Jenn went through a traumatic birthing experience. We are honored to share her story here, written in three segments. This first segment is her story as she feels it. It has all the details, no sugar coating. In future segments, Jenn will share the story that she wants her son to know when he hears how he was born and the different things she has done to deal, move through the trauma, and help mothers in the future.
With reverence and respect we share her story:
The Birth of Gizmo
I live on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, originally from the west coast. I am not a writer but I am a mother. I stay home with our son, teaching him the ways of life, but also work part time in the “real world”. My background is in teaching marine science but I have found that raising a child should come with a degree as well. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to heal.
I was very excited when my husband and I had made the decision to start a family of the non-furry kind. I had overcome many obstacles in my life with regards to having been adopted. We became pregnant late July and I made the decision to leave my OB-GYN of three years. Not once have I regretted it.
Throughout the pregnancy I never missed an appointment, my doctors always said my pregnancy was perfect and that I made it look easy. My estimated due date was on the 8th of April but I had told everyone I felt like Gizmo (we weren’t finding out the gender) would come on the 14th of April. Sure enough at 40+6, my active labor began around 9pm on Saturday. I don’t like hospitals and was nervous about going. I knew we had a great team and a well thought out birth plan. I was confident that the hospital would work with us because I had both of my doctors look over and approve our written birth plan. I wasn’t asking for any crazy request, just a low medical intervention birth as long as there weren’t any emergencies.
We checked into the hospital around midnight. I declined to wear the hospital gown, which I got some sass for. But I was never bothered for a heplock or to stay in the bed to be monitored. I moved the rocking chair from the other side of the bed to be near the monitors to avoid the bed. I had my initial “check” and was determined to be at 4.5 cm, 70% effaced and baby was at -2 station. Our birth plan was to have intermittent fetal monitoring, so I sat on the exercise ball for the first EFM (Electronic Fetal Monitoring) session, which was uncomfortable. When it was over I went straight to the bath. Wow, they are not kidding when they call it a “midwives epidural”!
I had a total of five EFM sessions. At the 4am session the nurse thought there might be a few early decelerations so she took the readings out to the nurse’s station. When she came back she told us she wasn’t concerned but would like to check me to see where the baby was. When laboring you get to a certain point where the pelvis puts pressure on the baby, which is normal, but she didn’t think we were that far along. Upon checking, I was surprisingly 7cm, 100% effaced. That bath and relaxation breathing had helped my body open 3cm in less than 4 hours. We agreed to do more frequent monitoring but not continuously since there were no signs of fetal distress.
My fourth EFM session I took a nap on the bed, and this was only 35 minutes after the previous session to make sure that everything was fine with baby. There were no dips or spikes with baby so I got back into the bath. Less than an hour later, I began to have the urges to push. I was lying in the bath, in the dark, whispering to my husband, “I’m all done. I can’t do anymore. It hurts too much. I want drugs.” My hubby and doula kept me together and helped to get me through each contraction with low moans and deep breaths. The nurse came in to let us know it would be time for more EFM and realized I was grunting & pushing through the contractions. She asked me to exit the bath for birthing (hospital did not allow for water birthing). It took a while to convince me to leave that tub.
I got onto the bed in a “non-traditional” position. The pains were so intense and much more powerful outside of the water! I was holding my husband’s hands and looking into his eyes searching for strength. After a few good pushes one of the nurses asked me to get into a side lying position because the doctor was not here. Another nurse walked in and said, “I have to check you otherwise the doctor won’t come in”. I had the on-call doctor (he was the doctor whose practice I left) who had gone home. My doula said, “That’s not how you ask a woman if you can put your fingers in her vagina”. Our main nurse leaned in by my side whispered asking permission politely – as if it wasn’t obvious, with my tail in the air, that this baby was on its way earth side. I was 10 cm dilated and baby was at +2 station; baby was coming out! Gizmo’s amniotic sac was still intact so with every push, the little one would slide down and go right back up.
At this time, the nurses were less than helpful. One had the nerve to ask my husband to leave my side to move the rocking chair. My doula moved it for her but the nurse drug it farther out of the way, creating the sound of nails on a chalkboard! My hubs asked the nurses for a tissue (I would not let go of his hands) and they all just stood there staring at him. Again, my doula assisted and retrieved a tissue for him. Another nurse requested that I get on my back into “the physicians preferred position”.
The doctor arrived at 7:10am, walked in, did not introduce himself and said, “Flip over so we can see where we’re at”. I declined, stating that this position was working for me. He repeated himself two more times, clearly showing his irritation. My hubs asked him “to listen to his wife”; he said, “No, you have to”. I didn’t flip over. He stood there watching the next two contractions and his response to my progress was “you’ve got a long way to go” and walked out. My heart sank. I thought Gizmo was never coming and after all of this he would make me have a cesarean. We had a birth plan that was being honored and respected up until now. My doula had the nurses set up the squat bar. After two pushes, I could see in the mirror that baby’s head started coming out and the amniotic sac broke. The doctor came back in and with my legs shaking, he took over me.
