#137 | When Providers Get It Wrong: Kassidy's Birth Story of Mistreatment and Claiming Her Power

December 1, 2021

When Kassidy was preconception, she had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)  and was told she would never conceive. But she did. When she told her providers her conception date, they refused to listen, and determined her due date based on her last menstrual cycle. This insistence on method over mother caused them to overstate the gestational age throughout Kassidy's entire pregnancy, which resulted in perpetual talks about how "small" her baby was, and "if" he makes it to 28 weeks. When she was 35 weeks' pregnant (with her providers convincing themselves and Kassidy she was at 38 weeks) they induced her, resulting in a long and difficult induction because her body and baby weren't ready for birth. Once he was born, he was misdiagnosed with Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) based on the faulty due-date, and they were helicoptered to a larger hospital immediately after giving birth. Suffering from unstable blood sugars and thermoregulation, her baby spent six days in the NICU.  From beginning to end, Kassidy was provided with misinformation, instilled with fear, and conditioned to believe her baby - both in-utero and postpartum - could die at any moment. Her anxiety through the roof for years, she returned to the same providers in her second pregnancy until the straw broke the camel's back at 34 weeks. Kassidy found a home birth midwife, and on the way to her first appointment, went into labor with her second baby in the car. 

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View Episode Transcript

They kept turning it up and turning it up and turning it up and not six, I finally told my nurse, no more Pitocin, I'm done. And she looked at me and said, We're going to turn it up. It's your own fault if you want to slow down your labor, but we're not going to do that I got in this cycle of beating myself up because I'm his mom. And I knew and I should have said, No, I don't want to be induced instead of being pushed into an induction that I didn't want.

I'm Cynthia Overgard, owner of HypnoBirthing of Connecticut, childbirth advocate and postpartum support specialist. And I'm Trisha Ludwig, certified nurse midwife and international board certified lactation consultant. And this is the Down To Birth Podcast. Childbirth is something we're made to do. But how do we have our safest and most satisfying experience in today's medical culture? Let's dispel the myths and get down to birth.

My name is Kassidy and I'm here to share the birth story of my first and second son. I have two boys and one of them just turned two in July, and the other one just turned seven months old last week. So I will mostly want to talk about the birth with my first son. It was the most traumatic by far. And the most important part of this is that I should have advocated better for myself. And that's really what I want the listeners to get out of this. I have PCOS and I was told I would never be able to have kids of my own from an OB GYN in Tucson, Arizona. That's where I was living at the time. And I got pregnant. And I called her and said, Hey, I'm pregnant and her response was wait, but really, which kind of shocks me wasn't very exciting.

It takes the wind out of your sails a little bit. Yeah, exactly.

Did your OB not know that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome can actually get pregnant? What was what was her rationale for telling you that her rationale was with the ultrasound that I had gotten that diagnosis. She said my ovaries looked like chocolate chip cookies and you know way too many chocolate chips for an egg to ever make it off your cookie, basically.

Can she talk to you like one adult speaking to another adult? What does that even mean? It's such it's so deep in the analogy. I'm sitting here like chocolate chip. What's what Chip? What? What?

Cookie over is one? Trisha, did that even make sense to you?

Well, yes, I get what she's trying to say What is she trying to say? She's trying to say that her ovaries are filled with all these tiny little, the eggs are the chocolate chips. But when you have to it's not the normal development of an egg where one grows and develops and becomes the primary follicle. When you have too many chocolate chips, nothing is developing properly.

Why do we care to talk about chocolate chips here? Alright, sorry, I won't get too hung up on the chocolate chips. But yes, I had chocolate chip ovaries. So she was shocked when I said I was pregnant. So I was going to be moving to Idaho a week after this phone call because my husband is military and we are getting stationed in Idaho. So there was a slight sense of urgency to get a ultrasound to make sure it was in my uterus and not ectopic. Because I wasn't going to be able to get in with a doctor for a couple of weeks once we moved. And I didn't know how far along I was or anything which will circle back to you in a second. So when I get into my appointment, and they do the ultrasound, they're trying to figure out my estimated due date at this time. And she wanted to go off with my last menstrual period, because that's what they are. That's how they normally do your due date. But the problem was, my last period was like four and a half weeks before this date. And I knew the day I got pregnant because I had been tracking my ovulation with the obvious sense, little sensor, which I love. So I've been tracking that and I had noticed this ripe cervical mucus to get pregnant and all that. So I knew the day I got pregnant. And I told her that. And she said, Well, we don't ever go off that day we do the last period. And I just kept thinking, but that's four weeks. That's a four week difference. You know, I'm not a doctor, and this my first baby like, Whatever, I'll just do it. So I get this due date. Very different than what I thought it was going to be. And that's the beginning of all of my problems.

