I’ve had this post lurking in my drafts for nearly 3 months now and I’ve just felt the time is right to hit publish. It feels strange and hard to talk about pregnancy and birth in a negative way as I am aware it’s such a huge privilege to be able to do.
I want to open a discussion more to those who had similar experiences, birth trauma, PTSD, maternity mental health issues, c-section recovery problems or just generally struggled horribly post-birth for whatever reason. After going through a tough time myself, I now find it really interesting to speak to others, read about experiences and how people got over, coped and came back. I’m hoping this opens doors for some and a nice little hub where we can chat and reach out.
WARNING! This post is a way for me to talk about my feelings and experiences openly and candidly. It contains negative birth experiences and c-section chat, PTSD and I 100% would not recommend reading this if you are pregnant and expecting. I didn’t read birth experiences before I had mine and reading negative stories is probably not a great way to prepare yourself.
Talking about my birth has been hard for a number of reasons : the pain and worry of people judging me, maybe thinking I’m being a drama kween etc….but mainly because of the actually memory aspect : I literally have no real recollection of what happened from the morning I got induced (Sunday 23rd Sept) until a day or 2 after Margot had been born (Tuesday 25th Sept). The human mind has a great coping mechanism with trauma and that it literally blocks memories completely out : something I had never experienced before. Not only did the actually birth pretty much wipe from my memory for some time, but so did the 2 days before, and way before I even had started labouring or taken another form of pain relief – how crazy / clever is that?!
I know pockets of things and all the information I’m giving you is a mixture of what I can remember, what Tom has told me and most importantly : I have a copy of my yellow book aka my pregnancy notes which literally has every detail in it from the day you first go to your initial midwife appointment, to during and after the birth.
I went overdue by 2 weeks, I had 3 ‘sweeps’ which was a pretty uncomfortable hand-up-the-vag scenario to try and bring on labour. Nothing was happening, and my cervix on the 3rd sweep was still really far back AKA no sign of labour anytime soon. Besides being the hottest summer I think on record in the UK, I was also getting super uncomfortable, problems sleeping, sciatica and all those other lovely side effects of being 9 months pregnant. I was very much ready for the ‘off’ but it just wasn’t happening.
I had no birth plan, it just wasn’t from me. From knowing midwives I know it’s not that often it’ll go to plan. I am pretty low-main in general and wanted to just go with the flow, and I think as most mum’s would like : I wanted to push, in the birthing unit (low risk), possibly floating around in a pool in a euphoric state, with aromatherapy oils burning , Enya on the SONOS, and a few hits of gas & air. LOLOLOLOLOL.
I was booked in for induction at my hospital on Sunday 23rd September. This involved going into the hospital and having a pessary inserted which releases hormones that should spur on labour / contractions. I was sent home at lunchtime to wait it out and see if that did anything.
**This is the point where I remember hardly anything**
I started feeling contractions that night, Sunday, at around 11pm ish. We drove to the hospital and I went into the wards to start my labour.
My contractions started coming on REALLY strong, it was painful, but nothing was progressing and I was just in this room trying to get through it for many hours. It was a hazy blur. I remember screaming a lot, wanting a lot of pain relief and running to throw up in the courtyard outside. My waters never broke, and my cervix was not doing anything in prep for the birth, and it was still really far back. Labour had started but my body hadn’t got the memo.
I had to basically lie in that room from Sunday PM > Monday PM labouring and contracting until I could get a slot in the labour ward. Until a midwife in the labour ward was free, I couldn’t have my waters manually broken, which was needed to see if THAT would help progress labour. The labour ward was completely full yet I needed to go to the labour ward as by now I was in so much pain I wanted an epidural.
When there was a ward available on Monday PM, a nurse came to try and break my waters. She couldn’t do if after numerous attempts so had to get the doctor to come in and do it : when my waters finally got broken there was meconium (baby poo) in my waters which indicates the baby is distressed and potentially at risk so I was rushed into the Labour ward with Tom by my side to try and pursue with the labour some more.
