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A letter to my midwife

by lizzi (follow)
Helping plant the seeds of positive birth. www.sproutbirthing.com.au
It’s been almost 2 years since my second unplanned, unwanted and possibly avoidable caesarean. Me, my baby and my birth probably never cross your mind. But I wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts often, especially at this time of year. You feature in my flashbacks, you feature in my trauma, you feature in my fears for the future.

I wrote a letter of complaint to the hospital at the one year anniversary. I thought that would help me to “get over it”. But it didn’t. There are so many things I want you to know. So many things I need to get out of me. So here goes.

Me at 42 weeks and 3 days pregnant. I should have been happy to take a call from my midwife, not switching my phone off in order to feel safe.

You betrayed me. When we first met you assured me that you would support my birth plan. You gave no indication that you were frightened of VBAC or of “post term” birth. You let me enter our relationship full of trust. Trust in you. Trust that you would advocate for me and care for me. At 36 weeks you showed your true colours. You “forgot” our conversation and told me to remember that “all that matters is a safe delivery”. To add insult to injury you noted in my file that I was “adamant that she will VBAC at any cost”.

That night I went to a support group meeting where I cried my way through my story and what you had said and how betrayed I felt. I cried as I told a group of women that I no longer trusted my care provider and that I was now afraid that I would just say no to anything you recommended as I felt that you did not have my best interests at heart.

I can still feel the complete exasperation I felt when you told me that I needed an induction plan because “You aren’t allowed to stay pregnant forever”. I still wonder what on earth possessed you to say such a stupid thing! I still feel the fear I felt as I looked at my phone saw your name and switched it off. Knowing that you were going to be telling me to induce and knowing that I needed you out of my space in order to feel calm, peaceful and safe.

I can still feel the loneliness as you left to get the head midwife, knowing that you were no longer going to even pretend to support me. The raw pain as you both told me how traumatised the staff would be if my baby died. I still see you laughing as the obstetrician told me that I must want a vaginal birth more than a live baby. I still feel the pain as you told me that you had been unable to sleep all week for fear that my baby would die.

I still feel pieces of me die inside as I “negotiated” what I would get if I consented to an induction. An induction that I didn’t want, didn’t need and was terrified of. I still feel my soul cry out as I realised that, regardless of how many people were present, I would be abandoned in my birth.

I still feel the violation at having my waters broken without consent, during a stretch and sweep that was not necessary, not wanted and not truly consented to. I passed the hospital during a recent holiday and as I spied it out the corner of my eye my knees locked together, my heartrate increased and tears welled in my eyes as I my body remembered the horrendous feeling of being trapped.

Feeling violated and trapped and tangled in cords.

I still feel the anger of you declaring that I couldn’t have immediate skin to skin after all. That after 8 hours of violations and trauma when I finally gave in to your demands for a caesarean you told me that the baby needed to be weighed before I could have him on me. You can never know how it kills me to know that you, YOU, got to hold my baby before I did. He looked into your eyes before mine and heard your voice first. You, who didn’t even care for him enough to honour him and his birth by honouring his mother. Some days I wonder if the unfairness of it all will kill me.

My little bubba before I even got to see him.

My partner and I had dreamed of having a large family and you may have taken that from us. For how can I ever trust a care provider again? You were my midwife. You lied to me. You betrayed me. Your "care" left a wound on my soul that may never heal. I learned my lesson. And I learned it well and with every fibre of my being. I will not trust again. For you have proven to not be trustworthy.

Further reading about birth trauma:

Why I'm joining the birthing revolution

The vessel

Just one day

What being bullied says about you

Obstetric violence: stop burying your head in the sand!

Pregnancy, birth and mental health - Why some women aren't seeking the help they need

