The mental is as important as the physical


When I came across the #makebirthbetter campaign I almost gave a sigh of relief . Upon reading other mum's stories I realised with sadness that I could relate to so much and how our mental state is as important as our physical state; especially in something so unpredictable as labour.

Although my child is four now I deal with the trauma of my labour almost everyday.

I realise now that I did always have anxiety right from a very young age. The old excuses of 'she's just nervous , shy , why don't you just push yourself ' comments from mostly my parents trying to encourage me ; were really just masking the problem.

But I really was excited about becoming pregnant and very positive about everything. I think everyone who goes for a first scan just wants to be told everything is ok . We had gotten a private scan and I was really surprised to learn that I was 2.5 months already as I had a period during this time. But a large cyst was revealed , so what should have been a lovely time was shadowed by this image.

They took a blood test in case it was serious (I can't even write what they thought it was) and I was very nervous when the nurse told me how serious it could be due to its size . I think it was another few months before I got to have a full scan and it was awful being in that tunnel, I did worry about the radiation in there and if it was slow because they had found something.

Thankfully the results were that it was a benign cyst & they would decide whether to remove it later. I was very much aware of it though with a pull in my side but was delighted when the next scan showed it had reduced.

Despite that, I had a good pregnancy and was very positive about the labour . When I was ten days over ; my mum said to me " don't worry now if you have to have a section " I know now she was trying to help but it made me angry.

That night I had contractions and was admitted. Eleven hours later I felt I was doing well, I was afraid with my sensitive stomach that meds would make me sick so carried on with the pain . I had a lovely midwife & she even said " you're doing excellent I think you're going to have your baby soon before the other mums in the ward".

When they decided to speed things up by inducing me I went along with it but didn't voice my opinion as to why if I was doing well on my own. After that the pain got unbearable so I asked for an epidural but it was a long long time before the anaesthetist came, I felt it was too late but they said it would help. I wished I was more confident and asked questions . One midwife that popped in even said to my husband " she never complains does she" . Which wasn't a great trait in labour I realise now! I was so long in labour that my lovely midwife said her shift was over and she wished she could be there to see my labour through . Things slowed down after that and the epidural was only working one side . The student nurse then said that the heart rate was going down and the baby was o.b so she called another midwife in , I wasn't checked or told how many centimetres I was at that stage.

This very stern midwife than burst in and said

" ok let's get this baby out ! gown her up for a section "

I was absolutely horrified and the words filled me with dread I was so scared and shocked by the sudden change . I started crying quietly and my husband commented something about a section so I said " can I please try and push myself " so she said " ok but bring her down for surgery "

I understand this all probably seems normal for a lot of mums and some might even welcome the section at that stage but only in that moment I realised how scared I was of those words . When I was wheeled in the operating theatre I was greeted by the surgical tray and 18 ( yes I remember counting ) nurses , students, doctors.

Everything seemed to be in panic mode then with a nurse asking me if I was numb yet and me realising I wasn't with each injection . I asked him was I going to feel the knife during the section and he didn't reply with all the panic around me so I thought I was going to be cut open and feel every bit of it as the nurse the other side moved the surgical tray about . So I said " I want to push " so another new nurse helped me do long pushes and said " I don't know how you are doing those "

I passed out and I couldn't seem to wake myself out of it .

No one said I was okay , no one said you're just tired you're doing great , the nurse whispered ; my husband later said that my heart rate was ok and not to worry but not one of all those there told me I was ok . After repeatedly pushing hard as baby was ob I kept passing out the nurse said hysterically - " why does this keep happening to you "

I really believed that I was in real danger or the baby was . The door than burst open and a head midwife I had appointments with before ran in with her handbag across her in her normal clothes and instructed the other midwife at the end .

I pushed and passed out again and when I woke I felt my body rise high above me and seen all the panic around me , I was suddenly relaxed and thought 'This is what it's like to die ' I started to see flashes of memories then suddenly I thought ' I'm never going to see my husband again as I looked at him behind me ' so I went into complete survival mode and prayed to stay awake , I really struggled and I don't know where the confidence or strength came from but I told the nurse at my side " keep slapping my face I need to stay awake to push " so she did she slapped my face as I pushed and I thought I'm going to be ok .

Then I heard the other midwife say at the end of the bed " we will take the body out now " so I started crying and I thought I'm okay but the baby is dead . But this large baby was put before me , they said it was a girl just under 12lbs and I wondered was she really actually ok , no one told me . My husband said they did put her on my chest for a second then she was rushed outside and I heard my husband being told " go with your daughter " .

In that moment again the trauma started I was scared as I could feel myself about to faint again . I believed that she was ok but now I wasn't and that if I passed out I would die and they sent off my husband because of this .

