Thursday, May 19, 2011

The axe forgets, the tree remembers...

This past Saturday night was really, really awesome.

A local group that supports quality maternity care and informed choices spread the word about these important issues by performing the play Birth. I volunteered to read a major role almost 3 months ago. I was a pretty huge drama "nerd" in high school, so I was excited to be able to "return to the stage" after more than 10 years. No late night rehearsals, no memorization...we read our monologues from binders with very minimal prop usage and scenery.

The role I chose mirrored my birth experience in many ways. A naive first time expectant woman, a woman wanting to "follow the rules" and not act out of line, a woman who gave birth in a room full of cold, impersonal doctors and staff. It haven't spoken much about W's birth story, but now seems like the time to let some of it out and move on...

In many ways, my pregnancy was beautiful. I spent 9 months daydreaming, journaling, napping, and counting down the days until we would finally meet our little boy. Jay was incredibly supportive and reflective along with me. My love for him grew so intensely during this time in our life together...we were going to be a family. I felt fantastic. I kept my job at the gym and worked out daily. I even continued to coach gymnastics up until the last 3 weeks of my pregnancy. I had a smile for everyone, and the date "August 1st" rolled off of my tongue so nicely to every passerby who wished me well and wondered "what's your due date?"

The only instances I felt any discomfort were during my prenatal appointments. Like many others in this country, I had no medical insurance when I discovered we were expecting. I panicked. Both of my jobs offered no health benefits, and I never really stopped to think about setting a plan up for myself once I was off of my father's plan when I turned 25. I received information about applying for medical assistance, and found out that I qualified. Each and every expense would be covered, right down to my prenatal vitamins. This really was a blessing, but it came with its own costs.

The OBGYN that accepted my insurance in our city was a womens clinic in a not-so-great section of town. Relieved to be receiving care, I walked into my first appointment, only to wait for an entire hour before being seen. All was forgotten after our first sonogram, where I saw baby W's heart beating for the first time. A little twinkle; a glimmer....a flickering light full of promise and strength. I pinned the photos to the sun visor in my car and glanced up at them the whole ride home.

Each subsequent prenatal appointment left me feeling uncomfortable and barely cared for. I found blood on the floor in the bathroom. I waited in line, on my feet, for 25 minutes each time just to check in. The waiting room smelled badly and from behind the pages of my magazines, I observed pregnant women cursing, fighting on their cell phones, eating junk food and leaving their garbage. Towards the end of my pregnancy, every time a doctor (a different one each time) would check me, a medical student would, too. According to a 20-week sonogram, measurements of fluid in W's brain were looking not quite right. We ended up seeing a maternal fetal medicine specialist, which only led to more sonograms and a lot of worrying and tears. The very small and minimally furnished room they lead you to when they tell you "there's a chance your baby may have Down's Syndrome"  is a frightening place to be. We opted out of any and all invasive procedures. Everyone, everyone told me "it's going to be ok", but those weren't the words I wanted to hear. I spent much of my third trimester obsessed with sonogram photos....looking for bone disfigurations in his fingers, toes, nose. Our blood tests were normal. Doctors told me "not to worry." I listened to "Songbird" by Fleetwood Mac constantly and sang through my sobs.

All the while, I longed for more personal care and some kind of support; even another friend who was pregnant. I wanted to know my doctor. I wanted a natural birth; no drugs, no medication...a vaginal birth. Maybe even in water! I wanted specific music. I wanted to use a birthing ball; I wanted to walk and be upright. I did not want to be induced. A homebirth sounded fantastic, but I didn't know of anyone who had experienced one, and I definitely didn't know of any local midwives. I was sure they wouldn't take my insurance, and we couldn't afford to pay for the services out of pocket. I wrote a birth plan and packed our hospital bag a month early. The days were passing, but not quickly enough for us! We were the most excited expectant parents you'd ever see. We were trusting. We were trying to remain positive.

Our due date came and went. My prenatal appointments were now every other day, and I was checked very frequently. A resident asked for my permission to rupture my membranes. I didn't want him to, and felt very much bullied by him and his condescending tone. "Oh, you want the natural birth, right?" He sat me down to talk to me about induction. I started crying and trying to explain that I vehemently did not want to be induced.  "Why not? Most women feel great about knowing that their baby is coming with our help!" I knew the baby was coming ....but in his own time, and with good reason. Documents were put before me, and the only thing I clearly remember is seeing the word Cytotec and "administered vaginally". I knew that this was a dangerous drug, not at all intended for pregnant women. I quietly questioned this, and he assured me that I had nothing to worry about. I signed the papers to be induced in 3 days, and went directly to the bathroom down the hall.

The stall I locked myself in reminded me of my high school...dirty yellow painted doors, a bit of grafitti, no toilet paper. I cried and cried. I started to feel like maybe I was behaving a bit overly dramatic and pulled myself together to receive my check out papers.

Upon arriving home, I called the hospital. I told them that I had signed the papers, but I really wasn't comfortable at all with being induced. Surprisingly enough, they moved the induction date 2 days later. "But once you're here, you're not leaving without a baby, one way or another." Nice.

That night, at 11:00, I woke up to my water breaking. I climbed out of bed, woke Jay up, and called the hospital. I was joyous and so very excited. As we stopped at the grocery store on the way to the hospital (to pick up my final meal...raspberries and a peanut butter protein bar!) I could feel contractions getting stronger. This was it! The world seemed so asleep; no traffic, stores darkened, signs turned off....but I was very much awake, alive, and changing by the minute!!

When we arrived in triage, I was put on pitocin almost immediately. As the nurse hooked up my IV, I watched a print out from the monitor strapped around my belly. She explained to me that the jumping lines meant a contraction....and looking back at the papers, even my untrained eye could see that they were progressing and becoming bigger. But still, I was put on pitocin because my water had already broken.

