Birth Warrior and A Traumatic Birth
**Trigger warning** premature baby, unexpected hospital birth, tearing, episiotomy, forceps delivery, pph, newborn jaundice and hospital stay.
Hello everyone, I posted a few weeks ago having just been through what I would consider quite a difficult and traumatic labour. I received so much love and support from everyone and was encouraged to write the experience down and maybe share it if it felt right.
I’m now 3 weeks pp and feel like I’ve been able to start processing my labour and birth. It was basically the opposite of what we’d planned and hoped for, and we’re still reeling a bit from it all but sharing this story now feels quite therapeutic and part of the healing process. It’s a LONG one, so thank you if you manage to make it all the way through!
💙 Due date 18/9/20
💙 Born 26/8/20
💙 Prodromal labour from 34+3, born 36+5
💙 41.5 hours labour (plus 2 weeks prodromal labour)
💙 Plan: home water birth with tens and gas and air, minimal intervention
💙 Outcome: hospital birth, lots of unplanned intervention
💙 7lb 8
So, in hindsight I think my labour story began roughly 2 weeks before I actually went into labour. At 34+3 weeks I attended triage with abdo pain and a bloody show. I was told that the ctg was picking up contractions and I had a positive fibronectin test. I decided to go home against medical advice and monitor the situation closely.
The contractions did ease but from that point onwards I experienced regular bouts of painful contractions at roughly the same times each day which eased after 20-30 minutes. I’m now pretty sure this was prodromal labour.
At around 11pm at 36+3 weeks (24/8) the contractions started up but did not ease as they usually did. We were due a midwife appt the next day to discuss our home birth preferences but unfortunately it wasn’t to be and the contractions got steadily more intense, up to 4 minutes apart, to the point where I couldn’t talk through them. My husband helped me with my breathing and called the midwives who advised attending triage.
At around 2am (25/8) we were assessed in triage by a very unsympathetic and uncommunicative midwife. I was 1cm dilated, my cervix was fully effaced and I was told I was like going into labour and would need to be admitted straight to the labour ward. I was offered pain relief (midwife pushed pethidine but eventually agreed to dihydrocodeine) which took about an hour to arrive. During that hour I paced the ward and stood next to the closed entrance doors just looking pitifully at my husband on the other side who was so desperate to be with me. I felt so frightened and vulnerable and cried and shouted a lot, but there was little in the way of emotional support from the midwife who actually left the ward unattended several times.
Eventually I was admitted to the labour ward and my husband was allowed to stay which was an overwhelming relief. He didn’t leave my side from that point onwards until baby was born, and fortunately most of the midwife care I received from that point on was excellent. I was advised on the labour ward that I would need to birth there as baby was technically preterm.
At midday I consented to an examination and was found to be 2cm dilated and my cervix was soft and shortened. I was quite disheartened but reassured by the midwives that my body was doing what it needed and I was making good progress. I’d had gas and air and dihydrocodeine up until this point although was told to use the gas and air sparingly as I was not really dilated enough to have it. Around this time I also accepted pethidine as it had been 24 hours without sleep and 12 hours of painful/exhausting contractions. I managed to get about 1 hour’s sleep with hubby napping next to me. I felt a bit calmer knowing he was there and with the pain relief kicking in, but also terribly apprehensive about being in hospital and how long labour might potentially last. I did my best, with the help of my husband and the midwives, to stay calm and positive and to remember my breathing techniques which were so helpful throughout.
4 hours later I consented to another examination which showed I was about 4cm dilated but contractions had reduced to about 2 in 10. I was allowed off the monitoring and went for a walk around hospital. On return the contractions had sped up slightly and I spent a while on my feet and bouncing on a ball.
Between this time and about 12am (26/8, 24 hours after start of contractions) I was sure I must have made some more progress, however it turned out I was still only 4cm dilated. I felt very deflated and all my reserves suddenly disappeared and I completely crumbled. I felt like I couldn’t manage much more of the pain and couldn’t believe I still had 6cm to go. I had previously clearly stated I would absolutely not accept an epidural, but after discussion with my husband (who advocated for me beautifully throughout) and the most wonderful midwife I agreed to accept one. It provided much needed pain relief but caused significant psychological distress which didn’t truly wear off until a few days after it was removed. I was constantly frightened of potential long term neurological damage and freaked out by the lack of sensation. My right leg became extremely swollen and much more affected than my left and my blood pressure became raised for the rest of the labour. I experienced significant tremors from the epidural which were not explained to me until I demanded to speak to the doctor who had inserted it. Ultimately I couldn’t have laboured without it but I absolutely hated every moment of having it in.
