Documentary uncovering traumatic birth experiences gives voice, hope to Alabama women

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In 2016, Caroline Malatesta and her husband, J.T. were awarded a $16 million verdict against Brookwood Medical Center of Birmingham, Ala. for their claims of medical negligence and reckless fraud for the hospital’s natural birth advertising campaign at the time of their child’s 2012 birth.

During the birth of her fourth child, Malatesta was permanently injured by a Brookwood nurse who forced the mother onto her back and pressed her baby’s head back into her vagina until the doctor arrived. As a result of the mistreatment, the Alabama mom has since suffered immeasurably: she has a permanent nerve injury called Pudendal Neuralgia, she’s unable to have future children, and can no longer have sex.

Now her story, along with the stories several other Alabama mothers, is being shared in a new documentary film, Mother May I?, in hopes of putting an end to obstetric violence. According to Broadly.com, “the term “obstetric violence appears nowhere in US law, but other countries like Venezuela and Argentina are beginning to define it as a crime against people giving birth. It is an umbrella term that includes disrespectful attitudes, coercion, bullying, and discrimination from care providers, lack of consent for examinations or treatment, forced procedures like C-section by court order, and also physical abuse.”

Malatesta, describes her involvement with the project:

In 2016, I received the ultimate validation of a jury verdict.  As a result, I heard from hundreds of women who had experienced similar treatment, and I realized I couldn’t stop at my verdict.  I’m well aware of the role my privilege played in getting justice, and I want nothing more than for my story to be used to give a voice to women who don’t have one.  I’m now the president of The Birth Monopoly Foundation, which is producing the film.

Those of us who have suffered birth trauma know that even when we are silenced, that nagging feeling doesn’t go away.  Deep in our guts, we know what happened to us was wrong.  When you are told “all that matters is a healthy baby” or “birth is unpredictable, so you must be flexible,” remind yourself that you love your child more than anyone else in the world.  You aren’t speaking up because you are ungrateful; you are speaking up because you care about your baby.  When a mother’s emotional health suffers, her baby suffers, too.

The film has an estimated February 2019 release date.

Watch the Mother May I? trailer below:

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