The best and worst of days
A tale of traumatic birth
, Aug 24 2011 06:32 PM
60 replies to this topic
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:32 PM
It's taken me a long time to write this, because every time I sit down to put it in words, I start having flashbacks to what should have been one of the most joyous moments of my life, but ultimately turned out to be one of the most traumatic – the birth of my sons.
After my membranes ruptured at 29 weeks, I knew the labour and birth would be a closely managed affair. In my ideal world, I wanted a fuss-free vaginal birth, but if I needed a caesarean, well that was ok too. In my wildest dreams I never expected to have both...
I went into labour on a Friday night, exactly two weeks after the waters broke. Unfortunately the threat we had managed to avoid two weeks earlier – being transferred to another hospital because of insufficient neonatal intensive care beds – became reality. Sadly, the trusting relationship I had built up with my midwife came to an abrupt end, and I became patient M9003986: just another on the busy delivery ward that Saturday afternoon.
Before having the boys, I had often heard the term “birth trauma” bandied about on parenting and pregnancy websites, but I disregarded the experiences of the complainants – after all, who cares what happens as long as the baby is ok, right? Well, yes, but isn't the health – both mental and physical – of the mother post-partum of utmost importance?
Sadly I am now all too familiar with “birth trauma”, but the physical scars are nothing compared to the mental pain.
The differences in hospital protocols became apparent from the minute I arrived at the transfer hospital. Stripped of my comfortable "birthing" dress, which I had specifically chosen for labour because it was soft and light, I was tied into a hospital gown and ordered to remain on the bed at all times. My midwife, who had travelled to the second hospital, was shown the door after a cursory handover, leaving just my husband as my support person. Only one person was allowed to support me, unlike at my hospital of preference, where several people can be present in the birthing suite. So my Mum and sister who were waiting in the corridor outside my room were told to leave.
My requests for a hot pack were rejected (against hospital protocol), as was the request for analgesia (I hadn't had anything for more than eight hours) and my husband was told that if the babies were born that night, he would have to leave soon after – there was no provision for him to stay.
Now I know this all sounds terribly me, me, me, and that I was fortunate enough to have been originally booked into a hospital with a relatively progressive attitude towards birthing, but these small concessions were what I was expecting during the boys' birth. To have them suddenly removed was a real dent to my confidence and as any woman who has gone through childbirth will tell you, confidence is essential.
I won't bore you, dear readers, with the horror details of the long line of registrars who felt compelled to examine my nether regions every hour. I won't drone on about one particular doctor who, upon finishing an internal exam, left me with the hospital gown rolled up under my arms and an empty tube of KYJelly on the side of the bed, then threw a wad of paper towels on my stomach, and exited the room with the parting comment “clean yourself up”. Nor will I harp on about my apparent shrinking cervix which went magically from three centimetres, to seven, to three again, then back to seven, depending on who was doing the feeling.
It was a long labour, but at just after 5am the next morning my big boy, Theodore, was born weighing just over 1.8kg. He started screaming as soon as they put his tiny, slimy purple body on my chest but was quickly whisked away to the side of the room for the neo-natal specialists to work on him before being transferred to the nursery.
It was soon after his birth that things started to go pear shaped. Firstly, the doctor in charge seemed concerned that the labour wasn't progressing fast enough, so she broke the membranes. Then one of the midwives seemed to think the cord was coming out first. Then the doctor decided it was an arm. It's all a bit of a blur, but my husband tells me it was about this time they decided to use the ventouse to try and suction him out. This didn't work and all of a sudden we were rushing through the corridors with the doctor shouting “Code Red” which of course I thought meant either me or the baby was on death's door. They wouldn't tell me what was happening, and after crashing through a set of swinging doors into an operating theatre, I realised they were going to perform a caesarean. Which I was totally okay with. As long as the baby was alright, right? But first, she gave the forceps a go. At this point, I should mention that the epidural had been turned down so far during Teddy's birth, that I could feel every.single.thing. After two useless pulls on the forceps, she gave the go-ahead to the anaesthetist, who started flicking me and running ice up and down my legs and waist. Could I feel it? Hell yes. The last thing I remember was a gas mask over my face, then waking up in an empty, bright white room, thinking my baby had died.
Then the pain hit. It was excruciating but I couldn't move or talk and the three people on the other side of the room (Nurses? Doctors? Orderlies?) were completely ignoring me and chattering away about iPhone apps. It was as though my unimportant body, now empty of its precious cargo, had been cast aside to be dealt with later.
