American Dreams Podcast

Three women tell the stories of their traumatic experiences giving birth.

Show Notes

Amy Courts Koopman wanted a natural birth, despite a family history of pregnancy complications. She was in good health, but the pregnancy was tricky. Her birthing in-hospital midwife didn't read the notes in her chart. She was at one of the premiere hospitals in the U.S.

Brenda Zamora got pregnant at 18 with no insurance and working two jobs. She knew her diabetes was a complication to her pregnancy, but the high-risk clinic didn't flag anything. She gave birth at 30 weeks. Her daughter was born with a litany of issues, and would face multiple surgeries.

Erika Washington was giving birth to her second child. She went to the hospital and told the doctor to call her regular OB. They didn't. Instead they disbelieved she was in labor and sent her home with Ambien. She gave birth delirious and, as a 23-year-old Black woman on Medicaid, was accused of taking drugs and assumed to have no prenatal care.

These stories are told as one, with no narration. Might wanna grab your Kleenex.

Creators & Guests

Erika F. Washington
Politically savvy mama, @MIWNV Executive Director on the hunt for new adjectives, social justice & red wine in fabulous Las Vegas. *These Tweets Is Mine
Amy Courts Koopman gave birth to her son 10 years ago at Vanderbilt University Hospital. She is a singer/songwriter, pastor, writer.
Brenda Zamora
Brenda Zamora is a community activist and Clark County School Board Trustee in Las Vegas. She gave this interview before her election.
Brent Holmes
Brent Holmes is a creative roustabout, artist, cultural commentator, raconteur, and designer. His art has been exhibited in the Nevada museum of art, and the Marjorie Barrick Museum. You can find his writing in Desert Companion Magazine, the Believer, and Double Scoop Nevada. He can tell you stories about glittering ugly cities and dark beautiful wastelands but he would rather hear yours.
Carrie Kaufman
Carrie Kaufman is a multi-media journalist, with extensive experience in print, digital and public radio spaces. She is the producer, writer and editor of American Dreams Reproductive Justice, and the director of Overthinking Media LLC.
Carrie Kaufman
Carrie Kaufman is a multi-media journalist, with extensive experience in print, digital and public radio spaces. She is the producer, writer and editor of American Dreams Reproductive Justice, and the director of Overthinking Media LLC.
Erika F. Washington
Make It Work Nevada
Make It Work Nevada fights for economic security for women, men and families across Nevada. It’s time that all of us are able to #MakeItWork.
Wil Black
Wil Black is the principal of Black Gypsy Music TV......
You're Overthinking It
Overthinking Media LLC produces a Substack by @CarrieKaufman. We also produce podcasts for public media and non-profit groups on social and educational issues.

What is American Dreams Podcast ?

American Dreams is a podcast that will explore exactly what Reproductive Justice means. Reproductive Justice was an idea birthed in 1994, by 12 Black women who felt unseen by the white establishment.

The four principles of Reproductive Justice are:
1. The right to have a child
2. The right to not have a child (which includes sterilization, which many doctors won’t do)
3. The right to have a child in a healthy environment and then raise them safely
4. The right to bodily autonomy and sexuality

These principles are repeated throughout this podcast, as well as homages to the 12 founders who “gave birth” to the Reproductive Justice movement.

American Dreams: Reproductive Justice is executive produced and hosted by Erika Washington, powered by Make It Work Nevada. The podcast is produced, written and edited by Carrie Kaufman of Overthinking Media LLC. Music by Wil Black of Black Gypsy Music. Artwork by Brent Holmes.

Amy Cookman (00:12):
Well, my name is Amy Kootz Cookman,

Brenda Zamora (00:15):
Brenda Zamora,

Erika Washington (00:15):
Erika Washington.

Amy Cookman (00:17):
We lived in Nashville at the time, Nashville, Tennessee, and I was under the care of the nurse midwives at Vanderbilt University. I didn't have a, an obgyn that I saw regularly. I had my regular doctor and then I had the nurse midwives group. And so I went to like monthly or twice monthly prenatal classes. My due date was April 28th, and that's where we would have like the fundal height checks and all of that stuff. I was super healthy. He was measuring small and they were so, they were watching him constantly.

Brenda Zamora (01:01):
I first thought it was going to be a normal pregnancy. I worked all the way through seven months, and then the day I quit, the next day I gave birth. She was a 30 weeker.

