It’s over three years now since I gave birth to my second son, and I STILL can’t watch “One Born Every Minute” as I find it sends me into floods of tears which is NOT a good look (I’m an ugly crier). With the benefit of hindsight I can look back reasonably objectively about my birth experiences at Airedale Hospital and ask myself, “was I well cared for?” The answer would be, some of the time I was, but the care was also sometimes lacking. Here’s my story…
My First Son – May 2008
I had quite a straight forward pregnancy up until my 20 week scan. The sonographer mentioned something about a low lying placenta but I didn’t take much notice and just ended up skipping out of the place thinking, “la la la it’s a boy!”
It wasn’t until my next midwife appointment that I realised the full implications of what was happening and the midwife said, “you do realise you are going to have a c-section don’t you?”. Apparently the wording on the scan report “placenta is occluding the os” was quite serious. I couldn’t believe what she was saying, there was no way I was having a section!
However events took over, and at 34 weeks I was sitting down to a nice dinner when I felt a “gush”. I thought my waters had gone, but when I looked down it wasn’t water everywhere, but red blood. My husband and I completely panicked and I immediately thought the worst, as blood is the last thing you want to see when you are pregnant. I rang ward 21 at Airedale who told me to ring 999 which I did (I have no memory of where my husband was!) I just remember crying waiting for the ambulance as the phone operator kept telling me to feel for the head. Why do they always say that?
I had no idea that I might expect to bleed so heavily and when I arrived as hospital I was very frightened and upset. I was received in hospital by lots of people which was reassuring in a way, but in other ways made me worry even more. I was seen by a doctor who asked me to sign a consent form for a hysterectomy if they couldn’t stop the bleeding. I was 29. As this was my first baby and we planned to have more this was quite a blow. I remember thinking to myself, “this is not happening to me” and feeling a general sense of not really being there. I think it was a coping mechanism.
Eventually the bleeding stopped, they had this mobile scanning machine (so when they tell you you have to wait ages for a scan they do have this machine available!) which showed the baby was ok and not in distress which was a huge relief.
To cut a long story short I was sent home and told to not leave the area which was annoying as we had booked to go to Center Parcs though I think this was for the best as things turned out.
Two weeks later I was holding a watering can when I felt the same “gush”. I rang 999 immediately and this time I knew they would deliver my baby that day. It was strange to think that only hours earlier I was having lunch in Emporio Italia in Ilkley utterly unaware that I would become a mum on that same day. I was 36 weeks pregnant. In the ambulance I felt sort of resigned to my fate as I knew I would be rushed to theatre. I was crying quietly and I still have flashbacks to that journey now and dream about it from time to time.
When we arrived there was a big rush and I kept hearing things like “grade 4 placenta praevia, severe bleeding, hysterectomy” etc. My husband later told me they thought there was a strong chance I would lose my life.
As I was waiting for surgery I suddenly started having strong contractions (to top it off). I was wheeled in for the spinal block and had a strong one as I was waiting for it to take effect. One of the midwives had her hand near my mouth and for some reason I will never understand I suddenly felt the urge to bite her, she shouted, “she’s going to bite me!” The surgery went to plan although I was very shakey and shivery from the anaesthetic. When my son was born he didn’t cry for quite a while and they didn’t show him to me, I was freaking out thinking the worst as there seemed to be another sudden flurry of activity. Suddenly I heard him cry and it made me cry too, I remember shouting, “where’s my baby?!” They weighed him, he was 6lb 5oz at 36 weeks. Unfortunately in the panic not only had my husband forgotten the camera, but also my bag, so my beloved baby was dressed in clothes from the charity basket, I will never forgive myself for that.
Me looking sore and sad.
I think in hindsight after his birth I was really traumatised. I lost the ability to make friends and talk normally to people. I felt really isolated and alone. I was very very tired for a long time. I thought I would never feel normal again, then along came…
My Second Son – February 2011
My second birth was totally different. This time there was no low lying placenta, which I had been really worried about. I was under consultant lead care which I felt was unnecessary as there was nothing else about my pregnancy that was high risk aside from the fact I had a previous section.
At 40 weeks +3 I started to feel very “icky” and had bad period pains. I had had a sweep the day before and also electro acupuncture which I highly recommend. That night I started to have mild contractions and also brown spotting, but not a show as such (in fact I never had a show at all). The next day I watched a film and lay on the sofa for the whole day, occasionally bouncing on a birthing ball. It was strange – for 8 or 9 minutes I felt completely normal, then I would have a really painful contraction for 30 sections, then I felt normal again and could go about my normal business. The tiring thing is that you know it won’t be long before another one comes round again. I took a couple of paracetamol (useless) and had a bath. At 5pm I rang labour ward and said I couldn’t take it anymore and could I come in. We went in (yes in rush hour traffic) and was told I was in early labour! I nearly cried, how could that be early labour! I said I couldn’t take the pain anymore but they said I was only 1-2 cm dilated and had a long way to go. The contractions were very strong even at that stage so this was pretty disheartening. Anyway they gave me some Codeine and sent me home (arggh!). I paced the house til 2am in agony, I had no idea it would be THAT painful. All hynobirthing techniques etc went out of the window and I became a primeval beast. I only spoke when absolutely necessary and apparently had a funny look on my face!
We went back in at 2am, they said I was about 3cm and I thought they must be joking. I refused to go home and told my husband to go home and get some sleep as I just wanted to be alone to deal with the pain. I somehow managed to get to sleep and just sort of lay writhing around in a triage room. I felt forgotten about and pressed the bell about 8.30am as I felt like that something was happening, I had been entirely alone from around 3am to this time. I told them I needed to push and they said, “hang on the doctor will examine you”. It’s a bit difficult to hang on in that state but I did and he exclaimed, “I can feel the head”. ARGHH!
They dragged/pushed me into a delivery suite and tried to get me to go on my back on the bed but I refused. I also kept ripping off the heart monitor which was promptly put back on again. My husband had not arrived yet as when he rang the hospital at 9am he was told I was still in early labour!
Thankfully an experienced midwife then arrived – she had read my birth plan and realised I wanted an active labour so brought a yoga mat for me to kneel on. I refused to put my feet in stirrups or to have an assisted delivery as I knew I could do it myself. However I kept saying things like, “I’m so frightened” which probably didn’t help but I was so scared of the pain of the baby coming out. About 15 minutes before he came out I went into “the zone” and started to really relax into the pain and focus on what was about to happen. One of the things that surprised me about giving birth was that I had no idea that when you push the head goes out then pops back in again! This kept happening and I started thinking I was never going to get him out. I just kept pushing and pushing and eventually his head crowned. I was told to pant but I was so desperate to get him out I just kept pushing. He slithered out and I was the first person to hold him. I was utterly elated and couldn’t believe I had done it without even gas and air all on my own. My husband had arrived in the nick of time and was there to cut the cord. The midwife said it was a textbook VBAC and I felt so proud of myself!. There was a bit of trouble getting the placenta out but I just pushed and it popped out. I needed two stitches, they actually asked did I want to bother with anaesthetic (erm yes please I’m not that mental). I was actually quite impressed how much the staff had stuck to my birth plan and felt really empowered. This time I got to dress him in his own clothes and got lots of pictures. No trauma, no drama just a precious baby weighing 8lb 7oz, born February 2011.