With my first birth, I visualized freebirthing-a thought I kept secret from everyone but occasionally “joked” about with my boyfriend… Which he didn’t think was funny. When I woke with my labor at 4:30 am on my due date, I felt a complete peace around me– total contentness and acceptance. Moved around my apartment to labor and honestly my intuition told me to stay there. I was a first time mom with my new practical nursing license so a bit medically oriented,. During my nursing rotations I got to know a nurse from the local hospital that I knew I would absolutely NOT want as my nurse as she was quite aggressive. As I leaned into the back of my couch and took my last exhale through a contraction, I heard my boyfriend again– saying we needed to get to the hospital and now. I tend to take care of others before myself, and regardless of that, who wants to hear that in labor—- so we left for the hospital.
I threw up on the parking lot with a contraction, just once. And made my way into the building and up the stairs to squat in the hallway around the corner from the nurses station. Then finished the short walk to the L&D unit. To my surprise the nurse standing there was the one I knew I didn’t want near me. She asked me what I was doing there, trying to be funny. I asked her what she was doing there, trying to be serious. I didn’t find the strength to demand a new nurse. She led me back to the delivery room and shut the door, and immediately ordered I remove clothing so she can check my cervix. I was mid-contraction and she asked me what she can get me for pain. I was trying to tell her I wasn’t completely opposed to pain meds—” (this is where she left the room to get them ). “But I really want to do this without them” never got heard. Before I could say anything, I was contracting and the IV and meds were in my blood. The cervical exams caused me a lot of pain and when I told her that, and to stop, she wouldn’t. She ignored most of my requests/demands like they were never spoken
As my labor progressed I needed to get up for the toilet, and once I sat up and contracted again, I threw up a second time–this time with my waters bursting all over the bed. What a relief!!! The nurse held out a disposable chux pad and told me to “wear it like a diaper so you don’t make a mess on the floor” as she then folded it and shoved it between my legs. I labored on the toilet for a while, moaning and feeling much more at peace being alone. The nurse hadn’t checked on me once while I was in there. Then she told me to get back in bed and back on monitors. I stayed there for the rest of my birth. When the doctor came about a half hour later, it was not a doctor I knew well. I had only met him once for an ultrasound several months back. I was contracting and he didn’t say anything to me. He started palpating my child and said “ahhh about 7 pounds I think” then put gloves on and did a cervical exams, which I said ow to but I don’t think my message got across well.
My labor moans turned to yells. The nurse came in multiple times and scolded me “you’re not breathing” “I said you need to breathe”. She made no effort to help me relax, to breathe, to feel safe. I told her I was feeling tingly and she strapped an oxygen mask on my face and walked away. I was in flat/slightly raised bed, with ivs and continuous monitoring. My staff was stressing me out with the painful cervical exams that I wasn’t invited to consent to, and my boyfriend, who I hoped would advocate for me, was told to stand in the corner by my head, out of the way. He was not involved at all in the birth until the staff decided it was time for me to push. Then the nurse ordered he come hold my leg, something he didn’t want to do. I breathed my baby out, or tried to, as that was my intuitive way– but I was told over and over again I was doing it wrong and that I was supposed to hold my breath for 10 seconds then start again. I complied, and burst blood vessels in my face. My daughter had prolonged but variable decels just prior to me pushing, and turning side to side in bed did not alleviate them. The doctor said it occurred because my opening was too small, and while I was pushing, he said “I’m cutting you now” and sliced an episiotomy into my perineum to “open me up.” He told me afterwards his only choices to getting my baby out were episiotomy or vacuum.
My baby was placed on my stomach for a moment. Not even long enough for me to see her, then taken to a warmer for evaluation. I was injected with pitocin-(-a fact I just learned recently through my medical records 4 years later!) And the doctor stitched me then applied traction to remove my placenta. My baby was washed, weighed, dressed, then handled to me swaddled in many blankets for me to feed. I was trying to let her find my nipple herself, but the nurse didn’t approve and took my breast in her hand, shoved it into my baby’s mouth, and told me that was how to do it. They told me I have large breasts so I should use positions like the football hold, but I hated that position. After a while, it was time to relocate into the postpartum room. I was told I wasn’t allowed to walk or get out of bed alone, though I felt fine doing it. When I got into the postpartum bed, I was told my daughter’s temp was low, and that they needed to keep her on a warmer. I wanted to do skin to skin, but that didn’t feel like an option anymore… Eventually I did tell them no.
