Mom says she made a mistake giving birth at home

Mom says she made a mistake giving birth at home »Play Video
Margarita Sheikh said she believes she made a mistake having her child born at home. It's a mistake she wants other families to avoid and is why she told her story to KATU News.

EUGENE, Ore. – An Oregon mother's decision to have her firstborn child at home came with devastating consequences.

"I was screaming from my bedroom for five minutes to take me to the hospital," said Margarita Sheikh, who lost her baby in an at-home birth.

She said she believes she made a mistake having her child born at home. It's a mistake she wants other families to avoid.

When Sheikh got pregnant she started seeing an obstetrician and said she was immediately turned off by those first appointments.

"The appointments were really rushed. They were like five to 10 minutes and I just started to get sort of uneasy," she said.

With her husband stuck in India because of problems with his visa, Sheikh, a college educated human resources specialist eventually settled on the idea of having her baby at home with the help of two midwives.

"Everything that they had told me, I thought that I was in good hands. I didn't think they were going to fail me at all," she said.

Sheikh knew they were unlicensed and couldn't find data to confirm their history of delivering babies. But she wound up taking them at their word.

"I think that if the statistics had been out there or if more people or more women were confident and coming forth and telling their stories about what happened, I probably wouldn't have decided to do a home birth."

She went into labor nine days after her due date and began an ordeal that's nearly inconceivable: She was in labor for eight days.

Shahzad Shakeel's birth date and death date were the same. He lived for only a few minutes and was Sheikh's firstborn.

"I don't regret trying to do a home birth," she said. "In my head I was trying to do the best for my son. I really did think that was the best way to bring him into this world. I just regret not asking for help outside of the midwives."

"This is a life and death matter for the children and for mothers," said state Rep. Mitch Greenlick.
 
Stories like Sheikh's have Greenlick renewing his effort to require that midwives be licensed. Oregon is one of just two states left in the country that don't regulate the profession.

"I think we ought to make sure that just as when we're dealing with chiropractors, or naturopaths, or physicians or acupuncturists, we're making sure that the people who are practicing this health profession are doing it to the highest standards they possibly can. And if they're not licensed, we don't know what they're doing," he said.

The requirements for a midwifery license: pass an exam with the National Registry of Midwives, have clinical experience, including 25 deliveries as the primary birth attendant, be certified in CPR and have a written plan for emergency transport of a newborn or mother in trouble.

Of the 50,000 births in Oregon every year, only about 1,000 are planned at-home deliveries, and the vast majority are conducted by midwives who are licensed.

"The current program of voluntary licensure is working," said Silke Akerson with the Oregon Midwifery Council.

Akerson said the council is neither for nor opposed to mandatory licensing but needs better statistics about births at home versus hospitals before it even begins that conversation.

"We feel to really know whether there is a problem, and then to discuss, if there is a problem, what solutions there would be to the problem we really need to be starting from accurate numbers," she said.

Better numbers and mandatory licensing are measures Sheikh said she believes can help other families avoid her same heartbreaking mistake.

"How many more babies have to die?" she asked. "How many more preventable deaths is it going to take?"

Sheikh also faults herself for not calling 911 while she was in labor but said she was exhausted mentally and felt cut off from her friends who tried to intervene.