In this post I open up about the trauma of a difficult birth. If you are squeamish it probably isn’t one for you…
I had a wonderful pregnancy; very little morning sickness and I didn’t put much extra weight on. The only thing I struggled with was pelvic pains towards the end as my bump was so huge and swollen feet and ankles (or cankles!). People commented on how I was glowing and I did feel on top of the world for most of it. It really is a miracle to feel your baby growing inside you.
I knew labour would be difficult and painful but I had no idea how bad mine was going to be, how it would deeply affect me and change me for a long time afterwards. I entered Motherhood in a very stressful way and it set the tone for how I would feel for years after the birth.
Maybe it’s because I follow so many parenting blogs now, but I think it’s great how openly postnatal depression and anxiety is spoken about. I didn’t know at the time I was probably suffering from postnatal anxiety, maybe with some depression thrown in and very likely post-traumatic stress disorder. I didn’t receive any support from the midwives, medical teams, authorities, doctors. I do think a lot of that was down to me, I’ve always been a very proud person and I would never admit if I was struggling or had any mental health issues. I wear my heart on my sleeve and have big emotions but my motto has always been deal with it and work through it by yourself.
Is my baby alive?
I woke up at 7am, three days after my due date, with a wet feeling. I stood up and went to use the toilet and felt something trickle down my leg, ‘my waters must have broken!’ I thought, feeling very ready to birth this baby. I looked down and to my horror saw a stream of thick, red blood trickling down my leg. I felt shock. This is not something I’d planned for. I’d written a birth plan, had listened to natal hypnotherapy CD’s on loop, had read many pregnancy and labour articles and a few books. I knew blood was bad news. Especially this late on into my pregnancy.
“Steven, I’m bleeding,” I cried to my Husband and ran into our en-suite bathroom. Steven dived out of bed and followed me in a panic. He’s usually the calm, rational one. At this point, heavy blood was pouring out of me, all over my nightdress and all over the floor. I didn’t know what to do so sat on the toilet but then worried in case the baby was coming out. Steven called 999 and the operator took him through a series of questions whilst she dispatched an ambulance, at the highest priority. She asked him some brutal questions, like could we see any part of the baby, thankfully we couldn’t. It all feels a little hazy now but I remember how devastated and helpless I felt, I was convinced at this point that I’d lost my baby. Steven lay towels on our bed and asked me to lie down. It was the last thing I wanted to do but the operator had advised him that if I lost too much blood both mine and my baby’s life would be in danger.
The Paramedics arrived at lightning speed, it was around a seven minute wait which is pretty amazing. They were so calm and professional, which was really what I needed, I was distraught. They carried me out of the house and into the ambulance on a stretcher. I was blue-lighted straight to hospital (after Steven had caught our puppy who had escaped onto the street with all the excitement!).
I remember how numb I felt strapped to that stretcher in the back of the ambulance, covered in blood. Steven and the paramedic were making small talk to lighten the mood but I just turned my head to the side. I couldn’t make small talk right now; I needed to know if my baby was ok. I called my Mum from the ambulance and it’s so upsetting to think of it now but it was a bit of a goodbye call to her, I didn’t know mine or my baby’s fate at this point.
We arrived at St Mary’s Hospital and I was rushed straight through to the emergency labour ward. The midwives quickly hooked monitors up my stomach and within seconds they said “your baby is fine”. My eyes still well up with tears writing this, it was the best news I’d received in my life. I can’t put into words the relief that washed over me.
This baby is coming out today
“This baby is coming out today though,” the Midwife told me, much to my relief. I was hooked up to an induction drip to speed up the labour and my contractions started coming thick and fast; I was not prepared for them. The pain was excruciating; worse than I’d imagined they could be. They swept over my body every few minutes and were so intense. I’d been pretty against having an epidural. I’d read a lot of statistics about how they increase the chance of a forcep or ventouse delivery and the need for an episiotomy. I really wanted a natural (ideally water) birth, but I was advised an epidural was the best option in my circumstances. The doctor told me because I’d lost so much blood already, it was highly likely I’d need to go to theatre at some point. If I opted for an epidural, it would be quick to convert it to a spinal drip.
I took the doctor’s advice, my birthing plan had well and truly gone out of the window at this point, I just wanted my baby to arrive safely and be healthy enough to raise him. The epidural look a while to kick in but when I eventually did it was amazing, it took away most of the pain. I did have some gas and air but I was feeling light-headed already from the blood loss so I didn’t have much of it.
The bleeding had stopped at some point I think it was in the ambulance, it started again at one point through labour again. I remember it vaguely, the doctor assessed me and was borderline whether to take me to theatre to deliver. They had to estimate how much blood I’d lost based on what we told them and I was on the threshold. They decided I could still give birth vaginally at this point and they broke the rest of my amniotic sac.
I remember it being an uphill struggle trying to push Tom out. The difficult thing about an epidural is that you can’t feel anything below your waist so you don’t even know if you’re pushing or how hard you are pushing. I had a support squad of Steven, the Midwife and a lovely young Irish student Midwife, all sat around me whilst I was squatted into a chair! They were watching my contractions on the monitor and telling me when to push. It was surreal and I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere, I couldn’t tell if I was making any progress.
I was so exhausted. I hadn’t eaten for nearly 24 hours and I’d lost over two litres of blood; I barely had an energy left to push as hard as I needed too. After what felt like hours (but was around 45 minutes apparently), a Consultant Doctor was called in to ‘help things along’. He gave me and episiotomy (cut me between my anal and vaginal passage) and used forceps to pull my baby out. Steven said it was by far the most brutal thing he has witnessed. I think he was rather traumatised, luckily I didn’t feel a thing as I was totally numb.
The wait is over
Finally with a huge yank and a final push, my baby was fully out of my body and placed into my arms. I was delirious but that moment was pretty special, I’d been waiting so long to see him. My first thoughts was that he seemed so big! But he was perfect. I’ll never forget that feeling, even though I was in a pretty bad way, it was all worth it.
He was taken away and cleaned up. I passed the placenta quickly after (which the midwives said was one of the biggest they had ever seen, it was ginormous!) They couldn’t explain why I bled the way I did but did find a tear in my placenta so think it could have been down to that.
The next thing I knew I was being sick. It must have been the physical trauma of it all as I’m generally not a very sicky person. As I was already so weak it was hard being sick, the midwives offered me an anti-sickness injection which I accepted. Big mistake. I had a terrible reaction to it, my heart starting pounding and I felt awful, really panicky. The midwife looked at my monitor stats and ran for the doctor when she saw my heart rate (which of course worried me more). The doctor came to see my and checked me over and told me not to panic and it was quite a common reaction to that medication. I think I would have preferred the vomiting! I had a team of midwives who kept swapping shifts and taking charge of my care (all were absolutely incredible). One of the midwives who took over after my reaction told me the same happened to her after labour and she had a note on her records not to be given it in any subsequent labours.
Because this post is a long one I’ll write another one about the days that followed and my four-day stay in hospital after the birth. It was going to be a long road to recovery for me. Thankfully, my baby was perfectly healthy, I would have taken all that pain or trauma over him having problems in a heartbeat.
What is your birth story? Would you do anything differently next time?