Tag Archives: Childbirth

Is anybody listening?

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It was like screaming into an abyss. It was like breathing deep into my lungs and clawing up the loudest, longest, most primal scream known to man. It was like doing all that, with the volume on mute. They couldn’t hear me. They weren’t listening to me.

I read something recently which pointed out the fact that women felt 100% more empowered during childbirth if they felt they were being listened to. If someone had  spent the time to sit down and listen. Not just nod and say uh-huh, uh-huh…

Listen to me. Hear me when I say I am scared. Do something when my wishes are being ignored or my body is being violated. Help me.

I listened. I heard them when they said childbirth was unpredictable, that nobody knew this would happen. I listened and I accept this. But I was still screaming in silence.

I wonder if anybody actually sat down afterwards to discuss what had happened? Did they listen to each other? Did they read back their notes and wonder if there was anything they could’ve done differently? Did they wish they had been somewhere else? In a room with a lady who knew what she was doing and a baby who wasn’t struggling and a team who were listening? Did they wish they had been on a different shift? One that didn’t have a lifeless body and a screaming void filled with fear?

Is anybody listening?

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A healing birth?

I planned it in so much more detail than my first. Perhaps that was where I went wrong back then? Perhaps my ignorant self-belief that I could do it was where Mother Nature decided to deal me a different hand? I still believe that if I hadn’t been induced, if I’d had more faith in myself, if I’d been better educated, if I’d been more positive… maybe I would’ve had that waterbirth first time around and maybe the next birth would’ve been different too.

The toddler’s taught me nothing if he hasn’t taught me how pointless it is to look back with ‘what if’s’. These days I’m more of a believer in ‘what will be, will be’ and that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps my son’s birth and all the rubbish that came with it was actually the beginning of something much more wonderful for me?

Would I have planned the baby’s arrival so well if the birth trauma had not happened? No. I know that.

So, I planned. As much as you can plan for a life changing event. And my daughter was born safely. I cried. But they were happy tears. They sprang to my eyes when I heard her cry, the sign of her life, the start of something new. I cried again later, in secret. I cried for my son. I cried because I was feeling something so familiar, so powerful and so poignant by its absence last time.

I was happy.

I was holding my baby daughter and looking at her face and I mean really looking. I was thinking about how I’d been in a hospital bed two years previously with the weight of a baby in my arms meaning nothing and looking at a scrunched up face feeling nothing and I was thinking how that wasn’t his fault and perhaps it wasn’t even my fault either? I was thinking how unfair it was for him and how much I wanted to hug him and to say sorry and to turn back the clock to feel like that then too.

But like I said, you can’t spend your life thinking ‘what if’ and you certainly can’t turn the clock back.

The baby’s calm birth has made me realise. I think it was a healing birth.

I think that every time I see my children interact, I’ve done something special. I’ve done something right. I’m even starting to think that it wasn’t me who did much wrong to begin with.

Is there such a thing as a healing birth? Seven weeks ago I would’ve screamed YES from the rooftops. Today, I’m biding my time, hedging my bets and waiting a while. I think there is such a thing as a healing birth, but I think it takes time. I think I will let you know.


Is that really who I am?

Last night I had a real ‘is that really who I am?’ moment. Today I’ve apologised for being that mum. I never wanted to be that mum. I never knew I was that mum. I hope I’m not that mum again.

Sometimes we look in the mirror and the reflection can shock us; mostly we look in the mirror and see what we want to see instead.

I suppose this is all as clear as mud to you all. I’m not sure I can explain to be honest. I’m not sure I even want to either. I never said I wanted to admit to who that mum really is. I think I’ll try though.

Yesterday I saw something which I found deeply, deeply upsetting. It was a photo of a lady’s precious baby who had passed away following a traumatic birth. I hadn’t expected to see this photo, it was in the ‘wrong place’. I hadn’t wanted to see this photo- it was enough to know that this horrific tragedy had happened. It was enough to offer my thoughts and my condolences. But was it really enough?

Do I really have any right to be so upset? Why did I make this all about me? Why, instead of this poor baby’s face, did I see my own son? Why, when he was upstairs, asleep, breathing, dreaming, living? Why did I feel so surprised to realise I was fighting back the urge to be sick and tears were rolling down my cheeks? Why did I look down at my sleeping newborn, wrapped closely to my chest… why did I think thank goodness that isn’t my baby?


