Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Since my nighmarish birth experience at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, I've still been feeling out of sorts, and I want to reach out to other women out there--preferably BEFORE you give birth.

The experience made me see how combative the relationship with obstetricians and their patients have become. In my case, my obstetrician Dr. Claudia Holland burst into the operating room while I was strapped to the o.r. table, shouting at me that she wanted my verbal consent because she "didn't want to be charged with assault." Is this an incidence of a single individual with anger-management problems or the current state of obstetrics in the U.S.?

Women who want a natural birth should know what they are up against. More than 1 in 4 babies are delivered by cesarean section according to the National Center for Health Statistics. It's major abdominal surgery that risks your future reproductive health! So how does this happen?

Many obstetricians have a motto: "The only cesarean you get sued for is the one you don't do." This puts them at odds with their patients and accounts for the incredibly high cesearean-section rate in the United States today.

This hostile state of affairs leads to some nightmarish birth stories, such as my terrifying experience at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital. I had not known Dr. Holland long, and although I had complaints about her bedside manner, I would never have imagined that any doctor could be so abusive in the operating room or so unprofessional before and after the operation.

At first, her partner was supposed to perform the surgery, but she was called away to do an emergency D&C, I was told. I waited on the OR table, with antibiotics and anesthetic pumping through my veins, and an oxygen mask on my face, for about 20 minutes for Dr. Holland to arrive.

I expected Dr. Holland to come in with some consoling words about why the VBAC was unsuccessful, but instead she burst into the OR and started shouting at me, “I want you to give me your verbal consent! Because I don’t want to be charged with assault! This is not a joke. This is totally serious. You can say yes or you can walk right out of this hospital. I had to cancel my blind mother’s doctor’s appointment! Say yes, or walk out of this hospital, because I don’t want to be charged with assault!!! (And so on and so forth.)” (Note that while she was shouting at me to walk out of the hospital, I was paralyzed from the waist down and literally unable to walk.)

I was completely in shock. If Dr. Holland was angry because she had to miss her mother’s doctor appointment, what had that to do with me? I didn’t force her to come. If Dr. Rutenberg was called away by an emergency to go to, it wasn’t my fault. And of course, I had signed the required consent form before they would even wheel me into the O.R.

Believe me, I did NOT want to say yes, because I did not want to be operated on by a raving surgeon. On the other hand, I didn’t know what would happen if I “walked out of the hospital.” I felt trapped. I do not consider this informed consent.

I was terrified throughout the surgery. I cannot describe to you what it feels like to be operated on by an enraged surgeon and feeling completely helpless. I relive the nightmare every night. It was terrifying and I started to shake uncontrollably. The surgery was extremely violent and painful, as she slammed my body on the table repeatedly. I asked the anesthesiologist for help with the pain, and Dr. Holland snapped, "Give her a general!" even though she knew that it was my wish to be awake to breastfeed immediately after my baby was born. Luckily, the anesthesiologist refused.

At the end of the surgery, I heard Dr. Holland say, “I almost had to take the uterus out.” She didn’t come around to ask how I was or to explain herself. Instead, she started to walk out of the OR. My husband asked her, “What about the cord blood?” (We had registered with the Cord Blood Registry.) She replied, “Oh, that was a complete failure. The cord was too boggy,” and then she left the building, as in I didn't see her again!

I expected to see her in the recovery room, at which time I would ask her why she shouted at me in the OR and what she meant by nearly having to remove my uterus. She never came! Later, she would insinuate that I had some kind of amnesiac episode, but there were other witnesses to the fact that she never came, including my husband and doula. (I wonder if she doctored the books to show that she did come to recovery, or else how could she dare make that claim to me?) She and her partners (not all--she has one lovely, caring partner, Dr. Deli, who unfortunately I saw very little of) continued to treat me like human detritus not worthy of their attention. (There is more to my birth story, including Dr. Holland threatening to sue ME and her repeated insinuations that I was mentally ill! There's no end to this woman's unprofessionalism.)

