By Kimberley - Instagram @kimberleyhigginson
My first child was an unexpected pregnancy and I felt like I never really planned the birth as I felt so incredibly lucky to be pregnant I almost couldn't imagine it happening. I went into labour at home at 39+2 and was told by midwives over the phone to stay at home. However, my instincts told me to get to the hospital - and fast. I've now learned that what I experience is precipitate labour.
After arriving onto labour ward I was checked and found to be 3cm and told it'd be a long time yet. Minutes later, although I'd never given birth before I told a midwife I felt 'as if it was going to come out!' she laughed and said 'that's why you're here love!' I felt so embarrassed stood in front of other women and their partners waiting to be induced. No sooner had she walked off the ward my waters broke, using my husband's words of 'like a sewer pipe bursting on the floor' as my baby had meconium and was in distress. I was fully dilated and my babies head was starting to crown. A senior midwife ran in as my husband shouted for help and she pulled the emergency cord shouting at me to 'get on the bed or your baby will be born on the floor'. She pulled my leggings off in front of the other patients and partners and my husband had to pull me onto the bed and himself push the bed into a labour room as I delivered my baby's head. The emergency alarm was still ringing, the pediatric resuscitation team were there with a waiting incubator and I cried out as a midwife pushed onto my stomach saying she couldn't find a heartbeat. A lady said 'I can see your baby's hair' and only then I realised this was it! And with one push she came out. Thank god she cried immediately and was placed on my chest. And left there. I was drenched in the waters and blood, the entire bed was, I was shivering with cold. Unsurprisingly my baby girls temperature quickly dropped and she was taken from me to be warmed.
I was told the wrong weight for my daughter and her umbilical cord was clipped too close to her tummy so it became infected in the following days. We failed miserably at breast feeding due to severe tongue tie and I ended up feeding her from a specialist feeding bottle. Oh yes, and she also had severe reflux.
I suffered anxiety at the time but it felt manageable. It was more the PTSD. I would have flashbacks of the birth as if it was happening there and then, leaving me shaking with panic attacks. I had horrific nightmares. I sat and watched my daughter for hours at night breathing, having also bought a breathing monitor, rather than sleep.
Nevertheless, I was desperate for my daughter to have a sibling. I almost wanted to do it all over again to 'get it right'.
I became pregnant when my daughter was 6 months old but unfortunately, we suffered a missed miscarriage which required medical management. The loss was devastating.
We started trying again immediately and by the time my daughter was 10 months old I was pregnant with our rainbow. The pregnancy was filled with anxiety, I was absolutely terrified I was going to lose this baby too, as any rainbow mummy will understand. By 28 weeks after agonising over the decsision I started antidepressants as suggested by my midwife and GP to manage the severe anxiety. I read about hypnobirthing, fast labour's, successful breastfeeding, educating myself and preparing myself for everything. I got the midwife to write along my notes 'LABOUR'S QUICKLY' so the previous events would not happen again.
At 40+2 I went into labour with my second child. After 20 minutes of contractions, my husband and I went straight to labour ward. I was checked to be 2cm and told there was no point staying here and to go home and have a bath. Immediately I burst into tears. Panic took hold.
This was going to happen to me again. My baby was going to be in danger. Why would nobody listen to me?
I left the room crying, agreeing to stay in the waiting room surrounded by women in the early stages of labour with their partners or women awaiting to be seen for different reasons. Within no more than 20 minutes of pacing the waiting room I felt the familiar feeling. I whispered to my husband that the baby was coming. He rang the bell for labour ward to be told the midwives were in handover. He banged on the door as everybody stared. A midwife came and took me into a room, telling me they were in the middle of their handover and that I certainly didn't look as though I was about to give birth. I got on the bed after being told 'no, don't sit on it' or I'd be 'sitting on my baby's head. ' she shouted another midwife after yelling at me not to push - again I was fully dilated and baby was crowning however baby's head was tilted back. We all know there really isn't a way not to push. My second daughter was born seconds later healthy and screaming and my relief was indescribable - she was safe.
I breastfed my daughter as we waited for my placenta. 2 injections later and no placenta - the midwives started to get twitchy. They called the doctor and after some pulling the placenta came away, however not fully intact. Blood pooled on the bed, onto the floor into puddles.
I was given gas and air and told to 'concentrate on my baby' as remaining parts were pulled out, there was no time, I would continue bleeding if it was not done there and then. Not only this, but I had a difficult tear that went upwards rather than the usual perineum tear. I was catheterised and told that it was impossible to numb the areas that had torn as there was far too many nerve endings. I was still holding my daughter and was told yet again, to concentrate on my baby and use gas and air.
I shouted, this was hurting I could feel everything. She was still extracting clots, the pain was terrible. I gripped my baby who cried in equal distress. My husband took her. The doctor continued telling me she had to do this all now. At one point a midwife stopped the doctor and told her I'd just given birth with no pain relief and if I was saying it hurt, then it certainly must hurt. The doctor continued. Eventually, she was finished and my bleeding had slowed. She left the room and so did the midwives. We were left alone for what seemed like hours, my husband dressed our baby. Eventually, my husband had to leave to see to our other daughter. I had to walk through labour ward, in a lot of pain and feeling so weak, pushing my daughter in her plastic cot. Immediately I was distrustful. These people were meant to help me and my baby, that's why they were here.