When they said you were five weeks pregnant, how many weeks pregnant? Would you have said you were so they told me I was eight weeks out this time I was really only four weeks like they had it was the earliest that they could have seen anything on this team. So this is a recipe for a problem later when it's time to have the baby.

Okay, they went off her last menstrual period, but she didn't ovulate for four she knows when she ovulated which was four weeks after her last menstrual period, which is obviously abnormal. But when you have PCOS, that can be the case. So now her conception date, she should have had her due date based on her conception date not her last menstrual period. Yes.

So, yeah, exactly. I go, I get this due date that is way off. But I didn't find it. Because I just thought that they knew because I didn't find it because I had voiced I knew my conception date. And they just said, No, we never do that. So I just thought, Okay, we don't do that. And I moved on with their last menstrual period date. So I get to my new OB, and I tell him my due date, he doesn't ask any questions, because I've already been seen by an OBGYN before this. So he's not the primary. So I just told him, this is my due date, which would make me this many weeks. And he said, Okay, great. I'll see you at your 20 week scan. So I go in for my 20 week anatomy scan, and everything just looks wrong. My son was measuring three and a half weeks behind. And they thought they saw a knot in the cord. And his one of his femur bones was measuring a little small too. So they said, you're gonna go to maternal fetal medicine. There's something going on, we want to take a closer look at it. And that's an hour away from where I live. So I go to maternal fetal medicine, and they do another anatomy scan. And they confirm like, yes, your baby is measuring three and a half weeks behind. There's no not in the court. Thankfully, it was just kinked over. It was just kind of kinked and laid over on itself, which looked like a knot, but there was no not so that we're really thankful for that. So they said, your baby's measuring three and a half weeks behind, we're going to diagnose him with IUGR, which is intrauterine growth restriction. And I keep thinking, man, three and a half weeks, that's going back to my four week discrepancy that I had at the very beginning of this thing. But again, I'm not a specialist. They know, I don't, my OB calls me later and says, hey, they did confirm IUGR the Maternal Fetal Medicine confirmed IUGR. And the likely outcome of this is that we will deliver your baby at 28 weeks 28. Yes, this is what he said. If he makes it to 28 weeks, we will likely deliver him at that point, because we can grow him better on the outsides and he's going to grow on the inside.

Cassie, just to be clear, are they basing the growth restriction off of two different ultrasounds and the interval between it was based on to one from the regular ultrasound tech and one from maternal fetal in the same week? So he's really measuring it like 16 and a half weeks, not 20. So it's based off those two ultrasounds.

How many weeks pregnant? Were you at this point? I was 20. Okay, you were 20, according to them, but in reality, you know, you were about 16. And you were about 16 and a half weeks pregnant. So your baby was actually measuring perfectly given the but they were because of their faulty method of estimating your due date. They were now talking to you about first of all, whether you make it to 28 weeks, what more horrifying words could you possibly have heard? And then that they would remove the baby at that point, and grow the baby with machines? How are you feeling what happened?

I'm devastated. We had our gender reveal party that week before and I told my husband like, I wish we didn't do that. There's nothing to celebrate. This is a terrible thing. called all my family told them like it was terrible. So that was really a pivotal point. Because from then on, I had an ultrasound every Monday for the rest of my pregnancy with maternal fetal and non stress test as well on Mondays and then every Thursday, I went to my OB and it, they checked for fetal heart tones and measured fundal height. So every week for the last 18 weeks, I was seeing being seen twice. I couldn't really enjoy anything. Because it's so stressful to drive an hour away every Monday to be there for an hour and a half to just here get your baby still really small. And we'll see what happens.

