Today, like many other days, I was reading online for my social media job, I found this article, Is a Healthy Baby All That Matters During Childbirth? and it really hit home. Feelings I had forgotten about resurfaced after 11 years. I responded on the thread after the article and I found myself in tears. It hit me like a ton of bricks, I hated my birth!
December 17th, 2003 I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. My previous baby had been a VBAC (or Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) in a hospital. I knew my body was capable. I had it all planned. I had even gone with a Family Doctor instead of a Obstetrician because I wanted my odds of a successful VBAC in the hospital to be higher. I can’t be 100% sure, but I am pretty close to it, that I was a victim of “interventions.” I was encouraged to try a drug to help with the pain. I gave in after everyone kept at me about it. It was Stadol. Being on Stadol felt like I was spinning. Like I was going to fall off the bed. I hung on for dear life. When the drug finally wore off, I was elated. They promptly offered me another dose. I declined. I stood my ground this time, and tried my best to breathe through my contractions. They refused to let me use the bathroom, walk around, or even stand next to the bed. They insisted that I had a monitor on my belly from the start. I think that just set the stage for everything after.
At some point, because it was getting close to having my water broken for 12 hours, and they were scared my baby was in distress (he wasn’t), they had my husband so riled up that they were all begging me to have a cesarean. I kept saying that I didn’t want one. I had no problem signing a waiver. I knew that the there was a saying, “The only cesarean you get sued for, is the one that wasn’t performed.” I tried to stand my ground. I tried to change positions. They threatened to get a court order making me having surgery. Literally no one was on my side. I felt so alone. I begrudgingly signed the papers allowing them to operate.
I cried as I signed. I cried as they wheeled me into the operating room. My Doctor stood over my head and said, “Do you want me to prescribe you antidepressants?” That just made me cry harder. Was I wrong to feel this way? Was I being dramatic? My choices were literally and systematically taken away every hour I was there. Isn’t it normal to have a strong response when you have absolutely no control over what is happening to you or your child? This birth that had started out so beautifully now had me in tears. I hated everything about this and I hated my birth.
You would think that it would have ended when I was wheeled into recovery, but because there wasn’t a room for me anymore, I was placed in a storage room. I couldn’t sit up. They still had my baby. I started vomiting. After several hours they brought me my son, and then took us to my room. I was hooked up to a PCA pump, which is common after surgery sometimes. I tried to decline it, and they again wouldn’t listen. I wanted to breastfeed my baby and I needed to be alert. The hospital didn’t have a nursery for “normal” babies, so I felt it was best if I took Ibuprofen instead. I refused to press the button. Around 9 PM a nurse came in and told me to press the button. I refused. She tried to talk me into it and I said that I hated the way it made me feel and I wanted something else orally. She took her thumb, put it over my thumb, and made me press the button. Within minutes, I was dead asleep. No way of taking care of my baby. No way to breastfeed. I remember them trying to wake me, but I was unable to wake up. 4 hours later I finally was alert enough to feed the baby and they told me that they had given my baby a little formula at the nurses station. You know, because I couldn’t feed him, because I was passed out from the opiates they gave me that I didn’t want.
I felt defeated.
My husband at the time, was Jewish. I wasn’t for the idea but was allowing a Bris to take place, because it seemed important to his family. This is a ceremony where they enter the baby into a covenant with God and remove the boy’s foreskin. The hospital was informed of this several times. Despite that, during the 4 days I was in the hospital, they came into the room and tried to take my baby to circumcise him. Each time I said no. They charted that it happened, because the hospital billed my insurance for the procedure, even though they didn’t perform one.
When I was finally allowed to go home, my incision became infected. I was assured by the surgeon that it was fine, but they took a culture anyway. I continued to feel worse. They called 2 days later to tell me that it was infected. Again, I felt ignored.
Honestly, until today, this whole experience was overshadowed by one of my older daughters being diagnosed with a brain tumor just 6 weeks after my son was born. I can’t say whether my depression started from his birth, or if it occurred naturally from Emerald’s diagnosis. I just know that I felt detached. I did end up on antidepressants and was later diagnosed with major depression and anxiety. I hated my birth. This beautiful thing I had planned and prepared for had turned into something ugly because of the interventions pushed on me by others. It affected my relationship with my son, my family, and myself well after his birth.
I know that if I had hired a doula I would have had someone on my side throughout the experience. Even if I had ended up with a surgical birth, I would probably have not felt as if the world was against me. I would have had someone to tell me that the feelings I had were normal and to be expected. I didn’t have to be happy just because my baby was born healthy. I had a right to feel cheated and ignored. Grief is normal, even if it is just a loss of a birth plan or how you expected things to go in your mind’s eye. The staff at the hospital could have done more to make me feel as if I had some control over what was happening to me. They could have given me respect. But they didn’t.
I will shout from the rooftops about choices and interventions and feelings that are NORMAL. Sometimes those things are necessary. Sometimes they are not. You don’t have to be in that delivery room alone. You never have to feel alone, ignored, and unheard. Hire a professional to help support you. It makes a huge difference!