Why I’ll never forgive the midwives that left me traumatised.

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.

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22 Comments

  1. April 13, 2017 / 4:05 pm

    Heartbreaking to read. I don’t remember much with Charlie as like you I was out of it but I remember being spoke down to a lot. I was also asked if I could wait an hour when I was in labour as they’d just had a delivery… you know, labour works like that!
    I am glad you got a healing second labour and birth but whilst you can move on, it’s hard to forgive.
    Hope writing this helped xxxxx

    • April 13, 2017 / 8:37 pm

      It’s awful isn’t it? The way people can steal your power from you just with the wrong words. I’m glad you managed to go on the have the twins. I definitely am nowhere near forgiveness but writing it helped so much!xxx

  2. April 13, 2017 / 4:54 pm

    I have literally just written about my own birth story and trauma this week after finally having a debrief at the hospital 27 months later and I can’t tell you how much this helped. Similar to you, my experience was all at the hands of a midwife who did not treat me as she should have. My experience would have undoubtedly been completely different if it weren’t for her and having the head of midwives at the hospital confirm and validate that for me last week made a huge difference to how I am now feeling about my labour in August. Xx

    • April 13, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      I’m so very glad that you have found peace too. I wanted a debrief but I think they were scared and just kept putting it off. By stark contrast, I was offered a full debrief second time and everything was text book but still the very fact I could talk it over just made it even better and an even more positive experience. I regained all my dignity & power second time and I hope you will too.xx

  3. April 13, 2017 / 5:23 pm

    This is so shocking. I’m so sorry it happened to you. I had a very negative birth experience second time so I know all too well that this is a reality for some women. It’s shameful how some midwives laugh at you or patronise you like that. Thankfully there are many more lovely ones x

    • April 13, 2017 / 8:36 pm

      You’re absolutely right. I’ve since realised it’s their problem and not mine. I could have nailed that birth thing if they’d helped me. So sorry you’ve had a bad experience too. I hope you are recovering from the memory now.xx

  4. April 13, 2017 / 6:04 pm

    This brings back a lot of memories if my first birth. The way I was dismissed as a silly little girl, the fact that I was blatently told as I had gone into labour at the weekend the only thing they would do was give me painkillers and sleeping tablets unless I got to the pushing stage. I was in labour from Thursday evening till early Tuesday morning. What they had failed to notice was he was lying back to back with me, a condition that causes prolonged difficult births.
    A different team eventually saw me on Monday afternoon and noted the problem. By this time baby was distressed but too far down to be delivered by ceserian as he should have been. When he was finally delivered he wasnt breathing. Further mistakes happened (the failed to turn the machine in to clear his airways) resulting in him being starved of oxygen for several minutes (felt like hours).
    Was his learning disabilities caused by this, I will never know, but I believe so.

    • April 13, 2017 / 8:32 pm

      This birth was also back to back. It really does cause so many problems. I’m really sorry that you had such a rotten time too. It’s being made to feel ‘silly’ and that you don’t know your own body that strips women of their power. I’m sad you feel it’s caused your son lasting problems.

  5. April 13, 2017 / 6:59 pm

    Louise I’m so so sorry to hear you’ve had such a traumatic experience. I’m a midwife myself and I cannot understand why you were treated in such a way. Unfortunately I know it happens but it shouldn’t. Our job is to empower women and support them along the way from pregnancy through birth and postnatal safely.
    I hope that in the future debriefing will become easier to access and more the norm as I think it is important for women who have suffered birth trauma.
    Xx

    • April 13, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Hi Helen, thank you for your lovely comment. Please don’t feel you need to apologise on their behalf. You sound like exactly what a midwife should be and I bet you’ve left hundreds of women with positive and empowered memories.xx

  6. April 13, 2017 / 10:50 pm

    Oh wow this is awful. I’m so sorry that you received this treatment during what should have been such an amazing experience.

  7. April 14, 2017 / 7:13 am

    Oh Lou, this is horrific. I had a horrible experience but nothing like this! The indignity and lack of compassion you describe is appalling, and from the very people who have chosen to go into a service providing care! It makes me very sad and even more cross that people get away with this behaviour precisely because women are at their absolute most vulnerable. I wonder if they have any comprehension – or if they’d even care – that our treatment at their hands can shape so much of our and our babies lives afterwards.

    I really feel for you and I’m so glad you had a better experience second time. I hope you eventually get your debrief, mine helped enormously although I sort of want to do it again!