I have no idea how long it was before I was wheeled down to my room, but no one told me what had happened, and it wasn't until I saw my husband and managed to gasp out Baby? that I learned we had another son. He was tiny like his brother, but doing well.
But I wasn't alright. I was in agony, and was desperate to know what had happened during the birth. Why had it all gone downhill so fast, and what had happened to the epidural? Why did I need the general anaesthetic?
Unfortunately, none of the nurses on the post-natal ward could tell me. I asked at every shift change for a doctor to come and explain what had happened, but no one did. I spoke to social workers who promised to help me, but they didn't. Birth is meant to be a happy celebration, but the experience left me shattered. My tiny babies were in intensive care, I was two hours drive from home and my family – including my husband – were restricted to visiting hours only. I discharged myself two days later, desperate to leave what I considered a hostile environment, and made the four-hour round trip every day to take my babies expressed breast milk.
I gave up asking for help and and an explanation after about a month. Despite being at risk of developing post-natal depression, I didn't get any follow-up advice or appointments. The boys were exceptionally well-cared for, but their unimportant mother was apparently just expected to get on with it. I am getting on with it, but I have plenty of nightmares and flashbacks to that best and worst of days. I'm sad that I won't be able to birth again – to have that experience and photographs and to feel the joy and elation and sense of achievement I have heard my friends talk about. I have my boys and I am absolutely indescribably in love with them, but I wish I could look back with fondness, rather than tears, at their entry to the world.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:35 PM
I am gobsmacked reading that. I am so sorry you went through that
Noone should be made to feel the way you did. But congratulations on the arrival of your boys xxx
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:38 PM
that is awful.
I too had a quite traumatic birth with my last child. Not as bad as yours, but I had anxiety through the whole preganancy about dying during childbirth...so when my birth got complicated and I had horrible midwives treating me like an animal, I became quite terrified that I was about to die...that all my fears were coming true.
I felt really abused and violated for about a year after. the midwife who visited me at home tried to get me to write a letter but I just didn't want to think about it.
I am glad you wrote this.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:44 PM
No person deserves to be treated that way OP. I am glad your boys arrived safely and were well cared for, but the way you were treated is inexcusable.
Can you request your medical records to try and work out what happened? Maybe going through them with a counsellor would help you.
I'm so sorry you had such a horrible experience.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:45 PM
congratulations on making it through all of this and being strong enough to write this - that has to be a sign you are coping with it better than you imagine.
I am glad after going through all of that you have your boys to cuddle...
It is a pity that having them was so traumatic and something you can never fix - there are so many things in life for many that are like that seems we just have to pick up and carry on, time appears to be the greatest healer of all in any circumstance and I hope in your case that it helps if nothing else seems to.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:47 PM
Oh wow. I don't normally comment on the EB blogs, but just have to say how sorry I am that you had such a horrible experience.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:52 PM
I am so sorry you had such a horrid experience. I still get flashbacks 11 years after DD1s birth.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:57 PM
Oh Prue! I know what it must have taken to write this after what you went through. No woman ever should go through what you went through.
Getting your hospital notes when you feel strong enough might give you more insight into the whys of the c/sec but won't tell you why the hospital staff are wrong in the head.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:58 PM
Wow - no wonder it has been so long since you have posted. I admire your courage and strength to be able to write about what clearly was a very traumatic birth. I'm glad that both your boys are well but I'm also sorry you had to go through what you did.
I hope in time you can learn to live with what happened - I know you will never forget it but perhaps it won't sting so bad someday. And like a pp said - perhaps request your medical records and see if they can shed any light on what happened.
All the best xx
Edited by *~*MagicHour*~*, 24 August 2011 - 06:58 PM.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 08:45 PM
Wow, what a story.
My suggestion is not about the politics of independent midwifery, but about the knowledge they have; you could try finding an independent midwife and ringing her to talk about your experience. Independent midwives will often be able to suggest resources that you may not have considered, and you will probably find someone who is happy to listen to you for a while and can give you ideas about who to talk with to help you.
I'm trying to be careful with my wording as I don't want my post to be a catalyst for an argument about home birth, it's not about that. It's about reaching out to you, OP, and helping you find ways to heal.
Posted 24 August 2011 - 08:55 PM
Oh my gosh, what a terrible experience. I'm sorry that you didn't have the birth that you dreamed of. I think it's a good idea to get your birth notes and speak to an independent midwife and/or counsellor. Hope you feel better soon. xxx
Posted 24 August 2011 - 08:57 PM
I am sorry that happened to you. I hope you are getting some councelling. Don't try to just get on with it. It will catch up with you.
