Sunday, May 8, 2011

Confessions of Guggie's Mom

This passage is from my own mother, who walked a long, dark journey with me, finding healing despite living in a culture that to this day still dismisses her intense experience of birth rape and dehumanized birthing practices. She has grown as a woman, as a mother and as a grandmother. The mother of 11 children, she has experienced everything from birth rape to routine hospital birth to unassisted birth. The birth of her first daughter is what washed her into a new world of understanding.

 I am sharing this so that her story can be heard and her pain acknowledged.

Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage. Anger at the way things are and Courage to make them the way they ought to be.” ~Saint Augustine

“I was a healthy, fit and young woman when I conceived Guggie. We lived in California and money was tight as my husband was in the Navy. I followed all the typical steps of pregnancy and birth without question. I had prenatal appointments. I obeyed my doctor. And I anxiously looked forward to the day when my child would arrive.

According to my doctor and late-term ultrasounds, I was 2 weeks overdue when I went into labor. But according to my own calculations from my established conception date, I was exactly 40 weeks along.

My contractions weren’t very strong. In hindsight, they weren’t even true contractions. I had a very small leak, but in my naiveté and excitement, I was sure it was time to give birth. I didn’t time my contractions or try to calm them down. I excitedly hurried off to the hospital.

I went into that military hospital without a second thought of what was going to happen. I let them strip me of my identity, hook me up to machines and put IVs into me without question. Only afterwards did I learn that despite being in early labor without any complication or warning signs, my labor was augmented intravenously with Pitocin AND vaginally with Cytotec.
In between augmented contractions

Without being informed or even familiar with common birth practices, I still had an inner desire to birth “naturally” and so I avoided the epidural, turning down the frequent offers and even demands to use it. I endured an augmented labor in a hostile environment for more than 9 hours while lying on my back without pain relief, until a doctor walked into my room and announced that I had been here long enough.

At that point, I was unable to cope with the pain, or even function or talk. In came the anesthesiologist and soon enough I had an epidural placed. Instead of relieving the agonizing pain, it simply paralyzed my lower body. I felt the paralysis slowly creep up my body like a line climbing higher and higher. It reached my lungs and I couldn’t breathe. I felt as if I was drowning. Machines started beeping and I saw doctors and nurses, their brows creased, their voices strung tight, rushing around the room. I later learned I had an allergic reaction to the epidural and coded. I have no memory of it.

While they were resuscitating me, the doctor used high forceps to pull Guggie out. She had barely entered the birth canal and I was not even fully dilated at this point. The high forceps severely injured her and she was pronounced dead upon birth, with an apgar of 0 and then, after resuscitation, an apgar of 2 at 5 minutes. The forceps had ripped one of her ears off, fractured her skull, dislocated her jaw and the doctor had broken both of her clavicle bones to pull her out.

Some might point out that the doctor did what he had to do to birth her since I had coded. I would like to point out that I coded because I was forced into an epidural that I had steadfastly refused. I also later learned that the anesthesiologist had incorrectly placed the epidural and overdosed me. He openly admitted to the overdose, saying I was being such a “difficult” patient that they wanted to calm me down faster.

If they had respected my wishes, or even just done their job properly, my daughter would not have been ripped out of me. In the process of doing that, the doctor dislocated my right hip and tore my uterus and perineum. The lacerations (tears) were so severe that I began to bleed out. Also, despite being successfully resuscitated, I still had dangerously low blood pressure as a side effect from the epidural.

This caused more mayhem. I could see my daughter’s feet dangling over the arm of one of the nurses. I tried to watch her as she was taken away from me. I tried to see her. Tried to listen to the hushed voices. The corners of my vision were turning black, circling closer, until all I could see were pinpoints. I felt cotton in my ears; I heard an odd rushing sound like wind. I couldn’t swallow. I remember seeing a nurse leaning over me, shouting something, but I don’t remember the words. I think they were in Tagalog anyways. The nurse had panicked at seeing what was happening to me.

Time passed. I don’t know how much time. I’ll never know exactly what happened in those moments. I reached a conscious state due to the burning, clenching pain. It made me gasp, alive again. My vision slowly came back and I saw another doctor reaching inside of me. In, in in, up, up, up. He was pulling parts of the placenta out. He told me the other doctor had pulled too hard on the cord and ripped it off. I had bled out. They had already begun the blood transfusions while I was passed out.

The pain was unbearable and inescapable. I tried to scream at him to stop, to get his hand out of my body. Words fell out of my mouth, whispers, pleading for mercy. I’ll never forget the look in his eyes when he smiled at me and plunged deeper. I blacked out again, but this time was different. I had an out of body experience. I was above my body, in the corner of the room, watching him plunge, again and again. I could see myself lying there. I heard the machines begin to beep. I saw the doctor shout for help. More people rushing about. Everything spinning. Then blackness again.

