After nurses forcibly held her down and pressed her baby’s head back into her vagina, Caroline Malatesta was permanently damaged and traumatized.
It was supposed to be a routine delivery of her fourth child at a natural birthing center that advertised empowerment and choice. To her horror she soon discovered that it was actually the complete opposite…
It should have been an uneventful birth. After all, Caroline Malatesta had delivered three healthy children before.She and her husband, J.T., made the decision to deliver their fourth child, a son named Jack, at Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama.
The new hospital heavily advertised their natural birth option, which appealed to Malatesta, whose first three labors and deliveries were medicated.
Although she was excited to have the freedom of choice, Malatesta did her research. In her first trimester, she inquired about the advertised natural birth services with a doctor at Brookwood.
She tells Cosmopolitan that the doctor confirmed that she could labor in any position, that it didn’t have to be on her back and that she didn’t need continuous monitoring. On March 11, Malatesta went into labor. Even though her contractions were still far apart, she and husband decided to go to the hospital anyway.
That’s when everything changed…
As soon as she walked into the birthing room, a nurse told her to go to the bathroom because she wouldn’t be able to get out of bed – maybe for the rest of her labor!
When Malatesta tried to explain that her doctor told her she could have wireless monitoring and that she could be mobile, the nurse wouldn’t hear it.
“From that point on, it became a back-and-forth of “But my doctor said I could” and “But you don’t get to.” The nurse treated me like a disobedient child!” Said Malatesta. It suddenly became a power struggle between a laboring mother in extreme pain and a nurse who was determined to do it her way.
As the labor progressed, Malatesta felt a big contraction coming on, so she got onto her hand and knees. She explained to the nurses that she couldn’t do it on her back and suddenly her water broke and the baby’s head started crowning. What happened next left her heartbroken and baffled…
A woman in labor is vulnerable, in pain and can’t easily be moved without harming her or her baby. So why would the nurses do what they did next?
“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,” wrote Malatesta. “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. 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.”
After six minutes of agony, the doctor rushes in and the nurse lets go of the baby’s head. Malatesta’s husband had no idea what was going on, all he could do was try to comfort his wife.
Their son Jack was born just a minute later and was perfect as he could be.
Unfortunately, the violent treatment of the nurses and the struggle during labor left Malatesta severely injured and suffering from PTSD.
“… I was injured badly. Because of the trauma I sustained from fighting while birthing, I now suffer from a permanent and debilitating nerve condition called pudendal neuralgia.”
The chronic pain was so severe, she couldn’t have sex or sit for long periods of time. For six months she was completely nonfunctional.
After she made several attempts to discuss the events that took place during her delivery, hospital administration refused to talk to her.
She realized then that she had no choice but to sue….
After pleading her case, Malatesta and her family anxiously awaited the jury’s verdict. They had to wait an agonizing nine hours for the deliberation process.
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.
In August 2016, the Malatestas were awarded $16 million USD by the Jefferson County Circuit Court. It was concluded that The Brookwood Women’s Center had “violated the standard of care for labor and delivery and participated in reckless misrepresentation of fact.”
“I’m doing better today, but life is very different.” Said Caroline, “I have to reserve my energy for the important things. The nerve has to stay quiet.”
“It would have to be a major medical advancement or a miracle for it to get better. I refuse to say never. I have to hold out some hope.”