Susan's hospital birth story...
This year was my year to make a difference and
stop complaining about it. I have, unfortunately, witnessed
questionable parenting/pregnancy health from the teenage girls who attend a
school for teen mums in my
area. This year, rather than be constantly frustrated with them, I
wondered how I could make a difference.
I heard about a the Birthing Companion program at Canadian Mothercraft and
decided to look into it. An incredible lady and doula, Gillian Sippert,
trains interested women in the "art" of doula-ing to provide
volunteer support to pregnant mothers that are considered at
"high-risk" (mainly teens). As a volunteer, you are set up
with a young woman who needs your informed opinions, attention and support
during their pregnancy, birth and in the immediate post-partum phase.
My first companion came to me shortly aftered I finished the course. She was
a tough little nut, 16 years old, in and out of foster care her
entire life, but with an incredible faith in her 4 month old fetus and
in herself to give that child a better life than she had had. She was
very interested in natural birth, midwives and my own birth experience.
Unfortunately, I was unable to persuade her to go see a midwife herself
and she stayed with her doctor (who had a bad reputation in the eyes of
the more natural, gentle birthing crowd and practiced out a hospital
with just as bad a reputation).
I had never attended a birth, except my own, and was very enthusiastic
to use my newfound "expertise" to help make J's (we'll call her J)
an incredible experience. We developed a friendship, not too close,
she made it clear to me that I was expected to be at her birth and
advocate for her. We attended the hospital tour together, a month
before the birth and we both had a good feeling about the upcoming
event, regardless of the reputation the hospital had. We were assured
by the nurse who did the pre-registration that all babies at that
hospital roomed in with their mothers and she wouldn't be separated from
A month later I get a call from J telling me she is at the hospital, in
the birthing room. She had gone in because she woke up that morning
was leaking fluid tinged with blood. She thought she should get it
checked out. In the process of confirming that the fluid was indeed
amniotic fluid, but the blood just a bit of show, the doctor broke her
sac! Did not ask her, did not discuss the pros and cons of the action,
just broke it and told her she now couldn't leave the hospital.
I arrived at the hospital around an hour after the sac had been broken.
We spent the next four hours wandering around the hospital, entertaining
her friends who came to provide moral support and encouraging J to eat
well and to walk the stairwell. Every time I passed the nurses station
I would let them know where we were going, or that we were back, just in
case someone needed to check J. The only person to talk to her in my
first four hours there was the nurse on duty to wish J luck as she was
going off duty and to let J know that the next step will be a Pitocin
drip if J wanted to speed things up.
Just before my 5th hour at the hospital a new nurse came into the room
and told J that an intravenous drip needed to be put in (I assumed it
was a saline drip because I was told that it tend to be the norm in most
hospitals). After the harmless drip was in place, J was belted up with
fetal monitors and a blood pressure band and told she couldn't get out
of bed for the next 1/2 hour as they had to monitor the fetus now that
she was on Pitocin. There was no discussion with J as to whether she
wanted the Pit or not. (I feel guilty here because I didn't advocate
stongly enough for J, I was feeling intimidated and shocked, too)
45-60 minutes, the nurse came back, unhooked J and told her she wasn't
allowed to eat anymore and that she had to stay on the floor now that
she was hooked up to the Pitocin.
We snuck food and liquids into the room for J. I was able to keep her
moving for the first hour or so, but after that the Pitocin was being
increased gradually and causing J's contractions to become very intense
for her. Approximately, two hours into the Pit drip, J requested an
epidural. The nurse took her off the Pit and told her the
anesthesiologist would come by within the hour.
Three hours later the anesthesiologist came by and gave J the epidural.
The nurse admitted to me the next morning that she had gotten busy and
"forgotten" to call. With J's epidural in place the Pit
kicked back in
and those of us there to give support were told to let her sleep. We
did the same. At around 3 in the morning the nurse woke us all and
us that J could push within the next hour. (I now realize that it
she will be allowed to push when the doctor bothers to show up). This
is a new nurse with a much better bedside manner and much friendlier to
J's support crew (alas, I am only impressed and relieved for mere
minutes...). J told this nurse that she did not want an episiotomy and
that she wanted the nurse to relay this to the doctor (as we have yet to
meet the on call physician, except for the moment he peeked his head in
the room (honestly, his body never fully entered the room) to ask the
nurse if she wanted a coffee while he ran out to Tim Horton's (not on
the hospital campus!).
The nurse looked J straight in the eye and told her that J would have to
trust the doctor's decision and that J would be better off to have an
episiotomy! As I stood there, disbelieving, the nurse went on to tell
her that tears were very dangerous and only tears ever went into the
rectum and that J should prefer an episiotomy to the risk of a tear!
This went against everything that I had ever read on my own, in the
Mother, or was trained in. I battled over arguing with the nurse, but
thought better of it. J needed something to believe and this was not
the time to bring her into a battle of politics.
Well, now the doc shows up, tosses J's legs into stirrups, inserts his
fingers and tells her to push hard. J does. The next thing I
I'm telling J that it will be soon that she will be holding her baby,
the doctor tosses forceps into J! Needless to say he did some real
damage as now the blood is just flowing! I am now in shock. I am
to gather myself together and tell J what a great job she is doing and
that I can now see her baby's head. J is crying, surprised that this
happening so fast, she was only asked to push once (and we thought it
was to check the strength of the push). There is no further discussion
or communication with her - except by the nurses who are telling her to
I watched the most disgusting, gruesome sight I will ever have the
displeasure of witnessing:
The doctor proceeded to pull this baby's head out of J's birth canal,
and then with the forceps still on the baby's temples, turn the baby.
Watching this attempt to turn this baby's head 360 degrees while I
watched the shoulders not even slide I was in tears. I now wondered
on earth I was going to tell a 16 year old that her beautiful, healthy
baby was dead because he had his neck broken by the "professional"
By some miracle the little guy just popped out at this point and started howling. I don't know, and personally I don't care, if that is a
technique in a forceps delivery because it should never have been
So the birth ends with J not getting an episiotomy - but having around
40 stitches, interior and exterior thanks to the brutal use of the
A higlight in this whole fiasco is that the baby is beautiful,
apparently healthy, and latches on for dear life in less than 1 hour
Then J is taken to a room where she will spend the next 48 hours. As
was an early morning birth she and her little man nestle together to
sleep in the ward. That night the duty nurse comes around to collect
her little guy. When J informed the nurse that she was planning on
rooming in (as we were told was the norm at the pre-registration
meeting), J is informed that only those who have private rooms are
allowed to room in. The next night J's roommate has been discharged
there is no one else in the room, but the nurses will still not allow
her to room in.
The experience took around a week to sink in with J. She is presently
very disappointed and feeling very abused by the system and by the staff
of the hospital who seemed to feel that they could make decisions about
her birth for her, without consulting with her.
I, in the meantime, feel like I have let J down. This experience
hardens my resolve that midwives are meant to deliver babies. When I
had my daughter, they not only knew me inside out, but they had
discussed again and again my birth plan, my hopes for the birth and what
I expected to experience physically and spiritually (dispelling a few
fantasies for me in the process!). My next companion birth will be
different - hopefully, I will have been able to convince my companion to
at least consider a midwife. I will also be more outspoken and
advocate my companions' wishes to the staff of a hospital.
Dear Mother Dear
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Joy, & Raspberry Leaves
-a new video compiled by Catherine and Amanda Young
of The Compleat Mother
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The Farmer and the Obstetrician
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