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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{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

britt January 10, 2013 at 3:57 pm

How awful and scary and frustrating! I’m so sorry. I hate that the hospital patient advocacy dept basically shrugged. Hopefully someone else reading this will have a good idea for you.

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Victoria D. January 10, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Although that seems painful, I am glad you’re baby girl is healthy and you are together now.

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Jennifer January 10, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I’m so sorry to read this. It’s horrifying. I had a less than desirable experience with my first in a hospital and went to homebirth for baby #2 and now for #3 for this very reason–wanting some control and sane decision making vs. the nonsense that happens in hospital. I hope you can recover emotionally and financially from this!

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Jillian January 10, 2013 at 10:38 pm

This is eerily similar to my story with my second child. Very, very similar. The sugar water, the antibiotics, the force feeding at 75ml. I managed to get him out at 6 days after talking with the charge nurse and pediatrician. I still don’t know why the neonatologist kept him, or why so many interventions were called for when they weren’t necessary. I have issues that I need to work through before having another. :o/

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Natalia January 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm

I’m sorry for your experience. I can’t imagine how horrible that would’ve been. I had a wonderful hospital birth and I can’t help but be a little angry with our litigious culture that has created this “liability paranoia” that is a the new standard of care in healthcare settings. Healthcare professionals are so scared of being sued that no one is comfortable using common sense, anymore. “Better safe than sorry” has taken on a whole new meaning.

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erinisabel January 10, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I am so angry and sad for you! That is absolutely infuriating. I’m glad you and Juliet are healthy, but man I hope you’re able to make your voice heard and have these bills wiped out.

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Melly January 10, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I’m so sorry! That must have been simply dreadful. I pray that you are able to move past this. Shame on those doctors and nurses!!!

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Robin January 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I know what you went through. Only there was reason for my child to be where we were. Delivery 34+6 weeks. But did common sense avail? NO. My child wasn’t eating what they wanted and they had him up to 58ml by 7days. they just kept pushing it and he kept spitting it up – torture. 2 weeks for 1 apnea. Term babies have 1 apnea. and jaundice because they wouldn’t let me feed him, all that colostrum to waste. The trauma from it does get easier. but it takes a lot of time. get help for the depression if it is warranted. I can’t believe how much I missed because of ppd. You are strong. I promise.

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Michelle January 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I’m sorry you had this experience. I had a similar experience with being separated from my second baby boy. He was sent to the NICU because of a fever (which was due to the epidural) and I was sent to recovery afer a failed VBAC attempt attended by midwives. I sent my husband to be with our son and not let him out of his sight. I am positive that they pushed sedative drugs into my IV to make me compliant…it also made it hard for me to focus on getting deep breaths and staying awake.

I am positive, to this day, that I was being punished by the hospital staff for attempting a VBAC with midwives. The politics at the time (January 2000) were very heated betwen drs and midwives as midwives were being allowed to attend in hospital. I was also a transfer from a homebirth and was required to be part of the homebirth study. All sorts of politics going on in this situation. The only positive is I am in Canada and so the care didn’t cost me $$.

I did go on to have my third baby at home (HBA2C) with two midwives and two doulas in attendance…a wonderful waterbirth! Be strong in moving forward…knowing what you know now will empower you in future.

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andrea January 11, 2013 at 1:01 am

I understand the frustration with the financial issue – I was bulled into transferring to the hospital from my home birth via EMS, delivered one block from home and were forced to stay because of GBS. I’m very sorry they complicated bonding and breastfeeding for you…that’s disgusting.

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Melanie January 11, 2013 at 4:17 am

I am a NICU nurse with a Masters degree in Neonatal Nursing. I just had my first child…in a free standing birth center, with a doula and a midwife. Some people were shocked, I was called a rebel, but this woman’s experiences are exactly what I was trying to avoid! I got into my profession because I wanted to help people, but because of an overly litigious society and a predominantly male medical staff, this is what we end up with.

