Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Confessions of a Mom Robbed of Informed Consent Part II

© Brandi (last name withheld upon request) 2011. Brandi provides perspective on how medical providers might treat birth as routine to the point of removing informed consent and human respect. The following passage may be triggering and is divided into two parts, as that was how Brandi wrote it. Part Two:

Today I realized that it hurts more to keep things inside than it does to let them out. Last night after I finished the first part, I wasn't sure if I wanted to continue. But, here I am, and I'm going to finish my son's birth story if it means I need to write a third section.
Logan's first moments, alone, cold, terrified and hurting.

Daddy and baby connect quickly.

Once they took my son from me, my doctor began pulling on the umbilical cord [called cord traction] and forcefully massaging my abdomen to get the placenta to release. Everything else was rushed, why would this be any different?

Thankfully, my uterus didn't come out and the placenta was removed intact. Here's the shocker. I began hemorrhaging. The doctor reached his whole arm up as far as he could time after time removing larger and larger blood clots from my uterus. I could tell he was irritated, anxious, worried, something. He had been very calm throughout my pregnancy, so for me to see him visibly worried was incredibly alarming to me.

At this point, the epidural is still not working. I can't move, but I CAN FEEL. I can feel his arm inside me. I can feel the extraction of the placenta and blood clots. I am terrified. Blood is everywhere. My doctor yells at the nurse to shoot me up with something, then something else, then the first thing again. All while still yanking out clots and massaging. (Whoever came up with the term "uterine massage" for that horrid, excruciating practice was a freaking idiot, too. To associate a massage with THAT is just sadistic.)

Then he attempts to stitch up the episiotomy that he so generously cut without my informed consent. He makes a few stitches then yanks out the thread. He does this over, and over and over. Was it because of the constant flow of blood getting in the way? Or maybe it’s because I'm not able to lie perfectly still as I am bleeding out?

My husband asks me if I want to hold our son. I tell him no. I can't hold and enjoy meeting my new baby right now. I ask the nurse and the doctor what is going on: is the bleeding stopping, is it slowing down, is everything okay. I ask many times. No answer.

Finally in the midst of all this, I start feeling lightheaded and I can't hear anything. I get that weird feeling, as if I have cotton balls in my ears. This is the moment I remember most vividly, more so than the moment my son was laid on me. I look over at my husband holding my son, and my only thought is, "They have each other. They will be much better off without me."

I thought I was dying and I was okay with that. The idea of dying gave me peace from what the doctor was doing to me.

Once the bleeding was stopped and I was finally stitched up, they put the bed back together and propped me up. Then I puked. At this point, I just wanted to close my eyes and shut the world out. I got to hold Logan for the first time. I want to say I fell in love with my sweet boy immediately and that I cried and told him I loved him and was happy he was finally here with me. I didn't. I just held him and looked at him, wondering, "What am I supposed to do now?"

Holding Logan for the first time

I tried to get him to nurse. He wouldn't open his mouth. He wouldn't do anything. He was still drugged, too. They told me the epidural wouldn't affect him. They said it wouldn't even get into his bloodstream. So at the time, I interpreted his drugged stupor as a rejection to me as a mother. It’s irrational, I know. But, I was beyond rational at this point.

 He didn't do much of anything. He was wrapped up in hospital blankets and all he could do was look at me. I speculated that he had no idea who I was or why I was holding him. Was I just another stranger to do Lord knows what to him? I had no idea who he was, either. Yes, he was my son. He was the baby I carried close to me for almost 39 weeks. Yet I felt nothing.

He was swollen and sleepy.
Hours later, I had to move out of the L&D room to make way for the next unsuspecting, expectant mom. I was literally dragged to the bathroom, because by this time I was supposed to be able to pee on my own. I still couldn't feel my legs and my head was spinning. I pushed up off the toilet to try to make it to the wheelchair. I pass out. The nurses get me into the chair and wheel me to the other side of the ward. I get to the room and into the bed and I just want to go to sleep.

No, since I can't pee by myself they have to catheterize me again to empty my bladder. I get some more "massaging." I think Logan goes to the nursery again. He spent most of this time in there because I didn't want to be left alone with him. I couldn't move. How was I supposed to care for my baby? Deep down, I didn't really want to hold him. I just wanted to sleep. He spent his nights in the nursery, alone. He couldn't hold down the formula they gave him. He spit it up and gagged and choked, so they deep suctioned him and pumped his stomach, "to get all the gross stuff from the birth out."

Still every time I tried to breastfeed, he would go to sleep, not open his mouth, nothing. Again, I saw this as more rejection. He didn't want me. I left him in the care of the nurses, because I couldn't care for him myself. He felt abandoned and alone as if I didn't want him. He still couldn't keep anything down so they switched to soy formula. They tried to say he tolerated it better, but he didn't.

