It may seem strange to hear a pregnant woman say she is terrified to give birth in a hospital. But I am. I am terrified I am a number to the doctors and nurses. I am terrified my words and voice mean nothing. I am terrified I will not be given informed consent. I am terrified I will not be allowed to do something. I am a person, in labor or not. I should not have to be allowed to walk around, go to the bathroom, eat or drink as I deem necessary.
My first baby was born in a hospital, an unnecessary c section because the doctors were not properly trained. While my c section went smoothly and without issue (other than it was avoidable) my hospital stay was not as smooth. I was strep b positive which meant I had to have IV antibiotics before and during my c section. Because I had a c section the doctors and nurse thought I would not want to go home after 24 hours in the hospital. Instead of asking me, they took it upon themselves to make this decision for me. Because of this both baby and I had to stay in the hospital for 48 hours following the birth. Since she was born around 1 am I wanted to be discharged at 1 am. 48 hours is what they said, 48 hours is when I wanted to leave. The nurses were okay with this and had everything ready. Earlier in the day the on call pediatrician had signed off on baby being released. There was no reason to keep her any longer, she was healthy and fine. At 1 am the on call pediatrician was a different doctor who was afraid of her own shadow. She did not want us to leave with baby because, (direct quote) “What if she becomes jaundice?!” I asked the pediatrician if my daughter was close to being jaundice or if there were any indications she was jaundice. The pediatricians answer was no, BUT WHAT IF SHE DOES BECOME JAUNDICE?! I kid you not. This doctor was afraid if we did not stay in the hospital my healthy baby would suddenly become jaundice. She was so afraid she was not going to release her from the hospital! When hours earlier another pediatrician said she was a perfectly healthy baby AND this pediatrician also said she was a healthy baby. But WHAT IF!
I was furious. My husband had to step outside with the pediatrician to speak with her before I exploded upon her. An hour or so later we were allowed to leave. Allowed to take our perfectly healthy baby home. After fighting with an unreasonably scared pediatrician. Some might enjoy being in a hospital, I am not one of them. It was difficult to get comfortable on the bed, the room was not huge so family had a hard time visiting all at once. I wanted to wear my own clean clothes. I wanted to be home in my bed where I would not be disturbed every hour. Yes, my hospital stay was not terrible, but it was not great either.
My siblings are quite a bit older than me. When I was 15 one of them had a baby and I was able to be in the room and be a part of it. She was admitted to the hospital way too soon, when she was barely dilated. She was in the hospital for over 24 hours before giving birth. My other sister had her first baby when I was 20. She was induced and was in “labor” for 3 days before giving birth. 3 days she was stuck in a bed, hooked up to IV’s, not able to eat solid food. It was terrible and I was not even in the room with her the entire time! I can only imagine how she felt! I remember talking to my parents in the waiting room asking them if this was normal. If both of my sister’s experiences were what it was like to give birth. My parents assured me this was not how it was supposed to be. My mothers labor and delivery were fast and uneventful.
One of my best friends recently gave birth, within the last 6 months. While there were many things that were unsettling about her hospital stay, the one that stuck out to me the most was this. My healthy friend who had a healthy pregnancy was forced, by the nurse, to sit in her hospital bed and PEE ON A TOWEL. Why?! Because the nurse did not want to help her to the bathroom. My friend did not have an epidural at this point. She was physically able to walk to and from the bathroom on her own. She did have contraction and heart beat monitors on her, but there was no reason to keep her confined to a bed. In fact, her husband was right by her side and was more than willing to help her to the bathroom. However, this nurse refused to ALLOW my friend to use the bathroom. Instead this nurse BROUGHT HER A TOWEL TO PEE ON.
I know, you might be saying this is just one nurse! Surely she can’t have that great of an effect on something. But she did. She effected my friends labor and birth greatly. I was, and still am, shocked and appalled this trained member of a medical staff made a physically healthy pregnant woman pee on a towel. One person can ruin it. Sadly this is normal. It is normal for a physician or nurse to alter the entire tone of a birth. Do you remember the OB who cut his patient 12 times while she was refusing the procedure, saying “No, Don’t Cut Me!”
Horror stories are not few and far between. Sadly they are normal. It is NOT OKAY! Informed consent means permission granted in the knowledge of the possible consequences, typically that which is given by a patient to a doctor for treatment with full knowledge of the possible risks and benefits. If a woman says “No” it means no! I am afraid of giving birth in a hospital because I am afraid my words mean nothing.
Yes, doctors and nurses are wonderful and not all of them are bad. But how am I to know that I am being treated by a decent human being? Do I risk my life and my babies life, my mental health, on a gamble? With most hospitals you do not get to choose the doctor who delivers you. It is typically the on call doctor. Someone you may have never met before. I loved my OB with my first and second pregnancy, she was wonderful. Had I known I would deliver with her I might have considered a hospital birth. I greatly admire my OB now, with this pregnancy. But, because of hospital policies and not knowing who will be on call, I am choosing to have a home birth. A home birth where I know my midwife. I know what she is going to do, how she acts, who she is. How do I know this? Because I get to spend time with her. Our appointments are an hour each time. I text her with any thoughts or questions I have. She is never too busy to speak with me. I have asked her in depth questions regarding birth and postpartum care. I can go into my birth with the knowledge that there are no surprises ahead of me when it comes to who is caring for me.
If there is an emergency I will go to the hospital. After all, that is what a hospital is for. Emergencies. Not natural, every day events like giving birth. I wish every woman was able to look back on her birth like I look back on my second birth. With joy, love, happy tears and the desire to relive it all over again because it was that wonderful. I am saddened every time I hear a mother talk about her negative birth experience. Women should be loved and supported during this emotional, often scary time. We need to give women a standard of care that is exceptional, where every woman walks out happy.