In retrospect, given Dr. Holland's attitude toward me, I realize that my cesarean section was unnecessary. My baby just needed time to arrive. But it didn't fit with Dr. Holland's schedule and her mother's doctor's appointment. I was supposed to be done by then. I had read about women being coerced into a c/section and about silly reasons for them, such as a doctor's schedule, but I am shocked that it happened to me. I don't know whether the surgery, which was so painful (even under an epidural) and violent, may have done to my reproductive organs.

I filed a complaint with NY State's Office of Professional Medical Conduct, and am awaiting to hear what they conclude. Although I was told that the doctors on these boards socialize with the doctors they investigate, I remain optimistic that there is some independent element to this investigation. My current obstetrician will be ordering some sonograms to check the condition of my reproductive organs once I have finished nursing.

But I can't stop reliving the days that lead up to this unnecessary and horrific surgery. I bought the book "The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth," took a so-called VBAC class at the hospital, and hired a doula, and I thought I was sooo covered. But I should have gone to a midwife. I had no idea how big the odds were against me and how alone I would be when they forced me into the operating room. No one in the room said anything to help or support me! I was just another annoying woman who dared to want a natural birth. I definitely felt that everyone was, like, "Let's get this over with! We're all busy here!"

One problem is there's a prevailing attitude even among pregnant women that a c/section is no big deal. I've heard a lot of people say it's painless compared to a vaginal birth.

Well, it's nearly 6 months since my daughter's birth, and I still feel pain in the incision. Of course this makes me worry about the carelessness and violence of the surgery. Will I rupture if I have another baby? What if my child needs the cord blood that Dr. Holland clearly forgot (in her agitation) to extract? Who will answer for this?

I don't want to admit this, but Dr. Holland has made a huge impact on our lives. My husband and I suffer from post-traumatic stress, my baby's first months have been far from tranquil, and we may now never have another baby.


Blogger wonderwomen said...

I would encourage you to attend EVOLUTION: Old Time Family Doctor on Monday, May 1 @ 6 PM. Buffet dinner $40.00 It will be at the Beth Israel School of Nursing, 776 6th Avenue, between 26 & 27 Streets in NYC

Mayer Eisenstein, MD,JD (yes, also a lawyer) will be speaking and presenting his program. He has between 15,000 and 20,000 home births with a 5% C/birth rate. Unbelievable. He is from Chicago and I met him in the 70s when he decided to do home births.

However, in order to attend you must confirm with me, since this event is by registration only.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

Hugs! As a doula, I wish I could say that what happened to you was unusual, but unfortunately, it isn't. I say that 1/4 of the births I attend are beautiful. 1/2 are "okay." And the remaining 1/4 are "medical rape." I blogged recently about one of the latter.

I've seen women threatened with the "your baby will die!" arguement over something as trivial as a routine IV. Women who were not allowed to make choices about their care, or coerced (like you were) to make the choices their care provider wants.

I applaud you for taking steps to report the treatment you were subjected to, and also for starting this blog. Trust me, it will get attention!

5:22 PM  
Blogger ~M said...

I am so sorry what you had to go through with Dr. Holland. You are now on a path from healing from that traumatic experience. I hope that one day Dr. Holland learns her lesson and looses her license for the many women she has yelled at and traumatized.

2:25 PM  
Blogger playgirl 52 said...

I'm a gyn patient of Dr. Holland's and I think she is very distant. In this field, the doctor should be more caring and understanding of her patients, but I don't get that warm fuzzy feeling when I go to my appointments. Her nurses are far more compassionate and actually take the time to answer your questions, but who are they to make assessments about your health. Maybe Dr. Holland si going through "the change".

6:44 AM  
Blogger agb210 said...