Even if you know only a tiny bit about labor and delivery standard practice, you'd probably be aware that pitocin contractions are unnatural and extremely painful. No woman goes without an epidural if she's receiving pitocin. I managed 4 hours and an incredibly painful and invasive foley ball (a "balloon" placed in your cervix and syringed with water to manually dilate a woman quicker) before I requested pain medication. The foley ball is a dreadful memory and certainly the most pain I have ever been in. What's most painful is my recollection of the student doctors who administered it to me. They looked so uncomfortable as I shrieked so loudly in pain, that when they were done, they left the room without saying a word to me. They came back a few hours later with a stack of papers for me to sign. I finally got the epidural.

Because I didn't have private medical insurance, I was a sort of test subject, and I am not kidding. This had been later confirmed to me by a midwife and several other reputable birth professionals. I was asked to read and sign thick packets of papers, detailing tests and studies, at 4am, while in active labor. I signed. I wanted to speak up, but I didn't want to be more of a disturbance. I didn't want to be treated badly. I saw how I was abandoned after showing signs of discomfort and "acting up." They tinkered with medication levels, they used internal fetal monitors, which looking back, just made me so incredibly sad. They told me when I was having a contraction. I was checked more and more frequently, until I finally ran a fever, a sign of infection. I was shaking. I wanted water so, so badly. I tried  some visualization while listening to my headphones, but it didn't work. Every time I opened my eyes again, I was still in this cold and unfamiliar place, unable to find peace. I couldn't listen to my body. I had nothing to do with my body at this point. The attending nurse told me, "You'll have to calm down. I'm turning off the lights. I'll be back in 15 minutes." She was downright cold to me, and it only got worse. Among other things, I kept thinking, "Why don't you like me? What did I do? I'm in labor!"

While she was gone, I had a very real urge to push. My bottom hurt so badly from laying propped up in the hospital bed all day long. The internal monitors stuck out from inside of me like fishing poles. Fishing poles, that's all I kept thinking. When she returned, she went towards the bottom of the bed and started putting thick socks on my feet. "You're going to have to start thinking about the very real possibility of a C-section. Your water has been broken for almost 24 hours. I know you wanted a natural birth, but you can try again next time." She removed my necklace, a baby ring that was my grandmother's on a gold chain from my mother, and put it in a urine sample cup and instructed me to write my name on it. I was being prepped for surgery as I felt the strong urge to push and stand up.

I spoke up, "I need to push or something is going to burst inside of me!!!!!!" Reluctantly, and I could very much see and sense the reluctance, she allowed me to push as she sat next to the bed. She called for someone, and they came in and started breaking down the bed. I felt a surge of positivity and energy. This was happening. I kept pushing. Doctors suited up and prepared a warming station for the baby. Oddly colored green medical "paper" was all around me and I felt like I was surrounded by weird people in masks, googles, and splash guards, like I was something unclean and dangerous. What did they think was going to happen? I felt like a specimen being observed by 2 doctors and 6 medical students. There I was, legs wide open, on my back, attempting to push my baby out. The attending nurse kept yelling for me to clasp my hands behind my knees. I couldn't do it, and I consider myself pretty flexible and conditioned. That's all she kept insisting. "Hook your elbows behind your knees!" I stared up at the ceiling tiles. The lighting was bright and flourescent. I thought to myself, "Here you are. This is happening." I never really had the urge to scream, but I was out of breath, mostly from having to hold it during pushing. This seemed very counter inuitive (I later discovered that this is called "purple faced pushing" and is not recommended.) "You can curse if you want to!", said the nurse. Why would I want to curse during the birth of my son?? I was getting angry. In fact, I was downright pissed. Gone were the hopes of a gentle birth, dim lighting, smiles, elation....The doctor kept moving the internal monitors to the side (they were still inside of me, those fishing poles...) and using his hand to quickly sweep back and forth inside of me, kind of in a "U" shape. I felt like throwing up. "I need to give you an episiotomy, Rebecca." No sooner were the words out of his mouth that I was cut. And I screamed. I became more angry and felt afraid, but the intense feeling of understanding that I was birthing my son any minute was pulling me through and keeping me somewhat positive.

Wesley was born at 10:42 PM on August 7, 2009, after only 25 minutes of pushing. The nurse brought over his purple little body to the side of my bed and displayed him to me. I noticed the sweet cleft in his chin. He was taken away, and it would be another 90 minutes before I saw him again. Nurse began kneading my stomach, and it felt like someone was punching me. I had this dreadful feeling, "it's not over." I delivered the placenta a few moments later and it was discarded, probably to be incinerated as hazardous waste. Waste. My baby's first home, his safe cocoon full of nutrients and miracles.

A student doctor began repairing my episiotomy cut with the superivsion of the doctor. They spoke no words to me, but conversed in their medical terminology. After the stitches were in place, a doctor informed me that they were missing 3 sponges. As standard procedure, they needed to check if they were still inside of me. So up went the hands of yet another stranger, after receiving 7 stitches to the most sensitive spaces in my body, which didn't even feel like my own anymore. A clean up crew came in and disposed of linens, medical paper, and full trash cans. I asked the nurse for water, which I had been craving for almost 26 hours. (as someone who needs a water bottle everywhere I the car, on a walk, by the bed....this was really killing me.) "You'll have to ask the doctor." Thankfully, he said "yes", and the nurse returned with 2 plastic applesauce-looking cups with a foil top. She shoved the straw into them and wheeled a tray up to my bed. It was cafeteria apple juice.

