Harriet’s Labour Story – There’s a Time and a Place to Die… This wasn’t it.
CW: Harriet’s labour and delivery was incredibly traumatic. This post contains graphic descriptions of major blood loss, medical procedures, struggles with feeding, and poor care from professionals. If any of these topics are triggering for you click here to go back to our posts page.
This is the first part to the journey and story – of your entrance into the world. I am struggling to write it all down- even after I had my ‘Birth Afterthoughts’ session.
It wasn’t labour right away
My labour story starts on the Sunday before your due date, the 31st January 2016 at around 5:30 In the evening. I thought that I would make your Daddy a lovely dinner of bacon macaroni cheese from scratch. Nesting instincts kicked in and I had spent all day cleaning, but something was up. I decided to call the Maternity ward at the William Harvey Hospital because I couldn’t feel you move and it had been that way since I had woken up!
This wasn’t the first time, but the forth time you’d decided to do this. I think you secretly liked making mummy worry about you! I texted your Grandma, who came straight away to take me to hospital so we could get you checked over.
Unlike every other time that I had to go in for monitoring for your reduced movement, you didn’t start wiggling away the minute you’d heard the machine monitoring pads being put on to my tummy. Despite this, you were doing well, your heart rate was spot on with a beautiful variance and pattern. After about 15 minutes I could feel you moving and that made me feel so much happier!
However, I wasn’t doing quite so well…
I had proteins in my wee, a raised pulse and high blood pressure and a headache that had lasted several days- The Midwife decided to do blood tests to make sure all was okay (little did I know this would be the first of many, many needle wounds over the next two weeks!) Two midwives tried to take my blood but failed, so they sent off for a Doctor… I have always had rubbish veins! Grandma and I joked about how, if I begged them enough they might induce me (as after months of SPD and spinal disc issues, I was in lots of pain!)
Shortly after this, I moved from the ‘Maternity Day Care Ward’, to the ‘Folkestone Ward’ because the Maternity day care unit was closing for the day! The Midwife there told me that I should expect to stay- but that it would probably just be for the one night for further monitoring. Grandma left shortly after, to help your Daddy pack my short stay night bag.
Around 30 minutes after she left, I overheard a Doctor talking to a Midwife. She said about a lady on the ward who “had a few episodes of reduced movement and has now been diagnosed with preeclampsia” and so needed to be moved to the ‘Labour Ward’ induction room. So it would be safer for her and her baby if she was to be induced. ‘She’s a lucky lady!’ I thought to myself, as it was just 2 days away from your due date and I couldn’t wait to meet you! The Midwife and Doctor then came around to see me and told me that I had preeclampsia. OH MY GOSH! It was me that they were sending around to the labour ward to be induced!
Time to get going…
“Harriet, my lovely- I think it’s time we start trying to get this little lady to make a move, what do you think about meeting your baby soon?” The Midwife said as she walked me across to the labour ward.
I had Induction room ‘A’. It was far too hot (the fan was broken and with hormonal hot flushes, this was a personal hell for me)… But it was a step closer to holding and meeting my sweet baby girl! I texted your Daddy and Grandma to say I was going to be induced and therefore would need all of your baby stuff and my hospital bag. While I waited, another Midwife came to see me and told me that she could start induction whenever I was ready. I asked if I could have a bath and she told me that it is an excellent idea to enjoy a freshen up before induction commences as it can be an uncomfortable process.
Your Daddy came at about half past ten, baring all of your baby bits, my hospital bags and most importantly (at that moment in time) my toiletries- I couldn’t wait to wash my hair! I had a bath, got dried and told the Midwife at the desk that I’d be in my room waiting as I was ready to be induced!
The Midwife came and she put us on a monitor for half an hour before she started the induction. You were still wiggling about and had the perfect heart rate, so she went on to inserting a pessary. It was awfully uncomfortable when it was being put in and even more painful to keep in for a whole 24 hours. We were monitored every 3 hours and with the room being stifling hot, I got no sleep. NO SLEEP (and Daddy complained about being tired?!?)
At 6am there was a staff change over, I was introduced to a new Midwife called Louise and a student Midwife called James. Before I met James, I was so unsure about student and male midwives, but he COMPLETELY changed my opinion through being courteous, kind, patient and friendly.
