An anonymous pregnant Italian woman went to Britain in July of last year to attend a two-week airline training course. Her two daughters stayed with her mother in Italy. While at the hotel, she became panicked when she couldn't find her daughters' passports. She called the police for help, who called her mother because they felt the woman was over-excited and they were concerned about a panic attack.
The woman's mother explained she was bipolar. The police then told her they wanted to take her to the hospital to make sure the baby was okay, but she was taken to a psychiatric facility instead. She says she requested to return to her hotel but was restrained and forbidden to leave. Her family wasn't contacted. For five weeks, she remained in the facility until she was sedated against her will so the doctors could remove her baby by c-section.
Every part of my body and soul hurts for this woman after learning her story. No woman should be forced to do anything regarding her birth. And from what it sounds, her bipolar disorder could have been controlled with medicine. Even if she couldn't take it during pregnancy, if there was some sort of issue, there should be alternatives. There was a High Court Order to allow the sedated c-section, but they didn't consult the mother. And above all, this woman's family should have been notified. They didn't even consult the mother's mother. She should have had a say if the facility deemed this woman unable to do so herself.
It is every pregnant woman's fear for her birth to go horribly wrong. And this woman not only was denied her right to experience the birth of her child by being completely sedated and forced to undergo major surgery by way of c-section, I would also go as far to say this could have caused danger to the baby. That is not a risk any doctor should take if not necessary. The mother awoke and was told her baby was born but she couldn't have her. She was taken into care and the judge ruled that the baby girl should be put up for adoption due to a fear that the mother would relapse.
This mother has never met her baby. Something seems to have gone terribly wrong with the courts and she risks never being able to hold the baby she carried, she created, she nurtured for nine months. A relapse? Anything could happen to any person at any time. The woman's condition is reportedly under control as she is on medication. Is the court saying that no parent with any kind of medical condition be allowed custody of their child for fear something may happen? If so, then no one would be allowed to be a parent ever. She is a mom to two other children who are allowed to be in her care.
The mother's lawyers say they never saw a case like this -- a case so unjust -- in their entire career. They are attempting to take the case to Italy where the mother is from and out of the British system. But there is a situation because this all happened when the woman was in Britain and they have jurisdiction over her due to their ruling that she didn't have "capacity" to do so. Her lawyers need a lot of answers. Why did Essex social services not contact next of kin in Italy? A family friend offered to take care of the child, but social services said no. Now the child is in the system. She's 15 months old. She's been robbed of her infancy with her mother. Brendan Fleming, the woman’s British lawyer, told The Sunday Telegraph:
I have never heard of anything like this in all my 40 years in the job. I can understand if someone is very ill that they may not be able to consent to a medical procedure, but a forced caesarean is unprecedented. If there were concerns about the care of this child by an Italian mother, then the better plan would have been for the authorities here to have notified social services in Italy and for the child to have been taken back there.
John Hemming, chair of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, said:
I have seen a number of cases of abuses of people’s rights in the family courts, but this has to be one of the more extreme. It involves the Court of Protection authorising a caesarean section without the person concerned being made aware of what was proposed. I worry about the way these decisions about a person’s mental capacity are being taken without any apparent concern as to the effect on the individual being affected.
This is all about our rights. Our rights as women. Our rights as people. Our rights as mothers. Our rights as parents. And our children's rights. This child has been put under so much unnecessary stress from birth ... from the womb. This mother deserved to experience the birth of her child, just like every woman does.
Women should have a say in how they birth. This woman absolutely did as well. So many times doctors try to coerce women in labor to undergo unnecessary procedures -- and in this case, they decided to just sedate without putting any value on the mother's rights, the child's rights. What both mother and child deserved. I hope more light is shed on this case and something is done to reunite mother and child. I cannot imagine the pain and helplessness this mother feels. I would never want to. No one should ever have to.
What do you think of this story?
Image via Jessica Merz/Flickr