwifery school, they are not required to have had clinical experience with pregnancy complications, and they are only required to attend a minimal amount of births compared to Certified Nurse Midwives and OBGYNs. Certified Professional Midwives would not be able to deliver babies in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, or Australia. They do not meet the standards set by any other developed nation. Frankly, CPMs should not be able to call themselves midwives at all.
'Research Both Sides Of Homebirth'
"I would tell people to research both sides of homebirth. Don’t just listen to the beautiful, perfect stories that are out there. There are many things that people do not know about home birth that are covered up," she says.
"I know because I never heard anything bad until it happened to us and people don’t want our story anywhere around home birth websites. I am not allowed to be on many public pages and groups because of the truth of my story."
"Do not hire a CPM or lay midwife," Danielle advises. "They are not educated enough to know if something is wrong and do not know the proper steps to handle it anyways. Also, they cannot be held accountable for their actions. If anything goes wrong, they have no one over them to file a complaint to or revoke them from practicing and they do not carry malpractice insurance. There is no way to go after them to pay for any medical bills for an injured child or funeral expenses."
What does Danielle think of the CPM credential, now that she is aware of the lack of education these midwives have? "I think CPMs should have a certain level of training to call themselves CPMs — like a Certified Nurse Midwife does — or the US should get rid of this type of midwife. It is not educated or accountable so it seems like a pointless title."
Danielle has a message for the CPM whose lack of action led to her son's death too. "I would love for Christy to admit what she did wrong and apologize to everyone publicly for her lies and deceit. She will never repay me the money I gave to her but if she could apologize for her slander and lies about me that would help to fix some of the damage that she has done."