After having IVF, my daughter coming early and having a rough pregnancy because of morning sickness and pelvic girdle pain - something I now realise they don’t prepare you for is if complications arise during labour.
Once I’d been referred to the NHS via the fertility clinic things went downhill. I was forgotten about. After calling the surgery a few times. I received a phone call from the midwife apologising and I was sent for a scan at 13 weeks. Luckily we were ok. I told my midwife and consultant my main worry was they wouldn’t get her out. Due to problems I’d had before pregnancy with intercourse and other Gynae issues. I was told not to worry and it was nerves.
It all started off ok. We arrived at the hospital, I was 4cm dilated. I heard screams and the midwife said ‘don’t worry there’s no need to scream that loud’ I smiled and off she went. I was taken to the delivery room. I was progressing and in a lot of pain.
She was back to back. I was more comfortable standing. I was told to lay down as the heart monitor needed to be placed on. I was in agony. I kept trying to stand. She shouted at me to lay still. At this point I was in agony. They gave me a pethidine injection. I ended up with a hematoma on my leg as she stabbed the needle that hard. It really did hurt.
Hours later my daughter got stuck at 7cm. I was in labour for 16 hours – she was back to back still. Her heart rate dropped. My pain relief was gas and air. I had an episiotomy and they used forceps, that’s all I remember as I was drifting in and out of consciousness. I heard the midwives and doctor scream at me to push and I remember being dragged down the bed.
I tore, she did the episiotomy. She was born and taken away. She stitched me up, unstitched me and stitched again. They feared a haematoma but found nothing, which is funny given how things turned out.
I was told to shower before being transferred to a ward for the night. I collapsed in the shower. My husband helped me up into a chair and pulled the bell to raise the alarm. The midwife came and said ‘don’t worry just leave it and bring her along'.
Once in bed on a new ward the pain returned. I was crying out in pain. My bladder was to full and I needed a catheter to pass urine. The catheter was no match for the swelling so I was transferred back to the labour ward. Back came the gas and air. All I remember is screaming out in pain and the flashbacks stay with me even now.
Six days passed with no tests. I laid there Day by day Doctors glimpsed, gasped and then walked away, never the same one twice. I was terrified, ashamed and embarrassed. I felt like I wasn’t meant to be a mother. I felt like a museum piece on show. I still hadn’t held or bonded with my baby girl. Jealousy turned to anger as I watched other mothers come and go with their babies, while I just lay there incapable of doing anything because of the pain. I lost my dignity that day and my will to carry on.
I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. I asked my husband for a mirror I wanted to look. I wanted to see what they had done to me.
I wish I didn’t. I wasn’t a women anymore. I had swelling the size of an apple on my vagina. It was purple, black and green. All these horrible thoughts came to me.
Would I be intimate with my husband again?
Would I be able to use the toilet again?
Would I sit again?
I couldn’t close my legs because of the swelling.
What was wrong with me?
No tests and just paracetamol for the pain. Six days later I was discharged, bruising the diagnosis. Nine hours later I was rushed back in, my community midwife said she hadn’t seen a wound anything like mine. We contacted a private consultant as our trust in the staff at the hospital had long since gone. After a CT scan on arrival and blood tests, it turned out I had sepsis. I had to go on an IV drip with two different antibiotics, one being rare; I was also placed on oxygen and morphine. The doctor was concerned about organ failure.
Major surgery followed to remove a blood clot the size of an egg and several abscesses that day. I remained in hospital for two weeks and with constant morphine for the pain. My husband had to take control of my medication chart as lapses in timings brought stress and agony.
My arms were black and blue. I needed a new cannula. The midwife couldn’t get it in. I asked her to stop. I’d had enough of being in pain. She told the doctor I refused treatment. He came in and asked why. I said ‘I can’t take much more pain, I can’t take it anymore’ I remember telling him I wanted to jump out the window. I can’t cope with them talking about me and pointing. Being abrupt and rude. I wanted someone to listen to me and ask me. He sat beside me and used a butterfly needle instead in my forearm. The midwife said ‘I could of got it in’ he asked her to be quiet and leave.
After leaving the hospital I had diarrhoea and I couldn’t keep water down. My husband rang the hospital and they told us to carry on with the antibiotics. I couldn’t cope anymore. He rang my GP and he said bring her straight away.
When I got there his face dropped as my husband carried me in. He said he would have come to the house. He said my stitches were infected. He gave me medication for the diarrhoea and more antibiotics. He kept a close eye on me. I was due back at the hospital. It took all my courage to go. I still couldn’t walk. We arrived and the consultant had forgotten we were coming. He came out of clinic to see us and said
‘Right let’s take the stitches out now I haven’t got long I’m in clinic’
My face dropped and my chest went tight. I couldn’t speak. I cried. My husband told him I wasn’t coping well. ‘He said I need an answer if you want them out as I’m in clinic I have patients waiting’
We left and went to my GP who rang him and said he would be taking over my care now. I will be forever grateful to him. Over a course of a month they took my stitches out they were quite embedded. And I remained on antibiotics.
I went to see an osteopath as the hospital discharged me with no help and no plan. I couldn’t walk unaided. I sat through gritted teeth. I saw the osteopath for a year and it took four months for me to be able to walk. Six months had gone by and I was walking properly. Problems continued and my GP referred me to a urologist for bladder issues. I remained under the osteopath and chiropractor due to pelvic pain and back pain.
I was diagnosed with postnatal depression by my GP and PTSD after being reviewed by my counsellor, whom I still see two and a half years on. If it wasn’t for the support of my husband and for him saying ‘I think you need to speak to someone’, I don’t know where I would be now.
The NHS let me down and I want to let people know that seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of. It helped me a lot to speak to someone that wasn’t involved in my labour. It’s a shame and it should be easier for women to gain access to information with regards to PTSD, postnatal depression or any issues surrounding mental health.
The Birth Trauma Association Facebook page, which is a closed group, was a great help to me. It was somewhere to vent and get advice from women who have experienced similar issues.
A year after, I complained to the hospital but they didn’t take me seriously. I wanted an apology and an explanation. I took it to the Health Ombudsman; they became involved and found the hospital to be negligent. I was advised the hospital would be putting changes in place so it doesn’t happen again. And the CQC would investigate.
I really want women and their partners to know there is help out there and please don’t be afraid to ask for it. It helped me and my husband.
Please don’t feel alone.
The PTSD never leaves you but you find a way to deal with it. Once you manage to do that life becomes a little easier. I have my good days and bad days. But with the help of my husband and counsellor I feel I can get it off my mind and talk about it.