The Australian Magazine this weekend reports
the tragic yet almost certainly avoidable deaths of newborns whose sandal-wearing parents thought homebirthing was a good idea.
Sarah Kerr sits in a birthing pool in the middle of her lounge room, attended by a trained midwife and surrounded by her family. Everything feels comfortable and right as she delivers baby Ruby, clutching the newborn to her chest as her four sons
crowd around, excitedly touching their new little sister as she draws her first breaths. But the young mother is only halfway through her labour. Her second baby - Ruby's twin brother, Tully - is still to be delivered.
Forty-five minutes later, Kerr is lying on the couch in the lounge room in agony, her dream of an uncomplicated birth for her twins shattered. Every minute that ticks away puts Tully at greater risk. The midwife, Lisa Barrett, warns that his heartbeat appears to be dropping, and she calls ahead to the Women's and Children's Hospital in Adelaide,
advising a midwife to prepare for an emergency caesarean. Deciding it will be quicker to drive from their house in Adelaide's northern suburbs than wait for an ambulance, Kerr's husband Matthew Kavanagh climbs behind the wheel of the family's four-wheel-drive, with Kerr taking the front passenger seat, newborn Ruby strapped into a baby seat behind her
and Barrett, blocked by their two-year-old's booster seat, forced into the back row. It is normally a 25-minute drive to the hospital, but on this afternoon they encounter roadworks, forcing them to take a slightly longer route. Only one kilometre from the hospital, Kerr's waters break and she gives birth to Tully in the front seat of the car.
Barrett squats in the front passenger seat administering resuscitation to the newborn as they hurtle towards the hospital, but he doesn't seem to be breathing. Kavanagh pulls up outside emergency, charges through the sliding glass doors and yells out to nurses that
"we've got a flat baby". A resuscitation team springs into action on Tully. But his brain is already extensively damaged and he needs to be placed on life support. A long-serving midwife at the hospital is so upset that she has to leave the room, having previously witnessed the results of two earlier home births that went wrong. "Great, this is the third one," she says to herself.
Two days later, the hospital removes the ventilator from the infant so he can be taken home to be with his family. He dies that night, on October 9, 2011, the latest in a string of home-birth deaths across Australia.
The South Australian Director of Public Prosecutions has launched an
investigation into Barrett's involvement with the three fatal home
births. Her website has vanished.
This is self-described "international homebirth advocate" Lisa Barrett.
Entrusting a potentially fatal medical procedure to a dreadlocked hippy. What could possibly