I Wish I Would Have Known {A Birth Story}

by Mrs. BWF on January 10, 2013

Juliet is nearly four months old now, and I am finally beginning to let go of the anxiety I experienced immediately following her birth and the five days afterward. Like many new mothers, I experienced mild postpartum depression, but my anxiety levels were off the charts. The panic attacks were most likely due to lack of sleep and the stress we were experiencing from Juliet’s hospital stay.

Juliet’s hospital stay should never have happened. I had a full-term spontaneous vaginal birth and I delivered with a midwife in a birthing center within a hospital. I’m quite sure that if that birthing center had not been in a hospital we would not have been separated, but I liked the idea of the best of both worlds: an epidural with a midwife. Being in a hospital allowed me access to an anesthesiologist, and my labor and delivery were absolutely beautiful.

Then the charge nurse came along. Juliet’s vitals weren’t completely perfect the moment she was born, so she “panicked” and called in the neonatologist. A man whom I had never seen or met before bullied me into letting them transfer my baby to the downtown hospital because there was no NICU where I had just given birth, but I couldn’t go with her because there was no room for me to recover there. By the time the transfer was ordered and the ambulance came and got her, Juliet was COMPLETELY stable and all her vitals were normal. I begged them to let her stay with me, but they refused. It was a train wreck from that moment on and I couldn’t stop it. Her vitals remained normal for the entire five days she was hospitalized. So, why was she there?

Why was she there? They took a perfectly healthy full-term baby from her mother and put her in the NICU “for observation”. They also started her on an IV of unnecessary antibiotics just in case she might have an infection–she didn’t–and pumped her full of sugar water, along with giving her formula and a pacifier before ever having the opportunity to breastfeed. And after three days of not being interested in eating, she therefore didn’t have bowel movements and consequently developed jaundice. This prolonged our stay for two more days while she received photo therapy treatment.

Do you know how much 5 days of intensive care hospitalization costs? Even with insurance, it’s an awful lot of money. I was furious, outraged and livid that my daughter was there, and I kept asking the nurses why? Why? Why? Why? Why? I started accusing them of padding our insurance bill. At one point, a nurse was going to put in a feeding tube if Juliet didn’t eat 60ml because she didn’t quite finish her last feeding. Do you know how much a newborn infant stomach can hold? 15-20ml, max! Thank god a lactation consultant was there to stand up for me and told the nurse she was crazy for expecting a newborn to eat that much in one feeding.

And there was never a doctor around, yet someone was making all these orders. I saw Juliet’s doctor a total of 5 minutes the entire 5 days we were there, only to find out it was her last day and she was moving on to another project. IT WAS HER LAST DAY! We were just numbers to her; she couldn’t have cared less.

My family is now left with over $10,000 in medical bills for a completely *unnecessary* hospitalization. I applied for financial assistance from the hospital (aka charity care) but we were denied. I wrote letters and got the attention of the patient advocacy department, but their investigation results basically said “we couldn’t be liable just in case something was actually wrong with your baby, so we treated her like there was, as is standard operating procedure.”

I now understand why the home birthing movement has taken such clout in this country. The only male medical official “involved” with the birth of my daughter was the one who made the worst call of all: separating a newborn from her mother. Had we been in a stand-alone birthing center, we would have remained in the care of our midwife instead of having some random nurse uninvolved with my prenatal care and delivery coming in and making a problem where there wasn’t one.

Juliet should have stayed with me. No doctor-man had the right to come along and “bully” me into transferring her, and I should have been able to stop the transfer when I said no. I still get really emotional because like so many women, my birth didn’t go as planned. I will always resent how much money I have to pay the hospital for such irresponsible and lavish medical treatment on a perfectly healthy infant, but at least they are working with us on payment plans.

I guess I’m sharing my story because I wish someone would have told me I could have said no. My instincts told me Juliet was fine and that the best place for her was with me. But I let the doctor and nurses instill a fear that I could be wrong and that triggered some of the most intense anxiety I have ever had to face on top of being postpartum.

Thanks for reading. {Holly}

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