When I came to again, I was in a different room. A loud beeping noise brought me back to the world. It was a blood pressure monitor mounted next to my head. Nurses filed into the room, checked my vitals. I remember they were Filipina. One looked like my sister in law. A pretty one told me I had to get up and go to the bathroom. I couldn’t even move my head side to side to tell her no. I could barely breathe. Each breath was a struggle, a choice to continue living. A nurse stood on either side of me and pulled me up by my hands, forcing me to step down off the bed.

I swayed back on forth on my feet. My brain, even in the foggy mess, started screaming at me. I looked down to see that I was standing on the top of my foot. Despite the buzzing of new pain and the shrill noises from the nurses, in my own fog of darkness I thought this was amusing. I remember hyper focusing on that foot. Staring at it as if it was the answer to life. I giggled to myself, and then blacked out.

The next time I came to, the pain meds had worn off and I felt sharp pain from every part of my body. My leg was lying in an anatomically correct position, as if daring me to believe it was all a dream. Everything was quiet. At that point, I remembered I had a baby. I recall lying there, wondering matter of factly if she was alive. I wondered: if she was dead, who would I call for the funeral? Every ounce of emotion had drained from my body. It’s as if I was far, far away, calmly assessing the funeral arrangements for a child I had not yet even seen.

The rest of my time in the hospital is a jagged, broken memory. I have patches of recollection, moments of time where something happened to jar me out of my numbness. I remember a nurse laughing at me when I asked if my child was alive. I remember another nurse telling me I was too skinny to breastfeed. “Besides,” she said, “We already gave her formula.” The other nurses blamed my daughter’s injuries on me. They said I wasn’t a birthing woman. The doctor said I had a “pre-case” of Placenta Accreta and would die if I had more children.

Sometime during my stay, but probably a couple days after birth

My daughter required three surgeries, without any pain management or pain relief, to reconstruct her face. She then contracted MRSA. That is when they learned she was allergic to all the antibiotics they tried. She had to go on antibiotics and antidotes of some sort at the same time. She didn’t tolerate formula but they blamed it on being sleepy from the surgeries. For the rest of her infancy, no doctor ever believed me when I said she was allergic to formula. Back then, I had no idea how to switch to non-soy/non-dairy formulas or that I could get milk from a donor or milk from a bank. No one ever encouraged me to try to nurse or to express milk.

My daughter screaming on the other side of the glass:

She is the baby on the left. You can see some of the bruising she received from the forceps in this photo.

This is the end of my story here. But it is not the end of my journey. I had much growing and healing to do and very little awareness of it. Despite suffering from panic attacks, PTSD, nightmares and the like, it took many months until I was able to admit my sudden onset of anxiety was due to my hospital birth. It’s as if my mind was trying to erase the memory of it. As if to my brain, it didn’t exist, so obviously the anxiety was random. That was the only explanation to myself.

Until one day I had to drive past that hospital and had a severe panic attack. Memories attacked me, taunted me. I couldn’t get the images and smells out of my head. I was shaking so badly, I had to pull to the side of the road.

My journey to wholeness had begun.”


  1. you have some of the most heart-wrenching things i've ever seen on your blog, guggie.

    you must be commended for sharing what society would rather be left under the covers. stories like yours and your moms are so valuable and i can't imagine how difficult it was for her to write about the birth of her precious baby girl. especially how everything they do causes women, their babies, and families to dissociate and feel apart from our own emotions. a truly inhuman process that must be stopped. again everything you do is so important. {{{huge hugs}}} happy mother's day to both of you brave, wonderful women.

  2. Wow...that is absolutely horrible...I am so sorry your mother had to go through that...Stories like this are a reason I am so passionate about birth.

  3. Dear Mrs Guggie's mum

    words fail me....but you went on to have 10 more!! You rock!!!

  4. My goodness. I am speechless except to say I am sorry and God bless both of you.

  5. Wow, Guggie. How brave of your mother & of you to share this story with all of us. I imagine you inherited a lot of your strong qualities from her. You are obviously both incredibly strong, intelligent and educated women. Thank you for all that you do.

  6. Thanks to you and your mom for sharing. Anyone who doubts the reality of birth rape needs to read this post.

  7. Wow...why has mom never told us this story in this much detail?

  8. :) I hope to ask her about dictating each child's story so it can be saved. Maybe even group them all together with photos, too. Each one is unique and has different important points.

    Her 2nd birth, she fought to avoid interventions (including the internal fetal monitor). Her 3rd birth, they did ROM even though she refused consent. Her 4th birth was still met with threats and harassments. :( It's amazing what she pioneered in her own, quiet way, on her own, just for her motherhood and her children.

  9. what number birth was unassisted and in her opinion was it her best birth? im so sorry 4 all she suffered! what happened to "first do no harm"?

  10. "My journey to wholeness had begun."