From birthing trauma to birthing revolution

5 things I wish every woman knew about birth trauma

Who loves my baby more than me
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I am so very sorry for your pain. I have been a midwife for 15 years and became a midwife in part to help women never have to experience what I experienced in my hospital births, not with a midwife. The only thing I would like to say is that most all of us do the very best we possibly can to give excellent care. I had a client once who came to me from another state. She was a midwife herself and had attended many births and caught many babies. I so wanted her to have the birth of her dreams, her first baby. She refused all labs, all testing, no ultrasounds, etc. because I too totally believe In this birth process and trusted her experience as a midwife, I allowed that and continued to support her. 42 weeks came and went and she finally agreed to an ultrasound because my guidelines require me to turn her care over to a backup doc after 42 unless we get a perfect overall picture. Biophysical profile was perfect, so we continued. One day later labor began and she labored beautifully, not wanting me to come until "time" . When she finally allowed me to come I walked in to find her in a birthing pool. She wanted me to check her so I wanted to check heart tones first. She had been checking the, all day with her own Doppler and all was well up until even a few minutes before I arrived. When I checked for heart tones I couldn't find them. She looked at me very calmly and said, "my baby has died, hasn't she"? And yes, long story short, the baby had passed. She went on to deliver in the hospital to a perfect baby with no problems other than the obvious placenta that had just stopped functioning due to post dates. That experience changed me as a midwife. I am hired because we do know what is considered "normal" and when someone falls out of the realm of normal, we are obligated, out of that trust, to seek additional help to avoid these very things. It will never again allow my clients to push me out of the realm of safety. I would rather have her mad at me and be holding her baby. I still believe in normal natural birth. I still strive to allow all of my cients to have exactly what they want unless it goes against my own guidelines of giving good, responsible, evidence-based care. If they don't trust me or want that from me, they should go elsewhere. I am required by guidelines and moral excellence to give informed consent but I still have to live with my decisions too. I know natural, normal labor inside out but I have to know at the end of the day that I was responsible enough to know when to ask for help. I still wonder to this day if allowing her to have "her power" is what cost this baby her life. Sometimes we just do t know the answers to these hard questions of life. I know nothing of your situation other than what you've shared but if you are holding your child, you are blessed, and it's partly because of your midwife.
I'm very sorry for your experience. I can only hope that you are upfront with your potential clients about your guidelines. My midwife was very aware of my birthing plans and had agreed to them - she only changed her mind when it was starting to look like I'd actually require her to stick to her word. I have no objection to midwives maintaining their own boundaries - but if you are not comfortable with a post 42 week birth, don't tell a woman that you will support her to 43 weeks.
by lizzi
Chose, Thank you for your kind response and sharing your perspective. I have often struggled with the thought of how do we bring the 2 closer together, the expectation of mothers and their right to autonomy on one hand and the reality of what a midwife actually can do in the endeavour to have both a healthy mother (mind body soul) and healthy baby. I appreciate your explanation of how you came to your perspective.
by nerid
I'm sorry for this experience. My births have all been similar. My 4th pregnancy I felt WONDERFUL but I let them induce me at "10 days over" (long story, my 3rd was 10 days over and done but meconium and my dr was pushing for it). I had HORRIBLE complications with the epidural and missed out on a lot of my 4th baby's first days. I am pregnant again and scared. I had a homebirth with my 2nd and that had its own set of complications (nothing life threatening). I pray that next time around your wishes are honored.
I'm very sorry for your experiences. x
by lizzi
As I wipe away the tears I have shed after reading your post I reflect on how I felt after my third birth. My first was very medicalised, my second pain free and wonderful. I approached my third with joy only to be slapped down, ignored and totally disempowered by my midwife. 30 years later and the wound is still as fresh as the day it happened. They blackmail us with dead babies and the love we have for our unborn children makes us weak. When will the torture of modern obstetrics end? www.painfreelabour.blogspot.co.uk
I'm very sorry that you have experienced betrayal as well. Much love to you. x
by lizzi
As a midwife I am sorry for your negative experience.
If you would like more children but are scared of being let down by the system look into free birthing where you are totally in charge of your birth experience.
In the past I totally supported a client in her birth plan despite objections put in front of me by my peers,rules regulations and research based guidelines.
The lady went into spontaneous labour which she desperately wanted but the outcome was not good and I live with the guilt and the pain every day that somehow I let her and her unborn child down. Reaching a happy medium where we care and advise for our clients in a society that is governed by blame is increasingly difficult. I love my job but how much longer I can carry on who knows......

Thank you. At this stage I am looking into freebirth for my next bub. I'm sorry that you have suffered a bad outcome and agree totally - the culture of blame and not taking responsibility for ourselves makes things very difficult for midwives.
by lizzi
Such a moving and absolute horror of unnecessary cascades of intervention.
Thank you so much for speaking your truth and sharing. I'm so sorry to hear this and send you much love and support.
I'm a Doula, Maternity Consultsnt, and mother to be, who specialises in Post Birth Debrief, and would love to offer my support to you and your family, in gift.
Please also know that if you want to follow in your dreams of having a larger family, there are loving and nurturing supports for you to ensure that do not face these outcomes again and are able to enjoy the safe and beautiful birth that you longed for. xx