Erika Washington (01:11):
My second child. Um, my, my daughter Skyylar was born in 2003 and she was born during the Eastern Seaboard blackout, which is funny that living on this side of the country, a lot of folks, you know, don't recall or, or had no knowledge of ever happening. But, uh, the power outage went from I think Ohio, Michigan, New York, parts of Canada. I think even Pennsylvania, like none of us had power for a few days. Actually, I think up to four days,

Amy Cookman (01:45):
Probably around week 26 or 27, I started having Braxton Hicks contractions. And by week 32, which I only remember this because it was our anniversary, it was our sixth anniversary, and I was having long, hard contractions, like they weren't painful, but like my stomach would just get really rock hard and it would last for like two to three minutes. That's not supposed to happen. So I called the nurse midwives and they were like, okay, track it, time it, um, if you have more than five of these in an hour, come in and see us. So I actually went in to the hospital and they, um, I was actually admitted, um, and they decided I was dehydrated and they still didn't like the contractions, so they gave me a magnesium shot, which was terrible. , it's like ice running through your veins and it doesn't stop because it's magnesium in your iv.

Amy Cookman (03:02):
They gave me that because they were like, okay, if he's gonna be born early, you're at the point where his lungs are the last things to fully develop mm-hmm. and we need to make sure that those are ready if you give birth early. So they did that and they released me a few hours later and they put me on modified bedrest. And that was really hard because I'm a runner and I had been running throughout my entire pregnancy and they told me not to. So I stopped for a couple weeks, , the contractions continued, nothing stopped about that. Nothing slowed down.

Brenda Zamora (03:45):
It ended up being because of my diabetes being very out of control, I was working at the North Premium outlets, two stores, two jobs, you know, they were part-time, so there was no benefits. So I never really went to a doctor. I was only going to the high risk pregnancy center, but they just do the basic check-in on the baby and making sure the baby was okay. No one ever flagged that she actually had a cranial problem during the ultrasounds. So that was a surprise when I gave birth. And they gave me a list of about 10 things that was wrong with, with my daughter at that time. She had cranial stenosis, so her skull was fused together, so that meant that it wasn't going to grow. As she was growing, she had a soft pallet, so it's usually the opening in her mouth, but it was further back towards the back of her mouth and she had an extra finger.

Brenda Zamora (04:36):
She had an extra digit, and she had her esophagus wouldn't close. So then they were having that issue where she couldn't eat and it was just premature. She had a heart murmur, for sure it healed, but she had to be in the NICU for six weeks. I got a social worker because she was in the ICU and I had no job, and they signed me up. The state really kind of helped and was able to cover all that. She, so she had state Medicaid at that time.

Erika Washington (05:08):
And so I was toward the end of my pregnancy and I had just had, um, a little mini baby shower. They called it a, a sprinkle since you'd already had a kid. So you didn't get a shower, you get a sprinkle. But there was a lot of food left over in my refrigerator and the power went out. And so I found myself overindulging in all of this, this food and what have you. And then I realized that I am going into labor and I'm sort of waiting it out because it's not my first kid and I don't overreact. And so I realized, okay, I probably should go to the hospital sometime soon. So her father, um, and I and my oldest child all drive to the hospital. I drop off the oldest at a friend's house, we head to the hospital and we get there and I say, I am in labor. And

Erika Washington (05:57):
I told them that my doctor, who my doctor is, and that, you know, all of the things, and they said, well, he's not on call. Um, and I said, well, he said, make sure you call him when I go into labor. They did not do that.

Amy Cookman (06:10):
So week 36 comes around and 36 is like technically full term mm-hmm. . Um, and I was like, sweet, I can start running again. And, and they said it was fine. I was running, I was healthy, hearts strung, everything. I was not going into labor. I lost my mucus plug like three times and then it just grew right back. It was wild. And then week 41 comes around and my nurse midwives are like, we don't feel comfortable with this because now he's measuring big, so we don't want you to go beyond 41 weeks. And I w I was working with a doula at the time. I had full intention to labor naturally to deliver vaginally, no, um, no epidural, no nothing like that. And so I was really insistent that I not be induced. And they were like, okay, okay, we're cool with that. Up until week 42, my husband and I decided that we would wait until 10 days after my due date.

Amy Cookman (07:22):
So 41 weeks, three days, that was a Friday. And that's when we decided to induce. And in conversations with the nurse midwife who had been leading my classes and doing all of my prenatal care, I think I found out at week 37 or 38, she was talking about all of the options. If it comes to induction. She's like, we're gonna, I'm gonna put it in your notes that Pitocin, if it has to be started, that it will be a low, a super low dose and only as long as is needed for contractions to become consistent. All of this was put into my notes. I was told so that on the day that I got there, she said, I've been your nurse midwife throughout your prenatal care, but I will not be on call this weekend. And the on-call midwife will be the one handling your care. And I was like, wait, what?

