“It changed me because now I explain to first time moms my experience. I tell them to fight for their rights and if their feelings matter. Don’t ever question your judgement as the person who knows your body best is YOU! I will always share my story because I do not want others to feel alone. I want women to be able to fight for their rights and healthcare. I want other women to believe in your gut and if something feels off, believe it! I will be having my second baby this year. Due to this experience, I am already having flash backs and am nervous to deliver again. But, I now know to be more aggressive and adamant for this baby for both our rights.“
“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.“
“I was in tears. I was alone and scared that something was wrong. I had never felt a pain so strong and crushing before. I continued to call my nurse only to be ignored. It had been 8 hours of excruciating pain when a different nurse finally came in. She immediately ran to get my OB and within minutes I was being taken for a C-section. I was in class 3 HELLP syndrome. My liver was about to burst. I was about to die. I almost lost my life and my nurse thought it was gas.”
“And so, in went the pitocin. I made it clear that I only wanted the minimum amount, just enough to start regular contractions. Every time the nurse came to check on me and the machine, she'd raise the rate of delivery a little. When I caught her doing it and asked if she was increasing it, she outright lied and told me they were just trying to adjust the dosage to align with my contractions.”
“I was 28 years old, having my first baby so I did not know what to expect. I thought the care I received was the standard of care for everyone. It wasn’t until I had my daughter 11 months later with a different doctor & nurse that I realized how much of an impact they had on my first childbirth experience. I can’t help but think that if I was treated with respect & care I wouldn’t have had such bad postpartum depression.”
"They tried getting me to push for 3 hours without any success of my son coming out (this is after 20 hours of labour - remember, no food, no sleep). I begged and begged to see the doctor. They sent in a resident named Ramona wearing a blanket as a cape because she was cold"
"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."
"When my OB finally entered the room he was quick to say, 'Everything looks fine, see you in two weeks.' I very quickly explained that I wanted to discuss the pains I was having as it was becoming unbearable. He immediately said, 'There's no way you're in preterm labour.' and walked out of the room. Not once did he examine me in any sort of way, or even let me explain the type of pains I was having.
Two days later, I was admitted to the hospital and was told I was in preterm labour. The only reason I had gone to the hospital was due to some bleeding, not because of the pain because I trusted him when he told me I was fine."
"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 want people to know I'm sure to the midwives and everyone else this just looked like a run-of-the-mill birth. It wasn't long or complicated and both I and my baby were physical healthy, but it's what's on the inside that matters. I hope women reading this can learn from all these experiences and find the courage to say no to disrespectful care providers."
"I filed a complaint with the hospital. It was largely ignored. The birth unit manager told me they didn't have a lot of experience in this area and that she was sorry they had over-reacted. That was it. How could they not have experience with this? I have had no closure because complaints made to them went nowhere.
I wanted my last birth experience to be joyful, I wanted to have those happy memories. They were stolen from me by this incompetent hospital. I will never be the same again."
"We thought maybe, just maybe, she was hungry so my boyfriend started feeding her and decided not to take the bottle away (even though the nurses were SO SURE she only needed a small amount to be full) and sure enough she ate more, and WOW, NO CRYING! So after thinking we had a child who was very unhappy, it turned out the nurses were making us starve her. How were we supposed to know?"
"Did you know you could get PTSD from childbirth? I didn't."
"The way I was treated at the hospital broke me, it wasn't that my daughter's cord was wrapped around her neck and it was a close call, and it wasn't that two seconds after they had her breathing, I hemorrhaged. It was how awful a nurse treated me."
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.