Birth trauma and PTSD - Katie's story

Katie's Story Hero

After her waters broke at 33 weeks, Katie and her partner rushed to the hospital. She had a traumatic emergency c-section.

Last summer, I woke up to the realisation that my waters had broken. Panic set in - I was only 33 weeks and three days pregnant. My partner Mike rang the hospital and we were asked to go in straight away. I had no hospital bag ready and getting dressed when liquid is continually dripping out of you is not easy. I gathered my papers and Mike told me to bring a towel to sit on during the journey to protect his car seats.

I had only just been to the hospital a week earlier due to reduced movement. I wondered whether this was all connected and if I was about to lose my unborn baby before even seeing his beautiful face. During the car journey neither Mike nor I spoke very much. I knew if I let my guard down I would cry and I intended on keeping strong. As I got out of the car my waters seemed to break again. I was soaking wet and struggling to walk.

Once in the hospital, I was hooked up to machines. We heard our baby’s heartbeat and everything seemed to be okay. I was informed that I would be induced at 36 weeks and they gave me a steroid injection to help with the baby’s lungs. I was kept in overnight for observations and Mike was sent home. I was sent to a ward where I cried myself to sleep.

The next day Mike arrived around 10.00am and I was hooked up to machines for further checks. Suddenly, everything seemed to change and the staff no longer appeared calm. I was rushed to the labour ward and placed in a private room. At this point I met my fantastic midwife who reassured me that everything was going to be okay. She confirmed that they were having difficulties in monitoring the baby and therefore I had to stay lying on my left side.

Numerous people came in and out, and it was decided the best option was to induce me, and if this didn’t work then I would need an emergency c-section. Whilst this was all going on around me I tried to focus on looking at Mike. I knew if I didn’t concentrate on him I would break down and not be able to keep calm.

Hours went by and no labour had started - it was time for a c-section.

They told me Mike would not be able to come into the theatre until I had been given my spinal tap. They also said that I might have to be put to sleep. This put me in panic mode. My mum was put to sleep and never woke up - what if this happened to me? I’ve never felt so alone in a room full of people.

They struggled for an hour to try and get the spinal tap in me. At one point I was thrown down onto the bed because they were unable to tell the difference between mine and my baby’s heartbeat, which were both dropping low. In the end the Spinal Consultant came to assist and got it in right away. This was it, I was about to meet my baby.

Mike was with me holding my hand and I felt a tug, heard a cry and we had a baby boy. He was placed on my shoulder and I could see his beautiful face, but he was taken away quite quickly due to his breathing.

After having our baby, who we named Rusty Stubbs, everything was a little hazy. I remember being asked questions, and having my temperature checked. I was told that I was in need of blood transfusions. It all felt a little surreal; I was in bed drinking tea and toast but the baby I’d given birth to was not with me.

Mike went off to see our son and I just lay there waiting for the feeling to come back into my legs. It felt like Mike had been gone for an eternity, but he soon showed up with a huge smile on his face and pictures of our beautiful Rusty. He had wires coming out of him and was on Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to help with his breathing. I just willed for all the blood to be pumped into me so I could go and visit him.

Finally, after my blood transfusions and being cleaned up I was allowed to see my baby. They said that they were going to wheel me down on my bed but I was adamant I wanted to go in a wheelchair.

The noise of the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) will never leave me - I still get headaches thinking about it. Seeing my son was amazing but also scary at the same time. I prayed to my mum at many points to look after him and make sure he got better. I felt like I sat and watched him for hours, it was so uncomfortable but I felt like I was a cheat if I left him.

I couldn’t sleep that night. The pain kept me awake and my mind filled with worry. The next few days were a blur. Being on the ward with all of the mums and their babies did not help the situation, I felt sleep deprived as I was being woken at stupid times for injections and painkillers.

I expressed my wishes to the midwives that I wanted to discharge myself and go home. It was no use me being on the ward taking up a bed and I would get better at home. It was at this point that I was informed what had happened to me and our baby, my placenta had detached and that was why I lost so much blood. I was provided with medication and promised that I would visit daily for checks when I was visiting Rusty.

We were provided a direct number for the SCBU and told we could call at any time. I always wanted Mike to ring as I was scared that they would give me bad news, like when my mother passed away.

I spent most of the day with Rusty. It was hard being on my own with him as Mike had to go back to work. I wouldn’t have got through those three weeks at the SCBU without my mother-in-law. She pushed me to feed him, initially through a tube and then the bottle. I had to rely on people for lifts to and from the hospital. It was hard – I don’t like feeling like I’m a burden.

One of the worst times for me was when Rusty’s vitals dropped, and he had to be given air. Finally my shield dropped and I cried as one of the nurses comforted me.

In the weeks that followed Rusty got stronger and he became less reliant on the machines and medication, and the day came when we got to bring him home. Rusty has thrived since then and he is now nearly 10 months old with a tremendous appetite.

One thing the experience left me with was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Putting my experience into words has helped my recovery in some ways. I hope that those reading this who have gone through something similar will know that they are not alone.

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