I have to say, I was surprised to see such harsh comments about Dr. Claudia Holland. My wife had a wonderful experience with her and she in fact went considerably out of her way to avoid a c-section. Our baby was breech and Dr. Holland reccommended my wife undergo a procedure to turn the baby into "launch" position. Many people I spoke to said that their doctor discouraged them from even trying that--that at that point, a c-section was probably inevitable. Dr. Holland was of the belief that a c-section is very serious surgery and should be avoided to the extent possible. We had the procedure performed, although in the end, we had to have a c-section as our baby went into fetal distress three times due to having the cord wrapped around her neck, but Dr. Holland was rational and calm and even apologetic about the result. We felt confident that it was the right decision given how much she had gone out of her way to avoid this serious surgery. We had two miscarriages prior to this successful pregnancy, and Claudia Holland was nothing but empathetic, constructive and helpful. She is a straight-shooter, no doubt, and doesn't mince words or sugar coat things, but frankly, my wife and I prefer that style. But if anything, I found her to be extremely professional with a warm bedside manner. If you think about things from the doctor's perspective, they have seen a lot more than you have and I'm certain have many patients and husbands and doulas who think they know a lot more than they do. There are two sides to every story. I just wanted to take this opportunity to state that Dr. Claudia Holland was nothing short of fantastic and we would not consider using another doctor.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

I was a gyn patient of Dr. Holland's and the friend who recommended her to me sent me the link to your post. I went to Dr. Holland as a gyn patient and stayed with her when I was trying to get pregnant. She ordered a full battery of tests to see why I wasn't getting pregnant but mis-timed one of them (the progesterone levels); she told me this after we got the results back and then when I asked her if I should do the test again, she said it wasn't important. Getting the results on one of the tests took about three weeks when it was supposed to take 5 days. I called her office several times per week and even twice a day. No one who worked there could give me the results over the phone, and they kept promising that Dr. Holland would call me back but it took her three weeks to do so. She also tested my husband's sperm and when the results came back for that, she said that his sperm was fine. Since she is not a fertility specialist she referred me to one to do more tests and discuss other options. It was only once I got to the specialist that I realized that she read my husband's sperm test wrong. Everyone says that she is cold and has bad bedside manners, but that I could forgive if she just did her job correctly, calling me back with results and reading the results right. The friend who recommended Dr. Holland couldn't believe that I had such a bad experience with her, until she started to need more than just a routine pap smear. She also had to call and call just to get her test results, and got unclear and even incorrect information from Dr. Holland. Needless to say, neither of us is going back to her!

8:33 AM  
Blogger 4Moms2B said...

I'd like to respond to agb210, who said he was surprised at my harsh comments about Dr. Holland.

If you cut out anything I say about how I feel now and felt during and after the surgery she performed on me (ie. the subjective), here is the bottom line:

For every office visit I went to, I waited a minimum of an hour and a half and saw her for 30 seconds. (I didn't use a stopwatch, but this is not an exaggeration.) She runs her office like a "gyno-factory," as one person described to me. She responded to all my concerns with curt and perfunctory responses (is this being a "straight-shooter"?). I'm not talking about a lack of warm-fuzziness. I mean a total absence of communication.

During surgery, she burst into the O.R. and shouted and shouted at me as I describe in the blog about not wanting to be charged with assault, without instigation, and about being made to miss her "blind mother's 4 o'clock doctor's appointment."

She failed to honor our wishes to extract cord blood giving the reason of the umbilical cord being "too boggy," walking off without further explanation.

She said, "I nearly had to take out the uterus," after the surgery and disappeared without further explanation, not even seeing me in recovery.

She did visit me the day after surgery, while I had visitors, and after being introduced to them said, "I'll be back later," and never was seen in the hospital by me again.

She lied on my answering machine about seeing me in recovery.

She insinuated on at least four occasions that I was mentally ill or had post-partum depression ("I'm sorry your wife is so sad.")

Are these things just me being harsh?

I grant you that the surgery having been violent and harsh may be subjective (maybe O.B.s always lift up women's bodies and slam them on the O.R. table during cesarians). But if any of the above sounds like the kind of care a pregnant woman can expect from her doctor, then by all means, I am being too harsh.

6:25 AM  
Blogger noelle knight said...