What was your baby growing normally, between these visits, he was growing and consistently measuring three weeks behind it was usually

his pace of growth was normal, though he just consistently was crying behind because he was not that actual gestational age. So that's a huge, important Yes, he's and nobody talked about that. Nobody said he's growing normally week by week.

And their whole thing was he's not growing according to your due date. You're still three and a half weeks behind and then they also discovered I had a marginal cord insertion on my placenta, which is where the umbilical cord attaches. near the edge, instead of in the center, and that was causing problems because my placenta started to calcify. They explained it to me like it was soaking up a lot of the nutrients and not passing it through adequately. I'm not sure if that's true or not. But they said, your placenta is calcifying, you have a marginal cord insertion. Now, there's a concern that the blood flow isn't going to get to him. So not only is he growing slowly, because he's IUGR, he's behind. Now we're concerned that the blood isn't even going to get to him. So you need to really count fetal kicks, and you need to let us know if anything happens, because your risk of stillbirth just went up. And this is our first baby. So it's terrible. I was so paranoid that if he didn't move this hour, it's because something happened. It's because I didn't pay enough attention to fetal kick counts the hour before. And I should have and I missed it. And it was really hard to sleep because I'm not counting kicks in my sleep. And I just didn't want to really enjoy anything. I didn't want to get too attached. That was really hard. And it was hard on my husband because he's really optimistic. And he doesn't like to worry at all. But I love that about him. So I decided to prepare myself for the worst. So at 38 weeks, my ultrasound for maternal fetal showed reduced blood flow from my placenta to my son, excuse me. So I was 37 weeks at that appointment, I asked if I could wait till the following Tuesday so that I could hit 38 weeks. And his response was, Well, if you wait, we just have to do another ultrasound, which means you have to drive back to Boise. So we'll just do it now. My mom got on the plane. We went to the hospital at 530 in the morning, the following day. And he my OB broke my water. I asked to not have Pitocin unless I absolutely had to. So he broke my water bag. At 530 in I had no changes until 3:30pm, which I was really upset about because I had been dilated early this whole time. And no nothing.

Yeah, you were four centimeters already. Yeah, correct. Yep.

So I was really discouraged that nothing changed by 330. Because I knew I was gonna have to get Pitocin. And I did. So I got hooked up at 330. And around six, I just feel like I couldn't take it anymore. They kept turning it up and turning it up and turning up and not six, I finally told my nurse, no more Pitocin I'm done. Do not turn it up. And she looked at me and said, We're going to turn it up. It's your own fault if you want to slow down your labor, but we're not going to do that. And she went to push it and then told her if you turn it up, I'm going to sue you because I told you not to. And I didn't even know if I could see her at the time I just came out. Like I told you I didn't want it. If you do it again, I'm gonna see you. So she pulled out her phone called my OB right in front of me and said, Your patient Cassidy is denying Pitocin and her Labor's gonna drag on. And his response was she's having enough contractions. I'm watching the monitor. She doesn't need any more if she doesn't want it. So I was really thankful for that answer. And then 16 minutes later, I started pushing and pushed a few times and my son came out. And when he came out, he was very small. I was expecting a small baby. But he was very small. He didn't look like a 38 week baby. He was five pounds. And everyone just kind of looking at him at first, he didn't really cry. They put them on me. And the doctors just kind of looking at them. And then the pediatricians kind of looking at them. And I'm looking at him because he's the smallest baby I've ever seen. And they kind of took him away really quick to the car because he wasn't crying. Well, they cut the cord right away, which I asked him not to do. But they did. It didn't stop pulsating or anything, which I was really bummed about. Then they brushed him off, wiped him down, brought them back, put them on me. And then he seemed to perk up a little bit. And then he started having blood sugar regulation problems right away. And they said, your breast milk isn't doing what it's supposed to do right now. So we need to give him this specialty formula because he can't regulate his own blood sugar. So I didn't want anything to happen to him. I said okay, let's do that. So we started giving a specialty formula. Well, he his blood sugar just keeps not regulating and they were checking them every two hours with the heel poke. And we ended up being there for three days because he couldn't regulate his blood sugar. And he had other signs of not being a 38 week baby like his sucking reflex was not there. hid his eyes looked a little bit different. Just a lot of characteristics that a 35 week baby would have he had and I think they knew that but nobody was really saying it at the time. If they should I'd actually be able to estimate gestational age on physical exam.

