Mom Gets $16M After Nurses Push Her Baby Back Into Her Vagina.

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At 32, Caroline Malatesta decided to give birth to her fourth child at the Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. She had delivered her first three children through "medicated, on-your-back deliveries," but Malatesta was interested in this new center because of its focus on natural childbirth, when a mother labors without the use of pain medications. The center promised comfort and choice.

"They had an ad on TV where a doctor was talking about 'natural childbirth,' and how they were embracing the concept. That added for me a layer of legitimacy that maybe natural birth could be better, especially when you hear a doctor talking about it," she told Cosmopolitan.

Malatesta interviewed with a Brookwood doctor to confirm what she had heard and read, and he told her that she "could labor in any position, not necessarily on [her] back, and didn't need continuous monitoring." She decided to switch to Brookwood at around 20 weeks.

On March 12, 2012 at around 2:30 in the morning, she went to the hospital after feeling a gush, thinking that her water had broken. The doctor wasn't on call so wasn't there yet, which left Caroline in the nurses' care.

While families' lives change the moment they step into the hospital to give birth, no one expects their lives to turn this way.

This is Caroline Malatesta.

Malatesta gave birth to her fourth child at the Brookwood Medical Center in 2012, and what happened there changed her family’s life forever.

When the center first opened in 2011, advertisements focused on the positive experience of having a natural childbirth.

Having given three medicated births, Malatesta was glad to learn of other options. She made sure to learn as much as possible before making the switch from St. Vincent’s to Brookwood. The choice on where and how to give birth is a very important decision to the mother.

When the center first opened in 2011, advertisements focused on the positive experience of having a natural childbirth.

Malatesta underwent a painful and traumatizing experience.

Complications during birth are more common than complications during pregnancy, says Pregnancy Corner. However, there were certain problems in Malatesta’s case that could have been prevented.

Malatesta underwent a painful and traumatizing experience.

Caroline Malatesta / Cosmopolitan

When the time came to give birth, her doctor wasn't there yet, and she was left in the nurses' care.

Labor and delivery nurses have no small job. Not only do they assist in delivering the baby, they are responsible for caring for the woman and the infant during labor. These professionals must provide support and education to the mother throughout the process. In fact, many women thank the delivery team for their work.

Malatesta’s experience was different. When she entered the birthing room, the nurse told her to use the restroom, because she probably wouldn’t be able to use it while in labor. This was confusing to Malatesta, whose doctor had told her that wireless monitoring would allow her to be mobile. Unfortunately, her doctor wasn’t on call.

“From that point on, it became a back-and-forth of ‘But my doctor said I could’ and ‘But you don’t get to,’ Malatesta shared in an interview.

“The nurse treated me like a disobedient child!”

When the time came to give birth, her doctor wasn't there yet, and she was left in the nurses' care.

Caroline Malatesta / Cosmopolitan

There was a "power struggle" throughout the birth.

Malatesta did what she was told, most of which was different from the advertisements. For example, she put on a gown even though the center advertised that the woman could wear her own clothes. When she asked the nurse why, she received no explanation.

One of the nurses told her to get on her back, but she remained on her hands and knees, because that’s what felt most natural to her. In response, the nurse flipped her onto her back. A different nurse held her baby’s head and pushed it against Malatesta’s vagina, preventing the infant from being fully delivered.

“The nurses were holding me down, and I was struggling — really struggling,” she said of the experience.

Her husband, J.T., believed that the nurses were handling her aggressively for a reason. Perhaps “something serious was happening,” but this was not the case.

Six minutes later, Malatesta’s doctor rushed in. Her son, Jack, was delivered quickly, about a minute later.

There was a "power struggle" throughout the birth.

Caroline Malatesta / Cosmopolitan

The mother expressed her frustration to her husband, close friends, and the hospital.

She was grateful for delivering a healthy child, but couldn’t understand why she was forced on her back despite the pain and the hospital’s emphasis on choice. Additionally, there were signs of an injury after the delivery, she was having “abnormal nerve sensations: pins and needles, numbness, burning,” and it only got worse.

The mother expressed her frustration to her husband, close friends, and the hospital.

Caroline Malatesta / Cosmopolitan

The trauma from fighting while birthing led to a debilitating condition.

Malatesta managed through the pain, which got so bad that she wasn’t able to have sex at all. She eventually had to move in with her parents and receive full-time support. When she visited the ob-gyn, she was reassured.

She later learned that she had PTSD and pudendal neuralgia, a permanent and debilitation nerve condition, and she wanted answers from Brookwood.

Coming from a medical family (her father is a doctor and her grandfather was one too), she initially didn’t want to go through litigation.

She reached out to the hospital administration, but was redirected from the vice president to the patient advocate before being told that her request for a meeting was declined.

“It was at that moment that I realized that despite not wanting to go through litigation, I had no other choice but to file a lawsuit, because they weren’t going to listen otherwise.”

The trauma from fighting while birthing led to a debilitating condition.

Caroline Malatesta

The jury found Brookwood responsible for medical negligence and reckless fraud, and awarded the family a total of $16 million.

Four years later on August 5, 2016, $10 million was awarded to Malatesta for the injuries she sustained during childbirth, $1 million to her husband for loss of consortium, and $5 million in punitive damages for reckless fraud, according to AL.com.

Her doctor believes that the damage is permanent, but they haven’t given up hope just yet.

The jury found Brookwood responsible for medical negligence and reckless fraud, and awarded the family a total of $16 million.

Caroline Malatesta

Many women are told to be flexible because of the unpredictability of birth.

“I believe that [‘it’s best to be flexible’ is] the most abused phrase in childbirth, especially when it comes to railroading a woman’s choice,” Malatesta wrote on Birth Monopoly.

In bold, the same article reads, “No provider can guarantee a healthy birth outcome, but they can guarantee they will provide evidence-based services and supportive measures to give you the best chance at achieving a healthy birth.”

Since articles have been published on her experience, other women have reached out to Malatesta to share their own stories, a few of them from the same hospital.

It took four years and a lot of support from others for Malatesta to get to this point.

The reading of the verdict brought everyone to tears, Cristen Pascucci, founder of Birth Monopoly, told Babble in an interview. She was one of many who supported Malatesta through years of litigation.

Pascucci is a leading childbirth advocate with a desire to see more “transparency and a little more consumer power in American maternity care.”

Different women have reacted differently to Malatesta's experience.

Childbirth is a deeply personal experience, but many women have been able to identify with Malatesta. On the contrary, some have defended Brookwood.

A few are saying Malatesta took it too far.

Others are blaming the experience of natural childbirth.

In the end, Caroline Malatesta's word is the one that matters most in sharing her own story, but it is a good sign that women are openly discussing maternity care. Malatesta and those who have supported her hope that the verdict can serve as an example for hospitals to prioritize safe and proper treatment of expectant mothers and for other women to speak up about any mistreatment they have experienced while giving birth.

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