This is the moving story of a wonderful, brave Mum, who wanted to share her story about her experience of birth trauma. It truly highlights the need for clear communication in birth and also the need to respect women’s wishes.
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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In 2013 I fell pregnant for the second time, because of my previous terrible experience I wanted things to be different. I explained to every doctor and midwife I came into contact with that I really wanted a home birth this time. I felt that in our own home I would feel safe and relaxed and it would be the most conducive environment for me to give birth naturally and to have that wonderful experience that I was robbed of previously, like being the first person to hold my baby and having that initial skin-to-skin contact.
However, I was told that this would not be ‘allowed’ because of my previous section. As soon as I went into labour they wanted me in hospital and strapped to monitoring. The thought of this terrified me and made me feel tight and anxious. I was quite far along in my pregnancy when I discovered a supportive midwife who said she would happily support my choice for a home birth.
So a home birth was planned I had my birthing pool delivered and all of the midwife’s necessary supplies were on hand in our home awaiting the impending arrival. Again I had another straightforward pregnancy and had kept fit and active the whole way through. At 37 weeks and 2 days I went into labour in the early morning same as before. I paced around our home and my Mum came over and picked up our eldest daughter to take her to nursery. Things were going well, I had candles and an incense burner going with lovely lavender oil in it. Again, as before I couldn’t bear to be touched, I just needed to be left alone.
When the midwife was called to our home, it wasn’t the same lovely supportive midwife I had dealt with during my pregnancy. She came in and told me to lie on my back in order that she could examine me, I told her how difficult this was for me in terms of being excruciatingly painful but she insisted. So I did my best and let her do her thing. It was noted that I was about 7cm dilated. A couple hours later of me pacing and moaning on all floors on the floor they wanted to examine me again. It was felt that I wasn’t as far along as they had hoped, they also had concerns about the babies heartbeat. As part of the deal of having a home birth I had agreed that if the midwife felt there were any issues and that I needed to go into hospital that I would go willingly and trust their opinion.
So and ambulance was called and I was bundled off to hospital, I was very upset and the drive in was one of the most uncomfortable ever. When I got to hospital things went downhill again. I was taken into a room with more than one midwife I don’t know how many exactly. I just remember being man handled and spoken to roughly. My needs or desires were not asked or taken into account at all they just wanted to get me flat on my back and on the bed again to examine me. I tried to explain that I couldn’t do this because I was in too much pain. But they insisted they couldn’t give me anymore pain relief until I had been examined. I finally relented and managed to get on the bed to let them do it and then I insisted on an epidural. I was told the anaesthetist was in surgery so tough I would have to wait. My serene home birth experience had well and truly flown out of the window. At this point I just wanted a c-section as I thought if I wasn’t able to do it on my own at home there would be no way I could do it now in this horrible environment.
“At no time did anyone sit me down and explain to me what had happened and why.”
I eventually got my epidural and hours passed, still I wasn’t making progress as they had hoped, my waters still hadn’t gone. About 8pm or so I think they said I was 10cm and I could start to push. I did this for about an hour or so and nothing was happening. Then the obstetrician said something and left the room. The midwife said to me ‘is that ok with you? Do you understand what he is going to do?’ and I said no he hasn’t spoken to me, I don’t know what he is going to do. She told me he wanted to use forceps to get my baby out. I had it written explicitly in my birth plan that I did not want forceps under any circumstances. My midwife ran out the room to get him to tell him this. He then came back in and in our opinion verbally bullied us into agreeing to do forceps. I kept saying I didn’t want this, that I wanted a c-section. He said no, if he did forceps my baby would be with me in 20 minutes it would all be over and that a section would take much longer etc and much longer recovery. Also, just to note that this conversation was taking place with him at the foot of my bed where I was naked from the waist down and my legs were spread open! Eventually because I was physically and emotionally exhausted I relented and said yes.
I was given an episiotomy and told to push on the next contraction, I think it took a few contractions and pushes and I was exerting so much effort I was vomiting at the same time. Finally my little girl was placed on to my chest and for a few moments I experienced that rush and joy that I missed out on the first time. This lovely moment was short lived because as I was holding her I suddenly started to shake and not feel very well. I asked my husband to take her from me because I was scared I would drop her. Suddenly all the overhead lights went on and there were loads gowned people in the room. I had no idea what was happening and no one was telling me. I felt myself drifting away. There was only one doctor who bent down next to my head to look at me and ask me if I was OK. I remember thinking what a silly question this was to ask because I definitely didn’t feel OK and I don’t imagine I looked it either. It was like I was at the end of a long tunnel and he was quite distant. He just told me not to worry and that everyone was there to help me.
After about 45 minutes (I only know how long this was because I have subsequently requested and read my notes) I was all stitched up and the obstetrician simply left the room without saying one word to us about what had just happened. I was given a bed bath and then taken to recovery. The next day I needed a blood transfusion as I had lost a lot of blood. Thankfully again my baby was fine and I had another girl.
I wasn’t able to breastfeed this time as I was in so much pain, discomfort and I was anaemic even after the blood transfusion.
After a few days at home I discovered that as a result of the forceps I had been left incontinent. This was devastating to me and not what I needed at all. I managed to get to see the physiotherapist at the hospital and I went through around 18 months of physiotherapy treatment which helped but not totally. Now almost 2 years on I have had surgery to help alleviate the incontinence which has helped but is not a 100% fixed.
For the past 9 months I have been receiving counselling from a psychologist at the hospital to help with the birth trauma. This has helped a lot but it is a daily struggle.
The incontinence has affected every area of my life, my relationships with my daughters and my husband. It as knocked my confidence, impeding my social life and in the early days left me housebound as I always had to be in easy reach of a bathroom. It left me quite inactive as the slightest movement made me have an accident and this impacted on my general health physically and emotionally. So much for the doctor saying to me it would all be over in 20 minutes! I am still to this day dealing with the aftermath of it.
At no time did anyone sit me down and explain to me what had happened and why. Even taking the time to do this I feel would have helped me a little with trying to come to terms with it.
When my second daughter was only 3 months old my Mum was diagnosed with incurable cancer, she died 3 months later. She was my main support through all this. So I have lost my main person who supported me through this. It is a hard thing to openly discuss with friends even close friends. So I do find it quite isolating.
It has left me questioning my judgement and left me wishing I had an elective c-section with my second and I probably wouldn’t have gone through what I have.