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Nosy, Yoga-Ball Bouncing Doctor-Haters – Why I Changed My Tune

Guest writer Erin Shetler is a birth trauma survivor recovering from PTSD. This is the story of why she’s attending this year’s Improving Birth rally, and what the movement to improve birth can do to help reduce the rates of birth trauma. Visit the Rally to Improve Birth website to find a rally near you this Labor Day.

When I first saw the Labor Day news coverage of last year’s Rally to Improve Birth, I thought the people standing outside the local hospital and waving signs about childbirth and C-section rates were nuts. “Why are these folks so upset about other women’s choices?” I thought as I watched them talk to reporters about the high rate of interventions and surgical births. I was seven months pregnant and trusted that the hospital would be the smartest, safest place to have my baby.

“These people need to mind their own business,” I said. “The only thing that matters is having a healthy baby.”

Then I had my first baby, and it changed everything.

Leading up to her birth, I did everything I could to be a good patient. I didn’t care about natural childbirth and couldn’t relate to people who wanted music and yoga balls and inflatable birthing tubs in the delivery room. I took four hours of hospital childbirth classes. I told my doctor I planned to go with the flow and see what happened. I considered tattooing “epidural at 4 centimeters” on my forehead. I went straight to the hospital when they said I should, signed the consent forms mid-contraction, and happily did everything they told me to do, even when I learned my doctor was out of town. I knew a lot could happen during delivery, but I trusted I would get through it and make good decisions with the help of the on-call doctor and nurses. After all, I was in labor, and a little scared, and I knew the hospital would be my partner in delivering a safe, healthy baby.

I was wrong. During my fast but medicated delivery, the on-call doctor lied to me, hid things from me and secretly performed surgical procedures on me and my daughter without my consent. While I was numb and unable to feel anything below the waist, he draped my legs with surgical paper so we couldn’t see what was going on. While I pushed, he and the nurses told me things were going great. I learned later that was not true. My baby’s heart rate had dropped, something I would learn only after complaining and ordering my medical records. Under that surgical sheet, the doctor was cutting an episiotomy and vacuuming my daughter out of my body with a suction device. He literally hid my legs, cut open my vagina, and sucked my baby out by the head, all without my knowledge and certainly without my consent. My first memory of my daughter is seeing a blue and purple ring on her head from the suction machine and panicking about what was wrong with her. A blood vessel in her eye had popped during the procedure, and there was a ring of blood around her pupil.

As the nurse nonchalantly told me these were normal because they had to use a vacuum on my daughter’s head, I realized that all of these things had happened to me – and to her – without my knowledge.

Well-intentioned people asked me later about the first thing I noticed about my new daughter. Was it her fuzzy red hair? Her sweetly long fingers and toes? The sad answer is this: The first things I noticed were her bruises. And when I saw her, I realized that in my very first moments as a mother, I couldn’t protect or care for my child because I didn’t know what was happening to her.

"The first things I noticed were her bruises."

“The first things I noticed were her bruises.”

(Vacuums are used in less than 5 percent of deliveries, usually when a mother is exhausted or a baby is in distress. Vacuum attempts sometimes fail, and if they do, an immediate C-section is necessary. Every clinical standard of care – the hospital’s terminology for acceptable behavior from a healthcare provider – says the physician should address the patient before using a vacuum during delivery and obtain her verbal consent – not just a signature on a hospital admission form, which covers permission to treat a patient. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists lists “failure to obtain informed consent” as an absolute contraindication [translation: a deal breaker] for use of a vacuum. Though he and the hospital later apologized after a firm complaint letter, I never got an answer from the doctor about why he felt I did not deserve respect for my consent rights, why I wasn’t important enough to be part of the decisions about my body and my baby. There was no indication from the hospital or the doctor that any emergency existed that prevented him or the nurses from communicating with me. To perform the vacuum procedure, they first had to place a catheter. So they had time to cut me and catheterize me, but the only thing anyone took the time to tell me was that my pushing was “going great” and we were going to have this baby quickly. In my medical charts, the notation after the procedure was this three word sentence: “Procedure well tolerated.”)

Later, the doctor said he was surprised that I was upset and he “wished he knew I wanted to be so involved,” making me realize I was probably not the first or the last woman he’d treated this way. He actually said in a follow-up meeting in front the head of the hospital’s obstetrics department that he believed “most women don’t really want to know what goes on down there.”

I wasn’t against using medical intervention if it meant helping my baby arrive safely. But I trusted that the doctor would involve me in my care. Had he taken 15 seconds to say, “Baby’s heart is telling us she needs to come out quickly, I’m going to use this vacuum and I might have to make an incision, OK? Alright, now 1, 2, 3, push…,” I probably would have spent the first weeks of my daughter’s life writing thank-you notes to the hospital instead of complaint letters.

Instead, I was treated like I didn’t exist, like I didn’t matter.

But it did matter, certainly to my health.

In the hospital I was treated for high white blood cell counts attributed by the doctors to stress. When I got home, the flashbacks and nightmares started. For weeks I woke my new baby and her father each night, screaming. It was the same dream, over and over. I was having a baby. I could feel her coming out of me, first the head, then the shoulders. There were a lot of people in the room, but no one could hear me shout for help, no matter how loudly I screamed.

I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder about six weeks after my baby’s birth. I was still having the nightmares, and my normally low blood pressure was sky high. Typical sounds, like the quick honk of a car locking on the street, made me jump. For the first time in my life I had no appetite, and I lost 40 pounds – all the baby weight and more – in less than two months.

To top it all off, my episiotomy was taking its time to heal.

Imagine, with every single step you took for six weeks, being reminded that someone violated you without your consent. And that you were supposed to be happy about it because you had a healthy baby.

I complained to the hospital and two medical boards. Then I fired my OB–the one whose partner had treated me so poorly. A few weeks later, her office sent me a bill for the remainder of my delivery fee. Instead of a check, I sent her a note telling her to sue me for the money so we could talk in open court about her partner’s negligence and the PTSD it caused. I never heard from her or her billing office again.

"No one could hear me shout for help no matter how loudly I screamed."

“No one could hear me shout for help no matter how loudly I screamed.”

Thousands of dollars in treatment later – and hundreds of hours of lost bonding time with my little girl – I am feeling much stronger. But the trauma caused by my mistreatment during delivery has had a major impact on my family’s life.

During labor I pushed for a very short 13 minutes. All those hours crying on the bathroom floor, all those dollars spent on a counselor, all the stress on my husband from caring for an ill wife, all the stigma of having a mental condition that I now battle every day – it all could have been avoided if I’d been treated like a human being for 13 minutes. Every mother deserves that, no matter what kind of birth she has.

