Although Caroline Malatesta was giving birth to her fourth child, she was completely unprepared for what happened during this delivery.
This time around, Caroline and her husband, J.T., decided to deliver at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center in Birmingham, AL, because of its focus on promoting a natural birth experience and its promise to empower moms throughout their delivery. However, Caroline's experience was anything but supportive, and she endured a birth that was so traumatic that she suffers from PTSD as well as a lasting injury. She was just awarded $16 million in court for the unthinkable ordeal.
When Caroline went into labor in 2014, she was optimistic that a natural birth might be better than her past three "medicated, on-your-back" deliveries. When she arrived at the hospital, a nurse informed her that her doctor wasn't on call and started making changes to her birth plan.
"From that point on, it became a back-and-forth of, 'But my doctor said I could' and 'But you don't get to.' The nurse treated me like a disobedient child!," Caroline wrote for Cosmopolitan.
"A lot of times hospitals think it's just 'silly women' who want their 'silly birth experience.' But it's more than that. These women that are making these choices are making real, medical decisions."
Although it felt most natural and comfortable for Caroline to be on her hands and knees after her water broke, the nurses allegedly pulled her wrists out from under her, flipped her on her back, and aggressively pinned her down against her struggles. Then, another nurse reached and held her baby's crowning head in her vagina to prevent her from delivering the child.
Six minutes later, a doctor ran in and the nurse let go of the baby's head, but that delay left Caroline with a permanent and debilitating nerve condition called pudendal neuralgia.
"The nurse lets go of the baby's head and I felt immediate relief, because that deep pressure of her holding the head in against the force of my contractions was finally released," Caroline wrote.
Caroline spent six months completely nonfunctional, unable to have sex, and experiencing constant sharp pain that's "much worse than labor."
She was left desperate to know why this happened in the first place. Two years after filing a malpractice lawsuit in order to get the hospital to take her seriously, the court awarded Caroline $16 million and stated that this was the "direct result of misrepresentation" by the hospital.
"This verdict is a wake-up call for hospitals that don't take women seriously. It's a wake-up call that they need to review the way they've been doing things and make changes," Caroline wrote. "A lot of times hospitals think it's just 'silly women' who want their 'silly birth experience.' But it's more than that. These women that are making these choices are making real, medical decisions."