I want to preface this story by saying this all happened 4 years ago, this story was written while the event was still fresh and raw. Since Jasper was born I’ve had an amazing and empowering VBAC with my baby girl and I have come to a place where I’m okay within myself with what happened. Though I am still a little sad that bringing my beautiful son into the world was not joyful, when he himself is pure joy.
If this story can encourage someone to ask more questions to their care providers, if they have doubts – then sharing this story will have purpose. If you don’t get an answer you are satisfied with ask again, ask louder, or as someone else. If you have doubts about what is happening to you or your baby you are allowed to speak up, people make mistakes, they make bad decisions, so if think they are getting it wrong or doing the wrong thing, its okay to speak up. So, here it is:
Monday 17th, 6:00pm, I was 41+2 weeks pregnant and we arrive at hospital to be induced into labour because I was “overdue”. An obstetrician came and did an internal examination followed by inserting a prostaglandin suppository into my vagina. This process was surprisingly painful – at the time I felt the obstetrician was being quite rough – but I also believed they knew what they were doing and that I had to be brave. Although, for a few hours afterwards I had throbbing bruised feeling in my vagina area, bleeding and for several hours I felt swollen so much sitting upright was uncomfortable. I mentioned this to a nurse, but she said it was normal.
I went to sleep in the maternity ward. In the morning another midwife came to check how I was going. She performed another internal examination and abdominal palpation. During the internal she was unable to find the prostaglandin insert. It had fallen out some time during the night.
I was brought up to the delivery ward, a midwife was checking the babies heart rate and was unable to find his heartbeat. She told me not to worry and left to get an ultrasound machine. She did an ultrasound to locate the baby’s heart so she could check his heart rate, he was fine.
A couple of hours later – so around midday on Tuesday – another midwife did an abdominal palpation, baby’s head as still not engaged. She then put another prostaglandin suppository inside me. This procedure this time wasn’t painful at all, I barely felt it, unlike when it had been done the night before.
The midwife noticed something unusual in my baby’s heartbeat. She seemed concerned, but she told me it was fine, she fetch an obstetrician, who listened for a bit and left, he came back with a paediatrician who also listened to his heartbeat. They consulted on the other side of the curtain, so I could hear their discussion; they all admitted they didn’t know what it was or how serious it was. I wasn’t included in this conversation about my baby, I wasn’t even acknowledged by the other staff. These people decided the labour would go ahead and they’d check again once he was born. The midwife returned to my bedside, and just told me everything was “fine”.
Within a few hours of the second suppository I started having regular tightenings in my back 6 minutes apart. Though by the evening nothing was progressing further so my partner went home for the night. I was offered pain killers and sleeping tablets by a nurse. I declined. A little while later I was offered pain killers and sleeping tablets again. I declined again. I was offered twice more, over a period of a couple of hours, until I accepted the drugs so they would leave me alone.
Wednesday morning I was taken up to the delivery suite. I asked what was going to happen next. I was told that they would break my waters, if that didn’t encourage labour then they would start on the Syntocinon drip. I asked how long would I have to labour after they ruptured the membranes and I was told “a while”. I was anxious about having them break my water, so I asked why they were going to do it. I was told by the midwife that they wanted my labour to start on its own without needing syntocinon. I was satisfied with this answer. As I wanted to avoid as much drugs and interference as I could in order to have as ‘natural’ a labour as possible.
My partner wasn’t at the hospital when the obstetrician came around 9am and started with an abdominal palpation, then internal examination, then the procedure of rupturing the membranes. After she’d done this procedure she inserted her fingers inside me again, I felt her fingers press against my cervix, pushing apart and twisting inside me. She told me I had been 1cm dilated and now I was 2. She did not ask before she did this. She didn’t even tell me what she was doing. She just did it. I waited until she left, and curled up into a ball and cried. I felt so violated and also self-conscious that I felt violated. I felt like I needed to be stronger, and tougher, that it was just part of the process. I was so miserable. I wanted to call my partner, but if tried to speak I’d cry, so I sent him a text message to come now.
When he arrived about half an hour later, I was having regular contractions, I was happy again, I was relieved to not be alone and excited that my body was starting to labour on its own without (more) drugs. I kept telling my partner each time I had a contraction like it was exciting news – after a day and a half being induced evidence of progress was exciting. BUT the midwife insisted they were called ‘tightenings’, even time I announced I’d had a contraction, she insisted I was having “tightenings” not “contractions”, even though I couldn’t speak through them and needed to step foot to foot to work through each one.