Respect for our bodies, our babies, and our rights is never too much to expect.

That’s why I’m joining forces with the folks I thought were nuts. Remember the ones waving the signs? The ones I thought were nosy, yoga-ball bouncing doctor-haters? Turns out, they are none of those things. They are a smart, growing global coalition of people who recognize that we have a problem with the way many women are treated while giving birth. Nine out of 10 women give birth in a hospital in the United States. Through rallies and advocacy, ImprovingBirth.org is making sure everyone knows that all those women do not check their human rights at the door.

Birth trauma and PTSD are several times more likely to occur in women whose rights are violated during delivery. And they can adversely affect women and their families for years after birth. There are many people in the ImprovingBirth.org movement, and each has his or her own reason for fighting so hard for change. Women like me, who don’t deserve to suffer from avoidable birth trauma at the hands of their doctors: They are my reason.

Let me be clear. There are thousands of wonderful medical professionals out there who treat their patients with respect during labor. They should be applauded.

But let me be clear about something else: My case is not an anomaly. While the situations are not always as egregious (many are more terrible; many are less), cases like mine happen every single day. I guarantee that in your city or town, at your local hospital, a woman has felt bullied, uninformed, or ignored during childbirth. It’s not always the hospital’s fault, and it’s certainly not the patient’s fault.

But it is our responsibility to fix it – together.  All those great doctors and nurses I mentioned need to join the movement for better birth.

Those care providers should stand up with us at this year’s Labor Day rallies and say they are not going to put up with colleagues who treat women like they don’t matter.

And all the people like me, who know firsthand that birth matters to the health of our bodies and our families, must stand up as healthcare consumers and Americans and make it known that we won’t take it anymore.

Thousands of women give birth in the hospital every day, and too many of them suffer undue trauma because of outdated procedures or providers who don’t respect their rights. We are not music-loving, yoga-ball bouncing natural birth advocates. We are your mothers, wives and sisters. And if we don’t fix this soon, we will someday include your daughters. My family deserves better. Doesn’t yours?

Join ImprovingBirth.org and thousands of other supporters this Labor Day to show the world that birth matters to you. Visit the Rally to Improve Birth website to find a rally near you this Labor Day.

I’ll see you there.

Want to support ImprovingBirth.org’s mission?  Like us on Facebook, participate in our history-making 2013 Rally to Improve Birth, and donate to the cause.


58 Comments

  1. I relate so much to your story. I worked in an OB office while I was pregnant. I laughed at birth plans along with the rest of the staff. I wondered what was wrong with these women that they would want to feel the pain. Now I am one of them. Thank you for sharing your story!

  2. nadine

    I have to admit, for 10 seconds I thought “ptsd from an episiotomy…?!” And then it hit me. I was fortunate enough to have been prepped for my first child’s labor and delivery. I knew my rights, and my providerknew I did. If I hadnt known them, if I hadnt expected such brutal interventions (lrts face it, they are brutal, even if sometimes neccessary) then it would be traumatic. And I do understamd. And this is why I think this group is so important.

    • Erin Shetler

      Hi Nadine,
      Thanks for your comment and for understanding. I think probably it was the vacuum procedure that sent me over the PTSD edge, as it’s what caused the bruising I first saw on my daughter. Either way, you are right about being informed about your rights in childbirth. I trusted my doctor blindly and never in a million years imagined I’d ever need to protect myself or my kid from a healthcare professional.

      • nadine

        I am so glad that my comment was not recieved wrongly! I was semi worried. And my knowledge of rights actually came at my older sisters expense. I dont want women to know they have rights because of a past experience of theirs, nor a close friends experience. And Im so grieved you had to come to understand why its important because of your own experience. Its not supposed to be like this! Btw, I loved how squishy your baby looks in that photo!

  3. Andrea

    I want to validate the face that you had a terrible experience and did not receive the dignity and respect that every birthing woman deserves. I also want to point out that broken blood vessels in the baby’s eyes are a common result of a very fast birth, and not a common side effect of a vacuum delivery. They do not cause any long term problems and clear up after several weeks. I wish you and your baby all the best!

  4. Holly Reilly - Doula

    I relate so much to your story. During the birth of my now-7yo daughter, I was barely 20, morbidly obese, on state insurance, unmarried, and a homebirth transfer.

    The care I received during my pregnancy had been kind, involved, and respectful. Thirty hours into a tiring labor, I was not prepared for the warzone I would be walking into. The nurses were off-put by my need to know what they were doing to my body and baby. The doctors, when they came around, were uninterested in looking me in the eye, let alone conversing with me.

    The pinnacle of the horrible experience remains the one doctor that came into the room, addressed the nurse but not myself or any of my support people, did a cervical check WITHOUT MY CONSENT, and announced loudly that unless I was dialated in an hour…well, he would just order the OR now. I was dumbfounded, strapped to a bed and laboring, and unable to process the immense way I had just been violated…but I used those feelings, talked with my baby, and we made it to dialation in less than fifty minutes. After pushing for two hours (during which time, I had to fight episiotomy and vaccuum extraction), I met my strong and fiercely determined daughter for the first time.

    It took me over three years to come to a place of understanding about why I hurt so much in thinking about my labor. It took another three years for me to figure out what I could do with my now-processed feelings. I’m now approaching the final steps to becoming a certified doula, and I plan to work almost exclusively with women who are birthing in the same conditions I did.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for helping to make birth a time of joyous celebration for every family. <3

    Yours in the fight,

    Holly

    • Erin Shetler

      Holly,
      I’m so sorry this happened to you and am proud that you are using your experience to help other women in the future. Thank you for sharing with me and the other women on this sight, and good luck as a doula!
      Erin

    • Thank you for this! My daughter is 3 months old and I am still sorting through everything that happened with her birth. I have also considered becoming a doula to help others have the birth they desire. Good luck to you!

  5. Dear Erin, thank you for sharing your birth story. It broke my heart to read about what you and your precious family suffered through under the care of people who you are supposed to truly trust. My mother also had a traumatic birthing experience with me and before I was even pregnant, I watched the popular ” Business of Being Born” documentary, and decided I would have as much control over my own birthing experience as possible. Since then, I gave birth to my baby girl and felt it such an empowering experience that I am on my way to becoming a certified doula. I realize that giving birth is one of our most vulnerable moments in life as a woman; with the wrong care it can be traumatic, and with the right care it can be over-the-top positive and empowering. I hope many women read your story and realize that they can have choices, surround thselves with respectful professionals and lived ones, and hire a doula to help them have a voice when they’re giving birth, a sister and servant of love. I wish the best for you and your baby girl.