Brenda Zamora (08:25):
And at that point, I mean, I was an 18 year old kid, I didn't know how serious diabetes is. I didn't really kind of even do my own research at that point. So I was just kind of like, okay, I have diabetes and then oh, I'm pregnant. I gotta keep working. And I never fully paid attention and fully did my research about it. Um, so it was, I, you know what? Honestly, I think I was working over two jobs at that point, as I remember some photos that I have. But, um, never, never thought I had the time to go to the doctor. But that was probably one of the worst mistakes I've could have done because I think I could have made it full term if I was going to a doctor and doing checkups and really paying attention to what was happening because they say that I had her prematurely because of my diabetes.

Carrie Kaufman (09:14):
Why are you blaming yourself?

Brenda Zamora (09:20):
Because I feel like I could have done better, but I didn't know better. , it's still, I feel like in a way it's still my fault.

Erika Washington (09:25):
And so as I laid there, you know, in labor, the doctor I wanna say was a resident, I don't know. Um, she kept saying to me, I don't think you're in labor. I said, well, I feel as though I'm in labor. I'm having contractions. And she says to me, if you were in labor, you would be screaming and feeling like your body was bursting open. And I said, Ew. Cause and that's weird. Like why would you describe it that way to somebody? And you know, they checked me and I hadn't really dilated much or what have you, but I said, you know, I move really slow in labor until, you know, I hit a certain point and then things move very, very fast. I said, this is how it happened before. This is what I think will happen again. She's like, I don't think you're in labor.

Erika Washington (10:10):
I think you just might be a little, um, you know, upset or, or maybe nervous with the blackout or what have you. So she gave me an Ambien. I had never taken an Ambien before. She put in a little paper cup that they give you. And I sat there for the longest time and, and didn't take it cuz I'm like, but I know I'm in labor. I am in labor. But it's one of those things that, you know, the doctor who has all of this medical knowledge, you know, you start to doubt yourself. You start, well, maybe I'm not in labor, maybe this is not what it is. You start thinking all of these different things. And so I said, okay, well I guess we should leave. So we went back and picked up, um, my oldest, who would've been four at the time, uh, no, she would still have been three at the time. She was three. And and we went back, um, to their dad's house and we were living separately. And so we went back to his place and in the car on the way to his place, I am still holding the cup with ambient. I had not taken it yet cuz I'm still like, I think I'm in labor. Like I just don't know. And then finally I'm like, well, maybe I should just take this. So I took it in the car and it kicks in and I fall asleep.

Amy Cookman (11:27):
This midwife works at the clinic that she works at, not at the hospital. She works at one of the offsite Vanderbilt women's clinics, but she didn't tell anybody that we get to the morning of and I'm checked in, they are full, I guess everybody decided to have their babies and they are short a couple nurses. So there are like two or three nurses to handle all of these laboring mothers. And then the nurse midwife who's on call, she checks my cervix to see how far dilation and effacement are happening. And she said, you know, you're what, two and a half, three centimeters dilated, but effacement is looking pretty good. Um, but I was going, I'm only, I'm only two centimeter centimeters dilated at 40 weeks. 10 days. So that's like bonkers to me already. In any case, she checks my cervix. And when that happens, I have something happen with my cervix and my uterus that is not a contraction, but it feels like the worst pain, uh, like a knife ripping through me.

Amy Cookman (12:54):
But that had happened once before because I was in a, I was also in a clinical trial. And so every month I had my cervix checked by these Vanderbilt students who were doing this research. And one of the times that they did that and it, it was awful. And the nurse midwife kind of was like, well, things happen and dismissed it. And I was like, okay, I guess it's nothing. And the heart monitor was hooked up to my belly so that they could track his heart rate. And I was hooked up to one, but I was, I did not have the IV in for Pitocin yet. And when she did that to check my cervix, something happened that they lost the heartbeat then for like five minutes and they were moving me all over the bed. A couple doctors come in and they're resituated me. They're putting on putting my legs up, they're putting me on my hands and knees and ultimately I'm facing the wall on the bed on my hands and knees. I have this, you know, the gown on with that just has the open back and no underwear. And they recover his heartbeat, they find it on the monitor. And I turn around and there are like 20 people in the room watching my backside. They had in that moment been talking about taking me back for an emergency C-section Right now,

Brenda Zamora (14:23):
Scarlet went home after having two surgeries. Um, she was four months old when she had her first cranial surgery. So they kind of just opened and cut where the fused part was and they thought that was going to help and fix the issue. And unfortunately it didn't. Um, so at seven months, no, at nine months, at nine months old, she had her soft palate repair. So they fixed her soft palate, but because of the cranial stenosis, it actually ended up closing her airway. So I think at, at nine months was probably the hardest time that I had with Scarlet. Um, and at this point I was, you know, living by myself, you know, barely making rent. I was on WIC, I was on SSI, I was on um, SNAP, like food, you know, food stamps, everything. Because that's all I had. That's all I, I mean I was eating Cup-O-Noodles I think every day at that point because that's all we could afford.

