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Death on the Delivery Bed - Can natural birth be pushed too far?

Posted on April 14th, 2013 by | 9 views

Thinking about my birth experience causes my heart rate to rise and my mood to change. Eight years later I have to talk myself through the emotions that still appear.

My birth was hell and I now have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of it.

Men who go to war are traumatized by things they have seen. My trauma re-surfaces when I replay the visual of my doula telling the nurses to pull over the mirror to my vagina, so that I could visualize myself pushing, followed by her hitting my husband in the arm and telling him to “look” even though I had specifically said I wanted privacy in that area while birthing.

That was the plan, but nobody honored my plan or the work that I had done to advocate for myself. That was just it. Nobody cared until I was actually delivering. That birth plan stuff was a formality that got thrown out the window.

I said “stop,” but she argued with me and he saw everything. 

I felt so brutally raped but I smiled and said “no” nicely.  I don’t know why I smiled; I was so tired and embarrassed that I tried to slough off how I felt inside – purely mortified. My legs were spread open and someone else in the room, other than myself, was dictating what was going to happen with my vagina and who was going to look at it while I was unable to cover myself. She said “but this is very special for him” giving no immediate apology or consideration of the fact that she had violated my rights, her duties and my body. He had already seen everything by the time I got them to listen and then she made a comment about us not being together that long…

What exactly was I paying this woman for anyway?      

What a brilliant thing to say at a women’s delivery. I guess it is clear by now that I didn’t like this doula. I didn’t even want her at my birth, but she was pushy . . . very pushy.  She came to my home and asked what I wanted at my birth, then advocated for her dogmatic views on what birth should be when the time arrived, which was this very open experience where my vagina was on display when she wanted it to be. She even interjected herself into my doctors’ appointments asking about herself and her own desires to conceive again. Then she told me to ignore doctors’ advice telling me daily that I didn’t need a c-section even though two doctors and a midwife told me I did.

I had been warned that my body wouldn’t be able to deliver naturally but my doula called me repeatedly telling me otherwise (added note: she never did a pelvic exam and wasn’t qualified to do so). My doula also had other doulas who had never examined me call me to tell me I could deliver naturally. But what was I risking? Fistula? Yes, maybe.

In hindsight I am horrified that I even risked a natural birth when I had been warned by two doctors and a midwife, but those phone calls from doulas and my ties to natural, organic living confused me. I am a natural girl, how could this happen to me? I can’t say I was not fearful of that word: fistula. But I can say I didn’t believe that could happen if I did all the right things. Now, I understand that birth isn’t gentle on any women’s body and any warnings of excessive harm should be headed.

Living with trauma or a damaged vagina can last a lifetime. Although we have come a long way with information on birth, there is still a long way to go to help advocating for women’s rights with their own bodies. Everyone should be able to choose what they will be most happy living with.  However, my doctor was vilified by my doula and I for trying to gently explain that my vagina was “at risk” of excessive damage. Instead of thanking her, I got frustrated. She wasn’t telling me what I wanted to hear. Now I imagined what would have happened to my life had I delivered naturally. Would I be peeing through a catheter? Pooping in a bag? Would that be worth it to have a natural birth? Absolutely not, and I was insane to risk my body.

I was in labor for four days, but somehow nobody seemed to count up the days. Not even my “all-knowing” doula. She had kept telling me to labor at home for as long as possible. My contractions were 5 minutes apart for two days before I went into the hospital. I had already missed two night’s sleep.

It is important to remember that Guantanamo detainees are sometimes sleep deprived as a means of torture and that torture is meant to be traumatizing. By the time I was pushing I couldn’t even think. I was saying “something’s wrong, get my doctor” and she kept telling me “every woman says that”. She said you better not tell the doctor that or they will “take the baby.”  Someone should have stepped in and said "this is too much" but nope not one word from the doula; she pushed me until I died… literally.

I was given a time limit to deliver as my body was giving out. When I was finally rushed in to an emergency c-section, I lost the ability to speak and felt my body dying. I was fighting so hard for my life, but I felt like I couldn’t hang on and at one point, I melted.  I could feel a warm glowing light come over me and I seemed to melt into the table. My doula doesn't know, and the doctors won't share it over liability issues, but I felt myself melt into a golden light and leave. Next I know I was awake again and they were preforming the c-section.

The following days were not smooth. My friends came to visit although I had not brushed my hair or showered but my husband didn’t bother telling anyone to give me space. I had to stand up for the first time in front of an audience of people (thankfully friends) who had come to see the baby that I had yet had a moment to connect with.

Upon arriving at home my doula forced her way back into my home to tell me, after all I had been through, that I could have delivered naturally.  She later confronted me at my child’s school to tell me I could have had a natural birth had I not had an epidural on the third day of labor.

I dare ask what lengths I should have gone to to appease her natural birthing desires? How far is too far? Death? Fistula? Where is the line in the sand?  I tried to explain to her that she was a danger to women and that she did not advocate for my requests but rather her own. She rejected my disappointment and told me I was blaming her for not having a natural birth. The natural birth holy grail was what she wanted. I wanted a healthy child, an intact body and my mental health. Natural birth would have been my preference, but there were aspects of the c-section I could have learned to accept had I not been bombarded with misinformation.

I felt like a failure to my child if I couldn’t deliver naturally and now I realize motherhood is not about the delivery, it is about a lifetime of love you will give to your child. The birth should enable you to look into your baby’s eyes the first day without dealing with sexual assault type emotions and coming to terms with you own moment of death, and the emotions associated with leaving my baby before I met him. I would rather live to enjoy the first days of my child and not carry around a horrific memory that has required counseling to overcome.

I ask many “natural” women to consider the long term effects of their decisions and by all means trust your doctor if you have found a good one. Doctors have delivered a lot of babies; they may not be the enemy the natural world has made them out to be, especially when they are considering your long term vaginal health, something the wrong doula doesn’t care much about discussing. You go to great lengths to find your doctor and research them, but currently there is no way to do the same research on your doula and no formal place to complain should they put you and your child at risk.

Just because you are scared to birth for the first time, don’t feel like you have to have someone there unless you really connect with them.

When the time comes to call them, don’t feel like you owe it to the doula. You have the right to change your mind; you owe them nothing and yourself everything at this delicate special time.

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