    • Erin Shetler

      Thank you, Karla!I hope that with more discussion and education for everyone, healthcare professionals and doulas can work together to help keep moms and babies safe and loved during birth. Thank you for joining that effort, and good luck with your certification!

  6. Monica

    I suffered ptsd after the birth and stillbirth of my twin girls. It was my first birth and at a birth center. My midwife was a horrible woman whom had a standoffish attitude. I had no emotional support except by my husband. I had no pain relief as it was a free standing birth center. … First off I had little to no options as far as delivering my twins. I was told that if I had a hospital birth that I would be in the OR room with at least 12 different strangers. I was also told I would have a trial of labor and I more than likely would have to deliver by cesarean section. Everyone kept telling me , ” you know you’re going to have to be cut! ” At first I went along with it. But, I decided to look into other options.
    I wish I had known how painful it was truly going to be. I wish I had known what other options i had. I could have chosen a new hospital. I could have chosen a new midwife. ….
    Knowing what I know now and being pregnant again, with a singleton this time, I am better preparing myself and am interviewing more than one care provider. I am not simply picking one out of the book. I have asked for opinions and advice from my birth community.
    I suffered PTSD because I felt isolated and not emotionally supported right for the type of birth plan I had, and not being acknowledged when I asked my midwife to stop.
    She was too rough on me. She took both of her fists and slammed them into my stomach without warning and mashed into my tummy over and over again. The initial hit was so hard that it knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t let out the scream that wanted to escape my mouth. When I was able to catch my breath I asked her like eight times, ” please stop, please stop, please stop…..” …..
    When I asked her why she had been so rough she said , ” oh i was just being delegent. No mom likes having this massage. I don’t understand why they complain about pain afterwards.” …..
    My stomach hurt so bad that I could not wear my baby in a sling or my moby wrap. ….
    I too had nightmares of giving birth again. I would be screaming and thrashing all alone in the tub without my glasses and I couldn’t see faces. I would have nightmares of my midwife jumping up over me and punching me in my stomach. I started to turn them into fantasies of kicking her away from me. Or telling her to get out and never come back. ……
    Did I have an episotomy? , no. Did I have a cesarean? No. ….. Was I treated horribly? Yes! Did I have suffer Ptsd? yes! …. I suffered emotionally and physically. So much so that I very nearly decided to never have another child again. ……. ( there is a lot more to my story. But, it is too long to share it here.) Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing that ptsd can happen to anyone regardless of a cesarean or not.

    • Erin Shetler

      Monica,
      I am so sorry this happened to you, and I hope that you have received some help or support for the PTSD, which really doesn’t go away on its own. I know that it’s easy to feel alone after a traumatic birth. I spent a long time on the floor of the bathroom, looking for help and answers in all the books I’d bought about “What to Expect.” I found little to nothing, and tossed all those books in the bathroom trash. You are definitely not alone, and I hope you have found — as I have — that it does get better with time and support. I too can relate to the kicking fantasy! Anger has its purpose — it can make you write a complaint letter or take action — but it’s nice when its grip loosens a little. There are a few resources online that help with PTSD from birth trauma, including solaceformothers.org and mommatraumablog.com. You can also find me and friend me on Facebook if you’d like to keep in touch.
      Thank you for sharing your story with me.
      Erin

      • Monica,
        I had an experience similar to yours almost thirteen years ago. I was 20 years old, single, and having my first baby. I took a Lamaze childbirth class with my mom. The baby was coming quick, and we were in the middle of a blizzard. It was a weekend, and the Dr. that I didn’t like as much was on call. I was not given much respect from anyone, but I was on Medicaid. I do not think that that is a reason to not respect someone or treat them like a person with rights. I was given something to slow down the labor, and then speed up the labor. My contractions were starting before the last one ended (I was watching them on the monitor). After over 10hrs, I asked for an epidural in the transition phase. It didn’t work. I delivered just fine, but they called a code blue when my son came out. He was, well, BLUE. His Apgar was a one. He recovered very quickly and was a 10 in 10 minuets. A nurse mentioned that I had not delivered the placenta yet. No one told me to push it out, so I hadn’t. Without warning, a nurse punched my fragile abdomen that had held my baby. She pushed out part of the placenta. I screamed out in pain louder than I had ever screamed before. I asked her why she did that, and she simply said that the placenta needed to come out. There was no informed consent. In the process, she tore my uterus. Also, part of the placenta was still inside of me. I had normal post-partum bleeding for about three weeks. Any time I would be on my feet for more than an hour, or do any kind of house work or exercise I would begin to hemorrhage. I should have gotten a lawyer, but I didn’t. I went from Dr. to Dr., trying to get better and heal. It took over a year physically, and much, much longer to heal mentally and emotionally. I have one other child now with my husband. We did Bradley Method classes (LOVE them) We have a two-year-old, and I had a natural birth in a hospital. My birth, the way I wanted it. Monica and Holly Reilly I feel for you both! I hope that we can reform our terrible birthing system in the U.S.
        Amber

    • Lindsey

      Thank you for sharing your story. I hurt for you just reading about it. But I think it’s very important to note that rushing to a midwife or doula or birthing center & demanding an all-natural birth isn’t always the best answer to controlling your birth experience, and doesn’t guarantee an awesome, empowering birthing experience. I think that hospitals & OBs can get a bad wrap sometimes & are often blamed for all the trauma or bad experiences out there. But you have to be just as careful when going the opposite direction. A midwife or birthing center can have just as much of an “agenda” or “my way is best mentality” as an OB/hospital does.

      No matter where or how you choose to have your baby, you need to realize that it may not go as planned. Be informed about what your provider intends to do with specific complications (pre-ecclampsia, low heart rate, prolonged pushing, etc) ahead of time. Discuss them when you are sane & rational & not in the throws of labor. No matter how much of a plan you have, it may not go that way (mine certainly didn’t – my blood pressure does NOT like giving birth, and the chord was around my baby’s neck). I know my Dr both personally & professionally & both trusted her judgment & was informed along the way about what she would try or do next if something didn’t work, or if the baby’s heart rate didn’t go up, etc. So while things didn’t go like I thought they would in my mind…at the end of the day I got the best care for both me & my baby. We had talked about what could happen. I knew where she stood. She was open to my desires, but honest about how things might go, and what her threshholds were.

