“I didn’t know what birth was about. I didn’t know I would regret having people there I didn’t trust. I didn’t know that I was allowed, as a woman, to be in control of myself. I needed my midwife to encourage me. Instead, I sat in triage with the woman I loathe most, being treated like a pansy by the nursing staff because I was only 2 cm even though I’d been in active labor for ten hours. I thought I was dying. I felt alone in that hospital. I felt weak. I felt like a failure. I still do. Even as I write this, almost two years later, I feel that I failed my daughter. I wanted to have her at home...where she could see me first and feel safe. The hospital felt safer but I was wrong.”
-Bri, San Diego CA
"I was lying alone in the operating room without my husband. My arms flapped, hummingbird quick. I wanted to hug myself. They threatened to tie me down, so I kept my body in a crucifix. I cried. I vomited. I pleaded with the anesthesiologist to please wipe my mouth. He pretended not to see. Then, it was hours before I held my baby."
- Heather, Berkeley CA
"Some places where I've worked, it’s like an old boys' club. They don’t seem to respect women’s bodies; they don’t respect the process. They're arrogant to the nurses. They don’t seem to practice by ACOG guidelines... I've seen fundal pressure, like this, the fist in the stomach. They don’t treat women like human beings. And the nurses eventually start taking on that attitude as a matter of survival. That's why I work in Berkeley now, because we tend to have more compassionate providers in this area."
- Elizabeth, Berkeley CA
“So then after he yelled at me, he cut my vagina twelve times. Before the episiotomy, the nurse said it's only going to be a little cut. A little cut turned into Dr. Abbassi's horrific rage against me as a human being and against my will to begin with. I wanted to cry so badly and I was so horrified while he was cutting me."
-Kimberly, Reseda CA
“After planning and educating myself for a natural birth for my entire pregnancy, at my 37-week appointment, my OB did a vaginal exam. She roughly searched around for my cervix and when she couldn't reach it, with her hand still inside me, she asked, "Has anyone said the 'C' word to you yet"? I left that appointment feeling that my body was broken. I had a failed induction that ended in a traumatic Cesarean which brought on severe postpartum depression and PTSD. In every aspect of my pregnancy, birth, and postpartum I was treated as a problem to be managed, not as a human being with my own desires. It set the stage for many years of struggle and suffering for me and my family."
-Jen, Denver CO
"I'm speaking out for so many plus-size women who have been mistreated during birth; from being pushed into making decisions that aren't evidence based to being told our vaginas are too fat to birth our babies. Enough is enough! Shame is not an effective tool and we will not tolerate this bullying any longer."
- Jen, Denver CO
“Imagine if the maternity care system in our country actually treated all women, regardless of age, race, ability, lifestyle choices, appearance or financial status, with respect and dignity... What if care providers validated our emotions and feelings during one of the vulnerable times in our lives? What different stories we would have to tell... At the age of 19 and without a partner by my side, I didn’t have the strength or knowledge to know I had choices. I felt weak and fearful. The hospital staff – including the female doctor who had given birth herself just two months prior – did not give me a chance. They backed me into a corner and used the fears I had expressed to manipulate me into agreeing to their unnecessary interventions. Eight years later, I still do not feel like I consented at all – and to this day, the negative, traumatic effects linger.” - Laney, Denver CO
“I left the hospital with a beautiful baby, but at what cost? It felt like they cut my body in half and robbed me of all my hopes and dreams of that experience. For the first four months post-partum, I could not talk about her birth without bursting into tears.”
- Nicole, Denver CO
“Most women are unaware that significant injuries related to birth and birth interventions can and do happen. Often these outcomes are unexpected by both physician and patient. In my case, I was given an epidural for which I refused as the procedure was being performed. My time at the hospital was exceptionally traumatizing as I had an unconsented episiotomy for which the obstetrician mocked me about whether I could feel what he was doing or not. My case illustrates how refusal of prior consent related to birth procedures is abused. Specifically, how coercion and bullying by 'well-intentioned' birth professionals persist and the potential detriment for both mother and child.”