Yes, I didn't know that. And I'm sure if they did, they didn't tell me because they just induced me wrong. And knowing that I was right. And what I had been saying this whole time.

I'm just mentally trying to keep up with the number of times. They blamed you. Yeah, every step of the way.

Yeah. It was like, I already had enough on me and thinking, Well, I did something wrong. And it wasn't me and I have made peace with that. Now, the last thing anyone should ever do to a mother is give her reason to feel guilt, because she's going to blame herself and give her every possible reason under the sun the rest of her entire life to feel guilty about anything related to her child. No one should ever, ever increase the likelihood of her feeling guilt. Yeah, like saying your breast milk is like buying, like by saying anything about you isn't working.

Yeah. Like my, my colostrum was working. But the problem is, this is not a 38 week, baby. This doesn't have anything to do with my colostrum.

And of course, they use you as the scapegoat for their choices.

Yeah. And that comes back around shortly after. So we get home on the fourth day, we stay the night at our house, and then we wake up on the fifth morning, in our pediatrician before we left the hospital, I told us if he skips three meals, waking up every two hours through the night, if he skips three meals, you need to come right back because that's abnormal. So he skips three meals during the night. And we wake up and I'm now telling my husband he didn't make up at all last night. It's kind of weird. And he said, yeah, maybe he's just tired, you know, just first night not getting poked and nothing hooked up to him. Maybe he's just tired. And I just kept thinking, I don't know. They told us if he didn't eat three times to go in. So then I start noticing he doesn't have a lot of muscle tone. And we took his temperature in our thermometers said 96.8. And my husband goes no, that can't be right. This is a Walgreens thermometer, like, no, that's really low. Like okay, maybe it is low, but let's just take him because it's been the three times so he agreed. Let's go to the ER, we get there. They check his temperature. And their thermometer says like 96.6. And the nurse goes, I'm gonna have the doctor checkup because I don't feel comfortable sticking it up his anus anymore. I don't want to hurt him because he's really small. So the doctor comes in and he does it. And again, it's like 96.7 And he just starts screaming like get this baby on a warmer now and everyone just flocked to our room. They start clearing out unnecessary equipment running in with this baby warmer from labor and delivery. And I live in a very small town in Idaho with a very small hospital. So this is probably the most like serious thing I've ever seen in a baby. So they're they rushed this warmer over and I'm freaking out like crying what's happening? What's happening and nobody's talking to me or my husband about what's happening. So they get him in a warmer in the ER doctor had called the pediatrician who was there for birth and said you need to come to the ER right now one of your patients is here. And you need to get here. So the pediatrician luckily loved five minutes away because that's our town. He drives right over. He didn't even examine Roan. That's my son. His name is Ron. He didn't even physically touch him. He just looked at him and said, that baby needs to get to Boise right now. Why is he not there already? So then I'm thinking What did he just see that the other doctors haven't noticed the last hour and a half I've been here. So the ER doctor goes we'll all call the ambulance and the pediatrician said you don't have time for the ambulance you need the helicopter.