      No matter where or how you deliver, know your options, know the risks, and know what your providers plan is in case things start to go off course. You never want to think about complications, but they happen all the time, at the last minute. I had super easy pregnancies, no signs of issues, but my body (& baby #2) reacted much differently during labor than expected. That’s not my doctors fault. If I hadn’t known her plans or how she would react to complications, it would be partly both our faults (me for not asking questions, her for not informing me). Also ask who will be in charge if your dr is not available. Meet them if possible so you are just as comfortable with them. Or let them know what you & your dr discussed the first time they come in the room. You absolutely have rights, but your Dr/midwife does, too. They have the right of their professional opinion, and their experience, and what they are/are not comfortable with. Know what those are, no matter which route you prefer to go to. Don’t think that because your current Dr isn’t comfortable with something that your only option is home birth. Or if you want a natureal birth/midwife/doula, don’t think you can’t be at a hospital & have that. Also, be open to the professional opinion, even if your desire or original plan was different. Don’t necessarily just take one/any opinion, but if several people start telling you the same thing, maybe there’s a reason. Going with the 1 person in 10 that agrees with you is not always the best thing. There is a difference between trusting your guy/something not feeling right & digging in your heels to get your way (& this applies both to moms & to the way doctors do things).

      • Cristen

        Lindsey, Monica didn’t say she rushed anywhere or demanded anything – she chose a birth center and a midwife because she did not want surgery. That is a completely legitimate choice. (In fact, a study just came out this past week showing that having twins vaginally is just as safe as surgically.) Unfortunately, the treatment she experienced there was awful. Yes, that happens, too. Going outside the hospital is no guarantee of a complication-free, non-traumatizing, or respectful birth.

        You seem to be implying that a major cause of conflict between a woman and her provider is that the woman is too resistant to the provider’s suggestions or is not open to their advice, at the risk of her baby. I don’t see that even hinted at in Monica’s or Amber’s stories. They said they were punched in the stomach.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story, and working so other women aren’t violated in the same way! I feel like I was saved from a horrible hospital birth by having a scary experience in my second trimester. I went to the hospital because I hadn’t felt my baby move for most of a day. They forgot me in the waiting room. They did no triage in the maternity ward: first-come-first-serve, no matter if you were in labor, your doctor sent you in, or you wandered off the street. They forgot me in the observation room at least twice, and the call button did not work. When the nurses changed shift, nobody told the new nurse I was there, or why. More than once, my husband had to wander the halls to find a staff member, who of course thought he was crazy for wandering the halls and accosting the nearest staff member.

    We were not treated like human beings. We were a case. A file. A permanent medical record. As relieved as we were to find out our baby was okay, we were determined to never go back there. I’m so thankful now that my little girl had that one sleepy day, just so she could be born in better circumstances!

    • Erin Shetler

      Julie,
      I’m sorry you experienced that kind of treatment and am glad you found another place to have your baby! I also visited my hospital for monitoring early in my third trimester, and I had a great experience there. I think it just goes to show that it is all about the main OB or provider responsible for your care. He/she is the leader and sets the tone for the rest of the team. If I were one of the wonderful nurses or doctors at the hospital where I gave birth, I’d be angry and embarrassed that one of my colleagues was ruining all the hard work of the rest of the team.
      Thanks again for sharing your experience and congratulations on your baby!
      Erin

  8. I sympathize so much with women who have had a terrible birth experience. I did too. After my water broke when I was at home (at 33 weeks) I went to the hospital. The doctor took a fluid sample and told me that I had just urinated. “It happens sometimes.” I knew I hadn’t – I had heard the “POP!” and a there was a gush. I knew it wasn’t urine. (Besides that I had been in to see my doctor 4 times in the past two weeks because something wasn’t right. I couldn’t feel my baby move anymore and my blood pressure kept rising and the doctor was completely unconcerned.) They strapped me to monitors, but the monitors only showed minor “irritation” in my uterus, so they took the monitors off and told me to go home. By that point, I was having back labor so horribly I was vomiting. Yet, the doctor and nurse passed it off as a bladder infection (not even joking). I cried and asked them to let me stay – the nurse told me I had to go. I said that if this a bladder infection, could I have some Tylenol. The nurse told me I could pick some up on my way home. After 3 hours in the hospital, I dressed myself, and walked to my car. My mom drove me home. 45 minutes later, I was back to the hospital by ambulance and delivered my baby literally 1 minute and 1 push after arriving in the delivery room. Between when I first arrived at the hospital and when I left 2 days later, my doctor spent less than 10 minutes with me. My poor lovely tiny daughter was born with bruising all over her face and she was in the NICU for 3 weeks. I’m so very, very grateful she’s alive and well, but the whole experience was so terrifying and traumatic. I was telling the staff that I was having a baby and they laughed at me. I have nightmares about this, so does my mother who was with me the whole time. We are women who want to bring our babies into the world in the safest, most loving way – and so often that opportunity is stripped from us needlessly. Heartbreaking.

    • Erin Shetler

      Hi Heidi,
      I’m so sorry this happened; that must have been terrible for you. I too am glad your baby is doing well, and I hope you are finding some strength and hope too. No one should be treated so poorly. I’m glad you are speaking out about it. You are definitely not alone, and it does get better as you take back your power. You fought for your baby and brought her into this world so she could overcome and thrive. I imagine she got the strength to get better from her mom and grandmother.
      Love, Erin

      • Thank you so much for this comment. Of all things, the experience has taught me that I must be my and my daughter’s first and most outspoken advocate. We place too much trust in doctor’s/other’s/society’s “knowledge” and too easily cast aside what we KNOW about our bodies and our children. Several weeks prior to my daughter’s birth, I was becoming more and more uneasy with my doctor. I discussed several times about finding someone new, but talked myself out of it because I was so close to delivery. Mistake No. 1 – not listening to my gut. A mistake I will never make again!

        My heartfelt pleading to pregnant women out there: please, listen to your gut, put your baby first, and remember that birthing is the most natural process in the world.

  9. Cristen

    In response to the NICU nurse in Richmond who left a couple of comments here:

    We have a comments policy, and your comments violate it, so we did not publish them. That policy states that “respect is one of our organizational principles, and is an essential part of productive dialogue. We ask that you are civil and respectful towards each other and on this site.”

    We don’t allow bullying here. And, it doesn’t sound like this (this website, this movement) is where you should be if you are so shaken by one woman’s claim that she deserves respect in her care and that of her baby. HER care and HER baby.

    I suggest you don’t read any of our other blog posts, because they may make you even more upset. There are a LOT of women who feel like they deserve respect and compassion! All over the place! :) And we are going to keep talking about it. All over the place.