Brenda Zamora (15:31):
And at nine months she had her soft palate. She went into the ICU because she had coded in the surgery room and then she had coded again after surgery. When they told me that I could finally see her in the icu, I went up, I was with her and she finally had opened her eyes and she gave me this look. She's, if you know Scarlet, she's very positive and she's always been very positive. But that one time she gave me that look of I, I'm tired. It was a very sad look. And she looked at me and she squeezed, squeezed my finger and she closed her eyes and she started coding.

Erika Washington (16:12):
The way that my ex-husband, uh, describes it is that I had some sort of Tourettes, like I would fall asleep and then wake up every five or six minutes and scream out expletives and then like just slump back over and it would just happen over and over and over again. He was, and he was like, I don't know what was happening to you. Like, it was almost like an exorcist, you wake up, ahh, and then go back to sleep.

Amy Cookman (16:34):
But they did recover his heartbeat. And so we were like, okay, cool, that didn't happen. And so they hooked me up to Pitocin and we go on our way. I didn't feel anything until like three o'clock my water broke, three 30, something like that. And that's when labor really started. And by four 30 I was having contractions. It felt like constantly. And by the time my doula got there, it was 5:05. She's like, just breathe through it. I know it feels like your contractions are constant, but they're not. And you can see on the monitor, like a, the contraction will spike and then you can watch it come back down and kind of settle at a point and you can just breathe through that low point right. Until it, until you see it spiking again. And she was like, watch the monitor, it's coming down.

Amy Cookman (17:39):
Breathe with the coming down. And I was like, it's starting again. And she looked at me like you're crazy. And then looked at the monitor and was like, oh my God, you're right, it is. So the nurse midwife came in and I was like, can we turn the Pitocin down now because you jacked it up really high. And I was like, can we at least like cut it in half just to see what happens? And she was like, um, no, if you cut it in half or if you drop it down and then contractions will probably stall and then we have to start the whole process over again. And my husband and I are going, can we at least try like, it's right in my notes. My nur, my nurse midwife that I had been working with this whole time had said that that would be fine.

Amy Cookman (18:22):
She instructed you to do this. You know, I have this history of big long contractions. And she's like, no, I think we'll keep it at 14. So there was like this whole just bad vibes between me and the nurse and the midwife and they were not paying any attention to anything I was saying or if they were, they were just dismissing me because they know better. So by the time my doula got there, she's watching these contractions and finally she's like, we need to call a doctor cuz this is not normal. And they're at shift change at this point. So a new nurse comes in and she's looking at my contraction chart and she's like, what the hell is happening here? And she immediately shuts the pitocin off and my doula is looking at her going, I think it's too late.

Brenda Zamora (19:23):
They were kind of just trying to figure it out because they didn't wanna just intubate her because of the freshly new, you know, repair in her mouth. They didn't wanna ruin that. So they ended up just taking a chance and intubating her and they put her in an in induced coma. So she was in a coma for two weeks as we tried to figure out what the next steps were, because they gave me three options. It was just kind of like we reopened the surgery, we just did, or we make her tongue smaller or we give her a trach. And they, she had about seven specialists and that would come and visit her when she was in the icu that have been her doctor's since birth. So every specialist that would come, I would ask them for their opinion and I did my research of what would be the best steps.

Brenda Zamora (20:12):
And a lot of them said the trach was the best, which is just a breathing tube in their neck, um, that way we can go home. And that's the decision we went with. So we trached her at nine months, nine months old. And she already had a G-tube from birth. So that's the feeding tube in, in her stomach. So she was already G-tube. So that's why I said trach would be easier because she's already eating through, you know, a tube. So we went, we went that route and then three months later after that we did her second cranial surgery and they had to put some distractors in her head. So every day I had to kind of twist the screws morning and afternoon. So it slowly was stretching her skull out to, you know, build that tissue. So because her, her skull was growing like a cone shape.

Brenda Zamora (21:03):
So we went through that all. Yeah, that year was 20 20 14. 2014. Yeah. There's things now that as I talk about, I get very emotional because at that point I had to suppress a lot of my feelings. Like I was just trying to figure things out how I can be, you know, there for her. And I never was able to, to express whatever I was feeling. So now there's a lot of the times that I talk about it and I still don't know, right? Like it's just so much suppressed stuff because I was just getting by and getting through .

