N.B: Apologies, this is quite a long post. I have tried to keep it as brief as possible without losing too much detail. The events that led to my feeling associated with Birth Trauma span a number of weeks.
Birth Trauma Fraud
I feel like a fraud writing Birth Trauma. After all Finlay’s birth wasn’t really dramatic in the grand scheme of things. There was no alarm ringing emergency, no rushing about, no worrying if my baby was going to be OK. Although, when I think back when Finlay was born, there is no fondness for those first few weeks. My memories are masked with a sense of fear and dread. The littlest thing can trigger that feeling to return, like the music on Finlay’s nightlight or the wallpaper in the spare room (thankfully we painted it last weekend).
I thought I had come to terms with it, but here I am at 20 weeks pregnant. Little thoughts keep creeping back into my head, my pulse quickens and the palms of my hands begin to feel sweaty. Birth Trauma was unknown to me. It was something I found out about after reading a post from Ghost Writer Mummy. It’s her site and experiences on Birth Trauma that inspired me to share my experience.
I have spoken a little bit about Finlay’s Birth, in Finlay’s Plagiocephaly Journey. However, I chose not to go into too much detail as that was not the focus of the page. Finlay’s birth was not particularly dramatic, but a number of errors leading up to and after all added to my experience. Together, they left a traumatic imprint and feelings associated with birth trauma.
My waters break
I was 10 days overdue when my waters broke. Having called the maternity unit they asked me to come in for them to double check. It was a quiet night and I wasn’t experiencing any contractions. Three days previously the community midwife advised Finlay was fully engaged and my cervix was fully effaced. As I was already 2 cm dilated then, I thought this was it. The midwife confirmed my waters had gone and to go home and relax. They would expect my contractions to start within 24hrs. If they did not, I was instructed to come back the next evening.
It was a long 24 hours. I wondered if every twinge was the start. It wasn’t to be though by the next evening there was no sign of contractions. I packed my bag, expecting to be admitted due to the risk of infection. Once we arrived it was totally different to the previous night. The unit was run off its feet with labouring women.
When I arrived, I was questioned why I had turned up, no notes had been left for that evening’s staff (unfortunate event 1). After explaining, we were told to wait, unsure if anyone would actually be able to see us. I’m not sure how long we waited but I was eventually given a bed on the pre-labour ward and strapped up for monitoring. Again we waited for what seemed like an eternity.
Once again I was examined and I was asked who wrote my notes that I was fully effaced and dilated? I was not any of these things, it was completely wrong (unfortunate event 2). In fact, there was no way I could be admitted that evening. I would have to come back in the morning to be induced. This meant 36hrs without my waters and increased risk of infection (unfortunate event 3). Although they were sure I would go into labour that night. Statistics showed that 95% of women go into labour 24 hours after their water broke. Then of the 5% that don’t, 95% go into labour after 48 hours. I fitted into that 5% of 5% of women that don’t (unfortunate event 4)!
In the morning, we arrived finally happy that we were getting somewhere. The midwives explained the process of induction and that I would need to be examined by a consultant before the induction would be started. All I can say Is thank god I was. The consultant within seconds of examining me called urgently for a scanner. My baby was an undiagnosed breech (unfortunate event 5).Suddenly nothing made sense. Finlay was always head down. C-section vs Breech birth were now my only options. The dangers of each, overwhelming. We decided on an emergency C-section, I was scared and I ended up in floods of tears as the doctors rolled off all the risk including death. Although the risk was greater if the breech birth went wrong. Dying suddenly seemed a real possibility.
The stress must have initiated my contractions, which began nice and strong. Luckily this was just as my time came to go into the theatre. I have no fear of needles, but I hated the thought of a needle in my spine. My spine is slightly bent and it took two attempts to get the line in, the feeling was horrendous (unfortunate event 6). From this point, everything went smoothly. Finlay was born healthy, There were no other complications, I went to recovery. I thought that would be it, after a few days I would go home.
Although I appeared to recover well, I didn’t really feel right. The first 24 hours were a bit brutal, I was in a lot of pain. I felt blood coming out of me. A number of times I requested a change of maternity pads, but the HCA insisted they were clean. They were not. I ended up struggling to change and clean myself, still bed bound (unfortunate event 7). When the time came to get me up, I struggled. I managed to sit on the edge of the bed. As I tried to stand, the pressure inside my tummy was immense, I couldn’t do it. The HCA rolled her eyes and insisted I would have to get up in the morning and walked off.
