LET’S NORMALIZE BIRTH: Never going back to the hospital again (Anonymous, Part 1)
This blog series is a compilation of amazing birth stories that I have come across along my journey as a doula and beyond. Here is Part 1 of 2 amazing birth stories, shared by an incredible woman who prefers to stay anonymous. We hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for Part 2 next week!
I did not want to listen to anyone say, “You don’t have a midwife?!” “Oh my god!” “What if…?”
I’m not listening to the What If’s.
I got pregnant (third pregnancy) just before COVID started. I was able to hide my pregnancy for a long time without having to be questioned or interrogated because nobody was around. (I’m the worst liar in the world!) I just told everyone that my pregnancy was going great and that all of the appointments were going well.
In reality, I had a wild third pregnancy. I didn’t see anybody (no doctors or prenatal appointments.) I just did my own thing! Most importantly, I trusted my own intuition.
I had a few sessions with my Birth Keeper to talk about the birth trauma I had experienced with my previous pregnancy. We worked together to try and overcome some of my fears, which I think made a huge difference.
This was the whole reason why I decided to do things myself this time - I knew I was never going to the hospital ever again.”
In fact, while I was still in the delivery room during my second birth, I said to my husband, “I am never coming back here.” We knew we wanted more kids, but not there - and I kept my promise to myself.
I knew there was no one there that was going to protect me.
This time, I decided I was going to protect myself.
For my second pregnancy, I had a midwife - but because my baby only had one artery in his umbilical cord, they made me switch to a doctor at the hospital. During those initial ultrasounds, the staff at the hospital kept saying to me that if only I would have had the maternal serum test, (which I didn’t do), they would have been able to know more about what was going on. All summer, I did not know if my baby was going to survive. I cried every single day, all day long. I did not know if he was going to be born with all kinds of diseases and disorders. It was horrible. For my recent pregnancy, I decided I would rather not know.
At an end of August ultrasound, the doctor simply looked at me and said, “Oh, everything is all good. Let’s move on.”
I thought to myself, "Are you kidding me? For the last 2 months I have been in hell - Suffering!" I couldn’t believe that was all he had to say.
My baby ended up being 100% fine, so the hospital doctor said I could transfer back to the old doctor that I had during my first pregnancy. However, I didn't want to do that. I wanted to go back to the midwives, but the doctor said I couldn’t because I was on insulin for my diabetes (even though my sugars weren’t that high.) I told him that I didn’t want to leave the midwives and that this was clearly against my wishes, but the doctor said there was nothing I could do.
I couldn't help but think, “Are you serious? Clearly you can’t protect me.”
At that point, I just gave up. I stopped trying. I felt like I couldn’t win anymore, so I didn’t even try to fight. I knew that my insulin levels were not that high and I didn’t need to take anything for it, but I kept taking the insulin because the doctor instructed me to. This led me to not care what I was eating, which made things even worse.
Eventually I had to be induced, which was horrible. The doctor made it seem like it wasn’t a big deal, and that it was just a simple balloon catheter – “in and out”. However, a resident doctor came in to insert the catheter, which he couldn’t do properly, so then the actual doctor had to come in and do it. It hurt so much that I was shaking from the pain. I also had to be monitored the entire time which I had no idea about. There was no communication at all – and when I would ask questions, I felt like the staff around me would get annoyed. I remember thinking, “Why are you mad at me? I know nothing!”
The hospital staff told me to go home, and that they would call me if they had any room to take me in that night. The catheter ended up coming out when I was pooping, so I don’t even think it did its job (I called to follow up about this – which they said was fine). The hospital eventually called me at 11pm and said, “Are you not coming?” I was confused by this question. They went on to say that I was scheduled to come in at 10:30pm- which no one told me about! I had to call my mom late at night to look after my other young child at home, while rushing to pack my hospital bag. It was just nuts!
When I arrived, there was a really nice doctor there who checked how far dilated I was. He was a young guy and really tall, but unfortunately had hands three times the size of a normal human being (brutal)!
Then, the dick doctor arrived….
This new doctor, whom I never met before, came in and blatantly said, “I know you have a birth plan, but it doesn’t always go how you want it. If we need to cut you, we are going to cut you.” (which was not a part of my birth plan.)
He also went on to say, “You might need to birth on your back even if you don’t want to.” (which was also not a part of my birth plan.)
I hated him.
I went through the whole labouring process, and got the epidural at the end even though I didn’t want to. I just laid there for a couple of hours and waited. I felt so detached. It was weird – it didn’t even feel like it was me. It was definitely not how you are supposed to feel when you are about to give birth. Especially having given birth once before, I felt so defeated. This is not what I wanted.
