Friday, August 27, 2010

Letter to an OB

Dear Dr. _______________,
            I'm not sure that you remember me or can picture my face any longer, but you delivered my son via cesarean just over three years ago. You were a wonderful surgeon and you did everything a "good" doctor is suppose to do. By medical definition, you were excellent- my physical scare was barely noticeable by six months postpartum, however, the emotional scars remained.  
          If you can remember, I was hoping to have a natural, intervention-free birth, but after 24+ hours of induced labor due to premature rupture of membranes, the decision was made to deliver via cesarean. I place no blame on you for that decision- it was mine based on the information that I was given (although knowing that I was making progress going from 10 % effaced to 75 % effaced may have altered my decision). What I do want to ask you to consider is your choice of words and the effect that they can have at a woman's most vulnerable moment.
           I can still hear the sentence you said to me as you were cutting my son from my body, "Wow! What a tiny baby! If you can't birth a baby this small, next time forget about the birth plan; forget about a VBAC; sign up for a cesarean." That one simple statement that was probably forgotten as soon as it hit your lips shook me to my core. I felt like a failure. Where compassion could have soothed, I was left with a cold, impersonal phrase that would haunt me and contribute to postpartum depression. Where kind words could have comforted (or even no words at all) and left hope, I was left with a stinging statement of inadequacy.
         If you can recall, my son was a tiny 6 lbs, 4 oz at birth. We later went on to find that he has mild CP which may have contributed to him being unable to be birthed vaginally. We will never know for sure, but what I am so about is that you have an awesome opportunity to either empower a woman at her birth, or tear her down. Words are windows, or they are walls.
        I just wanted to say that I forgive you for your words and hope that this letter can serve as a reminder that your bedside manner can carry long-term repercussions for your patients. A truly compassionate and kind physician is a rare gem in today's American medical practice, but those that choose to see their patients as more than just a name, are the ones that are excellent in my book.
       I'm not sure how far you will make it reading this letter (or if you will take the time to even read it at all), but in the end, it doesn't really matter as it's more for me than you. Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts and my hope is that this letter will help you think twice before you speak to a mother in future births.

Robin Sayers

PS- I'm so glad I didn't listen to you! Two years after my son's birth, I birthed another son that was 7 lbs, 7 oz, and had his hand up by his head (w/ minimal tearing)! Over a full pound bigger and very healthy. I'm so grateful I found a physician that was willing to support me and empower me to make my own informed choices so that I could have a VBAC. 


  1. Big hugs. mama! I've never written a letter to my old OB, but I probably should.

    I notice you used the term impersonal and yet, it was a very personal attack. He told you that you were inadequate and then gave you bad advice.

    I might also state very clearly that a c-section is a big deal. I think OBs forget how scary and dangerous they can be for the mom - its just routine for them.

    I think its wonderful that you are doing this, because too often OBs aren't reminded that their words and actions have longterm effects on their patients. They go on and we are left with the wounds they inflicted.

    And congrats on your VBAC!

    Connected Mom

  2. Good for you! And wow, that is so horrible . .. I never imagined how much becoming a mother would affect my self-esteem, how everythign could make me feel guilty or inadequate- beginning with pregnancy and on! I am sorry you had to hear such cold and untrue words at such a precious moment.

  3. well said! did you ever get a response?