In the morning with Chris’s help, I forced myself up. I could only take pigeon steps, but I made it to the toilet and had a shower! In the evening I found out that my drugs prescription was all wrong. While I should have had Paracetamol, Co-Codamol and a liquid morphine shot, I was only on Paracetamol!! It doesn’t even touch a headache sometimes, no wonder I hurt so bad (unfortunate event 8) . The new drugs helped a lot, but the pressure inside me continued. The next evening after almost 4 days since we arrived I was discharged. Even though I could barely walk. As I made my way to the entrance, a caretaker noticed us struggling and got me a wheelchair.
I was home for one night and one day, when the midwife came to check on Finlay. His birth weight dropped so much, that he had to be readmitted to hospital (unfortunate event 9). I was producing only a small amount of milk, not enough to sustain him. I was put on a milk producing drug, and we had to supplement with formula. We were on a 3 hourly schedule of Breastfeeding, followed by expressing, followed by formula. By the time I finished it was almost time to start again. I was shattered. Slowly Finlay’s weight increased and his sodium levels reduced, we were allowed home.
At this point, I was still struggling with pain and to walk, but no one seemed concerned. However, after a few more days at home, I woke one morning with a really heavy period like pain in my tummy. As I sat in bed I felt a rush of blood. I got up to change my maternity pad, but at this point, blood and clots started to fall out of me. Scared I called to Chris, who rang the community midwife. I was feeling quite ill and confused by this point, but Chris was assured that large clots were normal and if I wasn’t soaking a pad within an hour I was fine.
I was too weak and dizzy to know if what was coming out would soak a pad, it was dripping like a tap. Chris was told they were too busy to check on me that morning they could only come in the afternoon (unfortunate event 10) . At this point I almost fainted in the toilet, that’s when Chris called an ambulance. I was admitted straight back into maternity. Strangely by now, I felt fine, but I had blood everywhere. The consultant who delivered Finlay was on duty came to see me. I can’t remember what she said but she left the room for a few minutes. I then started to feel really faint again.
The consultant began to examine me and as she did, more clots poured out onto the bed. She worked on me for ages, pushing down on my tummy trying to clear me out. It hurt so much. At one point a midwife came in. The consultant asked her to start cleaning me and the mess. In front of me, the midwife said she was too busy to help me (unfortunate event 11), the consultant went mad. Once she had done all she could I was taken to the recovery room. She checked me often and continued to work on my tummy, constantly apologising but saying it was necessary.
In recovery, I was hooked up to a drip and antibiotics and a drug to contract my womb. Once I had recovered a bit she explained I had postpartum haemorrhage caused by an infection. At that point she was hoping the bleeding would ease, otherwise, I may have to have surgery. I was so scared and I missed my little boy. Chris visited with him but took him home after visiting hours as I was too poorly to look after him.
Home for Good
In the morning the blood loss had eased but my blood levels were low. I had to have 3 units of blood via transfusion. Luckily surgery didn’t seem necessary at this point and I was transferred to the ward in my own private room. Feeling better, I was well enough to have Finlay back with me too. Recovery took another 4 days, but then I was discharged.
As I was discharged, an HCA who had been looking after me, said how pleased the consultant had been with my quick recovery as she had been extremely worried when I was admitted. It was only at that point it occurred to me how poorly I had actually been. I had a small blip a week later and ended up being checked over in maternity as I passed one large clot (unfortunate event 12), but a scan confirmed it was the last of it and I was allowed straight home.
Moving on from Birth Trauma
For months after I would find myself panicking about it all. I never wanted any more babies because of it. It took me a long long time to even think about that. Hence one of the reasons for a 4 year age gap between Finlay and the new baby.
While the bad memories have faded over the years, in the back of my mind I see it all happening again. Realistically I know the chances are so very slim, but the fear is still there. I hope that by sharing my experience it will help me face my fears. As well as helping anyone who reads this to know that Birth Trauma doesn’t have to be Hollywood dramatic to have a big impact on your life.