Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Devil You Know

One of the disadvantages of being a midwife in a busy delivery suite in Australia is that you seldom meet women before they are in labour. As shifts change we often take on women who are heavily into labour and must take on the difficult task of determining a woman's desires and needs while she is in no mood for idle chit chat.

Mrs K was just such a woman.  She was heavily into labour with her fourth child when I arrived taking over from the previous midwife.  With three previous births under her belt I was sure Mrs K would have a clear idea of what she wanted from this birth and indeed she did.  With each contraction she would stop walking, grab her husband's shoulders and rock from side to side. Startled to find she would periodically burst into fits of giggling she explained she was just happy as she was finally getting that "natural birth" she had always wanted. Progressing rapidly, she was soon showing  signs that her private obstetrician would have to be called. I had to be careful as her doctor was known for his somewhat aggressive use of intervention and I didn't want to worry that I had called him too early.

At that moment, to my alarm the doctor himself arrived with an anesthetist in toe.  He demanded Mrs K get into bed and upon examining her declared she was 9cm.  He told the anesthetist to insert an epidural.  I protested that Mrs K had not requested one and desired to have a natural birth and perhaps we should ask her first.  Dr T responded by telling the anesthetist to go ahead and quietened Mrs K's protests telling her she would "put her baby in danger" if she refused. Within a few minutes, as the anesthetist inserted the epidural catheter, Mrs K screamed she wanted to push. 

Dr T began shouting at Mrs K that she did not want to push. Mrs K shouted back she couldn't stop herself.  The anesthetist, trying to withdraw from the situation was told by Dr T to put in the drug into the epidural catheter NOW!!.  In the middle of this madness was the midwife, trying to get someone to realize that  the baby was arriving with or without the epidural! Within minutes, after a large episiotomy, Mrs K was delivered of her baby, stitched up and her obstetrician gone. 

I found it hard to know how to comfort Mrs K as she held her baby and sobbed.  She was unable to move as by now her epidural was fully in effect and feeding her new baby seemed an impossible task.  I handed her new daughter to her husband, made her a cup of tea and ignoring all my usual tasks sat and talked her through what had just happened.  Mrs K tearfully described how it felt to have "my beautiful birth torn from me". 

" This is my last birth." she explained.  "I so needed it to be happy, to be the birth that I could remember as wonderful.   My previous births were all horrible like this.   Each time I thought I wanted to be the one to make the decisions and each time Dr T would arrive and make his decisions ignoring my requests.  From the first one I decided that was it!  Next time I will go to another doctor and each time I decided  IT WAS BETTER TO STAY WITH THE DEVIL YOU KNOW!!!.............."


  1. Great stuff here. Have a great holiday season.

  2. What an unnecessary loss for this mother. Standing up to a physician with years of education is daunting for me to think about but as I read these blogs I realize educations best tutor is often real world experience not just graduation certificates. As my first child prepares to have her first child in the United States, I am thankful to be learning about midwives and their desire and training/experience in natural child birth. I delivered 3 children proudly claiming I used natural child birth. My definition of natural child birth was, no medication. I am learning there is much more available for a wonderful child birth experience. Thank you Midwitch for an enjoyable blog and for exposing me and my daughter to some beautiful natural births.