They sent me home with a few boxes of ready-to-feed bottles with disposable nipples, even though I was trying so hard to breastfeed, just in case. I had a lactation consultant come in and work with us. She would so forcefully shove his little face into my breast that I think it traumatized him.
All he wanted to do was sleep and she tormented him until he was mad so that he would wake up to try to make an attempt at latching onto the breast. I think she was there for about 5 minutes. I kept trying, and trying without success. My other nurses were wonderful. They tried to help me the best they could, with what little time they had. They were supportive and they were caring. I couldn't have asked for better

I wonder how many new mothers they had that were like me, who would rather their newborn be in the nursery than in their arms? I got many funny, confused looks when they would bring him back into the room from the nursery, as I had made no request to bring him back.

The next day was discharge day. I was uninformed so I asked the nurse when the circumcision was going to be done. At that time, I believed all boys were circumcised. It was just part of the whole loss of informed consent. My nurse said to me, "Is that something you would like done?" Had I stopped just one moment to think, "Do I really need to have this done to my child?" I could have asked if it was necessary. I could have asked her to explain the procedure to me, the risks involved. Was pain medication even used?

I didn't ask. I didn't think. I said, "Yes." And it was done.

I feel I need to really address the aspect of routine circumcision, as this decision is inherently connected to birthing in our culture. It will haunt me for the rest of my life. I don't think I will ever be able to forgive myself for this. So I will include his trauma and his loss of informed consent:

They brought him back to me after the procedure. He was in a deep sleep, which I later learned was a protective mechanism of the mind. But at the time I thought it must not have been too bad if he was asleep, right? WRONG. They showed me his little mutilated penis and I wanted to throw up on the spot.

This was when I knew it was wrong but I didn't know why it was wrong. I had a visceral, gut reaction to it without the logic and the science to explain it to myself. I realize now that I never saw him whole, as God made him. I never saw him before they changed his body forever. I allowed him, no, I requested him to be strapped down to a cold, plastic table and to have one of the most sensitive areas on his body ripped apart and mutilated.

I asked for this to be done. My son, who already had faltering trust and no security in this new world, was tortured in the moments when he needed comfort and love. He was alone. For the next several months, even throughout his first year, he had penile adhesions that would rip apart and bleed, causing unspeakable pain. He would wake up in the middle of the night screaming, for no apparent reason, but I knew why. Oh yes, he healed; he is “just fine” today, as so many circumcised boys are “just fine.”

But I have guilt and sadness inside of me that I will never get over. That I could do this to my son, that I didn't use my brain and PROTECT him, is unimaginable to me. This is why I became involved in the intact movement. This is why I can't support those who are given the information, given the facts and science and yet can do this to their child. This is as far as my story can go for now. Thank you for reading.


  1. wow.. my heart breaks for you and your little boy. Thank you for sharing. Stories like this are what we need so that women can make educated decisions about birth.

  2. Brandi- I am so sorry that you and your son had to go through this. My heart aches for you. I hope as time has passed that you've found some peace.

  3. i can'y express my sadness for you. this is why i try to tellpeople how different birth can be. i hope desperately that you find healing and peace.

  4. Bless your heart, I've heard your story through the voices of many other mothers, experienced parts of it myself...and THAT is why I've become a homebirth midwife. May the Lord give you healing, peace, love and comfort....

  5. I can relate 100% to your L&D story. I had a little girl (luckily) and never had the chance to choose to have my son circumsized, but I can say that if she had been born a boy, my naivety then would have led me to have it done as well.

    I HATED it when they didn't tell me anything about the procedures, didn't give me any chance to make up my mind, and pulled the placenta out.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sound like the Dr saved your life. Good thing he was their for you. Had it been a quack midwife your widowed husband would be taking care of your baby on his own.

  7. Just because a medical intervention is necessary does not mean a human's rights and dignity are discarded.

    From the story alone, it is not clear that the doctor saved anyone's life, or that the complication was random (as opposed to caused BY the doctor).

    Nor can we ascertain if the specific treatments were the safest/best/most effective. For example, my local hospital discourages cord traction, manual extraction of the placenta and manual extraction of blood clots.

  8. I feel as if this were my birth story of my first child being written out. Mama, I have tears right now, because I feel everything that you felt. Minus the preterm labor issues, this is my exact experience. But because if these experiences, we are better able to inform other women, so that they need not go through what we did. ((HUGS))

  9. Dear Anon,

    Much like Brandi I had the charming premature cord clamping and 'controlled' cord traction treatment, leading to atonic uterus and haemorrhage severe enough that when numerous synthetic oxytocin injections, and uterine massage were ineffective, I was wheeled off to an OR for curettage when my DD was a few hours old, after I signed the little bit of paper acknowledging that they might have to remove my uterus.
    So yes, those wonderful doctors saved me... But only after they caused the problem to begin with (unlike Brandi, the rest of my experience was wonderful).

    Do the rest of us a favour and get informed. That is all.


    P.S. Brandi, thank you for your story. I thin it is very brave of you to tell it.