MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) -- For six months I've written my birth story in my head. On nights when my restless baby would keep me up, or as I would watch her peacefully sleep, I would go over the events of that night/early morning over and over again.
I know how blessed and lucky my husband and I are to have a healthy, beautiful baby girl. That being said, for months, there has always been something nagging at me. And this is it. I knew I wanted others to know what we endured when she came into our lives. It shouldn't have happened to us in the way it did and I don't believe it should happen to anyone else.
Anger, disgust and sadness are just some of the emotions I feel when I discuss my labor and delivery experience in Manhattan. Despite birth plans, a doula and an amazing husband, our experience left our little family scarred and frankly, a little scared to do it again. In a time when a woman should feel comforted and reassured by doctors and nurses at a hospital, we were let down and abandoned.
After laboring at home with our doula for several hours, we decided it was time to head in to Mount Sinai-Roosevelt. Unfortunately, our doctor and her partner were not on call that evening so we were stuck with a physician we had never met before. We knew this was always a possibility, so we weren't quite upset about that. We were instead bothered by this doctor's attitude towards us. He was irritated and short every single time he spoke to us on the phone and at one point even hung up the phone on me. Nonetheless, with my contractions 2 to 2 1/2 minutes apart, this doctor told us to head in to the hospital and he would meet us at labor and delivery.
Instead of the doctor, what greeted us was a packed waiting room with no place to sit, no urgency and no communication. All we were told was there were no beds available for me and I should mention we were not alone. I remember at least four to five other women waiting in the same room.
For two hours, as my contractions got stronger and stronger, I stood and rocked back and forth in the hallway of a busy labor and delivery wing at Mount Sinai-Roosevelt. Not once did a nurse or resident stop to ask me my name, how far along I was, how I was doing or if I needed anything at all. Not once in the two hours I stood in pain just a few feet from the nurses station.
The rhythm of breathing through my contractions felt disrupted by the way I was being treated. I could overhear conversations from nurses and residents discussing what they felt like eating, where they should order and even how someone's date went the night before. My doula, my husband and I were in shock. Contractions were about 1 minute to 1 1/2 minutes apart at this point, so I was in active labor, in pain and being completely ignored.
I should also mention the doctor on call for us was missing in action. Despite telling me he would meet us at the hospital, he was nowhere to be found for quite some time. There was a point he called my husband (while I was still laboring in the hallway) and told him he had just left the hospital and to not worry because he was around the city.
Eventually I was brought into triage. Hallelujah! Time to celebrate, right? Wrong! That's where we encountered our next issue. Despite me needing to lean on my husband and doula for support because of the pain, they were not allowed to come in to triage with me. I was handed a hospital gown to change into and left to slowly undress between contractions by myself.
I was finally checked and told I was 7 to 8 cm dilated! Great news, but also scary knowing I could have delivered in the hallway if we were left on our own for much longer. What became even more concerning for us were the frightening few hours that followed. Our daughter's heart rate began to drop significantly, indicating some kind of distress. After this happened a total of three times through the night and into the early morning, we did realize we were in for an unplanned emergency c-section.
By 7 a.m., thankfully, one of doctors from the practice I had been going to came on call and took over. She was a familiar, friendly face who became our source of calm during a chaotic few hours. She delivered our beautiful Laila Jasmine at 9:19AM on October 23.
From that day on, I've heard the countless comments and opinions about my birth. Usually the comments end with "At least you and Laila are healthy and OK." It's not that I disagree with that statement, but does that imply I ignore what happened to us? That we have suddenly found it acceptable for a woman to go ignored while she's in labor? Yes, thankfully my daughter is healthy, but we had some significant scares with her heart rate as soon as I was hooked up to a fetal monitor. How long was she in distress? Could something have happened to her in those two hours I was forced to stand and labor alone? These are just some of the questions I ask myself over and over again.
I was as vocal a proponent for myself and my daughter as I could have been and yet, this is the experience we had at a hospital that touts itself as having a commitment to supporting a women's autonomy. My only goal in sharing my story is hopefully empower women to speak up for themselves. We are at our most vulnerable when we go in to deliver our babies and yet we are also at our strongest. We should not head in to take part in one of life's most empowering and beautiful moments and come out feeling stripped and traumatized.
I received dozens of emails and Facebook messages from women around our city when we set out to research this story. This only confirmed to me that this was not an isolated issue as some hospitals will allege. I urge doctors, nurses and health practitioners to read this and watch our story. I hope they don't view it as a personal attack, but as an opportunity to hear what many women are saying and feeling. Let's use this opportunity to be better because women in our city do deserve better. Much better.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Mount Sinai Health System said:
“While we cannot, under patient privacy laws, discuss specific cases, we do regret to hear of a patient’s recent reported negative experience at Mount Sinai Roosevelt. As we’ve said previously, at Mount Sinai, our focus is on delivering the highest standards of quality health care at all of our hospitals, and we take complaints filed through our Patient Service Center very seriously. This report will be taken into account as we examine our processes and look toward further improving the patient experience across all of our service lines.”