    That said, I wish you would rethink your statements. I hope you can learn something here. You are human, too. I can’t imagine what circumstances or treatment you’ve been through to have such a reaction to an honest and legitimate plea like this, from a mother concerned about her baby. You deserve respect and compassion, just like this mom does. Remember who she is. Remember who you are!

  10. Tracey Ledel

    As a perinatal nurse with 25 years experience, I am appalled at the disrespect and callousness of the health care providers described here. I have run across MDs and nurses whose communication skills were not up to par, but the behavior you discussed is absolutely not acceptable in this day and age. I love how you describe that your experience would have been totally different if anyone had taken a few SECONDS to explain/discuss the interventions with you! It is the very least women deserve! I used to see this behavior in some of the older generation of doctors and nurses when I started out 25 years ago, but had hoped that they had mostly died off by now. Many blessings to you and your baby! (I would love to have seen the comments from the NICU nurse you deleted. I could probably rip her a new one. Just joking – I would never stoop so low!)

    • Erin Shetler

      Thanks, Tracey. I am certain there are thousands of wonderful medical professionals out there like yourself who work hard to make sure women and families get a lot of support and communication during birth. Unfortunately there are still doctors out there who don’t believe it’s important to treat women with respect, and I got one. It was so bad that he didn’t even realize he was violating my rights, or so he said. The other complicating factor is that the negligent doctor was by all accounts a nice guy. He apologized a lot. People couldn’t believe he would act in a way that violated one of his patients. But it was clear from talking to him that he didn’t acknowledge this kind of paternalistic behavior was a problem. What a disconnect! I would have preferred a doctor who did his job — his WHOLE job, including providing the opportunity for informed consent — and didn’t smile as much.

  11. Hi there, first of all I am a male. So be gentle with me. I understand that by reading your post and comments that many people including myself are clueless. When doctors do things to us without our consent we get really mad.

    I have to paint a different picture of understanding the doctor though, one of lowered rates from insurance companies, administrative dealings with getting money from insurance money, mothers who have insurance vs those that don’t, then of course the thing that you brought up the lawsuit. With all these negative variables, it is sometimes hard for the OB\GYN to keep it together.

    The conversation has to be opened which I agree, however, as an accountant, the doctor doesn’t have the time to potentially open a Pandora’s box of what may go wrong.

    The birthing experience is mainly summed up in one word for men, “painful”. Birthing is not a texting word. It has many layers. But unfortunately, those layers have been kept silent for whatever reason. I encourage you to extend this conversation with your partners. In your post, there was no mention of what your husband went through and how his understanding helped or hindered the situation.

    I wish you light that you may see through your pain, make a switch of forgiveness after ample processing, and move forward in a loving and nurturing relationship with your family.

    • Erin Shetler

      Hi Nick. Thanks for having the courage to enter this discussion! I do think sometimes OBs get a bad rap. There is a lot to pay attention to, and labor/delivery is a messy, scary business — even without all the added pressure of insurance companies and liability. But there is a very simple, very basic, very important part of the job of being a medical professional, and that is extending respect to your patients’ rights. I didn’t need anything more than that, and everyone who is treated by any sort of medical professional should be able to expect that.

      You bring up a really good point about partners. I think in general my husband felt the same way I did leading up to the birth — that it would be hard, and I would need a lot of help getting through it, and that he could trust the medical professionals to do their jobs. We educated ourselves on what we thought was the best way to make that happen, and he read some things about how to support me in labor. We even hired a doula, believe it or not, mostly to help him help me. (The doula was not much help, in part because of the quickness of labor and in part because I had informed her that I trusted my doctor and she was there to support my husband and me rather than to help me with a natural childbirth.)Labor is very scary for husbands, too, especially when it goes fast, involves a lot of pain, or seems to be moving along without you. My husband was a rock throughout the entire short labor and delivery (a little less than 3 hours). But, like me, there was no way he could have known what was happening because it was hidden from us. Even if he’d known, I don’t think he would have realized until afterwards that my consent rights were being violated (I did not know any of this had happened until after the delivery). I guess if there is one thing I’d tell partners, it’s that they should prepare not only to support their laboring mamas, but also to make sure their partners are communicated with every step of the way, and protected if necessary. I personally don’t think it’s fair to expect moms or their partners to protect themselves from violations in the very place they should feel safest. But unfortunately after my experience, I think it’s something that needs to be done.

      I can also tell you that a mother’s health after baby is born can have a major impact on the entire family, including the partner. Having a new baby at home is a challenge no matter what. Having a new baby and a wife who has PTSD can be crippling. Neither of us wants to go through it again.

      Thanks again for your participation in this discussion. Maternal health is an issue for families, not just women.

      Erin

  12. I am so sorry for what you have had to go through and I am so glad “In the Eye of the Beholder”…..that means, if the Mom or the Dad feel traumatized after the delivery, then they are! They do not have to have the full symptoms to qualify for PTSD to require or receive help. One of the treatment methods that I use is called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). This is a very rapid and effective method of decreasing the post stress symptoms as well as help to create a coherent narrative of the birth experience. I encourage anyone who is looking for help in this area to visit the EMDRIA website to find a certified practitioner in your area…….Thank you for creating a space to increase the dialogue around this very important topic. Take care.

  13. Sorry but I see the previous comment did not fully print! there are some things that have been cut out…..please let me know if I can clarify….thank you.

    • Erin Shetler

      Hi Paula,
      Thanks for posting and for helping people through EMDR! That and cognitive behavioral therapy are a good combination.
      Thanks again for making a difference in the lives of people!
      Erin

  14. Kristin B

    As an OB nurse I am appalled at how you were treated, the blatant disrespect for your rights as a patient as well as a human being is infuriating. I thank you for sharing your story and I am so sorry you continue to struggle with this traumatizing experience. But I also want you to know that there are OB nurses on your side of the fence, advocating for patients, doing everything in our power to make those birth plans become a reality. I had one, I understand how important it is to feel like you are a part of the process and I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have those choices taken from me. So again, thank you for sharing your story because you will act as a reminder for me how important it is for my patients to be a part of the process, even when quick and sometimes scary decisions have to be made. So Thank you thank you thank you.