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barb January 11, 2013 at 4:49 am

Sounds very much like what happened to me with DD1. Why, why, why? The answer never seems to be a good one. God bless you and your baby. I’m glad you’re together now, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am that you are left with such high medical bills. I hope you find a solution.

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Brianna January 11, 2013 at 6:30 am

So sorry to hear! I developed sever anxiety in my third trimester. Enough that the doctor ordered Xanax and Zoloft to be given to me daily. I being 20 and a first time single mom had no idea that I had choices….I developed preeclampsia and I believe instead of putting me on bed rest my dr. Was tired of dealing with a pacient who had anxiety and I delivered at 32 weeks via c-section. My son was rushed to NICU and stayed over a month…he had x-rays,spinal taps,feeding tubes, and anything else you can imagine. On a 3lb baby!!! I was unable to breast feed due to the stresses of an emergency birth and a baby in NICU. What drives me crazy Is I already feel so guilty and at my check up my dr. Asked if I was BF I responded no sadly not. And she said well next time try harder and don’t just stop. Excuse me?? I tried the entire month my son was in NICU and my milk just never came in. Not to mention the NICU gave my son a paci, formula, and other test I did not agree nor was asked about. I think it was extremely tramitic and I no longer want anymore children because of this experience.

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Kathleen Neely January 23, 2013 at 12:55 am

just give yourself time, I had my first child at 17 (daterape) and It was beyond horrible!! I went 5 1/2 weeks overdue and I had only had intercourse one time.. The Doctor said I was a lying slut!!
Anyway, try to bond with your child, get counseling for the situation. And do not let anyone bully you!!
when I was 31 I had my second child, and It was Great!!
you will heal, give it time
sending prayers and hugs!!

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Jerusha Welborn July 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm

I agree with Kathleen. Give yourself time. Allow yourself to heal. Talk to sympathetic people about your experience. Let yourself fully incorporate it into your experiences in life and accept that it happened, but doesn’t need to be repeated. Therapy is good and wonderful and can help SO much.

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Kylene January 11, 2013 at 6:35 am

This brought up so many feelings of anger & frustration for me. With my son (our only child) I wanted to breastfeed him at all costs. But didnt know what I was doing. My delivery did not go at all as planned (wanted natural but was pressured into getting an epidural, which failed, they gavebme a 2nd one before checking to see he was crowning! I blacked out as my heartrate plummeted, but had a vag delivery with vac assistance). I had the equivalent of 3 bags of IV fluids within 14 hours. My breasts were so engorged, infact I was so swollen all over that in my pictures I am almost unrecognizable. Needless to say my son had a hard time latching on but was getting food as he was soiling diapers. The nurses kept pushing me to feed him formula. I refused. They made us stay an extra night for observation. The next we went to his sorry excuse for a pediatrician. He diagnosed him with ” failure to thrive” and immed told us to check him into the local childrens hospital for testing. (He had lost a small amt of weight…like breastfed babies do in the begining.) The dr told me he could die! Long story short therewas nothing wrong with him!!! We saw a lactation consultant, suggested by a kind nurse at the children’s hospital, who gave us a nipple shield and he was fine. We never went back to that dr again. He is a happy healthy 8 yr old. I lost all my faith in modern medicine. Our next baby will be a homebirth, with a doula & midwife and no interference from a horrible pediatrician.

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Jerusha Welborn July 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Homebirth is fantastic and Doulas and Midwives are as well! Wishing you all the best!

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Sara January 11, 2013 at 8:21 am

I am so sorry that this happened! My heart was just breaking as I read your story, and I think I skipped over a bit just to keep from crying! Thank you for sharing… and I hope for two things… one-that you may find healing in getting your story out there, and two-that your story can help to prevent this for the next woman! So sorry again!

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Ashley January 11, 2013 at 10:18 am

I just wanted to let you know that you DO have every right to sue them. You DO have a case of malpractice, and they shouldn’t be getting away with what they did. You also DO have supporters, so go for it make them suffer like they made you and Juliet suffer.

