This happened in Bulgaria, but similar experiences are all too common in this country. See the munchausen obstetrics article linked above.
… I was on the stirrups table, and there… there the tortures really reached their culmination. A culmination, which turned the day supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life, in one of my biggest nightmares. A lot of people gathered around me, all of them screaming “Puuuuush!”, “You’re not doing anything!”, “You’ll kill your baby!”, among other things. I heard that “my” doctor turned for help to one of his colleague, because he had a bigger body build. Soon, I found out what he meant. The colleague in question, with no warning, threw himself on my abdomen. I got so scared that he would kill my baby, and I don’t know how but I gathered enough strength to rise a bit and push him off of me. Then the rest of the people in his team came to his rescue – some pinned me down to the bed, others held my hands tight. At this point I didn’t know if I was dead or alive – I started begging to have them cut me open and take the baby out. At one point I lost consciousness for a bit. A moment later, the next anonymous person in a while coat was standing over me, holding a syringe and asking the rest “Should I put her away?”.
Some time later
I woke up form a deep sleep with faint memories of the moments before I went to sleep. I looked around. There was no-one present. I don’t know why, it must have been a subconscious association, but the hall reminded me of a slaughter house, which has just been cleaned up….
I couldn’t move – I felt strong pain and was nauseous. Baby was nowhere to be heard or seen. There were all kind of thoughts floating around in my head – every thought worse than the next. At one point, a woman in a coat showed up. “What happened?”, I asked. “Don’t you see, you have a baby?”, she angrily blurted out – “You have a wrist-band with a number”. She probably expected me to have guessed… “They pulled it out with a forceps”. “I want to see him”. “Now?!” — as if I was asking for the most unnatural and impossible thing in the world…
Not long after, I was taken to a room in the ward and I was left alone – alone with myself and my tears. I didn’t know where my child was, what was happening with him, I didn’t know what had happened to me – I only knew that I was literally gutted out – that, I could feel… “My doctor” didn’t find it necessary to wait for me to wake up, to talk to me about what had happened, why it happened or what I could expect. He had appointments to make, in his private practice. My husband was allowed to come in for a little bit – I’ve never seen him more distraught. I didn’t know what to think. And then I was left alone again…
In the following days
In the next few days my humiliation continued, again and again, over and over, in an unending string of events, which I wish I could forget but I doubt I ever will be able to…
I made requests to the paediatrics unit to see my baby, to be told anything about him. “He put on 5 grams” – that was the most I could get out of them, “but he isn’t well and we can’t give him to you”.
“To breastfeed?! That’s absurd!”. My breasts were as hard as stone and terribly sore, I got fever – “It’s normal, go ask some new mother to show you how to use the pump”. The breast milk I managed to pump out, I threw away in the sink…
Examinations were done in front of anyone from the neighbouring block of flats to see – no-one thought of closing the curtain.
The accident with a bowel movement I had, in the middle of the room after I was given laxatives and wasn’t warned about what I could expect after the rape. And I was told off over and over again by orderlies and midwives, as if it wasn’t enough that I was worrying about how I would live the rest of my life if I have such accidents now…
My attempt to sit in the wooden chair in the paediatrics unit, on my torn bottom, so I can breastfeed my baby. And how they pulled him out of my hands in 10min, just after he had begun to suckle…
The shock I experienced when I saw myself “down there” for the first time.
The screams, which I had to put up with, because the day before we were released, when I finally had my baby with me I dared to change his nappies because he had soiled the old ones. “Do you think you’re home or what?!”. No, I’m not… unfortunately… and I should have been… If I was home, none of this would have happened…
When I left the hospital, I really felt like I was leaving prison, after I’ve served my sentence.
“The something” my doctor suspected – Improper presentation of the foetus. My research later on showed, that there were serious reasons to suspect this during the very first examination and even before that. It also showed that all interventions administered to speed up delivery (including the stress I went through) have contributed to what happened.
“What happened” – The baby’s head getting stuck in the birth canal, swelling on his head, and a barbarian “live-saving” (when his life was endangered by the doctors in the first place) forceps delivery.
The baby: APGAR 5, enormous cephalohematoma, seizures and hemorrhaging, systems phenobarbital, antibiotics and other pretty things, bad case of jaundice. transfontanelle ultrasonography 20 days after birth – expanded ventriculi, cysts which had to be monitored. Spasticity on one side of his body, then suspicions for cerebral palsy, one year of difficulties and uncertainties (until he learned to walk and talk), recommendations to be monitored until school age for later consequences.
These are just the direct consequences. I’m not even going to mention all the intangible ones.
The Mother: Fourth degree tears, stitched up un-block and however appropriate (quoting the doctor). Three months of going for wound cleaning and change of bandages in the same doctors office, with crowds of visitors and assurance how the wounds are healing slowly, but properly. Later on, it turned out that nothing healed properly. This includes some of the not-so-pleasant details like fistulas, prolapses, muscles which don’t function well and so on, as well as all discomforts associated with them. A serious surgery was necessary later on to correct the above, if at all possible.
These again, are just direct physical consequences. The intangible consequences are not mentioned, since most people consider them funny and/or silly – in the end of the day what matters is we’re alive and kind of healthy, right?
Protest against the violence and trampling over the rights of birthing women in Bulgarian hospitals
The rights of the birthing woman as a patient have long been ignored in our hospitals by the medical personnel.
The specific reason for the current protest is the childbirth experience of a woman in “St. Sofia” Hospital (previously Tina Kirkova). After her legal refusal to sign the informed consent as presented the attitude of the staff towards her quickly became rude, threatening and coersive. Later on she was physically handled and restrained in the lithotomy position against her will and stitched without anaesthetic “as punishment”. Each of this actions in direct violation of her rights as a patient and her fundamental human rights.
In reality its enough for a person to visit and read through the stories of women who have recently given birth at a popular bulgarian parenting forum to see that this violence against them is a common practice.
But in the end, even if two women get violated in this way, its two too many. That is why we decided to organize peaceful protest in front of hospital “St Sofia” and to submit a protest note to the director of the hospital along with the stories of the women and copies to the Minister for Health and the media.
We thought 25th of November, as the International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women is a perfect day for this protest. It is inexcusable and criminal, while the woman is so vulnerable in the process of giving birth, such psychological and physical violence to be excerted over her, for her to be treated with disrespect, with force and without care for her needs.
For those of you offering help from overseas, first of all thank you very much. We need all the support we can get.