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I Asked Them Not To Touch Me

"“There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ~ Laurell K. Hamilton"

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My midwife first came to me
and I asked for her, not to touch me.

For I had recently been examined on admission
and I was progressing as would be expected,
for someone whose rhythms had been disrupted
by the discomfort of driving to the hospital, and
the cold, sterile environment of the assessment unit.

Ten years today, and I still vividly remember
how quickly I escaped the wheelchair and
wandered to the confines of the bathroom,
asking for her to please dim the lights
as I steadfastly declared I needed the shower.

Holding the rail as a new wave washed over me
and legs buckling, with my body a twisted frenzy,
trying to fight the pain while waiting for the heat
and as the rivulets finally drizzled across my skin
I flinched away as if being pricked by a thousand needles.

I asked for the water to be left running,
for I liked the peace and tranquillity its trickle
brought to a room that was eerie and uncomfortable,
the sense of mild comforts of home and
small, gentle additions of the more familiar.

Sleep eluded me the evening prior
and I felt I was beginning to nap on my feet,
as I rested on his chest, and he steadied me –
my friend, my lover, my life partner –
as we welcomed another child to our hearts.

My midwife came to me

and I indicated for her not to touch me.

She stood back for a moment…
watched as I sway rhythmically,
the gentle dance of this labour
in this room of darkness where I hid
obscured from unwelcome intrusions.

Though I writhed as though wrestling with pain,
I welcomed the power of each surge and
the release that came at their end as
I had established safety in this space
where my limbic system was undisturbed.

The low light encircled me,

the breathwork steadied me

and the moans involuntarily

escaping my body meant my baby

was rapidly making their way.

My midwife came to me

and I indicated for her not to touch me.

But she did anyway…
for she needed to feel my contractions
and listen to my baby’s heart rate,
as if protocol and policy was
a reasonable answer to my objection.

I recall how she told me,
the baby’s heart rate was low
and I felt that seemed normal,
for my contractions were back-to-back
and I was beginning to bear down.

With my baby traversing my pelvis
and likely compressing its umbilical cord
it seemed to suit that this would
be present in my clinical picture,
and when she said no more, I failed to understand.

My midwife came to me

and I indicated for her not to touch me.

But she did anyway…
taking me by the hand to plead
and implore me to leave the bathroom,
to go to the bed and hop on a trace
and allow her to examine me.

Though I initially refused,
this is where the coercion began
and so I asked her to promise me
that she would apply the trace
and allow me to get off the bed.

The bloody show in my knickers
another positive sign of progress,
sadly, as I was forced into the light
and the shackling discomfort of
lying prone on the bed.

It was 12:15 am.

At first, the machine had no paper,
and then it would not work
and on the third attempt,
she could not get adequate information
or clarity that would put her mind at ease.

The midwife came to me,
and I agreed that she may touch me.

I consented to an assessment of my cervix,
but I did not consent to her inserting
a fetal scalp electrode to my baby’s head,
which occurred without discussion, explanation
or reasonable conduct to seek an informed consent.

When she withdrew her fingers from me
I turned to my husband, squeaking agonised begs,
for him to help me get off the bed,

but in those fleeting few seconds the

midwife had pressed the emergency bell.

My sacred space of hallowed energies soon flooded
with a full complement of unknown staff,

and I remember the way they spoke of me,

“She is only nine centimetres, she is still minus three,”

but still, not one person chose to speak to me.

And then came the cascade that still truly haunts.

An obstetrician came to me,
and I indicated, for her not to touch me.

But she did anyway…
without even the courtesy of a warning,
her hands were introduced to my body
with no discussion she had invaded me
cold and harsh, and careless to me.

And the image of her is long burned in my memory,
for when I screamed in shock of this violation
I was ignored, as though her soft cadence
carrying instructions to her team
was enough to make sense of this disrespect.

Pale pink scrubs, blonde hair, and glasses.
And she cannot claim to have cared for me,
not even for a second.

She asked her team to prepare the instrument trolley
and though my voice was distorted with upset
I shouted that I did not want an instrumental delivery,
that all they needed to do was allow me to leave the bed
and that might body would do the work needed.

My midwife came to me,
and I shrieked away, so she would not touch me.

But she did anyway…
she held my left hand attempting to calm me,
as I thrashed around trying to make anybody listen
to the advocacy, I was desperately making for myself,
then placed another hand on my chest, and I felt trapped.

In that instant, I was held down and imprisoned.

Another midwife came to me,
and I pleaded with her, to stop touching me.

But she did anyway…
whether she did not hear me or did not listen,
she instead took my right arm to cannulate
whilst a flurry of voices, of actions carried on,
of things done around, and to me.