    I remember this moment for myself. Happened for me while driving too. Took me five months to realize something was even wrong (which in retrospect is quite remarkable, considering my obvious symptoms).

    Every voice that speaks of birth trauma and birth rape is another beam of light shed upon the unethical practices of many hospitals. It may be an ugly sight to see, but seeing it is the first step to righting it for our daughters. Thanks you.

  11. This has got to be the most horrific birth story I've ever heard. I have never heard of doctors and nurses - the people who are supposed to be helping you stay safe, feel safe and heal - being so cruel and so openly attacking their patient. What inhuman bastards.

    BTW, what year was this? I was born in 1983 and my mum wasn't given any info on breastfeeding or alternative formulas either.

  12. Words fail me. Tears are streaming down my face. What incredible women you both are. Thank you for sharing.
    I had a negative experience birthing in a military hospital 21.5 years ago but I've never given it much thought. Mostly because I don't remember very much but also because I thought I was the problem - my youth and my fear. Now I wonder, maybe it wasn't me at all!

  13. I have no words that could express what I feel after reading this, but I cried.

    You are both warriors, to pull through an experience like this and not break into a million little pieces. <3

  14. Wow, this is one of the most intense birth stories I have ever read. I am sorry for your trauma and your mother's. I feel that your story is important and needs to be heard. I am certain you are not alone in this type of experience and that your words could help others who have suffered in this manner. Blessings to you both. As women in this society we end up with so much guilt and shame and have to fight to have the birth experience we should. It is a sad state. Birth should be beautiful and amazing, not frightening and scarring.

  15. I have a follow-up question... I really want to share the excitement of each child's birth as part of their birthday festivities... but at what age did your mom share with you the trauma of your birth? I'm thinking I'll be saying that R was silly and tried to come out backwards and upside down... and explain what that really means much much later.

  16. O Guggie's Mama, you are a brave and tremendous woman. *bow* to you.

  17. I'm pretty sure I did not learn about the more troubling aspects until the tween/teen years. I don't have any specific or intense memory from childhood about my birth story. I think it was general knowledge that I had been injured. Maybe.

    Since my sister and I are both born in the same month, our birthdays were always grouped together and moved. Looking back, I see that this might have been influenced by her need to celebrate my existence separately from the actual birth day. Even without knowing that as a child, I never begrudged her for moving the date. The only complain I recall is not having enough sleepovers. :D

  18. I have no words. Guggie, your mother is an incredibly strong woman, as are all mothers that experience this kind of inexplicable trauma. I can't put my feelings into words except to say that I wish I could hug her, and am so proud she went on and began to heal. Blessed be to her and so much love.

  19. Oh, my, Guggie, I couldn´t have imagined you had such a horrific birth and the terrible experience it was for your mother. This story infuriates me. Most of these interventions happen today.

    The hospital´s priority is, and will always be, a quick patient/bed rotation. They want you in quickly and out quicker, having paid for their ridiculous "care".It does not matter if in the process they destroy your health, your vagina or your child.

  20. This is horrifying. I started crying as I was reading this. Guggie, I'm so sorry you entered the world so violently, and I'm so sorry your mother had such a terrible birth experience. She is a strong woman for telling this story.

  21. Guggie's mom, you are an amazing woman. I cried while reading your story. It is stories like this that solidify my desire to be an amazing midwife one day.

  22. I have been thinking about this story constantly since reading it when it was first posted. It brings up such a mixture of strong emotions. It's so upsetting that she went through so much and was treated so poorly, but I can't help but be in awe of her strength, and tiny Guggies strength. Words completely fail here. But wow.

  23. Fortunately, we are born with the inner knowing of wholeness and sanctity ... and though shrouded by such violence and violation ... the truth is in the power of love ... the mother's and father's love and how it can rise up to overcome, in those moments, the tragedy ... and how it results in connectedness in the midst of such pain and violation ... breastfeeding, holding, listening, attending ... this ALL made our Guggie the wonderful, peace-seeking, baby loving mama, intactivist-lactivist. Our birth defines us .. combined with love, Guggie's entrance and being on the planet is one of change ... for humanity. I am honoring your experience as key part of who you are today. I'm sorry for your pain and loss and grateful for your momma-baby journey that supports so many others. Much love.

  24. That was so horrific. I am so sorry that anyone ever has to go through this. It makes me feel physically sick. :(

  25. I am so sorry all that happened to you & your Mother. How awful :(

  26. I'm speechless. This illustrates the cascade effect of medical interventions. My heart is broken for your mother. My heart also rejoices for your mother. She had the chance experience the birth she desired for her other children and with it, passed on a valuable legacy for many generations to come. You are a true testimony of that legacy with your own births, Guggie.

  27. Omg this is horrible. I have no words for this and can only say I am so sorry your mother and you had to go through this. It makes me angry and I dread to think these people are allowed to do all this under the name of Doctor/Nurse/Medical Person. :(