Content Note: This story includes: extreme pain; un-consented interventions; being pressured into choices; not being listened to; physical trauma.
I WAS OVERDUE WITH OUR FIRST BABY. I GOT UP AT 2AM WITH CONTRACTIONS AND FRANTICALLY SET TO WORK ON A PUBLICATION I HAD DUE.
My partner went off to work at 7am and for some reason I didn't tell her I was in labour, perhaps as I wasn't sure it was the ‘real deal’. At 1pm that afternoon my waters broke - it was all on! I texted my partner to get home as quickly as possible.
The day progressed and my contractions got stronger and stronger, but the pain was crushing and ferocious. Each one like being hit by a truck. After a second birth I can now say that the contractions were far too overwhelming and hideous, signalling that something was, in fact, wrong.
My midwife arrived at 6pm and gave me a vicious stretch and sweep without my consent. We thought she was checking for how dilated I was. Not long after she left, I was in agony and I knew I needed to get to the hospital. Gone was the prospect of a waterbirth.
On the way into the hospital in the car at around 8pm I was really screaming. My partner called our midwife and said we were going to the hospital as I needed an epidural, that I was in far too much pain especially being only 3-4cms dilated. The midwife said to bring me to the birthining centre instead, that the water would help, and that I didn't need an epidural.
I got to the birthing centre and was desperately begging to go to hospital. I was beyond frightened. My request wasn't completely ignored - but I was told that I couldn't take an ambulance and that we would need to go in our own car. She also said that she wouldn't be my midwife at the hospital, and a stranger would take over and did I want that? (subtle scare tactics). The thought of walking to a car was a horrendous obstacle in itself. Instead I ended up getting in the pool.
I screamed and screamed as my baby was born. I really thought I was dying. Baby was born in posterior position at about 9 pounds weight. I tore extensively. I was in deep shock after the birth. That night the nerves in my legs paralysed me, and I couldn't walk. I had to be lifted onto the toilet by my partner.
My partner and I instinctively knew that what had happened with our baby’s birth was not right. She was reduced to tears even thinking about it. When I later found out that only around 3% of posterior births can occur without surgical intervention it confirmed in me that I had gone through something I shouldn't have.
Three days post-birth I developed an infection that required me to be admitted to hospital and I was so traumatised by the thought of internal examinations I refused all of them.
After that birth, I have no doubt that I experienced PTSD. I had visceral reactions to certain sounds (unfortunately one of these sounds was the baby crying which reminded me of my own sobs), flashbacks, anger and could sometimes be stopped in my tracks remembering the intensity of the pain all over again. We didn't get any help, but we debriefed with the midwife. She expressed that the birth had been 'text book', which, to all outsiders, it must have been. No pain relief - tick. Waterbirth - tick. Birth centre - tick. She didn't understand that it had ruined me. My partner to this day suffers from guilt at not taking me to the hospital, at listening to the midwife who clearly did not have my best interests at heart, who had taken the 'easy' route with me.
The year that followed had us do several things: The first was that we both talked about the birth experience over and over until it lost some of its power. We talked about it to other people, and we talked about it between ourselves. We put pieces of the puzzle together, and remembered bits together. This helped.
The second thing we did was look into what we could do better or differently next time. When my first baby was one, I got pregnant again. I wanted a trauma informed midwife, and someone who was queer friendly. I looked into hypno-birthing. I discussed the first birth with the midwife several times and let her know what I had not been happy with the first time around. We read hypno-birthing books and I practiced using the CD.
The second birth was a triumph! The contractions felt nothing like the first time; the baby was in the right position, despite being an even bigger size. That birth was also in water but was a relaxed affair and I knew if I had needed a transfer to hospital that it would have been accommodated and supported. It was a huge relief to have got through this the second time around. I found this birth very healing.