DEARING, Ga. (WJBF) – A McDuffie County family wants to raise awareness about home births. Their efforts come after the mother’s daughter came into this world still born.
While hospitals see labor and delivery daily, many families choose home birth. And that’s exactly what a Dearing couple wanted for their daughter. But after more than 60 hours in labor at home, they ended up at Doctors Hospital in Augusta for an unexpected outcome.
She said many people have now come forward to tell her the same midwife she hired displayed similar characteristics.
“Telling me she did the exact same thing or she did this, this and this just none of their babies ended up dying,” she said.
Now, she’s on a crusade to educate.
Ashlyn Cruz wants other mothers to know, “I don’t want this to happen to any other mom under any midwife’s care, especially Cindys.”
The 28-year-old told NewsChannel 6 that after a not so good hospital experience with the birth of her son and the desire to embrace the tradition of her Nicaraguan husband of having a baby at home, they scoured the Internet, talked with friends, read reviews and decided Birth Servant Cindy Morrow would help them bring Asa into the world. Ashlyn notes in her blog that she has a son and had a previous miscarriage.
“She really sounded like she was going to be there for us. She really sounded like she was going to care for us,” Ashlyn’s husband Gabriel said, adding that Morrow did just the opposite.
The couple said the midwife, who came with an assistant too, promised to pack up and stay for three days, however, they claim she left often going to get a hotel, eat and use the phone.
Gabriel Cruz said, “Multiple times during the day I had to go get Cindy to check on Ashlyn.”
Notes taken by Morrow and her assistant state there was difficulty locating the baby’s heartbeat. Those notes show the fetal heart tone or FHT was difficult to locate among other health related details such as Ashlyn’s condition during labor.
“She never not once told us that she had difficulty finding the fetal heart tones,” said Ashlyn.
NewsChannel 6 reached out to practicing Georgia midwife Corrinna Edwards, who stated she started in South Carolina as an apprentice to a nurse midwife in 2008. She told us each case varies, but once a mother hits active labor around 6 centimeters, a midwife stays. She also said not hearing a baby’s heartbeat does not always signal danger.
Edwards added, “It is standard that when you track fetal heart tones you let the family know what’s going on and whether the baby is doing well or not. If you do have a hard time hearing the heart tones, it could be for a number of reasons, it’s not always because there is trouble. It could be because there is an anterior placenta and the heart tones are harder to hear at that moment or it could be because the baby is posterior position facing where the back is more towards the mother’s back so it’s not as easy or as clear to pick up on the heart tones. It doesn’t always mean that there is an emergency or that there is something wrong, but you definitely take different steps to make sure that, within a reasonable amount of time, that you do pick up the heart tones and also make sure that it is the heart tones you’re picking up since the Doppler can pick up placenta sounds and other sounds, it’s important to make sure that you are picking up heart tones.”
Additionally, Edwards said there is no national contract with standards of care for midwifery, but one needs to be created. She also stated there is no Georgia based contract of standards either and that each midwife independently creates that.
Morrow did have a contract with the Cruz family and it even stated that Morrow would make the call to transfer the couple to the hospital if a problem occurred. And despite Ashlyn Cruz experiencing her water breaking and surpassing 60 hours in labor at the home, she said Morrow never suggested going to the hospital. The Cruz family said they made the call. It was a point of contention as the Cruz family said Morrow wanted to go 2.5 hours to Emory in Atlanta while they claim to have always had Doctors Hospital as a backup plan.
Once they arrived at Doctors, they said they received the devastating news following a C-section.
“Gabe walked over holding Asa and said she didn’t make it and I just started screaming no, not my baby,” Ashlyn said.
The Cruz family filed a civil lawsuit and also wants to push for a criminal one. They want families to be sure to do more research and notice the red flags that may be present.
While they sat down with a McDuffie Count Sheriff’s Office investigator to file negligence charges against Morrow, it was just an informational report. The Sheriff stated there was not enough evidence to open a criminal investigation.
We reached out to the midwife in this case, Cindy Morrow, to get her thoughts on the experience as it relates to the allegations.
I am a certified professional midwife (CPM), certified by the National Association of Registered Midwives, trained and skilled to support women in pregnancy and childbirth.Cindy Morrow
Although privacy laws prevent me from commenting on the details of my work with Ashlyn Cruz, I dispute the facts asserted in the narratives that have been published online. All clients execute detailed informed consent documents regarding their understanding of my scope of service as an unlicensed, unregulated home birth midwife in Georgia, as well as their understanding of the risks and benefits of home birth and vaginal birth after cesarean section. Clients’ prenatal and labor records provide transparency and communication regarding their reasons for choosing home birth, and their decisions throughout care, including whether and when to accept my recommendations for hospital monitoring and intervention. The Cruz family should be able to provide any reporter with their records and informed consent documents.
I was devastated and traumatized by the outcome of this birth, and I have complete empathy and compassion toward baby Asa’s grieving parents in their loss. However, I believe that I provided the best care and support that I was able to provide to this family, in the context of their choices and the marginalized, vulnerable status of home birth midwives in the state of Georgia. Although CPMs are licensed and regulated in most U.S. states, we remain unlicensed and unregulated in Georgia, despite the best efforts of midwives and the families we serve to achieve licensure and integration into maternity care in Georgia. Many families in Georgia still choose for CPM care and out-of-hospital birth, and they do so with full knowledge of our unlicensed status. The lack of legal recognition and integration that surround midwifery care in Georgia unnecessarily undermine safety for the families who choose home birth, and tie midwives hands from being able to provide optimal care. Despite my grief over the tragic stillbirth of Asa Cruz, I remain committed to the integration of safe midwifery care in the state of Georgia.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps