‘All I could think was this was my fault’ – Chelsea’s story

When Chelsea’s baby got stuck during delivery and had to be treated for HIE, she immediately thought it was something she had done wrong.

I was 39 + 5 weeks when my contractions started. As this was my first baby I didn’t really know I was in labour until the pain started. I rang the hospital and, because I hadn’t really felt her move much that morning, I was advised to go straight there for an assessment. Then, on the way there, my waters broke in the car, which was absolutely hilarious.

As I started to push, I assumed everything was fine. Then it was time for the big push to get her head out. But she wasn’t coming out fully - she kept popping back in and out. Finally, her head was out, and the midwife was saying ‘Great! Not long now, keep pushing mum!’ I pushed and pushed but she didn’t budge.

So, there I was, on the bed, with my legs up and next thing I knew, the emergency buzzer had been pushed and the room was full of nurses. I had no idea what was going on and I started to panic. They told me the baby’s shoulder was stuck. Two nurses were pulling my legs to help get her out, but it wasn’t working. I could see the panic on my partner’s face and on everyone else’s in the room. Then they did a big cut and pulled her out.

This was, hands down, the worst moment of my life. She wasn’t crying; she was blue and limp. I was in shock and I just started shouting ‘She’s dead, she’s dead, my baby’s dead’. They whisked her straight to one side and started doing CPR on her. All I could do was sit and watch. Around ten minutes later, she did a little cry before she was taken straight to the NICU. I didn’t get to hold her.

They turned the cot around so I could see her, but it was quick, like a flash, and suddenly she was out of the room. All I could think was that this was my fault: I’d not pushed in the right way or I’d done something else wrong.

We had to wait thirty minutes for any news. They were the worst thirty minutes of my life. Then we heard that she was having help with her breathing and my partner was allowed to see her. I had to wait another 4 hours, until I was stitched up, before I was able to see her.

When I finally could, it wasn’t the moment that I had expected: she had wires everywhere and we weren’t allowed to hold her or touch her. They were concerned because she was showing unusual brain activity and had to be transferred to a different hospital.

We weren’t able to go with Piper (as we decided to call her) and had to make our own way there. When we saw her again, she had wires attached to her everywhere and the nurses explained that she was being treated for HIE and that meant they were cooling her down for 72 hours to limit any brain damage.

The next morning, after barely any sleep, I finally got to hold her, even though all the wires were still attached. My beautiful 9lb 5 baby girl was in my arms. Thinking back now, it’s all a bit of a blur. I think I was numb with shock and my hormones were all over the place.

The nurses were brilliant and helped me so much, answering all of our questions and giving me a hug whenever I needed one. I wanted to breastfeed Piper but didn’t think I would be able to with her having not been fed while she was being cooled. I was wrong about that: they got me started with expressing so that when Piper was ready, she could feed.

When the 72 hours were up, she had to go for an MRI scan and thankfully the results came back clear and she had no signs of seizures. It looked like we’d be able to take her home soon, but her infection marker went up and she had to be treated for suspected meningitis, meaning we had to stay in the hospital for another week. We were both absolutely heartbroken and worried even more. But it made such a difference that the hospital had accommodation for us and Piper could stay in our room.

We finally got to take her home two weeks after she was born, though she will need to be monitored until she is two years old. Her shoulder and arm were still limp from being pulled when her shoulder got stuck during the delivery, and she couldn’t move them. So we had to do physio with her three times a day to see if the nerves would repair themselves, and when she was three months old, she was finally able to move her arm. Little by little she got stronger and stronger and now, having just turned one, she has full use of her right arm.

I still feel guilty that this happened to Piper, but I know it wasn’t my fault. My partner and family have been amazing and helped me cope mentally with the trauma. A review of what had happened during the birth also helped me to to know that I hadn’t done anything wrong.

Best of all, you wouldn’t even be able to tell by looking at Piper that there were any issues with her birth. She is absolutely smashing all of her milestones and there are no signs that we need to be concerned. We consider ourselves to be very lucky as Piper is a very healthy, happy beautiful girl.