L.G.O.'s Story - Guelph General Hospital, Guelph, Ontario

Nov 23/24, 2006 - I was in hospital for a midwife attended delivery of my first child. I had been in labor for at least 1.5 days, and arrived around midnight of Nov 23 to have my baby. At 4 am, my labor not progressing much despite that my cervix was really soft and effaced they did an internal examine and realised he was breech. Very quickly a surgeon and anesthesiologist and crew were assembled and I was being wheeled into the OR while still in huge contractions. I was being given a spinal and told to lay down. With in minutes my baby was born cesarean. The nurses whisked my baby away and washed him, gave him shots weighed and poked and prodded at him. This was problematic for me but I tried to overcome it because it mostly needed to happen - not the nurses taking him so much but the c-section delivery.

The next day I was struggling to breastfeed, my milk wasn't coming in. No nurses came and told me what to do and my baby just slept so mostly I let him. The lactation consultant came by and showed me a video by Jack Newman about starting breastfeeding. In it it gave a specific piece of advice that she discounted, after getting me to watch the video. It was confusing and stressful. I was very anxious that I couldn't get much milk out. I needed to feed my baby and I really wanted to do it naturally. The lactation consultant must have said something to my midwife because that evening my midwife came in and said she wanted me monitored, and that she was going to send staff in every 3 hrs to make sure I was actually going to feed him and ***THAT SHE THOUGHT I HAD BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED AS A CHILD*** based on when they were wheeling me into the OR she thought I was sucking my thumb (I was biting my first as the contractions were strong). She thought that was regressive behaviour that showed this. Seeing as I was being monitored as though I was an unfit mom, still raw from the surprise c-section, and awoken every 3 hrs anyway - I could not sleep. I know statistically that sexual abuse happens primarily among family members and all I could think, as thoughts raced through my mind instead of sleeping, was who had possibly sexually abused me? That was what my child's birth story became. I was raw with exhaustion, wired with this shocking piece of information, still very afraid and alone in terms of figuring out how to breastfeed my baby.

The next day her partner came in to check up and I asked to transfer into her care and out of the care of my current midwife. I told her what had been said. She said 'I think thou dost protest too much", meaning she said because it was really upsetting for me it must be true. I felt like I was going crazy. I had simply come in to have my baby. All I'd wanted to hear was that I had a normal healthy baby who would grow successfully into an annoying teenager one day. I don't know why she couldn't have waited for a calmer two week follow up visit to broach the subject, and worded it entirely differently. Although, that said - every psychotherapist I have talked to about this is shocked she said anything about it. I called the College of Midwives once and they said that actually it was okay that she did that. I don't believe she ever apologized and had no idea of the impact that had on me:

-stress probably inability to breastfeed (I tried pumping for 5 weeks and was unable).
-immense strain in marriage
-total loss of trust and hatred toward midwife 
-persistently trying to figure out if this very dark act was actually a part of my childhood and whom in my family might have been the perpetrator, so loss of trust with males in my family
-the physical sense of PTSD - completely wired stress/strain, lasted months, and fed into a depression.
-interrupted bonding
-I stopped attending appointments with her and took my baby to my gp instead.
-this is still painful 12.5 yrs later, I have been crying and shaking as I write this
-because my son was formula fed he has had many more infections and antibiotics over his early/ mid childhood.

Words have huge impact around these completely life changing moments like childbirth. I would like the midwifery profession to know the extent of pain that this caused.

Submitted by L.G.O.