Intro from Leigh, blogger at Honest Midwife: For years, I believed that there had been three babies’ deaths associated with the birth center that I co-owned, and that they all occurred after I left in early 2013. In February of 2018, I found that that this was not true at all. There had been a death during our first year of operation, in 2010, that had been hidden from me. I was shocked, not only that it happened, but at how disconcertingly similar the details were to another incident that would occur a few years later.
Here is the story of baby Cheyenne, as told by her mother:
In late 2009 I became pregnant with my first child, a baby girl. I wanted to use a midwife like my sister had done, so I contacted the only birth center in my area at the time, the Carolina Community Maternity Center. I went for a tour at the center in Fort Mill and I was assigned to midwife Christine Strothers. She had a way of inspiring confidence in me, and I liked that she had a background in nursing.
I considered myself lucky, as I didn’t even really have morning sickness, which my sister had suffered with terribly. I had no swelling, no high blood pressure, or any other red flags. Everything seemed fantastic and normal up until the labor. I had the option of planning to deliver at the birth center or at my house, and I chose the comfort and familiarity of my own home.
My due date of August 11 came and went. Friends kept telling me I needed an induction, but Christine didn’t seem concerned, and I trusted her. She never mentioned any risks of going past my due date, so I figured my baby just needed more time to bake and would come when she was ready.
I finally went into labor the morning of August 29th. The contractions were very painful, and continued for nearly 20 hours. I became extremely exhausted and would nearly faint between contractions, until the next wave would come and snap me back to reality. Many of those hours I spent in an inflatable pool that my then-husband worked to keep warm for me.
While I was still laboring in the pool, Christine administered oxygen to me, telling me that I needed it and reminding me to breathe deeply, even though I felt I was breathing just fine. Eventually she ordered me out of the pool and onto the bed, where she continued having me breathe from the oxygen mask.
When I finally pushed Cheyenne out of my body, I noticed her cord wrapped loosely around her neck. She wasn’t breathing. Christine attempted CPR and tried to administer oxygen. Someone said the tank wasn’t working; I guess it ran out of oxygen. I don’t remember how much time went by before the ambulance was called. I felt like I was observing it all from another plane of existence.
It was 15 minutes before the paramedics arrived. They were able to revive my baby on the way to the hospital. She was then airlifted to a children’s hospital. They worked so hard to try to save her. They put her on cooling therapy to try to save her brain. They did everything they could and were so kind to me. Her brain never recovered from the lack of oxygen during her birth. My baby Cheyenne died at eight days of age on September 7, 2010.
At the time, even though the hospital staff assured me that nothing I had done during my pregnancy could have caused what happened to Cheyenne, I was consumed by guilt. I figured it had to have been something I did to have caused this. I didn’t want to blame anyone except myself.
It was many years later that I read a birth story online that sounded eerily similar to my own story; it made me take a step back and look more critically at what happened. This other mother was also having her first baby, and she went to the same birth center I did. Like me, she went quite a bit past her due date. She too was administered oxygen and told to breathe deeply during labor. Her baby died from complications from lack of oxygen during labor, like mine. And her midwife was also Christine Strothers.
Now I realize that when Christine had me breathing oxygen in labor, she must have known my daughter was in distress. But she chose not to call 911. She never suggested I should go to the hospital. She let my daughter starve of oxygen. And my baby wasn’t the last one she did this to.
I will always miss my baby girl. Part of me will always, always be sad and heartbroken that she’s not here with me. I hope that in telling her story, I can help prevent at least one other family from suffering the same outcome.
In Memory of Cheyenne
August 30, 2010 – September 7, 2010
Postscript from Leigh: When this event took place in 2010, I was merely informed that Christine had attended a stillbirth at home. I did not know that the mother originated as a birth center client. I was led to believe that the baby had died in utero before labor ever started, and that the mother decided to proceed with her homebirth with this knowledge. I had no idea that the baby lived for eight days, and died as a result of a badly mismanaged labor. I found out the true story in February of 2018 when the mother chose to come forward. Now I find myself wondering why the other midwives conspired to keep this from me, why Christine never peer reviewed this, or why I was excluded from it if she did. As her partner at the birth center, I should have been informed that this happened.
To Cheyenne’s mother I extend my deepest heartfelt sympathies. I am so sorry that this happened, and I’m sorry you thought it was your fault, and I’m sorry you were not treated kindly by the other midwives at the birth center when you stopped by for paperwork. Thank you for sharing your daughter with me. She was beautiful and perfect and you should have gotten to keep her.
To read more coverage of Midwife Christine Strothers:
Daxton’s Midwife Testifies
Daxton’s Father Testifies
17 thoughts on “A Baby Who Should Have Lived – The True Story of Cheyenne”
I am so, so sorry for the loss of your beautiful daughter.
Cheyenne was so beautiful and she was meant to live. I’m sorry you were a victim of this woman who has no business delivering babies.
Thank-you Cheyenne’s parents for sharing their story and thank-you Leigh for giving them this platform. Losing a baby in a manner that was preventable is truly such an awful thing and as parents we carry a double burden of grief that includes guilt. The parents should know that they are not alone and that for every person that speaks out there are 10 others that cannot but stand behind you. Leigh I would love if you would start blogging again and getting into more of the psychology around why women choose homebirths/birth centres etc. I find it really hard to explain why I can see it so clearly now but how I was so blinded by all the propaganda, half truths, outright lies and myths. I’m in Australia where our midwives are fully trained at university but the same things happen over and over again because they choose to ignore evidence and tell women that due dates are for library books or whatever crap of the day they can dream up. These same women that call themselves “with woman” are now working so hard to silence loss Mothers and I think one of the hardest things for us in speaking out is that we have the midwives and advocates snipping at us from one side and the general public from the other – saying “why would you be so stupid/selfish?” “how can you say you didn’t know it was risky?” and placing the blame on parents. You touched on it a bit in your Honest Midwife series but I’d love to see you build on that angle from a psychology POV.
