Monday, August 15, 2011

Confession of a Birth Rape Survivor


© 2011 Jennifer, last name withheld upon request.

Warning: the following guest post may be a trigger for rape and/or birth trauma. Jennifer shares her experience of birth rape, also showing us the callous way that others deny birth rape and the consequences of birth rape. Harassing comments will not be published.

"Our oldest, born a mere 14 months prior to our daughter, was born with a broken clavicle due to shoulder dystocia. We firmly believe his dystocia was caused by pitocin, constant fetal monitoring and laboring on my back for the duration of labor, none of which we later learned was needed. My ob/gyn told me not more than an hour after birth that I would need c-sections at each subsequent birth because my pelvis was too small. (I’m not a small lady!) So when we found out we were pregnant again, we did our research and made our opinion known at every prenatal, that despite doctors wishes, we would not be electing to have a cesarean delivery because the risks from that for baby and mama were much higher than the risk of another dystocia as we knew just what to do to avoid it again… avoid the unnecessary interventions! My husband and I decided to hire a doula to assist with the delivery.

The day my water broke, I called our doula who headed over later in the evening when my contractions picked up. After several hours of chit chatting between 7-minute apart contractions, she suggested I get up to do some lunges on the stairs to get labor moving and move it did! My contractions immediately went from 7 minutes apart to 1-2 minutes apart. After about half an hour of these contractions, my doula mentioned maybe it was time to head to the hospital since it was a half hour drive. I agreed and we made the long, contraction filled drive to the hospital.

Upon arrival, I sat in the hallway at the intake desk for five minutes trying to stay composed amidst my almost continuous contractions. I was then taken to a triage room to submit a pee sample and have my cervix checked. Neither my husband nor my doula were allowed to come back with me despite my telling the nurses I did not want to be separated and pleading with them to allow the two to come back. “I want my husband and doula with me,” I repeatedly asked, eventually yelling. Finally, after somehow managing a cervical check that I didn’t want in the first place and informing me what I already knew and told them, “there’s not much cervix left,” my husband and doula joined us in heading to the delivery room. Have you ever tried to pee in a cup and lie motionless on a table when you know you’re about to push a baby out? It’s not pleasant. Needless to say, I was very upset that I was separated from what I felt was the only support I had on my side! I still can’t understand why, after asking several times, I was not allowed to have my husband and doula present.

I labored for another five or ten minutes until I was ready to push. I was assisted onto the bed where I was promptly set up with fetal monitors and another vaginal exam, both very unwanted. I argued with the nurse to get the monitors off my belly and ended up taking them off myself with my doula. She helped because I couldn’t do it alone at that point and she was closer than my husband, who would have also done so. I then had to argue with the doctor who was beginning to perform a vaginal exam. I knew that my body was ready and willing to deliver our daughter and that any exam could potentially introduce new bacteria. It was also quite uncomfortable! (Even more than labor can be at this stage.) I asked him to “Please, get out of my vagina.” He did not. I repeated myself several more times as did my husband and doula, each time getting progressively more upset without using swear words or being belligerent. I couldn’t tell you how many times we all asked in total, but it was a lot. I’d say at least ten times. Finally, he stopped without pulling out his fingers. He just kept his fingers inside me, motionless. Without drugs, I could feel everything and that his fingers rested motionless between my baby’s head and the inside of my now non-existent cervix. Looking me in the eyes the doctor said, “You do not have to speak to me or my staff that way.” I repeated one last and heated time, “Get your fingers out of my vagina.” Oh I was livid! How dare this doctor think he has control over my vagina and my baby! He finally pulled out and backed away, asking, “Do you want to do this?” I nodded and he said, “Then let me do my job,” but my job was more important and I got down to the business of birthing our daughter who was out healthy and fine in only a few pushes.

After our daughter’s birth, I really didn’t think much into it other than I made out fine with no drugs and no c-section, contrary to the doctor’s original orders. I had a rough go of it, thought. I slowly slipped into a depression. I was functional, but barely, at times. I tried to brush it off as a joke, “that stupid doctor,” I’d say. About three months in, I realized what happened wasn’t funny. It wasn’t cool. What happened to me really did happen. I had been birth raped with my husband and doula watching and not able to do anything!

Now, many of you may have a hard time with the term birthrape and I understand and respect that. I, too, have seen the birth stories which use the term birthrape in ways I don’t feel is appropriate either. I don’t think this is different just because it happened to me now. This is different because someone put his fingers inside of me when I told him not to, wouldn’t remove them when I said no and demanded control over my body.