At one point, the staff had asked me to do some practice pushing. I had never pushed out a baby with an epidural before so I was trying my best to practice, but I felt like I was about to pass out. I asked for something to eat, but the staff said they didn’t have any sugar free popsicles. Now, I know my body - If I didn’t get something in me right then, I was going to pass out on the floor. I had not eaten since 11pm the night before, and it was now 6pm. I had also thrown up, so I had nothing in my system. I felt like I was in a prison, begging for food. I don’t even eat sugar-free stuff – I don’t eat aspartame or sucralose. I couldn’t believe I was about to pass out and they were literally withholding food from me.
Eventually they got me a popsicle, and I started to feel a bit better.
Finally, they told me I was ready to push. My two sisters were with me with the video recorder and camera. I got into my desired position: on my knees and holding on to the back of the bed. This was what I did with my previous birth and it worked really well for me (my daughter came out in three pushes) so I knew I wanted to do it again this time.
The doctor looked at me and said “I’ll let you push once, and then you have to switch to your back.”
I just ignored him.
After my first push, he told me to turn onto my back, and I replied,
“I’m sorry, I’m not going on my back.”
He actually got mad, and started yelling at my sisters for taking pictures, saying, “How do you expect me to see with that flash going off?” (Even though they were standing behind him and the flash was not in his face).
Then, there I was, trying to push with an epidural and could feel NOTHING, and his phone starts ringing….and ringing…. and ringing….. and he doesn’t turn it off. My mom asks, “who’s phone is going off?” and he didn’t care. I was about to meet my baby for the first time, and all I could hear was his frigging annoying phone going off. I was extremely annoyed.
Eventually I had my baby boy – on my knees – in less than 5 minutes of pushing.
Right away, the doctor said, “wow, you were actually right about that one.”
Obviously, you have never experienced birth before, buddy.
I had asked to do delayed cord clamping, and after just a few minutes the doctor asked if that was long enough. I just said “whatever - cut it.” At that point, I was done – I just wanted him to shut up and get out of my face.
I couldn’t even look at the pictures or videos after I had my baby boy. I deleted all of the Instagram accounts I was following about birth. I couldn’t look at anything for months afterwards because everything would take me back. It was horrible to even try to sleep at night unless I was extremely exhausted. Every time I would close my eyes I would replay everything in my head again.
I know people have had much more traumatic births, but for me it was the same thing. I had to go to a counsellor who reminded me that if it was traumatic to me, then it was a traumatic birth.
This postpartum period was also different. I didn’t have the same connection with my baby boy as I did with my previous baby. I forced myself to do skin to skin because I had to, but not because I wanted to. I really had to work hard to try and bond with him, but I just couldn’t at all until he was about 6 months old or more.
My first birth was a good experience, but after learning so much more I knew that it could be so much better. My second birth was traumatizing. So I felt like this recent (third) birth was my empowering birth. I finally got to do it how I wanted to do it all along...
(Part 2 coming next week!)
(Anonymous and I went on to talk about things more deeply. We discussed how the most traumatizing thing in any situation is when the power is taken away from you. When we feel disempowered; when we have no say; when things are being done to us and everyone around us is making decisions for us; when we feel like we have no control – those are the most traumatizing parts. When birth is done to you, and not with you – and you are laying there like a starfish and people are doing things to you even though it’s your body, it feels very invasive and traumatizing. We can become disconnected from the whole prenatal and birth experience. When we are taken out of the experience, it takes time to re-enter and re-connect – first to ourselves and our body, trying to make sense of everything that happened - and then reconnect to our baby. Although our baby was inside of us, we can become disconnected from them by being taken out of OUR equation.
Each of our feelings and our experiences are completely valid.
When we know it could have been different, it sometimes can be harder to deal with. Especially when we feel like we could have taken a more active role or should have been given more autonomy. With traumatic births, we can feel just as many strong emotions as really positive births. The emotions are so strong and raw, and we remember every single detail in both scenarios. In both positive and negative situations, we are able to recall everything and it is something we will never forget. It evokes such strong emotions in us, and we are going to remember that moment and those feelings for the rest of our lives. If it wasn’t so intense and impactful, you probably wouldn’t remember it as easily. Anonymous' 87 year old grandmother still remembered how she felt after having a traumatizing birth, and she remembered the littlest details surrounding that moment. It stays with you - sometimes even longer than the positive birth experiences because we can feel so violated. It can be very hard to move on from that. That’s why it is so important for women to feel empowered, have autonomy and make informed decisions surrounding their birth. After all, we are the creators.)
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Thank you for reading!