I’ve been very closely following a particularly heartbreaking chain of events this week. If you are not familiar with the #notburiedtwice campaign, I strongly suggest you read this post.
In brief: Midwife Christy Collins, currently of Las Vegas, caused the totally preventable death of a baby through what in any regulated health care profession would be gross and obvious malpractice. She ignored a clear indication for immediate induction of labor: absolutely no amniotic fluid in a woman two weeks past her due date. Instead of transferring care, Christy crowdsourced “stories/opinions” via Jan Tritten, editor of Midwifery Today on Facebook. She subsequently delayed care by driving her client 30 minutes to a hospital that has a “midwife friendly” doctor. The baby died, and the midwifery community began to delete all evidence of the entire thing, including trying to hide Christy’s identity.
Luckily, the crowdsourcing led to a great roar of outrage from readers, who got busy screen capping and digging for the truth. As the truth behind Christy Collins’ and Jan Tritten’s lies unfolds, a letter came to light, which I am going to unpack.
For those new to my writing, I was in a cultic abusive relationship for over five years. I had a partner who created a small cult that, at times, would dwindle to me as the only follower. I was young, naïve and trusting, and I was at a major crossroads as a recent college graduate in a new and un fulfilling marriage. My abuser used a variety of brainwashing and manipulation tactics on me until I believed everything he said – which included that he could channel other beings, that my family and friends were the real abusers, that he became other people (including a “doctor”) and more. I ultimately divorced, cut off my family and friends and lived totally in his living fiction until I was able to break free.
After extensive deprogramming and therapy, I became very interested in Munchausen by Internet, a phenomenon detailed by Dr. Marc Feldman. I’ve followed several cases and written about the tactics used in cultic and manipulative abuse. It’s become almost a hobby, deconstructing the carefully crafted doublespeak. It is from that background I draw as I look at the following letter.
The full text of the letter has not been released, so I am making some educated guesses to fill in the blanks. I know this letter was written by Christy Collins, almost certainly to the mother, after the birth and death. I don’t know the identity of the family and do not want to add to their pain, so know that my estimations of the mother’s feelings and reactions is speculative. Nor do I think the baby’s father was unaffected; I am focusing on the mother as the letter appears to be to her. We are missing the introduction to the letter; we jump right in to Christy’s defense.
I wish I could go back in time, and have said stronger words – enough to make you hate me, and fell you had no choice but to go into the hospital the day before.
Right here, Christy is immediately laying the guilt on the mother. She gives an initial illusion of remorse, but immediately shows that she’s placed herself in the power position. This will become more apparent as we go along, but even in this first sentence it’s quite clear. Further, it’s important to note that, for the mother right now, Christy is likely still deeply trusted, so this primes Mom to say, “I could NEVER hate YOU!”
I could’ve lived with you hating me, over this feeling of devastation.
So much in each sentence. It’s really a masterpiece. This is all about Christy and how much the baby’s death hurt Christy so much. And that makes Christy so sympathetic, because she regrets it so. When you’re in any relationship where you are being groomed and manipulated, pain and sorrow felt by the manipulator is YOUR problem. This also prompts a soothing “it wasn’t your fault” response from Mom.
I know we say that we don’t know if it would’ve been any different; maybe he would’ve been very sick, but alive. I don’t know. But I wish I wouldn’t pushed much hard and said the things that we never want to hear the ‘experts’ say…
Translation: there’s nothing we could have done differently, because OBVIOUSLY Christy would have done it. Except it would have made the mother hate Christy. So really, whose fault is it? She’s not saying it outright… yet.
Instead of … telling you to “be prepared that the perinatologist doing the NST is likely to tell you that your baby could die if he doesn’t come out;” those should have been MY words.
Christy tips her hand a bit here. She told the parents that the doctor (or tech or whomever was at the testing facility) would be the bad guy. There is a tremendous pressure within the homebirth/natural childbirth movement to distrust all authority except the midwife, and Christy admits that she prepared the parents to ignore the (potentially lifesaving for the baby) advice. It is essential, though, that Christy acknowledge this if she wants her veneer of regret to stick.
You might have been really pissed at me for pushing you into a corner where you felt you didn’t have a choice, but … I wouldn’t care…
Here the picture of Mom as irrational and truly at fault becomes clearer. Because Christy was protecting herself from this woman who would have HATED her for agreeing with the medical establishment.
I am angry at myself for being the midwife who tried to be as firm but gentle as possible when advising to go in when I could’ve waved the dead baby flag…
Christy could have been the hated hero, instead of the tragically kind friend. There’s a subtle dig at doctors here too – if only OBs weren’t so gung-ho about “playing the dead baby card” and “scaremongering!” It conveniently ignores the scaremongering Christy did in regard to the doctors in the first place.
I wanted so badly to see a change in fluid … while you just wanted time/space to think …
Translation: Remember, YOU wanted to process the information. I just hoped it would be okay since I didn’t dare contradict you.
If I hadn’t agreed, and used the words “your baby could die because of this …”, maybe he would still be here.
Right here, she puts full blame on the mother. “If I had dared to disagree with you, baby might be alive. But YOU wanted TIME.
My back up doctor was amazing and the whole team worked so fast.
So it isn’t THEIR fault, no way. The fact that Christy withheld crucial information from that “amazing” team doesn’t bear mentioning. I bet she wasn’t calling them “amazing” while she was prepping the mother to ignore them.