I had a beautiful birth and in the end, both mama and baby were beautiful and healthy, too. But this negativity looms over her birth because of the doctor’s actions.  What will I tell our daughter about her birth when she is old enough to ask? Will I leave it out? Will I lie? Will I tell her the truth? How will this affect my work as a doula? Will I be able to serve another woman if this man is her doctor? What will happen if I encounter a similar experience being done to another woman?

I have since been diagnosed with PTSD, or Post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve had flashbacks, triggers, depression, anger and hopelessness.I have a hard time having sex with my husband. Sex is a part of a healthy marriage! Yes, there are nights where I enjoy it, some when I even instigate it now and it’s slowly getting better. But there are some nights when I just roll over and don’t want to be touched (beyond the normal breastfeeding mom of two not wanting to be touched phenomenon). Some nights I just have sex to keep him happy, out of obligation. Some nights I can only get half way through before it becomes a trigger for me and I have to stop. Or I’ll let him finish and just grin and bear it. Then cry about it later.

One night, my mom (a hairdresser) was cutting my hair. She chose to do a built-in bump-it to boost my hair a bit as I’ve been losing some hair (as typical, I think, in the postpartum period). To do this, she has to use a razor and pull it down and against my hair. As she was starting, I asked her to stop because it hurt more than I was expecting. She wouldn’t stop, and instead, kept saying I would be fine. I asked and asked her to stop. Finally, she was finished. But that was all I needed. It triggered my PTSD and I curled up in my bed and just cried next to my husband. Poor guy, he really doesn’t understand all that’s happening but wants so much to be supportive!

I have tried to seek out several options pertaining to the birth of our daughter. I do have a therapist I see who diagnosed me with PTSD. I have called the hospital where we delivered to complain about the care we received. That resulted in little more than a letter apologizing for the bad experience. The head nurse of the labor and delivery floor told me I needed to think on the positive since baby and I were both healthy and to basically get over it. She spoke with the doctor in question. He couldn’t remember the birth other than it being a quick labor (for him). He told her he’d be more than willing to meet with me and anyone I wished to accompany me at the hospital or his office at least.

First off, he doesn’t remember what he did to me and second, I don’t want to look at him right now! His picture on his office website only brings me to tears. I have talked to a lawyer who pretty much laughed me off the phone. After relaying my story to him, he asked me, “So, what did the doctor do wrong again?” When I told him briefly, again, about the unwanted encounter, he said I had no case. I plan to write the state board of medical licensure about the experience and also would like to take this matter to police in hopes that someone there will understand. Rape is rape whether it happened to satisfy sexual needs or to merely have control. He kept his fingers inside me against my will and desire. You may have said at the beginning, how is this birth rape? Another story of a woman taking things out of context. I ask you… How is this not birth rape? No means no."



14 comments:

  1. Dear Jennifer, I am sobbing as I read this. Yes this birth rape!! Too often women are told that we are overreacting.. Not true.. No does mean no!! Your baby girl is beautiful. I will keep you in my prayers..

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  2. Wow! This sounds so similar to my story. I am now fighting my doctor with the medical board and if that fails, I will go to the media. I did not have quite the same reaction after (now PTSD, no depression) BUT I cannot think back on the birth of my perfect, healthy daughter without crying or getting so angry I want to drive to the doctor's office and punch her (don't worry. I refrain)

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  3. There are lawyers - though they are hard to find, especially in some areas - who are beginning to take on birth rape cases. I know there are rumors of groups of women, sometimes only five or six and sometimes dozens, who are entering into class action lawsuits against individual doctors, nurses, and even entire hospitals because of care received. There are whispers, here and there, of mothers and families who have experienced similar traumas who are actually managing somehow to change these callous, thoughtless, emotionless doctors and other medical staff. I wish I could pass along names or suggestions of where to start looking but to be honest I've not heard more than rumors - but those rumors alone give me reassurance that birth rape is becoming something that more and more people accept as real, a disgusting side-effect of money-minded "professionals". I think that with some work you will be able to find someone who would represent you and would be willing to hear out your experience - especially since you've been diagnosed by PTSD by a licensed therapist. As silly as it might seem, that single diagnosis may be your biggest argument for a case. Make sure you keep paperwork on hand at all times that proves these things! I wish you all the best and am so, so sorry for the horrors you've been through. I hate the suggestion that moms should simply focus on the positive regardless of experience - while healthy mom and baby are great, they are not all there is to birth and labor. Society MUST learn to accept this.

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  4. You are so very brave to have gone through that, and to have had the strength to file complaints. I had a similar experience but I was unable to communicate with the (female) doctor at the time and didn't realize until much later that I could even complain.

