A Birth Story

My partner and I were talking with his mother when she started talking about her experiences at the hospital giving birth to him and his brother 24 years ago. It made me ill hearing about how she was treated as cattle during one of the most excruciatingly painful and scary moments of her lifetime. Her blood pressure was at dangerous levels apparently and they were afraid they were going to lose her; however, that didn’t stop them from neglecting her. She was made to sit in a wet bed after her water broke and then put on drugs that took away much of her memory during the actual pregnancy. She woke up “hours later” alone on what sounded like an operating table completely out of it to the sounds of another woman in labor screaming in another room. After a time she was put into a wheelchair and helped to the toilet, left to sit there in the dark while the nurse took care of other matters for a few minutes. Upon returning the nurse turned on the bathroom light (how thoughtful) and both parties were startled to see blood all over the walls and my partner’s mother’s body. She was made to lose a severe amount of blood, which normally would require a blood transfusion because after removing the IV no one covered her open artery with any surgical tape. Oops. A day goes by and she is left in this room with other mothers who are all getting ready to leave with their babies. They ask her the gender of her child and she has to tell them that she has no idea, she hasn’t even been able to see it yet (24 hours later!!!). It really sounds as if the doctor’s are a whole bunch of worried about this woman doesn’t it? The mothers go home and she ends up sharing her room with another set of women about to give birth; however, unlike the last set, these women all know they are going to give birth to stillborns. Despite knowing that the embryo was stillborn doctor’s during this time made the decision for these women that it was in their best interest in terms of coping psychologically if they went through with the full 9 months of pregnancy, then the birth, and then held the stillborns before they took them away. Apparently decisions about women’s bodies are best made by anyone but the women themselves. Hmmm, sounds like America these days. It is at this point, in a room full of women awaiting their stillborn births that my partner’s mother is first given her child. She said she was made to feel extreme guilt and sadness holding and nursing her child in front of all of these grieving women. Having lost a lot of blood the doctor makes a presence and holds up a paper informing her that what he should do is give her a blood transfusion but because of this he simply cannot. The picture is of a newborn with AIDS due to a blood transfusion. Again, decisions are made for her and she is forced to endure a needle that she describes as a foot long in her buttocks each day. The doctor’s ask her each day which cheek got it the day before so that they can alternate. She is finally forwarded some consideration. A few days in her entire buttocks is black and blue and she says that it stays that way for the next five years. A doctor charms himself when he tells her she won’t make it on Cleo. Because despite all she has endured, much to the fault of the maternity ward staff, it is her greatest hope as a woman to look presentable at all times.

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