- Richelle, Denver CO
"For a long time after his birth, I always referred to his birthday as 'the day he was born,' rather than, 'when I gave birth to him.' I know for some people this isn't that big of a difference, but for me, the language difference is was major. I just didn't feel that I birthed him, I didn't even hear his first cry, and I certainly didn't get him out on my own."
- Pamela, Boulder CO
"I wanted a natural birth; I wanted my baby to have the most gentle entrance into the world. I didn't know what I was up against to give us both that experience. I felt like we were both broken after his birth."
- Nicole, Columbus OH
"I'm sad such a monumental event in my life has become such a distant memory. I think I tried hard to put it behind me, to enjoy the present, and not seem saddened by an event I couldn't change because I didn't want to seem ungrateful."
- Brittany, Wheeling WV
"I could feel the scalpel as it cut through me. Starting from my right hip bone, going all the way across to my left. The pain was enormous. I could feel my insides being brought outside of my body. It was horrifying. And the pain... was just unbearable... I tried to tell them I was hurting, but they didn't believe me. I went inside myself as much as I could in an attempt to escape it. I knew if I voiced my pain too loudly, I would be silenced by being put to sleep. And in my head I was screaming for them to do exactly that, but I knew if I did I wouldn't be able to see or hold my daughter right away. I knew I had to get through this for her. I had to stay awake..."
- Sarah, Harrisburg, PA
“I just wanted my body to do what it was supposed to do. I felt like I had no choice. I was powerless.”
- Sarah, Pittsburgh PA
"I’ve thought about filing a complaint, or... Oh, my God, if I saw her, I would... I’ve never had this kind of anger for anyone in my life. She took away my ability to be a mother. For a while. When I had the postpartum depression, I couldn’t make the muscles in my face move to smile at my son. That was the weirdest feeling in the world, being like, okay, he’s smiling at me, I can fake this! And I couldn’t."
- Sara, Baltimore, MD
"Birth makes you vulnerable. When you've faced abuse in the past, that vulnerability can quickly turn to terror. As a survivor of sexual violence, I knew there was a risk of getting triggered during delivery. I tried to be proactive and advocate for my needs but was largely ignored. When I was ready to push, I was forced to lie on my back with my legs facing the door. After fighting a strong urge to push for over half an hour, the male doctor strutted in the room, his sports coat slung over his shoulder. When he approached me, he reeked of cigarettes and asked me 'So, you ready to have a baby?' in a tone reminiscent of a pick-up line. After my baby boy was born, they whisked him away unnecessarily and I was left alone, exposed and on my back, with the male doctor between my legs stitching me up. My past sexual trauma was triggered and that was the beginning of a downward spiral into a deep and severe depression that I believe could have been avoided."
- Andrea, Richmond VA
“My thoughts are from my heart for all mommas and their babies. They are deep and hard to summarize; however, my intention is to forgive the man, Dr. David Binder and his Associates of Mellinium Obstretric Group, and all of those involved in the birth of my beautiful strong daughter, Emma Danielle. I was trying to stand up to listen to my body to aid me in a pharmacological-free birthing experience and now I'm standing up to 'expose the silence' because my body told me to do so. Stand with me.”
- Gina, Philadelphia, PA
“I feel like people aren’t open enough about pregnancy or realistic about what can happen. But it’s nothing that you can’ t handle. We should embrace the strength we have within us and honor what we are capable of as women.”
- Brittany, Richmond VA
“I may not understand why my son's bladder, heart, kidneys and lungs were destined to fail or how the doctors failed to even attempt to prevent my emergency c-section at 27 weeks when I, an already high-risk patient, called the office the day before my twins were born with clear signs of pre-term labor. But, I do know that I had already held my dead son in my arms when all I could see looking at his 2 lb. 10 oz. twin brother in the NICU incubator was LIFE. God had allowed Asher Gabriel to live long enough to save his twin brother's life making him a true angel.”
