Finding Healing After A Traumatic Birth: The Difference A Letter Can Make

Since I wrote the post about admitting that I had a traumatic birth with Eli, many of you have written to me about similar experiences. While I'm saddened that this is so common, it's also nice to know I'm not alone. Some things have happened since I wrote that post, so today, I just want to give you encouragement in your journey, by telling you more about mine.

If you'll remember, at the time I wrote the post, I had written a letter to the hospital I delivered at with feedback concerning the birth, but had not yet received a response. Since then, I received a call from the vice-chairman of the department of anesthesiology at the hospital system who is also lead anesthesiologist at the provider that serviced my epidural.

The doctor called first to apologize for my experience over and over again and let me know it wasn't normal or an example of the work they do. Second, if you remember from my post, I mentioned that my letter requested that my nurse anesthetist and anesthesiologist did not assist me in this next birth, if I chose that service. The doctor let me know the nurse anesthetist had left the anesthesia company, and while the anesthesiologist was still with the company, I learned that he does not normally do OB rounds, and the chance of me getting this particular doctor was about 3 percent, which is small, but it does mean I'd still have a 3 percent chance of getting him again for this next baby.

I was surprised by the call, but I truly appreciated it - and I was relieved that I likely wouldn't have the same people in the event that I opted for an epidural again. In response, I told the doctor that I appreciated his apology and knowing it would be crazy-rare for me to get the same anesthesiologist for two births, I could handle it and would be fine going forward.

But this man went way above and beyond. He offered to be on call just for me during my birth, and he said he would come in a personally give me an epidural if I ended up wanting one. Remember - I'm due December 28 - right over Christmas. Holidays. Parties. Vacation. Family.

I told him it wouldn't be required, that it was a generous and kind offer, but completely unnecessary.

But he insisted over and over again.

He did leave it to me to make the final decision. It's up to me if we call him in or not, and to be honest, I probably won't. (Although I may severely regret that decision if I see my original anesthesiologist again!) But the fact that he was willing to do this for me is all that mattered. In fact, it brought me to tears later.

Prior to the phone call, I kept wondering what I wanted from the hospital. From the anesthesiologist. From the doctors. What would make it better? And I didn't really know. I mean, I wrote that letter 14 months after the events occured. What could and should I expect? Just acknowledgement perhaps? Recognition that they didn't do right by me? An apology would have been nice, but I wasn't expecting it. Let alone a personal phone call from the head of the company. Or having my own personal anesthesiologist on call for me 24/7 leading up to the birth.

It sorta blew my mind.

As the doctor closed the phone call, he asked me how I was doing and if I felt the conversation helped anything at all. And I told him truthfully - yes. But as Mike and I were talking about it later and I was processing it more, I realized that while I so appreciated the phone call and the offer he made, I'm not sure that was what truly helped me in my healing. I think it was more just writing the letter.

It forced me to process what happened. To write it down, rereading it for accuracy, honesty and clarity - and by doing this, it forced me to relive it and then deal with my emotions and feelings. I didn't know what I wanted back, probably because there wasn't really anything I needed back. I more just needed to be heard. To know they knew was enough for me.

As I've talked or written with some of you, most of you have said you never wrote to your hospital/ob/anesthesiologist to tell them what happened - and you're still reeling from your experiences months and years later. So today, I'd encourage you to write a letter. Not to air every emotion or feeling you had, but to let the right people know what happened in a calm, logical manner. Find the good in what happened and tell them that too - for me it was my nurses, and I sandwiched my concerns between their praises.

Remember, a hospital, anesthesia company and OBGYN are all businesses - they want to give you good customer service and I think sometimes because they work in the medical realm - an area that most of us are completely ignorant in - we don't feel like we can tell them that we feel we were treated wrongly. But we can! And we should! If I learned anything from my letter and the phone call I received it's that these companies want to do right by their patients - their customers - and our feedback matters, even if it does come a year and a half later.

A big part of healing is knowing how to separate the bad things that happened from the good things, and recognizing that how you were treated is abnormal, and not representative of all doctors, nurses - whomever. And even though you logically know that, hearing it directly from the source can make all the difference. But also remember, the hospital can only change their methods, personnel and systems if they know that something isn't working right, and how will they know when we as the patient, won't tell them? Don't slide what happened to you under the rug, brush it off as if it never happened, or downplay it - your perception of your birth was real and in the end, is all that matters. Hospitals know that, and contrary to how it feels, they want you to have a good experience!

Wherever you're at in your journey to heal after a traumatic birth, know you're not alone. I totally thought I was until I shared my story with you all and I realized that (sadly) I am one of many. The stories and reasons are vast and varied, but the one thing thing we have in common is that we're looking for a way to heal and to no longer be haunted by our experience.

And I think this is one way we can start down that path.

ps. The hospital and anesthesia company don't know I have this blog, and even if they did I've intentionally left the name out of where I delivered because I don't ever want to use this space as a place to rant or complain, just to get special treatment. But when companies do impressive things just for the sake of good customer service, I want tell you about it. If you're local and are curious about where I delivered, I'd love to tell you - and for the record, I'd totally recommend it. 

Related Posts:
Eli's Birth Story, Part I
Eli's Birth Story, Part II
When You Finally Admit You Had a Traumatic Birth
Rewriting Your Birth Story - A Podcast For Those That Had A Traumatic Brith

2 comments:

  1. Maybe it's my own pregnancy hormones, but I almost had tears when I read what the doctor offered you. It's so nice to know when your concerns are actually heard and taken to heart. Kudos to you for writing that letter - it was obviously well written to warrant the response your received. Thanks for sharing the update!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I know, it was so kind right? I couldn't believe it when he offered and it truly meant the world not only that he reached out, but that he wanted to do everything in his power to make it better. Crazy!

    ReplyDelete