The first contractions
Grandma came back at 10am the next morning after taking Uncle D to school- It was now the 1st Feburary. She brought flapjacks, juice, fruit and even some cheeky Malteasers to keep my energy up! She also made me walk around the hospital several times to get you moving… clockwise, anti-clockwise, outside, out to A&E, to the cafe, to the shop and up and down the stairs. I can’t even remember the total number of people I bumped into, old friends, customers- you name it! All whilst in my Pyjamas, great!
I started to get contraction pains at around 2pm, which got worse until I had to breathe carefully just to get through the pain- I really thought things were going to go quickly from there on and you’d be in my arms soon! Alas- It got to 10pm, I’d had the pessary In for 22 and a half hours and I hadn’t got any further into my labour. My cervix remained flat and hadn’t dilated in the slightest. I felt like a complete wimp, I was in so much pain and it had been for nothing so far. It made me hysterical about the pain that was to come. I was disappointed in myself and my body for not doing what it needed to do.
In time, it turned out that the pain was down to an allergic reaction to the pessary, and my cervix trying to do what it needed to do in the warm up to labour. Because of this, the Midwife decided against a second pessary (Thank goodness!) and told me I’d have a gel inserted after monitoring to see if that got things going instead. At 11:30pm the pessary was removed and the gel was swiftly inserted. I was so relieved that the pessary had gone because it made me so sore. Even when removed it felt as if it was still in there- it made weeing agonising and sitting upright almost impossible! As I kept saying to Grandma ‘My foof felt like a hoof’ and it probably looked like one too (eww!)
The Midwife said the gel could be reapplied every 6 hours and that she’d see me every three to four hours for monitoring- Then see me for another lot of gel at 5:30 am (On the 2nd February). The labour pains got worse and closer together that night. I just about nodded off at 4:30am… but woke up to what I thought was you giving me a MASSIVE kick at 5:20am. I tried to go back to sleep but I felt strange, so decided I’d go to the toilet. When I stood up I felt a huge rush of liquid escape into my Pyjama bottoms. LOVELY! I wasn’t sure what it was, so I went to the toilet and my biggest hopes (and fears!) were confirmed… My waters had gone!
A call for help
I pressed the assistance buzzer and a (unusually unhelpful) Midwife came and quite literally threw a pad at me and told me “if it’s your waters, it’ll soak the pad” and that she’d be back soon to check what’s going on. I texted your Daddy and Grandma to tell them what was going on. Daddy was going to go to work as he’d just got a new job- I was going to get him to come up when he was needed as I was fine with just Grandma helping me. Who doesn’t want their Best Friend and Mummy there when they’re in pain?
Grandma arrived as they were helping me to pack up my induction room to move me to delivery room 6, she helped me change my clothes and walk over to the other room. I felt sick walking over there and the second I sat on the bed, I threw up.. Grandma skilfully caught (most of it) in three(!!!) bowls.
Group B Strep
My Group B Strep test earlier in pregnancy was positive. I needed IV antibiotics during labour to keep you safe from the dangerous infection so they inserted a cannula in to my hand. As my hand was already black and blue from bruising after several failed blood test attempts, my body wouldn’t take the antibiotics. Because of this, a midwife squeezed the bag to see if she could force the antibiotics into my body- but all that did was cause my hand to expel an enormous amount of blood all over the fresh bed sheets.
I (used to) give blood so needles and cannulas aren’t a big deal to me, but that cannula was more agonising than most of my contractions. I cried and I begged them to take it out and move it to my other hand! Which they did after Grandma reasoned with them, as I was in floods of tears!
I was successfully hooked up to your antibiotics (with help from the ward’s top anaesthesiologist), your monitor and my contraction monitor. Then handed the gas and air! (I giggled lots, they don’t call it laughing gas for nothing!) The hours passed as I slowly became more and more dilated, going from 2cm to 5cm to at ease. When it got to about 12 o’clock, your Grandma texted Daddy to come up to see me. Contractions were starting to get stronger and my back was agonising (with two prolapsed and one herniated disc considered I think I did well to be so brave!) so the midwife suggested having an epidural.
