“In the surgery room they expected me to move myself from the bed to the operating table even though I had an epidural in for the last 8 hours and couldn't move my legs. Eventually one of the students in the room told me to put my hands around her neck and she would pull me over. As she did this, unknowingly my epidural catheter shifted. I was alone and scared as my husband wasn't allowed in until they had started and I was freezing! Once they began they asked me if I could feel it and I said yes. They said is it dull or sharp and I said sharp. They asked me this question a few more times and each time I told them it was a sharp pain. I was told they are just going to start and if it's too much to let them know. At this point my husband was allowed to enter the room. I was shaking so violently on the table and just wanted to cry so badly. Feeling every cut, and tug, and tear I finally remember my son being born and hearing the first cry. After that came pain so unbearable that I was put under general anesthesia.”
“We went to emergency where finally I was taken seriously and finally someone would listen to me! I was seen immediately, given an ultrasound and they discovered that the fetus was still inside and was causing an infection, they were worried about me going septic. They immediately scheduled me for a D&C and were curious as to what happened. Why was I in the emergency room more than a month after my miscarriage with the fetus still inside? Why had I not been scheduled for a D&C? So I told them this story. They were horrified! Absolutely horrified! And told me that I should file a complaint so that nobody else has to go through what I did. I was referred to an amazing OB who didn't tell me until I became pregnant again that he was worried this would cause infertility. I am so lucky that it didn't.”
“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 allowed the medical students and midwifery students to watch my birth - they were respectful and asked permission. I felt it was important for them to witness an active birth with respectful attendants. I also had a birth plan, so when the bossy nurse in charge of the Labour and Delivery unit popped her head in and started telling me to be quiet and breathe properly when I was grunting through intense contractions, she was politely asked to leave by my OB/Gyn who told her this was the way I wanted to do it.”
“I told my doctor I am pregnant. I am young and just went through an abortion a year and half ago. I told her I wanted to keep it this time and she looked at me like I was crazy. Instead of supporting my decision, she immediately began feeding me reasons NOT to have my baby. “
“They placed the epidural and that's all I remember. I don't remember my baby's first cry. I don't remember her being born floppy and unresponsive. I woke up in recovery screaming for my baby. I was ignored. I was shushed. I was told I could see her in a few minutes which then became 6 hours. It was closer to 9 hours before I convinced them I was going to the NICU whether they were going to help me or not. That was when I was told I wasn't allowed to breastfeed her because the doctor said no. I didn't get to give her her first meal. I didn't get to give her her first bath. I spent my first 24 hours postpartum fighting hospital policy, which led to them calling CAS on me. Then I fought them too.”
“After a few more attempts of pushing, it didn't seem as though she was coming down. Without warning, explanation or CONSENT he had BOTH hands in me "assisting" Twin B. I freaked out! Begging him to stop, I asked what he was doing, telling him to stop and that it was hurting so bad (I didn't get a top up, I had no epidural so I felt EVERYTHING) He was ripping me down, he used forceps and the suction twice. I only know this because I heard him say it. At one point I just physically broke. The doctor was literally yanking at what felt like my lifeless body on that table. My husband continued asking what the issue was and what was happening where he was met with silence.”
“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.“
“Modern obstetrics is rife with condescension, medical paternalism, and misogyny. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's not. Take these examples pulled directly from the website of a well-regarded downtown teaching hospital in Toronto, Ontario:
’Remaining in control of yourself and your fear is the one major way for you to help your labour along. Let the doctors worry about any abnormalities and, if none have so far been discussed with you, rely on their care for you and your baby. You are there to breathe and cope and push the baby out when the time comes.’”
“without explanation of any risks or reasons, she announced that she was going to break my water and proceeded to aggressively enter my vagina with an amnio hook. This was not a treatment I had been previously informed about or had given consent to. With much force, she repeatedly hooked and pulled, saying that it was very hard to break my amniotic sac. At one point, she pulled the hook out, said she wasn’t sure she had broken my water and I braced as she went back in to keep trying. She was aggressive, determined and didn’t care that I was extremely uncomfortable and confused. After she was finished I had a lot of bleeding. I was then given a pad to wear for that bleeding and was left with my midwife for further care. After giving birth to my daughter, we saw that she had three deep gouges out of her scalp. One of the gouges was right on the edge of her soft spot. It became clear that the bleeding I was having prior was not my own blood but was from the head of my unborn child.”
“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.”
”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.”
“Now my biggest concern is how am I supposed to trust this Doctor? He has no knowledge of my background or history as he is fairly new to me (my original family doctor retired a few years ago). I have yet to voice my legitimate concerns regarding the miscarriages and don’t feel like he cares enough to make about my mental health issues to help make a proactive and reasonable plan in case PPD rears its ugly head once again. I spent the past 2 years trying to see him to discuss mental health issues prior to the pregnancy, but met with all sorts of interns and NPs, but not once have I spoken with him. I eventually gave up on the medical route and am currently receiving private mental health treatment that I pay for out of pocket.”
“They completed the C-section noting had I waited any longer my uterus would have ruptured. They then asked me while I was open if I wanted my tubes tied, frankly I think that’s something that should be discussed prior to being on the surgical table.“
“I was told I had to hold my baby in my arms all night after not sleeping for 48 hours as she had a lot of mucous. I told the nurse I wasn’t comfortable with it fearing I’d fall asleep and she’d roll into the blankets and potentially suffocate. I was told I didn’t have an option. They propped me up with pillows and laid her in my arms for the night. Fast forward over a year later, I was still waking up almost every night frantically checking the blankets for my daughter (who had never slept in our bed). I even had a night where I begged my husband to check the bed to make sure she wasn’t there even though she was in my arms”
“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.”
“The next few days were not so good and I went from being fairly well to very ill requiring emergency surgery, being cut open from my breast bone to my pubic bone. Finding out I have a large cyst and umbilical hernia and had become septic. During surgery my heart stopped up to four separate times, leaving me in very poor condition in the ICU after surgery where I was to remain for many weeks.”
“What happens when patients raise the alarm about healthcare professionals practicing in their community? What does it take for the regulatory college to take these complaints seriously? What prevents doctors who do harm from jumping from hospital to hospital, and continuing to practice for years to come?”
“We need to feel comfortable saying “Stop!” when we see cervical checks without consent. Our clients should be the ones to advocate for themselves whenever possible, but there are times when they can’t and we must.”
“As a Catholic teaching hospital, the cultural aversion to informed consent and bodily autonomy in your childbirth unit makes sense, however, some patients raised this culture as an area of concern in the feedback survey. You shared in your letter that you are “continuing to seek learning opportunities that expand care providers’ understanding of what obstetrical [sic] violence is and ways we can ensure patients don’t experience this under our care” In the meeting it was stated that “ideally we need to embed it into some standardized classes” but you were not able to speak to whether “obstetric violence” or “patient mistreatment” are terms that had come up at all yet, even in less formal conversations and huddles on the unit.
However, you expressed with certainty that there have still been no formalized discussions or training around what constitutes obstetric violence, and how to interrupt the cycle of obstetric violence in your Family Birthing Centre. It was also unclear whether the experiences of abuse and mistreatment some patients shared in their survey responses have been addressed in a comprehensive way.”