Erika Washington (21:49):
We get to his place and I lay on the couch, he lays on the floor under me and at some point I wake up and I remember bumping up and down the hallway towards his bathroom. Cause I think I have to go to the bathroom and I remember hitting this wall and that wall and this wall and I make it to the bathroom and I sit down on the toilet and I start pushing. And at some point in my brain it clicks like something is not right, like I'm not doing the right thing. But I could not put the pieces together in my brain. My brain was not working correctly. I was, I've never been drowsy in that way before. And so I just, and I just jumped up and I remember going back down the hallway and I remember hitting him on his back. I'm hitting him. I'm like, wake up, wake up, wake up, you gotta get up, we gotta get up, we gotta go to the hospital, we gotta go now. We have to get out of here. I have to go now. I'm like, this baby is coming. And he's like, oh. And he's trying to grab, you know, our other daughter.

Erika Washington (22:48):
I am out the door, I am out the door into the car, I'm just gone. And so we get to the hospital that's closest to him. This is a different hospital. They don't have any power and they're on, they're running on a generator. So when we pull up like the automatic doors to the emergency room don't open automatically. I remember. And we're kind of banging on the door, what have you, and they come towards and I'm like, I'm in labor. I'm in labor. And so they bring me in, they check me and he's like, yes, you're in labor. And I'm just so delirious. And, and and they're like, well we can deliver you here, but I think you have enough time to get to this other hospital that actually has power. They have, they have power now over there. So we're, so they're escorting me by ambulance at this point.

Erika Washington (23:33):
And so I'm in the ambulance and I remember very little except for apologizing over and over and over again to the paramedic saying, I'm so sorry. I have not brushed my teeth yet. I am, I am out here and I've not brushed my teeth. I'm so sorry. You know, she's like, it's fine. I'm like, it's not fine. This is you don't come outside. I'm like, I am saying all kind of things. And so we make it to that hospital and he is separate because he went to go drop off our three year old at someone else's house so that he could get back to the hospital.

Amy Cookman (24:05):
So at this point it's like 4:45, 5 o'clock and they are having a hard time finding his heartbeat again. It's like in and out and in and out. I'm just in constant contractions. And by 5:17 they've lost his heartbeat for five minutes and they say, okay, it's time for a C-section. And they had me under anesthesia and him born at 5:24.

Brenda Zamora (24:36):
With my second pregnancy. I was like, okay, I'm going to go to the doctor and make sure everything's good. And I went to my OB and I will never forget this because I felt guilty because she said, you messed up by being pregnant again and you are risking your life. So the more kids you have, the more life you take o like the more time you're taking away from your life. And I never went back because she, she was basically kind of just yelling at me for being pregnant. And I never went back to the OB because of that. That kind of sat with me, the, my OB kind of just being like, you should have not done this. And I didn't even go to high risk. I was just kind of, it was also during a time that, that my oldest was going through a lot of surgical things.

Brenda Zamora (25:22):
Like most of, I think my pregnancy was in the ICU with my oldest. Um, so my second pregnancy was kind of non-existent. I think no one, no one knew I was pregnant until I actually gave birth. Um, and it was still premature, but she was thankfully smaller. She didn't have a lot of the issues. It was just she wouldn't eat. She wouldn't eat. So she was in the ICU for six weeks too. But hers, it was a little bit smoother. It was just a heart murmur, a small brain aneurysm, which they say it's all kind of normal stuff for premature babies. But I tried to put it in the back of my mind that I was pregnant cause I needed to focus on Scarlet. And it was also a time that I was surrounded by very old school mentalities of like, you can't abort. Like that's the worst thing you can do.

Brenda Zamora (26:12):
My partner at the time was pushing for me to have an abortion because of the situation we were in with our first child. And I just couldn't go through with it. Which led to the separation, which led to me being a single mom with two kids . So it was something I tried to ignore as much as I can. I was in a really bad, you know, I think it was a mix of postpartum depression, a mix of just depression of everything we had been through with my oldest at that time. I slept most of my pregnancy, my second pregnancy. I would just get up, I would barely eat it. I was very skinny. I, it was very unhealthy.

Carrie Kaufman (26:49):
How old were you with the second pregnancy?

Brenda Zamora (26:51):

Carrie Kaufman (26:52):
And her name?

Brenda Zamora (26:53):

Erika Washington (26:54):
We're in the room and the bits and pieces that I remember is that my water broke and I kept saying I'm peeing on myself. And she's like, don't worry about it. And I'm like, no, something's wrong. And I'm talking then and I'm just like, I want some drugs. Cause I'm like, don't wait till last minute and tell me can't have any drugs. And she's like, it's already too late. You're getting ready to have this baby. Because like I said, I start off real slow and next thing you know, here comes this kid. But the thing I can't tell you is I don't really remember the faces of anybody in that room. I don't know the name of the doctor. Like I could look it up because I'm sure we have the medical records somewhere, but I don't, I don't know any of these people because I've never been to this hospital before.

