Seeing a loved one shackled is probably the worst nightmare of many and something I had hoped never to see. Isn't it enough to shoulder the burden of awareness that women, men and children are unjustly hauled off to jail on a regular basis in the U.S. and worldwide?
And then it happened. I stood in the courtroom and watched my beloved midwife enter in a pink jumpsuit. I don't know why I expected them to make an exception for her... I suppose that is what every parent/friend thinks as they watch a loved one enter in shackles, not my baby/friend/lover... But there she was, handcuffs around her wrists, ankles, and a rope of chain around her waist... Hands that had helped so many babies safely enter this world, hands that reassuringly stroked and held women in the throws of doubt during a long labor, a waist often seen from behind as Karen kneeled next to an emerging baby, feet that slipped quietly out of bed in the middle of the night, on their way in service to women...
My midwife is being prosecuted for manslaughter. A disheartening investigation ensued after the tragic death of a client’s baby. Karen is being charged with involuntary manslaughter and other felonies for her role as a homebirth midwife. She will be on trial for these charges beginning June 7th and is facing up to 30 years in jail.
Did you know that charges are regularly brought against midwives in the United States? Charges are often brought because it is illegal for them to practice the profession they are thoroughly trained to practice (see The Big Push, an organization working to change this). I have noticed that charges are also brought when, instead of following the medical model, the midwife honors the informed choice of a family (even when the informed choice is evidence based). If you have ever been urged to be induced or scared into a c-section for a "big baby" or heard of court-ordered cesarean-section (see National Advocates for Pregnant Women, for example), you know that the medical community is not always a strong supporter of informed choice in practice, even when it is evidence-based.
In 2005, I was pregnant with my second and hungering for a vaginal birth after cesarean (VBAC). I was told that if I gave birth in a hospital, I would need to be hooked up to a continuous fetal monitor. As someone who believes firmly that hospitals are only for the sick and is a do it myself/on my own terms kind of girl when it comes to birth, I knew that being tethered to a monitor in an unfamiliar, rather then intimate, environment, would mostly likely lead to a second cesarean. I was told I was not a birth center candidate since I had had a cesarean with my first baby and a recent insurance change prohibited birth centers from attending VBAC clients.
I had done the research and understood the evidence concluded that a vaginal birth after cesarean was safer then a repeat cesarean, especially if more children were planned (see, for example, Childbirth Connection). As an informed consumer, I chose my best chance for a vaginal birth, a home birth with Karen Carr. Karen put her neck out there for me and as a result, I found my full power as a woman and as a mother. As a result of that VBAC, I had a much higher chance of a healthy pregnancy and safe birth when I found out that I was pregnant with my third and now, with my fourth.
Karen needs your help. Please visit In Service to Women and donate what you can, even if it is only $5. Please, join your local midwifery organization, if your state has one, or join Citizen's for Midwifery or the MAMA Campaign or... Midwifery needs you.