The homebirth witch hunts have finally hit home. Please support Marlene Bergman, RM.

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.

Marlene Bergman measures my fundal height at 38 weeks and 2 days, back in 2008.

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 plmlegaldefensefund@gmail.com 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

prairielove@gmail.com

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14 responses to “The homebirth witch hunts have finally hit home. Please support Marlene Bergman, RM.

  1. Lindsey Michelle Wilhelm

    Ignorant people think home births are women in a barn biting in a leather strap. And yet home births are much safer than hospitals births (most of the time)! No one complains about infant deaths in hospitals do they? But the slightest little blip on the home birth radar and people try to shut the entire business down! It’s awful! I really feel for this Midwife.

  2. Nicole Sizemore

    This is just outrageous! Poor Marlene! I truly hope she’s got some good legal counsel that can make sure they repay her attorney’s fees for this. She should also make sure to take action for defamation!

  3. What complaints do the hospital have? This must be so awful for you. Marlene, have your ever visited the hospital to introduce yourself and your practice? Brenda Ramler, the new homebirth midwife here in GJ, went to St. Mary’s, did exactly that, and to my knowledge she has developed a good relationship where skepticism once reigned.

    I know exactly what Laurel meant by that connection–I felt it with you, too, and was so glad to have you as my midwife!

  4. You and Bill our in my prayers, I totally SUPPORT you both in this. I know you are both wonderful midwives, It is so sad to see what hospitals are doing these days to try and stop homebirth and to not allow Mothers to birth where they choose and to birth naturally. I have seen so much working in the hospitals with my clients, it makes me so sad to see hospital staff pushing moms away from natural birth. It is a woman’s choice to birth her baby anywhere and anyway she chooses to! I have passed this on to my friends and family. God is in control, Love you guys, Vonda

  5. I want a name of the person to call at the hospital!!

  6. This is so frustrating and unethical. And also, sending a dangerous message – that complaints will be filed for transferring care to hospitals. Midwives should be supported so when those rare cases come up that transfer is required they don’t have to fear complaints being filed against them. Aargh. Great letter… will share.

  7. Marlene was my midwife and is my colleague…I trusted her with my life and would do it again! Let’s support her in every way we can.

  8. One state to your south, in the area where I live, there are NO homebirths even available. My last two were delivered in a free-standing birthing center and closed shortly after because of the lack of backup staff available. That means that if a woman wants a midwife at all, she needs to go with the main OB practice in town.

    If she wants a homebirth, she has to go 200 miles in any direction. There is only a single Dr. locally that will attempt a VBAC, due to insurance premiums and I assume, our isolation with regard to advanced care should it be necessary. Homebirth has *never* been an option in the 16 years I’ve lived here. Unfortunate doesn’t begin to describe not having that option.

    It’s hard to see this kind of thing happening in this day and age, but the almighty dollar speaks volumes. I sincerely hope she can come out of this stronger and better. Shame on Gunnison Valley Hospital!

    No mother should have her choices bullied away. This will absolutely be shared.

  9. This is appauling! How can a Hospital Board complain when you act professionally and safely by transporting women in when theres a problem? Surely they’d have more to complain about if you didnt?!!
    I dont even begin to understand the American medical model for childbirth, an UK trained midwife now working in New Zealand I am truly thankful we dont have such an archaic system and women are free to choose where they would like to birth without such ridiculous consequences.
    My thoughts are with you and your family at this very stressful time Marlene, fingers crossed they figure out what utter nonsense this is very soon!

  10. You have my support from MT I don’t know you but have had both my children at home with a midwife. I would be terrified to have a hospital birth after doing it at home. I wish more people would see how wonderful midwives are and how great it is for our children to be born at home. This is so sad to me. I will do what I can to help. Many prayers to you and your family.

  11. Tried to send money via PayPal. Could you send a link with a donate button so we can all help with your legal fees, I’ll circulate among my UK Facebook friends? This is so outrageous. Wishing you all the best.
    love
    Margaret

  12. Might I suggest a counter suit? It is my understanding that it is common practice to do such a thing, and it may help you but the hospital on the offensive. If they are wrongfully targeting you when you are following the laws of the state, they could be sued for a number of things. Should you win, they could pay you for lost business, etc.

  13. Pingback: Support Homebirth by Supporting Marlene Bergman, RM - Parenting Patch

  14. Public defender? Legal aid society?

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