This is the story of my first birth. An unnecessary, failed induction without medical indication, followed up by an ‘emergency’ caesarean due to failure to progress. Or failure to wait. However you look at it, this is the story of my first child’s traumatic birth, and my rebirth.
This is why we need a revolution. Right here.
I wrote this less than two weeks postpartum. Reading over it and editing has been difficult, but I’ve kept it as intact and close to its original state as I could. I apologize for the length but I’ve trimmed all that I can.
My current thoughts are in bold. I’m so sad for my former self right now. I can't believe that was me.
I was so excited about writing my birth story. That was until I gave birth… Or rather had it stolen from me.
I went in to be induced at last, after 7 days of 'early labour' and 3 days of ruptured membranes. I was ready to get this baby out!! I didn't want to be induced, but knew at 10 days overdue, and with my waters broken so long I just couldn't push it much further. Not if I wanted to be a good patient, and blindly follow hospital policy.
That day started out well. I was excited. Nervous, but excited to meet our baby. Then it all started going wrong. That was fast. I met my midwife. I didn't like her. I'd never met her before. She was an older lady, with a genuinely nice nature... (If you call bumbling around like an idiot nice.) but we just didn't 'click'. She was rather old fashioned, and well.. I'm far from it. It was all business at first. I was playing by the rules, doing as I was asked, peeing in this jar, changing into that gown. I just did it, despite wanting to be comfortable in my own clothes and NOT strapped up to monitors. Like a good patient.
My last belly photo taken at 40 weeks. I got even bigger than this!
Then it was time to start the syntocinon drip. My legs literally started to shake with fear. It’s almost like I knew exactly what was coming to me. It didn't take long for the shit to hit the fan. After 5 attempts at striking a decent vein to put in a cannula, I was crying hysterically. *She eventually called an anaesthesiologist when I became too hysterical to continue being needled by her.
The drip was finally started but after that ordeal I was so upset. There was no coming back from that. I know my midwife meant well but we got off to such an awful start.
I started to get the familiar crampy feeling I'd had over the last week or so which had kept me up all night. Suddenly they were coming on top of each other.. hard and fast and with no break in between. I was standing beside the bed screaming through each one uncontrollably. I couldn’t help it. I was in agony and terrified. I did not want this. I kept telling myself screaming wasn't helping, to breathe, relax, work with them........ but it wasn't happening. The pain was so intense and unnatural, and nobody was helping me. Daddy couldn’t get near me and had no idea what to do. My midwife offered gas. I took it and felt a lot of relief. Until the synto was upped. Then I was huffing and puffing again, and finding myself clutching the mouthpiece and just screaming. I only lasted like this for 2 hours. Only?
What a sad attempt I'd made. What a sad statement that is. I couldn't take it any more, and begged for an epidural. I wish I knew what the next few days would hold and maybe I would've tried harder to avoid the next choice I made.
I'm not sure at what point exactly she came in, but a lovely student midwife named Lisa came in. She was just there. In my face, telling me what to do. Pity she didn’t arrive earlier! She held onto me, calmed me, told me exactly what to do and for how long, while the other original midwife continued to 'take care of business' (which seemed mostly to be tripping over things and injuring my hand.)
I remember getting really worked up and asking where the doctor was. "Where's the doctor? Is the doctor coming? I need the doctor. He's too slow. Tell him to hurry up. WHERE'S THE FUCKING DOCTOR???!!" Finally I found my kohunas.
After the epidural I was a new woman. I turned to Lisa and DP and announced proudly that I thought this was the most number of people I'd been naked in front of in my life. And this was the high point of the whole ordeal. Being naked in front of strangers. We all laughed and actually had a good few hours just waiting for things to start happening. Shift changed and I met my new midwife Cassie. She was fantastic, also. She, Lisa, Daddy and I all had a good laugh at the antics of the first midwife. None of us could figure out why she was so frantic. I think she was just bad at her job.
Sadly, after a few more VE's every 2 or so hours, I hadn't progressed past 5cm. I really felt like I'd done more work than that, and was absolutely devastated more progress hadn't been made. We talked c-sect. Because what the hell did I know?? I knew the decision I would make. I didn’t want to do this anymore. I couldn't put myself through any more of this torture, waiting to dialate...... I was getting worn out now, despite the pain relief of the epidural. I’d completely lost my mojo. I couldn't move from the bed, we were worrying because despite having a catheter, no urine was being passed, and I was starting to think this was all going to go wrong. It was. So I made the decision. CS it was. Daddy said it was all very fast. It was actually a few hours from decision to incision. I guess they had to wake everybody up for the ‘emergency’.
