I have been thinking, sort of behind the scenes in my brain, almost constantly about the birth of Bob. (Bob is the name given to the baby in my uterus – by my Mum. Bob and Joni – get it?!)
I have had a little light come on and I’ve realised something. I’m more scared of the post natal experience in hospital than I am of birth. Now, I am scared of birth, but more worried about the bit after.
Here’s the history: Some of it is a little graphic, sorry. Please don’t read if you don’t like the sound of that.
I had heard bad things about the post natal ward at the hospital. But it didn’t matter to me as I was going to be home 6 hours after giving birth. I didn’t even pack a hospital bag – I was so convinced that I’d have an intervention free, quick, labour and uncomplicated delivery. Well, I was wrong.
The post natal experience I had was terrifying. Here goes an attempt to describe it.
After all the trauma of the birth I suggested that Chris went home for a bit to get some rest. He had been through a lot and really needed to sleep, so he did. I was still in HDU at this point as my heart rate and blood pressure were crazy due to all the blood loss. Joni was just asleep next to me so I just sat there and stared into the middle distance, wondering why the woman opposite me was smiling at her husband and newly born baby.
Someone came and told me I could go to the ward. She piled all my stuff (as I said I didn’t pack a bag, so an assortment of carrier bags and piles of clothes/nappies etc) and then Joni on top of me and I was wheeled off. I had to ask them to stop twice as my leg had fallen off the bed and they hadn’t noticed it dangling precariously off the side.
I was dumped in a ward. The curtains were drawn and I was left. Bags, stuff, a catheter bag and a baby on top of me.
I managed to fling my bags onto the floor, despite only being able to feel anything from my chest upwards.
I had missed the chance to order food so didn’t get any. Eventually Chris came back with some food and my Aunty. No one had seen me since dumping me on the ward at least 2 hours before.
My Aunty and Chris sorted out all my stuff and removed the bag of urine from on top of my legs (which really needed emptying). Eventually one of the only 2 midwives on duty on the entire ward came in to introduce herself. I was still numb from the waist downwards so my Aunty asked if there would be help during the night with passing me the baby to feed etc. the midwife replied that they were short staffed and expected women to look after themselves. So there it was – I was to be abandoned. Just like I was abandoned in labour – I was abandoned after as well by midwives.
That night was the worst night of my life. Nothing compares. I was in a lot of pain. Joni was in a lot of pain from her head injury. No one checked on us.
Joni was screaming and I was pressing the buzzer so that she could be passed to me from her cot. No one came. I managed to haul myself to the edge of the bed and push my legs off the edge so I could reach her crib. I managed to get her out, pick her up and feed her. Crouched on the edge of the bed with blood pouring down my legs. Gravity and everything I suppose. Sitting on the edge of the bed I managed to feed Joni. Don’t know how as feeding sitting up with no support was pretty impossible at home!
I was sobbing. Probably loudly, I’m not really sure. I called Chris, I think this was about 4am. He couldn’t do much to calm me down apart from assure me he’d be there as soon as they’d let him in.
Still no one came. I managed to haul myself back up into the bed, with Joni on my lap.
The lady in the bed opposite me was obviously traumatised and exhausted. Her baby was crying all night and she slept through it. All of it. Apart from occasionally shouting ‘be quiet please’ and ‘shh now’. No one came to see why her baby was crying or if she was ok.
At about 6am someone came and told me that they didn’t allow babies to sleep on mothers in bed. I told them to leave us alone and not come back. How dare they start to tell me what to do now? She wrote in my notes that I was ‘incapable of caring for baby’.
As I was still numb and had a catheter I couldn’t get up to have breakfast, a midwife rushed past and asked why I hadn’t had breakfast, I explained I couldn’t walk and she said ‘well you’ve missed it now’. That was it.
Chris arrived and had arranged to pay for a private room for us as we’d have to be in at least one more night. So we paid £90 (well actually my Mum did) so I didn’t have to spend another night on the ward.
We were almost completely left alone in that room. Which was actually blissful. The next morning I told them that I was leaving as they my husband could provide the care I needed at home, and they hadn’t been in all night. They made me sign to say that I had done so against medical advice. Ok then. It took them 6 hours to get the paperwork together, and we left. Phew.
More and more keeps coming back to me about the first 48 hours but that’s all I can remember for now.
I understand why the ward was short staffed – because the labour ward was short staffed and they needed midwives there, for obvious reasons! I don’t actually blame the midwives. They were under obvious pressure and stress – not their fault.
More has to be done to improve the experience in hospital for women and their babies in those first precious days. I feel so strongly about this that I am currently looking into ways that voluntary organisations can work with hospitals to improve this experience. Watch this space.
The thought of doing it all again, albeit at a different hospital, scares the hell out of me. Help!