Trigger warning: traumatic birth story
I realised today how lucky I am to be alive in the time of modern medicine. I mean I’ve always known how lucky we are but it’s not until I experienced what could have been a very threatening situation that I realised just how fragile life can be.
Without modern medicine I realise I would have been one of those mums that you see die in child birth in programmes set years ago. I would have been the mum that bled out and left her baby on this earth without a mum.
I have kind of just pushed past it gratefully in my conscious mind and life. But as time goes on, I realise it’s actually hit me harder than I thought and reality sinks in at just how serious things could have been.
One of my biggest fears for child birth was of course death and I’m sure it’s the same for everyone giving birth. My other huge fear came from an episode of call the midwife. After giving birth the mother’s placenta became stuck. In an effort to get it out the midwives pulled on the cord and ended up inverting her uterus and pulling it out before pushing it back in again. Well you can imagine my horror when mine got stuck and the midwives began pulling the cord. Eventually the cord snapped off inside of me and pulling was no longer an option.
They tried to manually get it out whilst giving me gas and air but the pain was unbearable and they weren’t able to get to it. They tried multiple times and each time I screamed for them to stop.
I feel so lucky that there was a whole team on hand to take me down to theatre to get it removed. From the time of giving birth at 3:45am until theatre at around 5am I was still bleeding and my husband was starting to panic. I remember blood pouring off of the table in theatre and the team telling me not to worry. In that moment I had to put complete faith in the team of doctors and nurses, essentially fighting to stop the blood loss. I had already been talked through the process of a blood transfusion and the complications that can come with it.
As someone with OCD I was pretty certain I would need the transfusion, it would all go wrong, and I would die.
So many hours of just using gas and air for pain relief, because of my fear of an epidural, and yet I was going to now need a spinal block anyway. It felt soul destroying.
The hardest part for me was not the thought of death, but the thought of leaving my husband and new born baby alone. In those moments, all I could think of was how I had done this to him and how scared he must be.
My husbands face, whilst holding our newborn, will haunt me for the rest of my life. I don’t think I have ever seen him so scared and I hope to never again. I wanted to reach out and touch him, hold his hand, but he was too far away and the medical team around me were moving quickly. We didn’t kiss goodbye, we both knew we were too scared to. Too scared that it would be the last time, too scared we weren’t strong enough, too scared we would both start crying.
My husband told me later that he couldn’t kiss me goodbye because that would mean I wasn’t coming back. In that moment we looked at each other as I was taken away, that tiny moment of time we shared in eye contact said all we ever needed to say. It’s like we said 1000 words to each other in a millisecond. We knew what we would tell each other at the end, we knew every word we would say if we only had the time.
I pray I never have to see that look on my husband’s face again as he held our baby in his arms, feeling so alone. All I could say to the midwifes and nurses was can someone please look after my husband he’s scared, can someone please help my husband, can someone stay with my husband. They promised they would look after him, and to their credit they did.
It’s moments like this you truly realise how your true heart feels, when you’re so close to loosing everything. My heart told me I had to stay on this earth for him, that I couldn’t bear the thought of him being alone. And not just alone but alone with a new baby, that to me is too tragic and it happens still too often.
The doctors told me this could happen to me again and that it would be a risk for our next pregnancy. It’s something that really plays on my mind now. I know I want to have more children but now I have to weigh that up with the chances of ending up back in theatre and not being as lucky next time.
I know that with the intervention of the team in theatre and with modern medicine that it’s unlikely I would have died but its still teriffying to know that I could have and would have without our modern day science.
As time goes on I think I’m still coming to terms with it. Reality is hitting me hard in the face that without going to theatre to have my placenta removed and blood loss stopped our story could have been a very different one.
I never want to fear kissing my husband goodbye again, I never want to see that very real fear in his eyes again, I never want to leave him in such a vulnerable position with our baby in his arms.
To make it all worse we’re in a pandemic so we couldn’t even have other family there to support. He just had to sit there alone for over an hour, holding our baby, wondering what his future was going to be like and if it was going to be very different from the one we imagined. I’m so grateful to the midwives that checked in on him throughout that time and who supported him.
I’m grateful to the medical team who helped dress me for theatre, washed blood from me when I was unable to move from the waist down, who held my hand, made jokes to help me smile, wrapped me in blankets to keep me warm, moved my legs for me when I couldn’t, lifted me from bed to bed, made sure I could feel no pain and treated me as though I was family.
Yes I was scared, so scared that I was going to die, but I was teriffied that I would be leaving my husband for good and that I would never hold my baby again.
I’m so grateful, grateful for human curiosity and modern medicine, grateful for health workers who really are miracle makers, grateful for every extra second since that day that I get to spend with my new little family when it could have been so very different, grateful for my husbands strength and endless love, grateful for my own strength that I really didn’t know I had.
In those moments I was absolutely teriffied I was also at my strongest. I stayed calm because I really had no choice. I asked all the right questions before signing to give consent to be taken to theatre. I processed everything that was going on around me, through the fear and pain and focused on staying earth side.
Recovery has been hard physically. During pregnancy I was diagnosed with SPD meaning my pelvis moves unevenly and twists, which is both extremely painful and restricts my movement. Having to deal with that on top of internal stitches and my insides contracting and healing has been painful and exhausting. I have had to go back to hospital because my catheter used in theatre has caused some trauma, which means even more blood loss. I have been dizzy, ‘spaced out’ and extremely tired. Add a newborn baby to the mix and sleep definitely becomes a commodity.
Mentally I have had the dreaded baby blues and spend a lot of time crying for what feels like no reason. A lot of time also crying because I miss my husband and being able to hold on to him for more than 5 minutes without having to change a nappy or feed a baby. Of course I love the nappy chages and feeding but it doesn’t take away the fact I miss just having a cuddle with my husband.
I think the birth experience has made missing him more intense because I feel like I almost left him and so I just want to hold onto him forever and never let go. The thought of him returning to work absolutely breaks my heart. I don’t ever want to be separated from him again, not taken away on a hospital bed, not for work, not taken away for even a second.
This post has gone on for a long while but it honestly helps me to conceptualise how I’m feeling and why I may be struggling so much at the moment. I think I understand more now why the baby blues have been hard for me, because I almost left my baby and husband and because I never want to leave them again.
I dont know how I’m going to make it through when he does go back to work but I also know that, just like going to theatre, I dont have a choice and that I will find the strength to get through it, even if I’m fighting through tears.
Matthew I love you and I will do all I can to never have to leave you and Harper so scared and alone again. If one day I should have to go away you know every word I would ever say to you. Just how absolutely madly in love with you I am, how you make me so so proud every day and how you’re the kindest most incredible human. Thank you for being my all and for being Harper’s daddy, we love you past the stars forever.
I purposefully removed the ’till death do us part’ from our wedding vows and changed it to ‘infinity and beyond’ because I plan to be with you and hold you in my heart forever.
To infinity and beyond my love.