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) birth an incredible experience.  We developed a friendship, not too close, but 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 her newborn. 

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 and 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)  After
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 told us that J could push within the next hour.  (I now realize that it means 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 know, as 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 able 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 is 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 stop crying. 

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 how 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" at the delivery!

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 normal technique in a forceps delivery because it should never have been
practiced.

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 forceps.

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 after birth.

Then J is taken to a room where she will spend the next 48 hours.  As it 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 and 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 very different - hopefully, I will have been able to convince my companion to at least consider a midwife.  I will also be more outspoken and strongly advocate my companions' wishes to the staff of a hospital.

BREASTFEED

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