Homebirth Complications Resulted in Cerebral Palsy: Sarai’s Story

We are honored to share this mommas story, as it is her real life story. As we always say, The Snap Mom is for ALL moms. While we clearly support homebirths (and have experienced beautiful ones), Bizzie’s story is very real, and these things can happen. We always encourage our readers to make informed decisions and know their care providers.

Writing about my birthing experience is something I should have done years ago to help heal the terrible wounds that I still nurse every day. It all began on a small island in the middle of the ocean – literally.

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While pregnant with my first child, I was living in Kona, Hawaii. Unlike the mainland US, in Hawaii homebirth is the norm. Like many other expectant mothers, I had been given The Business of Being Born by a girlfriend who had an amazing homebirth. I watched it (knowing almost nothing about the birthing process) and felt immediately compelled to opt for a homebirth. I picked the midwife that most of my friends swore by and I felt extremely confident in my decision.

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At 20 weeks my then husband and I decided that we wanted to find out the sex, so we went to the hospital for an ultrasound. My midwife at the time was extremely opposed to ANY type of Western medical intervention. When she found out that I had gone in for an ultrasound, she essentially sent me a message on Facebook  “breaking up” with me. I reluctantly switched to the one other midwife on the island who, at the time, also had great birthing reviews. She was with me for more than half of my pregnancy and I felt extremely bonded to her. After my due date had come and gone, many family members urged us to go to the hospital to seek Western medical attention. My midwife assured me that all was well with the baby. I kept telling her it felt like my baby was breech and she shook her head every time and told me I was wrong.

The day my daughter came into this world was one of the worst days of my life. At the last minute I decided I wanted one of my best girlfriends, who was an experienced doula, to come assist my midwife. She came first and we decided around noon to call the midwife. At 1pm the midwife arrived and by 6:30pm I was ready to push. By 8:00pm I could see a look of concern on her face. My best friend always remained steady and positive. It wasn’t until the baby started to crown that I knew with 100% certainty that something was very wrong. Every time the midwife would encourage me to reach down and feel my baby’s head, I would turn to her and say “That doesn’t feel like a head.” This went on for about 15 minutes. Finally, I could see my best friend pacing and looking concerned. She finally yelled out that she saw meconium. Meconium aspiration is one of the leading causes of infant death and it was also a final indicator that I was correct – it was not my baby’s head. After 2 weeks of warnings, my midwife finally realized my baby was in a frank breech position (buttocks first, folded in half).

My midwife started to panic. I heard her mumbling to herself that my baby was going to die. She dropped instruments and struggled to get me into the right position to get the baby out as quickly as possible. I finally managed to get her out up to her chin. Unfortunately this placed her in an even more precarious position – dangling by her chin with no oxygen due to a pinched umbilical cord. I kept seeing my midwife check her watch. I inferred that my daughter had a certain amount of time to get out alive or without serious brain damage. As soon as the clock hand struck eight minutes past her initial drop, I heard my midwife tell me she was sorry followed by an extreme sharp pain. She had cut me open to get the baby out.

When she came out, she was dark blue – no movement, no breath. They laid her on my stomach while they attempted to resuscitate her. At 15 minutes there was still no movement or color. I just laid there, on my floor, watching the blood spill out of me all the way down the hall, trying not to look at my baby. For whatever reason, my dog Garuda started to bark loudly and my daughter’s color came back and I watched her take her first breath. I was weary of attempting to bond with her as my instinct told me she did not survive this lack of oxygen without serious brain damage.

Even in my traumatized and exhausted state I immediately noticed that she was having seizures. I asked my midwife who repeatedly assured me that this “happens all the time and that she looked totally normal.” I continued to question the chain of events that had occurred, frequently saying “shouldn’t we both be rushed to the hospital?” She replied, “Oh no! They will take your baby away from you.” Still confused and exhausted, I listened to her ridiculous babble for an additional 24 hours – my daughter still not nursing and continuing to have what I considered to be seizures (even though she assured me they were not). After almost 48 hours of going against my gut instinct, I packed up our stuff to head to the hospital – against the midwife’s wishes. Upon arrival, we were immediately chastised for having a homebirth and before even evaluating my daughter they began to refer to her as “my special needs daughter.” I was confused, frustrated and didn’t know what to do.

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My daughter was finally evaluated and put on IV’s and packed into an incubator and flown to the main island of Oahu – the only island with a neonatal intensive care unit. I flew commercial to meet my daughter at the NICU at which time they told me she had experienced HIE, hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, and was in fact having seizures every 20 minutes. We spent 2 weeks in the NICU before they finally showed us an MRI of her brain damage showing bilateral damage to her Basal Ganglia. They told us it would be hard to tell until she was older, but that she was likely to have Cerebral Palsy. We finally left the NICU with our brand new baby girl on Phenobarbital to prevent seizures, not knowing what every day in the future would have in store for her condition.

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Cut to present day: My daughter Sarai is now 4 and walks thanks to stem cells!

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She has had two umbilical cord blood stem cell transplants and is starting to walk little by little. At 1 her neurologist told me with certainty that she would always be wheelchair-bound. That was when I started to look into alternative treatments performed outside of the US. My instincts (which I now ALWAYS follow) led me to the Stem Cell Institute in Panama. At 15 months old Sarai still couldn’t sit independently, but after 3 days of injections she was sitting by herself. She also unclenched her hands and bent her legs for the first time since she was a newborn. After the second treatment at 24 months, Sarai began to stand by herself and take her first independent steps.

(Sarai at the airport, headed to Panama with my husband Chris)

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We still don’t know for sure what Sarai’s progress will look like over the course of her life, but she is determined to overcome her current circumstance. Looking back on my experience there are two things that stand out to me. First, while homebirth can be a beautiful thing, it can also be extremely dangerous. Using the wrong midwife or a midwife that is not a Certified Nurse Midwife (like many in Hawaii) can be a decision that haunts you every day for the rest of your life. I am not against homebirth, I just want women to realize that you can have a completely natural birth in the hospital too where you are already in the right place if something goes wrong. If I had been in the hospital, my daughter would have developed 100% normally. So many documentaries idealize the homebirth movement and it needs to be given more thought as it is not just lighting candles and having an amazing story to tell afterward. Second, no matter what a doctor tells you about the condition of your child and how the course of their life will go, there is ALWAYS a way to intervene with persistence, dedication and willingness to think outside of the box. Stem cell transplants for Sarai have literally changed her entire future. We will continue to go to Panama every 6 months to get a transplant until she is completely free from this debilitating condition.

 For more BIRTH STORIES click {HERE}

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Bizzie and her family reside in California where she runs her company BUTI Yoga.

“A movement practice that fuses power yoga, tribal dance and plyometrics into a high-intensity workout that transforms the body from the inside out. “

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