I was beginning to get feeling back in the lower half of my body. I felt the urge to urinate, and I expressed this to the nurse. She handed me a bed pan. She actually kind of threw it onto the bed. What was I supposed to do with this? I couldn't lift my hips! "I can't go", I said. "Well, I'll have to cath you...", as she inserted another catheter into me. That was it. I shrieked again in pain as she flipped some kind of plastic switch and I saw urine flowing into a clear tube. This woman. I will never forget her. Her name is Jan. She's an older woman with a stern face and curly hair. She treated me with no kindness or respect for the milestone in my life that she was in attendance for. I certainly didn't invite her. Many times I have considered writing a letter to the hospitals L&D department. But what would be done? Would it be read? The more I revisit this, the more I think that I may just show up there one day...that would take some major guts on my part.

Wesley was taken to the Pedatric Intermediate care unit immediately after he was born for observation and to be administered medication through an IV. As a precaution, he was being treated for the possible infection and fever I ran during the last hour of my labor. (probably brought on by the epidural, also known as "epidural fever") It had been 2 hours since I had delivered him. Still lying in bed, I was wheeled upstairs into the dimly lit room where I saw him laying under a warmer and crying; his little pink arms flailing. Jay had been there the entire time, thankfully, as the student nurse attempted 3 times to find the correct space for his IV, gave him formula, a pacifier, and his very first bath, all against my wishes and what had been clearly outlined in our birth plan. He (the nurse) was laughing and joking around, acting very non chalantley as he told me how my baby "screamed for the first half hour non stop." I was placed next to the warmer, and I glanced at my reflection in the large window next to me. It was 2 am, and the world was dark. I clearly watched myself holding my son, with a little splint on his arm to support the IV.  I sang to him for the first time as I coaxed him to latch onto my breast. I felt my hair in the most humongous tangles it had ever been in. I was exhausted.
  As I was wheeled downstairs to the Mother and Baby recovery floor, I remarked to the nurse in my new room, "Those people are awful up there." She agreed with me. She was a young girl with kind eyes who brought me ice packs for my very, very sore bottom. She admitted that she wasn't yet a mother as she tried to help me get Wesley to latch again..."Come on, friend" she would say...
  A few minutes later, I was informed that I would need to urinate before the hour was over, or I would need to have another catheter. That frightened me, and I felt desperate to pee. How ironic! I spend my entire pregnancy peeing every 20 I physically couldn't. I hobble to the bathroom as the nurse told me, "It sometimes helps if you hear the water running." She turned on the water in the sink. She turned off all the lights. And she left.
   The next 2 days were a whirlwind  of too many well meaning visitors, unappetizing food, pouring rain, major discomfort with every move I made, and...a successful start to breastfeeding. I never let W leave our room without us. I stood outside the room and watched through the window as they gave him a hearing test. I refused all help from the nurses; I never even gave any of them a chance. A lactation consultant came to do a routine visit and told me I was the only breastfeeding mother on the entire floor. She congratulated meand gave me information about local La Leche League meetings.
    So many of the hospital rules seemed so odd to walking out side of the room with your baby, unless he or she was lying in the "plastic bin" baby crib, lined with the blankets that were used so many times, bleached, and then given to newborns. No leaving the designated mother/baby wing, whether you were with your child or not. I wanted to return home so badly. I was tired of my food arriving on a wheeled cart; I wanted real nourishment. I wanted our bed, our things, I wanted the smell of our home and windows that open.
   We were discharged early. The staff didn't administer Wesley's last 2 doses of medication through his IV. They dismissed it as if it never really mattered in the first place. The final thing they said to us as we were leaving..."Just so you know, we can't help you with the carseat."

  If I could epitomize my entire birth into one single would be counter intuitive. Counter intuitive, more so than traumatic, which I certainly feel it was. I never once thought my son's birth would go exactly how I wanted it to; I wasn't that naive. But I believed that I could do it. I believed that I needed no medication or intervention.
   I wasn't expecting first class treatment. I am just one person; one more mother to be cycled in then out of the system. But what still shocks me most is the real lack of warmth, empathy, and desire to help. Maybe they assumed that because I had government insurance that I was uneducated. That I didn't care. That I would go along with whatever was put in front of me, because I should be thankful to be receiving care at all.

