Doctors who blasted loud music in the delivery room, a woman who gave birth standing up at the Wollongong Hospital security office, uncaring statements or actions made at vulnerable times and multiple women who were pushed into having inductions, caesareans or other interventions they didn't want.
These are some of the accounts of trauma given by women from the Illawarra in the first published submissions in the NSW birth trauma inquiry.
Attaya Peters, who is now training to be a doula to support other women during birth, shared the story of her son Vance's birth tackling the issue of informed consent.
Describing her birth at Wollongong Hospital, Ms Peters said she was not given the chance to provide informed consent to a vacuum extraction, with an obstetrician telling her "I am just going to put a little suction cap on babies head to give me a bit more help getting him out".
"This was not framed to me like a question, zero risks were displayed to me and at no point did she ever use correct terminology that would have been 'vacuum extraction'," she wrote in her submission.
"I was so unsure as to why this doctor was being so forceful to my body and my baby, but it felt like I never had an opportunity to say no, or yes, or much at all.
"As the OB prepped and was ready to perform this vacuum assisted delivery, she looked up and simply said 'if you see me grab the salad tongs, don't panic!' And dove straight back into my vagina."
Ms Peters described this language as a "disgraceful use of slang to downplay the seriousness of a birth tool that can have severe implications".
Read our stories on the issue
After her son was born, Ms Peters suffered a postpartum haemorrhage, and said her physical recovery was slow, extremely painful and accompanied by psychological trauma.
"The mental challenge of wondering how this all became so aggressive, was eating me up," she said.
She said she was "riddled with birth trauma" which led to antenatal anxiety and depression, and, during her second pregnancy, suicidal thoughts around her body and the unborn baby inside of it.
Ms Peters said she made a submission as she wanted to be part of a push for change.
"After having children myself and meeting so many other mothers, it terrified me to hear how many birthing people had a similar story," she said.
Another woman, who gave birth aged 29 in 2020, wrote that she had been left "devastated" after agreeing to have a caesarean, instead of the vaginal birth she'd hoped for at Wollongong Private Hospital.
"Wollongong Hospital was undergoing major renovations during my pregnancy, and COVID-19, which prompted me to use my private health insurance," she wrote.
"I was told that the baby was chubby. I was told 'you pay me a lot of money to make decisions for you, and I won't be looking after you if you want a trail of labour'.
"I had just paid the non-refundable bulk payment that we killed ourselves to save to have care at the private.
"I had the c-section at 40 weeks pregnant, and had a baby that was smaller in weight than what was estimated five weeks earlier.
"I am devastated. I feel mutilated, I suffer daily, I feel like I am not a woman and I have connection issues with my babies."
A mother of twins, who was under the care of a private obstetrician at Wollongong Hospital in 2017, said she experienced "extreme stress and panic attacks in hospitals" due to the way she was treated by her doctor.
This came in stark contrast to her experience during her first pregnancy and birth, where she delivered her child in a "positive" and "respectful" environment, she said.
"From the outset of [my] second pregnancy, I had a negative feeling about the care - my name was never remembered at the appointments, we would wait an hour and hear about the OB's fertility work, personal life and interest in sport, his moods dictated his interest in my pregnancy," she wrote.
She said she was told "twins, you know you're having a C-section right?" at her first appointment and then described her traumatic birth.
"We went into the theatre, and the OB began to blast deafening operatic music, while I was repeatedly injected with drugs by the male aneasthetist," she said.
"The OB was beyond disinterested, occasionally interjecting inappropriate statements.
"All that was present in the room was their ego. I knew it was wrong at the time; I wanted the music off, and I wanted to be respected but I felt like I could say nothing - I remember thinking, don't say anything; just a slip of a knife or a mistake and he could destroy your life."
She said her sons were born healthy, but she asked not to hold them in the delivery room as "I didn't want to associate my first moment holding or seeing them to be associated with that horrible room, delivery and man".
"I waited until recovery - even now, when I feel distance from my twins, I wonder if it's because I didn't hold them immediately as I did my eldest," she said.
Many women said they did not have access to their preferred antenatal care - the sought-after Midwifery Group Practice program where the same team of midwives provides continuity of care through pregnancy and birth - and others described issues with how they were treated in the maternity ward.
One woman described "appalling under-resourcing", where "there were no less than 28 mothers and babies - at least 56 individuals - being attended by only four qualified midwives alongside a handful of support staff recruited from your antenatal team".
"The situation is simply dangerous - not only for vulnerable new mothers and babies, but also for staff who are visibly under enormous strain trying to provide even a basic level of care," she wrote.
Another woman outlined a litany of problems with her first birth at Wollongong Hospital, including having no access to assistance while she was waiting for surgery to repair a third-degree tear after both and being unable to be with her newborn baby during her recovery.
She described her experience in the maternity ward as "disgraceful", with no help to lift or move her baby after surgery, and being left "lying in a pool of her own blood."
She also said breastfeeding support was limited and that there was very little postnatal support, and that she ended up with postnatal anxiety and depression.
"I was repeatedly told that my baby was healthy and that was the main thing," she said.
"I was told I would feel better once I was getting more sleep. My feelings and experience were frequently dismissed. It was a very lonely journey. My inability to learn to breastfeed properly due to my birth injury meant that our breastfeeding journey was cut short.
"For a number of years I found it very hard to bond with [my baby]. Processing her birth took up a lot of my mental energy and I don't think being separated early on helped with that either. I found myself wanting to be away from her and returned to work after just a few months.
"[She] is now almost eight and I feel like we have finally properly bonded in the last 1-2 years. It has taken me 6 years to get to a point where I feel close to my daughter."
She added that she had access to the Midwifery Group Practice program for her second pregnancy, which helped her to have a "beautiful" and "healing" birth.
"I cannot stress enough how much this needs to be the standard of care that is made available to all women," she said.
"Having a known midwife was so important and made such a huge difference to our experience."
A woman who gave birth in 2022 described how she had her third child while standing up surrounded by security guards in the Wollongong Hospital foyer late at night.
She said she had earlier attended the hospital's birthing unit when her waters broke, but agreed to return home and wait for contractions to start.
When they came on quickly as she returned home, she raced back to the hospital where she first struggled to be let into the hospital and then had trouble getting medical staff to assist with her birth.
"[I] kept asking the security guards and now wards men who were all standing there to please get someone," she wrote in her submission.
"I could not control the contractions and had to push. While standing up and with one push my baby was in my pants, and still no doctor, nurse, anyone to help... My husband, who says he felt had a shot of adrenaline, helped me pull down my pants and delivered our son in the back foyer of Wollongong Hospital."
She said it initially appeared her son was not breathing and had his cord wrapped around his neck, and said an emergency department nurse eventually arrived to assist.
"She helped by rubbing and patting our son who then finally started crying," the woman wrote.
"She gave me a gown to put around my waist and I finally got to sit down in a wheelchair. The nurse gave me my baby and put a gown around him.
"I heard the wardsmen say they tried called birthing unit but was unable to get through. The wardsmen pushed us straight up to the birthing unit where we were met with a doctor and a midwife who said they never received a phone call from security and seemed quite blasé about the whole situation."
She said she thinks about her birth experience almost every day, and raised the "lack of communication" throughout the hospital as an issue.
"[I] still can't figure out why a nurse or doctor couldn't have come immediately to help us," she said.
"Once all the blur was over I also thought why I was never given an internal check when I came in for when my waters where broken. They would [have] seen that I was dilated and I [would have] never left the hospital."
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