I also had a terrible experience with Dr Holland. At times she was distant as if she was on some type of meds that spaced her out. At other times she revealed too much about her personal life during our appointments. After reading the other comments I'm glad one of her partners delivered our son. He was a c-section-my choice. Apparently it was Holland's responsibility to circumcise our son and she "forgot". We were even more furious when a specialist came to check out our son to see if a circumcision was possible. My husband and I were not told that he was coming so when the pediatric urologist showed up we thought something was wrong with our son. There wasn't anything wrong with him,she just sent the urologist to do her job. Because Dr. Holland "forgot" we had to get an expensive car service to New Jersey to have our son circumcised-a month later! When I had my follow up appointment she asked me if I had recovered from the trauma of childbirth. I told her it was the most traumatic thing I had ever been through. Instead of having empathy or compassion she said to me,"You must not have ever been through anything traumatic before". She was insensitive and this goes beyond "bedside manner".

6:33 PM  
Blogger ~M said...

I found out what she meant by boggy. It means your uterus was soft. Of course it's going to be soft!!!! You've just delivered a BABY and my c-section, nonetheless. I find that rediculous! A uterus takes 10 days to get back to it's normal size and is boggy for up to an hour after birth! She needs to go back to Medical School, and to repeat the hypocratic oath!

4:43 PM  
Blogger JaneD said...

I had an appointment with Dr. Holland that I canceled after reading these posts and others that I found on different sites. I've already had a bad experience with a gyn--Dr. Joanna Pessolano--yelling at me with the exam room door wide open while I stood naked, scrambling to cover myself, so I didn't need another bad gyn experience. Is there a woman gyn in NYC that anyone is happy with? If so, can you share her name?!

6:55 AM  
Blogger elena said...

Dr Holland delivered my daughter and was very knowledgeable, smart and reliable. It took me 5 HRS OF PUSHING, but she delivered the baby naturally without forcing the c-section. She took cord blood, - no problem - and it was 3am by then. I understand what you mean that she does not have the most warm and soft bed manners, but to me what matters the most is knowledge and ability to effectively problem -solve. In my case, Dr Holland demonstrated all of the above.

4:14 AM  
Blogger elena said...

Dr Holland was my obgyn thru my pregnance, and also delivered my daughter. She was excellent all the way. It took me 5 hrs to push the baby out, but we did it naturally. She also drew cord blood - no problems - even though it was 3am by then.
I do understand what you mean that she does not have the warm and soft bedside manners, but to me what matters is that she is very knowledgeable and capable of problem-solving. In my case, Dr Holland demonstrated all of the above. I am pregnant with #2 and I am going to Dr Holland again

4:18 AM  
Blogger 4Moms2B said...

Jane D, I don't know how to email you, so I'm leaving a comment here. I love my current OB, Dr. Miriam Greene, who has a solo practice.

Elena, Whenever someone writes in to tell me that Dr. Holland may not have soft, warm bedside manners, but is competent where it counts, I have to stress that my nightmarish experience isn't just about bedside manners. Shouting at a patient strapped on the OR table isn't about bedside manners, it's about mental health. And FAILING to see the patient in recovery is not about manners at all, but professional conduct. And LYING about that and other things (I still have the recording from my answering machine to illustrate one of those lies), is not a question of manners, either.

8:06 AM  
Blogger NJmom2b said...

I know this blog is older, but wanted to mention I too had a horrible experience with Dr. Holland. I had life-threatening bleeding so I went to the nearest hospital rather than do the 1 hour drive during rush hour (normally it would be much quicker) to Roosevelt where she is affiliated. I asked her service to have her call ahead to let them know I was coming and asked her to call me back. She never did either. The ER doctors told her about my condition and she told them to deal with it b/c if they sent me home in order to see her, she wouldn't be able to see me for days. I had an emergency procedure done that night to stop the bleeding for an uterine AVM, a somewhat uncommon condition.
I never received a phone call from her during my entire time there or as a follow up after I left the hospital. She only called over a week later after I requested my files be sent to a new OB/GYN. During the phone call she lied about not receiving a message from her service (I have a record to prove otherwise), told me if I had gone to Roosevelt then maybe she would have been able to follow up better (I didn't realize it was that difficult for her to dial a phone) and that she had never heard of my condition. It is rare, but it's extremely alarming someone in her field who has been practicing as long as she has would have never even heard of it. There's more to the story and her mediocre care, but I just wanted to express my horrible experience with her as well to point out that the comments made by others and your story are not isolated insidents.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

