From Sheila Stubbs, author of “Birthing the Easy Way”:
I bought a copy of a 1958 Ladies Home Journal on eBay last week. This magazine contains an article called Cruelty in Maternity Wards that had an enormous impact on women and began the movement to allow husbands into maternity wards.
A bit of history: An anonymous letter from someone who signed herself ‘Registered Nurse’ was published in which she begged the editor to ‘investigate the tortures that go on in modern delivery rooms.’ ‘You of the JOURNAL have long been a champion of women’s rights.’ she wrote, ‘[Exposing] this type of medical practice would go a long way to aid child-bearing women.’ What resulted from that letter was such a flood of letters from angry women that the JOURNAL did a full article revealing the reality of what women had experienced in hospitals. This was peppered with comments from an obstetrician who AGREED that the treatment had been cruel, and also comments from frustrated nurses who hated what they saw happening but would lose their jobs if they spoke up.
Here are some of the things women complained about in May 1958: ‘They give you drugs, whether you want them or not, and strap you down like an animal”. ”I’ve seen patients with no skin on their wrists from fighting the straps”. “My baby arrived after I had lain on the table in delivery position nearly four hours.” When I asked why I couldn’t be put into a bed the nurse told me to quit bothering her so much. ”with leather cuffs strapped around my wrists and legs, I was left alone for nearly eight hours, until the actual delivery” My doctor had not arrived and the nurses held my legs together. She was born while he was washing his hands. I do not believe the treatment I received was intentionally cruel – just hospital routine’.
From a nurse: So often a delivery seems to be ‘job-centered’ – that is, get the job done the easiest, quickest way possible with no thought to the patient’s feelings. In too many cases doctors and nurses lose sight of their primary concern – the patient. ”I remember screaming… [the nurse] ignored me. … the doctor said at one point, ‘Stop your crying at me. I’m not the one who made you pregnant!’ My third baby will be born at home, despite the sterile advantages of a hospital confinement; for I feel the accompanying emotional disadvantages are just not worth it.”
From a nurse: ‘I have heard such unthinking remarks as ‘You had your fun, now you can suffer’ made by a nurse to a mother in great distress, damaging the spiritual nature of the childbirth experience and showing the nurse’s ignorance of the sacramental nature of sex in marriage.” “I reached the point where I wouldn’t have been surprised if the man who was washing the windows had suddenly laid down his sponge and come over to ‘take a peek.’ It seemed that everyone else connected with the hospital was doing it!” “I know of many instances of cruelty, stupidity and harm done to mothers by obstetricians who are callous or completely indifferent to the welfare of their patients. …Obstetricians today are businessmen who run baby factories. Modern painkillers and methods are used for the convenience of the doctor, not to spare the mother. There is so much that can be done to make childbirth the easy natural thing it should be, but most of the time the mother is terrified, unhappy, and foiled in every attempt to follow her own wishes about having the baby or breast feeding…”
Doesn’t that sound like it could have been written TODAY instead of FIFTY TWO YEARS AGO!! What do you say they get a flood of letters TODAY, marking the 52nd anniversary of this article! Let’s tell them that we still see Cruelty in Maternity Wards, it’s just taken a different form!
their website: http://www.lhj.com/
Sheila Stubbs www.birthingtheeasyway.com
From: Gloria Lemay to the Ladies Home Journal
I was an 11 year old girl in 1958 when you published the article “Cruelty in the Maternity Wards”. I only know about the article that was published back then because I hear about it from time to time in my job as a Midwifery Teacher.
I think it’s time that this subject was investigated thoroughly again. Women are giving birth in the worst obstetrical time in history. Major abdominal surgery is the fate of 30% of childbearing women in North America. Cesarean section has lasting effects on women’s health and sexual lives. Modern hospitals are more factory-like than ever before. Even very well educated, well armed women find it impossible to “strike a deal” to get a decent hospital birth. Childbirth educators must tell women that going to a hospital and expecting an inspiring birth is like going to MacDonald’s and ordering a steak. No matter how you wheel and deal, MacDonald’s will never prepare a steak for you, right? Unfortunately, too many women find out too late that the system is rigged against them.
I met a woman who was so influenced by your 1958 article that she gave birth all alone to her third baby in a small Canadian town. It was her most satisfying, fulfilling birth experience. That daughter grew up and gave birth at home to her two babies with the assistance of a midwife. Your publication makes a difference in women’s lives. It would be wonderful to see a new expose of the sad state of American obstetrics.
Gloria Lemay, Vancouver BC Canada
Advisory Board Member International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN)
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