Erika Washington (27:36):
But I also, my, my brain cells are not connecting, right? And so they start asking me am I on drugs and I'm pretty sure they drug tested me for everything. And because they couldn't, they're asking me questions and I'm, I don't know, I'm probably babbling. I'm probably over this way and that way and saying this. And I kept saying, you had to wait until, until he got there. We can't have the baby until he gets here. All these things are going on and I'm just, I am delirious. I am completely delirious. Like literally as I'm talking about this and I'm trying to grasp and remember what happened, I can sort of remember the room, but it felt like this big giant room and it probably wasn't even as big as it was.

Amy Cookman (28:14):
That was 5 24, 7 o'clock at 7:00 PM I'm back in my labor suite. I have not met my son of course. And I'm starting to wake up like I'm, they're bringing me out of the general anesthesia. I'm starting to wake up and I see my husband holding my son and walking towards me like he's gonna give me the baby, right? My doula is next to me and a number of things happen. I'm thinking I wanna hold my baby one. Number two, what is that gushing between my legs? Cuz it just felt like a faucet running. And while I was thinking that I said something to that effect, I said, what's the gushing to my doula? And she said to the nurse, her lips are turning blue. And I was gone again. Like they had me rushed back to surgery again. They were putting me back under general. And as they're doing that, the doctors are lifting me off of the gurney and onto the or table. One of them is telling me, we're gonna try and stop the bleeding. You're hemorrhaging, we're gonna try and stop the bleeding. There is a slight possibility that if we can't stop the bleeding we will have to do a hysterectomy. And I said, okay, save my life.

Brenda Zamora (29:54):
Scarlet was about seven months when I, when I found out I was pregnant. With Scarlet, it was just, I think at that point I was just in uh, flight mode. You know, when they say fly or flight, like I was just on autopilot because I, there's things that now as that I'm older, I'm like how did I just not think about, you know, certain things and I was just fully focused and immersed emerged in, in the hospital life in Scarlet. I would eat lunch there. I would never leave the hospital. I was just there. I had to take a bus cause I didn't have a car. You know, taking the bus back and forth and just writing in a journal for her and just being there. I learned so much though just being with the nurses, which is what inspired me to, you know, eventually one day be a nurse.

Carrie Kaufman (30:48):
Does Natalie have any lasting complications?

Brenda Zamora (30:51):
No, they did tell me, you know, because of the small brain aneurysm she had at birth that, you know, she might be behind. But so far she's been doing great. You know, she is one of my biggest worries, um, because I don't know, you know, if there is something when it will happen. Um, they both though unfortunately, you know, are legally, you know, have vision impairment for the rest of their life.

Erika Washington (31:14):
But my brain only remembers things the way the Ambien would let me. And so it wasn't until afterwards that I find out that people sleepwalk on this, you know, on this drug and all these different things. And I'd never taken it before and I haven't taken it since. Um, but it made the experience so disappointing because I don't really remember, like all these things I'm saying are just bits and pieces that partially some things that he told me that happened and it feels like a dream. Like that whole labor feels like a dream. And then afterwards they just kept asking me, have you ever had prenatal care? And I'm like, yes. I went to the doctor on a regular basis, you know, did you take prenatal vitamins? Yes. You know, what drugs were you using? I'm like, I don't use drugs. And they did not believe me because partially probably the way I was acting and I couldn't control how I was acting. Um, and I'd never been to that hospital before. But also because I would've been a 23 year old black unwed mother on Medicaid. So I think I was treated as such. And so it was an experience that I wish upon no one whatsoever.

Amy Cookman (32:28):
And the next thing I know, I wake up in the I C U with a tube down my throat cuz I was intubated. Oh three IVs and a PICC line. And my husband walking toward me, like being really gentle and tender and like quiet. And I said to him, I couldn't say anything to him because I had the tube down my throat. But I, I was very agitated and he, I was trying to write, I was motioning that I wanted a pen and a paper to write and he gave me a piece of paper and I said, no music because the, the horrible elevator music that they were playing in my bed was just awful . And he said, that's when I knew that you were gonna be okay. You hated the music.

Amy Cookman's Husband (33:26):
I was just thankful that she was gonna be okay because at, at that point I was, I was afraid of having to go back home with as, as a single father. That was my, my biggest worry.