Hello author of this blog, I hope you get this comment. I am a law student writing a paper about informed consent in this very situation. I am also a new mom, who wanted a vaginal birth and got just about every intervention up to a c-section. I really feel for you, and would welcome an e-mail correspondence with you. I hope that time and space has helped you to heal.

5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear about your horrific experience. I came across your blog while trying to find some answers and comfort to my own horrific birth experience. In October 2005, I gave birth to my third child. He was born in the hallway of the hospital because no one believed I was in labor and my OB never showed up. Five hours later, I nearly hemorrhaged to death and again, they manually removed retained placenta without anesthesia (let alone consent), and again I never saw my OB. We were discharged at 48 hours despite my barely being able to stand and the baby was readmitted to the chidren's hospital 8 hours later with jaundice and dehydration. Needless to say, I too developed PTSD.
You did the right thing reporting your OB to the board of medicine. I did the same. The investigation took six months, and in the end although the state prosecuting attorney was unable to press formal charges, they did assure me that my complaint had an impact and that my information will be logged into a database for future reference if needed against this OB. I also filed complaints with the state Department of Health as well as the Joint Commission (JCAHO). The DOH conducted an unannounced investigation of the hospital in response and the Joint Commission is still in the process of investigating. I don't know if you have sought professional counseling for the PTSD. For me, it has been life-saving. Don't let anyone tell you it's postpartum depression (I was initially misdiagnosed as such, adding insult to injury). There is no need to suffer any more than what you've already gone through. There is also a support group online for mothers coping with PTSD and birth trauma (
I never imagined that what was supposed to be one of the most beautiful moments of my life would turn out to be one of the most horrific. You're not alone. My heart goes out to you and your family.

7:23 AM  
Blogger westchestermom said...

Dr. Claudia Holland has been my OB/GYN since 1989. She delivered both of my children in a warm,caring, professional manner. She actively supported me as I labored without medication. She also recommended that I not have a c/section for my son, who was in the breech position; rather, she encouraged me to have a procedure done to rotate his head around, so that he could be born vaginally.
When my son went into distress toward the end of labor, Dr. Holland calmly convinced me to push him out as quickly as possible. She efficiently cut the umbilical cord that was tightly wrapped around his neck, adn then resuscitated him.
Four years after my son's delivery, a PAP test came back revealing ambigouous, possibly malignant cells. Dr. Holland was very thorough and calm in her approach, as she told me that everything would most likely be OK, but that further testing was warranted.
I have sent some very close relatives to Dr. Holland, and I thank Dr. Holland for several healthy nieces and nephews who were born after Dr. Holland cared for their mothers during high-risk pregnancies.

11:58 AM  
Blogger E. said...

Dr. Holland has been my doctor for over 10 years. She delivered my 2 children and I was very satisified with the care that she provided.
When I had a miscarriage, she was very nurtering and supportive. When I got pregnant a few months after my first miscarriage, I had many questions and concerns and she was very patient and understanding. I would recommend her to anybody.

12:33 PM  
Blogger SA said...

I can not believer your story - it is so sad. The irony is that I Dr. Holland was one of the drs I was thinking of using when I got pregnant 9 months ago. I am just so glad I did not go to her. Best of luck.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Statia Grossman said...