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Safire January 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

This is criminal. It’s no accident that they prey on people who can’t afford to hold them accountable. If it were me I would do all I could to sue for justice. Search for a lawyer willing to fight for you. Are there any agencies there that specialize in this sort of case? This is just not right and the sad thing is they’ll continue to get away with it. It makes me want to become a lawyer just to pursue justice in this area.

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Kailyn January 11, 2013 at 11:43 am

Does anyone know what state this happened in?

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Cheriena January 11, 2013 at 11:47 pm

I am so sorry you had this horrible experience, you poor things!

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Wendy January 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

I’m not a letigious person, but I say sue them! What can we expect a hospital’s own department to say “You have a great case, you should seek action!”? Get the opinion of a good lawyer ASAP.

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Susan January 12, 2013 at 2:03 pm

You know, the real problem is the fact that this sort of thing has become so accepted and commonplace, that no one even wants to look at a lawsuit involving hospital birth issues. It is ridiculous, and disgusting, but it seems as if every single person that I talk to, who has recently had a hospital birth has horror stories. It kills me. how can no one do anything about this? I had such a great, completely natural birth with both of my sons, and it was amazing. I just don’t understand how all of these poor women are being robbed of such a wonderful experience, and it is OK. If I hear one more person tell me that they had a normal pregnancy, and a normal labor, until they needed a c-section, I feel like I want to scream out to the world.

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Tara January 12, 2013 at 8:14 am

I’m so sorry to hear about this horrible/awful that happened to you and your baby.
Please consider seeking legal advice on this. You should NOT be held financially responsible for unnecessary and unauthorized medical treatment. As well as the trauma that this has caused to you and possibly your baby.
I’m not a huge advocate for “let’s go sue everyone”, but I do think that you should not have to pay for someones mistakes.
Good luck.

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Taylor January 12, 2013 at 8:32 am

I’m so sorry for what happened to you and Juliet. It is very traumatic! But I was a NICU nurse for 6 years and while we do have certain protocols to follow, it sounds like the hospital you were in did not practice up to date (with current research). Allowing a term baby to transition is ok – of course their initial vitals may not be perfect. And if in the nicu, being SURE to give them mother’s colostrum and breastmilk is always essential! Keeping mom close and promoting kangaroo care. I could go on and on. Sounds like this hospital needs to put some serious money into educating their doctors and nurses.
Again, I’m sorry you had such a bad experience!

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Heather September 18, 2013 at 11:30 pm

What is kangaroo care? I’ve only heard the term twice before, just curious.

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Melanie October 1, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Kangaroo care refers to allowing Skin-to-Skin contact with baby and the parent, usually the mom. It has been proven to help regulate a baby’s temperature and tends to lessen the length of time in the NICU.

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Jane October 7, 2013 at 5:22 am

Kangaroo care is another term for skin-to-skin.

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Julie January 12, 2013 at 8:56 am

It’s absolutely disgusting that they could do this to a laboring mother and new to the world life. I am so happy you are emotionally starting to feel better about this horrible act of medical professionals. I do think that it would be in your best interest to pursue legal service on this matter as it was all preventable. You weren’t physically, emotionally or mentally able to fight back at the time but now you might be stronger and able to do so. Justice deserves to be served for you, Juliet and any one else having gone through this and anyone else who potentially will have to experience this. It takes one strong and determined person to change things in our overpowered society. I wish the best for you and your family and that you NEVER experience something like this ever again.

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MJ January 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I am so sorry this happened. I have such a similar story it is frightening. It has caused to question everything about myself as a mother, about my pregnancy, and about any future decisions to have another child. I almost want to have another baby just to redeem my experience. My sweet little girl is almost the same age as you baby, as well, and makes me wonder if this isn’t some new crazy thing hospitals are doing to CYA…

I was not only not allowed to nurse, we didn’t even get to HOLD her until she was three days old! Because of this, my milk supply never came fully in and dried about when she was six weeks old.

I have a peace in the end knowing that God is in control and with this experience, He has given me empathy to pray for other families that have experienced the exact same thing I have.