I’m ashamed of myself. I didn’t want to see that picture. I wasn’t prepared to see that picture. That picture is all one mum has left of her son. Is that really who I am? A mum who can’t bear to think of another mum’ s sadness? When I started this blog and met so many other mums who had been through horrific circumstances, I felt that maybe I could offer friendship and support to other women. Tomorrow, I am meeting with a terrific lady to help set up and run a support group in our area, on behalf of the Birth Trauma Association. I really hope that I can indeed offer that friendship and support after all.

Am I really that mum? Maybe. Maybe I’m just like you; maybe it hurts to witness such deep suffering in another human being. Maybe I’m just human.


Another consultant appointment

Another day, another consultant appointment. Once again, the fact that we opted for a hospital which is not on our doorstep made for a stressful journey, but I predict that the poor driver of the overturned lorry near the Trafford Centre had a much worse day than me overall. 

Despite a 40 minute journey taking two hours, the hospital kindly re-instated my appointment and we finally got to see the consultant at 4.15, just 2.5 hours late! But it was worth it.

He won’t be performing my op but he has given me some answers as to how and where they will cut. I can’t discuss the natural c-section until the pre-op clinic in two week’s time. Oh, and he has told me to ask for him personally if they try to release me without pain relief. 

So all in all, good news. Baby still small but now head down. 

And me? I’m a little overwhelmed. Having to give swabs today for MRSA was unexpected and I left feeling a little bit like pregnancy and childbirth has no room for dignity at all. An over-reaction perhaps, but indicative of how over this pregnancy I now am. I want my baby in my arms and my children by my sides. That is all.


One born every Minute: Ghostwriterdaddy and “the births”.

When this blog was born, my son’s birth was pretty much the driving force behind it all. This became my space to sort out my feelings about one of the most influential experiences in my life. Rightly or wrongly, I’ve written about what happened before, during and after his birth, and the effects that it had on me as a person. But when a baby is born, there is one other person who sometimes is overlooked in it all. During my son’s birth, my husband was most definitely bottom of the list of priorities, so to speak.

Channel Four’s One born every Minute starts again this week and the first episode’s theme is all about dads. They are the most necessary part of making a baby after all, and most women rely on them wholeheartedly as birth partners. New guidance has been released which outlines the need for dads to become more involved in ante-natal care and the whole childbirth process. So it seemed apt to write about my two birth experiences with Ghostwriterdaddy taking centre stage.

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My husband is good at listening and following instructions. So when he was advised during an ante-natal class to ensure that he packed a lunch for the big day, he did just that. Two weeks over, I was to be induced and so this made the sandwhich making process a little easier. He even made soup the night before, to heat up once we arrived home with our new bundle of joy. The plan was simple: pop to the hospital, eat ham sandwhiches and return that same evening to dine on soup. Lovely. The reality was a little different…

I was induced and instantly in a lot of pain. Ghostwriterdadddy sprung to action and made himself handy by timing the contractions and chasing midwives. We had a laugh: hopsital food was worthy of many a joke or two. When the pain became more intense, my husband ran me a bath and we settled into the warm room. This was the point he felt able to open up his lunch box and finally- after hours of no food- unwrapped his lovingly prepared ham sandwhich. Unfortunately, this was also the time that my body decided my waters should break and my announcement of this promptly put Ghostwriterdaddy “right off” his sandwhich. I’ll never forget his face. The disappointment.

I’m making light of the situation. My husband was fantastic. We went down to delivery where he turned off Coronation Street upon my request, he held a cold flannel to my head and he cracked appropriate jokes at appropriate times. It never occurred to me that the alarms, oxygen masks and beeping machines were actually freaking him out a little. Having had an epidural and sucking like crazy on the gas and air, I was still laughing at his jokes long after my husband had realised the gravity of the situation we were in.

When the decision was made to go down to surgery for a Ventouse delivery, my husband took my wedding and engagement ring and put them into his pocket. He arrived in theatre with a green gown floating behind him and a smile on his face. Or at least, it looked like a smile to me. We laughed again as the anaesthetist realised he had turned a lovely shade of white and quickly adjusted the height of the screen. The Ventouse wasn’t going to work and they were prepping me for  an emergency section.