The same Anesthesiologist that successfully inserted my cannula had the joys of setting up my mobile epidural so I could remain mobile in labour. Completely drunk on gas and air, I was raised on the bed towards the ceiling. I felt like someone from a scene in Alice in Wonderland. The area was cleaned and through contractions I was trying my hardest to stay still whilst a 4 inch needle was stuck into my spine. “If you don’t stay still, this could paralyze you” I heard a voice say. I was trying so hard to stay still, but I couldn’t! I held onto your Grandma and she held onto me – Trying to keep me still as I sat on the edge of the bed breathing through contractions must have been tough!
Success, it was in!
Attending to my needs
Then James and Grandma decided it was time to get me up to do a wee! I tried and tried but I just couldn’t go, so when I came back I had to have a catheter. James applied my catheter with ease. Your Daddy came soon after then, he offered me a fruit shoot but then drank it- helpful. Both Grandma and Daddy were trying to reassure me but for some reason, their pats on the back and strokes on the face infuriated me. James jokingly said that he could tell when I was having a contraction because I went from being lovely to being really grumpy (I did shout at Daddy and Grandma to tell them not to touch me!)
Labour contractions turned from stomach cramps to awful back pain, which honestly really made me feel like I needed to do a poo. So James checked how dilated I was, he guessed at around 8cm but Louise checked again and said I was at 10cm. It was time to listen to the rhythm of my body and push. I was going to have you in my arms so soon! Louise left for her lunch, jokingly telling me that she hopes to see my baby when she gets back.
My hopes and wishes
I wanted to touch your head as you started your journey into the world. I wanted you straight onto my bare chest for lovely skin to skin, having your cord cut at an optimum time, a physiological third stage of labour. We were going to really bond, in turn stimulating my milk production so I could breast feed you until you are one and a half. That was my plan. I wanted all of that. I wanted it so much. We were going to do it all and I was so excited to see if you looked like a ‘Florence’, I secretly had my heart set on your name for so long.
Following James’ and Grandma’s instructions, I pushed every time my body told me I needed to. The first 30 minutes of pushing I wasn’t putting anywhere near enough effort into it- I don’t really know what I expected? Like you would come out if I pushed gently? I mean it hadn’t been as hard as I expected it would be so far? Maybe I could get away with it and no one would notice? NO! Grandma noticed AND James noticed AND you still weren’t here.
Louise came back and told me that the lady in the next room had just had her baby after 25 minutes of being on the labour ward, “it was a breeze!”… She made it clear that I had to push harder and her firm but fair voice took over from James’ instruction. Your Daddy stroked my arm. I spent 15 minutes PROPERLY pushing, with all of my might. Determined to get you here. Thoughts were circling in my head, like; I want her now. I really want my baby girl. I love her so much. Will she be a Florence? Will I miss my bump? This hasn’t been too bad so far!
“Harriet, she’s crowned, we can see her head!” exclaimed the Midwives and Grandma.
Then everything started to look funny. Everything looked grey, cloudy and felt like I was watching myself on television. The labour had been tough, I assume I just thought I was overwhelmed.
“Harriet, do you want to feel her head?” asked Grandma. “No” I replied. “Are you sure?” she said. I didn’t reply. “One more push and she’ll be here” said Louise and James…
As you quite literally FLEW out at such a speed that James, had to literally catch you.
He placed you on my chest. I held you close. I looked at your little face.
It all started to go very wrong, very quickly. I had no idea of the events unfolding as I lost consciousness after a rupturing a main artery, causing what was described as a massive hemorrhage.
I looked up and saw blood on the wall, I said to your Grandmim “Take a picture of the blood on the wall, it’ll make (your Uncle) G faint and it will be funny!”
“Harriet, you’re not going to be able to have a physiological third stage, we need to get your placenta out quickly”
“Can you sign this please, Harriet? We need to take you to theatre…”
“But I don’t think I can’t write my name?”
“You’re not doing too well lovely, you’ve lost a lot of blood…”
“But I can smell washing powder?” (Who in the right mind has this as a key focus when they have just given birth to a beautiful baby girl?!)
Filling in the blanks
(This next part is so hard to write, because for the most of it- I wasn’t conscious. The session that I had at Birth Afterthoughts, has helped me fill in some of the gaps and your Grandma has helped with the rest!)
A long blank covered the vast amount of the next eight hours.
