Each year tens of thousands of women go through a traumatic birth experience which can have a long-lasting impact on a mother's physical and mental health. This week marks Traumatic Birth Awareness. Melissa bravely shares her story.
"I just felt very alone, unheard and unsafe at a time when I was most vulnerable. All I needed was to feel safe and supported and the birth would have been a totally different experience".
Melissa had an extremely distressing experience while giving birth to her third child. She said it left her feeling isolated, physically scarred and she was keen to share her story to let other mums know they are not alone.
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Although the birth of her daughter was traumatic, it was the careless and unprofessional manner in which she was treated during her labour which she feels exaggerated the problem.
"My waters broke at home one evening in September three years ago. We went straight to the hospital where I was met by one of the Dominos midwives on the way in who explained to me that she was with another mother in labour. I was doing okay at that point and I was quite happy being handed over to a hospital midwife who put a trace on and checked if I was dilating.
"I was not dilated enough, so I was transferred to the holding ward where I did some of the suggested labour hopscotch and tried to move things along. A while later, my contractions increased in frequency and strength, I vomited and knew things were moving fast. I called the nurse who called for a midwife to take me to the delivery ward.
"I felt frightened, unable to cope and very vulnerable."
"We walked the corridor to the labour ward with me stopping every time a contraction came. They were very intense and it was hard to stand at this point. When I got to the labour ward, she told me to get up on the bed and she attended to whatever needed to be done in the room. I was really uncomfortable at this stage and was looking for some guidance so asked should I try another position, maybe turn around onto my knees.
"'Whatever you feel like,' she replied, and appeared distant or disinterested. After a couple of more times of me asking in between contractions of what else I could try, I realised that the midwife would offer no guidance or support, so told my husband I wouldn't be able to get through without an epidural.
"I felt frightened, unable to cope and very vulnerable.
"I asked the midwife if I could get an epidural or if it was too late and she replied that I could get one at any stage and all decisions were up to me. Looking back, I believe I was too far along at that stage and was dilating fast. In any case, she continued to prepare me for an epidural that I wouldn't have time to get before delivery.
"She tried to get a line into my hand and it blew up. She tried another position on my hand and the same happened. Eventually she got one in my other hand. Apart from the discomfort, this made me feel very uneasy as the midwife appeared inexperienced. This was all between me writhing in pain and trying to communicate between contractions.
"She put a trace on my abdomen and told me she couldn't find the heartbeat so would need to get her manager. My husband offered to go in her place feeling that she should stay with me to monitor the situation.
"She refused and said she would go. We were both very worried about the baby and I was in agony. The 'manager' arrived and I was glad someone else came in to help as I felt the midwife was totally tuned out - she seemed to be indifferent and not really present. Perhaps she was feigning calmness to cover inexperience, or perhaps very tired from a long shift. Either way, she was not listening to anything I was saying or dealing with any of my needs during this terrifying time.
"The manager was great - while pushing I had my foot against her back and it felt like I needed to do this with my other foot. I said this repeatedly to the first midwife but she kept saying that I just needed to loop my arms around my thigh, a move I found impossible in my position.
"There was no euphoria as there had been with my two other girls."
"I was communicating exactly what I needed and she was telling me I was wrong and I couldn't labour in the position my body wanted. This was totally frustrating.
"My daughter came out after a long and really hard pushing period, but there was no euphoria as there had been with my two other girls.
"I was in shock, shaking and unable to hold her. She was screaming and wouldn't latch on to feed. We were both traumatised by the event.
"I feel the midwife’s inaction and failure to listen to me left me feeling helpless and terrified at a most vulnerable time.
"I ended up having a 3b tear with sphincter damage. This was the worst tear I had experienced in childbirth, even though this little 0ne was not my biggest baby and this was my third labour.
"The midwife remarked afterwards: 'At least you didn’t tear forwards and damage your clitoris.' I was appalled at her insensitivity.
"I felt broken. I then had to wait hours without pain relief to have surgery, and experience the pain of a doctor checking with his hand to see how bad the tear was. At this stage, I felt like I was being treated like some kind of animal.
"I did not feel safe or supported this time, just scared, alone and ignored."
"This should have been a joyous event in my life, as the first two births had been, but I felt it was unnecessarily turned into a terrifying and traumatic event by poor care.
"I had the same level of pain relief (gas and air) on my first two deliveries and I tore on both, albeit less severely, but actually enjoyed both experiences and felt so supported and safe.
"I did not feel safe or supported this time, just scared, alone and ignored, and I would hate for others to have the same experience."
Melissa says she is still recovering from the physical trauma under the care of a physiotherapist and hospital staff. We are very grateful to her for sharing her story.
Image via Unsplash.com
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