This is the story of a Lovely Michelle and her experience of birth trauma and how it left its mark and lead to PTSD and PND.
It is so moving and really shows the impact of an emergency situation and how important it can be to find answers after a difficult birth.
Please be aware that some stories may trigger difficult memories and emotions so remember your own self care as everyone will be at different stages of healing.
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My name is Michelle and I am writing my birth story in the hope that it will help other women, as well as their partners who have experienced a birth that wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
This was my first pregnancy, which ended in an emergency caesarean section and a postpartum haemorrhage leaving me deeply upset and traumatised. I developed post-natal depression (PND) and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I have written my birth story as I remember it and what I now know are the missing parts of the puzzle, that followed afterwards, to help with my understanding of my birth experience.
At two weeks overdue, I was booked in for an induction. I had been transferred from the Induction ward to Labour ward due to decelerations with the baby heart rate. After 23 hours of labour, the night shift midwife handed over to the two day shift midwives. Within minutes things changed…
The monitor for the contractions is alarming; this is a protective measure in place to alert midwives to an issue. Baby’s heart rate is dropping. The midwife says “Listen to me and do what I say!” I am starting to panic, but trying to concentrate on breathing the Entonox. The Midwife says very matter of fact “get on your left side now!” There is a short pause “No that’s not working, move to your right side now!” Another pause. “No that hasn’t worked.” The other midwife had gone out the room and comes back with eight people running into the room. The pressing of the emergency button alerts all teams. The Consultant looks at the monitor recording the contractions, he checks me and says “Baby’s heart rate has dropped, we need to go to theatre to get baby out now.” It is all very matter of fact, but what I know now is the Medical staff work to guidelines. My baby’s heart rate was low (bottom of the trace for three and half minutes). A decision has to be made by the Medical team by three minutes, as to the course of action they need to take. My baby’s life was threatened and at risk. I am thinking I may not see my Husband again. Will I survive? Will my baby survive? A Midwife is telling my Husband that he can’t go with me to theatre, as I am being put under a general anaesthetic. With that the staff take the drips and wheel me out of the room. I am holding the gas and air to my face, really focusing on my Husband and I tell him “I love you”. He replies “I love you too!” I feel intense fear, horror and out of control of the situation. What I know now is I gave verbal consent to the Medical Team to step in to help me and my baby. I will see Dave in 15 minutes, as baby’s heart rate started improving and they allowed my Husband to be present at the birth.
I am taken to theatre at speed and my son was born by emergency caesarean section. There was no time to get changed into a gown; the caesarean was performed whilst wearing my night dress. I had a wider incision than normal, as during the procedure I had a tear on my right side. I was told I had lost quite a lot of blood due to a postpartum haemorrhage and advised a blood transfusion is recommended.
I was discharged from hospital two days later. I felt completely overwhelmed over the next few days and weeks – trying to adapt to life with a new baby, recovering from major surgery and I was anaemic. I found myself crying for no apparent reason. I struggled to eat, felt sick, I could not sleep and felt incredibly anxious. I kept having flashbacks about the moment I was rushed out the room to theatre, the lights on the ceiling being wheeled to theatre and a strange spiral flashback ending with me on the table in theatre with all these people around me, medical equipment and bright lights. I hated having friends and family coming over to visit.
“Are you enjoying being a Mum?” That was difficult for me to answer, to be honest I felt no joy at all. I just wanted to escape. I really struggled to go out the house with the baby and would avoid this as much as I could. I remember saying to my Husband “Can we take the baby back?”
I suffered from missing gaps in my memory, bombarding my Husband with questions in an attempt to fill in the missing bits of the puzzle. I also felt I had missed out on those initial bonding moments. I don’t remember holding my baby; I was too weak to hold my baby to do skin to skin. What I know now is Dave had the opportunity to hold our baby to do skin on skin. I don’t remember the first breastfeed. What I know now, is the Midwife did place our baby on me and he did crawl up to the breast to suckle (which made me smile and gave me a warm feeling inside), but I was too weak to hold him.
Three weeks later the Health Visitor came over, asked me how I was feeling and asked if I would mind completing the questionnaire. She told me that each time she saw me, I was becoming less animated. The Health Visitor was really supportive and strongly recommended I make an appointment to see the GP. I saw the GP and was diagnosed with postnatal depression, along with post-traumatic stress disorder. The GP prescribed a high dose of anti-depressants and referred me to the Perinatal mental health team for more specialist advice and support. I received one to one cognitive behavioural therapy. A debrief with the Maternity Unit was arranged, which really helped a lot. It filled in a lot of missing gaps. On leaving the unit, the Senior Midwife gave me a hug and this really meant a lot to me, like my birth experience was acknowledged. A simple gesture.
The birth has left its mark on me, which I don’t think will ever go away. Over time the emotions around my birth experience have become less intrusive and I am on the path to recovery. I feel so lucky to have an understanding Husband and an amazing ten month old little boy called Ethan, who I love dearly and would not change for the world.
(PS. Please know that with the right help and support, you will get better. You are not alone.)