Jenna – PTSD

Jenna and Madeline

I went into labour at home with my first daughter following a sweep at the hospital. (A sweep is where membrane is swept away from the cervix by a medical professionals finger to encourage labour to start).  I was just under 40 weeks, my baby was engaged in the perfect position and seemed to be having the worlds longest pregnancy so I just wanted it to be finished.  I wanted to see my baby!

I went home and I began to have a show, my plug was coming out (this is a mucus secretion that happens throughout your pregnancy and effectively plugs your cervix – when it comes away it can mean that labour has started) and it did not stop coming for the four days that I was in labour.  My contractions began a few hours later and they slowly built over the next few days.  We even went carpet shopping on my due date with me doing stops like I was in a movie, clutching my belly as I had a contraction and then going ‘it’s ok – carry on!’ By that night I called my friend Laura who had offered to support us through labour and the contractions began to get worse. I went back into hospital and I was dilating slowly so they sent me home again.  So one day past my due date, thats two days of labour now – my contractions stop.  We decide to go back to the hospital for some help, and a bit of reassurance, and minutes into the car journey the contractions come back – a lot harder. 

We arrived at the hospital and I was seen by the rudest doctor I have ever met.  She shuffled about like a penguin, with her feet not leaving the floor.  She said that she was going to check my dilation and whilst she did that, she swept again without my permission and without telling me. Immediately after she did that my belly felt funny, it did this weird flip and I felt sick. She then told me I should go home as I still had a way to go.  I refused – it was my second trip to the hospital in as many days, I was tired, I was in pain, I was nearing the end, if I had to go and sit in the coffee shop and labour thats what I was prepared to do but I just wanted my baby! They let me stay and it ended up that my husband got the bed as he could sleep and I paced the room, leant on the sofa and went through the contractions. The contractions were pretty dreadful and getting stronger but I was left on my own.  We laughed – a lot, I had my husband, my friend, my mum who being mum had made friends with other people on the ward! I had a pessary to see if that would help speed things up but no one touched me, no one scanned me, no one checked if we were ok.  

No one spotted that Bella had flipped, had turned spine to spine with me and was also now chin up, with the back of her head engaged. 

The penguin doctor came in that morning checked me and confirmed that I was fully dilated so I could start to push – except she didn’t want me to as the doctor I was registered with hadn’t started work yet! I had no control, my body wanted to deliver this baby, it just took over and I couldn’t help myself I had to push! Eventually my own doctor arrived but I was so tired at that point having had little or now sleep for the four days of labour I was falling asleep between contractions. The reason I registered with this particular doctor was her calmness – she just let me labour and push, checked me occasionally.  It was on one of those checks that she spotted that something was not right.  Even though she had completely descended into the vagina Bella was stuck, my tiredness meant I was not pushing hard enough so she was actually going back into my body. Also because of the position that she was in her chin was up, labour was really difficult. I believe that this was all due to the second sweep. The doctor left the room to check on another patient, I looked at my husband and Laura, realised that I was done, I wanted my mum, I was so tired, emotionally shattered, physically drained that I just wanted it to be over.  After four days of pretty hard contractions, with little or no painkillers (through choice) I was spent. 

Within minutes I was on a bed in surgery being prepped for a caesarean.  The scariest thing was that I was on my own, Mike, mum and Laura were all waiting me outside. I was given the option to keep on labouring but I just could not summon up the mental energy to carry on. Three nurses pinned me down to have the spinal as I was still in active labour and needed to push.  They helped keep me still whilst the anaesthetist injected me.  Oh my goodness the relief when that pain stopped was like nothing I have ever felt before.  With Bella in the birth canal it meant that she had to be pulled and pushed back into my uterus for her to be delivered.  I could see a doctor either side of me and feel the pushing from below as they got her in position to get her out.  Then she was here but not crying.  I didn’t know what was the matter but my doctor told me very calmly to remember that we had both been through a lot and to wait a little.  The joy when I heard the squeak she made was indescribable.  I was shown her briefly and she was then taken straight to the Neonatal Care Unit (NiCU) accompanied by my husband and friend. 

She had breathed in fluid, had a hole in the lung and also some meconium so she needed help to get her better. I didn’t see her again till the following morning – I know that I needed that sleep and to recover but I feel guilty that she did not get that skin to skin, that we were separated for the first hours of her life.  I wanted to breastfeed and was encouraged to pump as she was being fed through an NGT tube (Nasal gastric tube which is inserted in though the nose and goes direct to the stomach). With a bit of perseverance we managed to get breastfeeding established and I managed to feed her for over a year.

When I became pregnant with Maddie I did not even bother with a birth plan.  I don’t really remember my pregnancy as I was running around after Bella.  As I got bigger I began to feel my scar pulling.  The possibility of a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) was discussed with my doctor and as I left the room I realised that I couldn’t do it.  I did not want to go through those hours and hours of labour, the stress, the tiredness were things that I could not do again – especially with another child at home.  So I booked myself in for a caesarean on the Sunday at 2pm.

I went into the triage room to get prepared and had my epidural.  The memory of Bella’s birth came back and I moved slightly when the needle went in.  The anaesthetist had to redo it and everything was fine and I joined Michael in the theatre.  As I lay on the table I realised I could still feel my legs – I was told not to worry as the epidural would kick in which it did.  Maddie was delivered, she was given to Mike, everything was good. Then I realised I could wiggle my toes. I kept quiet with my husband in the room as I needed him with the baby and I didn’t want to him to worry.  Once he left I told the anaesthetist that I could move – he told me that I was wrong, that he had given me enough drugs so there was no chance and he went back to playing on his phone whilst I lay and felt them cut me and stitch me. My obstetrician realised I could feel things when she saw my belly moving as I was sobbing with the pain – of the twenty or so people in that room she was the only one who noticed. They should have knocked me out then but I didn’t want that as I wanted to be with my baby, I had missed that chance with her sister and I wasn’t going to miss it again.  I could feel the stitches going in when they closed me. My scar is beautiful on one side, the other is completely lumpy and misformed where they hurried up to get me out of theatre as quickly as possible.

I went into the recovery room and Mike was still with Maddie.  My friend Laura was there again and she asked me how I was.  My answer was to raise my leg.  That was that – if you ever need to see a momma bear then watch my mate go mad at a doctor.  No one came to see me.  No one checked on me.  I was left alone.  No one has ever apologised for what I went through – neither on that day or since.

I have been diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder – is an anxiety disorder caused by a traumatic event.  The symptoms can include flashbacks, feeling of isolation, guilt and irritabilty).  I have been to see a counsellor, I have been prescribed medicine – I am hoping that it fades with time but there are days when it is so hard.  I didn’t tell anyone how much it has impacted my life for a long time – saying the words brought everything back.  Both of my births were traumatic, both were hard, in neither one was I in control, in both there are periods within that life changing event when my voice was ignored.  Can you imagine how that feels? To be in pain and for the news on someones phone to be more important then my cries? I love my girls and I am so proud of my little family but there are days when I really struggle to enjoy the pleasure of now because of what I have been through. 

I was told that you won’t get the birth you want but you will get the birth you need.  That really resonated with me – on my bad days I try and remember that.