Daddy looked very handsome in his scrubs. I remember thinking this despite being about to be cut open and have my baby removed surgically. I cried thinking about it. Then it all began. The 'pop pop pop' you hear all ladies who've had a c/s talk about was what I felt. I was panicky, but closed my eyes and breathed through it as best I could. Then the tugging, pulling, pushing...... it was intense. I could hear the panic rising in their voices and them trying to hide it as they tugged at my baby. I heard a lady ask for forceps. Of course. I clenched my eyes shut as hard as I could and just hoped everything was going to be ok.
This is not how I imagined the first photo taken of my first child would look. Own image
Daddy said I looked like I was really suffering. Because I was. Suddenly I heard a squeal, and then a very loud cry. My eyes popped open and I looked straight at Daddy. We both burst into tears, and they held up our baby. "A little boy!" I managed to choke out. I have since been told that no, I didn’t cry. But I was crying on the inside. Daddy was so excited, and crying so hard. He rushed over to take some pictures of our little man and do his fatherly duty. (cut the cord, etc) He came back to me and we had a bit of skin to skin contact. Wrapped in a blanket. Ooookay.
Sadly, Axel was way too heavy for me to support his weight on my own, so I couldn't snuggle him for long. But he was beautiful. I was then left on the table for an extra 3 hours while they waited for their boss to arrive to see if they'd nicked my urethra. I don't know why they did this now as within 12 hours I was back on the operating table having the urology dept do the same procedure (use a camera to look inside and see if there was a problem). But that's a whole other story. It isn't pretty, but thankfully we got a happy ending. If you call having a pulse a happy ending, that is.
Daddy was sent to wait in the nursery while all of this was going on, and eventually they wheeled me into recovery and he and little Axel came down so he could have his first feed. He was starving, crying and very distressed. Daddy cried and kissed me and said he thought something terrible had happened. It hadn’t yet. That part was yet to come. I was upset nobody had told him what was going on, and can remember hearing everyone chatting and laughing like I was unconscious on the table. Nice.
Little did I know, I was yet to experience real suffering.
I vaguely remember being taken to the ward, and Daddy saying he had to go (it was early in the morning, not visiting hours yet etc, and he'd been up all night). I remember saying goodbye and then having a little cry to myself for no particular reason, except I guess the emotion of everything that had just happened. Wouldn’t have been the fact that my birth was just completely hijacked, or anything.. no.
Later in the day, they came to tell me I would be going back into surgery so they could 'check they didn't nick my ureter'. Fantastic. I wasn't worried at this point, despite the fact they needed to use a general anesthetic this time to do a cystoscopy on my bladder. I started to panic when I was stuck in my bed having multiple blood transfusions and unable to get in contact with Daddy to let him know I was going back into surgery. I knew he was at home resting, (a well deserved rest!) but just wanted to hear his voice before I had to go 'under' again.
The first photo I ever took of Axel.
It wasn't long before I was saying goodbye to my baby, and being wheeled down to the OR for my 'procedure'. I didn't feel terribly panicky, sad that I hadn't spoken to Daddy, but I definitely had no idea what trouble I would wake up in. I do remember freaking out as they lifted me onto the table as my painkillers had worn off and the pain in my belly was so intense, I couldn't breathe for a second. Oh yes. That was brutal. I was put to sleep very quickly whilst 5 or 6 people held me down as gently as they could. One woman was holding my head and whispering that I was alright. I did not feel alright.
The next morning, I woke up to the sound of Daddy telling me I was in the ICU, and had been in an induced coma. I wanted to answer him, but then I felt the tube in my throat. I could hear everyone explaining to me what happened, and that my throat just closed up when they tried to extubate me after the procedure (which was all fine by the way, no problems with my urethra at all). A laryngospasm was the final diagnosis. At the time though, they told me it was because I was an ex smoker. The first thing I thought was that it was my fault because I freaked out before they put me under.
Shocked would be an understatement. I was starting to feel really angry that all these things were happening to me, but just tried to focus on getting better for the time being, and tolerating the tube down my throat. I could open my eyes and see Daddy, and the nurses, and doctors in the intensive care unit. It was a sight to behold. I was glad to see any faces at all, but I’d prefer never to see the inside of intensive care again.
I got REALLY scared when I saw the look in Daddy's eyes, though. He said he thought I was going to die. Of course I couldn't answer, but I thought I felt that way. I wanted to rip the tube out of my throat, get up and run out of there with my baby. But I could barely move. And my baby was in the nursery. I could barely communicate with any real effectiveness. Somehow I wound up with a notepad. I think I indicated I wanted to write.
Anyway, the nurses in general were pretty nice. Except for one. They took good care of me, making sure my needs were met, even trying to make sense of my random scribbling notes. I read some of them later, and I was fairly with it. And then the night shift came on. (This is my second day in ICU, I don't remember the first at all).
