Women bring birthing concerns to county

While Elizabeth Catlin prepares for court appearances in Penn Yan and Ontario County, her supporters are working to raise awareness of what they call a maternity care crisis and to raise money for Catlin’s defense and living expenses through a Go Fund Me page.

Catlin, who has assisted scores of area women with in-home births in recent years, faces multiple felony charges accusing her of performing midwife services without the proper New York State license.

Pregnant women are worried about how they will find someone to assist them with an in-home birth. One expectant mother who is carrying her fourth child, says if she has to, she will go to a hospital to have her baby, but she doesn’t want to spend several hours traveling to and from prenatal visits — a trek that can keep her and her husband away from a farm and their family for five hours or more at a time.

“We have a lot that we need to be home for,” says Howard Hoover, explaining in-home birthing is as much about practical considerations such as other children, chores, and transportation, as anything.

Mrs. Newswanger, who owns a dairy farm with her husband, says she was in labor with her third child during chore time. She finished her chores, went in the house, took a shower, and later had the baby with a birth attendant’s care. With her own mother over 300 miles away, and other small children upstairs, having the baby in her home with an attendant was her best option.

Since Catlin’s first arrest in November, at least three babies have been born in Yates County homes with no trained or experienced attendant. That number is likely to increase, since the only midwife in Yates County has stopped working due to health issues, and Catlin is under a court order to not perform midwife services.

“I just don’t like the hospital idea. I just don’t feel comfortable with that,” Mrs. Newswanger says.

A group of about 15 young mothers and some small children attended the Dec. 28 Yates County Legislature year-end meeting where the legislators heard comments about the impact Catlin’s November arrest has had on the community.

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