I fought and fought to stay awake and watched as the nurse sewed long stitches . I was wheeled into another room and relieved the baby was ok but I was shaking uncontrollably , I couldn't really speak . I was in active labour for 18 hours with no food allowed or anything no wonder I was in a state and with all the injections and meds they seemed to give me in theatre . A nurse came in and said " you have to tell me if you are ok " I didn't know ! I had no words . She asked was I breastfeeding and I thought how can I I'm shaking you can't shake a baby ; I was panicking inside . We gave her a bottle and my husband came in with my mum and things felt a little normal , I even said to the nurse as it was middle of the night " thank you for letting my mum in " and she said " I didn't let her in your husband did " .

There seemed to be no emotion. The rest of the night I was in excruciating pain below ; I finally couldn't bear it and called the nurse but said I had to wait for doc . After hours she said she would look herself as she could see I couldn't bear the wait , after checking me she held my hand and said "In my 20 years working here I've never seen haemorrhoids so large I don't know what to do." Finally doc came but could only give panadol as anything stronger had to be signed off in the morning . By the next day after stronger meds even if I could sleep I was afraid to . I told a different night nurse that I was afraid to sleep . She said nothing .

A midwife came around to do a written report on my labour, I thought I was ' with it ' but now I realised I wasn't with all the meds so I don't know what I said . They said then they would have to send me home with the catheter. I was horrified as I was still in so much pain that I didn't want it in down there , finally with persuasion they tested it was ok to take out and I went home .The pain remained excruciating for months but I struggled on with an awake screaming baby who wasn't feeding right (with my persistence we found out she had a lactose intolerance ) and a husband working full time . I went to my doctor and said I didn't think everything was healing right and could she check & she said " oh I'm sure you're fine"! I said please can you check so she did and looked repulsed at the idea, I was so embarrassed by her reaction . She said it was fine . I remained in such pain still after and one day got a call from a midwife saying that she had just found a urine result from after labour that showed strong infection but I was never told . This was three months later . It was six months before I felt ok , in pain I went everywhere still - I don't know how . I then got a letter that they would need to remove cyst and I was filled with dread . They told me before I went into surgery that it may not be benign and would only know when it's out . That's not what I was told and I felt out of control, I couldn't stop crying , I realise now I had a panic attack , the nurse said ' you'll be fine '

I was wheeled in crying uncontrollably which is rare for me . When I woke I felt my throat raw as they pulled out the oxygen tube and I couldn't breathe I panicked there was no one beside me to help . By the time they wheeled me out my breath came back , when I was allowed go to the toilet I saw my throat was all scraped and bleeding inside and I thought my legs were covered in blood because no one said it was the dye - how was I supposed to know that when I was told it was keyhole surgery? They said they didn't need to take the ovary with the cyst . I was never told that they might have to.

I went home and finally they said cyst was benign I was so relieved. I changed GP's and after new doc examined me she told me I need not have went through six months of pain and that she thought I had infections with stitching internally and that a simple procedure could have relieved me of all that pain . I was angry , angry at the previous GP , angry about how nobody thought to help me mentally , angry at myself for not speaking up , for not knowing about this sudden anxiety, angry that even now I'm overreacting and that even now you as a reader thinks that this whole story was nothing and I'm overreacting ; worried and embarrassed that it's true .

I developed post natal obsessive compulsive anxiety I think it was called, where because of labour I was constantly afraid something would happen to my baby. Images of horrific things would come into my head at random times and I would panic but on the outside you would not know. Soon I became frightened of those thoughts and that family would think I was crazy . So I told no one , I was so frightened of how I was feeling and the nightmares I was visualising.

One day the words "it's not you in those thoughts it's the fear of someone else causing harm it's not you you're worried about " and I felt in control a little again . I sought help and went to therapy . The therapist said with trauma people often have an out of body experience . She felt horrified that my mental state went unnoticed and sad that it's not a priority in labour .

My husband said " when are you going to be better "

I do ok now but I still have times of severe worry where I get very down . I hope financially I can see a therapist again for when my severe anxiety creeps in .

With this campaign I found information online saying that I can ask for my medical records so maybe that will help me figure things out .

I still have anxiety every day . I remember telling my friends about labour but it's just that get on with it mentality isn't it . Of course I'm so so thankful for the medical staff and midwifes for getting my baby out safe I feel how can I complain . This fight goes on in my head all the time . " what are you complaining for , sure that was nothing , I've heard worse , how can you say you won't have any more " - you feel your story doesn't matter . You're just a body

I wish my story mattered more during labour , I wish one of those student nurses were there to tell me I was ok , to say afterwards " how are you feeling inside " , one student nurse to say " labour can be traumatic how are you feeling" , I can sit with you for a few minutes , to have a professional say that would benefit so many mothers .

That one sentence would've meant the world to me .

© Make Birth Better CIC 2019

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