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- PTSD from a Mother’s Point of View

Last Updated: 10/5/2011

I read the following story on Facebook and asked the author if I could share it, she graciously granted her permission and provided the photos to accompany it.

Birth story (Jennifer Antonik)

by Birth Strong: Inform & Empower on Sunday, 02 October 2011 at 17:28

"Our oldest, born a mere 14 months prior to our daughter, was born with a broken clavicle due to shoulder dystocia. We firmly believe his dystocia was caused by Pitocin, constant fetal monitoring and laboring on my back for the duration of labor, none of which we later learned was needed. My ob/gyn told me not more than an hour after birth that I would need c-sections at each subsequent birth because my pelvis was too small. (I’m not a small lady!) So when we found out we were pregnant again, we did our research and made our opinion known at every prenatal, that despite doctors wishes, we would not be electing to have a cesarean delivery because the risks from that for baby and mama were much higher than the risk of another dystocia as we knew just what to do to avoid it again…avoid the unnecessary interventions! My husband and I decided to hire a doula to assist with the delivery. The day my water broke, I called our doula who headed over later in the evening when my contractions picked up. After several hours of chit chatting between 7-minute apart contractions, she suggested I get up to do some lunges on the stairs to get labor moving and move it did! My contractions immediately went from 7 minutes apart to 1-2 minutes apart. After about half an hour of these contractions, my doula mentioned maybe it was time to head to the hospital since it was a half hour drive. I agreed and we made the long, contraction filled drive to the hospital. Upon arrival, I sat in the hallway at the intake desk for five minutes trying to stay composed amidst my almost continuous contractions. I was then taken to a triage room to submit a pee sample and have my cervix checked. Neither my husband nor my doula were allowed to come back with me despite my telling the nurses I did not want to be separated and pleading with them to allow the two to come back. "I want my husband and doula with me,” I repeatedly asked, eventually yelling. Finally, after somehow managing a cervical check that I didn’t want in the first place and informing me what I already knew and told them, "there’s not much cervix left,” my husband and doula joined us in heading to the delivery room. Have you ever tried to pee in a cup and lie motionless on a table when you know you’re about to push a baby out? It’s not pleasant. Needless to say, I was very upset that I was separated from what I felt was the only support I had on my side! I still can’t understand why, after asking several times, I was not allowed to have my husband and doula present. I labored for another five or ten minutes until I was ready to push. I was assisted onto the bed where I was promptly set up with fetal monitors and another vaginal exam, both very unwanted. I argued with the nurse to get the monitors off my belly and ended up taking them off myself with my doula. She helped because I couldn’t do it alone at that point and she was closer than my husband, who would have also done so. I then had to argue with the doctor who was beginning to perform a vaginal exam. I knew that my body was ready and willing to deliver our daughter and that any exam could potentially introduce new bacteria. It was also quite uncomfortable! (Even more than labor can be at this stage.) I asked him to "Please, get out of my vagina.” He did not. I repeated myself several more times as did my husband and doula, each time getting progressively more upset without using swear words or being belligerent. I couldn’t tell you how many times we all asked in total, but it was a lot. I’d say at least ten times. Finally, he stopped without pulling out his fingers. He just kept his fingers inside me, motionless. Without drugs, I could feel everything and that his fingers rested motionless between my baby’s head and the inside of my now non-existent cervix. Looking me in the eyes the doctor said, "You do not have to speak to me or my staff that way.” I repeated one last and heated time, "Get your fingers out of my vagina.” Oh I was livid! How dare this doctor think he has control over my vagina and my baby! He finally pulled out and backed away, asking, "Do you want to do this?” I nodded and he said, "Then let me do my job,” but my job was more important and I got down to the business of birthing our daughter who was out healthy and fine in only a few pushes. After our daughter’s birth, I really didn’t think much into it other than I made out fine with no drugs and no c-section, contrary to the doctor’s original orders. I had a rough go of it, though. I slowly slipped into a depression. I was functional, but barely, at times. I tried to brush it off as a joke, "that stupid doctor,” I’d say. About