“I rushed to hospital where they immediately put me in the birthing room, I was told not to moan or “yell”. I wasn’t even swearing, just a nice cow-like moan. The nurse told me I was scaring and stressing everyone out as if they were the ones in labour.“
“Once our healthy baby boy was here and I was brought up to the maternity ward, the nurses on staff proceeded to be very rude to my boyfriend, his father. The nurse assigned to me refused to allow him to help me bathe him, stating, "She needs to learn how to bathe HER baby!" Even though the baby was just as much his as he was mine. When he left the unit at one point I had a nurse come in and ask me if he was even the actual father of our son. We were young, only 19. We hadn't been together long, and my boyfriend is Indigenous. Due to them pushing him away in the hospital my boyfriend had a hard time bonding with our son. He was nervous and reluctant to help at bath times as he did not know, and he felt very robbed of those crucial first hours. Looking back on it I feel angry. It was horrible to act towards him, and in a world where young fathers take off all the time the nurses should be encouraging the ones who are around to stay around, not mistreating them and pushing them away. “
“I am mad and saddened that in Canada, these experiences are more common than not; however, overall it all supports the notion that it's important to speak out and share stories of injustice as it provides an opportunity for change and a chance for support.“
“I was suicidal for years, and the way people treated me after the assault is a big factor in that. I attempted suicide about two weeks after the procedure. The hospital refused to let me stay after 72 hours because I was "just looking for a bed to mooch".
I still feel resentment about this. The main reason being it is 2018, over a decade later, and this is still a common story when it comes to sexual assault and abortions.
I was 14 and homeless. I am First Nations and gender-queer/2S. I didn't have the voice I have now, at 14. So, I never gave them feedback.”
“I was in a lot of pain in my ribs and the NICU was quite a walk for me. When I walked straight, my ribs would hurt so bad I couldn’t breathe. I’d asked a nurse if she could help me get to the NICU by wheeling me in a chair. She said “I’ve got better things to be doing than helping you get to the NICU. Get there yourself”. I had to walk there, back and forth to feed him and then go back to pump. I did this constantly barely able to breathe.”
“I was totally alone with my boyfriend and the baby's head coming out. I was literally crossing my legs bawling that she was coming and wouldn’t be able to breathe. The nurse came in so slowly and said, "It’s impossible you dilated that fast", then I opened my legs and she said "DONT PUSH!" and ran out to find the doctor who was ASLEEP!!!!!! My baby was out 5 minutes later.”
“Every nurse and doctor I spoke to assumed I'd had a C-section and high blood pressure issues which I’ve never had. I was incorrectly diagnosed with HELLP syndrome and had to deliver my baby without my husband as he was removed from the hospital after expressing concerns with my care.”
“Operation starts, I feel a lot of pulling and shaking the table. They were talking amongst themselves about vacations and sports, never said one word to me. Showed me the baby briefly, before whisking him off to NICU because he was 4 lbs. Then they sewed me up. The doctor and anaesthetist left the room laughing and said, ‘See you next year. You'll be back again.’"
“At one point I had bled through an entire pair of their maternity underwear - I'm talking no white left on them - and I sat in a puddle of my own blood. When I asked if I could have another pair to clean up, she told me I could go rinse mine in the sink and put them back on."
“I asked for a picture from the ultrasound. He crumpled it up and tossed it away telling me I didn't need it, that it was a picture of nothing anyways. My baby's heartbeat stopped the next day and I lost it, leaving me with not so much as an ultrasound picture to hold onto.”
"My first child, I was 18 years old. I told the doctors I felt I needed to push. My body just took over. A nurse held her hand over my mouth and pinched my nose so I would stop. I was also told by a nurse that if I cried while in the maternity ward, they would label me as unfit and would risk intervention by CAS as I was young."
"they informed CAS that I was positive for crack/cocaine when in reality, I was not. I was crying telling them this was was a mistake. CAS informed me hospitals don't make these kinds of mistakes and they took my child away for 3 days."
"When I finally decided to get an epidural because I was induced, the nurse would get very frustrated and forceful with me when they were trying to put the needle in. It took many tries and I ended up with a lot of bruising. Before the epidural the nurses took no sympathy while I was in pain, the looks on their faces were as if to say, 'serves her right, becoming a teenage mother'."
"I wasn't a fat girl, but not skinny either. I was curvy and in better shape than most women that weighed less. During every appointment she would tell me I was fat, that I need to lose weight. At one appointment she even told me 'Nobody will want to be with a fat girl that has a child'. I was, and am still, with the father of my child."
"Keep in mind he’s my abuser... he told this social worker vicious lies about me trying to make me be the bad guy that I was crazy and out of control and couldn’t take care of anything, including myself. They had this conversation out in the hallway away from me and when she came back in and told me in an accusatory way what trash I was, I immediately went into panic mode. I was crying, I was so distraught that I couldn’t control my emotions - I’m assuming because I’d just given birth."
"This experience terrified me and has caused Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I have another son now who was born January 2017, and I was terrified and apprehensive the entire pregnancy. The anxiety I experienced and the staff not validating my fears or feelings was incredibly damaging. It took months for me to heal afterwards and I had to receive homecare for my incision."
"I was too afraid to file a complaint because she implied that she could come after me. I didn’t know how or for what reason but I was so scared of her that I didn’t say anything until my son was 18 months and I was back at work. I realized that there’s nothing she could do, and I filed a complaint with the hospital."
"a trend began to emerge that bothered me. While speaking to women of colour, especially those whose first language was not English, I found that they reported having much less choice in how they were treated by their doctors than I did."
My name is Kate Macdonald and I started The Obstetric Justice Project as a place to talk about mistreatment and abuse in reproductive healthcare.
I have struggled with the effects of my birth trauma since my baby was born in February 2017.
In the days and weeks after returning from the hospital, I began to experience vivid flashbacks of my birth experience. I couldn't even sleep on my back, lounge with my knees apart, or be touched anywhere on my body without having sudden intrusive memories that sent my heart racing with panic. I'd wake up sobbing in the night feeling completely shattered and violated again. The physical sensations were so real that it was like I was right back at the hospital.
Although I have experienced disadvantage in my life, I am also incredibly privileged. I came into the hospital that day along with that privilege; I am a white settler, I am able-bodied and English-speaking. I have a stable, loving home and a caring partner who supports our family. Before this experience, I believed myself to be fairly assertive and strong, but even I felt completely powerless and vulnerable when I was giving birth. The trauma I experienced has left me forever changed.
The response I received from the hospital when I tried to speak up about my experience was disappointing, re-traumatizing, and blatant victim-blaming.
I began posting in online forums and talking to new parents at drop-ins and groups, wondering if others had had similar experiences to mine. The reports given by the people I spoke to ranged from small cruelties, to acts that in any other setting would absolutely be considered sexual violence. Why do so few survivors of sexual violence come forward? The parallels here are too strong to ignore.
I’ve learned that while many report having really positive birth and reproductive healthcare experiences, many others leave these interactions feeling disappointed or hurt by the way they were treated. I am not alone. This is not just a problem at one hospital, it's happening all over and it’s time for a change.
It's time to speak up about abuse and mistreatment at the hands of healthcare professionals. We need to start talking about what respectful, dignified, compassionate care looks like and how to make it a reality for every patient, not just the lucky ones.
I know from experience that it's hard to speak up. It's so, so hard. I'm hoping that The Obstetric Justice Project can help make it a little easier.