When we got home after that birth, I felt an emptiness about her birth. I felt disconnected from my daughter. I never got my moment of “Oh My Gosh I did it and here’s my beautiful baby!!” I started working from home a week later, then out of home when she was four months old. I had planned on exclusively breastfeeding, but had been told to use a nipple shield by a staff nurse at the hospital (simply because I asked about having a nipple that pointed slightly downward compared to the other), then was sent home with formula (not to mention discharged while my boyfriend and I were both experiencing stomach upset and he was home sick and throwing up— and actually I sent my daughter away overnight after our first night home because of it). I felt discouraged by the WIC lactation consultant because even though I had no questions and felt confident, she kept asking me to speak to her about my struggles and encouraging me to ask for help.
I had weaned my daughter off formula at 3 months (ebf one month) then again at 6 months alongside solids and ebf for two more months then reintroduced solids when she was 8 months old. By the time she was this age, the darkness of my birth experience had taken over me quite a bit. I was disconnected from the world around me, living my experience over and over and feeling guilty about the way she was brought into the world. Birth is supposed to be the most amazing and empowering moment of your life, and mine was the opposite. I felt I was treated abusively and inhumanly.
One day I decided I deserve better. My daughter deserved better. Other women deserve better. This was about 8 months postpartum. I called the hospital and asked to speak to the person who runs the OB department. It was the nursing supervisor for the OB and med-surg units. I set an appointment to meet with him the following week. I explained my birth experience to him and the parts of it that were detrimental. He laughed at me. Yes, LAUGHED. And asked me why i was waiting 8 months to even mention it. I explained that until this time I wasn’t ready. I was grieving, but now I am ready to encourage change that improves every woman’s experiences from that day on. My nurse from that say got promoted and no longer works in OB. I was told several other women have had similar complaints about her poor bedside manner (if you can call it that). There are also non- mandatory monthly patient satisfaction and quality care meetings for the OB and med-surg staff. These were originally led by the Dr I had at my birth. Being part of implementing these changes helped a little, so I thought the trauma was over. I forgot to work on my Self. Several months went by and I realized her story caused me pain. My scars caused me pain. I have the episiotomy scar, and also a profound stretch marks up my mons pubis that was not there before that first birth in 2014.
In fall 2015, I went back to school for my RN. The unresolved emotional traumas of my birth charged into my life now that I had triggers– my OB class was very medically oriented, contraindictive, and I opposed the majority of our teachings for the sake of hoping that the rest of my class would not be raised into believing birth needs to be managed by anybody. I left the classroom for quite a few discussions and lectures because I could not hear that side of birth anymore. We had to do clinicals at the hospital where my birth continued… And this was the worst for me. I had an anxiety attack the first day because I felt endangered being there. I found myself shut down, and unknowingly scratching at my arms by the end of my clinical day, and on the day I worked with my nurse abuser (who was supposed to be no longer working with patients) I literally ran out of the hospital like it was on fire when my shift was done. My instructors told me it seemed like I wasn’t dedicated to nursing and that I need to get over being in hospitals because I would have to work there. That shows how isolated women are in their feelings and abuse. I graduated the RN program that following spring, newly pregnant with my second child.
I spent the first few months of my pregnancy keeping it a secret from my family. I was doing self work and resolving my trauma fromy first birth so this next one could be healing. This work extended into the early weeks of my third trimester. I spent time meditating, speaking mantras, unlearning medicalized-birthing birth and reeducating myself with raw birth. I connected with myself, my child, to nature and immersed myself with freebirth stories and books. With this second pregnancy, I had irregular prenatal appointments and denied routine screenings, labs, exams. My doctor was not supportive of it and I spent several of my few appointments being harrassed and threatened about my rightful birth choices. I discontinued medicized care at the local hospital and made contact with the birthing unit manager at the next hospital, who kept a documentary of my birth plan and called to check in with me on occasion. My plan was to freebirth but have that hospital as an alternative, had I chosen to utilize it. I was NOT going back to the one I was being abused at.
