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.
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 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.
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.