Rebecca H suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum throughout her pregnancy. This condition is characterized by a permanent feeling of nausea, severe vomiting – sometimes up to 50 times a day, and dehydration. She recalls: “the nausea was incredibly debilitating and even the motion of taking a few steps would cause me to vomit.” She struggled with “frequent hospital admissions for dehydration and becoming depressed.”
At 14 weeks, she could no longer care for herself and moved in with family. She says she asked for mental health support to help her cope but was never provided with any counselling. “The longer my pregnancy went on the more despondent I became.” She “began losing hope” and was finally admitted to the hospital in order to manage her condition. She recalls, “I truly believed I was dying and I wanted to… I couldn’t live another day in this hell… At 36 weeks… I spent most days lying in my hospital bed with my fists clenched and my eyes shut tight begging for the world to stop spinning, the nausea was so crippling it was worse than the constant vomiting… I could barely walk to the end of the hall most days.”
Although her health care team told her that she could have an early delivery, it was repeatedly denied to her. “They would lie to me about when [delivery] would be, first it would be next Tuesday and then it would be next Thursday, then it would be comments about ‘well you say you love your baby, but you can’t love your baby if you want to deliver him early… You are putting your baby’s life at risk…’ all these sort of things. It was completely insane. They said they would induce at 35 weeks then it was 36 and then 37 and then 38… it was just always next week.”
Finally, “I said to them just let me go home, if you can’t help me I will find another way. And then they said ‘well that’s it you can’t go anywhere.’ They said ‘it’s our job to look after the baby, the baby comes first.’ I told them that his safety was the utmost priority to me but at the same time, this is torture. Absolute torture.” The hospital staff denied her request to be discharged and go home.
Eventually, the doctors agreed to induce Rebecca at 38 weeks. However, they “then started pressuring me to have a natural birth. I was so weak and despondent and I asked them for a [caesarean] section and they said ‘absolutely not, you would be putting the life of your baby in danger.’” Rebecca expressed that she didn’t feel physically capable of labour and natural delivery, but the doctors refused her request for a planned caesarean section. Instead, Rebecca was induced and forced to labour for over 36 hours. Ultimately, Rebecca received an emergency caesarean section as the baby was having a stress response to labour. Her son spent his first few days recovering in the neo-natal unit.
Rebecca concludes: “The Eighth amendment is currently being abused. It is being used to treat women as objects and not as human beings anymore. I would fear for my life to have another child in Ireland.”