There are so many things that are hazy and things that I couldn’t remember but would have loved to treasure forever. Like; Your Daddy, cutting your cord. Hearing your first cry. Seeing your beautiful face for the first time. Holding you in my arms for your first breaths. Your first moments in this world. That tiny bit of initial skin to skin that we actually got together.
I’m pretty sure that you were very happy and contented being safe and warm in the womb and that’s why you were being stubborn on your way out! During the time that it took for your head to crown and for you to fly out into James’ arms, your tiny, little yet very robust body caused a 2nd degree tear.
A freak occurrence
This fairly minor tear (somehow) managed to rupture a main artery. So in the time that I delivered you, to when you were in my arms- my blood had started to pool. Flowing out of me, covering the bed and the floor around where our bed stood. Grandma and your Daddy were so wrapped up in the moment, that they had not yet realised what was unfolding around them.
Grandma noticed James and Louise (Both of our Midwives) looking concerned and pointing to something on the floor. I can imagine at around this point, the emergency cord was pulled.
My blood loss was increasing and becoming more uncontrollable as my consciousness plummeted. You were removed from my chest and passed to Grandma.
Dozens of people started to flood into the room. A man introduced himself and quickly began trying to stitch and fix me up. But that obviously didn’t quite do the trick. Grandma then needed to help undress me for theatre, so you were quickly passed to your Daddy.
I was asked to sign a piece of paper, but I couldn’t even remember how to write my name. It was explained that I couldn’t have a physiological third stage and I agreed. After I had my nose stud and clothes removed to go to theatre, I was rushed out of the room. Just as I was rushed out, I caught sight of Irene, a friendly face, that I hadn’t seen in years. This made me feel slightly more relaxed. I have been told that I was hurried along a corridor and taken straight into emergency theatre.
Unlike lots of other things that I am almost thankful that I can’t remember- I can remember most of the agonising rummaging that went on, to repair the tear and stop me bleeding. I wish I could say that I couldn’t feel it, but I could. I begged for more pain relief and was given another epidural and then later, I believe a spinal block was administered too. The rummaging was vital in putting me back together, I understand that, but experiencing what felt like two big hands squeezing my internal organs was horrific.
There was a man with his laptop in theatre, I don’t remember why, but I remember him being there. A lady with short hair, in scrubs with her hair net, held my hand as I sobbed and looked up at the blood on the ceiling. I looked up at my blood pressure and the systolic reading blared a hazy ’62’ at me, before I slipped out of consciousness again.
Where were you?
Grandma – “In the meantime, Florence had squeezed out a massive meconium poo into the soft warm towel she was wrapped in! I started to go through Florence’s hospital bag to pick out her nappy stuff and an outfit, she couldn’t stay in a towel the whole time you weren’t there! I found a cat sleepsuit, Tom and I decided that this would be perfect for her first outfit.”
“Florence kept crying, I knew that she was hungry and that she couldn’t wait until you came back to have milk. The midwife said that she would try and get your consent before giving Florence formula. She asked us what type of formula we wanted to give Florence- I didn’t have a clue, because I knew how much you wanted skin to skin and to breastfeed your baby. In the end I chose SMA as all of my children had SMA with no problems. I thought it was best to stick with what we knew.”
From bad to worse
In that time period where I was unconscious and memory is a mix of non existent and hazy. I remember that I couldn’t stop shivering. I shivered so relentlessly, for so long that my jaw, arms and chest ached for over two weeks. The recovery team asked if I could stop shivering so that they could get my pulse and my temperature, but I simply couldn’t- I believe it was around this time that I had to have a arterial line inserted. I was given three units of blood and one unit of plasma. I had consented to my baby being fed formula, with a few words despite being unconscious and not remembering any of it.
Grandma – “The midwife rushed in and said to put the baby down, you need to come with me immediately. It was then that they said your condition was critical. The surgeon said that it wasn’t looking great, he didn’t know what way you were going to go and he gave you 50/50 for pulling through. I came to see you but could only get as far as your feet, there were so many people, cables, wires, drips and machines. You were white. So white. Your veins had started to look like pinpricks and blue dandelions as they had started to shut down through a lack of blood.”
I don’t remember anything else for a very, very long time.
Eventually, my Grandma brought you to me and placed you by my cheek. I don’t remember this, but I truly believe that this contact with my baby girl- even though I was unconscious brought me back from the brink. People would have come and gone, observations were made. Specialists visited. My recovery team sat by my side.
