In nearly every client interview I get asked why I became a doula and my answer is usually that I became a doula to protect other moms from being mistreated the way I was mistreated during my first birth. Since tomorrow is the 6th birthday of my sweet baby girl I thought I would revisit her birth story through my doula lens. I have to add a disclaimer that I’ve seen many lovely hospital births and that in no way am I saying being at a hospital means you won’t be treated well. I was just one of the unlucky and uninformed ones who picked the wrong hospital, the wrong care provider, and happened to get the bad nurses!
I’ll openly admit that I had no idea what I was doing. My sisters mentioned that it would be best for the baby and for my recovery if I could make it without the epidural and one sister loaned me a hypnobirthing book. Sure, what the heck I thought. No real research or personal commitment. I honestly didn’t know exactly what an OBGYN was and had never heard of a midwife. I called the BYU health center to ask what I was supposed to do and they told me how to find the list of OB’s on the BYU insurance site. I picked one at random and started seeing him. I had no connection with him whatsoever and he went on vacation when I went into labor anyway.
So I showed up to the hospital and got an on call doctor (who I realized after looking at her birth certificate this year was the same TERRIBLE on call OB who delivered my niece when I was being a doula for my sister in law years later!) I was given the standard routine of don’t ask questions just do the norm… put on this robe, sit in this bed with these monitors, take this IV because it’s just what we do. My nurse was very annoyed/ confused as to why I didn’t want the epidural. She kept asking if I was sure, she wanted to know what my reservations were so she could assure me it would be fine to just get it. Also the nurse would come in regularly and ask questions, check my cervix, and run tests during contractions. She honestly had NO IDEA how to handle a mom without and epidural. She was very distracting. I thought I was doing well until my cervix was checked after an hour of intense contractions and showed no change. I hit an emotional wall that I couldn’t surmount without a doula. My sister said why don’t you get the shot in your IV. (Which I now know was likely fentanyl) I did get it and it took the edge off just enough for me to relax and get some sleep. I would start to feel it wear off after an hour as usual and then I would ask for the next dose. I had four doses and was able to relax enough to progress from 4cm to complete in those 4 hours. The nurse, annoyed with me as usual, informed me that the efficacy of fentanyl would begin to decrease with each dose and that if I was going to keep getting it I might as well get the epidural.
I began to feel the urge to push right around shift change. I told my nurse I felt like I needed to push and she said okay sure without checking me. Then she comes back a minute later and said actually don’t push, you might tear your cervix. Still she DID NOT CHECK ME! So I was terrified and trying to breath through the urge to push. It was nearly impossible. Every time I think about this I want to go back in time and give myself a hug. Honestly your body doesn’t give you much of a choice! Oh my gosh, can we reiterate that this woman did not understand what unmedicated labor is like or how it works!!!! The nurse then said well my shift is over. Then she took off never to be heard from again. Since I was clearly pushing a baby out and trying to stop it my mom finally said this is ridiculous. She actually knew what real labor looked like! She marched out to the nurses stand and told them her daughter was pushing her baby out and someone should be in there! Some random nurse came in and checked me. She told me I’m complete and could push if it felt right. I actually thanked her. What a relief! She called the on call doctor who barely made it and yelled at the nurses for not calling him sooner. He sat down during a push and then said with the next push I want you to push this baby out. I was shocked. I didn’t know I was that close! (Since getting the go ahead from the nurse to push I had only had a few contractions.) So one push after he arrived she was born. He then proceeded to try and stitch me without numbing me because apparently no one in that hospital had ever had a baby without an epidural! When I said owe he was shocked and then was like oh I guess I need to numb you. Of course I knew nothing of the best newborn practices so he did the usual protocol and I held her for a a very short while and I attempted to nurse her before they decided to take her away to bathe her. I wanted to come with but they wouldn’t let me. My husband and family went with the baby. I was in the labor room shaking uncontrollably and no one bothered to explain why that was normal or try to make me comfortable. The nurses made me get up and go in the bathroom with the perri bottle and clean myself (while shaking uncontrollably.) When I came out they put me in a new robe, put me in a wheel chair and threw all the personal items of mine and my family in my lap and took me to a recovery room. They dumped me in a recovery room with no baby, no family, no call button… NOTHING! I was shaking still and honestly in shock. It was the lonliest 20+ minutes of my life.
I was told in recovery that I couldn’t shower until a doctor gave me the okay. I asked a thousand times when that might happen but still no doctor and no shower. Finally a nurse just let me take a freaking shower since there was clearly no doctor coming. I was also told I couldn’t leave until a doctor checked me but then no doctor ever came for that so the nurse just said he wants to know if you have any questions before you go. The hospital also had a 48 hour postpartum policy so I had to be out by 6:00 am because my daughter was born at 6:00 am. We made the decision to leave the night before and go sleep in a real bed because that was not happening!
I know there are worse horror stories out there but mine was enough to make me do some serious research on my options before having my next baby and boy was I glad I did! the silver lining in this story is that I may not have found my passion for birth if I hadn’t had this negative experience to push me towards finding ways to improve the birth experience! Regardless of how she arrived, I am so grateful for my cute, smart, independent, and fun little girl!
Happy Birthday Kaylee!