Part Five: Hospital Maternity Care


Ewan with his rather overwhelmed, poorly Mummy

It is inexplicable that women in our society are left alone with their newborns at the time they need family support the most. Feeling utterly exhausted, overwhelmed and traumatised with a tiny new being to care for, I needed my husband with me. He was told to leave. I felt totally alone, confused as to why he had gone.

A busy hospital ward

My stomach started to distend instead of decrease in size. I threw up all morsels of food and drink I tried in vain to get down. I was suffering from post-operative ileus; my bowels weren’t functioning properly after the operation where they had been handled. I had to ask for someone to hand me Ewan from the cot he had to sleep in. I couldn’t feed Ewan independently. I could hear new mums, looking relaxed and healthy, talking to their babies, holding them and smiling. I felt totally out of place as the pain worsened whilst other mums were being discharged.

This was not the right place for me. I was x-rayed and CTG scanned as staff puzzled over my condition. I was transferred back to labour suite in the observation room where I received one-to-one care. I was all wired up, including a tube down my nose into my stomach, and was on various drugs.

 I was desperate to be well, to enjoy being a new mum, to get to know my baby in peace.

The second night in hospital was the longest, most sleepless night of my life. The busiest night of the month, staff dashed about as countless women laboured; the cries of labour and the screams of newborn babies filling me with guilt and jealousy. I felt I had failed. Why could others give birth naturally but not me?  I relived the pain, the panic, the operation as I heard sirens, panic and running, as a woman was raced to have a caesarean. Pressing the buzzer for help a very young, inexperienced and poorly trained locum healthcare assistant eventually arrived. She failed even to change Ewan’s nappy. She sat stonily, silently, offering no words of comfort, simply ensuring I didn’t fall asleep with Ewan on me for fear of him suffocating.

I needed my husband with me. With pain I attempted to reach my mobile phone but failed. After an hour my midwife came, informing me she couldn’t ring my husband because it would scare him in the night. Alone I lay, unable to sleep with the noise and the bright lights, unable to hold my baby or have my husband by me for comfort. My stomach, painful, felt like a tin drum, puffed full of air.

If I felt like this, what do women in less fortunate situations than I feel?

Those with limited family support, those suffering more pain, those in even busier wards with less care?

NHS hospital maternity care was a revelation to me.


12 thoughts on “Part Five: Hospital Maternity Care”

  1. 🙁 The story of Ewan’s birth is very distressing to hear.

    I hope you have made a formal complaint to the NHS trust?

    I had my two deliveries in different NHS facilities. One was a big hospital, the other a midwife led unit.

    The staff in the big hospital were too busy. I sent a text to my husband at 4am when my baby was less than 24 hours old, in tears because the staff had given her formula (without my proper consent) rather than help me on what must have been my tenth call for help with breastfeeding in the night.

    The second birth and after care could not have been more different. The staff were kind, caring, helpful. They tucked me up in bed at night with my baby next to me (in the bed). I was lucky not to have problems feeding the second time, but help was on hand if needed.

    The key thing that both of our experiences shows us is that women need to be aware of the level of care to be expected in the places we end up (rather than necessarily choose to) give birth.

    Much love to you and your boys. xx

    1. Thanks again for your comments. It sounds like your experiences are similar to mine, in that when I was later transferred to a midwife led unit (which I’d wanted to give birth in in the first place but was deemed too ‘high risk’) I received excellent care from all the midwives, instead of just some of them which seemed to be the case at the large hopsital where I gave birth.

      It is true that women need to be aware of the level of care to be expected in where we end up giving birth, many aren’t aware of this, or simply assume it will be good care because that is what it should be. We need to do our homework first.

      I haven’t made a complaint but it is something I should do. I feel writing this blog has been really cathartic, in helping me come to terms with my experiences.