Then, something clicked.
Like a flash. I was still shivering and I was beyond exhausted. But all I wanted was my baby, oh and I wanted orange juice. REALLY wanted orange juice. I had been monitored and nursed, quite literally back from death. I continued to beg for water because I knew that if I could drink by myself, I would be on my way to being better for my baby.
One of the recovery crew looked like my Grandpops. After I had come round, he promised me he’d sneak me a cup of tea if I promised him I’d keep fighting to get better. Him and the nurse with the short hair from theatre, held a cup and straw as I almost literally consumed my weight in water. They held my hand and offered reassuring pats on the arms and stroked my head as I fell in and out of consciousness.
Grandma- “Tom went to get us both food as we were both starving. I sat and cuddled with Florence. We cried. I promised that I’d always be there to love and look after her. I told her that we could go to Disneyland when she’s bigger. We were forced to consider, contemplate and plan in case Florence had to live her life without you. It was horrific. Completely awful.”
A long wait
I lay in recovery with my recovery team for a few more hours as people came to check on my bleeding, progress and consciousness hourly. I was feeling freezing and totally petrified of starting to shiver again, so the man who looked like my Grandpops did a blanket round up for me and I lay there snug under 8-10 blankets.
He grabbed me a cup of tea so that it would be cool enough for me to drink after a specialist had checked me over. He came back with a slice of cake too and said that if I’m well enough, he might even give me his… Sadly after the observations I was well enough for fluids (so hell yes, give me that tea!) but too poorly for my cake, so I made him promise to eat it, enjoy it and tell me how nice it was. Which he didn’t because he felt too mean. Bless him!
I sat in recovery for at least another couple of hours. My recovery team started to try and help me to sit more upright, they did everything and anything they could to make me comfortable. Grandma brought you in to see me. This time I was actually able to hold you but this lovely encounter was cut short by my need to rest.
A senior male midwife was called to check up on my bleeding and labeled it as very heavy, but being a lady with PCOS I was very familiar with very heavy bleeding and this wasn’t very heavy to me at all, so a lady was called in and asked to check it out and also agreed that the blood loss was of a fair amount but certainly not very heavy.
A little more time passed, I had a final check and was wheeled out of recovery and back onto the labour ward. After I said a very emotional goodbye to my recovery team.
I had returned to my room on the labour ward for no more than half an hour, when my midwife- James’ noticed that temperature and pulse started to really rocket. A blood sample eventually revealed that I had sepsis. For the second time in 24 hours, I was fighting my life. I was placed on IV antibiotics and as many layers were removed from me as possible to keep me cool.
Grandpa and Uncle D managed to get on the ward after Grandma was told my Direct family could see me after all that had happened. I just lay there as they met you, too exhausted to even function. Grandma then took the first picture of us as a family.
At around 10:30pm your Grandparents cuddled and kissed us goodbye and went on their way home. Grandpa had a day full of meetings about Uncle D’s future education as he is on the autistic spectrum and with Grandma having been with me since 7am, they were both completely exhausted and very deserving of a rest.
Our Little Family
Daddy spent some time with us – so we could just be us, our little family. A nurse came in to help me with skin to skin and to show me how you should latch on to my breast so that I could try to begin with breast feeding.
We decided that we wanted you to be called Florence. Florence as in ‘Florence Nightingale’. We drafted our birth announcement. Sadly Daddy had to go as he had cold symptoms and didn’t want to pass them onto us. You were placed in a crib next to my bed and you fell asleep.
My catheter was removed and I was told that if I went for a bath, I could go onto the Folkestone ward and that we’d be able to go home in no time. I wanted to be at home. I didn’t want to be in hospital. This was going to be my 3rd night. I started to try and stand up, to make my way to the bathroom- but I couldn’t. I wasn’t strong enough.
You woke up and started screaming. You wouldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t get to get up and help you. I was helpless. It made me feel useless. Healthcare workers popped their head round the door and asked me why you were crying – as if I could have just jumped and sorted it out myself.
A student midwife came in and introduced herself, she was called Florence too! She was very lovely, helped me out of bed, helped me to walk over to Florence and even changed your nappy. A healthcare assistant helped me gather my bits for a bath and off I went. Midwife Florence passed you on to another midwife who cradled you whilst I sorted myself out.