Ghostwriterdaddy was the first person, after the medical staff, to hold our daughter. He gave her the first bath, changed the first nappy and did all the get-ups in those first days back at home. BUT I have to add that he also, helpfully, took ALL of my hospital bags home in an effort to keep tidy, leaving me with no nappies, no clothes and no blankets. We can’t have it all, I suppose.

2009

We laughed about the funny things that happened during my daughter’s birth, but we retained a sense of fear as my second pregnancy began to draw to an end. Ghostwriterdaddy had admitted how frightening he’d found our daughter’s birth and we’d requested an elective c-section this time. Regular readers will know that this was denied and so the night I went into labour was terribly devoid of jokes.

We arrived at 4 am and I was admitted. Ghostwriterdaddy was sent home until visiting hours resumed at 11am. When he arrived back on to the ward, he was greeted with a near hysterical wife, in pain and terrified. He then spent a further four or so hours, pacing the corridors with me, fuelled on nothing more than paracetamol. He grew increasingly concerned, tense, angry. We were pretty much left to it.

At around 3pm my husband was helping me out of the bathroom, which had become something of a distraction from pacing the corridors. A midwife spotted him and pounced upon us to inform him that the bathroom was for the use of women patients only. Perhaps not the best comment to make, but now that he had a midwife, he was going to keep her for a while. My husband demanded that someone come to my rescue, as it were, and we were led back to bed for an examination. At 6cm, we were finally granted access to the delivery suite.

Ghostwriterdaddy informs me that I was propped up on the bed with towels, since there were no pillows. He also informs me that the blinds in the window were broken and that the workmen outside had a very interesting tea break that day. There was no crib. There was no birthing pack. The mouth piece for the gas and air was missing. Another piece of equipment was broken. It did not start well.

Ghostwriterdaddy held my hand and stayed with me as the machines bleeped, the staff talked and the doctors came and went. He knew the drill this time. Oxygen masks. Pain. Terror. It was almost exactly the same as before. And then. And then…

My son’s heart beat fell to silence and the bars came up on the sides of the bed. Tears streaked down my face. My teeth chattered. My hand fell from his. We disappeared.

I hate to think of Ghostwriterdaddy standing in that suffocating, gloomy delivery room, all alone. I hate to think of the silence. I hate to think of him walking down the corridor, where just moments before, feet had been running. I hate to think of him finding the operating theatre, since this could be the only place they had taken me. I hate to think of  him waiting there, not knowing. I hate to think of nameless faces telling him that they could not tell him anything and that all he can do now is wait.

Wait.

Wait, as I was waiting for him. Wait, as they put me to sleep and sliced me open. Wait, as our son was born, alone and blue. Wait, as a tube was pushed down his throat and finally- finally- air breathed into his lungs.

When I awoke, my husband was holding my son and he was all wrapped up in a blanket like a neat surprise. But this is where I must lighten the load of this story. He did it again. Ghostwriterdaddy took all of my hospital bags home, once again leaving me nappy-less and clothes-less. We laughed about that. We had to.

In around six weeks time, I shall be going to hospital to live out the third part of my birth story. Once again, Ghostwriterdaddy will be there, holding my hand when it matters and cracking jokes when I need him to. He’s seen me at my worst, my most vulnerable and my most scared. He’s been there.

 

 

This post was written as part of the Netmums blogging prompt, with Channel 4. The new series of One born every Minute starts on Wed 4th Jan at 9pm, or you can watch online here.


The day the doctor listened to me

I’ve been wanting to write this post for about a week now, but I’ve not been well and not had the slightest inclination to blog at all. It’s funny how something big can occur and you just want to mull over for a while before you share it with the rest of the blogosphere.

Anyway, last week we met with my consultant for a 28 week appointment and to go through my intentions for the birth. Regular readers will know that I have already had two emergency sections and I am wanting an elective this time. Regular readers will also know that so far, I have been given no indication that my requests are being listened to, and that I am a strong believer in the new NICE guidelines which state that all women should be given the right to make informed choices in birth- and opt for a c-section if they feel that is the best course of action for them.