Why would they not listen to me? Why was I ignored? I wanted nothing more than to go home but had to stay in overnight for observation due to blood loss.
2 weeks at home with my 2 girls and husband was bliss, I felt like I was walking on air. My heart was so full. I stopped taking my antidepressants, I wrongly thought there was no need for them.
Unfortunately, when my daughter was 3 weeks old we moved house. So with my 18-month-old and my 3 week old we started our lives as my husband went back to work.
It was like the world had been pulled from under my feet. It had got a very dark, very lonely place. My girls were only safe with me. Even the people who were supposed to help us, the midwives and doctors, couldn't be trusted, the flashbacks came constantly throughout the day. I'd stay awake watching my daughter sleep even on a breathing monitor because I just knew something was going to happen to her. When I did sleep the nightmares were horrific. Then slowly, I felt my nightmares creep into my days. I'd be holding my daughter in the bathroom and like somebody had pressed play on a video in my head, I'd see the mirror shattering on the wall and shards of glass impaling my baby. If I left the house I'd see myself letting go of the pram and it rolling into the road and being crushed by a lorry. Someone snatching the pram from my hands and running. Warming bottles in the night, I'd see myself stuffing my newborn into the microwave rather than the bottle and turning it on.
I couldn't trust anyone with them. If I was having these thoughts about my own children, imagine what other people wanted to do to them?
I wouldn't let my husband be left with either girls, it had to be me constantly. I'd beg my husband to stay at home with me as I couldn't possibly protect them from all these things, I was so incredibly inadequate at protecting my two girls from all this danger. We stumbled through each day until my daughter was 4 months old and my husband called our health visitor out who also happened to be a mental health nurse. At this point I was convinced that he had called the health visitor as a distraction so he could take my older daughter into another room and abuse her.
I was seen promptly by our perinatal mental health team and diagnosed with perinatal OCD, anxiety, depression and PTSD from the traumatic births. I began antidepressants and antipsychotics and began intense therapy with a specialist perinatal psychologist. Gradually the fog lifted. Neglected past traumas had contributed to what had happened to me, yet also the trauma from the births and the negative experience that left me distrustful of the people I was meant to trust with my babies most.
Things got better and better. At my last session with my psychologist and appointment with my consultant I spoke about the heartbreak I felt at never having any more children, I had always longed for a big family. However, they reassured me that it would be different. I had dealt with things and was taking medication, and they were there to help.
As my youngest daughter turned 1, we tentatively agreed to try for another baby. I became pregnant immediately. I had anxieties - but this time they were manageable. We found out we were having a baby boy, something I really believe helped me bond with my son. We hadn't found out the sex of our girls.
I changed to a different local hospital to give birth at.
After speaking to my consultants and my midwife throughout my pregnancy I reached the decision that I would like a planned caesarean section. The thought of delivering at home with 2 children and a husband working miles away was my biggest fear. I was scheduled for a section at 39+2.
However, our baby boy had other ideas and at 37+2 I went into labour at home. We raced to the hospital. Notes in hand stating the specific plan, the midwife examined me and I was 6cm. Panic set in. I was going to have to give birth, my baby was going to be at risk, nobody was going to listen to me. A doctor came into me and demanded to know why we were doing a csection when I was 6cm dilated. At this point absolute blind panic took hold. It was happening again. Nobody was listening to me. Im embarrassed to say I broke down. I begged them to take him out, please I just want him out and here and safe. After reading my notes more thoroughly (and very quickly) I was prepped for theatre. A calm voice spoke to me as the epidural was placed. A hand held mine and told me my husband was coming in a few seconds, that my baby would be here in minutes, that everything would be OK and that I was doing so well. Each cut was explained, each drug administered was talked through with me. Each stage of the section I was prepared for. They lowered the blue curtain as they pulled my son out and he screamed.
I'd never felt such overwhelming happiness. I cried the happiest tears I'd ever had. Immediately he was placed on my chest and his soft skin pressed to mine as I breathed him in.
He had gone into distress and also had meconium so needed to be checked, my husband went with him and everything was explained. He cut the cord.
My baby boy was placed on my chest. I rubbed his hair with my cheek, stroked his back, felt his tiny hand grip my finger and kissed the softest arms I'd ever felt. My husband sat next to me the entire time. His newborn gurgles and grunts were the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard as he nuzzled into my neck. I never wanted this moment to end, the entire time I was being delicately stitched back together. He was here and he was safe and these people wanted us to be safe and pain-free and happy.
In recovery we breastfed and just lay with each other, cherishing every moment. My catheter was removed and the most nurturing, caring student midwife was allocated to us and she held my son while I had a shower, cradling him, rocking him, talking to him as if he were her own. I was home with my girls within 24 hours.
My son is 6 months old now and I 100 percent believe I made the best decision. I know many people who would say they would give anything to have labour's as short as mine and that their worst nightmare is to have a caesarean. It just goes to show trauma is what the patient perceives it as. Out of my 3 births, the most 'unnatural' one has been the one to heal me and my family.