After a long long wait here is the second of my promised guest posts. Unlike my own birth story which I still view as incredibly positive despite its flaws, this guest post describes the experience of feeling unsupported and the impact of poor care on a labouring woman.
My friend’s story:
After losing my plug on the Thursday evening the midwives told me to carry on as normal as it can go weeks before you give birth. I didn’t really think anything more of it as I wasn’t due for another few weeks, but then on the Saturday and Sunday I had quite a bit of lower back ache. I started my maternity leave on the Monday and I went shopping in town with my friend, who commented on how tight my bump felt.
It was about 10pm on Monday night when I felt like I needed the toilet, but when I got to the bathroom my waters broke. I rang the assessment unit, who told me to put a pad on and see how I felt in an hour before calling them back. I rang my Mum as she lived 90mins away and she said she would come over, but during the time it took her to get here I had period-type pains and mild contractions every ten minutes or so, so the assessment centre told me to bring my bags and go in.
It took an hour to get to the hospital and in that time my contractions were roughly every 6 minutes. I was hooked up to a monitor for half an hour and given an internal, which is when I was told I really was in labour – I was 3cm and it was too late for them to stop it. Mentally, I was nowhere near prepared to hear that.
When I was taken upstairs to the labour ward I was assigned a midwife but she made me feel awful, telling me “it will hurt, it’s labour!” when I complained of the pain. I was hooked up to a monitor again and left to it for a while. As the pain increased they gave me some diamorphine which really helped. From 3am to 9am I went from 3cm to 9cm with no fuss. Luckily during this time the midwives had changed shift and my new one was lovely – I felt much stronger than I had with the previous one.
I started getting the urge to push – it takes over you completely! – but when I was examined again they discovered that although my cervix was fully dilated there was a part of it that had not come away properly. I was hooked up to a drip to speed it up and told not to push. By this point the contractions were so strong and coming every minute and a half, so I just couldn’t do anything but push. My pain relief had worn off and they couldn’t give me any more as I was so close to delivery. Unfortunately, that stage actually carried on for another three hours, leaving me pushing, in agony and leading my baby’s heart rate to drop.
Eventually the decision was made to take me to theatre. As I’ve heard so often from other women, someone else needed the theatre before me so I was left to wait again. The midwife was great and argued with the doctor to let me have some pain relief as I was really struggling to cope and with every push the baby was in danger.
I was finally given an epidural and the relief was immense. The midwives changed shifts and the next one was absolutely amazing. She gave me an hour to dilate properly and manually helped my cervix to open. Thanks to the epidural I didn’t feel a thing! An hour later the consultant told me I had an hour to push the baby out before they would have to take me to theatre. I started pushing but the baby was in a funny position and got stuck. The midwife was pushing and pulling but he just wouldn’t budge. Then his heart rate dropped and I was rushed to theatre.
The consultant said she would give the forceps one try but that if it didn’t work I would need a c-section. I was given a spinal and an episiotomy and with that my baby was delivered – perfect but for some bruising, a lump on his head and a bit of a cone-head from the forceps.
The long labour meant that he needed IV antiobiotics as my waters had broken so far before I gave birth. He also needed phototherapy but considering he was four weeks early he didn’t look like a premature baby. The general consensus was that my dates must have been wrong and that what we thought had been my last period had actually been implantation bleeding.
I was so disappointed that I wasn’t allowed a water birth. The hospital I delivered in rarely do them as they’re too busy and understaffed. I would never go there again. As well as having that decision taken away from me I was also made to wait over two hours both times I asked for pain relief. I never felt in control and being hooked up to monitors meant I couldn’t move around to get comfortable.
I felt as though I was pushed into having an epidural without fully understanding the implications. I didn’t know it would affect my ability to push or my muscle tone. At the time it felt like it was just what I needed, but now I think I probably would have fully dilated myself eventually and should have been allowed to manage my pain in other ways.
I’m still having problems as a result of the epidural. I have areas of numbness and a painful scar from the episiotomy. I’ve only had sex twice in nine months.
But the worst thing for me was how frightened I was made to feel. Being told I needed a c-section but then being told I couldn’t have one because someone else had got to theatre first was terrifying. My baby’s heart rate was dropping and I was being told it was urgent, but at the same time I wasn’t being treated as though I was important. It was the most important day of my life but I was just left in fear and pain.
Even though I know the risks and I know how much your birth plan can be changed at the last minute I fully intend to have a home birth next time. I feel as though the problems I had were the result of poor care and if I can avoid medical intervention next time I will be much happier. Since reading more about anterior cervical lips I feel as though I was let down and that my birth experience could have been much better.
The care you’re given and the way you’re treated can make such a difference to your birth story, and that’s one story you carry with you forever.