  2. Alright mate? Just checking in – can totally relate to the being left on your own with this baby when you are in worst possible state – I remember being terrified about my mum leaving the hospital – she stayed past visiting hours after J was born and one of the senior midwives reassured her that I was not alone, staff on hand etc – but I really felt alone then and I knew then that quite my bladder did not feel right. Actually now I think about it I remember my mum saying to her that I was also worried about not weeing properly (bit personal I know but left my dignity behind long ago!) and being ill with this and this senior midwife checked my stomach over and reassured us both that it felt normal. My mum left after that. I felt quite ill in the night and at one point – when I was holding J – I fell over as I was just feeling so bizarre – suppose that’s not surprising given how it all panned out afterwards with the bladder retention issue. The following day I was in agony and they finally listened to me and drained 2.4 litres out of my bladder! Not happy times! Anyway didn’t mean to put all this down, just to say I agree that you should not be left alone at worst possible point and I remember that awful feeling xxx

    1. Thank you Joss for your comments, and for sharing part of your difficult postnatal experience with the blog. It really is very difficult for women when they are left alone in hospital, without any family support, especially because midwives and other healthcare staff are often so busy they cannot really see to your needs, which they didn’t in your case and my own. It sounds like you really suffered with your bladder problems, enough for you to make a formal complaint.
      Hope you’re enjoying reading my blog, enjoy.

  3. I can remember that feeling after Dylan was born. The middle of the night. Shattered. Still a bit spaced from Pethadine. Stunned from birth. Not aware of myself at all really and then being left on my own as Neil was sent away! I felt lost and very uneasy. I remember walking out of the room with Dylan in my arms and my gown open at the back, just looking for someone to tell me what to do next! I couldn’t believe I was on my own. I guess they want to give you bonding time. Not all husbands/partners are supportive and many mothers need that time. It is not always easy for midwives to make the best choices for everyone. Another case for homebirth!

    1. Thanks for your comments. I agree, it is yet another reason why home births should be more available and popular in the UK, as it would mean less women having to cope alone in those first postnatal hours, when they are, like we were, completely overwhelmed, exhausted and unable to function properly. Though as you say there are occasions when the partner isn’t actually a suitable person to be left with the mother and baby, though luckily in my case Rich would’ve been excellent, he was simply told he had to leave. I realise catering for this would mean additional resources for the NHS, as they’d have to provide a bed for the father, but frankly I would happily have paid for this service had it been available.

  4. I too agree with your comments about noise in the hospital and again, would like to make a case for homebirth.

    When I first arrived in hospital with Bonnie I was some way off birth and put into a ‘triage’ room which was a waiting room really, with beds. When mothers were about to give birth they were moved to delivery suites. Until then this room was filled with the sounds of women in Labour. Moans and groans but also quite a lot of distress, panic. Next to me there was a mother who was clearly young, alone, scared and begging for pain relief. She was crying that she couldn’t take it anymore but told no pain relief could be issued whilst in ‘triage’. She was then told it would be some time yet! There was a curtain and about a metre and a half between us. I felt so sorry for her and felt I could have offered more support to her than the midwife did! And I was in labour myself and should have been focusing on my labour! Just being in this room, waiting, put my stress levels right up. I began remembering just what I had coming in terms of pain and could feel my heart rate and the fear rise. Neil and I decided to leave. I spent the next few hours at home in my bed, lying in spoons with Neil. I had sunshine coming in the windows. Birds singing and the sound of my son downstairs singing songs with my mum. What a difference! I stayed at home for as long as I could and went back to the hospital 50 mins before Bonnie arrived.

    I was moved to the ward within half an hour of giving birth as they literally needed the room. I wanted to be quiet with my baby and rest but it was visiting time, loud and hectic! There must have been dozens of people in the ward all talking. It was horrible and again, stressful at a time I really needed calm. I also heard the mother 2 beds down tell her baby to shut the f*** up or she wouldn’t take her home! I was horrified and home again within 2 hours. I am now looking back with hindsight and wishing I could just delete the hospital from the whole birth!

    This is in no way a criticism of the NHS. The hospital had no way to make it any different for me. They were simply working to their limits. They had to have a queuing system for the delivery suites due to numbers and because of this needed to move people out of them as soon as they could.

