By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A judge found a Yadkin County woman guilty Tuesday of unauthorized practice of midwifery.
District Court Judge Lawrence Hammond sentenced Emily “Amy” Medwin to 24 hours in jail, which was suspended to two years of unsupervised probation. Medwin, 56, was charged in February following the death of a baby in western Rowan County a month earlier.
Detective Sara Benfield testified in court Tuesday she reported an infant death to Rowan Regional Medical Center Jan. 20. Upon investigating the detective discovered the baby had been born at home and was stillborn. The baby died of natural causes.
The family received prenatal care by Medwin throughout the pregnancy. Medwin was a longtime friend of the paternal grandmother of the infant. Medwin, who is licensed to practice in Virginia, was requested to assist in the birth as she had done for the couple’s two boys, now ages 2 and 3, according to court testimony.
She had gone to the couple’s Sherrills Ford Road home at 4 a.m. where she checked the baby using a Doppler ultrasound. Medwin later left for her East Bend home so the mother could rest. The mother called Medwin around 8 a.m. to say her labor had progressed.
According to the Medwin’s statement to law enforcement, when she arrived at the couple’s home they were on their way to the hospital. The only person left at the home was an EMT.
Medwin told the detective she cleaned the area where the baby had been born “because she did not want the family to come home to that.”
Benfield said everything was clean, the ultrasound monitor was gone. In fact, it did not look as though a birth had even taken place.
“Did she tell you what the plan was for the birth?” asked Assistant District Attorney Paxton Butler.
“She was there to assist and intervene if something went wrong,” Benfield said.
Medwin was not there when the baby was born.
Benfield said Medwin told her she lived in North Carolina, but has a business, Bethlehem Birthing Services in Virginia.
Medwin’s attorney, Salisbury’s James Davis asked the detective if his client was cooperative.
Benfield said Medwin provided her Virginia license to practice midwifery along with certifications for CPR. She did not produce a North Carolina license.
“In North Carolina, you’re required to be a nurse and she is not,” Benfield said.
North Carolina only allows certified nurse midwives, who must attend nursing school, to practice. The state does not recognize Certified Professional Midwives.
Medwin said through her attorney, she may have taken the mother’s blood pressure and recommended a place in Statesville for an ultrasound, but did not provide prenatal care.
Davis asked the detective if his client had a signed contract with the couple, set up routine appointments or had received any money for services. Benfield said no.
Butler said the court should not accept the argument that Medwin was acting as friend to the couple who happened to be a midwife and was assisting the couple in the birth of their baby.
“I’m not saying anything she did led to the death,” Butler said.
He said whether Medwin was a friend assisting, she was still practicing midwifery.
Davis argued his client wasn’t even at the home when the baby was born and therefore did not provide care.
He said there was nothing in the law, particularly the definition of midwifery could be found in this case.
Meliea Holbrook, a friend of Medwin’s and a birth doula, said Medwin’s case is about all women.
A doula is there as a comfort to the mother and child during the birthing process and to help communicate between the mother and medical professional. A doula does not perform medical tasks.
“It’s about the right of women to choose their own procedure, one that they feel is safest and the best choice,” she said.
She added home births have been proven safe. Holbrook supports births at home and in a hospital.
She believes some women want something different from a hospital setting.
Holbrook also said the laws in this state need to be changed.
Sharla Eaton’s last of eight children was born at home, she said which gave her a sense of taking charge of her own health. She admits doctors have their place, but she is a proponent of home births.
Simina Sabadus, of Concord, had her first child born in a hospital and her last at home, assisted by Medwin.
Sabadus said her second time around she was more educated and knowledgeable about the birthing process.
Anne Kinsey, chapter leader for ICAN (International Cesarean Awareness Network) of Charlotte, was on hand to support Medwin.
“If our midwives disappear, women will give birth at home alone,” Kinsey said.
She, too, is an advocate of legislation that would allow independent midwifery in the state.
Tanya Kirichun of Charlotte also hopes standards of home birth care can be raised. Medwin was her midwife and she had a good experience, she said.
She and her husband, Bogdan, would choose a midwife again if they have other children.
Bethany Wilkinson of Charlotte believes the issue goes beyond Rowan County, but affects the whole state.
The standard of care should be raised for a home birth or for a baby born in a hospital, she said.
Four of Wilkinson’s children were born at home.
Judge Hammond also ordered Medwin not to practice midwifery in North Carolina unless she obtains the license to do so. She must also pay court costs.
The mother, who the Post is not identifying, was in court during the trial. The mother has said her family did not blame Medwin.
Medwin gave notice she would appeal.
Medwin did not comment following the trial. Her husband, John, who was also present in court, did not comment.
Medwin still faces charges in Mecklenburg County for regulation of midwifery and resisting arrest, both misdemeanors.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.