  I've done much research on homebirth and America's maternity care system since the birth of Wesley. I have been active in several groups that stand for quality maternity care and the choices every woman has a right to make. I've worked in low income government nutrition programs; offering peer support to women who wish to breastfeed, even though the odds are stacked against them in the beginning. (i.e- unnecessary caesarean, extended time away from baby immediately following birth, babies routinely placed in a hospital nursery instead of with their mother, lack of support and guidance, hospitals routinely giving formula and pacifiers; even as "gifts", etc.) I was also slated to appear on a panel before doctors from the hospital I delivered at to discuss what Labor and Delivery nurses can do to make a mother more comfortable during birth and promote a strong start to breastfeeding. Unfortunately, funding for my position was cut and I never had the chance. But, I would have had a lot to suggest.
  I suppose you have guessed by now that we plan to have our next child at home, with a midwife. I feel confident in this decision, and I feel safe knowing that we live less than 2 miles from 2 major hospitals in our area. In my opinion, what a woman needs most during labor and pregnancy is support. Support from her care providers, from her friends, from her family. She needs to be heard and valued. The birth of a child, of any child, is an incredible and beautiful act of God to be respected and honored. People should act accordingly.
 I understand that interventions during labor are sometimes necessary. Sometimes they save lives! But what our maternity care system needs to address is the excess, and then cascade of interventions that leave a woman feeling detached from her body and sometimes, her baby. Her body, which is made to birth young....a body that knows what to do, and, in the case of a healthy woman and normal pregnancy, should be left to work its miracles. I wish I could have felt these sensations during the birth of my feel your baby move through you as they enter the world. I felt alone and incredibly "out of my body." One of my favorite monologues from the play speaks about "a dog about to have her pups. You don't interfere, you don't poke or prod here. You let her be." You give her space. Many friends and family have expressed to me, "yes, but you have a healthy baby!" I am so glad, of course. But what about the mother? She is just as important.
 In the end, I do feel somewhat sorry for OBGYN's. They have hectic schedules and they're over worked. In a lovely world, an OB would attend high risk births, and midwives would assist healthy women with normal pregnancies; in the hospital or in the comfort of the home. Sadly, in my town, midwives no longer have the privilege to attend births in hospitals.
I want to apologize to my son for not being there for his first few hours. Thinking of the many hands he was placed in before mine is agonizing. There was a real disconnect, and I still mourn for those moments in so many ways. It's hard to put into words. Sometimes, when he cries in the night, I think of how lonely he must have been. I think of how lonely both Jay and I were. Nearly 22 months later, I look back on all of this and realize how much we've grown and changed. I have regrets, but I know that once that child was handed over to me, finally, I never let him go. My body felt strange for a long while after Wesley was born. Intimacy was, and still is, difficult for me. Up until a few weeks ago, I had a difficult time picturing anything other than the crowded room full of doctors and students and the OB's hands inside of me. We very much want another child, but getting there is physically challenging for me. It hurts.  I miss the closeness and pleasure Jay and I used to share. I know one day we will get it back. Our next birth will be beautiful. I'm not so much looking for the experience...I'm longing for the closeness, respect, and support. I'm looking for those first few seconds; that primal moment of the beginning of a bond that will last forever. I missed it with my little boy, but I know we have it. I know he was searching for me. And I was searching like hell for him, even though I couldn't get up to physically find him. I know we collided somehow, somewhere. I feel it over and over again as I lay with him at night and feel his body rise and fall against mine. I feel it when he reaches for me in the middle of the night, and I'm there.

Thank you so much for reading.


  1. What a story! So many thoughts go through my mind... Frustration, anger, sadness, gratitude that I live in Aust, where even though the birthing culture is similar we are granted health insurance free from the government as a birth right (don't get me started on THAT story though!) I guess what stands out is the lack of education among women about the realities of childbirth in our society and culture, coupled with the socially accepted norm of birth being seen as a medical procedure as opposed to a social one has led to your experience as being so very normal. Birth, especially birth outside of hospitals, is not discussed in high schools. Even at uni (and I have a degree in Early childhood studies) other cultures' attitudes and approaches to birth are examined, but never presented as an option or alternative or even as something we can all learn from. We are blessed to have medical aide; due to modern medicine the Western world has one of the lowest rates of infant mortality and that should not be disregarded. It just breaks my heart due to these, and many other factors, your story is soooo very common. I think birth and breast feeding are the new feminist issues. Women can choose to work in any career they want, have (theoretical) equal pay, are equal citizens in the western world yet rarely have their own voice and their own choices when it comes to birthing their babies. Where to from here I wonder... Jane

  2. This is so similar to my own first experience. I had hoped that the last 21 years would have improved the situation for all women. My next birth experience was MUCH different...gentler and respectful and almost zen. While my oldest son was born into pain and fear and noise and harsh light and needles and tests (and with no heartbeat....), my youngest son was born with calm music and candlelight and laughter. I wish you the peace that time can (and will) bring.

    It also took years for my body to remember not to flinch at closeness. But it DID finally remember.

    Peace, Aimee

  3. I'm so sorry for your experience. I never knew how it was. Tears are stinging behind my eyes.

    I was on blood pressure medication that made it physically impossible to move (or keep my eyelids from closing), and I also felt like I didn't get those precious early moments with my son -- and it makes me sad, too.

    You're so brave for posting this well-written entry. Love you!

  4. I am amazed that in America that this is happening in modern times.I feel for you and send you love and light. Birthing in New Zealand is a much more gentle affair,with caring people through out ones whole pre/birth/and post care. But then we do not have the massive population that you have. cheers Marie

  5. Thank you for sharing this story. It's heartbreaking.

    I'm sad to say that Marie is wrong - birthing is NOT more gentle in New Zealand. My story is extremely similar to yours, except I was given picotin and refused an epidural. I was in induced labour for 36 hours with NO pain relief. My hospital midwives were absolutely disgusting, before and after birth. I won't get into the whole story. I did write a letter of complaint, which was ignored. Twelve years later, I still grieve deeply for the trauma of my only birth experience.

    I'm very sorry to say such awful things about my beloved New Zealand, but my experience is not unusual. I hope very much your next birth is all that you wish it to be. ((Hugs))

  6. Sorry. Pitocin. Never could spell properly! :-)

  7. Your birth store has brought me to tears, I am so sorry you were subjected to such a horrible experience. If it wasn't midnight I would call my midwife just to tell her how much I lover her and how thankful I am for what she does. It is a crime that so many women are being robbed of beautiful birth experiences due to insurance! I am so happy that W has a beautiful loving home and Mama surrounding him now. Many blessings and healing thoughts to you.

  8. Wow! Your story is powerful. I don't even know what to say I'm so shocked to hear it! It's amazing to me how unkind of an environment that is to birth in. All decisions being taken away from the Mother, whose wisdom and intuition is what ultimately brings the baby into the world. Counter-intuitive is right!

    I also had govt insurance but luckily in my state that's not seen as a bad thing and most any Dr or midwife you choose will take you. They even pay for home birth. I chose home birth for both babies. I pray for you to have a beautiful home birth experience with your next pregnancy.

    How awesome that you've taken your experience and turned it into being an amazing advocate for women and natural birth!


  9. Reading your story breaks my heart! But I am so glad that you are taking your pain and turning it into power by using your experience to educate others. Thank you so much for sharing!

