Wednesday 8 June 2011

The Birth Experience I Did Not Want...

I have been waiting to write this post for a very long time and today feels right.  I think I am finally ready to get everything out. You see I was traumatised by the birth of my first child, JJ back in 2003. I knew back then something was wrong but I did not know what and being the logical kind of person I am, I just pushed my feelings aside and told myself to stop being silly. 

However, now spurred on by many inspirational friends I feel I should and can share my story. Someone else may be reading this and it may resonate with them and they may be reassured to know they are not alone and that it is OK to be really sad after the birth of your awaited and loved child.  Giving birth can be a really big deal and it can effect you in so many ways.    

So, roll back to 2003 and I find out I am pregnant in late January when my period does not arrive.  Dh and I are ecstatic, if a little surprised.  I came off the pill in October after 10 years and we expected it to take us a long time to fall pregnant - not so. We just moved into a bombsite in September 2002 and now we are expecting our first baby - arrgghh, better get Dad up here quick to make the house good.  Wonderful Dad obliges.
The pregnancy goes really well, no problems, text book, all according to plan. Our baby is due 1st October 2003. Off I go to ante-natal classes, I read every pregnancy and birth book there is, I talk to lots of woman who have children, I go to breastfeeding classes, you get the picture I was a model pregnant student.

My birth plan must have been written from about my 20th week pregnant, well the books tell you to be prepared, right?  So what does the plan say Mich?  The same as many first time expectant mums plans I assume. Labour will come on naturally and progress in a steady manner, I will stay home as long as I feel I can, taking warm baths, using my tens machine and getting dh to rub my back (are you laughing yet?) then vaginal birth in the water with soft music playing in the new maternity suite at our local hospital, dh and my Mum to be present.  Minimal intervention, no epidural, no drugs ideally, immediate skin to skin contact.

I wanted the fairytale, no less and I was quite entitled to desire that. What no-one prepared me for, was the most important thing. That you have to build flexibility and room to change into a birth plan.

Well it was at the end of the September, I was just days away from D day and ready to pop.  JJ was engaged and for some reasons I got impatient and decided that I would like a September baby, so the obvious thing to do is sort out your garage while hubby is at work and to clean it top to bottom - obvious, yeah?  I do that and get showered and changed for my midwife appointment. I attend as normal and then oh dear, my blood pressure is sky high and what's that?  a trace of protein in my urine and check out my legs, ohh is that oedema?  I thought it was just a normal part of every pregnancy, I shouldn't be retaining that much fluid?  Oh dear.

'Go straight to the maternity unit now' I hear the midwife tell me, 'you have pre-eclampsia'.  No, that can not be right, I am having a text book pregnancy me!  Off I go, to be told I have to stay in overnight and they need to get my blood pressure under control. The next evening I am being discharged with my tablets to control my blood pressure and orders to relax and do nothing. If my labour has not started naturally in the next 48 hours I need to come back in and be induced. My heart sinks, all I have ever heard about induction are bad stories, this was something I really wanted to avoid.

Raspberry leaf tea, curry and pineapple seem to do no good and to be honest I could not face the sex, so it is now Friday night and no labour has started.  I turn up at the hospital at 10pm as instructed, by 11.30pm I am tired and still sitting in the waiting room, I want to sleep!  Ohh whoops they appear to have forgotten to hand me over at shift change and the night shift know nothing about me.  By midnight I have a bed and dh is kissed goodnight.  They check me and I am 1cm dilated, so pessary number one is inserted and I am put on the monitor, past 1am and finally they allow me to try and sleep.... I don't.  I'm excited I will get to meet my baby tomorrow. 7am, the midwife appears and pessary number two is inserted, 'have some breakfast she says, I'll put you on the monitor in a bit'.  A bit turns out to be a long time...

Dh arrives about 11am and the pain has started to kick in, labour is here.  'Put my tens machine on me please' I beg. It is getting very painful, very quickly.  Dh goes off to find a midwife as he has no idea and when she looks at my notes you can see the horrified expression that I had a pessary inserted about 4-5 hours ago and I was not put on the monitor.  So she straps me up and I can not have my tens machine, I sit there shuffling about and deep breathing in agony.