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And then it really sinks in like something is not good. Something is seriously bad. So my husband gets in the truck, he heads to Boise because he wanted to meet us there. I say back, my son gets hooked up in the low incubator helicopter lands, we load up which a helicopter ride five days postpartum after basketball, birth is not comfortable, for starters. So we get loaded up in the incubator in the helicopter, and we head to Boise, and he stops breathing twice on the helicopter, and there's a respiratory therapist, and then the nurse back there taking care of them. So we land on the rooftop. And it's just like a scene from Grey's Anatomy where there's all these doctors and nurses waiting in this whole time. It's really hitting me like something is seriously wrong. And nobody's telling me what is wrong. So we land, they rush off with them. And one of the doctors that was on his care team stays back, asks me to give him the play by play of what happened. I tell them what exactly what happened. And he said, Does your OB know that he's a 35 week baby. And I just looked at him. I said, I mean, I told them, but we've been totally 38 weeks, and he said, I work with kids like this every single day, you don't have a 30 week baby. And he was very calm and just like upfront with me and said, We don't know what is wrong with your son right now. But we're gonna do everything that we can to figure it out. So long story short, we're there for six days, he doesn't wake up at all until the second day, no muscle tone, nothing until day two, they're giving them sugar water through an IV. But then on the second day, I was able to try to breastfeed him, they really encouraged that, and he couldn't latch and suck. So I started pumping to give him colostrum. And what ended up happening is he got hypothermia, he burned through all of his brown fat and got hypothermia. And he was unable to pull himself out of that cycle being so small with no energy, that he just got stuck in it. And that's what happened. He crashed. So we were in the NICU for six days. And I was so scared when we got home that it was going to happen again. I couldn't sleep. I was just staring at him all the time. And then you know, I know that SIDS risk factors or, you know, early traumatic life event, preemie small baby, all of these things I have, I have one of those right next to me. So it was terrible. I just, I couldn't enjoy anything. And I was just a nervous wreck all the time, thinking I'm gonna wake up and he's not going to be breathing. And it's going to be because I let them induce me 38 weeks, and I should have not sent that. And it just I got in this cycle of beating myself up because I'm his mom. And I knew and I should have said, No, I don't want to be induced instead of being pushed into an induction that I didn't want. It's definitely something that they should have known. I felt so much better when the NICU doctor just asked me does your OB know that you that this is a 35 week baby and not a 38 week baby that really sealed it for me and like that. I was right. I was right. So that just that really changed how I viewed everything when he acknowledged it. And then he verified it.

Right. So you're intuitively you knew and you knew all along, but the challenge was that you were being given, firstly, wrong information. But then on top of that you had them telling you that it didn't even matter what your gestational age was because your baby was your placenta was also not working. So you had such you had, you couldn't make a clear decision. What really should have happened is they should have listened to you in the beginning about your your correct due dates, and then they should have been able to take that information and look at it alongside the growth restriction and determine the safest plan for the baby. And they they missed that piece of it. That was so important.

