There are many things that I could tell you, but I want to start by saying that I’m not sure you fully understand the lasting impact that you can have on a woman and her family.
My story starts as a positive one. We had met so many kind, encouraging and caring midwives before we encountered you. From those who we welcomed into our home for antenatal visits, those who ran our hypnobirthing course and those who we came across when our usual midwife was away. All of these women and even a man could not have been more caring and kind. Although they must have heard it 1000 times before they listened to us like they’d never heard it before, encouraged us and made us feel like we always had a choice in everything. They treated us with kindness, respect and compassion.
When my labour began I used all that I had been taught and breathed/hypnobirthed my way through the pain. When the time came, our midwife came to the house to assess where things were up to. I don’t think I would’ve been as smiley and encouraging as her if someone had got me out of bed at 3am. We had hit the “magical” 4cm and were advised to make our way to the hospital in the next couple of hours.
Upon arrival at the hospital, we were taken to the midwife-led unit and not long after we were reassessed and I got in the pool. Now up to this point everyone we had encountered had respected our decisions and encouraged us in our choices. Shift changeover came and went and we were introduced to our new midwife and the student midwife she was working with for the day.
Although we hit a few bumps along the road (meconium, back to back, slow dilation etc…) they continued to respect our choices, explain everything to us and encourage us in the choices we made. After many (12) hours in the pool (which became a running joke that we might be headed for a record) and 3 hours of “I can see the head, oh, no, it’s gone again” they persuaded me that perhaps getting out of the pool would be for the best.
From here on in they supported us, encouraged me and continued to suggest ways/positions which might help speed things up! Another hour came and went and there was still no sign of our baby, who I was assured must be a boy because “they always take forever”.
Then our time was up, as at shift changeover out went our encouraging and kind midwives and in you marched. I don’t think I’ll ever forget your opening remark of “Right well this has gone on long enough if this baby isn’t out in 15 minutes then the doctors can do it.” In one sentence you sent my calm and controlled atmosphere out of the window and replaced it with one of fear and panic. My thoughts of my baby will come soon turned to I don’t want the doctors, I don’t want to go to the labour ward, what happens if I have to have a caesarean and with the onset of fear my contractions disappeared. In your “magical” 15 minutes, I think I had 3 contractions, despite my husband wafting clary sage oil in my face like my life depended on it. Then out you marched, your parting shot being – “well that’s it I’m getting the doctors then” and in began to creep an overwhelming feeling that I had failed.
Initially when you returned with a senior midwife instead of a doctor I felt some relief, until we were moved to another room, as it was either that or the labour ward. There didn’t seem much competition in those choices really, so I did as you suggested.
Unfortunately, this became just the beginning really. From this point on I was no longer in control. You had me on the bed with my feet in stirrups. My first contraction you told me off for breathing. My second contraction your senior pushed my feet towards my head despite me asking her not to as she was causing me a great deal of pain in my hip. My third and final contraction there your senior pushed my feet,and you put your hand inside of me and told me “Push my hand out”. When I asked you to stop repeatedly you told me “No, push my hand out”. It was only when I reached the point that I was screaming at you and crying that you took your hands off me. You then looked at each other and you said “Well the doctors will have to get it out then”.
Now I understand that I had never done this before and you have seen it 100s of times and probably thought that tough love would hurry things along, but in those moments you reminded me of something I had desperately wanted/needed to avoid. Your tough love could only have got more similar to a previous experience in my life if you had put your fist in my mouth to silence me when I asked you to stop. Why didn’t I tell you, I hear you say… because I never thought I would need to tell you in order for you to respect my wishes. As for your parting sentence before you moved us to the labour ward, I have never felt more of a failure than in that moment and as I said at the beginning of my letter I will say again, I don’t think you fully understand the impact you can have on a person.
From that point on everything became rather hazy and my memory is a bit sketchy, but I just remember feeling like I wasn’t in the room. I couldn’t hear you. I could feel the drips being put in, the doctors trying to work out which part of my baby’s head they could feel, the monitors being attached. Then all I heard was forceps and theatre.
There were so many of you (3 doctors and 3/4 midwives) and me on a bed in the middle of the chaos. You never gave me a choice, you didn’t explain things to me, and you all rushed around, attached things to me, carried out ultrasounds and requested that someone got Sarah. She turned out to be a paediatrician, but you never told me that until I said “there’s something wrong with my baby” as she got all the equipment out of the cupboard. You never explained to me that it was normal for her to be there or why you were all in such a rush to get my baby out.
We didn’t have to go to theatre in the end. The doctors gave me an injection, performed an episiotomy, got the forceps and then you all kept saying “3 pushes or we have to go to theatre”. My baby was born after 3 pushes and as she was born you gave me an injection. You had said I would lose too much blood if you didn’t, but you didn’t tell me that we couldn’t have delayed cord clamping if you did that (I discovered that later from researching my discharge notes). I know that you were all in a rush but when you didn’t explain these things to me you left me feeling like I didn’t have a choice.
I held my baby girl for the first time and it was, for a few moments, as if none of you were there. We wanted skin to skin and peace and quiet for the first hour which we didn’t get. Now that wasn’t your fault. I guess doctors can’t accurately measure blood loss and check placentas over in the dark, so I suppose that couldn’t be helped. The fact that I had to give my baby to her Dad during that hour whilst I was stitched up also can’t be helped, especially as my anaesthetic didn’t work properly.
Now once the chaos subsided and everyone, well nearly everyone, left the room, except for you and the doctor we had our quiet time and our skin to skin. During which the doctor told me she has forgotten my pain relief. I think you were supposed to bring me something to take but I don’t ever remember that happening.
Then all was quiet and it was just the 3 of us. After my baby had been weighed and had her injection you came back and told us we were going upstairs and to get ready. At this point, I felt very weak and slightly in shock. I helped my husband to dress our baby whilst remaining on the bed. You then returned and I had to ask you to disconnect the drip from my arm so I could get dressed after you’d remarked “well she’s dressed but you can’t go like that”.
Once I had got over how much blood seemed to be everywhere and managed to get dressed you returned said “give me the baby” and off we went to the postnatal ward, where you left us.
Now what you will never understand is the enormous and overwhelming feeling of failure that you left me with. The feeling that in those moments my choices didn’t matter and that I didn’t matter. Your tough love and brisk attitude left me feeling like I wasn’t good enough and by not explaining things to me, you left me feeling like I didn’t know what was happening to me or why.
So please, always remember that although to you people giving birth happens all the time for the women you look after it happens infrequently. Please treat those women with greater care and respect than you did me and remember that your words, attitude towards them and actions will impact them forever