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Holly January 13, 2013 at 3:26 am

I am the author of the birth story above, and I just wanted to say thank you all so much for your kind words and support. This happened at a hospital where I live in Seattle, Washington, USA. I wanted to add that since leaving the hospital, Juliet has been exclusively breastfed and is absolutely thriving!

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Julie February 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

SO glad to hear she is exclusively BFing and (of course!) thriving!!!! Thank you so much for updating all of us!

I share the anger and frustration of all of the other readers!! I just want to stand on a mountaintop and DEMAND justice for you, and every other parent who has been put through this!!!! God-willing I will *never* endure another hospital birth again!

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Rebecca June 9, 2013 at 10:02 pm

What hospital was this? I live in Seattle and I will deliver my 2nd this year, I have a naturopath DR, nurse midwife but in emergencies they transfer to Swedish…please let me know if I need to request a different back up plan.

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Jerusha Welborn July 8, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I’m so glad to hear Juliet is doing well! How are you, Mama?

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Aryn August 15, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Which hospital??? I’m in Seattle and am trying to avoid any possible scenarios like this one, because I had a very similar experience with my 2nd birth.

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Lisa January 14, 2013 at 8:48 am

This sounds eerily similar to the experience I had when my daughter was born. One thing that haunts me still (she is 15 months old now) is that they were “required” to check her blood sugar every 4 hours. They lanced her heels round the clock for 4 days. She was 4 and 1/2 weeks old before the scabs on her heels healed. If it can be avoided I will NEVER have another hospital birth. I don’t think it’s something my “mommy heart” will ever fully recover from.

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Chad January 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

Holly,

My wife and I had a very similar NICU experience. By the time they had everything setup, she was normal and all her vitals remained normal for her 4 day stay in the NICU. When we decided that we needed to take our baby home, they threatened us with calling the department of child services. And so we caved, again, to their unrelenting pressure and fear-mongering. When they finally “allowed” us to take her home, they STILL called DCS and we were monitored for 3 months and made to take her to doctor after doctor, all to confirm what we already knew: she was perfect. It was ridiculous and it has completed soured us on the medical community.

We just want you to know that we suffered the same mistreatment and horror that you did and that we, like you, are not going to be bullied next time.

Chad

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Svea Boyda-Vikander January 20, 2013 at 1:58 am

Holly,

I’m so happy to hear that your daughter is doing well and that you’ve been able to breastfeed! Yes!

I also wanted to say that — barring serious birth trauma — what you experienced is far, far more severe than a birth that didn’t go ‘as planned’. Having your child taken from you is every mother’s nightmare. My heart goes out to you, and I hope that publishing this story gives you some measure of peace.

I also think this could be a good feature story for a local newspaper, which would help to get your story out and might put some pressure on the hospital to cancel your fees (or change their medieval practices). If you can look up a reporter who has done something on infant/maternal health in the past and approach her with your experience, I think she would be interested in hearing it.

I just looked up the health reporters for the Seattle Times, and I think Carol Osman (the author of this article about early induction, http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2020031594_babies01m.html) would be a good place to start, if you decide to take that route. Courage!

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Jerusha Welborn July 8, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Good advice! The word has to get out for practices to change and others to know they can say no and have every right to be listened to.

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Kathleen Neely January 23, 2013 at 1:00 am

tell them to shove that bill up their NICU!!!

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Laura Dugovic January 23, 2013 at 5:00 pm

Thank you for sharing your story. At the very least, you should have a lawyer send them a letter informing them that you have no intention of paying for services that were fraudulently rendered. There is no way I would pay those bills. And you shouldn’t either. It’s absolutely mind-blowing!

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Bonnie Rad February 25, 2013 at 9:40 pm

How INSANE! I wonder how some people have the Nerve to even suggest seperation at this time, muchless do it! Then after all vitals are stable after a long 24hrs (in your eyes and babies thats eternity!) not releasing back to your care!????????! Wow as far as I am concerned they interfered with your bonding etc.. and changed the who life, Im with Safire, I’d try to sue, malpratice! And for Fraud on the medical bill. You may want to talk to your Ins. Company and tell them your story and maybe they will help on the fraud, cuz that to me is WRONG and how wasteful in every aspect! And to think too, what about the the time that could have been used on a much needed medical issue for another, I hope you copy all these comments and let those doctors see them, they should be ashamed of their selves! Hope you never need, but hope there is another place close by and you never have to go there again! Good Luck to you and yours And ps. Congrats and so glad to her baby is ok! The nerve of some really un nerves me!