I lost the control to my baby’s birth. I was so tired. The doctor told me to roll back onto the bed and I did. I remember my doula looking at me and asking if that was ok and all I could do was look back at her, searching to verbalize “no”. My birth team was in shock and the hospital staff failed to be our advocate.
This doctor failed to acknowledge or listen to his patient or the birth plan. He ignored my rights as a patient and as a human. He put me in a position I verbally said no to in the first place. Demanded I push and hold my breath when he said. Ripped my vagina physically since I didn’t allow for an episiotomy and I asked him to remove his hands twice. He cut baby’s cord immediately while “shushing” three people telling him to stop. He pulled out my placenta instead of waiting for my body to release it with contractions, as my doula, standing right next to him, had reminded him of my birth plan request. Instead he stated, “I’m not pulling. I know what I am doing”. He abused me by causing lacerations when I asked him to stop, not asking me if I want to be repaired, and not providing a local anesthetic. When he completed the stitching he got up and left without a word, no “congratulations” or a “thank you”. He didn’t even fill out baby’s souvenir birth certificate.
As Gizmo had rushed out I saw its body – “it’s a boy!” and I took baby D to my breast. He latched but did not suckle. His breathing sounded wet and rapid. The nurse said to just lay him on my chest for a while but he began to struggle to breathe. After about an hour, our baby was taken from me to get his breathing in order. My hubby stayed by his side talking to him. Things progressively got worse and more care was needed that was not available at this hospital. I sat there watching all of this as I did not have the strength to get up, walk over and stand by my son’s side. I had not eaten for over 12 hours and used all my energy during labor. I had to request breakfast three times before a meal finally came over three hours later and by then I was sick to my stomach not sure if the baby I just birthed was going to make it. The only nurse that checked on me was working with my son. I told her to keep busy with him, so I was not getting checked every 15 minutes for vitals, bleeding and uterus contracting. I was being neglected because the one nurse we had was trying to take care of two people at the same time.
My baby and husband went to another room with more equipment. I got dressed and followed them. There was so much going on but the doctor checking his respiratory issue introduced himself, made eye contact, and explained what was happening and what the next steps were. While alarms were going off with my baby boy, the delivery doctor walked over, without making eye contact, told the nurse to mute the alarms and walked away.
Arrangements were made to have baby transported to another hospital for respiratory distress. Since I didn’t have any drugs or complications I was discharged from the hospital (4.5 hours after giving birth). We were not permitted to ride in the ambulance to the NICU. We arrived late afternoon, were greeted warmly and assisted with anything we needed. We were informed of Doctor Rounds in the mornings and made sure we were there. Everyone introduced themselves and asked about Daniel. They were confused about how a full term baby with no problems during pregnancy or labor acquired amniotic fluid and maternal blood when waters broke last minute and placenta was intact.
I know that had we had a doctor that was respectful, not abusive or rushed, and wanted to be at our birth, the outcome would have been different. I wouldn’t be recovering from PTSD from the feeling that I was raped and traumatize during birth. I wouldn’t have been rushed to deliver my baby, been torn manually by the doctor and having my newborn aspirate my blood. Another doctor, or midwife, would have taken the time to make sure the baby’s airway was suctioned properly. I went to the hospital thinking that was the safest place to be and instead it was the most unsafe and violated I have ever felt. I never thought that I would be holding my baby searching for strength to ask my baby to forgive me for not protecting him or myself better. That’s not how birth should feel.
Baby D spent a week in NICU, two of those days under heavy sedation with a breathing ventilator. I was pumping to make sure I could breastfeed, something that I was determined to do after all of this. When I did get to nurse it was perfect and I just wanted to take him home then. At the silence of our own home all I could hear were beeps from monitors as I held my little guy. I cried and cried for months. I sought therapy and began the complaint process in order to funnel all this anger.
It should not matter who your primary doctor is. At a hospital you should be taken care of as if you have always been their patient. My family and I should never have been treated the way we were at this hospital. Being taken care of at the children’s hospital showed us even more clearly how much we were neglected, violated and grossly mistreated.
I have done everything I could to hold the doctor and the hospital accountable. I am also doing my best to make others aware of their rights and what to do if they feel they were mistreated.
In Part II, I share the birthing story I want my son to know. With my son turning one, a whole new wave of emotions swallowed me.
In Part III of my story, I share how through my complaint process our hospital has made changes to policies to improve the care for birthing women. This has helped me for the future I can tell my son, “yes they did that to us, but I did this for us and all the other mothers to come.”
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