    • Erin Shetler

      Thanks, Kristin. I have been blessed to know so many wonderful OB nurses and doctors, and thankfully have found another practice that is really mother-friendly and is helping me move forward. It’s so true that the actions and words of just one nurse (or other provider) can make a huge difference in someone’s physical and mental health. Even if birth plans don’t pan out (and goodness knows they often don’t!), just having someone take a moment to sit down and take your hand and say, “Are you OK? Here is what is going on. Is there anything you don’t understand?” is so important. Thank you and all the OB nurses/providers who care enough take this step, and to help women like me get through a vulnerable, important time.
      Thanks again,
      Erin

  15. I was already a bit off from the mainstream when having my first. I was planning to birth at a freestanding birth center, but ended up with a midwife I’d never met before when I went into labor and had a very rapid labor that she didn’t seem to know how to handle. My entire, brief stay at the birth center was composed of being yelled at, degraded (I was told in front of my family that I was disgusting because I hadn’t thought, during transition, to wear a pad on the walk to the bathroom and had leaked amniotic fluid on the floor), and told I clearly couldn’t cut it if I was already having trouble handling labor an hour in (I got the urge to push very shortly after).

    I got transferred to the local hospital where I made the mistake of physically resisting an orderly attempting to force me into a wheel chair which resulted in the hospital staff attempting to bar my husband from accompanying me to the labor and delivery room and strapping me down in the bed once they got there. When my midwife (the one I actually knew) finally got there with me, I thought she would help me, but she mostly told me I needed to consent to anything they wanted to do, and spent her time reminding me that if she or I rocked the boat, then I could be ruining other the option to do so for other women. I received both medications and procedures that I did not consent to. My labia were stitched together over about half of the vaginal opening.

    I held my baby for a moment after she was born, but only a moment, then she was taken away for roughly 8 hours with no reason cited. My records say “by maternal request”. I was ignored when I demanded to have my baby brought back to me. One nurse even went so far as to insinuate my daughter probably didn’t make it if she had been gone so long without anyone telling me anything. She hadn’t. She was fine.

    People think that these things only happen in other countries, were left behind in the fifties, or are rare, isolated cases, but they are not. There are some fantastic, supportive care providers out there. There are also some who are completely comfortable with pushing, or even forcing, their approach onto women in their care. That has to change.

    • Erin Shetler

      I am so sorry this happened to you, Jen. It is not fair or right for anyone — laboring mom or otherwise — to be treated with disrespect or operated on without her consent, certainly not at one of the most vulnerable times of our lives. Thank you for sharing your story. There is a large sisterhood of women who have been mistreated in labor, and my hope is that we can all come together and work for change. Blessings to you and your baby.

  16. As an alternative provider to moms suffering with postpartum depression, PTSD and postpartum anxiety issues, I’m grateful to see this article and also to become aware of ImprovingBirth.org.

    Truly, I hear really horrible stories all the time as a part of my work with moms. In 14 years, serving thousands of clients, I thought I’d heard it all- I’ve already heard the worst of the worst.

    But then, there is always another new client with a new story that makes my blood boil or brings torrents of tears to my eyes. It’s the absolute worst feeling, witnessing what has happened to these ladies’ spirits. I’m heartbroken.

    The good news is there are fast, inexpensive, natural solutions to postpartum depression and anxiety; and also wonderful natural solutions for trauma, abuse, and shock. It is my honor to help women start peeling the onion. The freedom that blossoms makes everything right again.

  17. Jennifer

    Hi Erin,
    Thanks for sharing your story, I agree that’s it’s essential for healthcare providers to understand the importance of communication with and respect for their patients. Paternalistic attitudes toward childbirth have no place in modern medicine and I fully support calling attention to the issue to effect change.

    Having said that, I unfortunately found some aspects of your post a little dubious. Apparently, you don’t dispute the fact that your baby’s heart rate was dropping and thus needed quick intervention. You may not have been aware of it at the time – and this is where your doctor should have told you – but either way you were presumably facing either the vacuum extraction or an emergency c-section. Both traumatic to various extents, but necessary nonetheless.

    However, you seem to put the blame for your PTSD squarely on the staff for not informing you of the procedure, and seeing bruises on your newborn. Based on this, I find the extent of your trauma a bit hard to swallow. To be sure, the staff were in the wrong for failing to communicate with you and I would be outraged too! But if they’d simply told you, then… you wouldn’t be “traumatized?”

    My issue here is with the increasingly casual use of the term PTSD being applied to any stressful situation. Certainly, true PTSD can result from childbirth, but I wonder if in your case it’s been applied too hastily. We all jump at car horns and it’s normal to lose weight and feel overwhelmed after having a baby. Even flashbacks and panic attacks don’t warrant the diagnosis unless they’re persistent over a long period (and perhaps yours were in which case I stand corrected).

    I don’t want to trivialize your experience, but it just comes off as a little over-dramatic, especially since the doctor was so apologetic and *unfortunately* just doing what he thought was best.

    The system needs to change, no doubt, and perhaps you’re bending over backwards to make a point or posturing for litigation. In that case, go for it! I just think, as someone whose family member has also suffered severe PTSD, that we need to reserve that label for true cases to avoid having the term be watered down and applied so liberally that it loses all meaning.

    • Cristen

      You say you don’t want to trivialize Erin’s experience, but you have. After asking whether hers is a “real” case of PTSD, you imply that she is exaggerating so she can file suit or get attention. Jennifer, would you consider someone cutting your vagina with a pair of scissors traumatizing and worthy of PTSD?

      Whether or not you agree with the diagnosis — which I don’t think any of us is qualified to do based on reading a blog post — this is a woman who has clearly been hurt and is in continuing pain. Can you just show some compassion, and maybe give her the benefit of the doubt?

  18. Hi Erin,
    Your story sounds like our usual monthly english speaking La Leche Meeting in Athens Greece where I live with my family.
    Greek and Expat women alike are having these same experiences in both the public and private hospitals.
    My first birth was quite a lot like yours–though I was scared into consenting to a c-section, they told me my baby would probably die or be in intensive care for the first three months of its life…what mother in labor is going to stand up against that? Even with all the knowledge..when push comes to shove, you make the choice for a healthy baby. It took me two years to come to terms with that experience, the c-section, the separation of baby, the fight, and bringing home a bruised baby and a bruised self…to somehow function like normal again. Breastfeeding helped heal us, a lot of listening from other amazing mothers and a face-to-face talk with my Ob/Gyn about the lack of communication and respect…and forgiving my husband for being just as scared as me…then after two years and some–finding myself pregnant again–and doing things my way, a well supported VBAC homebirth, bringing a baby into the world in a peaceful and supported way–sharing my story–sharing your story–this is what will touch other women, and some will get the extra confidence they need to demand respect and birth they way they need to.
    Yay Mamma! You are amazing. Thanks for sharing your story, you are an inspiration–and your daughter is going to be a stronger mother and woman because of it. Together we can do this, like many generations of women and mothers before us, together is the only way.

