Wednesday, 6 August 2014

My Birth Trauma (trigger warning!) and Cure!

So, I'm about ready to tell you about how I had a traumatic time with baby number 1. The birth itself wasn't traumatic, even the first 6-ish hours weren't that bad... But it soon turned out that it would be the scariest night of my life. 

I had E at 1818, on a Saturday evening, by semi-elective-semi-emergency Caesarean section.  He was 42 weeks cooked, and after 2 sweeps and a failed double induction (pessary and then 2 gels), I was more than happy to be free of pregnancy and meet Nugget.

Birth, recovery, attempts at breast feeding , back to the ward, mad eating of all of my 'labour' snack bag, I think there was toast and a glass of cordial... The midwives and other staff checked my obs and blood loss each hour, without much comment. Then, Mr B was turfed out at 9.30pm. I was, of course, devastated at being left alone, compete with spinal anaesthesia still working it's magic.

Very soon, I realised that when E cried, I couldn't help him. I hated that. I'd handled babies lots, changed nappies, dressed them. I wanted to care for him, but instead I had to buzz, listening to him crying and wait for a midwife/ student/ HCA to pass him to me. Cruel is a word that springs to mind - when I remember this first period - there was no way I could lift him out of the little fish tank cot.

Look at his puffy little overdue face. 

Anyhow, my PGP was bothering me because I was on my back, it was awful. I cried, was exhausted, tried to sleep, heard mutters about checking my loss more, had to take oramorph for my severe pain (while the anaesthesia was still wearing off). 

Anyhow, the hours passed and it turned out that I was bleeding more than they liked, i'd noticed it, but it was my first time... How much is too much?? A registrar reviewed me, there was muttering and I was taken up to the delivery suite. 

I think this was about 1 or 2 am, but it's a blur of movement, voices, faces, beeps and not really knowing what was going on. 

'Oh I think my catheter has come out'
'That's not your catheter, love'

So, once the placenta is removed from your uterus, the uterus is supposed to contract, to stem the bleeding and close the placental blood flow. My uterus had failed to contract after the operation, the placenta site had continued to, erm, supply my uterus, which had filled up like a balloon inside me. 

They gave me a drug to make my lazy uterus contract and then a doctor had to, MANUALLY contract my uterus. From the inside. Now, I was warned and asked for more pain relief (my pain threshold is very low!) and I was given entonox (gas and air). The pain was terrible, I didn't have long enough to know how to use the gas, I shouted, 'no!' And then I hallucinated. 

Weird, weird, neon, flashing lights hallucination and I dreamed that MrB was there, holding my hand. I came around from it laughing hysterically. 

It wasn't funny. 

At some point, I was asked if I wanted them to call my husband. 
'There's no reply, do you have a home phone?'
'Yes, but I don't know the number, my mobile is downstairs'

I assumed that they would call again... Try again... Leave a voicemail. They didn't. 

Lots of stuff happened - uterine atony is an emergency situation, I had about 12 people in the room with me, including 3 doctors. They clearly knew exactly what they had to do. However, no one told me what was happening. Oh, and the midwife who stroked my hair called me the wrong name, it was quite funny really, but what is even better is that that memory has faded, and I can't remember what name she called me, repeatedly, which shows that it matters less.

I lost 2 litres of blood in that room, i received 2 units very quickly (which I tell Jehovah's Witnesses when then come a-knocking). 

Obs every 15 minutes, blood pressure cuff every 5 minutes, beeps, lights, the most fragmented sleep ever. 

So, 7am came and E was wheeled into the room. That little chap, doing the newborn robot dance with his arms. Thankfully he had been fed at 6am, and was content. I couldn't cuddle him because I was hooked up to so many machines, but I remember the overwhelming feeling of, 'what am I going to do now?'.

Each time the phone rang in the corridor, I hoped it was MrB, calling about the [non existent] message left for him. 

At about 8, the midwife who had [hilariously] called me by the wrong name said, 'shall I have another try at calling your husband?'

Then it dawned on me, that someone hadn't tried very hard on my behalf. 
MrB arrived within 30 minutes, he was so sad that he hadn't been there, told me that he'd only had one missed call and no messages and that he'd woken up as the last ring went off on his phone ... But because there was no message and it was caller withheld, he had no way of knowing that it was about me. Over 2.5 years of hindsight tells me that he rightly assumed that if it was serious, that someone would leave a message.

A new midwife came on shift, actually, the one that had delivered E, she helped me to have a bath and then delivered us down to the ward. 

I started to have flashbacks within days, I was severely anaemic (2.5L lost) for weeks, I was exhausted, along with all of the usual new-mum hormones. 

I read and re-read my maternity notes to try to understand. I could read what had happened to me, but I couldn't reconcile the feelings, images and memories that I had. Within 2 weeks, I knew this wasn't ok, so I desperately called around and managed to persuade the specialist mental health midwife to get out to me before Christmas, she came and explained about uterine atony. This helped, it was basically a birth de-brief but I didn't realise it. I left message after message for the debrief team, but they ignored them for weeks. When I did eventually get through, they told me that they couldn't really help me. I told them that they had to. 

I had a birth debrief, I hope that this led to women being informed about how much danger they're in and no more doctors making half-arsed attempts at calling relatives. 

I saw my GP within about 6 weeks of the birth and asked for a therapy referral for my PTSD (diagnosed using Dr. Google) - I was sad, angry, having flashbacks, scared and I knew that it wasn't 'normal'. 

I then underwent a treatment called EMDR (eye movement disassociation and reprocessing), I was lucky because I was able to choose between EMDR and CBT. I Don't feel that rehashing and learning how to deal with the feelings would have helped me. 

The crucial car seat moment! Remember the sense of freedom?

Basically I had to think about a flashback, the therapist moved her hand, then asked what I had thought. I honestly have no idea how it really worked but it was emotional at times. Anyway, I went on to have N less than 16 months after E's birth, and I had no flash backs, wasn't afraid and really made the most of my time in hospital!

Writing this has been a little emotional, but in the way that something scary should provoke a mild response, rather than the all out fear and clear memory flashes that made my brain seem more like a JJ. Abrams TV show than a happy place. (I love JJ. Abrams FYI)

If you have made bit all the way through, thank you for reading some of my story, this part was pretty gruesome. 

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