Thursday, December 22, 2011

Context Matters

If I take my experience out of context, it is not a bad experience. In fact it is an experience that many women strive for - an epidural free labour that is 5 hours start to finish, in a clean hospital, that results in a vaginal delivery with a few second degree tears and, ultimately, a healthy baby.

Millions of women the world over would trade their experience for mine, in a heart beat.

I've heard this before. It doesn't help.

Others may say, but its one day of your life. One day. Having a baby is like having a wedding - does it really matter if it doesn't go 'as expected'?, it's the marriage that matters, the years and months after the baby is born that matters.

I've heard this before. It also doesn't help.

Birth is a natural process, its best for mother and baby. Consider it a blessing that you didn't get the c-section, really, what happend was a "blessing in disguise", you should be thankful you didn't have to recuperate from surgery. Ask most women who have had a c-section and a vaginal birth, and most women will say they preferred their vaginal births.

I've also heard this before and, it is no solace.

These platitudes don't help because context matters.

I had a reasonable expectation that I was going to give birth by way of c-section. I had carefully weighed the pros and cons of my two delivery methods (c-section and vaginal) and I had made my choice. I clearly communicated that choice to my doctor, and I was led to believe that my doctor supported my choice. I had every reason to believe that I would avoid a vaginal delivery. If my doctor had told me otherwise, I could and would have made other plans. I spent 9 months defending my choice.

Then the day for surgery came...and I was led to believe that it was bad luck. There were more urgent cases, and that is why I got bumped. I was led to believe that there were pediatric appendectomies and quite simply that there were not the resources to provide me with my c-section when I went into labour. A vaginal delivery when you've prepared yourself for a c-section is terrifying in and of itself and knowing that things in birth sometimes go sideways, beleiving that there are not the resources there, should it actually go sideways is even more terrifying.

In the months that followed, I tried to cope with my experience. At first writing about it would cause me to be overwhelmed with the emotions. (I am now on most days able to write about it, as long as I don't think too much about it when I write). I asked for advice about how to get over a 'negative birth experience', I talked with other moms, I tried to bury it...but like a zombie it refused to die.

Then I read of other women, having their care delayed or denied at Victoria General Hospital - in February and again in August. And I questioned how unlucky I really was. The external review was done. I was convinced I was a victim of the dispute between the anesthesiologists/VIHA/BCMA/Ministry of Health feud. A casualty of a level 3 hospital not having dedicated obstetric anesthesiology (DOBA). I decided I needed to speak up about my own experience. I decided that I needed to work to change the system.

I started to blog again.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Times Colonist.

I researched the potential to bring legal action, on a class basis, to bear on the issue. However, came to the conclusion that I could not be a representative plaintiff as by way of employment and marriage I was in a conflict of interest. For what its worth - there may be something to that aspect still.

I wrote the Patient Care Quality Office.

And then I found out, that my experience was entirely unneccessary. I could have had my treatment of choice - if only my doctor/hospital had facilitated it. If only I mattered enough to them, I would have got the care that I had sought. Apparently, I didn't matter enough. I was truly violated, not by some strange twist of fate, but either by negligence or intent. If this situation is not cruel and unusual, I don't know what is.

I know, that as a result, I need therapy. There's only so much that a person can be expected to handle on an emotional level - despite my better efforts.

There is still much work to be done to 'fix it'...if that is even possible.


  1. I am so sorry your birth day did not go as planned. However, we can;t control everything life. You can't change the past and no one know what the future is like. We can only deal with now. You can let go of the past and take it one day at the time. We live in the society that teaches a one big lie. The big lie is that thing are under our control and will go as planned as long as we do the right thing. It is not true and that belief make many people left traumatized and unhappy.
    I had a great labor, I am educated strong person, I did everything right. My child has a serious illness . Maybe I do not matter to the universe, but I do not care. What happened to my family can't be changed. It does not matter to me who caused it, genes, doctors,God...because it is what it is.

    I highly recommend that you go see a therapist. Therapy can be very helpful in processing violent experiences. You owe it to yourself and you child. You are right in that despite your best efforts a time will come when you will not be able to handle it on the emotional level.

  2. I'm so sorry. I think you need to hear that more.
    You were violated. You spent months believing in your doctor and preparing for your c-section. You were violated, it appears it was intentional, and it was wrong, and I am very sorry. You thought that you would be kept safe, that your wishes would be respected, that your body was going to be respected, and instead, you were forced to go through something you did not agree to. It's a horrible betrayal of confidence in the world and no wonder you feel like you've been betrayed.
    Yes to finding a good therapist.
    I'm not as philosophical as the above poster. It does matter who caused this. And someone should be held to account for lying to you, and betraying your trust. It was absolutely a betrayal of the faith you had in your physician and the system. Frankly, what happened is exactly the kind of scenario that would cause PTSD. :(
    Keep writing.
    -The Pragmatist.

  3. And, if I could not have had a c-section, I would not have carried to term. I would have made other choices. You had that right. You had the right from the beginning to terminate your pregnancy if you truly did not want to go through vaginal delivery. You were stripped of that right, because people in authority lied to you. That is WRONG. I am very angry for you.
    -The Pragmatist.

  4. If I would have thought a caesarean delivery was not going to be the outcome of the pregnancy, I definitely would have made different choices. My daughter was very wanted though - I perhaps would have considered some of the alternatives I'm considering now with trespect to a second pregnancy (having the baby out of province or out of country).

    Thank you pragmatist, your words are helpful.

  5. I could be philosophical if I were satisfied that quality care was provided and yet a bad outcome resulted. Bad things happen, sometimes to good people for no good reason.

    When bad things happen because somebody dropped the ball - that's a different paradigm. There must be accountability, there must be some acknowledgement of failure, and an effort to ensure that such needless harm not occur again. That is the situation I am in.

  6. I see that you are working to help others avoid what you have been through. Keep up the good work!