I needed a loved one with me. Someone to sit with you whilst I bathed the blood, sweat, tears and everything else off of my half-dead, aching body. I needed someone to hold my hand. It was horrendous. I had the most agonising bath of my life. Whilst I could hear my new born baby screaming from the corridor in the arms of a total stranger. Every one of my stitches stung. I felt like my insides were going to fall out. Tears rolled down my cheeks, but I had to do it, I had to be healthy so that we could go home. When I got out of the bath, it looked like a murder scene. I dried myself, put on pjs and walked back over to my room.
As I was crossing the corridor, a midwife came over and said “as you’ve managed to bath yourself, we think it’s time for you to go back onto the Folkestone ward”. They barely even helped me pack up my things before wheeling my possessions and my bed over to the Folkestone ward. I pushed you in your cot, with a tear dropping down my face for every step I took. It was agonising.
They placed us on a high dependency bay opposite the midwives’ mess and reception desk, surrounded by Mums who had all had c-sections (all of whom I watched leave over the next two days).
You didn’t stop crying that night, probably because you were starving and my breasts couldn’t fulfil your hunger in the way the bottle did. Every time you cried, you woke up another baby on the bay. Every time another baby cried, you cried. You cried so much that the midwives took you away so I could have a break, which made me feel like a failure of a mother.
For the hour or so that you were gone, I tried to express milk from my breasts whilst sobbing. Sobbing and sobbing. I had never felt so scared or so alone. It was about 3 in the morning now, on the 03/02/16. I’m just glad that I didn’t know then, that through the whole of my (almost 2 weeks collectively) hospital stay, this feeling wouldn’t let up.
I had done something so amazing and given birth to the most perfect, beautiful, healthy little girl. Yet, I felt like because my body was coping so badly I didn’t deserve you in the slightest.
The hour that you were gone, felt like weeks. I hadn’t had many conscious moments without you inside my tummy and kicking. I had tried so hard to express, but nothing was coming. The midwife brought you back in and you latched onto my breast again. She reassured me that you were getting plenty and that I would be able to fulfil your hunger. She gave me three large pans to fill and told me that when I had filled them, we could go home. I decided that I would save my wees to make everyone count, as the stitches made weeing very painful!
The hours passed
It slowly became the more acceptable half of morning, I had sat there for hours trying to feed you, settling you and staring at your perfect face.
The breakfast rounds came around and I had my usual banana with porridge and a cup of tea. I needed as much nutrition as I could get so that I could feed you.
You had your hearing checks. Your little ears were strong and perfect.
You had your hip alignment checked. Every little limb beautifully formed and effectively placed.
You had a heel prick – they were sure to check your thyroid as I’d always had problems, but nothing.
Like all Mummies, I was in awe of you – You were and always have been perfect.
The bounty lady came around to take your photos. She positioned you with ease whilst I watched, terrified that you’d break. She said you were beautiful and that you looked like me. I had never felt so proud.
The hospital stay
The midwives gave me painkillers but they weren’t enough. I had to have an anaesthetist ultra-sounding my arm every time I had a blood test or a drip put in place. You had your Strep B checks. It was such a relief that you were fine.
I cuddled you and I kissed you. I stared at you and I was in wonder at you. Your first outfit was dirty, I got to chose your 2nd outfit. I changed your nappy and held your little hands whilst I tried to feed you again. You became everything. You were everything. Still, you are my everything.
The surgeon from the day before, came to see me during his time off. He said that he was amazed at how lovely, friendly and polite I was despite not even being fully conscious. He was so pleased that I pulled through. It had got to close to me fading away and he was so pleased to see me with my baby.
You fell asleep, so I decided to be brave and go for my first wee. I really hope that you never have to experience that pain. I was glad I held on though, because the longer you hold on- the more diluted your wee becomes, which means it stings less. HURRAH!
When I came back, Grandma was in our little cubicle. I ate my breakfast and chilled out with her and you. I texted your Daddy and asked him to visit and whilst we waited, I braved going to the shower, but god did that hurt!
Our student midwife, James – came to see us and to say how pleased he was to see me looking as well as I did. He congratulated me and stayed for a while to chat. It felt so lovely to be so cared for by the team that saved my life.
