Many would agree that having a baby is the most wonderful experience a woman can have. Some women choose to do it in a natural way, and so did the 32-year-old Caroline Malatesta from Alabama. After her three previous labors, she decided to do it in a different way, possibly the most natural approach possible. But things didn’t go exactly as planned. After all the drama in the hospital, she had a really traumatic labor and she ended up injured. Now, she won a $16 million lawsuit after a nurse from the hospital tried to push her baby back so as to stop the delivering process.
There are so many things that can go wrong when a woman gives birth, ad it’s a complex process. However, it’s so natural at the same time. Still, even the most experienced doctors can’t prevent some things from happening and the delivery process can be a difficult experience for a woman.
Caroline Malatesta welcomed her youngest child in 2012, but her experience from the delivery room was beyond shocking. She had chosen to give birth in Brookwood Women’s Centre in Alabama because they were known to be very accommodating to women. They also provided natural birth options, which was her greatest wish.
All of Caroline’s previous births had been required to be in stirrups and used epidurals and episiotomies. This center offered women the chance for a “personalised birth plan.” Caroline believed she had made the right choice.
She spoke to Cosmopolitan about the decision to choose Brookwood Women’s Centre, saying, “My first three labors and deliveries were medicated, on-your-back deliveries. After my third child, a local hospital opened a new women’s center. They had an ad on TV where a doctor was talking about “natural childbirth,” and how they were embracing the concept. That added for me a layer of legitimacy that maybe natural birth could be better, especially when you hear a doctor talking about it.”
Soon, Caroline went into labor and arrived at Brookwood Women’s Centre. However, then, a nurse immediately told her that she had to be monitored and that she had to stay in one place, on her back. She was upset, but decided to trust the nurse.
The nurse also told Caroline to go to the bathroom when she arrived in the room because there will be no time to do that later. Caroline explains: “I was resisting, but at the same time, I was trying to accommodate because you’re vulnerable, you’re in labor. I do get into the bed, I do put on a gown (even though the hospital advertised you could wear your own clothes), I do get on my back, even though it was very painful.”
“I kept asking, ‘Why? Why?’ but the nurse wasn’t answering me. She ignored me, acting almost annoyed with me. As we went back and forth — me asking questions and telling her this was more painful for me, and her getting increasingly irritated — it became very clear that this wasn’t about health or safety. It was a power struggle.”
As the labor progressed, Caroline got onto her hands and knees to do what felt natural. She continued, “Then, suddenly, I felt a big contraction coming on and I jumped onto my hands and knees, and told them that I couldn’t be on my back. My water broke and the baby’s head started crowning.“ However, the nurse did something unexpectedly then.
“The nurse told me to get on my back. I stayed on my hands and knees and breathed, trying to relax, as that is what came naturally to me. But the nurse pulled my wrist out from under me and flipped me over on to my back! Then another nurse held my baby’s head into my vagina to prevent him from being delivered.”
Caroline was in serious pain at this point. “The nurses were holding me down, and I was struggling — really struggling. I grabbed the side of the bed, and at one point, I even put my foot up against the nurse’s shoulder and face to try and get leverage to flip back over, but was unsuccessful.” Despite Caroline’s effort, the nurse continued to hold the baby in Caroline’s vagina for six minutes.
Caroline continued her story. “After six minutes of this, the doctor finally runs in. The nurse lets go of the baby’s head and I felt immediate relief, because that deep pressure of her holding the head in against the force of my contractions was finally released. That’s why I’m so horribly injured, because she kept holding the baby in. It all happened so fast. The baby’s head immediately popped out. My son was fully delivered a minute later.” Luckily, the baby was alive and healthy and Caroline decided to focus on her little one.
As the months went on, it became clear that Caroline was still suffering from injuries. Now, she suffers from a permanent nerve injury, called Pudendal Neuralgia, which has caused chronic pain, and PTSD. In 2014, Caroline filed a lawsuit against the Brookwood Women’s Centre for the injuries they had caused her.
In August 2016 Caroline and her husband, J.T., won the lawsuit against the hospital. They won a total of $16 million in compensation. Moreover, $10 million was awarded in damages for her injuries, $1 million was awarded to J.T. for his losses as Caroline was injured, and the final $5 million was awarded for damages due to reckless fraud. Caroline was very happy and spoke about the verdict.
“When I heard the verdict, I was shaking. I was crying. I couldn’t believe that all these years of fighting for the truth to come out and to get validation. It was finally over. This verdict is a wake-up call for hospitals that don’t take women seriously. It’s a wake-up call that they need to review the way they’ve been doing things and make changes. Sadly, I think it took this verdict to make them wake up.”
Here is how two sisters went into labor at the same time.