College Hospital was the worst place to be if you were an "unwed mother"
in labour. It
I was thrown against
the wall (which bruised my ribs) and forced to have an unnecessary enema
with cold water. Both the nurses that attended me during labour shouted
abuse at me about being a slut and an unfit mother. Both of them told
me to shut up and stop moaning.
In those days
they shaved you before you gave birth. They used an old-fashioned barbers
razor - it looks like a big knife. The nurse had finished shaving me
when she said "I am going to teach you a lesson about being a little
whore." Then one of them stood as lookout at the door while the
other one slashed me many times in my private parts just as my son's
head was crowning, cutting very deeply. She did not realise how far
dialated I was - she had not bothered to check. My son's head was crowning
and the razor also slashed his head too. They both left the room and
left me to bleed, suffering incredible agony. I passed out.
Next thing I know,
I was wheeled into the delivery room. The doctor took one look at me
and screamed "Get out!" at the nurse who cut me. She did and
I never saw her again. My son went into distress and my contractions
were stopping. They drugged me up to the hilt - epidural, drip and god
knows what else. I remember the doctor shouting that he could not see
anything because of the cuts and the amount of blood pouring out of
me. I remember the smell of burning flesh as the doctor frantically
tried to suture the mess left behind so he could deliver my son. They
had to use forceps to turn him around and the cord was around his neck.
My son was blue and silent for a few terrible moments when he was born.
Then he cried and turned pink. Thank God he was okay but he still had
cuts on his head from where the nurse slashed him. They still continued
to top up my epidural even after my son was born. At this point I didn't
know why. The doctor left the room.
The doctor who
delivered my son told-off the nurse who had done that to me but I received
After the birth
of my son (which had complications) two nurses held my down to dry up
my milk without permission - one of them jabbed me so hard with the
needle that 20 years on I still have a mark from that on my thigh. I
had been given several top-ups on the epidural towards the end
- I think it was done so that I couldn't struggle to get away from the
needle. They said that my milk was not good enough for my son. They
left me to shiver naked for half an hour on a trolley before taking
me to the ward.
The damage done
to my son's head was so bad that the hospital put him into a nursery
all on his own so no one would see the cuts. So no one could see the
damage done to my son, he was put into a separate nursery at the other
end of the hospital. I was not allowed a picture of him. I was told
to look after him as they claim they did not have enough staff to look
after him. I think it was the hospital's way of keeping this abuse quiet.
I was very lucky to be able to spend those 10 days with my son before
they took him away. The other girls from the home were not allowed near
their babies in the main nursery. I still get angry and upset about
the way we were all treated. I swear that the nurses must have studied
"Course 101 - Nazi torture for birthmothers". No one was very nice to
me there. Even the kinder ones covered up for the nasty ones.
The treatment of
my baby and myself was barbaric. I know another girl who had her baby
at the same time I did (she was at the same maternity home as me) at
the same hospital. After she delivered her baby (breech birth) the doctor
shoved her hand up her uterus and *punched* her hard repeatly - other
staff had to restrain the doctor. My friend could hardly walk after
that terrible treatment.
The scars are so
bad that when I had my other two children in Britain, all the medical
staff were appalled at the damage left. They could still see the many
scars as my other childrens head crowned. One of them asked me who had
done that to me and that who ever it was should be shot. Her exact
"I have delivered
babies for 20 years. I have delivered babies of women who have 6 or
7 children. But in all my years, I have never been such damage done
to a woman with so few children. It is the worst scarring I have ever
seen - there is no flesh left."
I have now launched
a formal complaint to Womens College Hospital. I am awaiting their answer
(nothing short of an apology will do). If Womens College want
to sue me, they better remember that this scarring has been noted in
my medical files - the scars caused problems with the delivery of my
other 2 children.
I will never forgive
them for the treatment I received. They even refused to let me have
a photograph taken of my son despite the fact I was still legally his
I only managed
to get his birth necklace through the kindness of the doctor that delivered
him - that doctor was the only one that treated me like a human being.
One day I would
like to see a movie made that shows *all* the horrors we were subjected
to. I must admit that I am thinking about writing my story - the public
need to be made aware of what was done to us - the whole list of human
They have a war
crimes court - there should be a court for crimes against birthmothers.
FROM CATHERINE - September 2001:
have just received a letter from Womens College Hospital.
said that all of the treatment I received at the time including having
my milk dried up straight after birth without consent was *Standard
Practise of Care* for that time at Women's College Hospital (1978).
They said they were truly sorry for these things and that all these
terrible procedures were no longer done. My letter of complaint about
documentation errors has been put into the records.
flabbergasted at the honesty. It is an admission by a hospital in writing
that this treatment was systemic and was probably practised at all hospitals
in the Toronto area.
is one thing though for those who think I should sue. I can't. Womens
College has renamed itself to Sunnybrook and Womens Hospital which makes
it a new legal entity. Womens College Hospital no longer exists (it
is now called Womens College *Campus* of Sunnybrook and Womens Hospital).
You can't sue something that doesn't exist.
change the hospital's name and they can't be sued! It seems that hospitals
are changing their names to get out of major lawsuits. They hung onto
my complaint long enough to make sure that the paperwork for the name
change was complete for the hospital.
wonder they could afford to be so honest. At least it confirms what
we thought all along - that our treatment was institutionalised abuse
by the system.