When I was pregnant with my first, I was so happy. I did all my research, made a birth plan, went to NCT classes, kept active and was incredibly positive, if not a little terrified, that I would have a great labour.
My due date came….and went, as did subsequent days! My midwife booked me in for an induction, but I decided that I wanted to give her a little longer, and cancelled it. The evening before the proposed induction, I was watching the X Factor and started to feel cramps. Putting them down to trapped wind, or the fact that I was so massive the baby was squishing my organs, I ignored the twinges and went to bed. Until some contractions I couldn’t ignore kicked in in the early hours!!
I had a warm bath and then tried to doze again until morning, all the while having contractions. The next day was Sunday and so we spent the day walking our dog, stopping every so often so I could lean on my husband and breathe through an especially strong one. I also tried to time them when there were no fellow walkers to watch and offer to phone ambulances!!
At home again, I was doing so well, my lovely hubby kept forcing me to drink and made me a big batch of toast as I didn’t want any dinner. It was hard to eat though, as I felt so sick. We were watching the Only Fools and Horses box set at the time, and were trying to get to the end of it before she arrived! I was on the TENS machine and we were timing the contractions. When they were getting really bad, and were the time apart that we’d been told to call in at, we phoned. As we were a 45 minute drive from the hospital, we were told to come in. And so we did.
The drive slowed my contractions right down, but with each one being agony as I was unable to move. When we arrived at hospital, the midwives on duty were pretty dismissive. They dipped my urine and one of them told me off as if I were a naughty child as it was showing I’d not eaten or drank enough, despite her being younger then me. She measured me straight away, and then shouted loudly to her colleague in another room across the corridor, ‘1cm, not in active labour’. I felt awful! I’d been told off, embarrassed publicly and made to feel like I was a time waster, despite following advise to the letter about timings and being in so much pain at home. They said that I could stay if I wanted but that it would be a long night before anything happened. By this point, I felt so silly and disliked their attitude so much I just wanted to get away from them and go home.
So I did. Another agonising car journey, a particular high point being my husband stopping at the garage for snacks and parking so that my window was level with the cashiers’! 😀 That was so uncomfortable, as I tried to contract with no obvious signs to give me away to the staring man inside!! Once home, I was determined that I was going to wait until the very last minute I could bear the pain for, to make sure I didn’t feel the sting of humiliation at being sent home again. It was hard! By the time I got to the point of being unable to carry on, I was using my TENS continuously on the highest setting it would go with continuous boost on! The car journey was horrific, I’ve never felt pain like it. Being stuck in my seat I felt as though my whole body was ripping in two!
When I got back to hospital, I was in a real state, there had been a shift change and the midwife on then was a different lady, and I thought nicer, until she told me that I would have to calm myself down or she would give me pethadine, something that I had been desperate to avoid, and so I battled with every fibre of my being to regain control so I wouldn’t be injected. I managed and she checked me and told me that I was 7 cm, given that I had been there not 2 hours before, she said that the previous shift midwives had been mistaken at calling it 1cm, apparently I was a ‘difficult read’.
I asked for the birth pool to be filled up, something I’d really wanted, and was told that I could have a bath. I explained how much I wanted it, and asked again for the birth pool and was told no again. I took the bath as it seemed to be my only option, and was sucking frantically on the gas and air throughout.
When it got too uncomfortable lying on my back, I got out and started to pace. I don’t remember too well, but I ended up flat on my back in the labour room. I was desperate to walk around but I was tiring as it was about 24 hours after the first contraction had woken me. I then had the midwife telling me I needed to have pethadine. I refused. She told me that I wouldn’t be able to have this baby if I didn’t. I kept refusing until one contraction hurt so much I gave in. That was the point I lost it. I was utterly out of it that I could do nothing but lie on my back so I was put in stirrups. I was so uncomfortable and was begging to be let out as I was getting a cramp that was rivalling my contractions for pain. I was refused. I complained to my husband that the gas and air had stopped working, he told me that I was putting it on the pillow next to my head instead of in my mouth and had to take over. I had been deemed to be doing well that she decided not to give the anti sickness drug.
I then started being sick. It was black with ‘coffee ground blood’, presumably because of the horrendous heartburn I’d suffered. Every time they would cover me in towels, I’d be sick again, until finally I was just naked, sick in my hair and all over the bed. Every contraction would make me sick again, leaving me feeling as though I was actually being ripped in half. I’ve never felt pain like it, before or since.
Then I was told I needed to go to theatre for a caesarian. By this point I was so exhausted and high on opiates that I had no idea what was going on, I just wanted the pain to end. I signed something. All I remember is that the midwife had her hand shoved inside me. I begged her to take it away over and over and she just told me that the only way I would get her hand out would be to push it out. I felt utterly humiliated, broken and devastated at the situation I was in.
They were just getting me read for theatre and the anaesthetist came down to say they weren’t ready. At that point I had another contraction and looking shocked at the state of me being so sick and screaming in pain, he just said, ‘get her upstairs now, we’ll sort it!’, at which point, there was a midwife shift change. In my most vulnerable, distressed state, I got two new midwives. I was wheeled through the hospital, past all the women waiting to give birth, probably terrifying them, only a few, sick covered towels to protect my modesty, and into theatre. Where I was given a spinal and had a forcep delivery.
My daughter was born and there was no reassuring cry. They put her on a table near my head but not close enough to touch, and she looked like a tiny wax work doll. We never said it, but my husband and I both felt for sure that she was dead. Those minutes where they were pumping the little compression mask over her tiny face until they got her to breathe again were the longest of my entire life, as I lay with tears pouring down my face, unable to move.
Finally she cried! And then they wrapped her up, never once giving her to me, just showing her to me, and they took her and my husband away, leaving me alone in theatre, surrounded my strangers, paralysed from the spinal and convulsing with shock. As they had done the spinal in a hurry, I think it may have been a stronger dose as my arms were also numb. A further 30 minutes in recovery before they finally took me down to the ward, to see my daughter already dressed in her baby gro, laid in her cot. I actually asked permission to get her out! I didn’t feel I was allowed to touch her.
I was left traumatised. I now know about birth trauma, and it fits perfectly. I believe it took longer to bond with my baby and we had awful problems breastfeeding, where I forced myself to keep going through terrible pain, as I had ‘failed’ so badly at labour that I just wanted one thing to go to my plan.
I genuinely believed I wouldn’t, couldn’t have another. My husband was devastated, he’d always wanted four, but he’d seen it all and had been as traumatised as I was and so understood. Luckily, Mother Nature worked her forgetting magic and my son came along just under two years later, with him bringing a very healing birth experience in a wonderful birth centre with some amazing midwives who handed me back the power that had been ripped from me, and helped me to have a totally natural, hands off waterbirth.
I am forever grateful for the fact that my daughter is alive. Don’t think for a minute that I’m not, but I firmly believe that if things had been different with the midwives I encountered that day, I would have had a much less devastating time. If I had been listened to the first time I went in and treated as a human being, treated with compassion. If I hadn’t had to endure two labour halting car journeys. If I had been listened to when I said I didn’t want pethadine. If I had been given anti sickness medicine. I am sure it would have had a different birth story completely. Even if I had have needed the same, a forcep delivery, to have my daughter, I know it could have been handled differently and I could still have kept my dignity intact.
I thought about formally complaining, about taking it further. I even went as far as requesting my notes afterwards, and paying £50 for them too. But it stopped there. Busy enjoying every moment of my daughter. I won’t name the hospital. But I have never forgotten the experience, and I can never forgive those midwives for the part they played in it.