They missed him being three and a half weeks behind consistently with lining up with exactly what I had said in the beginning. That was the key and they missed it. We could have been more prepared with the NICU experience maybe wouldn't have blindsided us so bad we could have had a care team and had a plan of action of what to do not they told us to only feed him five mil the the original nurses said only feed them five milliliters. Don't feed him any more. Because if something's gonna grow too much, and he'll throw it up, and then he won't get anything. So I was cutting him off at five Mills, and he was crying like he wanted more. And, you know, me and my husband are looking at each other. And they said, Don't feed him more than five, we can't feed them more than five. And he was hungry, obviously. And he wanted it and I was cutting him off, because I was told to do that. And then when we get to the NICU, that doctor said, we let babies eat until they stop eating, you don't ever cut them off. Just let them eat until they eat. If they throw up a little bit, that's okay. So the two things that I'm taking away from this are one they taught you they insisted on, you're not following your own instincts from day one. And two, they continually put you in a hyper vigilant states. You had to be anxious, they taught you and conditioned you to be anxious about every ounce of milk he was getting about whether he was breathing from minute to minute, it started in pregnancy with counting fetal kicks. And if you're so you were saying postpartum it took you months, years to even oh, gosh, yeah. And what carried over to my second son, when I found that I was pregnant, I went, this was done. But I went right back to the OB who I had with my first son, I, I went back to him because I thought he's not the one that told me my due date was wrong initially. And I really liked him. So I went back well, at 33 weeks, and everything's fine. In this pregnancy. There's no hiccups. So the pregnancy went perfectly. And at 33 weeks, I started having a little bit of bleeding. When I was in the shower, I noticed some blood come out. And so I went to the ER. And my OB met me there and checked in, they couldn't find the source of bleeding. And it wasn't a flow, it was just like a little bit of red blood. But with my history with Roan, they were just being really thorough with everything, which they should be. So he couldn't find where it was coming from and decided to keep me there overnight. So he could do an ultrasound in the morning, because the ultrasound tech wasn't there. It was midnight, and she wasn't in. So they wanted to keep me. So the next morning, I wake up, I don't have a mask on in my own room, because I was the only one in there and I couldn't breathe, and I didn't want it. The nurse comes in and sees that I don't have it, and freaks out, and then tells me you need to COVID test. And I said no, I'm not doing a COVID test. And she said, Well, you have to his policy. And I said I don't have to do anything. I'm not getting a COVID test. And I'm not wearing my mask because I'm alone in my room. And she said, I'm the charge nurse on the floor, you will be getting a COVID test today. And I said, I'm leaving and you can explain to my OB why he didn't get the ultrasound that he ordered to find my bleeding. And at that time, my breakfast tray was being delivered. And she grabbed it off of the cart, and threw it at me and had hot oatmeal and coffee on it and it spilled on my leg. And she threw it at me and said, You are the most selfish person I've ever met, I can't effing believe you. I'm coming back in your room two more times. And you better make sure to tell me what you need, because I won't make more than two trips back in here. And she took everything on my room treated me COVID positive, and really didn't come back. Except two more times. So that was at 33 weeks. She even made the comments of, well, we know what kind of birth you're going to have when you come here. What that mean, I don't know what she meant, like, you're going to be a difficult one, whatever it meant. I told myself that I'm not coming here. So I left and told my husband, we're not having the baby again here. I can't do it. Because I'm not going to put myself in this position. Again. I didn't do it last time, but I'm going to do it this time. I'm going to stand up for myself this time. So I called a midwife in Boise. I said, Hey, I'm about to be 34 weeks pregnant, will you take me? And they said yeah, of course. Why don't we you know, come on in, let's get you looked at because we don't have a ton of time to really get to know each other. And we'd love to have you. So I started seeing them at 37 weeks on the dot halfway into my drive to Boise to what I think is a checkup. I start pushing. And my husband is freaking out. He's like do not have the baby in the car and I'm freaking out. I call my midwife on the phone. And I'm like I'm pushing, I'm pushing, I can't help it. She goes okay, it's okay. Trust your body and I'll be in the parking lot. Like okay, so we made it to the parking lot. They're waiting for me. They helped me out of the car. I get inside my water brakes on that very next contraction. And my son was born shortly after with no hiccups. He was eyston clinic and it took a little bit of time to push him out. But he was beautiful. 37 weaker. No hiccups. My bleeding was great and I went home to hours later. The way birth is meant to be. Yeah, it was such a different experience. When they told me I could go home. I just remember asking them like, really? Are you sure because I was at the hospital for three days with my first one. I'm good to go. And they're like, yeah, go enjoy your baby, go sleep in your bed. He breastfed right away. It was incredible. The real pivotal moment was the, the nurse throwing the thing at me and saying, Well, we know what kind of birth you're going to have. And I just thought, No, I'm not. You don't get to decide that I get to decide that.

Thank you for joining us at the Down To Birth Show. You can reach us @downtobirthshow on Instagram or email us at Contact@DownToBirthShow.com. All of Cynthia’s classes and Trisha’s breastfeeding services are offered live online, serving women and couples everywhere. Please remember this information is made available to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is in no way a substitute for medical advice. For our full disclaimer visit downtobirthshow.com/disclaimer. Thanks for tuning in, and as always, hear everyone and listen to yourself.

After my traumatic experience with Rome, I became a birth doula. So I could help other women in labor, especially in the hospitals. That was like my main goal. I want to be a hospital doula, because that is where they're needed the most, in my opinion. I love it. I have two clients right now two mamas do anytime. And they're both hospitals. And we've talked a lot prenatally about you can say no to this. And it's interesting because the birth classes that they went to at the hospital, they talk about Pitocin like it's part of their routine. So you're going to come in and we're going to hook you up to Pitocin Oh my God, and they told me that and I said, Guys, you can say no, like there's if there's no clinical reason, say no. You're allowed to do that. And they're they just like deer in the headlights like you can say no to a doctor. Like you can fire your doctor if you want. It doesn't matter mid push fire.

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To join our monthly newsletter, text “downtobirth” to 22828.

About Cynthia Overgard

Cynthia is a published writer, advocate, childbirth educator and postpartum support specialist in prenatal/postpartum healthcare and has served thousands of clients since 2007. 

About Trisha Ludwig

Trisha is a Yale-educated Certified Nurse Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Counselor. She has worked in women's health for more than 15 years.

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