Court Document, Skol v. Pierce

Somebody dug around and found a PDF of the actual court document in that lawsuit I blogged about recently. Seeing as how it’s 31 pages, I haven’t yet read the whole thing, but thought some of you may be interested in the full document alleging the gross violation of trust and maltreatment from this doctor, because the woman did not call HIM before going to the hospital.

Merry Christmas!

Today we celebrate the birth of the most famous person who has ever lived in the world. It was a humble birth; a “home” birth, if you can call being born in a barn “home.” We don’t know much about this birth — not even the day or the time of year (the Christmas tradition was begun several centuries after the birth of Christ; and there is no direct evidence from the Bible of when it happened). Was Mary completely alone as she gave birth? Did Joseph attend her? Did he allow her to have privacy during labor? Did he go out to get a midwife? Even though he was a stranger in Bethlehem, he could have enquired at the inn where a local midwife might be found. It is possible there were other people crowded into the stable as well — Bethlehem was a small town and all the Israelites had to go to their ancestral home, so it’s possible every square foot of livable space was filled with people. It may have been cold outside (but then again, He may have been born in July!), but it was probably warm in the barn. And smelly. Perhaps there was a sweet smell of the hay… mingled with the foul odor of manure. There may have been a light…but it may have been too much of a fire hazard, so the only lights available were from the moon and stars.

In this “Christmas Season” we think a lot about presents and giving and receiving; I like to turn my thoughts to the humbler aspects of the occasion. I enjoy giving my children gifts for Christmas; but the best Gift of all was born in a lowly stable, with a feed trough for his first bed. His birth was wonderful; but far more miraculous what was accomplished through His death. In the Bible, there is never an injunction to remember Christ’s birth, although I don’t see anything in particular wrong with doing so; however, it is said to “remember His death.” So even while the world at large celebrates the birth of Christ (all the while marginalizing the religious aspects of the holy-day more and more every year), I think of His death, and what it accomplished for me. His birth was the beginning of a life of humility — there could hardly have been a more humble birth than that of Jesus; His life was equally humble; and His death more than humble, but infamous. “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor.”

Merry Christmas, everyone.

What you can do…

Previously, I blogged about the lawsuit brought by Catherine Skol against the doctor who attended her birth, alleging that he mistreated her in a variety of ways. But while I think this story deserves to be told, and women especially need to understand that this sort of treatment might possibly happen (although I believe and strongly hope that it would be rare and therefore not likely to happen to them), my larger concern is keeping it from happening. As I was reading the allegations in the lawsuit, I was picturing what the scene may have looked like, and I began wondering what she or someone else might have done to stop her “care” provider from treating her like that.

One homebirth midwife’s blog I read recently talked about birth plans, and she encouraged women not to put things in their plans that they can control, such as requesting that they be allowed to wear their own clothes instead of hospital gowns, or requesting that vaginal exams be kept to a minimum. This midwife said, “Want to wear your own clothes? Just keep ’em on! Don’t want a vaginal exam? Keep your legs closed!” And that’s true. But it’s easy to say and many times hard to follow through with. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read of doulas (either professional or just friends attending another friend’s birth) who reported that, in the period leading up to labor, the woman was most adamant about having X, Y, or Z, while refusing A, B, and C, and that she wouldn’t cave to pressure, no matter how much — “it is gonna be my way or the highway” kind of talk. And then the doula gets the call that the woman thinks she just started labor and is going to the hospital (when she had previously said she would stay at home as long as possible), and by the time the doula got to the hospital, the woman was in bed with continuous monitoring, an IV in her arm and an epidural in her back — all of which she had in no uncertain terms said she would not have.

And that’s fine — it’s her choice, and she can change her mind all she wants. But it’s one thing to change your mind, and another to have it forcibly changed for you. And speaking from my own experience, in labor, I became very willing to do whatever anyone suggested. It may have been because I trusted my midwife and felt so comfortable with what she was telling me; or I might have just as easily followed anybody else. For me, it keeps me “on the strait and narrow” when it comes to selecting my birth attendant(s), to make sure that whoever I get will be comfortable with my wishes and protect my birth plan and desires and wishes unless these plans truly need to change.

Catherine Skol, the woman who brought the lawsuit, did have a doctor she trusted, but he was on vacation when she went into labor. The doctor named in the lawsuit was his back-up. This situation (the possibility of having an unknown doctor or perhaps somebody you know you don’t like) has led many women to choosing an unnecessary induction or even a C-section with the doctor of their choice than to take a gamble on someone else. Other women have chosen a very small practice (even one or two midwives or doctors), so that they can know both or all of the people who may possibly be in attendance at their birth. But it could be that even the best-laid plans go awry, and you may end up with somebody you don’t know at all. Hopefully, they will be just as nice and respectful as your chosen birth attendant, but what if he or she is not? What can you do?