I had a cannula in my hand in preparation for the drip, I’d barely had anything to eat or drink in the time I’d been in hospital so they were giving me a little fluid. We sat around and played cards. I was starting to have stronger contractions across my back and side. Despite this an hour later the midwife started the Synto drip. It wasn’t really discussed, she just did it. Though she started it slowly at first, which was fine, I was still just excited to be in labour at all.
Very soon after though I was in a lot of pain. I was coping. Breathing, trying to relax. Trying to get through each contraction.
The midwife kept asking if I was “okay”? On reflection I realise every time she asked if I was okay and I said “yes”, she would then turn up the Syntocinon drip. Had she asked me what she meant, which was “can you handle any more?” my answer would have been “no”. I was coping – but barely. I was trying to be strong. I thought I had to be strong. I didn’t want to complain. I wanted my baby to come out safely and in my mind that meant trusting that they knew what they were doing.
After a few hours of this, every time I adjusted to the new level of pain and started to get used to what was happening to me she would turn up the Syntocinon rather than letting me be. I started to struggle. She offered me gas. I said no. I was offered gas at least 4 times. I said no 3 times. I finally accepted. She told me I could have an epidural if I needed. I said no. She offered me an epidural again and I told her no again.
At around 2pm there was a shift change and this time I had an internal examination and I was 4 or 5cms dilated.
I was most comfortable sitting on the very edge of the couch, so I could lay back and rest between contractions and lean forward during the contraction. I was also regularly getting up to go to the bathroom and also occasionally asking for food and water.
I was quiet and still, I think I found a very primal space to hide inside myself.
Regardless of that the midwife decided I had to be standing. She demanded that I stop being a ‘couch potato’ (her exact words) and stand up. I was made to lean uncomfortably over a ball, I felt unstable, vulnerable, exposed and in excruciating pain, I was crying and I was not coping at all. The midwife spent most of that time away from me, in the corner of the room at the computer, not even looking at me. I stayed in that position – crying – until my mum told me I was allowed to sit down. With a flood of relief I sat back down. I was beyond the point of making decisions for myself, and I’m so grateful at least my mother was there and could see I was suffering.
I was told I needed another internal examination. But I didn’t want to be touched again. I was crying and saying no, but I complied.
Around 5pm I went to the toilet and there was black gunk in my underwear. I called for help, I specifically called for my mum, because I didn’t want my partner to see. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was bad – very bad.
The midwife had left the room at this time, my mum hit the red button in the bathroom, a nurse came in, looked at me, looked at the gunk in my underwear, and told me my baby was probably breech, because it was meconium.
Several other staff members came into the room in a hurry. I was laid back on the bed. An obstetrician did an internal examination and confirmed that my baby was coming bottom first, he was telling me to stop pushing during this examination, but I didn’t know I was pushing.
I was told I could die or my baby could die; I was asked to consent to a csection.
At that point my partner spoke up and said “but she doesn’t want a caesarean”. I told him to shh. I knew it was over. But I begged for a general anaesthetic. More than anything I’d been through that day I was most afraid of being cut open while awake. But the midwife told me “You don’t want to be the last person to meet your baby” and I thought – after all this, I deserve to hold my baby first.
I hopped off the bed, I’m not sure exactly what I was thinking, but I’d decided if I was going to have a caesarean I was going to walk – nobody could stop me. I don’t know the distance, but there were two contractions between me and theatre.
I was given another internal examination on the operating table, I was 8cms dilated. They asked if I’d like to try to push – or they could give me my baby in 5 minutes. I just wanted my baby.
At 5:25pm on the 19th of November my baby boy was born. He was shown to me, I had a chance to touch his nose, he was so tightly swaddled that’s all I could touch, I wanted to hold him and touch his skin and marvel at the little person I’d created. He and my partner were taken away while I was sewn back up.
I complained to the anaesthetist I could feel them sewing me up, she gave me morphine – and I fell asleep.
When I got my baby back, I held him. I asked a nurse if I was allowed to feed him, as though I wasn’t sure that he was really mine to keep. She said I could. I am very grateful that he breastfed easily and instantly. It took a little juggling for me to get it right, but he was perfect – he knew what he was doing and he taught me.
That night when everyone had left me, the midwife on duty in the maternity ward read my chart, when he finished reading he said “that was epic” and stayed with me until I fell asleep. He was very kind.
During the day the obstetrician who’d been responsible for inducing me came down to the maternity ward to apologise to me, and later that day one of the midwives who’d done an internal exam and abdominal palpation apologised to me.
It is still so unbelieve to me that so many people saw me in those two days, so many people pressed my belly, put their hands inside me, and not one of them realised he was breech until the very end. But with everything else that had happened that my baby had been breech all along just underlines the fact that nobody really saw me, I wasn’t really there, they were doing a job, and going through the motions.