Contrasting birth stories

I recently came across this disturbing story — a birth story written by a woman who was coerced through frequent and repeated offers of an epidural or other pain medication to take drugs she neither wanted nor needed during labor. Both her mother and the labor nurse encouraged her to take it, which brings up the point that whoever attends you during labor need to be on board with your desires. Even when she consistently said “no,” the nurse kept offering drugs. But the woman’s mother was the one who finally coerced her into agreeing to them.

You can’t any more.  You can do this anymore.  You’re too tired.  You’re in too much pain.  You will be too tired to push.  To be fair, the nurse had brought up the suggestion of the Fentanyl, but my mother was the cheerleader determined to bring the suggestion home.  The nurse watched as my mother continued to harangue me into submission.I remember her screaming in my face, and I interrupted her by saying, “I DON’T WANT IT –” and she interrupted me again.  “– BUT!  But, I’ll DO IT.  Just stop screaming!  I’ll take it!”

I gave in.

Having your loved ones with you during labor can be wonderful; but sometimes their love for you can cause them to ride roughshod over your plans. The mother couldn’t bear to watch her daughter in the pain of Pitocin-induced contractions; sometimes husbands can’t bear to see their beloved wives in pain — and may even feel responsible, since they, after all, got them pregnant. But who does it help, when women are coerced into taking drugs they want not to take? In some instances, it only helps the labor attendants. I’m reminded of the first birth of one of my sisters-in-law: she “wanted a natural birth” (but did no real preparation), and eventually willingly chose drugs. But it didn’t work for her — it dulled her enough that she couldn’t speak or scream or do anything but lie there as the contractions washed over her, but she felt every one just as bad, and remembered every one just as bad, as if she had had no drugs at all. But, since she was lying there in an apparent calm, the husband and nurse congratulated each other that they had helped her and taken away her pain.

Definitely go read the post because it is insightful and shows all too clearly what can happen when your birth “support” people do not truly support you. So, if your mom really agrees with your plans and desires, by all means, invite her to your birth if you wish; but if she’s going to start coercing you into an unwanted something, then maybe it’s best if she stays away. I don’t want my mom to attend me in labor. On one hand, it could be beneficial and helpful for her, since she never got to experience birth (all four of her births were with general anesthesia, without her consent and against her wishes — she begged them not to with me, her last, because she wanted to experience birth and was planning on having her tubes tied after having me; they did it anyway); but I am frankly too concerned that she would be too nervous to be a good labor attendant, and her nervousness would rub off on me. Perhaps if she could be a fly on the wall — unnoticeable and unnoticed by me — and just be there and watch and learn and get rid of her birth anxiety that way, then maybe I would want her there. But I don’t think she’d be that way, so I think she would be an interference and a distraction, and I just don’t want to go there. Ditto husbands — if he’s going to try to protect you from labor and birth to the point that he doesn’t let you have your labor and birth on your terms, or even worse, actively try to discourage your wishes [and this can include that you want drugs and he wants you to go natural — it works both ways], then maybe you should send him fishing or something. Maybe our greatgrandmothers knew a thing or two about men and birth, which is why men usually were sent packing during labor. 🙂

It’s very nice if you want to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, but you also have to protect your birth space, because you’re the one going through labor and birth, not them; and if they can’t support you, then they shouldn’t be in the room, because if they’re not with you, they may very well work against you. They may not mean it; they may even think they’re helping you, but the wrong kind of support people may actually rob you of your strength, rather than giving you strength.

And now, for the contrasting birth story, posted on Birth at Home in Arizona, told from the doula’s perspective. It’s lengthy, but, oh, so worth it! The doula was concerned that the hospital would be highly interventive, but instead found the CNM and L&D nurse to be wonderful labor support people who respected the mother’s space and needs.


4 Responses

  1. I hate reading about bad hospital birth stories, maybe because I have witnessed them in real life…sigh. I want to thank Birth at Home in Arizona for posting a positive hospital birth story. They are few and far between in the blogosphere.

  2. Absolutely right…. birth companions can make or break a birth, especially because a laboring woman is usually so open to suggestion (I know I was). Thankfully my hubby was supportive, but I don’t know what would have happened in-hospital if we’d had drugs available – he was kind of freaked out, so he might have been a drug-pusher as well. Thankfully our other birth companions (midwives, doula) were totally calm and supportive, which helped him to be calm.

    Thanks for the reference! Wasn’t that an awesome story? 🙂

  3. That’s awesome! I reposted the links on my blog as well. Well worth the read!

  4. RR — I thought of you when I posted this! When I first wrote the post, it was just going to be about the first link, but before I published it, I read the story on Diana’s blog, and thought it made a near-perfect contrast to the first story, so tweaked my post a bit and added the second link. At first I felt a little bad — “here we go again, with another ‘bad hospital’ birth story,” although in reading the story I put the blame more on the mom’s mother than the nurse — in my imagination, I see the mother cornering the nurse in the hall demanding she give her daughter drugs, but I could be mistaken. Then when I read the other story, I knew you’d love it, so would have posted it anyway, but thought it better to end such a negative post on a positive note. Yes, Virginia, there is a supportive hospital team! 😉

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