  10. Thank you for sharing. I experienced some elements that you did...ending in a c-section. I was fortunate in many ways but am constantly frustrated that when I voice my unhappiness at the way my daughter entered our world, people respond with "at least you had a healthy baby". I did and I am grateful but still feel as though no one trusted my body and as a by product I lost faith also. Thank you for taking the time to write and share your experience. I hope you get some power from sharing and peace towards heeling.

  11. Rebecca...How courageous of you to bare all and take us back 22 months to this..."experience". This. Is. Not. Ok. I am quite shocked to hear of such a birthing as I live in a community where most people birth at home. However, not all midwives are created equal and it really makes such a difference to interview and research a good midwife. Use your voice and question anything you think of. I know that your next birthing will go much could it not? You are obviously a strong, capable mama surrounded by a lovely bright light. That ideal birth is there for you. I know it!
    xo Jules

  12. There is much in your story that reminds me of my own and it has reminded me of just exactly how all of that felt. I am 32 weeks with my second and while I have different insurance and am able to see 'midwives' it is really a sort of midwife side kick program where I see a different midwife every time (because the one attending my birth will be whoever is on call) and every few appointments I have to see an OBGYN because one of them (again, whoever's on call) will attend the birth as well. I am supposed to be delivering vbac, but none of them take me seriously. It's like they're all expecting me to ask for the c-section as soon as labor (and therefore pain) starts. None of them take the time to learn my birth story to know that I was told at 41.5w I had to induce or schedule a c-section because my baby was too big, that I had a foley inserted almost 24 hours before the birth, and was laboring on pitocin for 11 hours without pain meds before they told me I HAD to have a c-section. I did NOT schedule it because my baby was big like most people assume, and I will not just schedule one this time because I had one last time. I long for home birth but since I had the c-section it's not allowed.

    Sorry to leave such a long comment, but thank you very much for sharing your story, for performing in Birth and for advocating for other women.

  13. Oh sweetheart! I am so sorry you endured that. I have similar bad memories of my first moments (very different as we adopted a 18 month old and a 6 month old) with our children. It never takes away the pain of what was lost but being the sort of mama you and I both try our best to be heals so much, in my experience, for both mama and sweet child. Well done for being brave enough to share so openly. Your words will help others.

  14. Thank you for sharing your story. I'm pregnant with my second now and am hoping for a different birth this time. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia at 39 weeks and induced at 40. 4 days of induction and an epidural after the midwife tried to open my cervix manually. I pushed for three hours and then had a c-section because his head tipped and he got stuck. He spent 2or 3 days in NICU and I didn't get to nurse for 2 days. I was lucky that I had my doula and my husband and my mom supporting me so I didn't have the traumatic aspect. Oh, a note, we were planning a home birth before all this. We also got lucky with the nurses. They were gentle and supportive and we actually had returners as they came back on shift. My favorite was one who kept saying "You're doing good strong work". Powerful words! Here's to more natural, softer births for both of us the second time around! Oh, and the intimacy comes back! For me, I just had to "do it", to get over the antipathy.

    Loves, Molly

  15. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. You are so brave and my heart aches for what was taken from you and your son and husband. I hope for healing and renewal for you. You are an amazing mother and I am so grateful that you are willing to share your experiences with us. Your baby no doubt knew what a fantastic mother and wonderful family he was choosing when he was deciding to come into this world. Many blessings to you all.

    In Light and Love,

  16. Dear Rebecca, I'm so glad for you that you got this story out in words. It is so healing to have our painful stories heard by other women who want to support us.
    I was very young with my first and EVERYONE thought they knew better than me. It wasn't until a week later when Lyra almost died because no one listened to me, that I realized the whole birth had been that way. My whole pregnancy. I found yoga between my two children and although I delivered Hazel at the hospital- I was all alone. I had the birth I wanted, but didn't realize how un-supported I still was until I met other women who had beliefs like my own (even with my husband rubbing my back and by my side) . I cant wait to do it again! In the midst of my community of like-minded birthing women. And at home.
    (and I completely understand about the intimacy and the worry for next time- we have a four year age difference between the two, mostly because we were scared)

  17. Dear Rebecca, if I was younger I would feel the same about my next birth. I wont be having another. So sorry for your first experience - what a strong woman you are and what a beautiful life you have made for you and your family.

  18. Thank you for sharing this very intimate experience of your life. My first birth was nothing like I envisioned either. I did feel victimized and abandoned at times, but I learned so much about myself and about my relationship with my husband. My second birth was beautiful, and my hubby was a great supporter. I used a midwife for Baby #2 (great choice for us!), and we are now making plans for a birth in early summer. I pray that you will have the opportunity for a wonderful birth experience in the future.

  19. What an incredible story!I never heard an experience like that! How sad!
    Greetings from Severine

  20. How horrible to be treated as an'd think that people who chose this profession would chose it because they marvel at the miracle of birth.

    Thank you for sharing: I am deeply moved by your story.

    blessings and love!

  21. Dear Rebecca,
    Thank you for sharing your story with us here~I couldn't talk about my first daughter's birth without crying for over a year. A few months ago I delivered my second daughter naturally, a VBAC against the odds and made possible only by the grace of an absolutely amazing OBGYN and team of nurses that were utterly committed to me delivering naturally. (I had planned a homebirth, but went two weeks past my due date and had to be induced. I traveled an hour to the next city to be with the doctor that was willing to induce me rather than local doctors that would have automatically done another c/s.) I labored 26 hours on pitocin, and though I did scream for an epidural, the birth team supported me through it and I was able to deliver standing on my own two feet. Literally. With the doctor on the floor. After Maida was born, within two weeks I was so empowered that I wanted to do it all over again.

