This is the story of a courageous Mum, who wanted to share her story about her experience of birth trauma and the impact of how a woman is cared for during and after birth.
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My first daughter was born in January 2011, I had a straightforward pregnancy with no complications.
On the morning of 27th January I went into labour, I was 39 weeks and 5 days. It was around 5am when I went into labour, I made myself as comfortable as I could, pacing around our flat and running myself a hot bath. Although my husband and I had done a course of NCT classes and we had learned ways for him to physically comfort me while I was in labour, when the time came, during contractions I couldn’t bear him touching me. I needed to be left alone as one moment I felt as though I was on fire I was so hot and the next moment I was shivering cold. If anyone touched my it felt like I was being pierced by needles. My husband understood and just let me get on with things.
Around lunchtime we decided we needed to go to the hospital. This was the most uncomfortable car journey ever. When we arrived a ‘helpful’ receptionist told me to make myself comfortable until they were ready for me, I thought this was hilarious as I was obviously in active labour and having very strong contractions, there was no way I could sit down or get comfortable, all I could do was to hang on to a pillar and breathe.
When we were called through to the examination room the midwife wanted me to lie back on the bed so she could examine me. This was almost impossible for me as the only way I could achieve any slight comfort during contractions was to be on my knees leaning forwards. To be on my back was excruciatingly sore. The midwife did not seem very understanding of this and did not offer any other position for me to be examined in, all she said was ‘blow it away’ when I was having a contraction. It was discovered that I was 6 – 7cm dilated. I hopped off the bed as soon as I could and started pacing the room. I really wanted an active labour and birth, I did not want to be strapped to a bed lying on my back.
“I couldn’t hold her I just got to look at her.”
Hours passed and they decided things weren’t moving along fast enough, so it was decided that they should break my waters as this would speed things up. By this point I had asked for an epidural as I could no longer bear the pain. So I was strapped to the bed with monitoring on my tummy checking the babies heart rate etc. When breaking my waters hadn’t sped things up I was given an injection of Oxytocin to help things along. This increased the strength of the contractions but I was still only an 8 – 9cm dilated and it was now the evening time. My epidural was only effective on one side of my body so the midwife kept propping me up on one side to try and make it more effective.
Around 10pm that night, I think I was told that I was about 10cm and I tried pushing a little but nothing was happening. 11pm a doctor I had never seen before came in to tell me they were going to have to perform an emergency c-section. At no point was I told my baby was in distress, they just said she was getting tired and I was getting tired and they didn’t think it was possible for her to come out vaginally. She was looking up and trying to come out face first or something.
So I signed all the consent forms although I didn’t really feel as if I had a choice, I felt robbed of my birth.
I was wheeled down to theatre and I was shaking all over uncontrollably and crying. I was petrified. My husband was with me but it was a very frightening experience. In the theatre room only one person spoke to me, all I saw were gowned figures with faces obscured all talking over me as if I wasn’t there. They were talking about me not as a person, it was like I didn’t exist.
A short time passed and I heard a baby crying. I was aware of this happening in the distance somewhere, it wasn’t a process I was engaged with. The next thing I remember seeing was a little purple, blueish tinged baby being carried screaming and kicking literally over my head into an adjoining room. My husband went with her. At this pointed I zoned out a little and wasn’t really aware of what was happening. The next thing I knew I was presented with a little bundle tightly wrapped in hospital blankets with a little wooly hat on and two little eyes peeping out at me. I couldn’t hold her I just got to look at her. I had to ask ‘is it a boy or a girl’ ? I felt totally detached from the whole process.
Eventually I was taken through to recovery and she was placed in bed next to me. This was now 2am or so in the morning, I had been in labour since 5am the previous day with nothing to eat or drink and after her birth no one offered me anything. At 7 am I was left tea and toast at the end of my bed which I couldn’t eat because I couldn’t reach it and there was no one to help me. My baby girl had been up most of the night crying, it was very difficult as I was still hooked up to a catheter and with the effects of the epidural I couldn’t reach to get her. I always had to ring the buzzer to get help but there were very few staff on duty so I was left waiting a long time sometimes.
I also struggled to breastfeed my daughter. I did want to but I struggled to get a good attachment with her, there was very little support in the hospital to help with this. After struggling for a while to get my hungry screaming baby attached I rang for a midwife, the young woman who came was very unsympathetic and dumped my baby on to my sore and swollen tummy and said ‘well you have to try yourself’!!
I got no sleep during the day or night in hospital as it was so loud and noisy. I kept asking for a private room but was told there were none available. On my fourth night in hospital I eventually had a bit of a breakdown due to lack of sleep. I just couldn’t take it anymore, I was sobbing uncontrollably and I told my husband I just wanted to go home because at least there I would get some support through the night. A kind and understanding midwife came and gathered up all my belongings and pushed my bed into a private room next to the ward. I don’t know why I couldn’t have been given this room when I asked initially, why it took me having a breakdown before anyone noticed my distress.
That night they asked if there was anyone who could stay with me in the room as they didn’t have the staff available to provide the level of care I obviously needed. My husband stayed that night and for the first time in about 5 days I got a few hours sleep, the difference the next day was amazing! I felt like a different person and I was able to get my baby latched on myself to have a good feed, although my nipples were cracked and bleeding which was very painful. We got out of hospital later that day and we were so pleased to be home safe in our own bed. All in all a horrendous experience but very thankful our little one was safe and healthy.
I was left feeling like a bit of a failure, as though I had failed, that some of my decisions (such as requesting an epidural) had somehow led to the set of circumstances requiring an emergency c-section.