This story is continued from my last post, The Trauma of a Difficult Birth.
I stayed in hospital for four days after Thomas was born. Much of it was a blur, I was tired and ill. I remember the feelings of joy, pride and disbelief mixed in with the fear and pain. I couldn’t believe my beautiful baby was finally here, he was all mine and I was responsible for looking after him. People talk about the intense you feel for your baby instantly, nothing could have prepared me for the intensity of love I felt surge through my body.
I barely slept those nights in hospital, I felt like I was in a dream. I couldn’t stop staring at my little boy or touching, holding and cuddling him. I was addicted.
It was rough, I remember I could barely walk in those days after; or lie or sit. I’d lost so much blood that the doctors recommended I needed a blood transfusion before I was allowed home. I really wasn’t keen on the idea, I’m not a big fan of medication or anything wildly unnatural being put into our bodies. The idea of taking foreign blood into my veins and around my whole body just didn’t sit well with me. I insisted that the iron tablets I was taking would be enough the raise my blood count to a healthy level. Stubbornly I struggled on a couple more days like that, feeling dizzy when I stood, my heart racing and there wasn’t enough oxygen in my blood.
Breast is Best
I also struggled to try and breastfeed my baby, which was something I was very determined to do. After all, I’d been bombarded with messages that ‘breast is best’. I was weak and wasn’t producing enough milk to feed my hungry baby. I felt like he was constantly on my breast feeding and was always hungry; it was exhausting.
The midwives and health-care staff weren’t really a great support in my quest to breastfeed. The midwives showed me a couple of positions to try and help baby latch on but it didn’t always seem to work. They were simply too short-staffed to dedicate time to me. I had a wonderful health care assistant who helped cup feed formula milk to Thomas, to top up his milk supplies and make sure he wasn’t going hungry. I did however have another Healthcare Assistant who was very rude to me and upset me. In hindsight, I wish I’d made a complaint about her. She shouldn’t have been allowed to treat new mothers the way she did, ones that already felt very vunerable and some in poor health. She scolded me for wanting to cup-feed/ top up Thomas’s milk and was very reluctant to help, she also made it clear that I had to provide my own and by no means would the hospital supply me with any top-up milk.
Accepting the blood transfusion
On Wednesday 11th June, two days after I’d given birth to Thomas, I decided to accept the blood transfusion. My Husband, Mum, Brother, In-Laws and a few close friends pursuaded me to go ahead with it. I still wasn’t totally comfortable with the idea and was worried that my body may reject the transfusion (and I wasn’t sure how much more my body could take). Ultimately I knew I stood my best chance of recovering quicker, being strong enough to care for my baby and being able to go home ans start life as a family of three. One of the hardest things about being in hospital was being away from my Husband. He was only allowed to visit during set hours and we found the long nights difficult and lonely without him. I know it broke his heart to leave us too,
The blood transfusion was a success, I was actually given two as my blood count was so low. The next day I was finally discharged from hospital and we could go home and start life as a family of three
It’s not over yet
After arriving home on a high and being greeted by family and friends, I took a turn for the worse two days later on the Saturday. I was struggling to breast feed and incredibly sore down below. I received a visit from the Community Midwife who referred me to the local Primary Care Centre to be assessed by a doctor, she suspected that my episiotomy wound had become severely infected.
The Doctor at Primary Care referred me straight back to the Maternity Hospital confirming that my wound was indeed infected and I had a suspected Hematoma which may need to be drained in theatre. I was advised to pack my overnight bag as it was likely they would keep me in.
I was traumatised and broke down at this point. I couldn’t bare the throught of being parted with my five day old baby and potentially going into theatre. Luckily we had trusted family who stepped in to take care of Thomas whilst my Husband accompanied me to the hospital. It was good news this time, I could be released with antibiotics and wouldn’t need to go to theatre, the Hematoma would go down itself (Hematoma is a localised collection of blood outside the blood vessels, due to either disease or trauma).
The consultant ran through a birth debrief with me as she knew it had been a traumatic experience for me.
The episiotomy wound tore open from the infection soon after my release from hospital. It was awful, I remember lying in the bath feeling a gaping hole between my vagina and back passage; it made me feel queasy.
I decided to go back to the Doctor the week after, I wasn’t happy with having a huge open wound. Although the infection was under control it didn’t feel right or natural.
The Doctor called a female Nurse to examine me and they were both utterly horrified. They remarked on the size of the wound and couldn’t believe I’d been left like this and had been discharged from Midwifery care.
My Doctor referred me to a Community Nursing team to pack my wound three times a week. It was difficult making that trip to another surgery (three miles away) that often with a newborn but I had to find a way to make it work.
The Nurses there were also horrified and two of them advised that I make a complaint. They said they had never seen an injury like mine as a result of child birth, it looked more like an ulcer wound.
At this stage I just wanted to move on and put the whole experience behind me, it certainly wasn’t the start to Motherhood I had daydreamed about.
A difficult start to Motherhood
Knowing what I know now, I believe that my difficult birth experience and post natal problems affected how I went into Motherhood. I think that I did suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (every time I heard an ambulance sirens flashing I would cry, that went on for over a year after my son was born). I also probably suffered from some form of Post Natal Anxiety. A community paediatric nurse who visited Thomas at a few months commented that I showed signs of Postnatal Anxiety, I was extremely anxious about Thomas’s health. She didn’t signpost me in any direction to get help.
I’m a proud person and the people close to me are mostly about tough love, a “suck it up and get on with it” attitude. I felt weak to admit I was struggling. I also didn’t know anybody else at the time who had been through a similar experience to mine so it was difficult to open up about it.
I have since discovered many Charities, Not-for-Profits, individuals and professionals who support the cause for Birth Trauma Awareness and Post Natal Depression and Anxiety. Through the wonderful community of Instagram I have discovered that I am certainly not alone.
I have read many other birth trauma stories written by brave ladies and I have felt inspired to share my story in the hope that it can also help others to feel less alone in these experiences.
I believe it certainly makes us stronger and more compassionate people.
For more information about the help and support available following birth trauma visit: birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/.