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  5. My heart goes out to you. I experienced something very similiar with my first birth. It was such an awful experience and still feels me with anger to this day and she is 10 1/2 y/o. I too did not find satsifaction with my complaints to the hospital or with the calls I made to lawyers. I even put in a medical complaint with the state because I ended with a botched cesarean. But the fact my baby was alive and well I had no case. It is unbelievable the power docs carry. I thought they were to protect us and heal????

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  6. Hi, I am currently trying to combat the lies spread by Dr. Amy's followers. I had watched them for a long time harass and bully natural childbirth women and homebirth women. I finally decided to comment on the Skeptical OB when they said no mother had a right to say she was traumatized by her birth. I made a comment that as a survivor of sexual assault, i could fully understand how someone could be traumatized by a bad birth experience, especially if their past was similar to mine. I also told them that I chose homebirth because of my rape. They responded by saying I was an attention whore for using the word rape and I shouldn't have had children if i chose a homebirth due to my past. I have decided to combat their lives and give the most accurate, non biased information about homebirth, CPMs and more. I would love if you came and saw my blog. Thanks!

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  7. I'm sorry to hear about your experience. :( Amy and her Velociraptors are on my list of "do not touch" as they are true dangers to others. Cyberbullying can become dangerous and harmful very quickly so I have a zero tolerance policy.

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  8. It makes me SO angry when I read the rape laws in my state to see that medical procedures performed by a licensed care provider are specifically exempted from the definition of rape! I assume this is true of the rape laws in MANY states. Why is it that a woman is limited in who she is "allowed" to say "no" to? And for Pete's sake, it shouldn't be "no means no," it should be "yes means yes!" If the woman didn't specifically say "yes," then NOTHING has been consented to, so NOTHING should be done!

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    1. Although medical procedures in your state might be exempted from the definition of rape, they can probably still be classified as assault and battery.

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  9. If I had experienced or witnessed this, I would find the offending Dr in a dark parking lot and ram a tire iron up his @$$.
    Not just for myself but for all the women he's certain to have violated previously and since. AND especially to protect the women he would violate in the future.
    Really, what the hell use is it to have your husband and doula in the room if the three of you combined say no 10 times, the OB refuses to comply, and no one takes action to do anything about it?
    99% will disagree with me, but imagine a world where birth rapists risked the same consequences from righteously angry husbands and fathers that common sexual assailants face.
    It would take one retribution per medical community and I guarantee you that, with old-fashioned eye for an eye consequences in effect, "no" would suddenly regain a deep and personal meaning to the modern care provider.
    What if doulas and birthing mothers carried tazers and pepper spray to the hospital... Are women not encouraged to arm themselves against violent or sexual assailants?
    Honestly, until more women get fighting mad over this issue, I don't think we'll see real change. Abusers prey on the gentle and diplomatic the same as they do the vulnerable and undefended.
    I'd love to hear someone argue their disagreement without oversimplifying the issue by citing "that's mean" or "you shouldn't". These birth rapists are criminals committing their crimes in a socially condoned environment, it will require drastic action to end the abuse, perhaps a proverbial war even. We need to get serious enough about birth and its medical exploitation to go to bat for women and babies in a whatever-it-takes kind of capacity.

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    1. JL your response to this post is so refreshing to read - in a climate where most people are still caught up on whether or not it is correct to refer to this as 'birth-rape, here is someone who dares to talk of pepper spray and tazers. Thank you, we need more clear thought and clear outrage because nothing will progress while we debate the vocabulary of assault and violence.

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    2. JL your response to this post is so refreshing to read - in a climate where most people are still caught up on whether or not it is correct to refer to this as 'birth-rape, here is someone who dares to talk of pepper spray and tazers. Thank you, we need more clear thought and clear outrage because nothing will progress while we debate the vocabulary of assault and violence.

      Delete
    3. JL your response to this post is so refreshing to read - in a climate where most people are still caught up on whether or not it is correct to refer to this as 'birth-rape, here is someone who dares to talk of pepper spray and tazers. Thank you, we need more clear thought and clear outrage because nothing will progress while we debate the vocabulary of assault and violence.

      Delete
  10. I had a nurse who forced a cervical check on me that was painful and violent. She did not ask my consent and did not stop when I asked her to. To those who say that birth rape is not real rape: it actually meets the FBI's definition or rape when a hand is forced up someone's vagina. It does not have to be a penis! And just because the person who does it is female (a labor nurse) doesn't mean its not rape, either. It might be more accurate to call it assault, but it is still abuse and done without the patient's consent. I now understand why more and more women want to give birth at home and avoid hospitals. My only advice right now, is when you go into the hospital make sure you take down names of every healthcare professional who comes into your room. In my state, all healthcare workers are now required to wear name badges at all times. Make sure you have a witness and advocate with you at all times.

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