I read several different L&D nurses’ blogs, so I left a comment about this case, and asked them what someone could do if they are faced with such a situation (hopefully never as bad!). Obviously, one thing a woman could technically do if, as in the case of Mrs. Skol, she was placed in stirrups in a painful position and/or told to push before being fully dilated, is just simply not to comply. But, again, it’s easier said than done — especially when the doctor is being verbally aggressive, telling you things like “shut up and push”, repeatedly saying that you will hemorrhage, and implying that your baby is going to die (and she had had a stillbirth years before, so that especially scared her). Her husband might have been an advocate for her — except he may have been as cowed by the doctor as the woman was; or he may just not have realized how awful the treatment was.

Here is a link to one of the nurses’ blogs I mentioned. She responds in some length to the questions I asked, so rather than try to summarize, I’ll just let you go over and read the full thing yourself.

Another blogger said this, “You can bet I would have been getting my charge nurse, nursing supervisor, and the head of OB involved if I faced this type of situation. I certainly would not have kow-towed to the OB and his arrogant, rude, abusive behavior.” [The idea of pulling my foot out of the stirrups — if I even let myself be put in that situation in the first place — and kicking the doctor in the face occurred to me, too.]

A lot of the things you can do are also going to be just your general “educate yourself” (and educate those who you will be bringing with you) and “stand up for yourself” (or have your labor support people stand up for you). I assume that since none of the nurses and the other doctor in the room were co-defendants with this Dr. Pierce, that Mrs. Skol did not find that they contributed to her maltreatment in any way, and were perhaps even trying to stand up for her. You have the right to ask for a new doctor and/or a new nurse. Unfortunately, the way some hospitals are set up, you may just not be able to get a change, or it might not happen in time for the birth. Large hospitals may have more than one doctor on the premises at all times, and a switch can perhaps take place almost immediately; smaller hospitals may have no doctors on the premises except to attend the actual birth, and may have to wake up another doctor and beg him to come in before you can have a different doctor. Obviously, there will be more than one nurse in the hospital, but some of the blogs I’ve been reading lately have been full of the more technical aspects of L&D nursing life — how women are assigned to which nurses, what their jobs are while the women are in labor or giving birth, how many nurses are in attendance during a C-section, etc., and it may be that if you ask for a change of nurse that it might take some time — simply because all the nurses on the floor already have their hands full, and it’s not just as simple as walking from one room to another to switch nurses. (Lovely paperwork!) But it certainly won’t hurt to ask.

If you have the opportunity to take a non-hospital-based childbirth education course, do it! You will learn what “normal” is and will probably get tools on how to advocate for yourself. This sort of treatment shouldn’t happen to anyone, but if you know what is normal and what is bad behavior, and if you know what to ask for and how to ask, you will reduce your chances of this sort of thing happening to you. Talk to your midwife or doctor, as well as the hospital staff before you go into labor, to try to know as well as possible what you can expect when you go to the hospital to give birth. Find out what they are inflexible on; find out what they would like but won’t insist upon. If you don’t like what you hear, the earlier you decide your course of action, the better. You can change hospitals and/or doctors, or even switch to a birth center or home birth; but many people are unwilling to take on new clients who are already at or very near term. You can also change your preferences (“I’d really rather wear my own clothes, but, y’know what, I’d just rather not fight it”). Knowing what is likely to happen will probably make you more comfortable as you head into labor — at least, I’m extremely uncomfortable when facing new situations, and always prefer to find out as much as possible beforehand. Also, if your hospital says that their protocol requires you to have or do X, Y, or Z, you may be able to get out of that by having your doctor write in your birth plan that he is authorizing a change of protocol for you.

The Best Christmas Present Ever — ?

My sister gave me a bunch of books her kids have outgrown, one of which was Richard Scarry’s The Best Christmas Present Ever! I like Richard Scarry, and since it’s the Christmas season, I thought it was especially appropriate to read to my kids. Until I actually started reading it.

Synopsis — Mother Cat is pregnant, and goes into labor on Christmas Eve. They rush to the hospital — taking the fully decorated tree on top of the car (which she and Father Cat were going to put up that night while the children were asleep), getting stuck in a snowbank on the way. They get pulled out by Mr. Fixit, who also helps Dr. Lion out of another snow bank, so everyone can get to the hospital so that Mother Cat can have the baby. In the morning, Nana Cat is waiting for the Cat children (who grump about not having any Christmas tree or presents waiting for them), and she takes them to the hospital so they can meet their new baby sister — also, the Christmas tree is put up in Mother Cat’s hospital room, with all the presents underneath.

The 99% of people for whom hospital birth is the norm would probably not see the littlest thing wrong with this book, but as I was looking over it (noting how many times there is a sense of necessity that we must get to the hospital, or else!), I came up with several things that are good reasons to plan a home birth:

  • a snowstorm has buried the car, which means that Father Cat has to shovel it and the driveway before they can leave
  • the roads are icy, making driving treacherous
  • ultimately, the Cats’ car crashes and gets stuck in the snow

In a home birth, instead of the mother getting out and risking a car wreck on slippery roads, the birth attendant comes to her. While it is just as possible for a midwife to have to shovel out her car and/or to end up in a snowbank, a car wreck puts the baby at risk.