three months in, I realized what happened wasn’t funny. It wasn’t cool. What happened to me really did happen. I had been birth raped with my husband and doula watching and not able to do anything! Now, many of you may have a hard time with the term "birthrape” and I understand and respect that. I, too, have seen the birth stories which use the term "birthrape” in ways I don’t feel is appropriate either. I don’t think this is different just because it happened to me now. This is different because someone put his fingers inside of me when I told him not to, wouldn’t remove them when I said no and demanded control over my body. I had a beautiful birth and in the end, both mama and baby were beautiful and healthy, too. But this negativity looms over her birth because of the doctor’s actions. What will I tell our daughter about her birth when she is old enough to ask? Will I leave it out? Will I lie? Will I tell her the truth? How will this affect my work as a doula? Will I be able to serve another woman if this man is her doctor? What will happen if I encounter a similar experience being done to another woman? I have since been diagnosed with PTSD, or Post-traumatic stress disorder. I’ve had flashbacks, triggers, depression, anger and hopelessness. I have a hard time having sex with my husband. Sex is a part of a healthy marriage! Yes, there are nights where I enjoy it, some when I even instigate it now and it’s slowly getting better. But there are some nights when I just roll over and don’t want to be touched (beyond the normal breastfeeding mom of two not wanting to be touched phenomenon). Some nights I just have sex to keep him happy, out of obligation. Some nights I can only get half way through before it becomes a trigger for me and I have to stop. Or I’ll let him finish and just grin and bear it. Then cry about it later. One night, my mom (a hairdresser) was cutting my hair. She chose to do a built-in bump-it to boost my hair a bit as I’ve been losing some hair (as typical, I think, in the postpartum period). To do this, she has to use a razor and pull it down and against my hair. As she was starting, I asked her to stop because it hurt more than I was expecting. She wouldn’t stop, and instead, kept saying I would be fine. I asked and asked her to stop. Finally, she was finished. But that was all I needed. It triggered my PTSD and I curled up in my bed and just cried next to my husband. Poor guy, he really doesn’t understand all that’s happening but wants so much to be supportive! I have tried to seek out several options pertaining to the birth of our daughter. I do have a therapist I see who diagnosed me with PTSD. I have called the hospital where we delivered to complain about the care we received. That resulted in little more than a letter apologizing for the bad experience. The head nurse of the labor and delivery floor told me I needed to think on the positive since baby and I were both healthy and to basically get over it. She spoke with the doctor in question. He couldn’t remember the birth other than it being a quick labor (for him). He told her he’d be more than willing to meet with me and anyone I wished to accompany me at the hospital or his office at least. First off, he doesn’t remember what he did to me and second, I don’t want to look at him right now! His picture on his office Web site only brings me to tears. I have talked to a lawyer who pretty much laughed me off the phone. After relaying my story to him, he asked me, "So, what did the doctor do wrong again?” When I told him briefly, again, about the unwanted encounter, he said I had no case. I plan to write the state board of medical licensure about the experience and also would like to take this matter to police in hopes that someone there will understand. Rape is rape whether it happened to satisfy sexual needs or to merely have control. He kept his fingers inside me against my will and desire. You may have said at the beginning, how is this birth rape? Another story of a woman taking things out of context? I ask you… How is this not birth rape? No means no."


My comments:  Thank-you so much Jennifer for sharing your story with me and my readers.  I’m so sorry that your birth experience was not what you had hoped for or prepared for.  I’m so sorry that this man forced himself and his wishes upon you.  NO DOES mean NO.  He didn’t understand that and there is no excuse for his actions.   On the other side, your baby is absolutely gorgeous.  I’m praying for you and for all the other mothers like you that have had this happen.  You are myriad.  My prayer is from Numbers 6:24-27:  "May the Lord bless you, and keep you; The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.”   That word peace refers to total health.  Health in every part of your person.  May He grant you healing in mind and emotions as well as in body.  Please do not stop working for resolution.  Tell your story far and wide.  Work for FREEDOM for mothers.


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