Posted 25 August 2011 - 03:36 PM
Oh no Prue, I'm so sorry you had to go through such an awful experience. Please see someone about debriefing what you went through, birth trauma is a terrible thing but it's something you don't have to handle alone.
I hope your boys are doing well and that motherhood is treating you well
Posted 25 August 2011 - 11:34 PM
Gah, I'm so sorry Prue. I managed to hold off crying until the last line, I know that feeling. Keep talking about it, hopefully it helps over time. I wish I had, now I can't.
I hope you and your boys and your husband are all doing great, I'm sure the boys are an absolutely gorgeous pair.
Posted 26 August 2011 - 09:19 AM
i hope having written about it makes you feel a bit better.
Posted 26 August 2011 - 04:04 PM
that is dreadful! I didn't think there were any hospitals around like that anymore and am sad and disappointed to hear that there are. It sounds like the way they treated you is ingrained into their culture. Maybe when you feel better and are up to it you could write to them and copy in some higher authority (Health Minister, hospital board, I'm not sure who else) so hopefully change can be brought about that prevents that happening in the future.
I'm so pleased to hear that you have two healthy boys to take home. I've been checking back here *almost* daily since your last post to hear how you & your babies were going. I'll add my voice to the other EBers who have already said don't suffer alone, get help and talk about it. Birth trauma and PND (which I went through for 12mths with no help - I didn't realise the anxiety and panic attacks and associated physical complaints - I thought I was going die - were PND, so I sucked it up and just got on with things, which did not improved either my physical or mental health - all good now tho) can be debilitating, you don't have to do it alone and healing will be easier with help.
Posted 26 August 2011 - 07:08 PM
I always feel like all I do is complain in this blog, but honestly, I never expected the boys' birth to be so dramatic. I think the main problem is the lack of communication from the hospital - both during and after the event, and that the model of care I had specifically chosen was completely dropped once I had changed hospitals. KTB65
I fully support homebirth
but homebirthing 31 week twins was just not an option, for obvious reasons. But I remember telling my husband that if we were to ever have another child, I would seriously consider a home birth.
Posted 26 August 2011 - 08:14 PM
I'm sorry that you had to experience their birth that way, I'm glad the boys are doing well though.
You're at your most vulnerable during childbirth, I found. I don't think I've ever felt so like I had no control over the situation during the prep, c/s and recovery during the birth of my twins. My experience wasn't as traumatic as yours by a long stretch, but I can relate to the confusion and wanting a straight or consistent answer.
Wishing you all the best.
Edited by G+2, 26 August 2011 - 08:18 PM.
Posted 26 August 2011 - 08:18 PM
Gosh prue, you poor thing. I've followed your blog for ages now and I cannot believe the trauma that you had to go thru. Was it not enough for you to have to endure multiple ivf treatments?
I hope that one day you get answers and some closure.
How are the boys?
Posted 26 August 2011 - 08:28 PM
It's good that you have such a public outlet for your story. I had no physical trauma from DD's birth but the ineptitude I encountered was insane and when I put a formal complaint in it went nowhere.
So glad your boys are powering.
Posted 26 August 2011 - 08:29 PM
I am so sorry you had such a terrible experience, it sounds really awful & no one should be treated that way.
I am glad to hear the boys are both well & that you are so in love with them.
Posted 27 August 2011 - 07:52 AM
Rocket I hear you re formal complaints going nowhere. I was in hospital several years ago for something completely non baby related and put forward a formal complaint about the behaviour of a nurse and never heard a thing about it.
Madeline's Mum great taste in names! At one point in the mothers' group I was going to, there were FOUR Hugos. In a group of no more than 20 women!! Please let it not be the new Jack or Thomas!!
Posted 27 August 2011 - 08:35 AM
OMG. That's the first thought that ran through my head. And I'm so sorry that you had to experience your sons births with so much pain and fear. I also suggest reading through your notes, at a time in the future when you're ready to get more answers than you were able to secure so far.
I have a friend whom has recently suffered a traumatic birth. On the outside she was busy with the nicu and all the demands of motherhood. She appeared to be coping. She eventually opened up that she had seen a psychologist as every time she talked about her CS she cried. It helped a lot. But she's certainly not having another baby. She just doesn't want to have another CS or replicate that experience.
Posted 27 August 2011 - 08:44 AM
I am very glad both your boys are well
Posted 27 August 2011 - 06:32 PM
Thanks a lot for writing this. My friend had a traumatic birth, and it was terrible watching how it affected her for a long time to come. I can see that hospitals have to focus on a healthy baby as the primary goal, but they should have systems in place to protect and care for the mother's mental health as well.
I'm sure your writing it down will help a lot of people.
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