Thank you very much. I have received debriefing from a midwife friend which was very useful as well as from colleagues - I too am a doula. Your kind words mean a lot to me. x
by lizzi
I chose a midwife for my first birth while I lived in the San Francisco area. They also never mentioned anything about not supporting me past 42 weeks. I went through all the tests they asked, and once I agreed to an induction at 43 weeks, my midwife said she wouldn't be coming with us. I was alone in a "teaching" hospital, being poked, prodded, and ignored. I also didn't get to hold my baby until hours after birth. She was taken from me and put in the NICU unnecessarily and without notifying me. It was traumatic, and I wish I had sued my midwife for taking my money and failing to provide any service.
I'm so sorry that you have also had a traumatic experience. Much love. x
by lizzi
Oh this sounds heartbreakingly familiar :( I'm so sorry you went through this xx
I'm sorry that you have experienced similar. Much love. x
by lizzi
I feel your pain and your betrayal... And am sorry you experienced it. But stating that you'll never trust again and that you learned your lesson doesn't help you at all. You not trusting someone new and moving on with your life only affects you. Accept the fact that this is somethingn that happened, as shitty as it is, learn from it and move on a more educated and mature person. Sitting and stewing in your own anger doesn't help. Educate women and work with them to provide them the birth you didn't get to have. Work to change policy and make it so the mother is the first to hold their child. Be proactive... Not angry.
Since my experience I have trained as a birth educator and am completing training as a doula. I work quite hard in the areas of birth education and activism. I'm certainly not sitting around stewing on things - however, on the occasions when strong feelings come up for me I feel that writing them is an appropriate way to work through them...given that I am a writer!
by lizzi
As a mother, doula and Midwife I want to say sorry to you. Sorry for your heart ache, your loss and the betrayals you have endured. Please know that there are some midwives who are actively trying to eradicate this kind of abuse. Some midwives who go home and cry and have nightmares too because of the betrayals we witness and cannot stop. Thank you for your letter, even though I have never treated a woman in this way I have seen it, felt it, cried over it. I take this letter as a letter to my profession, your words, along with other women's, are the voices in my head driving me to continue on a path of uncompromising woman cenetered care. Thank you.
Thank you for your kind words and for striving to be the best midwife you can. I absolutely believe that midwives have been betrayed by the system themselves - How they are treated in hospitals and the things they are forced to witness / commit (or lose their livelihoods) is not okay. Here's an article that I wrote a while back about the revolution needed for our midwives. http://wholewoman.hubgarden.com/a-birthing-revolution-for-australian-midwives/
by lizzi
Your pain is understandable but you can become stronger for it! Arm yourself with evidence based knowledge as in Dr Sarah Buckley's book "Gentle Birth Gentle Mothering" and go to care providers who practice where natural birth and VBAC is most likely to happen out of Hospital!

Thank you. Sarah Buckley's work is amazing and I recently had the privilege of seeing her present. I feel that I have definitely come out of my experiences the stronger for having had them. x
by lizzi
My heart is aching for your experience. There are midwives and there are, unfortunately "medwives" who are trained by the medical model of care and would do not have autonomy due to the pressures they encounter to enable them to keep their jobs. I certainly WILL keep you in my mind and hope you will consider to attend an ICAN (Interbational Cesarean Awareness Network) group in your area. There you will find caring women like yourself for lots of support and resources. Please do not give up on that healing birth you so deserve. Knowledge is great power, and a loving doula and midwife will hold you thru that journey. Sending you best wishes and hope.

Thank you for your kind thoughts. I have sought and received support here in Australia (we don't have ican but do have other, similar groups). Many thanks. x
by lizzi
My heart is aching for your experience. There are midwives and there are, unfortunately "medwives" who are trained by the medical model of care and would do not have autonomy due to the pressures they encounter to enable them to keep their jobs. I certainly WILL keep you in my mind and hope you will consider to attend an ICAN (Interbational Cesarean Awareness Network) group in your area. There you will find caring women like yourself for lots of support and resources. Please do not give up on that healing birth you so deserve. Knowledge is great power, and a loving doula and midwife will hold you thru that journey. Sending you best wishes and hope.
I am so sorry you too were treated this way. Will these people ever learn how devastating the consequences of their power games are?

Thank you for your thoughts. x
by lizzi
Your pictures look calm and peaceful. While your midwifes words were harsh and uncalled for, to hang on to this for two years, and not have more children, after having a healthy baby- that's your issue, not hers. I won't be a midwife for fear of this; people hanging on to imperfect birth and calling it the worst trauma of their life. Sigh. Let it go mama- for yourself if nothing else?
I firmly believe that it is not uncalled for to expect to be respected. Bullying women is not okay and I work quite hard to help bring attention to obstetric violence and stop the silencing of women. It's one thing to have "an imperfect birth' and quite another to be subject to bullying, lying and manipulation. Honesty and integrity don't cost much.
by lizzi
It hurts my heart to read about this betrayal, assault and persecution from your care provider, who should have been your rock and strength. 😟
Thank you for your kind thoughts. x
by lizzi
very thought provoking. There is much here.

So many 'decisions' are based on fear...and so many care providers let this obstruct their care.

Thank you . x
by lizzi
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