As soon as I met my midwife and went into the room I felt hugely anxious, uncomfortable and unhappy. She was really cold, rude and just seemed really un-accommodating to me. I didn’t at any point feel relaxed or re-assured by her. I was the on this horrendous chair-bed-hybrid thing which she couldn’t seem to put in ANY position to make me comfortable ; I kept slipping off it, the sheet kept on coming off so I was on this gross sticky plastic mattress, sweating and writhing. The lighting was clinical, the room was claustrophobic, and I was trying to balance on this small bed whilst trying to accommodate about 5 wires.
EPIDURAL & PAIN RELIEF
Up until this point I had tried everything except an epidural and nothing seemed to help with the pain. Gas & Air made me feel horrendously sick. Morphine didn’t touch the sides. I know this is a weird thing to say because it’s childbirth, but knowing myself, and what I’ve experienced and my general pain threshold ; It was off balance.
I was administered my epidural when the anaesthetist was available. The pain of the contractions did ease a bit but I was still very confused as I could still feel contractions and I was still in pain and uncomfortable and I starting telling the doctors / midwife that it just wasn’t right. Obviously they must hear things like this all the time, as the pain and bodily experience is something different to what I have ever experienced and they are the experts so I wasn’t listened to. I have had many friends who have had the epidural and explained their experience with it, and for the most-part you CANNOT FEEL FUCK-ALL. I really could.
I laid / slipped and kept pulling myself up on this stupid chair-bed thing for another 6 hours. In pain, going in and out of fits : my body was literally shaking uncontrollably from pain and this just went on and on. I hated my midwife. I remember at some point she went on a break for an hour and was covered by the most lovely midwife. As soon as she walked into the room she made me feel at ease, seemed like she actually fucking cared and tried her best to make me feel ok. I remember when the hour was up I was dreading her leaving and the other midwife coming back. Tom was trying hard to help, but there was simply nothing to help or calm me down.
I was shaking so violently from my pain each time I had a contraction, the clip that was monitoring Margot’s heartbeat kept slipping off my belly…or my finger I can’t remember which. The midwife actually threatened me and said ‘ if you don’t stop moving about I will clip your babies head and that won’t be very nice.’
So there I was, trying to keep quiet, trying to stay still and balance on this stupid bed-chair thing whilst going through horrendous pain and contractions. I was sweating, I was crying, it all still felt so wrong.
At some point Margot’s heart rate dropped really dramatically. I remember an alarm going off and about 9 other people coming into the room. At that point they had to clip her head to keep a better monitor of her heart rate. I think I has literally dilated just one more cm since I had come into the labour ward, I was now 6cm dilated and had to get to 10. It had been DAYS.
By 5am on Tuesday and zero progression and constant pain even with the epidural I started saying that I needed a C-section. The midwife dismissed it and almost seemed disappointed that I would suggest such a thing. I then demanded to see the doctor / surgeon.
By this point, I was shaking, screaming and I was telling them that something wasn’t right, my body was not working, the labour wasn’t progressing and I need a c-section. I was literally bawling and screaming at all of these people in the room, I knew it didn’t feel right, something was wrong, my body had failed and suddenly someone seemed to listen. Finally. Bear in mind it took me to TELL them that I needed a c-section. (PS I couldn’t have given birth naturally, I *did* need and it always would have gone to a c-section)
THE BIRTH & C-SECTION
It was about 6am now Tuesday and they started prepping me up for the c-section and through I went. It was classed as a CAT2 ; C Sections have 4 category’s with 1 being life threatening, 2 basically means there are problems with mother and/or baby but no immediate threat to life. The midwife legit sighed in disappointment as I went through to the operating theatre.
Tom was with me, along with maybe 8 other people in the room. I remember Tom was holding my hand and re-assuring me. Then all of a sudden I felt pain like I can’t even describe. I screamed that I could feel them pulling, and I could….as they were trying to pull her out of me (her head was stuck badly in my pelvis) it was like ripping, electric shocks: my body went into shock from the pain and I puked over myself on the operating table.
Tom had to be rushed out of the room as no partners/family are allowed in the operating theatre if you are going to be put completely under. The last thing I remember was the anaesthetist apologising to me before I was knocked out completely. Margot was pulled from me at 6.34am whilst I was unconscious and Tom was stood outside somewhere.
