I was pleasantly surprised at how most of the staff were sensitive to what my wife and I were trying to accomplish: a natural childbirth, without unnecessary drugs or procedures. One of the nurses gave us a bit of lavender (essential oil) on a gauze pad which was very relaxing and made us feel at home. This was the high point of our visit, that lavender, as it helped us get through over 30 hours in the laboring room.
Did I mention that the laboring room was small and dirty? It was no larger than 12x12 and it was a cement block room with no windows. Needless to say, the room was cramped. My midwife and I were napping on the floor between contractions and if someone had to go to the bathroom, the door wouldn’t open without someone waking up, and moving their ‘bed’ away from in front of the bathroom door. And you can imagine how tight it was with the 3 of us in there, combined with the 3 or 4 hospital staff members.
They wouldn’t let my wife eat anything for the first 24 hours. They cited a potential need to perform surgery, which they also said would require her stomach be pumped as a matter of protocol. So they starved my wife because of an imaginary surgery that we didn’t need, which wouldn’t have been a problem anyways because they said they would have pumped her stomach. Lovely, right? Childbirth is a labor-intensive thing, as the term ‘labor’ might imply. And the last thing you want your pregnant wife to run out of is energy! If I had to do it over again here, I would have snuck my wife food so that she didn’t deplete her energy.
In other hospitals, you labor and birth in the same room. My wife was so full of magnesium, we had to virtually carry her across the hallway from the labor room to the birth room. Once her water broke, there wasn’t enough time to call for a wheelchair.
It became clear to us that the hospital staff is not used to patients who want to be part of their own decision making process. This was a minor issue at first. Bringing our own midwife turned out to be the best decision we could have made, because our she really advocated for us during the 5 days we were in the hospital.
None of the lab-draw techs had any trouble, except this one tech bruised her badly on one occasion, and on another, couldn’t find a vein at all. I watched her push the needle in and out of my wife’s arm multiple times (which is against protocol) before I told her that she had to stop, and they sent in someone who used a heat pack, and some patience in order to draw blood.
We came into the hospital with a “birth plan” - we documented items that we did not want our baby to receive, and signed the papers. The NICU put the eye ointment into her eyes before I could even think, and they were about to inject her with vitamin K when I stopped them! I’m not a lawyer but I’m pretty sure this is prime lawsuit material, here. They actually sat me down and told me that whenever they see parents coming in with a birth plan, they automatically start thinking that they are going to need a C-section and NICU bed. They said this straight to my face! (Hmm… is it by chance these poor, unsuspecting parents actually in need of all of this treatment?)
Did the doctors use scare tactics and intimidation to coerce my wife and I into unnecessary procedures?
(a) They suggested placing a catheter in my wife’s bladder, because they deemed her a ‘fall risk’ (because of the magnesium) and didn’t want her getting up to use the bathroom on her own. When my midwife questioned this decision, we elected to have her use a bed pan instead. And that worked fine. I’m not sure how much extra they charge for a catheter but the bed pan idea probably saved my insurance company a lot of money.
(b) Early in the labor, they informed us that they wanted to place an internal fetal monitor into the top on the baby’s head. This would require them to break the water bag in order for it to be place. They felt it would be easier to monitor the baby’s heart rate because as the baby moved down the external fetal monitor kept having to be moved lower. We were told the external heart monitor is not as accurate as the internal monitor. We understood this and decided we would continue to adjust the external monitor each time as needed. I can’t imagine how much the insurance company would have been billed for this little gem.
(c) We were informed our labor wasn’t progressing fast enough (for whose schedule, I ask?) They wanted to break the water and our midwife assured us that this is not necessary, as babies can be born without the water being broken. Nature knows best, unless there is an indication of a problem, insisted that we did not want the water broken at this time. The hospital midwife said that they "were going to make a notation in their notes that we were not following their advice."
Unbelievably, my wife managed to keep her head on straight and her breathing under control, and pushed the baby out naturally. When the baby’s head emerged, the the hospital midwife attending my wife decided that was her cue to get involved. She swiftly grabbed the baby by the head and angled her down towards the ground and PULLED. My midwife and I watched in horror as she stretched my baby’s neck while she pulled. My wife ended up with a second degree tear requiring stitches…
One of my favorite sayings is “when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” And I kept thinking of this, every time one of the doctors started suggesting that we need to do X, Y, and Z. I totally believe that Nature knows best.
I couldn’t keep this to myself and not have shared our story. The good news is that we’re home now, the mama and the baby and I are doing well. I”m hoping this article is helpful to someone who is either about to go, or going through has had a similar experience.
I would suggest bringing along an advocate, someone who is educated about hospital protocol. Someone who knows the options and non invasive interventions available. Bring an advocate: a doula, midwife, family member, friend, or your attorney.