The nurses at my side while I labored for 18 hours to give birth to my son knew I was in an abusive marriage. I was questioned again and again, and again and again I answered no. I wasn’t hiding or lying, I didn’t know. Silence prevailed.
I did not know. Donkey’s pattern was still 2 months from discovery.
It started standard enough with the regular questions you spend the first hour of labor answering. We got to are you a victim of abuse? and I answered no, and we moved on. After everything was finished and signed, the intake nurse reopened one of the packets, pointed to a question, #15, and handed me a pen and told me I could write the answer. I refused the pen and shook my head.
She had observed something I was only slightly bothered by at that point. Not once during the hour we were talking did Donkey join us. He sat around the corner on the bench, out of my sight, and programmed his new phone.
The intake nurse wasn’t the only one to ask me if I was in an abusive marriage. My regular nurse noticed. She asked me when Donkey left to go get me something to eat. He didn’t want to. My nurse had come in to tell me it was my last chance to eat if I wanted to be able to get the epidural. I still wasn’t sure, but I thought it would be a good idea to eat. I asked Donkey to get some dinner and he asked me to wait until the tv show was over. I reminded him it was a rerun, and after a few minutes he agreed and went for dinner.
My nurse asked me if I was in an abusive relationship. I answered no, but I was sort of beginning to wonder why people kept asking me this same question. She assured me it was ok to answer honestly. I assured her I was not getting hit. I remember saying that, I don’t get hit. She told me to call her if I wanted to talk.
My answer was changing. My labor was progressing. I was facing complications, scared, and alone. Donkey returned to the bench after bringing dinner back to the room and there he stayed.
A few hours and several centimeters later, my midwife was telling me she had notified the MD on staff because things weren’t going well and she needed to turn it over. I would have to get the epidural in case a C-section became necessary. She promised she would be with me. I got the epidural. The doctor came in and we talked and Donkey sat on the bench. I remember the doctor’s last words to me – if you think you can push this baby out in 15 minutes or less, I won’t need to do a C-section. I do believe I took 12 of those allotted 15 minutes – I had an epidural after-all.
I had my nurse on my left and my midwife on my right. Donkey got up from the bench after the bed had been broken down into a chair and we were about to begin counting the first push. He stepped to the bed and my midwife cocked her hip to the side, making herself very spacious, and said we got this. And, just like that, my son was born, he was at my breast, the cord was cut, and he was taken to be treated by the neo-natal emergency technicians. Donkey left the room to announce the arrival of his son.
It was obvious to my nurses then and it is to me now. I was being ignored and neglected during a very trying time: trying to keep strength, trying to make good decisions, trying to bring a new life into being. A woman who is being abused during labor is giving birth to a child who will also be abused.
This is the closest I was to help before I went out and got help. I didn’t understand what part the control and rage played in dictating my every thought, word, and action. I thought I had to be hit to answer yes. I wish the nurse had educated me. Or maybe just slid The Hotline Number in my bag. I might not have been thrown thru a door in February if I could have understood on that December day that I was being abused.
It’s one this to know, it’s something else entirely to act. Acting can be as simple as letting someone know there are resources to as complex as becoming an escape partner.