I came around and woke up screaming in pain and confusion: no baby, no Tom and all these people around me. I was sick over myself again (I *believe* I shit myself too from shock FYI -YOLO). I was told that I had had a baby girl who was fine and was Tom in another room but they had to stitch me up. I was still in so much pain : I remember a lot of swearing, confusion and crying. It seemed to take so long for them to stitch me back up and I was frantic : I was just beside myself. (the photo below is the first photo we have of Margot = Tom traumatised, waiting in a room without me, not knowing WTF had just happened)
As there has been problems during the c-section in trying to pull her out of me, I was ‘open’ for quite a long time, and I had lost 3 times the amount of blood that was normal for a c-section. It was taking a long old time to put me back together and I had a lot of gas trapped within my body which was excruciating.
Afterwards, I found out that my epidural was not wholly effective and it had not numbed all parts of my body and nerves where it should have. Effectively, some of my womb was having a c-section surgery with no pain relief. I felt hands inside me, the tearing,the pulling and everything. It was horrific.
As it played out, and speaking to the surgeon later on that day, I wouldn’t of actually been able to give birth vaginally with how Margot’s head was stuck in my pelvis : this can happen just due to your pelvis shape, bad positioning of the baby and the size of the skull (Margot has got a big noggin so probably down to this!). I think it just goes to show, that I had an instinct that things weren’t right, my body was telling me the labour wasn’t going normally. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. I just wonder how many more hours they would have allowed me to labour and non-progress before they would have called for a c-section? I literally had to shout, scream and demand it.
I finally got wheeled out of theatre and saw Margot for the first time at 8am ; an hour and a half after she was born. In all honesty, I didn’t even know what the fuck was going on. I felt just in a haze of confusion, pain and shock, like I wasn’t even there. I felt numb and confused when I saw Margot ; no rush of love, no feelings, I wasn’t sure she was mine and I was just upset, empty and absolutely distraught. I think it’s reflected in my photo in the hospital with her : I look like a sad corpse that’s been wheeled out of a morgue (see below for the lols) !
I had a catheter in, a wound drain going into my stomach (because of the c-section complications), something monitoring my heart rate – I had so many things on me, It was so hard to manoeuvre, to sit, to hold her : she was plopped on me and we stayed there until that afternoon.
The first day was a blur and I was in such pain that I couldn’t enjoy any bonding time with her. I was moved from recovery to another ward where I stayed for a couple more days. I was in a lot of pain. I was told this was normal for c-section recovery ; bear in mind I could hardly walk. I felt maybe I was being weak and it was normal. I persevered, I tried to carry on and do what I could with Margot but I was just miserable and was failing physically and mentally.
The wards were completely full at this time I was there : so it seemed just noisy, chaotic and with little privacy. I felt stressed, dirty and disgusting. I couldn’t shower, I couldn’t move properly, I couldn’t walk and sleeping was only just do-able if I was sat upright in my bed.
The care of this hospital just didn’t seem great. I get that they are stretched and understaffed and I am sure these nurses and midwives work ridiculous shifts and have to deal with SO MUCH that it must be tough for them. I just felt failed. I know I wasn’t alone in my frustrations, as there was a lot of arguments going on the ward ; other mum’s having problems with their care, families arguing with nurses, it was all so angry and negative.
By Thursday I wanted to get the fuck out. I was having panic attacks and anxiety. I was so scared to walk near the labour ward or even see the midwife who was with me on Labour Ward. I was given my meds, and we left.
FIRST NIGHT HOME
The first night at home was hard. As I’m sure it is for everyone. Me and Tom were traumatised and alone with Margot. We tried, we argued and I wanted out.
The next morning, my local midwife came to visit and I remember feeling so much relief when she came and knocked on the door. I answered it crying, in an absolute state, Tom was in a mess and she knew immediately something wasn’t right. I still hadn’t showered since before the labour. I stunk. I could smell myself, sweat, bodily fluids, blood and it was disgusting.
