This post is part of a series we are doing for our local community with focus on Obstetric Violence at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Some of the responses were given privately in direct message and some were posted in the comments thread of a post calling for stories. Last names have been protected and permission was granted to use first names or initials prior to posting. The image shown below is from Birth Monopoly and depicts the degrees and levels that define Obstetric Violence.
On Friday, March 6, 2020 a doula got in touch with me after one of the conference calls/Zoom Meetings I have been attending as a way to learn what is going on in the birth community and make connections with birth workers and birth enthusiasts. She asked me to collect stories from people in my community who had experienced obstetric violence at Abbotsford Regional Hospital.
It’s no secret that Fraser Health doesn’t like me, and the truth is that if they don’t like me it’s because I’m not letting them intimidate me. I can say what I like, as long as what I am saying is the truth. And it is. Everything I am saying is based in fact and echoed by many people in the birth community who are AFRAID to come forward. I will not expose them, but I will say that it’s a LOT of people who are afraid.
I also will not expose the clients who were traumatized by the system or on a lesser scale, felt they were mistreated or disrespected. Obstetric violence comes in all forms, and you can see that by Birth Monopoly’s hierarchical chart. It is happening everywhere, not just at ARH, and not just in Fraser Health. I intend to share EVERY STORY that comes to me, protecting the client whose story it is in the process.
I have received criticism from a few people for focusing on these “negative” stories instead of balancing out with positive ones. To that criticism I will point out that this is OUR #MeToo.
I refuse to diminish the stories of mothers and birthing people who come forward by including a “nice” story in the same post. That would be the equivalent of what Brock Turner’s asshole family and friends did when his victim came forward. Just because it didn’t happen to YOU does not mean it didn’t happen to many, many other people. So please sit down and listen, or please leave this space. But these stories WILL be told, because exposing a violation of human rights is how we END it. Consider already how there is pushback to #MeToo, but those voices are being drowned out now by the huge echo of stories that many women were afraid to speak about for far too long.
I put up a post asking for stories, thinking I would get a handful, and the response has been OVERWHELMING. Messages flood my inboxes, my comments threads, and I am trying my best to keep track of them all while also trying to recover from a nasty cold virus, so if I haven’t posted your story yet please be patient. I have a long list to go through, and it grows every day. Additionally, if you have a story to tell you can message me on my Facebook page or email EmpoweringMomsCanada@gmail.com.
This is one story of MANY that are from people who experienced obstetric violence. The experience, feelings, and conclusions reached by this individual are theirs and therefore not up for criticism. There is no “other side to the story” in this case, because there is NO EXCUSE FOR OBSTETRIC VIOLENCE just as there is no excuse for a man to beat his partner or rape someone. I don’t care if someone was overwhelmed, overtired, or “just following orders”. That doesn’t excuse what happened. If there is minimizing of the issue in which a mother/birthing person was wronged after they come forward (and so many people DON’T come forward) then that is a problem. If there is justification for what they did, that is a problem. “I’m sorry, I screwed up, I was wrong and will make an effort not to ever do it again” does NOT include any excuses, justifications, or words of apology where you know there will be no meaningful actions to change. Passing the buck will NOT fly anymore. Some information has been edited to protect the person sharing. This particular story was shared as a private conversation with me in a direct message. I have done my best to capture her story accurately.
Tamara was one of the first few mothers to come forward in private message to me after I posted on my page and on a mother’s group. I have done my best to capture her words and will leave my thoughts at the end of this piece. It may be triggering for some people. Tamara suffered a Placental Abruption due to the inattention of one of her care providers.
“I went there [to ARH] because I was in labor and they hooked me up to machines, as I was in extreme pain. My daughter’s heartbeat dropped drastically twice and the doctor said it was fine and that I hadn’t progressed enough, and to go walk around until my contractions were closer together; even though the contraction pain was continuous. I listened to the doctor and walked downstairs in the hospital and saw my doctor at Starbucks getting her coffee, and she urged me to keep walking so I walked out to our truck.”
“As soon as I got to our truck I dropped to the ground, dying in pain, and could barely move. My husband and mother had to pretty much carry me back upstairs while I was screaming and crying. Finally, [we] made it back to my labor room and they hooked me up to the machine again and realized that there was barely any heartbeat and rushed me for an emergency csection. They put me under and operated while my husband paced outside the operating room. I had a placental abruption.”
“My daughter was airlifted to BC Children’s Hospital and put on a cooler for 3 days, and spent 11 days in the NICU having seizures and on breathing machines. I was taken by ambulance (laying upside down because my blood pressure was dangerously low) to BC Children’s Hospital, and [I] was so pale and weak I couldn’t move at all. I have to have 3 consecutive blood transfusions and was also admitted to the hospital for 11 days. This was October, 2015”
I expressed my sympathy for all that Tamara had been through. When I first started reading about her extreme pain, I had enough knowledge behind me to already wonder if I would soon see the words “placental abruption”. I am horrified that this was missed. It is my hope that, since this doctor is still currently practicing, that she has since learned to listen to her clients far better than she had been. I am curious as to WHY she would dismiss her client’s pain when it is clear that Tamara was suffering. Labor is NOT supposed to be that painful that early on, and relying only on the machines in the labor ward was a disservice to the living, breathing human being at the end of those machines and wires, who was in severe pain and deserved to be heard.
Tamara was fortunate that at the moment when she had gone downstairs and seen her doctor at Starbucks, another doctor happened to have been listening. She took over care for Tamara and as Tamara put it:
“If it wasn’t for Dr. K sitting at the desk ordering pizza for lunch and overhearing the situation, my daughter and I would’ve both died. She literally took over and saved us both.”
Sadly, Tamara’s daughter didn’t get out of her birth unscathed.
“My daughter now has weak lungs and is susceptible to lung infections, possibly for her whole life.”
Tamara and I then got to talking about our kids and our busy lives. She has had 3 more children, and chose the doctor who saved her and her daughter’s lives as her care provider. She reported that she filed a complaint with the hospital, but nothing was done. She regrets not seeing a lawyer.
There are many stories like Tamara’s out there, and not everyone comes forward for fear of being silenced. If you have a story or know someone who does, please reach out through email or our Facebook Page.