- Kathryn, Pittsburgh PA
"What I struggle with the most isn’t that he was born surgically. What bothers me the most is that I wasn’t his first friend; I didn’t get to hold him... I still can’t take it--knowing that as he was lying there crying for me, I was down the hall crying for him. I felt like the whole world was keeping us apart.”
- Heather, Baltimore MD
“You can be grateful and appreciative of having a healthy baby and still be completely traumatized by your birth experience. Being traumatized doesn't equal being ungrateful - they are two entirely different things.”
- Kimberly, Columbus OH
"I was screaming 'Stop!' but she kept going. I felt so small. I didn't feel like I had the strength to make her stop. I realized then my body wasn't mine anymore. Once I checked in, it was theirs."
- Brigid, Pittsburgh PA
"I kept thinking every day that I was leaving the hospital with a baby. And then I didn't."
- Sharon, Columbus OH
"I just remember I had no feelings. I was completely numb. I had no feelings. No connection, no bond to my baby. Nothing. It was like she wasn’t mine. It was just a baby. I knew she was mine, that she came out of me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t have that connection. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my life. Every time she would cry, it would tear me up. I would burst into tears. I was certain that everything was wrong, the way she got here was wrong. The mother that I was being was wrong. And for the first year, maybe even a year and a half, I went through life pretty much convinced she would be better off without me or with somebody else. And I still try to overcome that. Nobody is taking her away from me."
- Jessica, Harrisburg PA
"We can’t talk about it, because it’s women who write other women off. It’s the female friends and the sisters-in-law that say, 'it doesn’t matter.' And then the more you talk about it, you realize it DOES matter to them. They've never had a place to talk about it or tell their stories. You can see the pain and the terror in their eyes when they do talk about it, even years later. You can see it on their faces. You’re supposed to enjoy every moment of it - you’re not supposed to be traumatized by it. And don’t ask for help....because 'good' mothers don’t need help! So plaster a smile on your face..."
- Leah, Baltimore MD
"The c-section, our injuries, her NICU stay, the separation, the pain; all of this could have been avoided. It didn't have to happen, but I didn't know the magic words that would get them to listen to me. I didn't know I had options, I didn't know their routines or protocol or how things work in the NICU. I really started to feel 'off,' like I wasn't really her mother because I hadn't been allowed to be. I had walked into that birth center in labor, happier than I'd ever been. I hobbled out of a hospital and back to another, with a sense of defeat and emptiness instead of a healthy baby. I'd failed both of us, and we were both suffering because of it."
- Megan, Baltimore MD
"I was 10cm dilated, unmedicated, and pushing. My labor had been attended by a midwife and my son and I were tolerating labor beautifully. Then Dr. Rezvina came in for the first time all day and demanded that I be strapped to the monitors. She checked my cervix without my consent and asked how long it had taken me to push out my first baby. When she learned it was two hours, she told me I was having a c-section. She refused to discuss any other options, refused me an epidural and refused to let me get a second opinion. She said if I did not consent, then I did not care if my baby died and ‘legal people’ would make me consent. I was not given a medical reason for the surgery, but my son was healthy. In the OR, she told me I was too 'opinionated'. In her office months later, she said she was ‘willing to sacrifice the opinions’ of her patients.”
- Lindsay, Somers Point NJ
"It was so miserable; I was a complete outsider. The thing that is supposed to be the greatest day of your life, it’s just another day on the job for these people. I was surprised at how mundane and routine everything was, and how little respect they gave the staff in terms of being able to use their own judgment.... like McDonald's, sacrificing quality in pursuit of consistency, even though every woman's experience is different. They yelled at me for everything. They never told me what I wasn’t supposed to do, but then they yelled at me after I did it. Chastising me - 'Look at what you did! Now I have to clean it up - you messed it up.'"