Brenda Zamora (33:38):
Seven years later I decided to have another baby. Um, I'm much older, I was in a better situation, much better situation. I, you know, was engaged and we decided to have just a baby, um, then try to just do everything right this time. Her name is Aurora, she is a year and a half. And it was just a whole different experience. I tell people all the time, I, she's definitely given me the experience of being a first time mother. Like and I air quote, right, like a regular first time mother. This time I was able to interview some ob GYNs because I had learned that we're allowed to do that through the work that I was doing at that time. So I did go to about four different OB GYNs until I felt like this person was the right one. And she was very understanding, she was great.

Brenda Zamora (34:30):
So we had a really good relationship and I think that's important because if you have a good relationship with your OB you will be more, you know, open to going to your appointments, making sure you don't miss any appointments and everything. So I was very on top of my OB appointments at that time with, with this pregnancy, I was at high risk because of the diabetes and I was attending every, you know, appointment there. And I had a list of questions every time cuz I, I didn't want to go through what I went, you know, with my first two. So I definitely was always, Hey, have you checked her cranial? Does the size look correct? Is there any extra fingers that I should be, you know, worried about . Like it was a list of things that I already had that I was really on it.

Brenda Zamora (35:14):
And every time I'm like, okay, can you check this again? Can you check this again? And I was very careful with my diabetes this time around. I had the support of my partner, you know, he was my person to give me my insulin shot every every few hours. And unfortunately it was still very difficult because my liver was failing through the pregnancy. So I had all these liver issues. Um, I had ICP, which is kind of the bile acids leaking into your blood system so you get really itchy. So I would never sleep four months in. It was already kind of like terrible . It was terrible. I, it was, I felt bad for everyone around me. I was miserable, but at least I was, I think had more support and was better prepared. And when the ICP situation happened about the bio acids, I did my own research and I went back to my OB and I said, Hey, can we try this medicine?

Brenda Zamora (36:11):
These folks over here in this state are doing this. Like, I was able to kind of give her different options that we can possibly try. So I was armed and ready , I had an induction date and it was at 37 weeks because that's when, you know, it's, it is considered full term, but I, I didn't make it that far. I didn't make it that far because a month before I had the baby, I was having signs of, um, high blood pressure this whole pregnancy because I already knew everything because of what I went through with my oldest. I actually went to school for medical assistant. So I knew the basic, you know, how to do triage, how to do all that stuff and check vital signs. So my whole pregnancy, I was checking my vital signs and a month before I gave birth, I noticed that my blood pressure was going up and I flagged it to my doctor.

Brenda Zamora (37:06):
So we started keeping an eye on it more. It was a day I was having a bad, bad headache and I like napped. And I said, wait a minute, this is not okay. I ended up calling my best friend to come over and check my blood pressure for me. And it was so high I was rushed to the hospital and they were like, oh, your blood pressure seems normal. The thing that I knew is that I have low blood pressure, so what seems normal to them is high for me. So I told them no and I was able to give them a list of my previous high blood pressure, you know, readings. And they also had a list on their computer and I said, these are my readings, like it's high. My, my blood pressure is high for me right now. And, and they came back and they were just like, we're gonna have to induce you cuz your blood pressure is high right now. I said, I know ,

Erika Washington (37:57):
There was no reason to give me an Ambien. There was no reason whatsoever. And I wasn't hysterical. And I think the fact that I was not hysterical and I was not overreacting or I and I or I wasn't, you know, in so much pain that I was screaming or what have you, whatever that was, it was just like, oh, well you just can't be in labor then it's like, because it, but it shows up differently for everyone. But I don't believe that I was given the rights and the autonomy to say that, okay, well it might show up different for her and how it feels and how it feels to, to actively be in labor. I mean, by the end it was quite painful and I was, you know, yelping and, and what have you, but I just wasn't there yet.

Amy Cookman (38:34):
A different doctor performed the hysterectomy and he he was the chief of obstetric oncology and he did a phenomenal surgery. He performed a phenomenal surgery. He left part of my cervix just because he wanted to take as little as possible. So he took my uterus and my fallopian tubes and left my ovaries, my broad ligament and a bit of my cervix. But I later found out from my husband that I was in surgery for like five hours and it was only because I had been running throughout my entire pregnancy. The last time I ran was three days before I gave birth. And my heart was strong and my lungs were strong and that's why they were able to do the surgery, to be in surgery and try for as long as they did. I got 23 units of blood transfusion, which is twice my body's blood.