  19. Erin Shetler

    Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for your comments. There are certainly varying levels of PTSD. Most of them are diagnosed on a scale by healthcare professionals based on questionnaires and symptoms. There are a number of prerequisites to the diagnosis — intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, trauma or perceived trauma, feelings of “helplessness or horror” and avoidance of stimuli are some of them. While I certainly don’t want to detract from anyone who had a more severe case of PTSD than I, it absolutely can be caused by feelings of helplessness or horror during delivery or any other medical procedure. Postpartum issues certainly complicate the matter, but we do a disservice to women suffering with this condition when we say it does not come from experiences like mine. It does. My worst PTSD symptoms (nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and excessive reaction to stimuli) lasted about 5 months, and thankfully have subsided with counseling, medication and time.

    It also is important to talk about the apologeticness of the doctor and staff. He was extremely apologetic, as was the head of the OB department. But what I needed was not a nice guy after the fact, but a doctor who treated me with respect during the 13 minutes that it mattered. It does not matter later when a paternalistic doctor tries to make peace. It’s also worth repeating that he had no idea why I was so upset until I explained to him the need for informed consent in this situation. Isn’t that a little scary? And infuriating? He’s been practicing for some 30 years at a lot of good hospitals. I feel sad for the rest of his patients, as I’m clearly not the first or last woman he has ignored during delivery. (There were other aspects of his treatment that were disrespectful after the fact. You can read about them here: http://www.mybestbirth.com/profiles/blogs/standing-up-for-myself-after-informed-consent-rights-violated)

    It’s taken me a long time to put away my anger at the doctor and try to see things from his perspective. I can do so now, and I do not think he was malicious. However, I know he was paternalistic, dismissive, ignorant of my informed consent rights and in violation of hospital policy. All of these are unacceptable, and I want other women to know that they don’t have to put up with behavior that could cause them to be traumatized.

    Thanks again for reading.

    Erin

  20. Erin Shetler

    Also Jennifer, I hope your loved one was able to find treatment and is healing.

  21. daniela

    you made me cry… My first baby was born through vacuum and episiotomy, his heartrate WAS NOT dropping AT ALL and I overtly REFUSED consent to episiotomy ,that the gyno cut without any local anesthesia. I spent 18 months fighting against PTSD which my gyno thought was post natal depression and she advised me to take antidepressant and not to breastfeed. I sent her to hell, and she sent psychiatrist in my only safe place, my HOME. I felt hunted. I felt violated. I felt ruined for my whole life and I still consider myself that. I healed with the birth of my second, at home, in a pool after 20 months. I perfectly understand what you say. I was the same. My husband was the same. But for me he was also part of the problem, because he did not protect me as he had promised to do. After 1 year from my first son birth, I enrolled in Midwifery at university and I am now a midwife. I want to be able to save other women from what I had to suffer. Hugs.

    • Erin Shetler

      Hi Daniela,
      I’m so sorry you had to go through that, and I’m glad your next birth was healing. I hope you are feeling better each day, and that your midwifery education is going well! Thank you for sharing your story and for helping more women have empowering, non-traumatic birth experiences. Hugs to you too.
      Erin

  22. Abrah Zion

    Thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry you had such a horrible experience. My first birth was really horrible, too. I was preyed upon as a first time mom and the doctor on call didn’t want to deal with someone who had tried to educate herself on birth. You can read the horror, here: http://paboob.blogspot.com/2011/06/birth-of-my-daughter.html

    So for my second birth, I went to a different hospital and hired an amazing midwife and doula. It was a healing and empowering birth.

    • Erin Shetler

      Abrah,
      Thank you for sharing you story, that must have been terrible for you. I know it takes a lot of time and I hope you are doing OK. Everyone deserves respect in childbirth, and I know that by sharing our stories we are helping other women.
      Erin

  23. Hi Erin, I’m also recovering from PTSD from a traumatic elective cesarean. Thank you for speaking out. I was a first time mum too, also a registered nurse who was all “I’ll be ok, my colleagues will look after me”. How wrong was I? The flashbacks were immediate for me, but it wasn’t until I was 9 months post partum and at work at my hospital (not the one I delivered in) that the triggers started getting to me. It was another six months before I got help because I didn’t know what was going on. Now two years after her birth, I’m finally getting well. I’m left devastated and sad, but this time not depressed. I’ve read my medical record and it’s so unsurprisingly inaccurate. Most of it has simply been omitted. At this point I don’t know if I’ll have anymore babies, I don’t know if it’s worth my mental health so that my kid can have a sibling, when the odds of me being completely useless as a mother would be most likely.

    • Erin Shetler

      Claire,
      I’m so grateful to you for sharing and sorry you had to go through that. I’ve also had trouble passing by my local hospital, as it causes intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, similar to what you have felt. A few months ago I cut my finger badly and my husband threw the baby and me in the car and took me to the ER in the same hospital where I delivered. It was very difficult to be there, and I did a lot of breathing and panicking and praying. The people in the ER were amazing and caring, and it made me realize not everyone there was a bad doctor or out to get me. It was not an ideal situation, but it helped a lot, especially talking with my counselor about it. I hope you have been able to get some help and are feeling healthier and stronger. The more I talk about it with women like you, the healthier I feel. So thank you. Love,
      Erin

  24. I hate to say this, but a hospital is a place for sick people. Birth is NOT a sickness. A midwife will treat you as a person, with wisdom and intuition.

    Stay away from the hospital unless circumstances warrant it.

  25. Delia Camp

    Well said! Even more disconcerting are the conversations I have with women who feel guilty for their postpartum depression, not connecting the birth TRAUMA they endured with the subsequent feelings inadequacy and depression. Rather they think “I guess what happened was normal and right, and that’s just how it goes.”.

  26. AS a student midwife, a postpartum nurse, a former doula, and a birth trauma survivor I often hear stories from moms. Moms who are ashamed, and sad, and tell the story of their child’s birth beginning with words of damage to themselves, and fear. I have literally just sat at a bedside and asked a mom, “What do you remember about your birth experience?” because I know she had a traumatic birth, and she doesn’t know it, yet. I try to help “unpack” so that I can hopefully explain what happened, and what she can expect as far as healing (both physically and emotionally). It can be draining to me as a person when stories are just so bad. Sometimes (example) she doesn’t really know that a 4th degree laceration is a bad thing. *shudder* Sometimes she has no idea that the chain of events were completely preventable if only someone had fully informed her.

    We train to prevent damage, and we train to give evidence based care. Evidence shows that people like to be treated like people (gasp!?, what?). They want to maintain their dignity and control. They want to feel like they have a say over what will happen to their body. They trust. My heart breaks over the ways that trust is violated.