Then the longest 47 minutes of our lives while they worked on your baby who had clearly been soaking in mec for weeks.
So it couldn’t POSSIBLY be Christy’s fault. Also, the image is devastating and would serve to give a dose of fresh anguish about the baby to distract from “hating” Christy.
Acidosis … bad blood gases … the worst of which had occurred in the last 20 minutes.
If Mom hadn’t been SO INSISTENT on waiting…and yet baby was clearly soaking “for weeks” in meconium. Christy is really underlining who she wants Mom to blame: Herself (and not Christy). Also not mentioned: The 30 minute drive to a hospital where there was a “midwife friendly” OB. 30 minutes, containing those last 20 minutes.
An induction yesterday, just one day after a perfect NST may not have mattered anyhow we were told…
If I hadn’t agreed to your desire to wait he might have lived! But he was doomed, so it’s not my fault! Although Christy pauses to note that they were told that by the scaremongering doctors you aren’t supposed to listen to.
Baby sounded perfect the next morning and we had the same BPP result after you rehydrated. You still wanted more time.
You had no reason to worry, so you wanted to wait, just like I taught you. So it’s your fault.
I said I didn’t feel we had any, and read to you what even other midwives had to say. That I wasn’t the only one who felt a sense of urgency.
This part requires extra unpacking, especially if you haven’t read the initial crowdsourcing post. The first big problem is that the majority of the midwives who replied gave dangerously uneducated answers. This is a situation where there is literally only one correct course of action: go to the hospital and get the baby OUT. Immediate induction or c – section, or else the baby may very well die. As we have seen happen here. Knowing this, and that very few responders gave any “sense of urgency” until after the update stating the baby had died, it is chilling to envision what happened at that computer.
Obviously this is conjecture, but my guess is that Christy read the comments and used tone of voice and careful wording to give mom a clear sense that there was consensus to wait. She could then, after the baby died, use the same words with different emphasis and tone to make mom think there was NOT consensus to wait. This is gaslighting. Mom, who is questioning herself at this point (as anyone would), may ultimately remember the second version of the story instead of the first. False memories are disturbingly easy to create.
Only 20 minutes later, your baby showed distress. And hour later, your baby was out … and gone.
Another dose of grief, make sure Mom can’t think for too long about any one point.
I wish I would’ve been so harsh with my words the day before, that you would’ve hated me.
Christy wants Mom to think Christy’s wracked with unjust guilt, because Mom was clearly so unstable.
Maybe you would be nursing your baby, angry about your induced birth experience, and refusing my visits.
Grief-and-guilt combo. Notice how she keeps making deliberately heartrending references to the loss? Keeping Mom in a high state of anguish prevents critical thinking. Mom can’t stop and remember exactly what happened. Memories recorded in a state of great emotion also can be both less reliable and more vivid.
Instead you and the daddy slept with your dead baby all night in a hospital bed …
This is exactly what I mean. That image us so heartbreaking that it’s where I had to stop reading and cry myself. It’s blunt and heartless and designed to make Mom cry too.
I blame me. I would rather have you hate me for pushing you harder into a bad birth experience … so you could hold a live baby instead.
And back around to Christy reminding Mom that this pain is Mom’s fault. If ONLY it had been SAFE to even SAY anything, but you’d HATE me for it!
Midwifery implies choices. Informed consent. Informed refusal.
A sudden shift to a totally businesslike argument that still focuses only on Mom’s Choice. Throwing “informed consent” and “informed refusal” as sentence fragments additionally helps plant them in Mom’s head (still reeling from the words “your dead baby.”) This letter doesn’t miss a trick in the manipulator manual.
No woman would refuse an induction if she knew what having a dead baby felt like.
Book-ending the buzzwords, Christy is implanting with another round of anguish and the blunt use of “dead baby” again. While in this one case I agree with the words Christy wrote, context is everything. She’s making it clear that Mom refused an induction and implicitly the baby’s death is Mom’s fault.
I’ll say, no mother who has lost a baby is going to feel anything but raw anguish at blunt language like that within mere days of the loss. I have lost a baby (under vastly different circumstances) and words like that, during the rawest phase of grief, sear in a special, terrible way. To have them coming from someone you trust profoundly (as Christy clearly arranged, what with the “you’d hate me” focus) would be indescribable.
In the future, I’ll pressure until my client hates me. I won’t care.
That’s right, if she gets another irrational, unstable mother to be, she will use you as the Goofus to her Gallant and risk being hated. This is also an extra pang of guilt for Mom, and one that could easily slip under the radar: that Mom “ruined” Christy’s caring, gentle nature and MADE her not care. From inside of the manipulation, that is powerful shame to bear.
How is this mother supposed to know what to think, with Christy reframing? It is not coincidental that this letter was rushed out while mom is still deep in the trauma. Every word here is chosen to elicit a specific response. It’s a perfect manipulative attack, and my heart breaks for this mother. It is all the worse because the community that has supported the mother has already turned on her. The midwives who responded to the crowdsourcing are all very adamant that this was ALL MOM’S CHOICE.
It wasn’t. This letter is just one more piece of evidence that it was Christy Collins, CPM and the community supporting her dangerous, manipulative agenda. Trying to blame it on the mother – and make her blame herself – is just the vile icing on a deadly cake.