Nips, Lips, Hips, ‘N Fingertips

{October 21, 2006}   Did you watch ER last night?

I’m becoming an ER junkie. I’ve been watching the show for years but it is now dovetailing so nicely with my own angst that it is like Gestalt therapy to watch.

I find myself wanting to pull for Kovac, but knowing that it’s more complicated. Forest Whitaker does an amazing job of portraying the frustration of being asked to put ones life in the hands of doctors who chat and eat bagels with cream cheese while we are suffering.

I was bawling again watching last nights episode, at how deeply Ames (played by Whitaker) felt betrayed- and the distrust that comes from betrayal.

Yes, I know the big picture- and I LOVE that the writers of ER are digging deep to really show how complicated it is- but I have also been on the receiving end of malpractice.

I wonder how many people out there watching ER can relate?

How many of us women (before and/or after birth) have been left to sit in our own blood/milk/sweat/urine-soaked bed for hours or days, neglected, overlooked, patronized- even abused, or can I call it brutalized?- by an Obstetrician and “overextended” nursing staff? How many of us have been told that the doctor knows what is best and that is what will be done? How many of us have had a doctor or nurse play the dead baby card in an effort to get us to comply with hospital protocol? How many of us have been denied food, water, comfort, and our lover or other partner while in labor? How many of us have been told that we do not know what we are talking about, that being flat on our backs in a hospital bed on the monitors with a posterior baby isn’t as bad as we are saying it is, that we just need to relax and if we would only get the epidural all the pain would go away? How many of us have taken the epidural (after several tries) and still been in pain but then unable to move about? How many of us have been cut open for no good reason except that we were taking up too much of our OB’s time? How many of us have been told that our babies were in distress because of late decels when s/he was simply responding to contractions the way God/Nature/The Universe intended? How many of us have been told that if we refuse surgery our babies would die? How many of us were told we needed a hysterectomy when we didn’t? How many of us have had our babies taken too soon, because an ultrasound was wrong? How many of us have aborted babies because an ultrasound showed a defect that wasn’t there? How many of us have worried about a defect the entire pregnancy only to find out that it didn’t exist at birth, and better yet that the baby was the complete opposite sex that we were told she was? How many of us were not aware of a defect until birth despite the fact that we had countless ultrasounds during our pregnancies? How many of us have been told that we needed to have an episiotomy to ease the baby out at birth only to tear from clit to anus and find that we are then in pain for the rest of our lives? How many of us have had an OB (or a resident) put an entire hand inside of us and extract a perfectly healthy placenta that just needed a little more time to come out on its own? How many of us were told we had to be induced because the placenta was dying only to find a healthy baby and healthy placenta? How many of us have pushed out one twin only to go to the OR to have the other one surgically removed because s/he was breech? How many of us have had a scheduled Cesarean surgery for a breech baby simply because knOBs do not know how to deliver breech babies anymore? How many of us have had a scheduled Cesarean surgery for breech, only to have the baby turn before surgery, but been told that it is best to go on with the surgical plan? How many of us have been denied a VBAC because our knOB doesn’t want the possibility of a lawsuit? How many of us have been told that VBAC is dangerous and been coerced into an increasingly risky second, third, fourth or fifth Cesarean? How many of us have had a nurse holding- even pushing back in- our baby’s head while waiting for an OB to show up so s/he could “catch” the baby? How many of us have been told not to push so that we could make it to the OR for a scheduled surgery? How many of us have been told how/when/where/why to push (an urge that is extremely primal and best followed by the mother without “coaching” or counting)? How many of us have been told that we couldn’t have given birth vaginally, and gone on to prove them wrong? How many of us have vaginally birthed babies larger than the ones we were cut open for? How many of us have avoided sex after Cesarean for fear of getting pregnant again? How many of us had babies we didn’t really need or want just to have another chance to birth? How many of us have wished we could back to being ignorant and perhaps more blissful? How many of us have been told after having an avoidable/preventable/unnecessary Cesarean: “You should be grateful” or “Fifty years ago you would have died in childbirth” or “All that matters is a healthy baby!” How many of us have been told while undergoing repair for a fourth degree tear that the really hot water the resident is pouring on our labia is not really that hot? How many of us have refused induction, surgery, repair, or medication for a repair just so that we could leave the hospital? How many of us have been told that if we leave the hospital because we are sick of being mistreated that it will be written in our charts that we left AMA (Against Medical Advice) and that we will then be saddled with the hospital bills when our HMO/PPO won’t pay? How many of us who have refused/resisted circumcision of our male babies were told that it doesn’t really hurt them and asked to hold our screaming infants still while the procedure is performed? How many of us have felt like no one understood that we were essentially raped and then blamed for our anger, frustration, mistrust, reluctance to seek further medical attention?

Wow. I feel better, and I feel worse. I feel like part of a silent majority that is too apathetic to speak up and too busy to actually do anything to change the system and too scared, too. 

I know there are many of us. I have met you through the ICAN list and meetings and La Leche League meetings and the Nursing Mother’s Circle at Kangaroo Kids in St. Louis and on the MotheringDotCommune message boards and the Modern Moms board, and…

There are so many of us. Each with a story to tell, if anyone is there to listen to us.

For some, that’s all we need: just for someone to listen to us. Just for one other person to acknowledge that what happened to us was wrong, and that it should not have happened.

Some of us still feel like it was our fault, and some of us KNOW it wasn’t our fault and we expect something to be done about it and we can’t understand why no one really cares.

The thing is: the system isn’t going to change. It’s broken, it’s dysfunctional, and it’s looking for a way out without having to say that it’s sorry it did something wrong.

But we are not broken, even though that is exactly what they would like for us to believe. We can *choose*. We have the *power* to choose health and wellness and VBAC and HBAC and UBAC- and, better yet, freebirth in the first place and all-ways unmedicated birth if we are willing to take responsibility for our actions and choices.

As the prosecutor asked Ames, on the stand in ER: “Did you refuse the cure that could have saved you?”

I refused the cure in birth, both times. And that made all the difference.

I could have sued my sOB for a number of things, but I didn’t.

Surviving, thriving, and helping others is the best revenge.


[…] Source: Did you watch ER last night? « Nips, Lips, Hips, ‘N Fingertips […]

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