[I also didn’t like how Father Cat is sort of portrayed as a dope — he is useless without list; and then can’t find Mother Cat’s suitcase, finally looking in the attic, when it is right next to the front door, which is where he had put it several days before, and where it had resided since then. It’s sort of like I Love Lucy, but not as funny.]

So, I don’t think I’ll read it to my kids. Is that going too far? Do you think I’m kinda nutso for choosing not to read this book because it portrays hospital birth in this way? After all, it’s just a kid’s book — what’s the big deal? Well, that’s true; but hospital birth is the norm — there will be plenty of time for the kids to be firmly entrenched in the idea that hospital birth is preferable, without me also promoting it, by reading this book to them. Maybe it’s overkill, but I’d rather just not read the book at all, than to point out to my children at least once on every short page something I disagree with. Of course, I could say, “Mother Cat is going to the hospital to have her baby — isn’t that weird?” But, I’d rather just have them think that home birth is normal, and then they can find out the reverse later.

Pregnant in America

It seems like I’ve seen this trailer before, but not the website, so I’m passing it along (perhaps again).

Pregnant in America examines the betrayal of humanity’s greatest gift–birth–by the greed of U.S. corporations. Hospitals, insurance companies and other members of the healthcare industry have all pushed aside the best care of our infants and mothers to play the power game of raking in huge profits…

When Steve’s wife Mandy became pregnant, Steve immediately saw that something was wrong with the way women were being treated in the American maternity system. He thought a movie would help create a better environment for women in the US…

Looks very interesting, especially with all of the people that helped (click on “experts” on the tabs on the website).

Unnecessary inductions lead to problems

Here is the link to an article about a recent study in Australia which concluded that when an induction is done without a medical reason, both mother and baby are at higher risk of problems than if labor begins spontaneously. These problems include a higher incidence of use of forceps or vacuum, Cesarean section, hemorrhage in the mother, admittance to the nursery for the baby, and resuscitation in the baby.

Thanks to Dr. Jen for the link.

Still wondering what to get for Christmas?

If you’re like me, you may have to buy yourself your own Christmas presents. If you’re like most women, even if you don’t have to buy your own presents, you’ll have to buy Christmas presents for everybody else in your life (and your husband’s life) too. “What to get for Christmas” — either for yourself or others in your life — is always a difficult question to answer. Laura Keegan has made it easier. I know I just blogged about her book Breastfeeding with Comfort and Joy, but I want to do it again, because I didn’t realize when I wrote my earlier post that there were excerpts from the book available on her website — just click on the picture of the front cover to view 9 pages from the book.

This book is self-published, and is available only from her website. Since she has to do all of the promoting and distributing herself (not having a big publishing house to undertake the marketing), even if you cannot purchase a copy of the book right now, she would sincerely appreciate any help you can give in “spreading the word”, by telling people about her website (The Breastfeeding Book.com), on your blog, or any birth, baby, or “natural living” or “alternative” email lists or groups you’re a member of, or even the old-fashioned way of talking one-on-one.

Some of the people I thought of who would be interested in the book include the following:

  • midwives
  • doulas
  • childbirth instructors
  • obstetricians
  • La Leche League groups or leaders
  • breastfeeding consultants
  • lactation specialists
  • WIC offices (since they serve low-income mothers and babies, who are at higher risk of many negative occurrences, these women and children can especially profit from the benefits of breastfeeding)
  • pediatricians
  • L&D nurses
  • nurses or other workers in hospitals or doctors’ offices
  • family physicians
  • any “birth junkie”
  • pregnant women
  • new moms (and this is not limited to first-time mothers — I just recently found out that one of the people on an email list I’m on has for the first time managed to successfully breastfeed her child beyond 2-3 weeks… and this is baby #5! Nursing was excruciating for her with all of the babies, and she always gave up; finally she decided to stick with it, even through the intense pain, for at least 6 weeks. Getting past the three-week mark finally made breastfeeding not (as) painful for her, and she can actually see herself continuing to nurse her baby.)

If you want to give a meaningful gift to any of the above people in your life — whether for Christmas, a baby shower, a “thank you” gift, a birthday present, Mother’s Day, or “just because” — this will be truly appreciated. Even if you can’t get this book in time to present it at Christmas, you can order the book, and give a beautiful card telling the recipient that the present will be arriving very soon. Also, when you get those, um, less-than-wonderful gifts on Thursday, and you’re tempted to exchange it at the store — why not get a refund, and then buy yourself what you really want? And why get just one book? — order several, so that you’ll always have something to give when those gift-giving occasions sneak up on you or slip your mind.

I can’t wait to get mine!