    I wish those midwives had faced consequences for their actions, but I completely understand why you dropped it: when you’re baby arrives, priorities change. It frustrates the hell out of me that this is the reason so many people get away with mistreating pregnant women, whether in hospital or the workplace.

    Anyway, I hope writing about your experience has been cathartic, it’s clearly touched a lot of people already xx

  8. April 15, 2017 / 9:49 pm

    I too had a horrific birth experience first time round, my husband I were traumatized (as was my Mother who is a nurse and was present at the time having to scrub up herself in the end to help out).

    The hospital has since been placed under investigation, I was given Stella first class treatment second time around and thankfully regained my confidence and power …

    However my husband and Mother still remind me that they almost lost both me and my son that day it was that close.

    Sooooo many mistakes made, so many wrong things done and said. I was given a debrief but broke down as it was too hard to discuss.

    One day I will write it down but as it was almost eight years ago now there is very little that can be done. I have healed physically (following corrective surgery a year later) but mentally I will never forgive those midwives and one particular consultant for what they did to me.

    So glad you got a second chance like us xxx

  9. April 16, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    What a terrible experience for you and your husband. I too had a horrific first birth 17 years ago and I am still scared by it even now. I had my second son by planned c section as I just could not go through that again.
    Thank you for writing and sharing your experiences.

  10. April 20, 2017 / 8:42 am

    I’m almost in tears reading this. I’m so angry for you. What appalling care you had. Our experiences are somewhat similar, poor care in first birth resulting in birth trauma and a healing second birth (my birth stories are on my blog if you want a read). It’s just unacceptable that so many women are treated this way. I really think it’s because we are women and don’t have full representation in government that women’s services aren’t prioritised as they should be that leads to this. Man it makes me cross.

  11. April 20, 2017 / 10:49 am

    What an awful experience for you, I’m so sorry that you had to go through this. This bit really stuck out for me-
    “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.”
    That’s basically what happened to me, two forcep deliveries which were both handled with care and sensitivity, which goes to show that it doesn’t have to be the way it was for you. It’s so shocking that you didn’t even get treated with the most basic of dignity.
    I’ve written my own blog post recently about my experience, but I won’t post it here unless you ask me to as I don’t want to feel like I’m overriding your own experience.
    Thank you for posting your story so eloquently x

  12. April 20, 2017 / 11:54 am

    Jus to happened to see this and I can’t believe they treated you like that. Similar thing happened to me, I think due to shock and and slipping time I can’t remember much. Would file a complaint higher within the hospital as no woman should be treated like that. Would love to hear a follow up if you do persue it with hospital, would be a great feature for a new parenting magazine I’m launching below x

  13. April 26, 2017 / 1:26 pm

    That’s terrible, i’m so sorry you had such an awful time. My birth of my daughter was ok but not entirely to plan. I didn’t want to be on my back but in the end I was and in hindsight I wish I (and my husband) fought harder against it. I think you sadly really have to fight your corner. But then I am also of the opinion that they’re the “experts” which is why I went with what they were saying. Such a shame. I’m glad you had a positive second birth though, I bet you were anxious before it though? xx

  14. April 26, 2017 / 1:26 pm

    That’s terrible, i’m so sorry you had such an awful time. My birth of my daughter was ok but not entirely to plan. I didn’t want to be on my back but in the end I was and in hindsight I wish I (and my husband) fought harder against it. I think you sadly really have to fight your corner. But then I am also of the opinion that they’re the “experts” which is why I went with what they were saying. Such a shame. I’m glad you had a positive second birth though, I bet you were anxious before it though? xx

  15. October 14, 2017 / 7:10 am

    Ekkk. Feeling the fear right now ☹️ It’s seems like no matter how prepared you are or how clear with your instructions it is luck of the draw what really happens and it is literally life changing. We shouldn’t have to “hope for the best”!

  16. October 14, 2017 / 7:10 am

    Ekkk. Feeling the fear right now ☹️ It’s seems like no matter how prepared you are or how clear with your instructions it is luck of the draw what really happens and it is literally life changing. We shouldn’t have to “hope for the best”!

  17. October 30, 2017 / 3:12 am

    I had a traumatic first birth as well. I was determined to deliver at home the next time around, and forced to get an epidural and forced to then have a c-section once everything slowed down and I wasn’t able to walk. Then they took her away from her and admitted her to the NICU at a different hospital telling me I couldn’t see her until I was discharged. I want another baby but I don’t know how I can go through that again, and I’m at the point where I don’t feel I have a choice. I appreciate you sharing your story!

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