Very sad to read the story regarding Cheyenne s death. Christine who was the midwife should not be held accountable for this child’s death. This was a decision of the parents to have a home delivery knowing all risks involved. First time Mom and 20 hours of hard labor and post dates??? What else would you expect but a tragic ending for this poor baby only because of the poor decision made by her parents to get that home delivery like Sis . I was amazed to hear the midwife had oxygen available. Never heard of that! No one knows how attimate the Mom was regarding staying home and not going to hospital, so let’s not crucify Christine. Very sad to read but I have seen parents so atimate about the birthing experience that they forget about the health and welfare of the innocent baby.
What a load of crap. You are blaming the mother? A first time mother at that? How do you know the parents were informed of all these risks? She didn’t even inform her coworkers?
Susan: She (Christine) should absolutely be held responsible. We as non professionals place our trust in the professionals, the midwives and Doctors! If a medical professional tells us we are safe we believe them! They are trained and we are not! This mother has done nothing wrong! She put her trust into a professional who let her down in the worst possible way!
Cheyenne deserved to live! Christine took that away!
seriously Susan. you’re blaming the mum. I didn’t realise that first time mum’s knew the dangers about long term labour and post dates. you must of been some genius to know everything when you had your first. pretty sure the rest of us trusted our medical professionals who where meant to be delivering our child. so yeh Christine is at fault for not informing mum of these dangers including fetal demise. why wasn’t Christine monitoring at least with a Doppler baby’s heart. Christine should have called the ambulance and really pressured dad had mum refused to go to hospital. which by reading her story you know she didn’t do either.
How dare you. Christine represented herself as a professional. As such, it was *her* responsibility to know when the baby was in danger and to call an ambulance *before* it was too late.
If a midwife is not there to keep the baby safe, why are they there at all? Either they’re completely unnecessary (and if such, are in the wrong for being there and taking the parents’ money) or they *are* there to provide real care and if such, Christine is in the wrong for failing to provide that care.
The midwife presented herself as a “medical professional”. Why would you expect the mother to know more than the “certified professional”? Why even bother hiring a “midwife professional” if you as the mother need to be more educated than them? What on Earth are you paying them for?
Also, I’m ADAMANT that you learn to spell before victim blaming a loss mom.
So the mother should have known because it was obvious, according to you. But the midwife had no way of knowing? Or she knew it would be a tragedy and did not intervene? Of what earthly good is a midwife who can foresee a tragedy and does nothing to prevent it?
Let this comment sit as a warning to anyone considering home birth. If something goes wrong, there are a lot of people like Susan here who will blame YOU as the parent, and they will circle the wagons around the midwife no matter how bad she screwed up.
Co-signing Leigh’s words.
I have never heard a CPM take responsibility for the deaths of the babies that occurred under their care. That seems to be part of the practice model.
I have heard CPMs blame the parents, the apprentices, the emergency personnel that arrive for transport, the physicians and the hospital staff, but they never assume any responsiblity themselves.
The act of attending a birth in a home setting as a PROFESSIONAL midwife confers some endorsement of safety. That is the assumption, and that is why people pay midwives to be their professional caregivers for pregnancy, labor and birth.
If anything goes wrong, the blame is heaped on the parents for ‘not knowing’ what the risks they were assuming.
It is an incredibly unethical profession – homebirth midwifery practiced by CPMs.
Are you, by chance, Christine’s mom? You look so determined to make her look innocent when she was the fucking professional there. And it’s disgusting.
By the way, I can totally believe you believe the crap you’re spewing. If your grammar is anything to go by, true knowledge isn’t your strong suit. I can easily imagine you lurking at NCB sites and lapping at their garbage uncritically.
So, out of curiosity, what does a midwife’s responsibility look like in the mind of someone who is so eager to blame the people who trusted your sainted Christine? Turning up to collect the tax, this much is clear. Something else? Anything?
I am a certified nurse-midwife in Illinois. An OB RN since 1988,a CNM since 1994.
To Cheyenne’s patents – words cannot express my sorrow and rage that you were betrayed and defrauded by Christine Strothers. Cheyenne deserved to live a full life with her parents, in the world. She you, all of us were robbed by the arrogance of not only an individual who committed malpractice (over and over), but of an entire sorority of people who fancy themselves midwives.
Midwifery IS NOT ignoring science. Midwifery IS NOT wishful thinking. Midwifery IS NOT lying to the people who trust you with their lives.
I honor you, and Leigh Fransen, for having the courage to tell the truth over and over. You have all my respect, and my deepest sympathy.
I’m so sorry for this lovely little girl’s death. But I’m also furious that this so called midwife learned nothing, changed nothing and at the end killed another baby as well, years later. A second death under the exact same circumstances?! Is she a sociopath or not? The “she didn’t know” excuse doesn’t hold water. Not twice.
My hope is that no other mother will think of hiring this woman to deliver her baby.
I am curious as to why this death didn’t trigger a prosecution in the way Draxton Green’s death did. The two births sound very similar, so not sure what changed.
The homicide verdict was at the inquest, deciding cause of death. No charges were filed at the time. The second birth had an inquest because the Coroner was listening on the radio frequency and heard the ambulance dispatched to the birth center. There hadn’t been a Coroner’s Inquest in that county for twenty years.
There are no words. Your daughter was beautiful and I am so so sorry that she left before her time. My heart is breaking for you.
Sleep well, lovely Cheyenne