This is the story of lovely, strong Mum Naomi, who wanted to share her story about her experience of birth trauma and how we can feel let down by those who are there to care for us and the system they are part of.
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I was planning a home birth and went in to labour 2 weeks early. All was progressing well and the home birth midwives were caring for me at home. After some 24 hours everything slowed, I was examined as I was in the birth pool and it had previously looked like birth might have been imminent. The presentation of my son was hard for the midwife to determine and as my contractions had slowed it was decided that I should transfer in to hospital. My waters had also broken the day before.
When I got to hospital, a scan revealed that my son was extended breech and I was asked for consent for a caesarean section, at this point I was not contracting and felt I would give consent in case a c section was needed, but thought I would have time to think about things.
I had been admitted to a side room on the postnatal ward so when my contractions started again with pace I had no pain relief and no midwife caring for me as I was not on Delivery Suite. The anesthetist came to see me as it was clear things were progressing rapidly and they wanted to get me in to theatre. He noticed within my notes that I had been diagnosed with the neurological condition ‘transverse myelitis’ which developed in pregnancy and affected me from my lumbar spine down. He was not happy due to this to site a spinal anesthetic and therefore my only option was a general anesthetic.
By this point I was fully dilated and pushing so was rushed in to theatre, my husband was put in a separate room away from me and I was surrounded by theatre staff telling me to lay still on my back. I was desperately trying instinctively to get on all fours and push my son out, I was discouraged by them and examined and catheterised, re-consented, which consisted of my screaming at them to make all this stop and desperately calling for my husband who could hear from down the corridor. I then had a mask held over my face and sodium citrate poured down my throat before I was knocked out and my son was delivered. I have never felt so disempowered, violated and vulnerable.
“It is worse because I am a midwife, who knew more and trusted her colleagues to support her.”
It was some 7 hours after delivery before my disorientation and agitation from the anesthetic and pain relief started to pass and I was aware of what was going around me. I have no recollection of being skin to skin, meeting my son, giving him his first feed, being weighed etc, my first memory is of him dressed and being held by my husband.
I went on to develop a wound infection and double mastitis which ultimately meant I stopped feeding my son. I have had bonding issues, flashbacks, anxiety and insomnia. The impact on my marriage and relationship with my husband has been huge and my journey into motherhood has been monumentally affected. I am not the sort of mother I know I would have been had my start on the path been different but I did not see my son leave my body and I will never get over that. I have been diagnosed with PTSD and am having counselling but I know I am on a lengthy road to recovery. I do not want to have any more children and I always thought I would have 2 or 3.
My son is healthy and thriving but some days I do not feel any connection to him and the anger at being robbed of a vaginal birth and a different start is overwhelming. I do not believe I needed to have a section and now have a permanent scar on my body to remind me constantly. There was no threat to either of our health, no contraindication for a vaginal breech birth and consequently my son had to be resuscitated at birth and missed the vital immediate post birth maternal interactions as I was under general anesthetic.
It is worse because I am a midwife, who knew more and trusted her colleagues to support her – at home this was absolutely the case but when I transferred to hospital the system that I work in let me down. How can I forgive them for that? Ultimately this is going to cost me my career at this point in time as I cannot bear to work for them. I am taking a break from midwifery to concentrate on healing myself as a mother, but it has fired up a passion in me for getting involved in helping women affected by birth trauma as I now know first hand how devastating it can be.