So. Ghostwriterdaddy and I went to the hospital last week with our minds set on staying until our requests were taken seriously and, if possible, a date was set for the section in February. We were ready for the fight. We had been here before, just over two years ago, and we knew the drill. We did not want to see any old registrar who would be unable to give us the answers we wanted. We wanted to see our consultant and we wanted to tell him- the decision maker- why we wanted a section. Like I said, we were ready.

So, blood pressure done and sample dipped, we were told that ‘a doctor’ would be through to see us shortly. Our doctor? No, ‘a doctor’. Any doctor. Not the doctor who I had called the hospital to speak to weeks ago and who I was told would be at the meeting with the notes from both of my previous births to hand. The doctor who has his name on my notes and our fate in his hands. We politely insisted we would wait for that doctor instead.

And we waited. And waited. And waited.

And then he arrived. We listened to the heartbeat and we discovered that the hard mass by my belly button (which I had been convinced was a head) was our baby’s bottom. We discovered the baby was really low down but head down and that it was measuring five weeks too small. Uh-oh.

The reason the toddler’s section had been refused was due to that blummin tape measure plotting him as five weeks too small. I assured the doctor that both my children had measured small but both had been healthy weights. He sent us for a scan and we returned with the news that all was fine and the baby was growing well, perfect for dates. He, in return, greeted us with the news that he had booked our section.

Yes. He listened to me. He read my notes and he listened to me.

The hospital’s policy is to perform elective sections at 39 weeks but my consultant felt that my past history and anxieties warranted an individual approach. He booked me in at 38 weeks to eliminate the risk of me going into labour before the agreed date and needing a third emergency section.

He listened to me.

He also told me that, despite another hospital policy, I would not need to be admitted the night before so that I could spend as much time as possible at home before the surgery.

He listened to me.

He also told me that if I did go into labour, there would be no ‘trial of labour’- I would be taken straight to theatre for a section.

He listened to me.

 

I will return at 36 weeks to finalise my birth plan and to sort out a few other details. But all of that is fine. I have my answer. I have my date. I have been listened to.


If you really want to know about the new NICE guidelines on c-sections…

… READ THEM.

I cannot stress this enough. Here is the link. Read them if you’re interested, if it affects you or if you have an opinion. When you’ve read them, then come back and say it is all going to be a catastrophe for the NHS.

I already knew that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) were about to update their guidelines on c-sections for pregnant women. I wrote about it for iVillage, with regards to my own experiences and why the updated guidelines were welcome for women like me.  In my article, I pointed out that one of the most important recommendations in the document, for me, was the need for:

intervention for evaluation [including] ‘psychological outcomes (postnatal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, self-esteem, mother–infant bonding)’ and cites a previous traumatic birth as a major reason for a section being a reasonable choice. It also states that these women should be offered ‘intensive midwifery support’ and referrals to mental health professionals.

For me, the fact that medical professionals are being encourage to counsel women on their reasons for wanting a c-section, is a massive deal. It also means that most of the views I have heard from the media today are complete rubbish.

For the sake of selling a story, the media are choosing to tell us that all women can choose a c-section and that’s the end of it. Yes, that would cost the NHS a lot of money. If it was that simple. It isn’t. NICE are suggesting that women be assessed for emotional well-being and psychological factors. NICE are suggesting that counselling is the first option for women like me, in order to fully understand the reasons behind our decision to have a c-section.

Women like me are only too aware that a c-section is a major operation. You don’t need to remind us of that. I’ve been there, I have the scars. Women like me are not intent on avoiding pain or keeping a ‘nice, undisturbed set of privates’ as someone has accused me today. Women like me are not out to rip off the NHS. We are simply asking for help. NICE are showing that we are being listened to and that is the reason why the new guidelines are so important.

Today a male doctor was speaking on the radio and he started his sentence with the words :”If I were a young mother about to give birth…” and I have to admit that instantly my stomach sank. Then he finished with: “I would be more worried about being a good parent than the birth because it is such a small part of it all.”

Yes, for most women it is. But for some, like me, childbirth is a massive chain around our necks. If we get the chance to speak out, to be listened to and to nurture self-confidence in the art of childbirth then that could change. But it will never be a small thing: instead, it will be bigger than ever, only in a good way.

Today, one excellent article has been published that was written by a lady who has always been one of the first to provide me with support and guidance. Lorraine Berry has written for Dadclubz  and her article raises many good points. Please take a read. It makes a lot more sense than the women on radio one this evening…


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