I’m prefacing today’s blog with a disclaimer:
This is my birth story. It’s a little edited still as I just cannot share one hundred percent of what happened. It’s just too personal and still too raw. Please do not ask me any questions, it’s ok to comment but I do not want to discuss this. It’s still incredibly difficult, but I feel it’s time to share. There are some contact details for organisations that may be able to help you, if you’re experiencing PTSD on my welcome page.
If you are pregnant, think carefully before reading my story. It’s not pleasant.
Also, I am a registered nurse and have been a nurse for eleven years. The system I worked for, failed me.
I had a fairly uneventful pregnancy.
Morning all day sickness until about 20 weeks, migraines until 22 weeks. Baby was always growing well according to the ultrasound reports and I was actually liking being pregnant. Then I got to around 33 weeks and like all mothers to be, was totally over it. I was in pain all day and the Braxton hicks were getting more intense in nature. I was chugging raspberry leaf and hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait much longer to be put out of my pregnancy hell. At 35 weeks I felt her move up. I can’t really explain it, I just experienced intense lower back pain and I suddenly became unable to do anything. Plus my ankles had disappeared and replaced with fluid filled space occupiers.
At my next appointment my doctor told me that the baby was posterior and that’s why I had so much back pain. Also that her head was not engaged. I was distraught, the back pain was getting me down, I couldn’t sleep, then to be told she wasn’t engaged was a massive blow. She had been fully engaged at 35+1 when I had a ‘sizing’ ultrasound. As she had always measured on the lower side of size, my doctor wanted to ensure she didn’t have IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Retardation) which I felt pretty certain of that she didn’t.
After it was confirmed that my baby was a healthy size, we continued with the pregnancy as per usual. The same story continued through weeks 37, 38 and 39 though, that she wasn’t engaged. It was at 40 weeks that I started to get super worried. Why wasn’t my baby engaged? Why wasn’t I starting to show any signs of labour other than Braxton hicks? I was in pain 24 hours per day and was at the end of my tether. We decided to wait until 41 as I still very much wanted to avoid induction and or cesarean, so did my obstetrician, so I started doing more exercises to try and encourage the baby to engage. Unfortunately all my efforts were futile and at 41 weeks and one day, I saw my doctor again and we booked the cesarean. I was advised against an induction as there was high probability I’d end up with a cord prolapse an end up in cesarean anyway. My doctor had been doing ultrasounds at each appointment in the end to monitor the babies progress and check cord location.
I was booked in for 41 weeks and 4 days pregnant. I had to be nil by mouth from 6am and at the hospital at 10am for check in. To say I was terrified was a total understatement. I didn’t sleep the night before and I sobbed the whole way into the theatre and also while the operation happened. I’m a registered nurse, I know the risks to both mother and baby from cesarean.
When I was wheeled into the theatre, the anaesthetist had to put a cannula in my arm. This was for syntocinon (pitocin) and also in case of emergency. Then it was time for my spinal. The anaesthetist kept telling me to lean forward, but with an almost 42 week old foetus in my womb and an extra 18 kilograms (just under 40 pounds) of weight, I was quite literally as far forward as I could be. It hurt like hell going in. I yelped, but stayed perfectly still. Then my legs felt hot and heavy. I was swung up on the table by the staff and then I had a catheter put in. I told them I could feel it. Then they put betadine solution on my belly. I told them I could feel it. The doctor had to shave some of my pubic hair, I told him I could feel it. They ignored me. I was terrified. They started the operation. I could feel lots of tugging and pulling. They said it was normal, I kept telling them I could feel it and they kept telling me it was normal. I shut down. I totally dissociated from what was going on. Then the doctor told me that I would feel some pressure as they pulled the baby out. The pain was incredible as they pulled her out and I screamed. Everyone went silent. They all stopped. I just cried. Then it was business as usual. They kept going. I was still awake. Next thing I know, the baby was brought over and we had ‘happy’ snaps. Then they took her away. I was on my own in the theatre with the doctors. Stupidly the staff took the surgical screen down after the baby was born and I was able to see my reflection in the reflective coating on the light on the ceiling. The things I saw happen to me is stuff nobody should be privy to. I still can’t really talk about it. It’s so traumatic and violating. I can’t remember feeling it after that. I tried to zone out. I wanted to just be anywhere but there.
When the ordeal was over, I was in agony. My abdomen hurt so much. I was moved into recovery and I told the nurses I was in pain, but they didn’t believe me. They kept telling me that I had a spinal and I shouldn’t be in any pain. Which compounded my feelings, as I am a nurse, I know I can never ever tell my patient that they are not in any pain. I was in so much pain. I wanted my baby but I didn’t know where she was, nobody could tell me. I wanted my husband but he was gone too. I was on my own with a nurse who kept telling me about her baby, who kept ignoring me and who kept wanting to look at my ‘bleeding’. She didn’t ask either, she just kept lifting the blankets and looking at my vagina and telling me how “easy” post op cesarean ladies are to care for.
When they finally believed me that I was in pain and that I needed something, they told me that I would have to wait longer in recovery before I could go to my baby. I was so scared, so I told them just to take me to my room. I finally got some Endone or something a few hours later.
To add insult to injury, I suspected my daughter had reflux and was fobbed off by the nursing and medical staff. She would lie in the crib in my hospital room crying and screaming, then would vomit fountains of milk out. I was told she was just a “difficult” baby and as a “first time mum, you should expect to be nervous and unsure”. I finally had my daughter diagnosed and treatment commenced at 16 weeks old. We both suffered so much in those early days.
I physically recovered well from the operation and thankfully bonded well with my daughter. I’m still not ok in my head, it’s very early days. She’s now 16 and a half months old and really is the light of my life. There have been moments where I have regretted having her. In honesty, I would not be where I am in terms of my mental health, had I not had her, but she makes all the trauma and aftermath so worth it. I know also if we were to ever have another child (I’m still very much in the ‘no’ camp) and I needed another cesarean to ensure that babies safety, I’d do it without hesitation, but likely under a general anaesthetic.
Without the constant support and understanding of my husband and my parents and his parents, I know I would not have gotten through.
Without my amazing support network of friends. Some of them have been able to give me the greatest hugs and their shoulders to cry on. Most of them live inside my computer. However I count them all as the closest friends a girl could have. Such amazing women, willing to give so much of themselves to me in support.