    I felt after my first daughter, Cora's, birth that I had been initiated in a powerful way that was never what I would have gone looking for, but was an initiation nonetheless. You are so powerful now, so informed, and an advocate not only for yourself but for your fellow sisters. Sometimes, the most painful (and I don't just mean physically!) births are the ones that bring us the most transformation, and awaken us to our deepest power. We grow in many unexpected ways.

    With love and great respect,

  22. My heart goes out to you! Yo are not alone! I am in Canada and I had midwives (with hospital rights) so prentally I felt happy, but once I transferred to hopsital because my midwife was not comfortable with me being 13 days "overdue" and havign a homebirth, it all went downhill...even though I had my midwife there, and a doula, and I am a doula, and I read all the books and did eveyrthing right...and I had hypnobirthing playing and dim lighting, eventually the florescent lights were switched on, and I was about to have a c section. They pulled my purple baby out and then told me I ahd endometriosis and began cauterizing scar tissue without permission and I began vomiting. We so hope for a different outcome next time....we get our chance in January. thank you for speaking up, I havem't yet told my story on my blog, it is still so raw...

  23. Oh wow. I don't know what to say. I am sorry your family's birth story was so troubled! And am amazed at the wonder and insight you have.
    You are a brave and strong woman.

  24. Dear Rebecca,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope the experience was healing for you--both writing & performing.

    Like you & many of the other women who posted, I too had a very traumatic--counter-intuitive birth of my 1st child resulting in an emergency C-section. It affected me severely in the post-partum time and probably is still lingering as I haven't had the courage to process it like you. Perhaps I'll get to journaling one day.

    It is heart-breaking what many new Moms and newborns must endure despite all that we "know" about the birth process.

    On a uplifting note, I was able to have a VBAC for my second child. It was a hospital birth b/c I was nervous about the VBAC. However if I had to do it over, I would definitely go with a midwife, a doula & perhaps a birth center.

    Thank you again for sharing such a personal story.

  25. Thank you so very much for sharing your story. I am still in tears. And although I know that you are a beautiful, powerful woman and I see that you are doing an amazing job healing from this traumatic experience... I cannot help to feel sad for you and your son and so many women giving birth. I wish I could have been there to hold you and love you and honor you during the birth of your child. May we all move toward a future of peaceful birth and parenting. Thank you for all you do, inspiring others. Blessings!

  26. Wow, you are so brave to share this story. I am so sorry for what happened to you and your family during your birth experience. Good for you for fighting back and becoming involved in peer counseling and outreach like this play. You make me so grateful for my own birth experience. I hope your body heals soon (though my birth was much less traumatic, I too had pain during intimacy for about a year is something people don't really talk about unfortunately) and that your next little one is able to join you!

  27. In addition to a midwife attended home birth, may I also suggest a certified birth doula for your next pregnancy and birth? :) I am a certified birth doula and family educator, and my heart broke for you while reading your birth story. SO MANY things could have been handled differently by your care providers that would have helped to make the experience positive and fulfilling for you and your family. Having a baby is a miracle, and a birthing mother is miraculous. Mothers, partners and babies deserve to be treated with utmost respect and genuine caring. It is an honor to be a part of a family's birth experience, and EVERYONE (physicians, nurses, specialists, students, midwives, doulas, etc) should recognize that - and behave accordingly! Thank you for sharing your story. I truly hope that your next experience will be everything you wish for. :)

  28. Thank you so much for sharing. My first experience was painful as well, and my second was healing. I am sorry that you were mistreated during your labor and birth. You deserve better. I am so happy for you that you have such a beautiful, healthy little boy. I am so happy for him that he was born to such a beautiful, loving mama.

    I wish I could have seen the play! Again, thanks for sharing. We all need to read and hear these kinds of birth stories for so many reasons.

  29. I am sorry for your experience. It seems today that so many focus on the healthy baby part and never think about how the mother feels. I had my first baby girl via emergency c-section because she had some growing issues. We made it to 37 weeks, but she still had problems. I managed to get pregnant again when she was only three months old and had another c-section. The third time around I tried HARD to find someone who would let me labor. I just couldn't believe I had two children and had never felt a contraction. I had no luck finding anyone and I miscarried that baby. Daughter number three was on the way and I actually found an OB who would allow a trial of labor. When we got to 39 weeks she informed me she would be out of town the next week, that I would not be allowed to go over 40 weeks, and all her partners would automatically do a c-section if I didn't go into labor in the next few days. What could I do? Another c-section. When daughter number 4 was on the way, I found a midwife that was informed and willing to do a homebirth vbac. However we had to move and it was too far away for her to travel, and, we just couldn't fork over that much money up front. Another caesarean. At times I feel sad and really cheated. I got my tubes tied this last time, because I just couldn't go through anymore surgeries. They are awful. I felt like I did all the hard work, and then everyone else gets to see and hold the baby before I get to, and all I get is the 6 inch incision and pain to go with it. Had I been able to have vaginal births I wouldn't have done that.

    I was never ever able to breastfeed. I must be super sensitive, because I would end up with bleeding nipples, and that combined with all the pain from surgery, I just couldn't do it. I pumped and tried, but I gave up. I know that it would have been awesome to birth naturally, but it wasn't my path. I know that you will have a much better experience next time, when the time is right. My youngest was born August 11, 2009, the same age as your son. My advice would be to wait till he is three for the next one :) I had three babies in three years and I don't really recommend it, LOL.

  30. Thank you for sharing your story. I am so touched by it and had a very similar experience with my first child. I had two more children and the experiences were very different, thank goodness. I had a hard time wanting to have more children after my first child but I did, eventually. I still think about my daughter's birth and get angry. I made it a point to be very connected to her and I think that helped a lot. ♥Kyndale

  31. Thank you for sharing this. My heart goes out to you and your family for what you went through.

  32. I have never before left a comment on a blog before, but after reading this, I just have to say something......I am so sorry you had this experience, and I do hope that when/if you have another child, it is on your own terms. I am a student midwife, and work in a practice that provides homebirth care. Each birth is amazing, but there is something so very moving about the births to mamas who have had traumatic hospital deliveries prior to incredible time of healing, which I wish for you someday.

