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Jen Holloman Told Her Home Birth Story to the Boston Globe

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By Jill Arnold

A dear friend of mine was featured in an article by Catherine Elton in the Boston Globe this weekend. First interviewed in February, Jen experienced the other side— that is, what readers never see— of the construction of an article about home birth and a lawsuit. The epic battles never cease for her, having already battled the Cape Cod Chupacabras last month.

Boston.com is owned by New York Times Digital, which means that the story was picked up all over the place.

The spokesfarmer’s article is titled Her home-birth battle

Jenifer Holloman hadn’t been doing many chores on her farm in the past few weeks on account of the sheer size of her belly. But that evening, she had to tend to a ewe that had given birth a few days earlier. The lamb wandered off in a snowstorm and died of exposure. Now the ewe’s teats were heavy and swollen with milk, and there was no lamb to relieve her. Everyone who heard the story lamented the loss of the lamb. Holloman agreed that sometimes animals’ lives on earth are too short. The only thing she, as a farmer, has control over, she told them, is the quality of care she provides them.


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Reader Comments (19)

The goats were returned- one has now gone to live as a pet in Connecticut and the other follows me around the barnyard. I am not sure what her fate will be.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen Holloman

In Connecticut, "pet" means "dinner." It's a little known fact.

Just as when the article about your goats being on the lam (groooooan) came out and I was so excited that I personally knew one of those goats, I am proud of you, amazed by your strength in dealing with everything, let alone this article. If only people knew what goes into it all before it hits the press.

July 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterJill

That is one of the best and most in-depth article I've read on home birth and lay midwifery care vs. hospital birth. It seems that the modern obstetrical climate makes both of them less safe for women and babies. I'm so sorry about Jen's loss of baby Emmet.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKK

Thanks for your comment, KK.

Emmet was a beautiful baby.

July 12, 2011 | Registered CommenterJill

I left this comment elsewhere just so you know:

Just for the record- interview participants do not, and can not control the content of a story, this story has gross exaggerations and omitted details and facts that would have more accurately portrayed everyone involved, and for the record we asked that the Globe grant us anonymity and they reneged on it after the interview was granted. They also flatly REFUSED to cooperate with our requests that they remove damaging details. We did not want further harm to come to any person, midwife, or doctor involved with this story. And IF I thought for one second anyone here besides the people that I actually know IRL would understand and respect the nuances of my full opinion I would sit here all day long explaining it. Sadly, I find most people here cannot and will not even try to explore the full spectrum of the argument. Try telling a stillbirth mother who would never have a home birth after she finds out she is pregnant again that she gets to go get the same lackluster care (if negligence played a role). This story would be we had hoped a story about making maternity care accessible to working families (they got that detail wrong, at the time our premium was 179.00/ adult in my household and I was unable to access maternity care until I was 16 weeks pregnant- talk to Mitt Romney about that please) I paid my way for years, and when you find yourself uninsured after paying for health insurance it is a very murky situation. I didn't know what I didn't know- my choice of OB wouldn't take me- and I should have just walked into an ER and said I had a stomach ache. Now I know and my baby Emmet paid the price(s). This is an issue about patient safety and about holding ALL providers accountable. If a person holds themselves out as skilled and knowledgeable they should be. That is the message we wanted to convey-. Anyone who reads this should be more digusted that the DA in Barnstable county, the investigator from the state police, the Massachusetts dept. of public health and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley's office did nothing to stop her midwifery practice. That is the take away. No one cared- because what's one dead home birth baby right?!

It's not that Amy is abrasive, it is that Amy is behaving exploitative with my story. She sees this story as another plank on her soap box against home birth. She can be against home birth all day long why golly, she has made a career of it. But her and other people's fallacious reasoning is that no licesnure is better than licensure. That does not make sense- read above who I contacted to hold my health care provider accountable.

Additionally, I will say that there are families who come here that I have met through the internet who have lost babies at home and they find solace and help in Amy. I think this is a very good thing for them, bereaved parents need special care and I am glad she is here to help them through it by allowing them a space in which to talk about their grief and pain.

It is not however my trajectory, but I respect Amy for allowing and holding a safe space for them to grieve and tell others of their pain. I think whether Amy realizes it or not she does more for the cause and justification of licensure of home birth midwives than she knows- so I guess Thanks Amy- for making sure that subpar providers are compelled by state agencies to get licensed and be accountable to the clients they serve. Thanks Amy! Thanks Amy's army. :)

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen Holloman

That was an excellent, non-biased article. True journalism still exists.
Jen- May the universe continue to shine upon you in your journey. I'm sorry for the loss of your son. If you need a home for your goat, I wonder how expensive it would be to get it to Missouri?


