I was 16 years old in 1968 and pregnant. This was the cave era of birthing. I went to an OB that had some serious bias when caring for pregnant teens. During this time in life women lived in fear that they would be fired by their OB’s if they asked too many questions. OB’s had complete control over a woman’s body during her childbearing year.
During labor we were left alone in a small room with night stand and small lamp. I was alone because the rules stated “No visitors during labor”. Mom’s were checked in at the door and wheeled away to LD. Once I reached 10 CM, I was placed on a gurney and wheeled into a delivery room. It looked much like a surgical room. I was placed on a small steel table and on my back. My legs were placed in stirrups and arms stretched out at me sides on small metal slabs. Leather straps with 3 silver buckles were then used to hold my legs and arms in place.
Enter the OB. He sat on a stool at the end of the table. He decided I would not receive any medication for what he was about to do. He said “I want her to remember this”. He then did what is now, in common language, is known as a “virginal cesarean”. I liken it to “birth rape”. He did an episiotomy with 2 medial cuts and a lateral through to my rectum. Then he used high forceps to pull my baby out of my body.
Following my repair work, which took about an hour and half, he patted my shoulder and said “That will teach you not to do that again” and left the room. During my 5 days in the hospital, normal length of stay for that era, I did not see the OB again.
I didn’t talk about that experience again for many years. At that time of life we did not talk about our bodies or any thing that happened during our birth experiences. So, I thought what happened was “normal birth” and I went back to the same OB when I became pregnant again in 1969.
I was fortunate that my second labor and birth occurred without the OB in house. A nurse received my baby. Once the nurse realized I was in 2nd stage of labor she placed me on a gurney while another nurse put her hand over my baby’s head to hold her in. Another nurse tightly held my legs together. Once in the delivery room, the nurses let go of their tightly held rein on my baby and my baby’s head slid out while on the gurney. They then lifted my body while holding the baby’s head and placed me on the cold table. With ease my baby simply slid out of my body. The nurses were in fear of the OB and how I birthed. So, they then placed me on the delivery table and strapped me down. When the OB entered the room the nurses told him that my baby arrived while I was in place on the table. The OB was infuriated that I had birthed without him. While standing about 3 feet away from me and his hands in his pockets he looked at my bottom without touching me and said “put some antiseptic on that and take her to her room”. That was the last I saw of him during my 5 day PP stay. Because we politely did not speak of our bodies I thought my first birth was normal and the second birth experience was abnormal.
PPD was not a diagnostic tool during those years. I believe I suffered from PPD after being abused during both birth experiences. It is entirely possible that the first birth had caused PTSD to become a part of me as well.
By the time I became pregnant a third time I had been informed by books such as, Thank you, Dr Lamaze by Marjorie Karmel, Painless Childbirth: The Lamaze Method by Fernand Lamaze, Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert A. Bradley, MD, and childbirth Without Fear The original Approach to Natural childbirth by Grantly Dick-Read, MD. I interview 9 physicians before I found a family practice doctor willing to treat me with respect. The other 8 physicians that I interviewed were insulted that I ask them questions about how they practiced OB. I then found an OB nurse in the area that taught organized underground childbirth classes (Childbirth Education Association) in her basement. With each book that I read and every class I attended I felt more and more empowered to trust my body to birth my baby.
When my labor and birth day arrived it seemed bitter sweet. I was happy to know that I was about to meet my little one. However I did not look forward to the ensuing PPD. Labor and birth turned out to be wonderful and life changing for me, considering the climate of obstetrics in Davenport, IA at that time. To my surprise I did not suffer with PPD during PP, a testament to the power of birthing by trusting my body to birth my baby. Healing through childbirth is always possible.
During the past 20 years I have journeyed as a strong birth doula informing women of what normal birth looks like, how to trust their bodies to birth their babies, how to choose where they might like to birth, and how to select or hire a care provider that practices with a sense of confidence and trust in a woman’s body during the childbearing year.