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Petra March 1, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Thanks you for sharing your story. It makes me so mad what they did to you.

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Monica March 9, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Dear Holly,
I am sorry to hear about this horrible treatment your daughter received. I am glad she is breastfeeding! hooray :)! ….. I hope you do decide to take legal course against the hospital. What they did was Not right. I urge you to find legal help in your area. I am so angry this happened to you. I want that hospital to learn something from this. That us mothers will stand for bullying. Bullying has no place in a birthing environment. It is every mothers fundamental human right to be treated with respect and dignity while giving birth. I believe your rights were violated and so were your daughter’s. Please give us another update soon.
Monica

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Monica March 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm

edit …. Us mothers will not stand for bullying.

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Marnie March 26, 2013 at 9:15 am

Agh!! This story sounds very familiar to what happened to me! I was separated from my baby before we could do skin to skin or even try nursing a bit. I really believe that a mother being separated from her newborn is VERY unnatural and leads to the high incidence of postpartum mood disorders. I also believe that it attributes to mothers being unsuccessful at breastfeeding. My baby girl was taken away from me because I had a “fever” of one tenth (ONE TENTH!) of a degree higher than they would like to see. Therefore my baby AND I were pumped up with hardcore antibiotics. My recovery was very difficult as a result. I felt such a disconnect from my child and had severe PPA/PPD. I still struggle with my experience, but have decided to use it in a positive way, and to let other women know about hospital births. Some can be great, obviously, but there is a definite maternal crisis in America. I always tell them “as soon as you walk through those hospital doors, you are not a mother giving birth to a child, you both are just a liability.” If/when there is a next one, I am doing birth center, or maybe even home birth.

(((HUGS)))

Big hugs to you! I think I should share my story on here, too!!

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Jerusha Welborn July 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm

If you haven’t already, by all means, share! It can help a LOT!

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Milla June 25, 2013 at 10:09 am

My dear! I can only imagine your rage, helplessness, resentment, and grief. I agree with others here that you should take legal action against those who denied you and your baby your human rights. Please know that all traumas can be healed, and all injustices will eventually be brought to light and judged fairly, in this life or the next. Let the strength and serenity that you have inside you shine forth brightly. Don’t let bitterness take root in your heart. God bless you and keep you and your daughter, may you grow every day in love, because it’s LOVE that defies the darkness of this world-system and puts it to shame.

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Jerusha Welborn July 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm

I’m very glad you shared your story. When births don’t go as hoped, Mamas need to talk about them, write about them, discuss them, and work through to a point where acceptance of the experience and inclusion of all the details occurs. The trouble is, often people don’t want to hear it. They only want to hear the happy stories or they respond with “Well, you and the baby are fine and healthy now, and that’s what matters.” Wrong! Feelings matter. Mamas need to be able to talk through their birth experiences, no matter what they were like. I had some disappointment after my son’s birth and so I completely understand this need to discuss it and be able to adjust to the events and emotions and have supportive people tell you that you are indeed supported and your feelings are valid.

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Kim September 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

So sorry Mama! I went through something like that with my first as well. Switched to hospital at last minute due to extreme anemia, stuck in triage for 7 hrs while laboring (and going through transition!) got into a room and pushed an hr later. She was born with some significant health issues, but was not allowed to even attempt to latch or even bottle feed til 6 weeks old. At 2 months she had a feeding tube placed that lasted almost 2 yrs, was supposed to take her home after that and they kept coming up with reasons to keep her. For an extra month!

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liz January 28, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Thank you so much for your story. You are an amazing woman and your instincts are right on when it comes to your child. Your story hits close to my heart and I had to wipe tears from my face as I read it. Your strength is inspiring, thank you again.

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