POTM: Motherhood, Maternity Care & The 8th Amendment

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April 7, 2018

After a miscarriage to an unplanned pregnancy, I became pregnant again at the age of 20. The miscarriage had frightened me so I clung on to this pregnancy even though I was unprepared and in a less than ideal relationship. I had been taking a mini-pill on both occasions.

When my contractions began, right on time, I went to the hospital. A midwife rolled her eyes as she told me I was only 3cm dialated. Then, without warning or explanation, she artificially broke my waters. “This’ll speed things up”.

After 20 hours and every intervention possible, my daughter was born. As the doctor stitched me up, she told my “contractions were too short”. She sounded pissed off with me. This is when I learned that she had performed the episiostomy during my labour without consultation.

It still gives me problems to this day.

Two years later, while on a combination pill, I became pregnant again. “You must have missed one, or taken it wrong”. I did not. When my contractions began, I began to panic. I told the midwife I was ready to push. “Not at all, the contractions aren’t long enough yet”.

I told her this happened last time. She didn’t listen.

I screamed that the baby was coming. She didn’t listen.

I begged to be brought to the delivery ward. “FINE! Sure what would we know, but I’m telling you it’s too soon, and you’ll feel silly coming back here (labour ward) without a baby!” My daughter crowned on the corridor between the wards in front of strangers.

It was too late for the pain relief I had been requesting for hours.

Six years later, back on a pill that I “must have misused” I became pregnant again. This time, in a loving, supportive relationship, I was excited. Labour began, I requested an epidural. “It’s too soon”.

I calmly tried to explain it’s not. They didn’t listen.

A short while later it became apparent to them that I was right. But “sure you managed before without it, you’ll be grand”. I was not grand. I wanted pain relief, they wouldn’t give it to me. Low and behold it was “too late now anyway, just push!”

Eighteen months later I decided to have another baby. It was wonderful to watch my daughters grow up so close in age, I wanted the same for my son. During this pregnancy, my first son was diagnosed with severe autism. Less than two years after that, so was my second son.

My doctor put me on “the strongest pill on the market”. She told me to set an alarm and keep it in my purse…

Later that year, I was pregnant. Again. At 10 weeks I began to bleed. A wonderful doctor in A&E detected a good strong heartbeat. Baby was fine, but we got talking about my history. “Eh, I think you need to stop relying on hormonal contraceptives!”

“Eh, ya think?!” He asked about my mother’s history. She also had multiple pregnancies while using contraceptives. He told me that certain hormonal imbalances can cause immunity to some contraceptives and this can be genetic. He recommended I have my tubes tied during this labour if I didn’t want anymore children. I seconded this motion, hard! He told me to make it clear from the beginning that this is what I want because “Ireland is funny about tying tubes” (He was American).

From my first ante-natal visit, until my last, I requested a tubular lingation.

“We’ll need your husband to sign a permission slip”

“Excuse me?!”

“Oh, haha, I mean a consent form!”

I was 32 years old, married with five children, two of whom have genetic special needs and yet my consultant deemed me to be an undesirable candidate for a tubular lingation. He felt I was too young, and “clearly, too emotional right now” to make such a permanent decision” but I should feel free to speak to my GP at a later date when I am “feeling better”. And I will, but with 5 children at home, it would have been nice to have had this taken care of while my husband was on paternity leave and I was in hospital anyway.

The 8th Amendment is not just about abortion. Everything that happened to me during all my pregnancies was technically legal and acceptable because of the 8th amendment.

The 8th amendment protects forced inductions and episiostomies. It allows doctors to refuse pain relief. They do not have to listen to me. They do not have to tie my tubes.

This will not happen to my daughters.

Christine Greene-O'Brien Gleeson
Christine Greene-O'Brien Gleeson
I'm a mother of 5, my son's autism is the least of my worries!