    *This*Exact*Thing is the reason I wanted to become a doula and a midwife. I never want any woman I care for to feel like I took control from her – ever. I’m sad because even without trying at some point I will probably take control as a judgment call that went wrong. The best I can do is take to heart all these stories, my own experience, and my passion for empowering women. If I keep them close in mind, perhaps I can prevent myself from causing a woman to tell the story of the day she was a goddess in a sad, confused, painful way.

    I am so sorry this happened to you, please don’t stop writing about it, and opening an avenue of communication for other moms who have had similar circumstances.

  27. Jennifer

    So, here’s something you probably don’t hear very often, but I’m a woman who had a great experience having a c-section. Yes, that’s correct.

    I was in labor at home with a doula over the weekend before my son was born. The doula was recommended by my doctor, and my doctor also helped me to create a birth plan. After 48 hours with no change in the duration of contractions, we went back to see the doctor who told us that my son’s estimated weight was 12 lbs – and here I am, at 5′ 3″ and 135 pounds soaking wet, trying to deliver this enormous baby. Because the doctor had been very medically non-aggressive during my pregnancy and kept me informed every step of the way, I was entirely comfortable when she laid out the risks of me trying to deliver naturally (which had been our plan all along), and I felt confident that I was making the right choice in having a c-section. Sure, it was a more difficult recovery for me, but I would say that it was a good experience. My husband and I went into the procedure feeling fully informed and fully in control, the doula was even allowed to be present in the OR with us, and we all came out of it happy and healthy.

    I think the biggest takeaway from the story told in this blog is that women need to educate themselves about childbirth, and they need to question everything. Find a doula or someone to support you during labor. Read. Ask questions. Seek out alternative opinions. Keep an open mind.

    I should also mention that my doula, who has assisted in hundreds of natural childbirths, has three daughters, all born by c-section due to complications during labor. C-sections are not necessarily a bad thing when you go into it with the knowledge that it’s the right choice for you.

    • Jennifer,

      We whole heartedly agree. You said several key things in your comment. “My husband and I went into the procedure feeling fully informed and fully in control”, “the doctor had been very medically non-aggressive during my pregnancy”, “I was entirely comfortable when she laid out the risks”. These things are crucial for a positive experience no matter the outcome of c-section or vaginal birth. Being spoken too and respected as the decision maker, feeling truly informed and not coerced or bullied into an intervention are the most important elements. Unfortunately this is not what a larger majority of women experience and why we are working hard to give women the tools and a voice to say anything less is unacceptable. Thank you for your comment.

  28. Jenifer

    I confess that stories like these have kept me from ever wanting to experience childbirth. I do not feel I am strong enough nor want a child enough to go through this. That being said, I commend the strong women going through difficult if not horrific births and for seeking to make a better place for pregnant women. I truly believe women should be well armed with information regarding pregnancy and their rights. I support all of you very much.

    • Erin Shetler

      Thank you, Jenifer, for the kind words and support. It makes me sad, but I can’t fathom having another baby after this either. If you do, the chances are good that you will have a positive experience, especially if you equip yourself with a lot of knowledge and a team of really supportive people. Still, things can go wrong. Sometimes after sharing my story I hear from people who say I should have been more educated or hired a doula or chosen a mom-friendly provider. I did all of those things, and still wound up with a bad doctor and a birth too fast for the doula to be very useful (and too quick for my sister to get there). I chose to assume the doctor would show a basic level of respect for me, and he didn’t. What I want people to walk away with is that respect for our bodies and our decisions is never too much to expect from anyone, much less our healthcare providers.
      Love, Erin

  29. I can scarcely get over the awesome that is you refusing to pay the delivery bill and daring your ex-OB to sue you over it so you can discuss how they treated you in court. Well done!

    • Thanks, Proserpina. I’d have loved to discuss this in open court, and believe that the OB’s lack of a response (or another bill) is validation that they know what happened to me was wrong and would never fly in the court of public opinion. During the complaint exchange, the doctor kept saying, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years.” I wanted to say, “Congratulations. It took 30 years abusing women before you finally screwed with the wrong one.” My hope is that more people will stand up and say, “you finally stepped on the wrong woman.”

  30. Hi. Thanks for sharing. I too had a bad experience with my first birth. My birth plan was ignored and my rights stripped away. I was unmarried and the staff told me that because of that the baby’s father was unable to be my “next of kin” for making decisions so I forced to use my estranged mother. My mother told the hospital that I was emotionally incapable of making my own decisions and from then on called the shots. She convinced them to break my water give me an epidural all against my will. My next birthing experience was at a different hospital with a midwife and doula and I had a wonderful birthing experience, but was still very upset that the hospital staff still treated my baby as a product and performed procedures to her that I specifically said in my birth plan to either forego or wait on. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • I’m sorry this happened to you, Bonnie. It is never too late to process the experience through talking about it and/or complaining to the doctor and hospital. It sounds like you took a lot of extra steps to protect yourself the next time around, and that they paid off. Birthing women should not have to fight for the basic respect that every human deserves.

  31. When I was pregnant with my 3rd child. I received the results of a drug test in the mail. It didn’t say anything I didn’t expect such a test would read. Nothing I needed to worry about, but I was furious! I asked them, when I was pregnant with my first one, what all the tested for. & during that conversation was told they did not do drug tests. On anyone else, a drug test is illegal without their consent, it’s a violation of that person, but when I called to ask, huh, what is this? I received an apology: I was told that they do drug tests, without the pregnant woman’s knowledge or consent. & if they find something there, they shouldn’t, then they notify the appropriate authorities. This is LEGAL! it is LEGAL to violate our rights in this way! You can argue child safety if you wish, but is it worth it? The fact you can’t trust your Dr.s PERIOD! My Dr. was great! I loved her nurses too, but the fact they could, & did this, means that, on principle I won’t go back. This is the slippery slope. & it ends in wreck at the bottom with women & their infants suffering or worse, just for the convenience of the dr.s! When it’s ok to violate a person, for any reason, you’ve dehumanized them a little bit. It is a matter of principle. Had they been up front, & asked me for a drug test, on the spot I would have had no problem giving it to them. What they did was lie to me, & hide it from me. I was never supposed to find out. & THAT is the line they should not cross EVER! Once they are allowed to use those sorts of methods, they are no longer serving YOU, but using you, to serve them. I hope this makes sense. It starts out small, but it’s a distinctly disturbing direction that I see time & again ends in tragedy. I hope this makes sense.

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