My name is Jay and I'd like to share my story. Not only do I find it cathartic to write and share but I genuinely hope that my story will offer some support to others with similar experiences. Going through this is hard but going through it alone is even worse. This blog is for women like us, and their partners, to be reassured that they are not alone and that support is available. Here's my story.
When I woke up around 6:30am at 41 weeks pregnant, soaking wet in the bed from broken waters, I was filled with excitement and anticipation. 'This is IT!' I thought to myself. That 9 months literally felt like an eternity! I had gone one week overdue and was ready to get that thing out of me! It was my first pregnancy and I spent the entire gestation in wide-eyed wonder as I experienced each and every symptom for the first time. Fortunately, it was all relatively easy. I didn't have morning sickness and I wasn't excessively tired. Aside from some bleeding at 13 weeks, it was an uneventful pregnancy. So, that morning I woke up ecstatic to find that the moment was finally here. Other than some anxiety about the pain of labour I was relaxed about giving birth. Millions of women do this every day with no issue, I thought. I'll be one of them.
On arrival I was told that I would be checked over by the midwives but that more than likely I would be sent home until I was in proper labour. I was placed in a cubicle and connected to the CTG monitor. Before long it was noted that the baby's heartbeat was dropping with every contraction. However, I was reassured that this wasn't unusual and often resolves itself. As the delayed heartbeats persisted I was then seen by a doctor and advised that I wouldn't be allowed to go home. Instead, I would be placed in a side room and monitored.
I could feel the contractions as they occurred but I was in no pain at all and I wasn't dilating. Not even a little bit. More worryingly, as the hours slipped by it became more evident that my baby's slowed heart rate after each contraction was taking longer and longer to recover. I was becoming scared. There had began to be talk of a C-section, which I really didn't want but I was also getting worried about my baby. With every contraction I willed baby's heart to pick up faster. I moved into every position the midwife suggested hoping that the heartbeat would normalise. But no change. I went to use the toilet and as I wiped I realised the little one had taken a poo inside of me - meconium, baby's first poo, which should happen after baby is born, not while inside. It was a sign that baby was distressed and needed to come out. Urgently. There was no way that I would be fully-dilated quickly enough to ensure a safe natural delivery. I needed an emergency C-section.
As I was taken to surgery the fear really set in. The morning began with such promise and suddenly I was about to endure my first surgery in life - during my first labour experience. It was overwhelming. As I sat on the surgical bed waiting to receive my spinal injection, a wave of pain began to hit me in timed intervals. More pain meant hard labour and more dilation. But there was no time to give hard labour a chance; they were already prepping me to surgically bring my baby into the world. Plus, baby was unhappy and couldn't wait any longer. After several minutes, she was plucked out of me and lifted into the world... and she was absolutely beautiful. Her lush, coiffed hair looked like she'd been to a hair salon in utero. She was perfectly formed with furry little ears. I immediately adored her. They did her Apgar tests and she was fine. Or so it seemed. Nonetheless, all appeared well and for the next few days my biggest issue was learning to feel comfortable on my feet after surgery. Whenever I stood up I felt like all my insides were going to spill out onto the ground. Eventually, I began to feel a bit better. Physically, at least.
Emotionally, however, I was still in shock. Hospitals exist to provide acute medical care and are filled with dedicated, compassionate people who do that daily and very well. However, hospitals aren't designed to provide emotional support. We also know that the NHS is stretched beyond capacity to even provide the medical care it is meant to give. To expect emotional support would be asking too much. That said, a smile, kind word, politeness, appropriate guidance and advice - these things do not have to take much time and they can go a long way. So, imagine my disappointment when unlike the wonderful midwives I had during labour, the midwives on the postnatal ward were terrible. They were angry, brisk and incredibly impatient. Dealing with them compounded the anxiety I felt as a new parent, as well as the distress from my difficult labour experience. I was left feeling very vulnerable by it all and absolutely exhausted. Fortunately, unlike many women, I was able to bond with my daughter. Sadly, for many women these types of experiences are triggers for postnatal depression, which can have a devastating impact on well-being and on all relationships. Even more sad is the fact that difficult labour is often associated with maternal and/or neonatal complications, some of which are permanent. Very unfortunately, this was the case for me and I will discuss this in future blog posts. However, for now, I just wanted to open the topic of difficult labours and to acknowledge how these alone, even without additional complications, can be traumatising.
With the support of my family and of my faith, both of which play a significant role in my life, I have managed to forge a happy, meaningful life. But it has been an extremely challenging journey for myself and for baby - who is now 12 years old with special needs. It is not a life I would have chosen but I love her eternally and for everything she is. I am grateful for what I have learned and how my journey has helped me to help others. If you have had a difficult labour experience, are you still being impacted by it, I'm sure others would love to hear your story. How have you been affected over the years and what ways do you cope? Your experiences and advice are more than welcome. Please feel free to share your comments and stories below.