So almost 5 years after I almost bled to death after giving birth to my first child I have finally received a copy of my hospital notes. I have read every page and Googled the medical terms I do not understand… such as tachycardia and hypotensive. It has been an emotional experience reliving that day through the notes of the medical staff who were there. It’s hard not to cry when I discovered that I had 2000ml blood loss and four pints of blood transfused. I have no medical background so Googled the amounts lost and gained – and then cried at the severity of what I experienced and how close I came to death and the reality of my situation back then.
But I will not dwell on the stack of paper I have received. It has been good for me to have terms, facts and figures to fill in the patches of that day where I was too out of it to know what happened and too traumatised in the days, weeks and months after it to want to think about the specifics of what happened – which was very difficult as it was ever present in my mind.
For many mums who suffer a birth trauma, the prospect of having a similar experience stops them from having any more children. I was very close to stopping at one baby. In the 6 months post birth I said I would never have another baby. The experience left me with a severe anxiety – a routine visit to my GP would often have me in tears and I had no trust for the medical profession. I think I was justified in feeling this way – my midwife did not pick up on a massive hemorrhage despite my other half raising with staff on a number of occasions during the 2 hours post birth that the room looked like the worst blood-bath horror film he had ever seen. I have read in my notes the midwife had put in my notes the “blood loss was minimal”. Google has informed me that 2000ml plus of blood loss is not “MINIMAL”.
My hospital notes have the midwife’s full name. I have just searched and found her on facebook, typed an angry message to her whilst in tears…and then deleted it.
After I passed out and went into shock the trauma team had to take me to surgery. Before I got wheeled out the room I came round and saw my other half holding the baby and thought “I am going to die and he will have to take the baby home alone”. Months later he told me he had exactly the same thought.
Someone in the operating room failed to hook up my blood transfusion properly during the op where they removed a 735ml blood clot from my uterus. First anyone knew about this was after the op was complete and they went to move me from the operating table and someone asked “Where is all this blood coming from” which had now covered the table under my back.
When I was able to move from my bed 2 days later and went for a shower and returned to the room the nurse said she didn’t recognise me as she thought I had deep burgandy coloured hair. It was back to my natural fair colour after I had stood in the shower washing someone else’s blood out my hair and watched the red-tinged water disappear down the plughole.
So after two quite big failures in my care, I can say that yes, I did find it very hard to trust anyone with my care.
I had a really rough two years – flashbacks, anxiety, panic attacks. I was diagnosed with PTS and feel grateful I did not have feelings of rejection towards my child – which is something a healthcare support worker told me can happen with birth trauma.
But being a mum was, and is, such an incredible experience and my wee boy was so wonderful that I wanted another baby.
Three years after my first baby, despite being completely terrified for the entire pregnancy, I gave birth to baby number 2. I almost wrote two letters to keep in my hospital bag for that day in case I didn’t come home alive. One for my other half and one for my 3 year old – telling them how much I loved them and how much they meant to me. And how every day I had spent with them were the best of my life. I had serious thoughts that there may be a chance I would die giving birth.
But there was always that hope.
And my second birth experience could not have been more different and I had another beautiful baby – this time a little girl. No bleed, no intervention, no operation, no 5 days post birth on a ward. I sobbed and kept asking “Am I okay?!” for minutes post birth and got to go home the next day. When I stepped out the hospital I felt like crying – not because of fear, anxiety or shock but because I felt elation and physically felt like a weight that had lasted for 3 years had been lifted from me.
It was cathartic and I am so glad I faced the fear. It has helped me move on and I have been able to enjoy the wonderful experience of another little life which every day amazes and delights me.
I am now almost 5 years to that day when I had my birth trauma and am now 5 months pregnant with baby number 3. I am relaxed and looking forward to having my baby and actually feel excited. This is the complete opposite experience of my emotions during my last pregnancy.
It is hard not to let a birth trauma take over your life but there is hope. I feel lucky to be alive and glad that I faced the fear.