I know that this blog was started over 2 years ago, but I'd like to add my comment as well. My OB was Dr. Deli, but unfortunately the Dr. that delivered me was Dr. Holland. She was very rude and had no bedside manners at all. During delivery she repeatedly told me "your not doing it right" to which I kept yelling back, I've never done this before, I don't know HOW to do it. I told Dr. Deli how upset I was and she informed me that she and Dr. Rutenberg were switching practices (and they did about 1 week later). I'm due again in August and it's a huge fear of mine that I will get her again. I've warned all my friends that are delivering at Roosevelt to try and avoid her.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Ariel said...

Dear J,
This is Ariel from NAPW. I'm sorry we were not able to return your call yesterday I seem to have copied your phone number incorrectly. I wanted to send you a link to this website which my organization thought might be helpful:

9:35 AM  
Blogger Rosa said...

I would like to thank you for posting your blog regarding Dr. Holland. I had a terrible experience with an "emergency" c-section with a Brooklyn doctor. Now I'm researching doctors in St. Lukes and would like to attempt a VBAC. I was considering Holland, but now I am not. My own doctors from my first pregnancy left the hospital after refused the Pitocin injection (how rude). I hope you have found sanity after your turmoil. I have a lot of fear and reservations about having another baby b/c i my own experience.

8:53 PM  
Blogger DougieMom said...

To original Poster,

I had a very similar experience recently. My OB was Dr. Jessica Jacob from New Hyde Park, NY. I've been traumatized for a long time after dealing with her.

Was Dr. Holland disciplined by OPMC for her wrongdoings?

2:47 PM  
Blogger CARLY said...

I know several great gynecologists in NYC- and Holland isn't one of them. Trust me. While her partner Dr. Wong is a great person- very sensitive...she is just really busy and they share an office. Not a good mix. I recommend Dr. Brasner. She is on Park Avenue and very VERY sweet. Dr. Lisa Johnson on 72nd and 5th (works with Dr. Livoti)- they are BOTH very sweet and their staff is awesome. There is also a great group on the west side- Jackson, Barbieri, Morgan & Chen. 620 Columbus Avenue. I hope this helps. We need to come together and put a stop to the abuse. As if being pregnant isn't already a bit uncomfortable- having our legs hoisted up and a rude and hostile woman on the other side of them doesn't make it any more positive. I am so sorry about your experience.

12:07 PM  
Blogger abcol11 said...

I agree with the prior comments about dr. Holland. Even though she was recommended to me, I realized after a few appointments that she was totally disinterested in my case. She forgot to do a pap smear (even though I am pregnant and have not had one done in 1 year), she didn't order all the required blood tests, she was abrupt during out meetings and would never follow up on any important test results. She even forgot I had an amnio done and asked ME to tell her the results during my appointment with her, even though she had received the results herself a week before!!!! I would say, pls pls stay away from this doctor. She is definitely bored with her patients, and, even if she may know the trade, she doesn't have the willingness to apply it -- so what good is it? I have switched to another doctor and am much much happier with the treatment!

11:36 AM  
Blogger 4Moms2B said...

Some people have commented that this is an older blog, but my latest post is just from April 2011, if you will click on the link which is on the right side of the page.

That update is about the birth of my son in 2011 and the discovery of the frightening hatchet-job Dr. Holland did on my uterus. If I had not had another c-section—baby #3—no one would have been the wiser.

You may write me directly at:

8:20 PM  
Blogger Martha Endres said...

Wow! tobad this doctor is still allowed to practice. All of you should talk to all of your friends and let them know. Her patient ratio will fall and then maybe when the bucks stop coming in she will pay attention to her behavior. I had C-sections back in the 70's and my doctors were very caring. Try to forgive her and move on with your life and get a different obgyn.

5:09 AM  
Blogger Nm83 said...

Hi Amy, any chance we could talk? Not for me, but I know someone who had a terrible abusive childbirth experience around false "informed consent" I would love to empower her interest in taking action, whether if it's just filing complaints to the right people, or taking lawful action.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Nm83 said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:05 PM  
Blogger sacredma said...

so sorry you had this experience and unfortunately not uncommon. good that your wrote this and warned others not to use this doctor. she should not be allowed to touch women!

1:16 AM  

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