Lunched passed, Grandma Stayed- Nonna and Grandpops came to visit you. Then Daddy came and so did GrandNan and Grandad.
A very noisy and rude lady was put into the bay to the left of us. She had as many visitors as she wanted at all times and refused to move and wouldn’t do anything to help herself or her baby. She put on a voice when a medical professional was near and made awful comments about my difficulties with breast feeding.
Daddy went, dinner came. It was my 2nd night with you.
You screamed, you screamed and you screamed.
My breasts were blue from trying to feed you constantly.
My milk hadn’t even began to come in.
The nasty comments from the lady in the next cubicle continued to roll in.
My after birth pains started to come in. They were agonising. My stitches hurt a lot. I decided that I needed more pain relief so walked over to the midwives’ desk – to be told that I should have been receiving morphine every 4 hours and that they’d get some to me asap if I waited in my cubicle.
I got very bad tummy pains whilst you were screaming and had to buzz for a midwife to hold you whilst I ran to the toilet. Instead of just agreeing to watch over you for a minute, she decided to try and argue with me about it. I got to the toilet and had the worst antibiotic, painkiller and after pains induced upset tummy imaginable.
I came back to you in no time and the midwife who I had left to hold you, had settled you and popped you into your cot. You looked so perfect and calm as you slept, but very shortly you woke up and resumed your screaming. I felt so helpless and so worried for my little girl.
The hours passed until it was about 6 in the morning. My nipples were bleeding and you were starving. I hadn’t slept in 4 nights aside for when I was unconscious. My milk still hadn’t come in.
I buzzed for a midwife because I wanted help. Unfortunately, the same midwife who had tried to argue with me the night before answered the call. She told me that I had essentially starved my baby and that only if I felt it was “completely necessary” would she give me any formula.
I begged her for a bottle for and fed you. Instantly your upset stopped. I was pleased that something so simple was behind your upset but felt so upset that my body couldn’t feed you. I raised my concerns that you were looking a little yellow, but was told that you were fine – so I tried not to worry.
Grandma came in and sat with us so that I could finally sleep. When she arrived, I was so stressed that I physically couldn’t sleep. She eventually covered my head with a blanket to shut out the light and I quite literally passed out. I woke up and went for a shower. She was a total life saver that day. She told me that Grandpa and your uncles would be coming that evening to see you and I got really excited.
I was full of love for you but I felt so alone. Grandma had so much to do but visited as much as she could. None of my friends visited and Daddy didn’t visit often either.
The woman in the next bay had visitors come and go and recounted my difficulties to every single guest, as I sat there behind the curtain sobbing. I felt like a failure. She not only had her own family to visit, but several friends and their children outside of visiting hours.
Daddy came to visit and came bearing disposable bottles of formula but had to go back home as he was still unwell.
An unfair ruling
Grandpa and your uncles turned up to visit, but just as they stepped into our bay – a midwife said that Uncle D couldn’t come in as he wasn’t my child. I tried to explain that the other lady had everybody and anybody that she wanted to visit, but I couldn’t get the words out through fits of tears. The ward staff send Grandpa and Uncle D sent into the corridor so that Uncle G could see you and then they could swap.
There was a plan set out in my head and because Uncle D is autistic I knew just how important it was for him to meet you and understand you. I was just so heartbroken that I got picked on for this when nobody else did. I had such a rubbish time and quite frankly missed my baby brother so much that it hurt. Calmly, I left you in Uncle G arms in our cubicle and went to see Grandpa and Uncle D. I very quickly became very hysterical. I sobbed into Grandpa’s arms whilst he told me that he loved us and that it was okay.
Our student midwife, James, walked by and explained that I was feeling the way that I was because of hormones. I had been on a 10 month high on the most wonderful hormones whilst pregnant and afterwards is just a massive emotion-filled hangover. He let me wheel you out of the bay into the corridor so that we could spend time together. Grandpa walked us back to my bed and we chatted. He gave me a big hug and completely reassured me that it would all be okay and that the pain would pass. He gave me a massive bar of galaxy and then had to go as visiting hours were over.
You were fast asleep and as they left I ate the whole big bar whilst I sobbed about how pants everything had been so far. I continued trying to pump, but still no milk.
Our own space
The lovely Irene came into see me and managed to get us on a list to get our own room so that Uncle D could visit, so that all the other babies and Mummies would be able to sleep and so that I could stop being tormented by the other mummy next to me.