- Christel, New Jersey
"I don’t even remember the first two weeks of his life... just going through the motions... leaving the hospital and thinking, 'How can I take care of a newborn, when I can’t even stand up without assistance?' Imagine you’re drowning and someone hands you a baby - that’s how it was. I could barely take care of myself and I had to take care of a baby."
- Katie, Baltimore, MD
"When you're in such a vulnerable state and you have no control and no power, it can leave you just fine or it can leave you at the other end of the spectrum. I wish they could understand how every single word and action - or inaction - makes a difference. It’s someone’s body, baby, life, and it all needs to matter. You’ve left a scar on my family forever."
- Meghan, New Jersey
"Had I known while pregnant with my own children the realities versus myths about the life changing journey that not only I was walking, but one my husband and my son were also walking -- and had Dr. Tatiana Andrews valued me as a woman, capable and willing in making healthy choices for myself and my child, versus scaring me and forcing me down a path my body and baby were not ready for-- my family would have had a different introduction to the world! That was taken from me and it didn't have to be! It is vital that all women hear AND believe, with every fiber of their being, that they are beautifully designed to bring their child into the world safely, with complete strength and power that they already posses."
- Renee P, New York, NY
"At that moment, it was the first in a series of steps where I felt like my choices were taken from me. I felt so vulnerable at that time. It's the most important thing you're going to do... I created this life and then I'm putting it in the hands of other people."
- Renee S, New York City
"Being a nurse myself, I trusted the doctor and her opinions on what needed done. Within an hour of my arrival at the hospital, she turned my calm and beautiful labor into a chaotic disaster because of her unnecessary interventions. She later boasted that she ruined my birth but at least my incision was pretty."
- Brittany D, Wheeling WV
"The attitude of the doctor that fixed me up was that of a judge giving me my life sentence as I woke up from anesthesia. This was followed by days of being treated like a child, a specimen, and finding that my ‘no’ didn't mean a thing in the hospital, and that my needs were an inconvenience. In one of two traumatic postpartum ER visits, I was even mocked after waking up from anesthesia. I didn't understand what had happened to me for four weeks, until a specialist I was seeing for my healing described things in detail. I felt a strange comfort in finally understanding the mash-up of poorly stitched flesh that was my womanhood, as well as horror in the same breath at hearing the words ‘You almost died’... I'm still getting over it.”
-Elizabeth, Richmond VA
“The system is broken. I wasn't treated with respect by medical professionals and my decisions regarding my own healthcare were ignored and trivialized. For a healthy mom with a healthy pregnancy, natural child birth should be encouraged... not mocked and discouraged.”
- Angela, Richmond, VA
“I asked what’s going on. She tells me she’s just going to 'strip my membranes a little.' I said, 'No! Why?' She says, 'Oh, you can’t be scared, you’ve already had a baby before. It won’t even hurt.' I said, 'I’m not scared, I just don’t want it.' She says, 'Okay, if you really don’t want me to, I won’t do it then.' So then she starts doing the cervical check and she looks up at me, right in my eyes, and she says... ‘I LIED.’”
-Lauren, Pittsburgh PA
"He actively pushed my leg to the side and stuck the thing in me. That was the most traumatizing thing - I had just said 'no' and he did it anyway. He said, 'just stay still!’ I was crying and I really didn’t want it. I was about to change my mind and she pushed me down. I just cried into the pillow. I felt so defeated and I felt like I knew what was coming and I had no control over something that was supposed to be all about me. And It’s almost like we’re not allowed to talk about it. Because you didn’t die and your baby didn’t die, you should just be happy. As if I should think, 'thank goodness for that doctor who was able to perform the [unnecessary] C section.' That's like if someone pushes you down the stairs and then catches you....are you still happy they caught you?"
- Samantha, New Jersey
“Basic listening skills and believing that I - a woman - knew my medical history and my body, would have saved me the trauma of an already extremely frightening surgical birth. Instead, a disrespectful and incompetent anesthesiologist sentenced me to a motherhood riddled with flashbacks and anxiety.”