July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie R

I am so sorry, Jen. Thanks for sharing your story and for fighting for what you believe in.

I am appalled by the description of the care you received.

I think it's unfortunate that you are getting resistance by people who think homebirth should be completely unregulated and people who think it should be completely illegal. There has got to be an in between that is better for practitioners, moms and babies.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMomTFH

Jen, I am truly humbled by your courage and your rational, well considered approach to this tragedy. There are few indeed who would have approached the aftermath in the manner that you have. There is a raging debate within the home birthing community regarding licensing. I work with and know many very competent lay midwives who are adamantly opposed to a licensing bill that is currently before the North Carolina legislature. Their point, and it is a very valid one, is that the conditions of licensure will make it impossible for them to practice real midwifery. They they will be forced to "risk out" virtually everyone that comes to them. For example, you would not have been able to have a home birth under our proposed regulations nor under the regulations of any state that I'm aware of on a number of grounds, your age at time of delivery, your previous C/S, your prolonged rupture of membranes; all of these would have prevented a licensed home birth midwife from attending your delivery. (For the record, I am an obstetrician. I do attend home deliveries, and I would gladly have attended anyone with those risk factors at home). So while licensure is a necessary evil, there is a down side.

Let me also add, I am suspicious of the listed cause of death. Chorioamnionitis is a not uncommon and not particularly devastating infection of the chorioamnion - the gestational sac. Chorioamnionitis occurs quite frequently and is probably greatly exacerbated by unnecessary cervical exams both prior to and during labor. It is so common because the chorioamnion has no blood supply and thus no effective means of fighting infection. The cervix does a pretty good job of keeping bacteria at bay, even during labor when large quantities of cervical mucus continuously flush vaginal flora out of the babies path. However that mechanism is easily overwhelmed by cervical exams (which have never been shown to improve neonatal outcomes nor are they particularly predictive of the course of labor).

Deaths associated with Group B strep are invariably due to neonatal sepsis - an overwhelming blood born infection the most common cause of which remains Group B Strep. It is somewhat unusual for GBS sepsis to cause intrapartum demise. Most cases are post partum. Just information I thought you should have. Certainly allowing labor to continue without intervention in the context of maternal fever and chills is heart-wrenchingly inappropriate care and the diagnosed cause of death may just be sloppy paperwork. But I wouldn't exclude a cause of death that wasn't diagnosed.

I am deeply sorry for the horrendous path by which you came here but I applaud the direction you have turned that energy. Congratulations on the birth of your daughter.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Hayes

Thank you for sharing. I am deeply sorry for your loss of sweet Emmett but so happy for the arrival of your daughter. Thank you for your work.

This point is so important, perhaps the most important, that Home Birth is safest when there is a trained attendant and hospital collaboration. If people stopped arguing over WHICH is safer/better/right and saw the possibility in open communication, open education and acceptance it would be a different world. My last birth was a transfer and, aside from having to repeatedly explain myself, it went fairly well. I wish that my CNM had been allowed to accompany and attend me there instead of the skeptical stranger I got by default. Instead of hearing "you did what was right in the situation" I hear either "you could have stayed home" (the classic you sold out and harmed HB criticism) or "hah, I told you so". The way I see it- We helped HB by proving that a good provider knows when to choose the hospital option, thereby making BIRTH safer/better/right.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Jill, thank you for sharing. Jen, I am so sorry not only for your loss, but the heartache of attempting to set things right. What I am going to say is really obvious, but apparently needs saying. Licensure and regulation are no panacea - there are dangerous licensed providers in every state. There are dangerous docs who fight the hospital process to get them to shape up and IF they lose their privileges, the process can take years, while they continue their practice . There are dangerous midwives reported to the state with no consequences. On the other side, there are competent midwives who get reported to their state board after a proper hospital transfer - leading some midwives to delay transfers.

I support licensure of midwives, but I have no illusion that licensure will change very much. I work in a state with licensed midwives and have great respect for most of them, just as I have great respect for most of the docs in my community. Rooting out the bad apples will take much more than licensing.

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSamantha McCormick
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