I send dh off to the shop for essential chocolate and the midwife comes to look at the monitor print-out. Hang on why is she pressing the buzzer?  'Get the Registrar here now!' Oh darn I can feel the panic rising, 'what is going on?' I whisper.  My baby is having deceleration's, he is not happy, we need to get him out now by C section, they think he has swallowed mecconium.  My bag is put on my bed and I am wheeled off to the delivery suite right then.  Wait, I want my hubby, he is not here, I can not give birth yet .  Apparently no time to delay, we have to move now, let's hope he is back by the time I am prepped for theatre.

Thank God dh is directed in just as I am wheeled into theatre, they attempt to give me a spinal block and boy does it hurt but nothing, so they try another and another and another.  Four of them now, four injections in my spine and none of them working.  What is going on?  OK epidural it is, 'stop shaking' I am told, if only I could!  Right it's in, it should work quickly, I see the surgeon grab his knife to start work and it hurts, I yelp.  He says 'you can feel pressure right?,  'No, I can feel you cutting me, it is a sharp pain'.  They tickle my toes and find the epidural is not working quick enough and here is where my recollection ends. All I know is that he is now shouting 'General, now, no time to waste!'.  I rapidly fall to sleep as dh is ushered out of the room and neither of us are present for our little man as he is bought into the world.

Time passes, I do not know how long but it feels like a lifetime, I feel different, I reach out and my big hard bump is now empty and soft.  Where is my baby?  Why is he not inside me? I haven't given birth, so where has he gone?  Gently the tears slide down my face.  I want to give birth, all my dreams lost...

I find myself in a sterile room after my crash section (for that is what it turned into in the end) with dh and he is holding a small bundle, I start to understand it is a baby but it can't be my baby as I have not given birth.  The little bundle is handed to me and I move onto automatic pilot I know I am supposed to be a Mum to this little one so when the midwife comes to place him at my breast for a feed I let her, when the baby cries I sooth him.  I ask dh what we should call him and he says JJ suits him and that works for me!

Once dh has been sent home and I am left alone in the ward I keep this baby with me all night, hardly putting him back in his cot.  I can not move and need the midwife to move him, so easier that I just keep him.  He sucks and sucks and sucks, ohh how I wish my milk would come so he would feel fulfilled.  Babies crying everywhere, but not mine, he is being an angel but an angel that constantly wants to feed, he looks like a little shrunken alien. I feel so detached, I am going through the motions and the tears keep falling.  The thought that constantly comes to me is that I want to give birth.  This can not be my baby as I did not give birth.

Some point in the next 48 hours I thankfully get the overwhelming feeling that I love this little person, that I will do anything for him. Ohh thank the Lord I have become a Mother. I had thought this feeling would hit me the moment JJ was born but it didn't and I think this was down to the trauma of his birth. I know how fortunate I was that my love for JJ kicked in so quickly, for many who suffer birth trauma that bonding can take weeks, months or even years but I won't let that diminish my hurt and the impact it had on me.

For at least three years after JJ was born I was regularly upset by my birth experience and I badly wanted another baby so I could experience that great natural birth experience I had so wanted. Sadly it does not look as if that was ever to be but thankfully my longings have now subsided nearly eight years after it all happened.  I probably need to write another post around my birth with the girls as that was so much more positive and I definitely think it helped in my long-term healing. 

So there you go, that was the birth that upset and affected me so much for such a long time.  No where near as hideous as many but it was my personal nightmare and I lived it and I know that it hurt real bad.

The overriding factor I always remember is that we are lucky, so lucky. JJ was perfect, he had not swallowed any mecconium, he was breathing and he was pink and healthy. After a quick assessment he was passed to Daddy so they could bond while I slept. I was so pleased that dh got to spend this special time getting to know our boy and now that same boy is strapping.  The scrawny 7lb 6oz baby is going to be 8 in October and he wears age 10 clothes and is practically as tall as Mummy.  He makes me laugh every day and sometimes he drives me to distraction with his quirky little ways but he is perfect, perfect for me!

If you liked this post, please use the Tweet button on the right! Go on, it's very easy. Cheers Mich x