One of the greatest and often unspoken about causes of trauma is medical trauma.
Medical trauma can occur when a child is subjected to a procedure that they don’t understand or to folks of any age when tests are being done which aren’t explained. Medical trauma can also become present when a patient isn’t listened to or doesn’t have their wishes respected. Sometimes something as “small” as lack of eye contact, touch and affirming words can cause trauma in a medical atmosphere.
I recently had the experience of having to go to a hospital in Spain. My doctor who spoke English rushed me through my assessment missing the vital information I was giving her about the over two weeks of symptoms I had just experienced. Many of the clues to my diagnosis were there inside my story, but Instead of listening, and even after showing no pain during her brief exam of stretches, she decided that I had sciatica. When I insisted I didn’t, she sent me through the machine of hospital operations from pain medication injection (which didn’t work to X-ray which I didn’t need or want and eventually refused.
In between, a variety of folks who I assume were nurses and who didn’t speak English took blood and urine. I tried to ask questions but there was a lot of running around and it was impossible to find someone to speak with me. All I could see was that everyone from the nauseous guy next to me to the guy with gout on the other side was getting the same treatment. It was finally when they were wheeling me to X-ray and I saw my husband who hadn’t been allowed in with me that I had the supportive energy that allowed me the confidence to say no to the X-ray and ask for an English speaking representative. I was made to sign documents that I was refusing treatment and was sent away with a prescription for pain meds. It was not until I was about to leave the hospital that the doctor came and found me having realized my true diagnosis which required antibiotics and could have soon become dangerously serious.
I’m still waking up thinking about it all.
This is not the first time I’ve experienced medical trauma. Birth trauma is another experience that sticks with me. Birth trauma had such an impact, that I’m feeling activated / triggered now as I begin to write this. After months of preparing with a doula and birth classes for a “natural“ birth, I was rushed to be induced when it was determined the baby inside me had no fluid around her. This came after some other stressful and frankly traumatic encounters in pregnancy including having the only hospital adjacent both center in my area shut down,I was actually excited to be induced and start moving forward finally as a mom.
Induction however in a hospital setting starts a whole chain of practices and procedures that severely limit birth choice. I had to be constantly hooked up to machines with chords so short that whenever I changed position even in the slightest it set off alarms to the nurses who dutifully entered and reset the attachments. This was brutal medical trauma as I was really committed to laboring in squatting and other non reclining positions. My only choice was to lay or stand. I stood a lot next to the machine. It wasn’t fun or productive for labor and towards the end when no doctors or nurses were there and it was just myself, my husband, and my dula I ended up in squat and cat/cow positions on my bed moving my way until the final birthing team arrived. Things got even more dramatic then but I’ll spare you the details.
I do still wake up some days and I’m brought to tears wondering how birthing my daughter could have been different.
Those days I work with trauma sensitive embodiment tools to process the birth trauma I still feel in my body.
If you’ve experienced medical trauma or birthing trauma it may take some time to trust folks in the medical field. Having an advocate with you, can help a lot. In both cases it was my husband who was able to give me the loving care and the permission to use my voice in the way I needed to feel safer.
Have you dealt with medical or birthing trauma? Let me know in the comments below.