My traumatic birth experience- Sarah’s story

Sarah was induced at 38 weeks and gave birth to her daughter Munro by c-section. Here she talks about her difficult birth and the following weeks on the neonatal unit.

During my pregnancy I had developed hydronephrosis this caused my kidney to drain fluid a lot slower than it should, causing me intense back pains. Before diagnosis, I spent three whole days in bed. I was told there was an operation often done for this condition but as I was 25 weeks pregnant it was deemed too risky. I was giving dihydrocodeine and the pain was gone after about a week and I was able to function again.

One night when I was around 32 weeks pregnant the pains returned like never before. I was given dihydrocodeine again and was offered an induction. We decided the best way forward was for me to be induced at exactly 38 weeks gestation.

I was induced on the Friday and by the Saturday afternoon things began to move quickly. My excitement soon turned to fear as the midwife scurried around the heart rate machine and told my mum to pull the emergency cord ‘NOW’.

My baby wasn't reacting to my contractions and her heart rate was dipping. Before this I had been so aware of everything happening to me; clock watching, chatting to midwives and asking lots of questions. As soon as that emergency cord was pulled my whole head went blurry. I couldn't focus on anything around me but deep down I knew I had to be strong. I couldn't bear to look my mum or my partner Kyle in the eye and I knew if I did I would break down and cry. I was terrified.

As soon as the emergency cord was pulled, three midwives and a doctor crowded around my bed and pulled the curtain round us. I could hear the sheer panic in my mum’s voice as she kept asking if I was ok. Mum often says just how scary that moment was for her and how she felt totally helpless and unsure of what was going on.

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Before I knew it, my bed was getting wheeled out, and the doctors shouted to my mum and Kyle to collect my things and meet us in labour ward. I caught Kyle's eye as I was getting wheeled away from him - he looked simply terrified.

My bed was wheeled into the lift along with the medical team. They kept telling me there was still a chance I could have a natural birth but a c-section was looking more likely. I could feel their panic by the speed of how fast my bed was being pushed through the halls to labour ward and I gripped my bump tightly. Were we really going to be ok?

We arrived at the ward and it was ‘go go go’. A drip was connected to me for fluid, I was put into a gown and stripped of my jewellery. My contractions were beginning to intensify, my legs were shaking and I could not make them stop.

I was only allowed one person in theatre with me. My heart broke for my mum as she would have to sit and wait in fear but I knew Kyle had to be there for me and the baby. Kyle kept trying to talk to me but I couldn't concentrate on anything he was saying. As I was having the contractions the doctor was breaking my waters, examining me and attaching a clip to my baby’s head.

I was taken to theatre and given the spinal block to numb my body. I couldn't sit up due to contractions so had to lie on my side and be supported by my midwife; she was amazing. I was shaking and crying and smiling whilst she spoke to me. There were at least 10 people in the room, five people I couldn’t see behind the screen in front of me, my midwife, the anaesthetist, and three doctors. Once I was ready to go, Kyle was brought in and they began.

In the end, the doctors performed an emergency c-section. I think a lot of people assume a section would be a quicker, easier option than hours of labour but the reality is much different. It was terrifying - not to mention agony - however I am unable to fully describe my section as once my daughter arrived, my whole focus was her and her condition.

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As they pulled the baby out, and my midwife began to walk round to us I prepared myself for this moment that I had spent all these months waiting for; our first cuddle. As soon as I saw my partner’s face I knew something wasn't right. The midwife swiftly turned backwards and whisked our girl away; I didn't even catch a glimpse. As I got stitched up my partner kept reassuring me that she was so perfect and so beautiful and his emotions got me through not seeing my baby girl. The love he had for her already, made me cry with happiness. We decided to call her Munro.

I was reassured that Munro was totally fine and just needed some extra help to breathe. I was taken back to my room and the head consultant came to speak to us. She began to tell us what had happened step by step. She explained that Munro wasn't breathing when she was born and she had to be resuscitated. She told us that they “had to work extremely hard to get her back”. She explained that they didn't know what was wrong just yet however she was in an incubator on full support and unfortunately they didn't have the facilities to keep her at this hospital.

We were transferred to a hospital in Edinburgh where they had intensive care for babies. Hours after my section, I was strapped to a bed and sent in an ambulance behind Munro’s travel team. I was given a private room close to the NICU. When we arrived, all we wanted to do was go and visit her however a doctor came and explained we would have to wait as during the transfer there was another scare and Munro had to be resuscitated for the second time.

Nothing felt real. I was totally numb, my bump was gone and so was my baby, it seemed to be one piece of bad news after another.

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Eventually we got to go down and see Munro. She was so perfect and so beautiful. That night I returned to my room and a midwife came in. She asked when I last had my medication. I really had to think carefully before replying: “When I came out of theatre I was given a little liquid morphine in a cup.” She looked at me with horror as at this point my section had been almost 12 hours ago. She explained that I should be continuously taking medicine for the first few weeks after my section. Because of the emergency with Munro, information about my own health wasn’t passed on to me.

Recovering from the c-section was difficult. Since the birth, I had been on the go and was constantly visiting the NICU in a wheelchair to see Munro. Not only was there physical pain but mentally I felt so weak. One day the pain was too much, I needed to stay in bed and I knew in myself I could not stand up. My poor baby was down in her incubator and I couldn't bring myself to get up and go be with her. I cried my eyes out. Of course my mum and partner were there for me and told me I was already doing more than I should be and Munro needs me to be healthy.

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Meanwhile, we were informed that Munro’s lungs were not inflating the way in which they should be. The team were able to give her a squirt of surfactant into her lungs. As soon as she had this she reacted perfectly. All of a sudden every bit of news was good news, she came off oxygen bit by bit and eventually we were admitted back to our SCBU at St John’s Hospital. We spent a week and a half between the two hospitals before Munro was classed as a ‘normal baby’ and we got to take her home.

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In life I am a total control freak. I often feel myself get upset talking to other mums and hearing their labour stories knowing mine was so very different. I think about the fact Munro’s first nappy was changed by someone else, her first bottle given by a nurse, her first cuddle was not even myself. All these things play on my mind from day to day and it’s a traumatic experience I will never be able to shake, however it’s truly made my love for Munro even more special.

For any mum going through this I say - don’t give up. Don’t feel hard on yourself if you just want to cry even months later and your baby is healthy. I still find myself getting upset even though Munro is perfectly fine. Cherish every moment with your tiny newborn as they get stronger. Listen to the nurses, ask lots of questions and most of all just be grateful we have the NHS, if it wasn't for them Munro wouldn't be with us today.

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this post and would like support, you can call our helpline on 0808 801 0322 or view our online support pages.

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