- Mandy, Pittsburgh PA
"One heartbreaking part of doula work is that we are too often helping our clients fight for their basic human rights to be respected. Witnessing the physical and verbal abuse some of my clients have endured has completely changed me. There is no question now that I am a doula AND a birth and human rights advocate. They are one and the same."
- Jami, Wheeling, WV
“They took him to the warming table. Then, they wrapped him up in a blanket and they gave him to my husband. The guilt I feel over not being able to comfort and bond with my son immediately after he was born affects me even to this day. I spent the first few weeks of his life crying every time I looked at him, feeling like I had let him down. I attribute that to being DENIED my son following his traumatizing birth. Their reason for not giving him to me was because they were "working on me"...code for manually removing my placenta after I had already been sewn up. I remember my mother asking the midwife if they could give my son to me so I could put him to the breast and allow the nipple stimulation to help my body expel the placenta on its own. The midwife responded 'no' saying 'there wasn't enough time', even though it had only been about 15 minutes. I still, to this day, don’t understand why they didn’t give him to me."
- Liza, New York City
“I thought they knew what was best for me...but they didn’t. Babies matter, but so do mothers; and so does the ‘birth’ of the mother. It’s not just about surviving and ‘being happy that the baby is healthy and alive’. How a baby enters this world determines the path the mother will take, the life she will live, the relationship she will have with her children. They birthed my child for me while I was so sedated I was barely conscious. I missed my daughter’s first hours of life because I was too out of it to even keep my eyes open. They robbed me of what could have been the most precious time of my life and left me both mentally and physically scarred, reliving the pain every time I closed my eyes or had a moment to think for several months after. Some moments I still cannot think about without bursting in tears! My physical scars still remind me every so often of the OB’s need for ‘convenience'. Unnecessary interventions are like a stack of dominoes... they will all inevitably fall down."
- Zuzana, Yuma, AZ
"Even when their births don't go exactly according to plan, the women I work with as a doula and Childbirth Educator are consistently happier about their birth experiences when they feel respected and supported by their birth team. Those of us who surround women in birth should remember that birth doesn't happen in a vacuum. The way we treat and respect women in pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood affects both mothers and their families in the long term. Trauma around birth overwhelmingly stems from how women are treated, not how the birth actually goes. Perhaps if we stopped thinking of maternity care as merely a 'women's issue' and more as a foundation for healthy families, we might treat pregnancy and birth care with the gravity they demand."
- Emily, New York, NY
“A year after my postpartum hemorrhage, I had a miscarriage in public at a frozen yogurt shop. The humiliation didn't end there. At the ER, while waiting for my regular doctor to arrive, the attending ER physician walks in. I’m covered in blood from my waist to my feet. He grabs a stick and says to me, ‘Spread your legs’. The look of disgust on his face...I don’t think I’ve ever seen a look like that on a human being's face... like I was the most disgusting thing he had ever seen in his life and he didn't want to touch me. It was so degrading."
- Timoria, New Jersey
"Waking up on life support in the ICU less than 12 hours after delivering my daughter was never something I expected. I was in and out of consciousness that night piecing together what had happened and trying to manage my pain. Women are often told the risks of a [vaginal birth after Cesarean], but I don’t believe I fully understood the risks of a repeat C-section. I simply didn’t realize this could happen to me. Coming to terms with the trauma of a massive postpartum hemorrhage and lifesaving emergency hysterectomy has been challenging, but I share my story because I want women to know they are not alone and that they don’t have to live in isolation. I am extremely grateful for my medical care team and I want those in the medical profession to know that an ounce of compassion goes a lot farther than anyone realizes."
- Marianne, North Carolina
"I was, like, the eighth person to hold my baby. That was the most traumatic part for me. What the heck just happened and why did everyone else get to hold her before me? I had to watch this young nurse washing her with my husband... I was just lying there. Watching."