The last few months of my pregnancy I connected deeply to my child and felt patient and excited about my upcoming freebirth, despite the constant opposition of my partner who was demanding a hospitalbirth. One night, very close to my “due date” I could not get comfortable. I was experiencing some intense and pained contractions, which I decided to mention to my boyfriend. He said we were going to the hospital, and they stopped immediately. On the morning I was 40+3 I released my mucus plug. I knew I would be birthing soon, but not that day– we were still in Scorpio and I knew my child was an Earth baby. He would wait until Capricorn. I went about that day doing some shopping and carrying my two year old around. We hung out at my sister’s house, where my sisters both kept asking me if I was okay because I looked very uncomfortable. I didn’t notice any discomfort but I was feeling Braxton Hicks contractions only when I placed my hand over my womb.
I went home that night, and got my daughter ready for bed as usual. We had the Christmas tree up— it was December 21st– and on it, we had an ornament that was motion-sensitive and sang horribly out of tune Christmas carols. My boyfriend was downstairs playing video games and it kept singing with the light changes on the TV. We have a vent in the bedroom floor that opens to the living room. I got down on my knees and put my face close to the vent to ask him how he was liking the concert. I laughed and got back up, when I felt a pop and my warm waters rushed over my thighs. It felt good. I put my face back down and told him what happened so we could come bring me more pads. I sat on the floor, my 2 year old wide eyed and waiting for bedtime stories. I called my youngest sister to come over and be with my daughter. Twenty minutes went by before I felt my first contraction. My boyfriend had asked “what now?” “What do we do” and I was in peace and contentment with my birth. I told him we don’t have to do anything. Just wait. After a few more contractions that seemed like they were increasing in frequency quite quickly I decided to go run the bath. My sister came and checked on me, and I had asked her to fetch my boyfriend— he told her no because he doesn’t want any part of the birth if I was doing it at home.
I labored in the tub for quite a while, and called the local hospital to soothe my boyfriend– basically to tell them IF we do show up there, I do not consent to anybody touching me or my child, interventions or monitors of any kind except for a Doppler check upon arrival, then immediately after birth we will be going home (no overnight stays). I got out of the tub and alternating laboring on the floor on all fours, squatting against the edge of the tub, and on the toilet. My labor was progressing very quickly and my boyfriend called 911 because he was scared I would be birthing at home with just him (like I wanted to). After a while a heard male voices, police officers, in my hallway talking to alex, and shortly after a female paramedic came into my bathroom, asked me what I was doing and if I was crowning. She told me the bathroom was a bad place to have a baby and I needed to go to the hospital. I took my time getting ready, hoping my birth would complete at home, but I ended up walking to the ambulance parked on the street. The paramedic told me I wasn’t allowed to have oral fluids or my boyfriend with me, and put an IV in my arm “to save the hospital a step since they’d do it anyway.” I was strapped with my legs together on a gurney while having the urge to push and when I wanted to move around I was told I still have plenty of time before my baby comes because my contractions were two minutes apart. When we got to the hospital I was met by a OB RN in the back of the Emergency Room complete with sterile gloves who walked with us into the elevator. Her and the paramedic discussed their wishes around my birth– that the paramedic didn’t want to deliver my baby, and that the RN was disappointed she didn’t get to deliver me in the ER.
I was wheeled through the med-surg hallway, audience to the night shift nurses, and into the delivery room where I was ordered to get off the gurney even though I was mid-contraction. The nurses were very pushy as was the female paramedic. I am still thankful for the male paramedic who spoke up and said give me 30 more seconds and just let me ride this contraction out. That was the only advocacy I received between both of my birth experiences. When I was ready, I moved myself to the floor where a nurse did a Doppler check for FHR and encouraged me to lay on the bed. I was determined to stay on the floor and birth my own baby just as I would have at home. I told the nurses to get me a birth ball and a glass of water. The nurses kept ordering me to take my pants off, which I only did when I felt ready to. After a while I decided to utilize the bed, where I stayed at the head, squatting and on all fours over a birth ball. I had asked for help with my pants as I transferred to the bed. I was wearing depends which I told the nurse to rip off and she was hesitant about. When I felt my legs shake, I announced I was transitioning, and the staff kept pushing me to move to a more convenient position and placement on the bed, which I refused to do.