    In conclusion from leaving sanctuary and calm of my bedroom I had a car journey with stops and starts and jumps, walking through corridors full of people, getting in a lift, on to a bed, off a bed, asked to do a urine sample, on to a bed a again, an examination, a ride in a wheel chair, on to a heart rate monitor, on to another bed. Gave birth. Pack up my things. Move to the ward. People coming and going. Chaos in comparison and in my opinion unnecessary. Never again!

    1. Thanks for sharing with us your hospital birth experience, it sounds a typical story of how disturbed and interfered with most of us are in hospital. Like you, I do not put the blame on the NHS who are massively overstretched and doing their best most of the time in trying circumstances. This story is another in a long line of birht stories which illustrate how vital it is that more women in the UK are aware of, educated about and given the real option of a home birth. I know so many mums-to-be who were dissuaded from home births because of the ‘risks’ involved, then went on to regret their decision to give birth in hospital. For some, hospital is the right place, but for many hospital is an alien, fearful, loud, claustraphobic, stressful place, all negatives which interefer with their trying to give birth, then trying to bond with and care for a new born baby. So much needs to change with labour, birth and postnatal care; we need to start with listening to women’s birth experiences and responding sensitively to them.

  5. So great to see you blogging away happily and I remember our time in Vietnam together: now we are both mums and it seems a different world. I also had a fun time with our local hospital: we were dropped off there when my waters broke but we had arrived too early as the midwife who examined me refused to believe I was in labour. I couldn’t argue with her as I couldn’t speak due to back-to-back double dip contractions. She told us to go home. So we walked home! It’s a ten minute walk under normal conditions, but these were not normal conditions, having to stop and lean against lamp posts and fences on the way during contractions. I was sick into a drain about half way there, a sure sign of entering second stage of labour. When we got home, it was great to be able to control our environment. Mum had mopped the floor and it was really tidy and clean. Nicholas asked if I wanted some soothing music and I just laughed and said, no, something with a beat. So I walked round the sofa in time with a jazz funk compilation album, and when there was a rare break in contractions I curled up on the sofa. Then a couple of baths were a good plan. But I was already starting to push when my parents returned home from their party, about five hours after my waters had broken. I had not realised that I was in third stage already, and so was rushed to hospital. The calm before the storm stage enabled me to walk to the birthing area of the hospital. They put me in a birthing room while the one we were supposed to be in was being cleaned, but it was too late as the birth was already happening. Except the chair I was in was broken (that’s why they didn’t intend me to give birth in there!) and could not be moved up and down. I was not happy to be examined because I assumed I would be sent straight home again, but the midwife said she could see the baby’s head. If I could change one thing it would be that I should have got onto the floor after being examined, in order to avoid the massive tearing that took place. Two pushes and he was out. Then I missed valuable bonding time while they sewed me up. It seemed to take hours. I was high on the gas and thought the picture on the wall was the most amazing thing I’d seen. I kept slipping down the broken chair and had to hold myself up by tensing my thighs. Also I have a slow metabolism so the local anaesthetic did not kick in until about ten minutes after they started sewing. Ouch! Anyway, my family were outraged that I had been treated like that by the midwife who told me to walk home in full labour. However, I feel it was for the best. I feel so lucky that it was a natural birth, and also grateful for the pregnancy yoga classes I had been on. Those classes taught me breath control and kept me sane when I couldn’t get exercise. Also, about a week before the due date the midwife told me that my baby was presenting face first to the birth canal. I did some careful headstands and I believe this may have been helpful in dislodging the incorrectly presented head and delaying labour by ten days.

    1. Hi Hannah,

      It is great to hear from you. Thank you for looking at my blog and for sharing your birth on here. Glad you managed to have a natural birth. I also found yoga really helpful during pregnancy as well as during labour. I ended up with an emergency caesarian I used, but still used what I’d learnt in yoga. I have just looked at your blog ‘Bernard’s Little Adventures’, especially interesting to read about your time in Vietnam with Bernard. Now your home it must be quite different. I will have a look on your blog from time to time to see how you’re getting on. Interestign that Bernard is in a Montessori nursery school in the middle of nowhere, just the kind of place I’d like to send Ewan but there isn’t anywhere like that anywhere near us, so we’re considering home education.

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