  33. Wow, I knew the U.S. maternity system was very different to ours but I am left slightly stunned.

    Here in New Zealand, almost all women are cared for my a midwife whom they get to know and trust. We can choose where and how we labour. I labored with my second daughter at the hospital, drug free, in a birthing pool then delivered standing up, with my own midwife with me the whole way. Here, they are also very reluctant to intervene and will not induce a woman until she is 2 weeks past due date. Skin to skin with baby straight away and they like breastfeeding to occur within 30 minutes. It leaves me saddened to think that where you live they have made birthing such a 'medical procedure'.

    I hope that with your next birth you are able to have the birth experience you are hoping for x

  34. Goodness, thanks for sharing. I once told my old OB's office that I "know how the machine works." Really, it is that way, whether anyone wanted it that way or not. Our little boy came at home and the difference was tremendous. I pray for you as you continue to heal.

  35. Wow...I just cannot believe the way you were treated, and my heart aches as I read your words. I am in the UK (Scotland), a member of the charity The National Childbirth Trust and rarely hear of any birth here that is without choice. The NCT has been lobbying for birthing women's rights here for years, so much of our choices today are thanks to the women here who, like yourself, felt that no choices in something so important was just not on. We have a nationwide health care system, the NHS, which has everyone on the same level and covered for everything medical except some dental and voluntary surgery e.g. plastic (although even some of this is covered). I have to say, if a birth plan wasn't adhered to as much as realistically possible here, there would be huge uproar. Skin to skin here as well, and huge breastfeeding support throughout. Home birth sounds beautiful, Rebecca, and the whole reason for your first birth, your beautiful son, is what matters most. Much love to you x

  36. So brave and so strong. Thank you for sharing your story. All women (no matter their insurance) deserve much, much better than this. And, I have to share as well, even with the incredibly natural birth with a loving midwife, I also experienced intimacy issues following the birth of my son. For a good two years I struggled with not really feeling "myself". You, my dear, and your beautiful body birthed that lovely little man despite the situation. You deserve all the pleasure in this world you can find! Blessings and much love.....

  37. Thank you so much for sharing this story!!! It makes me feel determined to make this world a gentler place.

    It is so important for women to tell their stories, hear each others' stories, and understand the gravity of these experiences. The more people express their truth and speak out, the more society as a whole understands that this kind of paradigm, in which mothers and babies are treated this way, is unacceptable.

    It makes my heart ache to think of what you had to go through. It is just an injustice, what was allowed to happen while you were bringing your child to light. Having never given birth in a hospital, it blows my mind to hear the bizarre and inhumane practices that are considered 'normal.'

    I am so sorry that you had to be separated from your son at birth, and your description of searching for him had me holding back tears. I do believe that even when we are physically separated from our children, the bond and the intuitive connection can hold strong-- the author Joan Salter speaks of it as the 'Madonna Cloak' that extends from a mother to her child. Your boy is so lucky to have you for a mother, and your future little ones are, too!

  38. I am so sorry for your birth experience. If there is one good thing about being AMA with the birth of my first child, it was the strong supicion that I would be treated like a statistic rather than a healthy 35 year old woman who worked out regularly and had absolutely no health issues. That suspision lead me to at first nervously, and ultimately very comfortably, choose a home birth for our baby. Thankfully, I had insurance, and even without, the cost would have been less than a hospital birth in my city. In any event, thank you for sharing your story. We are conditioned from youth not to question authority, and I know without a doubt, that had I not had the badge of AMA, I would have made the same choices as you. It is something I have said to others before having read your story. Again, thank you for sharing it. You have obviously emerged from it a stronger and wiser person. You are obviously a most loving and caring mother. And W is lucky to have you as his mama! I wish you nothing but healing and a wonderful birth experience for you and your next baby.

  39. Thank you for sharing this very powerful birth story. What a huge amount to go through. I shed many tears reading it. My own birth story was very different from yours in some ways, but with many similarities too (intervention heavy against my wishes, narrowly missing a c-section). It's been quite an on-going healing process which I'm not sure will really be completed till I have a positive natural birth.

    I am so impressed by the work you have done to reach out to others. Wishing you healing and many blessings.

  40. Thank you for sharing this story... While I had a c-section with my first son, it was a joyful one... surrounded by people who love and care for me and my family...

    All the unnecessary medical intervention you were subjected to was horrifying, but what really leaves me feeling shocked was the attitude of the staff. No one has the right to treat another person that way EVER, and to treat a birthing mother that way? Horrifying.

    I send you my love and healing wishes as you continue to enjoy your sweet boy... may the love between you always be nourishing...

  41. This was so difficult for me to read. My first birth experience a decade ago was very similar. I felt violated and traumatized by the whole experience. It's still very upsetting for me to think about. But I want you to know that in October 2009 I gave birth at home in a birthing pool with the support of two midwives, my beautiful Doula and my gorgeous eight year old who cried tears of happiness to welcome her sister. It was the single most empowering and healing thing I have ever done and it changed me forever.

  42. I cried as I read your story--sooo much like my daughter, Hannah's birth story--and she too was on govt insurance for her 1st baby. Her story is here

    Praying both Hannah and you will have the healing homebirth you both deserve.