I held my hand over my perineum, on one knee and using the ball as support with my other hand. I talked my son down and out. “This way, baby. Nope, come back down to me. Come down to me, baby” and felt his descent. I moved my hand to reposition and the nurse behind me robbed my birth in that moment. She occupied my perineum so I couldn’t finish my birth myself. At the same time she started directing me to push, which I would not against my intuition and bodily guidance. I felt his head open me and be born, and placed my hand over his head to caress him and welcome him. I planned to catch him, but the nurse would not move. She kept telling me I NEED TO push. I asked if he had a nuchal cord and she said no. It felt like a long time for my next contraction so I gave a little push, but stopped right away because it felt wrong. Next thing I knew she was cutting his cord as my fetal ejection reflex took over and I was left half naked, covered in birthing fluids, and my baby was on a warmer getting oxygen. I wasn’t worried, because I felt his spirit so strongly, still within me, in his placenta I believe. I stroked his bleeding umbilical cord that lay between my legs and gave it silent thanks and blessings, then felt my placenta detached with the spirit of my Earth baby. In that moment I looked at him and saw him turn pink. My baby was born.
The nurses continued to oxygenate him for a while, as the doctor walked in. They told him my placenta wasnt yet delivered, so he came to me and asked “how do you want to do this?” In completeness I did not want him around me. He had threated to “use defensive medicine against me” because he didn’t support my birth choices. I didn’t want him in my space. I told him “I’m fine” so he put a forcep into my vagina then placed a hand over my abdomen and pulled my placenta out of my body.
He returned to my son and ordered a chest x-ray to determine meconium, which I had verbalized my waters were clear and there were no meconium at birth.
He told the nurses to get weights and do all evals before giving him back to me. That took an additional 10 minutes… So I sat naked on the bed covered in birth, waiting for my son for 23 minutes.
When I finally got him, that moment of “I DID IT!” Was gone. Robbed. Manipulated. I offered him my breast, but he was not ready to eat. Thanks nurses then came and massaged my uterus and washed me (scrubbed me HARD) focusing on the ink drawing on my belly— an art piece my daughter drew for me.
My first bonding experience was also robbed– by this. I thought the rest of my postpartum would go okay but the next day, CPS and a mental health worker showed up in my hospital room. I decided to stay overnight because of the oxygenation and didn’t want anymore trouble from the staff
The staff twisted EVERY THING I did and said, in addition to making up new parts of my story and reported me for bizarre thought processes, believing my son was a Demon, and that I was constantly noncomplient with medical orders and that resulted in his birth complications.
I went home Christmas Eve, had time with my family then started nesting as I waited for CPS to complete my case. When Ben was 3 months old Emilee interviewed me for her Free Birth Society Podcast, and the responses I got from my episode gave me strength and helped me see my story in new light
I have continued my self work, and find myself discontinuing sexual encounters on behalf of flashbacks it sometimes causes me (related to a painful internal ultrasound which the doctor would not stop upon demand and told me he didn’t feel sorry for me). I find myself shaking and feeling anxiety about my safety and invasion of my body, of my baby being taken and kept from me… And I ground myself with mantras and earth connection. My children are my best medicine. Now today, I share my story with others and have started Mama Tuki in my community to empower other women in having better births, and owning their power. It is my take on village prenatals, and part of my focus is healing birth trauma. I recently recontacted the hospital quality manager and also a lawyer regarding my experiences.
So far, my response from the lawyers’ office has been nonexistant, and the quality manager at the hospital brought my case to a quality meeting. He sent me a letter summarizing their conclusion, which was that the staff acted appropriately and my birth was emergent, disregarding 90% of my report and me in general. He wrote that because of my report they would work harder to increase proper prenatal care for “women like me”