An unlicensed midwife has been charged with negligent child abuse resulting in death after a baby died following an unsuccessful home delivery in Omaha.
Angela M. Hock, 36, of Riverdale, Nebraska, was booked into the Douglas County Jail on Wednesday. She is awaiting her first court appearance.
In her 25 years working in the Douglas County Attorney’s Office, Chief Deputy County Attorney Brenda Beadle said she never has had a case in which an unlicensed person has been charged in connection with a home birth that resulted in death.
According to an affidavit filed in Douglas County, Omaha Fire Department paramedics were dispatched to a home near 48th and Spaulding Streets about 9:25 p.m. June 15. They found Hock, who operates Nebraska Birth Keeper, attempting to help 25-year-old Emily Noe deliver a breech baby in the home. Noe was on her hands and knees as another woman held the partially delivered baby, the affidavit said.
The baby girl eventually was delivered by rescue squad personnel en route to the Nebraska Medical Center. She was limp, wasn’t breathing and had no pulse, according to the affidavit. The ambulance crew worked to resuscitate the baby, who was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit at the hospital and placed on life support.
Dr. Katherine Lessman, who was the obstetrician-gynecologist on call at the hospital when Emily Noe arrived, told police that Noe had told her that she had been in labor for 24 hours. Noe told Lessman that she had known for a couple hours that the baby was breech and that she had been pushing in an attempt to deliver the baby for an hour before 911 was called.
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Lessman said the baby had been without oxygen and, as a result, suffered brain swelling. Lessman said there was a very strong possibility that the baby would die because of the injury, the affidavit said.
The baby girl, named Vera, was pronounced dead June 17.
Noe told police that her water broke about 9 p.m. June 14. Hock arrived about 6 a.m. June 15 to assist in the delivery, the affidavit said. Noe said Hock asked her if she wanted to continue the birth at home and told Noe she had been trained in delivering breech babies. Noe said she decided to continue with the at-home birth.
After 30 minutes or more, Noe told police, the baby was delivered up to her shoulders, and Hock realized that she wouldn’t be able to deliver the baby and advised calling 911.
Michel M. Hueftle also was at the home at the time. She told investigators that she helped Noe in the role of a doula during the birth but did not perform any medical procedures. She said she only assisted Noe with breathing and movement to assist in the birthing process and said she is not paid for her services.
Lessman, the OB-GYN, told investigators that in her medical opinion, the birth was handled negligently, resulting in death of the baby. The death was preventable, Lessman said, had appropriate medical care been provided in a timely fashion.
Hock “placed the child in a situation that endangered her life … and deprived (her) of necessary medical care,” Deputy County Attorney Molly Keane said. “Her actions in doing so resulted in the death of this child.”
Investigators determined that Hock was paid by Noe and her husband, Crayton Noe, “between $3,000 and $4,000” for home birth midwife services, according to the affidavit. Hock’s photo is prominently featured on the Nebraska Birth Keeper website.
Emily Noe declined to comment Wednesday.
Investigators said they confirmed with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services that Hock does not hold any medical or certified nurse midwife license in Nebraska.
The Nebraska Birth Keeper website has several testimonials about Hock’s services, which include home birth, postpartum care and miscarriage and stillbirth support. Her prices are not listed on the website.
According to the website, Hock began her “journey as a birth professional” in 2004 and started attending births as a doula in 2013 “before discovering my calling to help women find their power and ancient wisdom through traditional midwifery.”
She and other “free birth advocates” began Nebraska Birth Keeper in 2017, with women joining by private membership. Hock claimed on her website that through a private membership association, she could perform home births. Beadle, the chief deputy county attorney, said it doesn’t work that way.
“Though I possess knowledge in many birthing techniques, I am a natural undisturbed home birth advocate,” Hock wrote on the website. Hock wrote on the website: “I believe that we were created to birth without intervention and that women possess the God-given wisdom and intuition to birth their babies free from regulation.”
She said on the site that she is married, has four children and lives north of Kearney.
World-Herald staff writer Alia Conley contributed to this report.