Amy Cookman (39:48):
Um, and so the first time I went, I went back and they tried to stop the bleeding because it was, um, the, I was bleeding vaginally, which was weird because I didn't give birth vaginally, but I was bleeding vaginally. And so they stuffed me with like giant hospital tampon to keep the blood from coming out so that it w that it'll clot. It didn't work. I started bleeding from my c-section incision, so they had to cut me back open for that, try and stop the bleeding that way, sew me back up. It didn't work. So they had to cut me open a third time, yeah, a third time or pull the stitches. And that was when they pulled the uterus out and they tried to do like the, you know, the paddles that they used for a chest compression. They used that on my uterus, .

Amy Cookman (40:46):
They had it sitting out on my chest and they were using paddles because it wasn't contracting. That was the whole problem is that my uterus had been contracting so hard for so long that it was like a muscle that just snapped and wouldn't work anymore. So when my, when the surgeon went out to tell my husband it's not working work and I have to do the C-section, do you consent? He was like, Y-yeah, sure, , you know. Um, but then the doctor also asked if my husband wanted a husband's stitch. And Paul was like, what ? What's that? And he said, oh, well, some men ask that when their wives tear, you just add an extra stitch. So she's tighter than she was before. It took me 10 years. But I was like, it is astounding that that doctor offered to sexually assault pain violently so that my husband could have better quote unquote better sex with me after this trauma.

Amy Cookman's Husband (42:02):
Oh, that wasn't, that wasn't, that wasn't a, a permission that he just told me he did it. He just said that that was, that was something that was done. That was like after the fact. That was like a day later he was like, oh, by the way, just kind of an aside, this is something that I did. Um, we called this the, the husband stitch. We just, and just just described the procedure and what it was. And I was like, well, okay, whatever, . And I didn't even think anything about about that until, uh, later. But I thought it was kind of weird that he just told me about it. But yeah, it wasn't like a do you want this to happen? It was just, it was just done

Brenda Zamora (42:43):
This time around, I learned about my liver situation. So I had it with my second pregnancy and I never knew because I never went to the doctor because actually what I did with Natalie when I was pregnant, my middle one, I went into the hospital because I, at that point I was itchy and I didn't know what it was. So I went into a hospital and I told them, I said, I am going to kill myself because I cannot sleep. I haven't slept in three days. I'm going to kill myself. You need to get this baby out of me because this, she's causing this itchiness. And they, they popped my, my water. Like they, they broke my water and, and I had birth, I had her at 32 weeks, but I didn't know what it was. And then when it started happening with my third and my last pregnancy, I, I told my ob I said, Hey, I'm really itchy. And she told me, oh, this is what it might be. We took some test, you know, they did blood work. And when I found out what it was, I said, I think I had this with my second pregnancy and I, I never knew about it.

Amy Cookman (43:45):
We did it, apparently. Well, and that's, uh, that's actually interesting for me to know because I don't know if this is too much information. I know that I'm not the only person that has dealt with this after birth trauma, but it's not a commonly talked about thing. There is a thing that happens after or during vaginal trauma where the vaginal walls shut down. And, and I thought, so what was it six, six weeks after Eli was born, I have my six week checkup with Dr. Gold and, or maybe it was like eight weeks, something like that. He wanted to check, he wanted to check my cervix and just to make sure that everything was, that I was recovering. Okay. So I had my six week check with my, with one of the doctors who did the C-section and who was with him during the, the rest of the surgery, the, um, and then it was later that I talked to Dr. Gold

Amy Cookman (44:57):
But anyway, Paul and I tried to have sex at like the six, seven week mark. And it wasn't that it was painful, it was that my vagina was closed and it was just like my body shut it down. Um, and that's a, like, that's a thing. And I asked Dr. Gold, I asked my other surgeon who did the surgery, and she was like, oh, I've never heard of that. And I asked Dr. Gold should like, sex be hard or painful? And he was like, Nope, should be easy. You had a C-section. And now I'm like, well, okay. First of all, I was gushing blood and apparently also I had a stitched a husband stitch. So of course my body was like, Nope, we're not doing this. What the Oh my word.

Brenda Zamora (45:59):
my husband, he's like, I can't go through this. Because he was with me every step of the way and he, he said, I can't go through this. Um, apparently like my ob when I gave birth to the baby, like pulled them aside and was like, you know, like, y'all just cannot have anymore kids. It's very dangerous for her. Like, it would be unfortunate for you to have to make a choice, um, if, if she does get pregnant again between a child and, and your wife . Yeah. Yeah. Even though it was a great pregnancy this time around, like I'm, I feel very lucky. I feel very lucky that I experienced, you know, being loved during my pregnancy. Like there is times that I, I want it again, right? I wanna be pregnant and, and get my belly rubbed and just have those moments. But it's for my health, it's the worst thing that I could possibly do. And I still have, you know, my other two to think about. So I can't risk my life that way even though I'm better prepared and I have all the tools.