This woman was an absolute disgrace for a nurse. I thought I had died and gone to hell for a while there. I tried to indicate I needed something with a note, and she got angry and said she wasn't going to put up with reading notes all night. I tried to gesture what I needed instead. She got angry again and said "Oh tonight's going to be a nightmare." She then proceded to tell me I was 'being silly' and that she had a son my age and she could 'tell me a thing or two'. UMMMMMM hello lady, I'm AWAKE and have a tube jammed down my throat! I can't eat, drink, move, speak.... NOTHING! I was furious. If I could’ve lasered her dead with my eyeballs, I would have.
I think I went a bit crazy for a minute. I started writing furiously and showed the OTHER nurse. I said I wanted to be treated with respect and dignity, that I was suffering tremendously and I wasn't trying to make her job difficult. I said I respectfully understand how hard it must be, but that I need her help and to please show me some kindness. That makes sense. How the hell did I become an ICU patient BEGGING to be treated adequately?! Daddy came back within an hour to find me in such a state.
She'd turned up my medication and when he saw the crazed look in my eye he asked what had happened. I showed him what I wrote, and wrote some more to explain. He was very upset. The nurse tried to backpedal as soon as she saw him come in the room, saying she had to be hard on me and that I was being difficult. I can totally understand how an incapacitated and semi-conscious patient can be super beligerant. Not.
Thankfully, Daddy knew otherwise. I looked at him with a look that must have said it all, because he spoke to someone else about making a complaint straight away. I wish he’d had the common sense to demand someone else be assigned to me right then. He was going to stay the night to look after me but I sent him away, knowing he needed to be at home resting so he could be strong enough to get through the rest. I just knew there would be more to come. I was a complete martyr.
After he left, this nurse continued being her nasty self, speaking very rudely to me and not offering any real kind of compassion at all. I started to panic. This woman was my lifeline, she was there to keep me alive through the night and she just didn't give a shit. I started to choke several times (from crying) and she'd roll her eyes and stroll over to 'help me'. I had a particularly bad episode (I think I had a panic attack) and she sedated me. Daddy said my medicine had gone up from 10 to 24 when he arrived back in the morning. She'd more than doubled my dose to knock me out. What sweet relief that was. I actually thought I might have died for a second there. The last thing I remember of that night is gasping for breath, vomiting and passing out while this nurse complained how difficult I was.
I carry more than just the physical scar. Own image
None of this should have happened. Well, at least I got that part straight right from the get-go!
After having the nurse from hell 'care' for me, I was relieved to wake up to a new face in front of me. After being drugged into sleep, it was like someone turned on the lights and I snapped awake. I knew straight away she was going to be much kinder than what's her face. It's all a bit of a blur but I remember her telling me they would take the tube out soon, and then they did. Wow, she was telling the truth and not just humoring me! I cannot explain how excited I was to have that tube OUT.
Having the tube come out was pretty horrific, but such a relief I didn't care how much it hurt. My new nurse was lovely, and I was finally able to talk to Daddy (In my new, scratchy postpartum voice). I even stood up for the first time. It was like a waterfall of sensation down my legs as the circulation returned. Lifting my legs to walk was like lifting lead weights. But I did it. I walked to my chair, and sat there all day, just to prove I could, and I didn't need to be in ICU! I was so desperate to get out of there. I should have been in bed, but I needed out.
I was given a shower, which was pretty undignified, but refreshing all the same. Who needs dignity? Not me, I suppose. Then it was finally time to eat and drink. OH the excitement of that first meal. It was crappy hospital food, but I actually cried when it arrived, I was so thrilled.
I finally got discharged from ICU later that night. I was excited because they’d told me I wouldn’t have a room on the maternity ward until morning, and would have to stay there another night. Anyway, all the way in the elevator and up to the 4th floor, I cheerfully chatted with the wardsmen. I even convinced them to give the bed a little victory spin... cause that’s how I roll, apparently.
I thought once I had my own room I would get some rest and relief. But I couldn't sleep that night. No wonder! I sat in my bed, looking out the window over the city and crying. I think I was in a bit of shock after everything that had happened. I’m still in fucking shock. I'd asked the midwives to wake me up for 3hourly breast pumping sessions, and didn't sleep at all before they were back with the pump the first time. I didn’t even think to ask them to bring me MY BABY instead. I managed to get a lousy 3ml of colostrum and the nurses asked me if I'd like it to be delivered to the nursery for Axel.
I went to say yes, but before I could, she asked if I'd like to take it there myself. I nearly jumped out of bed. I forgot I could go to the nursery any time I liked. I was still getting used to the freedom of breathing for myself let alone going anywhere on my legs. It was after 5am by now, but I was wide awake. I sat in the nursery with my precious boy talking to the midwives for a long time.