- Meredith, Harrisburg, PA
"'Do you understand you are doing this without my consent?' As they are putting needles into my arm, I'm telling them 'You are doing this against my will.' Their response, even as my strong contractions grew faster and I was in active labor was, 'I can't wait all night and we are doing this now.' Less than an hour later, he was born, taken from me before I could hold him longer than a minute or two and not returned until almost three hours later even though he had no complications. I cried every minute and couldn't stop thinking 'this isn't supposed to be like this.'"
-Erika, New York City
"I begged the nurse for help, letting her know that my body was pushing and I couldn’t stop it. I was twenty-eight hours into labor and unmedicated. She told me I couldn’t possibly be ready [to push] because I was a first time mom. I repeatedly asked her to check me or get the midwife. Instead, she paced around my bed insisting I wasn’t ready and refused to check me or get help. When my mom tried to check me, the nurse physically closed my legs and said “she not ready. I been nurse longer than she been alive, I know when they ready. She not ready.” I fought my body’s urge to deliver my child for a solid 50 minutes. I was later diagnosed with postpartum PTSD and endured a painful, 11 month physical recovery because of the choices made by my abusive and dismissive nurse."
-Leslie, Los Angeles CA
"The one emotion that was consistent during my daughter's birth, almost 13 years ago, was shame - shame for not birthing her vaginally, shame for not being able to breastfeed her, shame for not feeling a connection to her right away. The nursing staff in particular reaffirmed this emotion over and over again, one nurse even saying to me as she wheeled me to my recovery room after my Cesarean, 'you know you’re too young to have a baby...' And I believed them."
- Kim, Riverside CA
"My birth experience could have been far less traumatic if the hospital staff would have listened to me and trusted that I know when something is not right with my body. I told the nurse repeatedly in the hours after my son was born that something was not right. The nurse dismissively said, "oh, it's just the Pitocin", shrugging my concern off as if I was just an oversensitive patient. At the very least they could have provided me with after care with actual “care” about what happened to me. I honestly don’t think the nurses in the recovery room knew the experience I had been through. Once I was in recovery, I felt like a piece of meat on a conveyor belt shuffled from one room to another until I was out of the door and out of their hair."
-Staci, San Diego CA
“It hurts so much to know what you are losing while you are losing it...that birth you fought so hard for. After legally resisting a court-ordered Cesarean during pregnancy (based solely on the fact that I was carrying twins), at 37 weeks I arrived at the hospital by ambulance with a placental detachment. Alone in triage, the doctor smugly said to me, "Oh, look who is here to get the Cesarean we all told her she would need anyway..." That comment was like a sledgehammer to my heart. When you fight for women’s birthing rights and work so hard to bring these issues to light in order to change them, it is incredibly damaging to consciously lose the birth you just knew you would have...and planned to have. Add to that the condescending comments and disrespectful treatment by the doctors and nurses before, during and after my surgery...yes, I left with two healthy boys...but completely traumatized.”
-Tracee, Yuma AZ
"After a gut wrenching birth center experience with my first child, I constructed a different birth plan for my second. The healing sequel I hoped for went terribly wrong. Primary providers were unwilling to address my profound pain and debilitating sense of shock, much less apologize for their roles in complicating my birth. The importance of listening, truly hearing what mothers are saying and really understanding the emotion behind their words, is not being taught. It’s infuriating when you leverage all the options and resources out there, and still get a negative outcome. It’s also frustrating to spend all the money to process and heal and find validation, but not feel differently. I’m paying to run on a treadmill."
-Amy, San Antonio, TX
"I started off motherhood feeling like a failure. I thought it was normal to cry for an hour in the shower every day going over every detail of her birth.
I was ignored during [my] surgery as I shook uncontrollably while my anesthesiologist complained about his iPhone and my OB complained that he was missing a T-Ball game. At my six week follow-up appointment, my doctor said I was "lucky" I had a Cesarean or he would have had to "cut me from end to end". It was the first time I realized all my options had been taken away before I was even given any.
After seeking help I realized I wasn't alone. I'm speaking out for those who can't or won't. You're not alone."
- Jesse, Phoenix AZ