One Woman's Testament
A side note from web publisher: This birth story is not meant to degrade the work that doctors do, because as we know they do save lives. Its intent is to show how this woman and many others suffer when someone trained for the treatment of disease and surgical procedures is their primary care provider, when the only condition involved is a normal, healthy pregnancy.
Hi, Bonnie! I'm going to share my birth story with you as I remember it, but I must warn you that I'm rather a butcher with the written word. And I still get angry when I think of Eli's birth, so if my story is barely legible...don't be surprised.
My entire pregnancy was complication free; I was incredibly healthy the entire time, I gained about 26 pounds, ate a great diet and remained pretty active through the entire pregnancy. I was so healthy and happy, and it's a shame that I didn't educate myself about birth. I might have been in a better position to advocate for myself and my wishes...maybe I could have avoided some of what happened.
I can't say that I enjoyed the physicians who provided my prenatal care (could what they provided me be called care? No, prenatal treatment is a much better term, I think). They were cold and callous and for them, my pregnancy was an illness to be diagnosed and treated, rather than a normal condition of life. I was the patient; merely a woman (weak and useless by virtue of my vagina) who, without the wisdom and guidance of the great and almighty physician, would surely never survive the pregnancy and birth of the child I was carrying. In so many subtle ways, I was encouraged to doubt my body, my child, and my ability to bring both of us through labor unscathed... Questions were certainly never tolerated, and to question anything was to suffer the wrath of the almighty.
As I neared my due date, I was told that my cervix wasn't effacing and that I might not efface or dilate at all because I'd had a cryocautery (for abnormal pap smears) in the past, and that the resulting scar tissue might prevent dilation. At my 39 week check up on Friday, my doctor told me that if I didn't go into labor over the weekend, he would want to induce me the following Wednesday, as he didn't like his patients going past 40 weeks. Like a good little girl, I allowed him to schedule the induction. Was grateful, even...because surely I'd never have gone into labor without his help...right? *sarcasm*
The weekend came and went without event, and on Wednesday, at 40 weeks +2 days, I went to the hospital for my induction. My IV was in place, the pitocin started at about 9:00. I thought the pit was going to hurt, but I didn't feel anything at all. I could feel my uterus contracting, but there was no pain or discomfort. At 12:30 my doctor came in and broke my bag of waters, and the fluid was meconium stained. What looked like a river of stagnant water flowed from between my legs, and he told me I'd need to get my epidural now. Didn't ask if I was ready, just told me it was time to get one, because he was putting an internal monitor in to watch the baby more closely. Like a good little girl, I deferred to the wishes of the physician, even though I was in no pain at all. Around one, my epidural was placed, and the doctor came back to do the internal monitor. He never did get the thing to work, so he left, and I lay numb, hungry, and painfully thirsty on my back for the next 11 hours.
Every hour or two, a nurse would come in to check my cervix and up the pitocin level, but I couldn't get anyone to help me go to the restroom. The first few times I asked the nurse for help getting to the toilet or at the very least for a bedpan, she put me off, and put me off, and put me off until I urinated on myself, and had to lay about in soiled bedding until she was ready to come and change it. So after that, it was my mother who had to place me on a bedpan every hour, because no nurse would help me to the restroom that often.
So I lay and wait...still hungry, so thirsty I was literally in tears, and I developed a fever...could it have been because the nurses treated my vagina like a playground, checking me so often and introducing bacteria with their rubber clad hands? That's my theory...
I progressed quite slowly (according to the nursing staff and my doctor--though in retrospect I can't see how anyone was possibly surprised by this. They set me up for it by putting the epidural in so early, and by forcing my to lay flat on my back) and by 10 o'clock I was at 4 cm and had been for quite awhile. The gOBlin came back. He checked my one final time and informed me that if I was not complete and pushing by midnight, I would be having a cesarean and then he left...And I lay and waited, grieving the fact that my body was apparently broken, and that it seemed that I couldn't deliver my baby without help from the almighty after all...
And then I had to poop...Or that's what it felt like, anyway. 45 minutes after the ultimatum was issued, I was found to be completely dilated, and ready to push. Was the doctor just really rough when he examined me? Perhaps...but I like to think that my body was saying it's final "f*** you"...So the doctor was paged to return, and the nurse put my feet in the stirrups, placed a mirror and a light at the foot of my bed and told me to push. With my feet in stirrups, I pushed like a good little girl (though I am amazed that I could, because I couldn't even feel my feet) watching as my perineum bulged with each one. One of my big fears was defecating while pushing, and when it inevitably happened, I asked the nurse to clean it. I was horribly embarrassed, but she told me it was only going to get worse, and I don't recall her doing what I asked...
So I pushed, and pushed, and pushed...Probably for 45 minutes, all told...Sometime near the end of that, the good doctor arrived, suited up in his green gown, and sat on his stool between my legs to catch my baby. I couldn't see him for the big blue sheets draped over my bottom half, but I watched in fascination the mirror set up behind him. I recall asking him NOT to cut me with his scissors, but a few minutes later, he did it anyway.
It really didn't take long for my son to come out. He was quiet long enough to make my breath catch, but then he cried out. He was laid on the big blue sheets on my stomach long enough for my husband to cut the cord, and then he was whisked away to the warmer. He was pronounced to have a fever (duh, I had a fever, and he was in me) so before I could hold him or nurse him, the nurse required that he have a bath to bring his temperature down. My husband and mother were at the warmer checking out the baby, and I was alone...
The single most powerful memory of my son's birth was not his arrival, but of looking at the mirror which remained at my feet as the placenta was delivered, and the work of stopping my bleeding came to fore (because, of course, I wasn't allowed to nurse my baby yet. No nipple stimulation to staunch the flow...) I watched as the blood flowed out from my ruined vagina. That is the image burned into my brain more deeply than any other. The image of my mutilated genitals, and my doctor in them wrist deep pulling out wads of bloody gauze.
And that's how my son came into this world. *NAME DELETED*, 9 lbs, 3 oz and 21 3/4 inches long.
As soon as he started nursing, the bleeding stopped.
Shall I recount the indignity of the recovery period? That once in my room, I again could not get a nurse to help me to the bathroom, even though I was too dizzy to get up alone and was instructed to wait for help? That no one would help me shower, so my mother had to bathe me, cleaning the dried blood from my thighs? That strange women breezed in and out of my room looking at my swollen genitals several times a day? That I was encouraged to give my child formula, and hand him over to the nursery so I could get some much needed rest?...that's not even all of it, Bonnie.
And you see, this is why I must birth at home. It was more than a year and a half before I regained any feeling of being a sexual human being. I honestly attribute this to the humiliation, the degradation of my birth experience. I felt (and to some extent still do) so incredibly violated and traumatized...Medical rape, a fitting label for what I went through, I think. And through much careful examination, much research, and prayer, I'm finally healing from my experience. And I feel that homebirthing my next child will be the culmination of the process. So now, I'm taking my body and the birth process back. I am empowering myself, and trusting fully in my body to do what it is designed to do. Birthing at home is the only thing that makes sense to me anymore... And here I am, in search of a midwife and friend to accompany me on my journey of empowerment and reclamation...