When I read stories about midwives being prosecuted, I cringe in sympathy and frustration–but there’s always a little piece of my mind that’s skeptical, wondering if maybe the midwife really did do something irresponsible.
But recently, the reality of the homebirth witch hunts hit home. A midwife that I know, love, and trust is being hung out to dry–and she really didn’t do anything irresponsible.
I’ve known for a while that the wonderful Marlene Bergman, RM, was being investigated by her local hospital in Gunnison, Colorado, two hours from where I live. But I didn’t know that the investigation had become so serious that her career, her practice, and her family’s livelihood are all at stake.
Marlene was finishing up her direct-entry apprenticeship with my midwife, Bill Dwelley, RM, as I prepared for the birth of my daughter in 2008. She attended all of my prenatal visits, and helped me believe everything would be ok as early labor set in two weeks before my estimated due date. And now, four years later, I’m studying under the same midwife who she apprenticed with, and Marlene’s enjoying a successful homebirth practice–and enduring a completely unnecessary and inappropriate investigation of her practice.
When she was caring for me during my pregnancy, Marlene and I felt a sweet little kinship with each other, the kind where you know you would have easily become friends if you didn’t live a couple hundred miles apart and both have extremely demanding lives. I really, really enjoy Marlene. And I trust her.
So it breaks my heart to see that her situation with the Gunnison Valley Hospital has become so tense that she’s asking for public financial support to pay for the TWO attorneys that she’s been forced to hire.
I’ll be making a donation to her account today, and sending her a note of support. Please read her “Open Letter to the Midwifery Community” below, and if you take away from it that she is enduring a terribly unnecessary challenge, then please offer your support, too.
An Open Letter to the Midwifery Community:
My name is Marlene Bergman. I am in my third year of practice as a Registered Midwife in the state of Colorado. I graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Fine Art; I also completed an Associate of Midwifery degree from the Midwives College of Utah. Before becoming licensed I trained for three years under Bill Dwelley, RM, a 30-yearveteran midwife; I have attended over 170 births and am currently an adjunct professor at the Midwives College of Utah. I received my license in January of 2010 and was immediately busy with clients. I am the only Direct-Entry Midwife practicing in the Gunnison Valley; the next closest midwife is 2 hours away.
Unbeknownst to me, the hospital here in Gunnison, CO has been keeping a file on me regarding my clients and transports. In April of 2011 I received a complaint regarding the 5 clients I transported/referred to the Gunnison Valley Hospital dating back to April of 2010. All these transports/referrals were made in accordance with Colorado rules and regulations governing the practice of Direct-Entry Midwifery—moms and babies made it to the hospital in good time and in good health. Complaints from Gunnison Valley Hospital have continued to be filed for any client I have had to transport or refer: every case I bring to that hospital generates a complaint against my license.
The five complaints filed in April 2011 have been investigated by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies and reviewed by two midwives with active practices in Colorado. No wrongdoing was found in either review, however pressure from the hospital required the cases be referred to the Colorado Attorney General’s office for further consideration. I have had to hire two attorneys to represent me—one in Gunnison to defend me against further complaints from Gunnison Valley Hospital and one in Denver to handle the process with the Attorney General.
I believe I am the target of a calculated attack on homebirth midwifery by the Gunnison Valley Hospital and the staff who work there. There are approximately 125 to 130 births per year at that hospital; last year I gave care to nearly 30 clients of my own. It is clear this attack is financially motivated and aimed at limiting the childbirth choices of women in this area. Women have had the right to choose care from homebirth midwives in Colorado since 1993, and if they require a higher level of care during pregnancy, birth or postpartum, they deserve to receive respectful and professional care from the nearest hospital. I take the rules and regulations of the State of Colorado very seriously and I transfer appropriately. The actions of Gunnison Valley Hospital are endangering women and babies in Gunnison and reducing their choices for childbirth.
I am asking for donations and support through this difficult process. I am the primary income earner for my family, paying for legal fees to defend myself in this senseless ordeal has placed a huge strain on all of us. A bank account has been set up for receiving monetary support through the NuVista Credit Union, P.O. Box 1085, Montrose, CO 81402. The account number is 2300-02. Donations can also be made through PayPal by sending to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be deposited directly into the NuVista account.
I am told this case is unique to Colorado—nothing like this has happened here before. Your support will mean a great deal not only to me but also to all mothers who choose homebirth and the midwives who practice in this great state. As homebirths become more popular, we may see further efforts by the medical community to shut us down. Being able to successfully defend this case in a court of law will go a long way towards showing the medical establishment that women have the right to choose homebirth and midwives are not simply going to fade away.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for any help you can give.
Marlene Bergman, CPM, RM
315 S. Boulevard St. Gunnison, CO 81230