It was so good to see the sun rise. Hell, it was good just to look out a window.
The rest of my stay was fairly uneventful, compared to the first few days. I felt like a circus freak though. Students were constantly sent to treat me (god knows why..... after what had happened I didn't need sub-qualified people caring for me.) I felt bad for being annoyed about it, but really...... why me? Because I didn’t know I could say no. I'd had enough things go wrong, I needed skilled professionals to treat me, not a bunch of students. I had one particular intern stop palpating my belly to look in the mirror and fix her hair and makeup. No jokes. I could have slapped her. I should have slapped her.
Daddy was horrified when he came to visit me (on my last day there) and in the space of an hour, 15 people had barged into my room to interrogate me about what happened. Everyone wanted a piece of the action. It felt more like they were paparazzi than nurses. At first it was really helpful having people to talk to about it, and lots of different perspectives on how I could move on from it all etc..... (Ha ha ha ha. Oh god. Because moving on and forgetting all about it was exactly what I needed to be doing on day 5 or 6 post trauma.) but by this stage, I felt like it was more about their need to know what happened than anybody caring about how I was recovering. Exactly.
I felt like a caged animal. I was a caged animal. I paced around my room for hours at a time like this, unable to sleep due to the 'feeding schedule' they had me on. Every change of shifts, all the communication would break down, and the plan to rest I'd made with the previous midwives would go down the drain. I was awake for 40 hours straight, feeding, crying, pacing, crying some more. I think I was starting to lose it. Starting? I’d lost it days before, in hindsight.
The blame did, and still does lie with the system for the poor maternal outcome. I deserved so much better. Image source- Wikimedia commons.
I couldn't believe the disorganization of this hospital though. The fact that any old dr, nurse, cleaner... whoever could just stroll on into my room at any time and ask me personal questions, it was alarming. And NOBODY LISTENED TO ME when I said my pressure stockings were killing me. All these people coming and going, and not one decent set of ears in the whole bunch!
Apparently they're meant to be on for a few hours at a time, and I wore the same filthy, sweaty stockings for 3 days solid except for a few quick breaks where I begged them for 10 mins with them off, or when I had a shower. At one point, I hid my legs under the sheets hoping nobody would remember to put them back on. They were cutting me, and I couldn't sleep for the pain. My legs hurt just thinking about this.
Then there were the nurses who although they meant well and were wonderful women, just didn't have the time to give me the care I needed and deserved. I felt sorry for them. How ironic. Things were constantly being forgotten. Several times I was stuck in my bed, with the rails down (no leverage to get myself up and out of bed on my own) and the 'call' button out of my reach. I would have to just wait for them to come back at some point if I needed something. Excellent care.
I repeatedly told the nurse on duty I wanted to leave that day, and I wanted to see a doctor to discharge me. After the nap she convinced me to have, I was still determined. She came to check on me and found me furiously packing my things. Yes!! At that point, she finally asked a doctor to come and see me.
Oh. Let's not forget the nurses who barged in on me on the toilet, to give me my painkillers. I couldn’t possibly leave them out of this tale. "I'm sorry but we don't have time to wait for you to finish, we need you to take these now in front of us." That was dignified. Not. I was sick to death of being treated as if I wasn't even a person. I’m even more sick of it now.
I know they really didn't have time to wait around.. but seriously, talk about embarrassing.
All in all, the important thing is that no permanent physical damage was done to either me or Axel. Oh look, how sweet. I even I used to regurgitate the same meaningless placations which drive me to insanity to this very day. BUT- I will still be making a formal complaint with the hospital about their dodgy treatment.
Especially the ICU nurse. I have my moments where I think this is the sort of stuff that will make me strong. It is. Was. Is. I also have moments of utter despair when I remember how I was treated, and how it felt to have your life in someone else's hands... someone you don't trust. It wasn't meant to go like this. It wasn’t.
Bonding with Axel has been difficult, and definitely affected by my ordeal, but I refuse to let it cause us any further problems. Silly me, as if I had a choice. The damage was done. I was even trying to silence myself. I need to be there for my boy right now. I can deal with all of this later. When? Right now, I'm focusing on being a mum, (sacrificing myself completely because I’m so unworthy of anything better) and bringing that awful nurse to justice. She will be held accountable for her cruelty and lack of compassion. I tried. She was reprimanded and supposedly was unable to work unsupervised for 3 months. I thought stuff like that only happened in bad horror movies. How naive I was.
This is not the end. It's only the beginning. Oh. My. God.
Oh my god, indeed! Don’t worry, former self. It gets better. You’re about to grow your wings and really kick some ass.