Half way through the next day, we moved to our own room. My infection levels were still very high. Mummy’s friend Laurie sent her sister in with a massive box of chocolates to cheer me up, as she worked at the hospital.
We had our own space. I finally could use the toilet or shower without cringing. You were sleeping. I felt calmer. I could have anybody to visit at any time. Which meant that Grandpa could visit more frequently as he finished work late.
As your Daddy started to feel a little better, he could come and see us a little more. He got you more formula as my milk still hadn’t come in and continued to fetch me more supplies. Your GrandNan made me a fruit salad and brought it in- which was delightful, I was starving!
My veins became so damaged that a 20 minute antibiotic drip went from taking 2 hours to taking 4. Pin pricks and bruises covered my body – over 50 of them. But I had you.
They eventually referred you to a paediatric doctor for jaundice, as the first midwife that I saw blatantly had no idea about it. You only had physiological jaundice but this went away with sunlight and lots of milk; we had your levels halved in only two days.
The days passed and my milk still didn’t come in. We saw a breastfeeding expert who confirmed that you latch was fine, but still I produced nothing. Nobody explained why. I still felt useless.
Still- no friends came to visit, Daddy couldn’t come often and you were asleep a lot of the time. I didn’t feel confident enough (very unlike me!) to express my want for people to be around more, not even to your Daddy – so it got very lonely, but just looking at you got me through. I fell in love with everything about you- your windy smile, your yawn, your stretching, even your cute little windypops!
I’m so thankful for the amazing medical professionals who kept me alive- who made me better, who were quick to diagnose my sepsis and who took strep b seriously. The people who went above and beyond their roles – like Irene, James, Louise, my recovery team and the surgeon. Their compassion helped me through the toughest part of my life. Whenever needed, they were there. I can’t thank my family – our families – enough and the friends who were on the other side of a phone for me. My Mummy, your Grandma was our hero. I cannot put into words how amazing I think she is. I don’t know where we’d be without her.
Then came home time. I wanted to come home so much. They promised we could leave on the Friday, but I was still too sick. They confirmed that I had contracted sepsis through being strep b positive. God, I am so thankful Strep B made me sick, and not you. SO THANKFUL.
Thankfully, you were discharged and deemed perfectly health to go home on that Friday! Then came the Saturday… and nope. I was still too sick. Then on Sunday, Irene managed to push our discharge and we could finally go home.
I had my shower and we got all packed up. They gave me a mountain of drugs to keep up to speed with. We waited a few hours, then just like that, we were free to return to the comfort of home and take you to the place where you’d learn to feel your safest.
We could finally be a little family and I was so excited for that to happen.
So that’s it… that’s how you made it into this world- my precious, beautiful and incredible miracle.
If this touched your heart, you should read…
- Mental Health Monday: Dealing with previous birth trauma during pregnancy
- Five years later…
- Stop Asking When I’m Having “Baby Number 2”
7 thoughts on “Harriet’s Labour Story – There’s a Time and a Place to Die… This wasn’t it.”
I cried reading this story – I suffered from PTSD after the birth of my first child and it brought back a lot of memories … the induction suite, awful midwife, 3rd degree tear, blood loss, hours of surgery and the shivering…oh my god the shivering during surgery…it was awful. I had the same end result with my second but the care was better and I didn’t end up with the same amount of blood loss so it felt much better. I can understand why you needs someone with you – I didn’t want my husband to leave (and he didn’t ) as I’m not sure I’d have managed without him. The debriefs at the hospital do help, but they aren’t a cure. I’ve struggled with PND and anxiety after my second (and prob after my first too but I didn’t realise). I hope you have a good support network in place as it can take a really long time to process and get over a traumatic birth experience xx #kcacols
Wow what an ordeal and thank goodness for a wonderful family and medical team around you. #KCACOLS
Oh my days this sounds exactly like my first delivery! I thought that was enough to stop me from ever having any more but no 😂 I have three! Read this remembering just how blurry everything is when you’re in pain and expecting to hold your bubs but it feels like forever! Glad you’re ok now babe #KCACOLSwww.shanelliswilliams.com
This must have been so scary for you. Very emotional for you to write I am sure, thank you for sharing your story. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next time
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