Updated: Feb 7, 2019
Make Birth Better has been the push I needed to get some help and, after 18months of suffering in silence, I have booked an appointment with my GP next week to take up the counselling they've been offering but I felt I wasn't deserving of because 'I came out of it with a live baby and just need to get a grip'.
In short, I had a horrendous pregnancy with multiple complications, many which stemmed from IVF, and spent almost 3 months in hospital - which was both frightening and depressing during what should have been a very exciting 9 months. We were told 3 times the baby wasn't going to make it (he did), my partner was told if I didn't have emergency stomach surgery at 10 weeks pregnant, I wouldn't make it (I did) and then to top it off, just when I thought it couldn't get any more challenging, I had a terrible birth resulting in a 3B tear (for which I'm still receiving physio for 18months on) and psychological damage I don't think I'll ever get over. I must say, the birth debrief helped massive amounts and I came out of the meeting feeling like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders but I still get terrible flashbacks and, due to my endometriosis, have been told I will most likely need a hysterectomy sooner rather than later (I'm 33) so to get using our frozen embryos if we want another baby pronto - the issue is I'm so petrified due to my previous pregnancy and just can't shake it.
The labour itself began with the 'emergency red button' being pushed after my waters were broken (I had severe polyhydramnios and the amount of fluid which came out sent the baby into shock apparently) which was horrendous. I thought there and then it was all over and when I think back to maybe what 'triggers' me, I think maybe it was that moment. 14 medical staff came rushing in and I remember them saying 'he's in trouble' (the baby) and I was thinking 'after all I've been through, why does it have to end like this'. After things calmed, I was in labour for 12 hours which I coped with well. I had an epidural when I was 10cm dilated (why, I don't know as I certainly wasn't begging for it and had gotten that far without it). The epidural didn't work and I could feel everything-something else that petrifies me if I were to have another baby. I also hadn't been allowed to eat OR drink one single thing for 18 hours at the point when I started to push which obviously, really affected me as I was so drained. During the debrief, it came to light my baby was in 'cardiac distress' for over 35mins, hence why he was literally 'ripped out' of me in a panic by ventouse, leaving me with irreparable injuries. The consultant in charge has been investigated, I don't know the outcome but I felt I had been heard by them doing this.
However, the birth being frightening is minor in my head to how I was spoken to and treated on the post natal ward.
I named and shamed during my complaint to the hospital and I was assured the midwives in question were going to be dealt with. The one incident that really gets to me is one day I laid on my bed sobbing. I'd closed my curtain so as not to draw attention. A midwife came in and told me to open my curtain and asked what I was 'making a fuss' about. I told her my baby was in intensive care (heartbreaking when everyone else on the ward had their baby by their bed) and I was just feeling a bit sad today. Plus I'd been living in a hospital bay for 4 weeks at his point and was just feeling claustrophobic and like I was going out of my mind. Instead of being kind or sympathetic, she told me to 'pull myself together', yanked my curtain across and left me to it. In that moment, I felt like the most scared, pathetic person in the world and can definitely say it triggered, maybe not post natal depression as such, but very serious 'baby blues'.
In my head I'd failed. Failed at a good pregnancy, couldn't even give birth very well, I wasn't eating or drinking for weeks after the birth so had hardly any milk yet would sit up literally all hours day and night trying to express as 'punishment' to myself. It's only now I look back I can see this, but my baby was readmitted to hospital as he was dropping so much weight and I blamed no-one but myself. I don't think a 'traumatic birth' is down to just what happens in the moments your baby is born, I think the aftermath and how you are spoken to and treated in those early days post birth are so important, and I was failed greatly in that respect.
As far as improving the experience, what happened after the birth was far more damaging to me than the birth itself. I know midwives are so overstretched and do not have time to sit and 'counsel' women who are tearful/feeling down etc etc. But I feel there needs to be some element of basic kindness and patience and I feel that is really lacking. After speaking with many other ladies, this seems to be the same across the board, not just the hospital I was at. And I was never once asked if I needed any help or counselling in those early days. It was only after about 7/8 months that my physiotherapist suggested I speak with my GP about it, this was then backed up by the consultant midwife who I had my debrief with.
I feel there needs to be some element of this being a potential situation covered prior to the birth whether that be in an NCT class, at a midwife appointment or via your GP. If somebody had said to me 'make sure, if you find the birth particularly traumatic that you speak to someone sooner rather than later'. I would then have instantly felt a lot more 'normal' after the birth about how I felt and would have seemed help far sooner.
I would absolutely love another baby and am hoping, with the help of some therapy, I can find the courage to try again