  43. Wow, this broughttears to my eyes. Because I, too, had a horrific experience at the hospital. I had to have a c-section as my baby was flipped and they wouldn't turn him. The drugs, spinal tap, catheter.... HORRIBLE. Afterwards, in recovery, this evil woman wouldn't allow me a drink, and i had to repeatedly tell her "pleae, i'm going to be sick". She wouldn't give me a bucket until i was dry heaving. I, too wish i had complained, or written a letter, SOMETHING. I didn't see him for three hours. They kept trying to give my narcotics afterward, and wouldn't believe i wasn't in pain. Heartbreaking. It makes your memories just seem cloudy. They told me it would be a a day at least, with the catheter... he was born at 12:17... i had the stupid thing removed early that morning. Something, i don't know what, made me get up and walk. It makes you feel ashamed, helpless. Anyways, thanks for sharing. Let's hope that one day we'll get the natural births we are so longing for!

    Brittany, VT

  44. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It sounds so much like my own (though it ended in a c-section, predictably). I remember crying a lot in the hospital, after my son was born, wondering why the nurses were so cold, especially since I had just given birth and truly needed to be cared for and been treated kindly at this confusing, exhausting, and special time in my life.

    I'm due to deliver again in early July, and am frankly a little frightened about what might happen, considering I'm planning another hospital birth. I live in the Lehigh Valley, so our choices for non-hospital births are limited, plus with my prior C-section, I don't feel that I should risk a home birth. This time around, I'm definitely going to be more assertive, since I know what to expect in the process. But I really hate how they treat you like you're sick, and that you're not even a person. It was appalling!

    Anyway, I really appreciate you taking the time and courage to share your story.

  45. Dear Rebecca, I hope that writing your story and sharing it so widely has brought with it the start of breathing out, of letting go, of healing. I recoiled in horror at some of the scenes you described and I am so sorry for your loss and your pain.

    You are a woman of strength ~

    A strong woman works out everyday to keep her body in shape…
    But a woman of strength builds relationships to keep her soul in shape

    A strong woman isn't afraid of anything…
    But a woman of strength shows courage in the midst of fear.

    A strong woman won't let anyone get the better of her…
    But a woman of strength gives the best of herself to everyone.

    A strong woman makes mistakes and avoids the same in the future…
    A woman of strength realises life's mistakes can also be unexpected blessings, and capitalises on them

    A strong woman wears a look of confidence on her face…
    But a woman of strength wears grace.

    A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey…
    But a woman of strength has faith that it is in the journey that she will become strong.

  46. Rebecca, thank you for sharing your story. Power and healing can come with the sharing. I hope that your participation in the play is also a way through the pain and grieving.

    I hope that you can feel the love of this world of blog-readers and mamas that are sending compassion your way!


  47. Hello, thanks for sharing your story. I thought I would write and say that in Australia, your suggestion about how babies should be born in hospital is how we do it. Midwives deliver all babies with Obs there for high risk deliveries.

    Home birth is making a huge movement here and I only wish that I had researched this area more prior to delivering my own children. You are making the right decision. Even though our system seems better, I still know of countless horror hospital birth stories.

    Good luck

  48. Thank you for sharing. I had a very similar first birth experience that ended with a cesarean. I was able to get pregnant again and have my second child at home attended by a midwife - and what a healing and miraculous event that was!
    Your story made me realize, though, that my second birthing experience did not take away the sorrow and regret I have from my first. Thank you for reminding me that I need to continue to work on the healing process from my traumatic first birth experience.

  49. i just came across your birthing story
    i found it deeply moving and shocking. i am a mother too, i have brought both my children into the world in a hospital in Ireland and i thought things where bad here!, how ever at no stage was any medication pushed on me and the doctors and midwife encouraged massage with essential oils even asking to borrow some of our oil to share with another mother. after birth the doctor on his rounds asked me if i had been taking my arnica regularly. The health care system in Ireland is not famous for being up to date and widely accessible but after hearing your story i don't think i want it to be!
    blessings and joy to you! and luck on your journey

  50. Your story brought tears to my eyes and the memories of my son's birth back. I was 17 when he was conceived and had little to no idea what kind of care I needed. I had a dream of what I wanted: a homebirth with the playlist I created on my iPod the moment I realized I was pregnant. My son's father was supportive of this idea, however since I was a minor I was forced into government care, even though my mother in law was a retired labor and delivery nurse. I never received proper prenatal care, partially due to my ignorance but also the "system". I was never tested for eclampsia or given a guide to proper nutrition (I was actually told that if all I could eat was breadsticks and 7up that's what I should eat because obviously that's what the baby wanted). I developed severe eclampsia and began having seizures at 5 months pregnant, my doctors didn't believe me. Finally I had a grand mal seizure and was rushed to the emergency room where I waited for 3 hours before being seen by an actual labor and delivery doctor. I was given pitocin and an epidural without being asked (I believe they had my mother sign the papers) and then whisked away from my family. My son's father was not allowed in the room until his step mother stood in the hall outside my door and yelled at the nurses on duty. My son arrived 4 hours later and was taken away immediately. Overnight he was transferred to the NICU and given a cocktail of medications that I'm still unsure of what they were treating. 3 days later I was finally lucid enough to meet my son through the plastic of his NICU bubble (I have no memory of my actual labor or delivery due to the meds I was given, anything I "remember" has been told to me or I read in the medical documents I got from the hospital). He had lost almost a pound since being in the NICU and now weighed 3 pounds. They wanted to give him formula and actually discouraged me from pumping saying it would just be uncomfortable for me. I tried anyways and soon had him latching on despite all the beeping and cords. They let me take him home 2 months later but insisted on frequent visits to the hospitals for more "observation and follow up" medications. He passed away at 6 months and to this day no one believes me when I say that the coldness and unfamiliar faces along with the medication had something to do with it. I hope that no new mothers ever have to go through experiences like ours. Please know your rights and look up midwives online. I now have a wonderful midwife who works on a sliding scale. Midwives care, don't be afraid to share your story with them and ask for's what they're there for.

    Love and Light,


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