A Headline that hit close to home


This is the headline that flashed before me today as I drove home from work. My local paper. My local hospital. The people I trusted to care for me. It felt like a slap in the face as if I somehow expected that I was the only one in this town that had suffered at this hospital. I know I’m not. It happened to me twice at the same place. But somehow seeing it in black and white, nearly fifteen months on… somehow it makes it so real. And so sad. So awful that this place is yet to provide the care that so many women and their babies need. Even more worrying is that the closure of two maternity units close by (including the unit where both my niece and nephew spent their first days, fighting for their lives in SCBU) means that this hospital is to become a so-called ‘super maternity unit’.

The hospital that failed my children has today been described as a “volcano ready to erupt” when, for me, that already happened. One midwife has been quoted as saying

“Staffing on all areas could be better but it’s the postnatal wards that are really short-staffed. There is one midwife on each ward at night if we are lucky, looking after up to 17 women and babies. Sometimes there is one midwife for both wards. It is very dangerous and not manageable at all.”

The night the baby was born there was one midwife on duty and one student midwife. No wonder I felt ignored. I WAS ignored; they had no choice. The night the baby was born, I was left in a daze, with a screaming baby and screaming pain every time I tried to pick him up.

Image source:emnnews.com

The article in my local paper goes on to quote from a spokesman for parental support charity The National Childbirth Trust and says:

“Post-natal care is so important; if not resolved physical and psychological problems can have an impact on the woman’s quality of life and relationship with her baby.”

You’re telling me. I didn’t want to take my baby home with me. I didn’t know how to relate to him as the baby that had been safe inside me for so long. Once I entered that hospital, he was no longer safe.

Directing more women to this maternity unit, which is already failing to cope, will not solve this problem. When I divulged the fact that my delivery room had no curtains on a day when work men were directly outside the room, I was told to complain. When I revealed that the gas and air cannister had no mouth piece and the special clip they needed to attach to my baby’s head had no power outlet fixed on to it- I was told to complain. When I mentioned that there were no pillows on the bed, no crib for the baby and no spare birthing kits in the room, I was told to complain. When I cried that I was sent home before I was ready, with no pain relief and no explanation of what had hit me, I was told to complain. When I cried that I had been left alone for hours despite being told I was high risk and that they would monitor me every two hours, I was told to complain.

When I said that I was too scared to complain, I let myself down. But this hospital is still letting women down. This is why Maternity Matters is so important to me and I hope that you will support us too. Because at the end of the day, maternity care matters.


8 responses to “A Headline that hit close to home

  • Mummydichotomy

    Absolutely terrifying. I was lucky enough to have both my two at home with a private midwife which meant complete continuity of care before, during and after birth. The main reason we went that (expensive) route was I becau i was so terrified of ending up at our local hospital which had a dreadful reputation maternity wise. Keep up the good work x

  • Domestic Anarchist

    This passionate & beautifully written. I’ve been in the verge of tears all day as I am trying to write my daughter’s birth story for you & have tears in my eyes as I read this. I am determined to persevere as you have because you are right maternity matters & more voices need to chant this. Xxx

  • Angela Dawson

    It saddens me to hear your heartfelt story, I really feel for you. Thank you for speaking up through your pain.
    What does it say about our society when mothers and babies, who are incredibly vulnerable during birthing and the postnatal period, are left wanting for basic care and personal attention? Where is the humanity, the dignity, the compassion? No wonder so many mothers suffer from PND and PTSD, if this is how they are valued at a crucial time in their lives.
    As a former NHS nurse, this really riles me. Where is the accountability? There is such a thing as skill mix and minimum staffing levels (although not a long-term strategy, there are such things as agency or bank staff).
    Whilst I can understand the midwives recommending that you complain
    (patient complaints are taken very seriously), it seems insensitive to do this when your spirit has already been broken by a system which clearly failed you. Who was there to advocate on your behalf? Who was your witness?
    In addition. were the midwives themselves making frequent and appropriate complaints to their line manager? The Incident Report Forms kept on wards are not just for patients who have fallen (for example). They can be used to highlight the fact that patient safety has been, or could be, compromised due to inadequate staffing levels. The NHS National Patient Safety Agency states that “This form should be used to report any unintended or unexpected incidents which could have or did lead to harm for one or more patients receiving NHS-funded health care”. It is unfair for staff to rely on patients who have been poorly treated to stand up and fight the system. In fact, nurses and midwives have a duty of care to manage risks, not doing so is a contravening the NMC code of conduct.
    Good luck with Maternity Matters. You’re nurturing a really important seed there xxx

  • TheBoyandMe

    Ahhh! I just typed a lengthy response to this and my laptop crashed!

    I am sat here with tears pouring down my face reading your heartflet anguish. You did NOT let yourself down, don’t you believe that for one second. My mother wanted me to complain too, but I just couldn’t. The reason I couldn’t was because the enormity of what had, and could have, happened was beginning to dawn on me, and it was shocking. If you felt like that, you were terrified. Self-preservation!

    I so wish I could write the Boy’s birth story for Maternity Matters. You are right that speaking up with help prevent this. I do believe that sharing my experience along with all the others may help this cause, and that it will be cathartic for me, but I am struggling. I’ll get there eventually.

    In the meantime, please keep going, you are an inspiration.

  • emma

    A beautiful and heartfelt post that I could definitely relate to. Please don’t think you have let yourself down for one moment…Emma xx

  • CaroleHolland

    I have been lucky in that both my pregnancies and births went well. However they are planning on closing down the Maternity ward at the hospital I went to and moving everything to a much less accessible, much smaller hospital with a much worse maternity record. This worries me a lot.

    And you didn’t let yourself down at all.

    Beautiful post xxxx

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