I heard a paediatrician paged urgently to the birthing suite
over the speaker, and wondered if that was meant for me,
while my limbs were grabbed and moved violently
to be positioned in lithotomy, exposed and vulnerable,
and with still no communication, as though I barely seemed to exist.

And whilst it is challenging to pinpoint,
I think I began to dissociate then.

My perception is that I was screaming,
terrified and having a raging fit as I fought them
and yet simultaneously
it was as though this body was limp and lifeless,
as though I was now completely paralysed.

Then came the catheter, placed so unceremoniously
in my body, and I did not even know it was occurring –
I was not asked, I was not spoken to, and once more,
there were just hands in places they did not belong
doing things that were not consented to.

The obstetrician came back to me,
and I petitioned, for her not to touch me.

But she did anyway…
without even the courtesy of a warning,
her hands were introduced to my body
with no discussion, she had assaulted me
again, her casual exacting of power.  

And the image of her is long burned in my memory,
staring at me as I begged her to fucking stop, and she –
full of audacity and indifference, as I was not having a contraction,
so, it should not hurt – as if being elbow deep
in the most intimate caverns of my body was nothing.

Pale pink scrubs, blonde hair, and glasses.
And she cannot claim to have cared for me,
not even for a second.

And though it is hard to pinpoint,
I was definitely dissociating then.

A hand and elbow on my chest holding me down as
arms were held, and legs in stirrups so that I could not move
and a hand in my vagina trying to viciously stretch,
or manually dilate my cervix, whilst another pushed down
on my abdomen trying to encourage baby’s descent.

I thought I was going to die.

Maybe the angels came to me,
and maybe I too, asked them not to touch me.

While I tended to float otherworldly,
I remember looking down on my body
as I thrashed on that bed,
as all of those people made me feel
as though I was nought but a vessel.

How I sobbed for my mother who was coming
and it so turned out that she was waiting outside
and she could hear me, hear me begging for her,
where they would not let her in the room and
denied me even the knowledge of her presence.

My midwife came to me,
and there was no point suggesting, that she not touch me.
Because she would do it anyway…
and in my fading consciousness I heard voices
insistent that I push, as though I had some control
over this mechanism occurring within me,
whilst I was entirely outside of my body and…

I was sure I was knocking on the door of the heavens.

Was this some inclusion – after every abuse
of their power where I had been herded like
cattle onto a station: complete disregard for my autonomy
violent destruction of my bodily integrity and security
by those I had been subjected to implicitly trust.

A fear based fetal ejection reflex
would finally be my saviour
as I lay broken in disbelief
and unable to comprehend
the happenings around me, and to me.

It was then my baby came to me,
and at first, they did not allow her to touch me.

Whisked away for resuscitation,
though she was little but stunned and
initiated respiration without assistance –
when she cried my soul resumed its place in my body
and I begged for my daughter to be given to me.

It was 12:30 am.

A fifteen-minute eternity played out in echoes
and reverbs of fright, triggers and distrust,
a haunting to revisit in moment of sudden despair
and a memory that would come to steal so
much happiness and peace from my life.

My midwife came to me then,
and she knew that I did not want her to touch me.

But she did anyway…
As she finally placed my newborn daughter
against my rapidly rising and falling chest,
and then held my trembling body as it
wracked ceaselessly with tears.

She told me I was okay now
that it was over now
that everything was fine
that my daughter was fine
and she was perfectly healthy.

Tell me then, how they stole my own security in my body,
my intimate safety and the ability to
advocate for myself, how then that they
not only did not seek consent but smashed
every pleading, screaming dissent with their ignorance.

The obstetrician came to me,
for the last time, I asked for her please not to touch me.

But she did anyway…
without even the courtesy of a warning,
her hands were introduced to my body
with no discussion she had violated me
once more, in her brutal exacting of violence.  

And the image of her is long burned in my memory,
as though distracted by my newborn I would not contest
or that it was her right to make investigations,
and she was rough and almost punishing
as if this was my retribution for being difficult.

Pale pink scrubs, blonde hair, and glasses.
And she cannot claim to have cared for me,
not even for a second.

While I bathed in the newness of infant motherhood
with a babe in arms and at my breast and as
she suckled for that which would nourish her life
all I felt was the vast crevices and cracks of despair
and a numbness that penetrated me, entire.

The person I trusted most in this world
stood right beside me and did not defend me,
and though it is irrational for he was also scared
and dumbfounded as to what was happening,
I can not help the hurts and betrayal I felt.
I do admit I think our love was fractured then,
many years before it really fell to pieces.

Because when my husband came to me,

I had to ask him, not to touch me.

Written by sweetsinner
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