M's Story - Sudbury Memorial Hospital, Sudbury

2009 - It's been nearly nine years since the birth of my daughter, and although I've moved on from the birth experience I had, listening to the traumatic birth stories of others has made me want to share my own. I really hope that doctors and hospitals end up reading these stories to improve the care that they give to women giving birth in the future.

I was in the care of a wonderful team of midwives throughout my pregnancy, and had planned for a home birth. Unfortunately, my daughter was well overdue (13 days past my due date) and I was informed that she was at increased risk of complications after 2 weeks past the due date so I decided to book an induction at the hospital. The doctor broke my water around 9:30am and contractions started shortly afterwards.

My midwife was with me once labour was fully underway. Later on in the day my contractions were very strong and close together, but my cervix was still only 5cm dilated. I wasn't dealing well with the pain and so I requested an epidural. The team that provided the epidural was excellent and there were no problems.

Around midnight, I was fully dilated and felt the urge to push. After the first push or two, meconium was passed and my daughter's heart rate increased, indicating she was in distress, and so my midwife brought the doctor on call (the same one who had induced my labour) to check on me. The doctor wanted to do a c-section, but I asked if I could try pushing for a bit (since I'd only tried once or twice so far and was hoping for a vaginal birth). The doctor sighed with exasperation, shrugged and left the room. I continued to try pushing with the help of my midwife for another hour, while the doctor was with another woman giving birth next door.

Once the other woman had given birth, the doctor returned and the atmosphere changed completely from one of calm purpose, to one of fear and emergency. I understand that my daughter's safety was everyone's (including my own) top priority, and that there was concern with her being in distress. However, I was treated as if I wasn't even present in the room, just a body that needed to be dealt with. No one told me what was happening and I was scared. The doctor sat down at a stool between my feet, but it wasn't the right height and she needed another one. I felt the urge to push (as I had been doing for the past hour) but both she and the nurse frantically told me to pant and not to push (until she got the right stool). The doctor did not speak to me after that, informed the nurse to move the bed so "the head" was down (i.e. move the bed so I was lying down instead of upright), and I overheard her tell the nurse she was going to use forceps. Thanks to the reading I had done beforehand, I knew that an episiotomy was necessary for a forceps birth, so I was a little bit prepared, but neither me nor my husband was told that she was doing an episiotomy, or when it was happening. I only knew it had happened because I felt a relief of pressure as she cut, but no pain thanks to the epidural.

When the doctor pulled my daughter out of me with forceps, she didn't warn me (or say *anything* to me) or try to work with me during a contraction. I just felt my baby being ripped out of me suddenly, and it was absolutely horrible. I still remember feeling like someone was pulling all my insides out of me - terrifying. My daughter was quickly placed on my chest, and then taken to be checked (as she had been in distress) by the nurses. I was very scared, and I couldn't see what was happening with my daughter or knew if she was OK, but fortunately one of the midwives came to reassure me and tell me what was happening. To this day I still think of her as an angel.

Fortunately, my daughter was fine and healthy and was given to me for skin-to-skin contact, and to try nursing, which was all great. But I had not passed the placenta yet, and the doctor returned and started tugging at the cord to try to dislodge it (without saying anything to me first). I only knew what she was doing because I could feel the tugging. I had read that it's not a good idea to pull on the umbilical cord to try to get the placenta to dislodge, and I asked her to stop. She did stop for a minute, but then told me she needed to get it out so she could stitch my episiotomy before I lost too much blood. So I said "OK" and she pulled on the cord until my placenta came out. When she began to stitch up my episiotomy, it really hurt and I could feel the needle and told her that I could feel it. She said that I shouldn't feel it because I had the epidural, but I told her I did. She gave me a local anesthetic and began stitching again, but I could still feel it and told her so. She said she had given me the maximum amount of anesthetic and couldn't give me anymore, so there was no other option. I felt like she didn't really believe me, but I do understand that she couldn't give me any more anesthetic either way. It was horrible to lie there and feel the stitches going in. I cried while holding my new baby and was sad that what I had expected to be a joyous moment felt so terrible.

I am grateful that my daughter was healthy and safe, but I felt traumatized by having things done to my body without being informed or prepared, and without asking for any sort of consent. Yes - I would have absolutely agreed to them in the best interests of my daughter, but if I had been told/asked first, I think my experience would have felt a lot different. Throughout the birth, I was made to feel like I was an annoyance to the doctor whenever I asked a question, and that wanting the right to question (even just to find out so I was prepared) what was being done to my own body was unreasonable and exasperating. It was this doctor's attitude and lack of empathy and my own feeling of being powerless and not in control of what happened to my own body that made the experience so horrible for me. Yes, the birth would have been painful and (probably) scary no matter what happened, but I feel like my daughter's birth became something that was done *to* me, rather than something that I did/accomplished with help.

The first night after my daughter's birth, I woke up to a nightmare of feeling someone stitching me up. I would continue to have nightmares where I would wake up suddenly to the feeling of something being ripped out of me or being stitched up for the next couple of weeks. My midwife told me that sometimes that can happen to people who had a traumatic birth experience and offered help if I needed it, but the nightmares stopped after a couple of weeks.

Everything else went well for us after that, except that my episiotomy scar did not heal well, and would remain painful for over a year. I wanted to see someone about the pain, but my family doctor said I would have to go back to see the doctor who had given me the episiotomy. I was afraid to go and see her again, because of the experience I'd had. But after the first 6 months of pain, I finally made an appointment to go back and see her. I had built up this meeting in my mind and was truly anxious about the appointment and seeing this person who had caused such trauma once again. However, it turned out completely different than I thought, and the doctor was quite nice in the calm environment of her office. I'm glad I went to see her, because I think it helped me see that she was not the evil person I'd made her out to be in my mind. Not that this excuses her behaviour during the birth, but it did help me see her as just a regular person, and move on.

I do think that a part of my experience was a result of me being a midwife patient who was transferred to the doctor on call at the hospital when that became necessary. I think there is a dynamic that exists between doctors and midwives that patients can get caught up in, i.e. the doctor feeling a need to assert their authority.

My midwives always encouraged any questions I had, and made a point of helping me make my own informed choices about my pregnancy and birth, which was really important to me. I felt that the doctor who delivered my daughter just wanted to finish her shift and go home (she'd induced me at 9am and I didn't give birth until nearly 2am, and she was there the whole time).


Submitted by M