Me and Tom talked her through what happened as best we could, after we had spoken and spent time with her she said we both clearly had PTSD and she knew it as soon as I answered the door. It’s hard for me to talk about Tom on here as he is very private but we was in such a terrible way. Having to go through it was awful, but I think being completely helpless and seeing a loved one go through what I did must have been really hard for him. He told me how he was sat with Margot in a room after she was born and I was still being stitched up ; and he was just feeling guilty and awful.
The midwife advised I go back to hospital if the pain got worse, but it was the last thing I wanted to do ; I was terrified of having to go back to that awful, angry ward. However it got to around 9/10pm that night and I was on the floor in agony.
Tom called an ambulance…they said they would be with us in up to 3 hours (!) hurrah so we drove instead. I was in so much pain in the car, every bump was like electricity jolting through my body. I remember arriving at the A&E department and Tom had to get me a wheelchair as by this point I could not stand. There I was in the middle of the A&E department, in my pyjamas, unwashed, with my hood up so nobody could see me, and a 4 day old baby and bawling (me, not Margot…she was fine!).
This is where things actually picked up. They called the maternity ward, someone came to get me and me, Margot and Tom and we were put into a private recovery room and a lovely midwife came to look after me. I felt so much comfort for the first time in a week : she was quite literally my angel saviour. She saw how I walked / sat and told me immediately that something wasn’t right and she couldn’t believe I had even been discharged in the condition I was in.
My angel midwife gave me morphine to ease the pain and started asking all the questions and started to examine my stomach. By this point it was bright red and hot and it turned out I had Cellutisis in my womb. This is basically an infection in the deep layers of the skin and tissue, and it had been spreading really quickly inside me, hence the pain afterwards, my inability to walk properly, sleep and generally function. I had a scan which confirmed this and the collection was the size of a tennis ball inside my womb. Quite literally life-threatening if it hadn’t been treated.
So the next 5 days I spent back in hospital , on an IV drip, getting the right help, medications and care. I was with Margot and Tom stayed with me (I could write a WHOLE other post about the treatment of partners in maternity wards but I can’t begin to even get wound up about that right now).
I showered and washed my hair for the first time 5 days after I gave birth. I was disgusting, I stank, I was bleeding, my hair had become matted and I just felt so horrendous and embarrassed. My dignity definitely left me that week!
Showering for the first time was incredible, it was like a lot of the sadness and pain washed away with it. I was in there for about 20 minutes, and i think I washed my hair 4 times. It was glorious! I remember I ordered Tom to get to the local Primark to buy me some cheap comfies and MASSIVE PANTS as when we turned up to the hospital that night we went to A&E, I literally had my phone and wallet in hand and that was it.
It was the BEST feeling ever to be able to stand up properly, walk properly, hold Margot properly, change her etc. Each day there I felt better, more able and stronger and I was slowly getting to the place I should be.
LEAVING HOSPITAL AGAIN
When we left the second time it was worlds apart. I remember I woke up on the morning of the day we got discharged, and I knew we would get to go home that day : I felt like me again, I wasn’t in pain as much and I put some brow makeup on – you know the girls’ good! I remember the nurses kind of pushing for me to stay one more night but I was so ready to get home.
My infection was still there but I wasn’t in excruciating pain / unable to walk etc. I remember getting into the back of the car with Margot that time and feeling like it was right. It was all, how it should have felt the first time around. In pain, yes. Delicate, yes, but just how one should feel after a c-section.
9 days I had spent in hospital and I had never been so happy to be home. Me and Tom were both broken from the experience and then started our life with Margot.
I am very aware I have hardly mentioned her on this post, but it’s because quite honestly, I can’t remember so much aside from being deeply overwhelmed. I felt no love or true emotion, and I felt I must have been an awful person because of this. Everything was the exact opposite of what I had been told by all my friends about giving birth : where was this moment of elation, crying with happiness, this indescribable feeling? Margot was and is fucking perfect, how was I this terrible, selfish mum?
My next post will be more about the aftercare and the first few months and how we found our feet. We went to a birth reflections appointment at the hospital which is just a meeting with one of the midwives to go through what happened and why. Particularly common for people who had problems, things didn’t go right and traumatic births.