At about 6am I was 6cm dilated and agreed to have my waters broken. I was advised that baby’s head was not fully engaged and he was sitting in an awkward transverse position. The hope was that contractions would turn baby naturally but we discussed the possible need for a syntocin drip or C section.
Several hours later the drip was started to try and speed up contractions as they were still only 3 in 10 and they needed to be stronger to help baby turn. I was advised to wait two hours and allow the epidural to wear off if possible.
Two hours later (about 36 hours after the start of labour) I was 8cm. The epidural had worn off and contractions were back to back so the drip was slowed down. I finally made it to 10cm after about 39 hours and managed about two hours of pushing between 2 and 4pm which got baby’s head into a better position but ultimately wasn’t enough to turn him. There were concerns at that point that baby had become distressed, fortunately he’d turned enough for forceps to be an option rather than going straight to a C section, so the already present medical team performed a partial episiotomy and the baby was finally born at 4.30pm weighing a very healthy 7lb 8. Obviously forceps and episiotomies were not part of our birth plan and felt quite intrusive and brutal. I keep needing to remind myself that they got our baby into the world safely and not berate myself for not being able to do it without assistance.
We were allowed skin to skin immediately post delivery and my husband was able to cut the cord once it had stopped pulsing, however baby was then taken for checks due to concerns that he’d become distressed during labour. The placenta came very abruptly causing a 3rd degree tear and I experienced a post partum haemorrhage which required an injection and infusion plus uterine massage to manage. Fortunately this was enough to get it under control. I received stitches there and then using my epidural for pain control. My catheter was not reinserted as it should have been meaning I was still mostly numb when I needed a wee an hour after delivery and had to hobble to the toilet.
Soon after birth we were transferred to the delivery suite and my husband had to leave us which we both found heartbreaking.
We remained in hospital for 4 days after our baby was born as he had low blood sugars, jaundice and a suspected infection. My blood pressure was also still high. Hubby was able to visit for a few hours a day which we found incredibly difficult as all we really wanted was to hunker down as a new family and get to know him. We were significantly sleep deprived, having had only about 2 hours of sleep throughout the 41.5 hour labour and 1 or 2 hours a night during the hospital stay. Our baby needed phototherapy, antibiotics and 4 hourly checks/bloods for several days meaning our physical contact was extremely limited. I found it incredibly upsetting watching other people handle him and cause him pain and distress. I was unable to console him or cuddle him whilst he was under the lights (about 36 hours in total), apart from for 30 minutes at each scheduled feed. We had to give formula alongside expressed colostrum as he needed high volumes of fluid to flush the jaundice and resolve his low blood sugars and I felt awful that I couldn’t sustain him with breastfeeding. He would fall asleep the minute we got any skin to skin because he was so relieved to be touching me. The midwives therefore encouraged me to feed him at arms length to stop him from getting too much comfort and going to sleep on me. Honestly at that point I felt like my heart was actually breaking and it still makes me tearful to think of how much I couldn’t do for my baby when he so desperately needed me. Ultimately I think it did shorten our hospital stay because he recovered fantastically but it was an almost unbearable process.
We’re home now and doing pretty well although it’s still early days. I felt very low and overwhelmed initially and realise that was likely a combination of coming to terms with the traumatic and unexpected nature of the labour and birth, and also learning how to accommodate how much love I feel for him. It’s unlike any love I’ve ever felt for anything and my heart is having to make room so that it feels comfortable and not painfully all encompassing. I would do it all again for him, but thank goodness I don’t have to.
Thank you so much to Sam for the Home Birth Support Group UK, it’s truly amazing. And thank you to everyone in it for the love, support and understanding I was shown when I initially posted about how difficult I’d found labour. You’re all so strong and amazing and it’s been an absolute privilege to read about everyone’s experiences.
They Said To Me Says
This is such a heart breaking story of needless intervention and clearly shows “you can have your partner for active labour”, is extremely distressing.
We are heartbroken reading this – what an absolute birth warrior, we are awe that our poster got a baby out of your vagina against that backdrop.
As well as pondering if dates were out, we think a lot of what happened was down to a cascade of intervention. It was a poor decision to admit and separate this family at 1cm and everything that followed came as a result of poor decision making by staff.
We were expecting the outcome to be a caesarean and this woman managed against incredible odds.
Also the recovery from forceps is hard – it can take longer than a caesarean so be really very gentle with yourself if you have had a forceps birth.
Thank you for sharing your experience and sending love and hugest congratulations. Welcome to the world to the baby you worked so hard for.
Please help us raise awareness and stop this from happening to anyone else, by sharing, donating and following our pages.