I write this letter while nursing my perfect little angel to sleep. My fingers clutched in her tiny fist; and it pains me to have any ill memories about her birth. But I do. I wish I didn’t. I am working through these memories and past the negative emotions, but the hardest one to deal with is something that you, dear doctor, decided to do to me.
I should be so proud. I set out to have a natural child birth and I succeeded, up against great odds. It was an out of body experience and I still can’t believe that I grew this tiny person inside of me and then birthed her, and now I am growing her still with only nourishment from my body. It’s truly amazing. And If my daughter ever comes across this letter, or remembers me talking about this experience, I want her to know that regardless of the negative moments of her birth I would do it again. I would do it again everyday to have her in my life. She is worth more then anything, and I would give my life for hers. Despite the day of her birth being the physically hardest day of my life, it also had the greatest pay off. She is the best thing I ever could have done. This experience does not cloud my unconditional love for her; or my elation to have the privilege to get to be her mother.
Regardless of how fantastic the experience was, it is shadowed at the same time. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia at 37 weeks and I was given the weekend to start labor or I was going to be induced. I was so thankful for the opportunity because I was hell bent against being medically induced. I didn’t think I would be able to deal with the pitocin without taking the drugs. so I did everything I could to start labor. Multiple trips to my acupuncturist, reflexology, gallons of raspberry leaf tea, sex. Everything I could think of! Luckily we had a not-so-lucky plumbing issue in our basement and the stress pushed me over the edge into labor.
I stayed home as long as possible, and had an amazing l&d nurse. I had discussed my birth plan with all the doctors and midwives in your practice and everyone told me they would support the birth I wanted. You yourself told me it would be a hands off experience, you were just there “if we needed anything.” Were you lying to me in your office? Just saying what this silly, hormonal pregnant woman wanted to hear, because on that day I surely would change my mind? Or did you truly believe what you were telling me? Because in the middle of the night, in the throes of labor I did not feel supported.
I know you are a well respected physician in the community and you have delivered hundreds of babies. Women have raved about you to me. But I do not know how much experience you have with natural laboring women. Not being a women yourself, you could never imagine what the experience of giving birth feels like, but I never thought you would make me feel so violated and disrespected.
My choice to be drug free was mocked by you. When my cervix stalled at 9.5cm and you suggested “I just push past it.” I told you to leave me alone you were offended and rude. After I labored alone for awhile and finally gave into the persistent requests to be checked, I was fully open and my baby had descended to +2 station. I was exhausted but I really did not want to labor on my back or push, but I was pressured into “letting the staff help” with directed pushing.
You finally agreed to let me try on all fours, but you were not supportive. You would not help me to learn how to push. This was my first baby. My first experience. I know I wasn’t in the easiest position for you and it was the middle of the night, but the hospital was empty and you promised me that you would support me.
While I was on all fours trying to find the power and angle to properly push, you placed your fingers inside of me with no warning and pulled hard on my perineum. It was the most painful moment of my birth. Possibly the most painful experience of my life. You did not ask. You did not warn. You did not tell me what to expect. Why? Because this is common practice to do to a laboring woman’s body? Because if I had had an epidural I wouldn’t have felt that extreme pain and you didn’t think about the fact that I was drug less? I have relived this moment over and over again in my mind. I see myself on that bed and hear the blood curdling scream that I let out over and over.
In any other circumstances this would be sexual assault, but because I was in labor it’s OK? Because I was already in the throes of one of the most intense experiences of my life it was OK? Because you thought you were helping it’s OK? It’s not. You should have given me enough respect to ask. You should have believed in me and my body like you promised you would. My body didn’t need help. It needed more time.
It is bad enough that the medical community has forced pregnant women to believe that they need epidurals to get through birth; and that it’s OK tear, and that laboring on their backs is better because it’s what’s convenient for you. In fact when I told you that tearing was a concern of mine, you scoffed at me and told me we would fix it. Like my concern was silly. This is my vagina we are discussing! You believe it’s OK to make decisions for my body. Decisions that I will deal with for the rest of my life without consulting me. Second degree tears do not have to be the new episiotomy. Especially since some of them are caused not by the baby, but by exactly what you did to me. All we need is more time. More time allows the body to open naturally and for the baby to descend on their own. No forcing them out. No forcing the tissues to open. No tearing and damaging such delicate skin and muscles who we depend on for a life after we give birth.
This is the worst moment of my birth. The hardest moment to move past. And even worse, you probably don’t even remember me. If you needed to recall my daughter’s birth you probably couldn’t. Just another notch in your growing list of deliveries. You and this moment haunt me, and I am not even a fleeting thought to you. There is nothing I can do to change this birth experience. All I can do is take this with me for any future births I will have, and hope that by writing this letter I will save another women the agony of this same experience. And that maybe, just maybe, you will gain a little more respect for the laboring women and their bodies that you deal with on a daily basis.
One of your former patients