Tag Archives: hospitals

Part Six: Recovery and breastfeeding policy

Proud Mummy and Daddy, a little shell-shocked, on day three (Daddy's brithday!)

Recovery

Is hospital the best place to recover from giving birth? Once returned to the main maternity ward I failed to sleep at all. All around me was a tremendous din of crying babies. Surely there was something seriously wrong? All the newborns were crying; was it from shock, from separation from their mothers as they lay alone in plastic cots, seeking milk and the familiar warmth of bodies they had so recently left? The primeval sound haunted me. They were communicating in the only way they knew. Why was everyone ignoring them?

Breastfeeding policy

Is hospital the best place to learn how to breastfeed? An unfamiliar, clinical, stressful environment full of risk fuelled rules? I was instructed to feed Ewan in the communal nursery because it was apparently too risky to feed him in bed. I repeated the process of getting out of bed (no mean feat having just had a serious abdominal operation), and slowly pushing Ewan in his cot to the nursery. I was prohibited from carrying him in case I, his mother, dropped him. I managed to feed him sitting upright in a bright room. I was exhausted. The room was filled with other women who looked in a similar state of shock and dishevelment. I craved a familiar environment in which to recover and bond with my son.
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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.
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Part Four: Emergency caesarean

First meeting of mother and son

Emergency caesarean

No pregnant woman imagines having an emergency caesarean, yet around 60% of caesareans are unplanned. Of these only around 6% are real emergencies. Mine was one of these. My Mum kissed my cheek as my husband squeezed my hand tightly. They were left alone in a suddenly empty room, their concern almost palpable.

Feet running, alarms and lights blaring. Frantic voices. A cold room. One last huge contraction. Breathing in, then nothing. Awakening, shaking uncontrollably, numb, rising pain and panic. Had my baby survived? Where was he? Disorientated and confused no one had cut the umbilical cord. Was this because although I knew my baby had left my body I had not been awake to experience his leaving it?

My baby was found to be in the back to back position, which is why I had laboured slowly and experienced so much back pain. I will forever wonder whether if I had been more mobile in labour I could have helped Ewan to turn to a more optimal position for birth.

First hours of life

Equally, no new mum imagines not seeing her baby in those precious early hours. Yet this situation is quite common. I didn’t see Ewan for the first three hours of his life. The thought never occurred to me that I would not share his first hours on earth. He was born perfectly healthy, at 2.29am on Friday June 11th 2010. There is a video of my husband, Rich, holding and soothing our newborn, as he nuzzles and cries, trying to nurse. Each time I see this video I try not to cry.

Hospital policy

Rich was told off by a nurse for walking with Ewan instead of placing him in his cot, because he might drop him! This beggar’s belief. At what point in humanity have we arrived if we cannot hold our most vulnerable members of society to our skin to ease their transition into the world, simply for fear of litigation? Rich felt angry and humiliated at this admonition having simply followed his instincts. The sound of his Daddy’s voice must have been comfortable and familiar to Ewan when all about him was cold, bright and harsh. He wondered where his Mummy was. To leave him alone, even for a second, would have been wrong.

Meeting of mother and son

Eventually we met. A totally indescribable feeling, etched on my mind as my life’s most memorable moment. I was utterly amazed; he was perfect, so beautiful. Love at first sight. He gave me a look of knowing, he reached for me. He fed immediately, hungrily from both breasts. He had been denied this nourishment for what must have felt an eternity to him in this startlingly new, scary world. He made sure he wasn’t denied it again!

Statistics found in: Caesarian section

Part Three: Labour pains and failed drugs

Labour is about managing the pain. When this is lost, we turn to others. My contractions suddenly felt on top of each other. I was acutely aware of their pain. My mental attitude had broken. I hit a wall The pain had not intensified by my interpretation of it had. This was fear from the pain instead of acceptance of and moving through the pain. Into my mind the words ‘pain killer’ blazed, like a saviour.

The names of drugs learnt about in NCT classes crossed through my mind. I couldn’t cope any longer. Feeling a failure, I shakily asked for diamorphine. Inside I was screaming, I wept.  My baby sensed and shared my anxiety, his heart rate quickening in response to mine. Plans for a natural birth flew out of the window as the likelihood of a caesarean increased. Diamorphine did nothing. Desperate for anything to ease the escalating pain, I asked for an epidural. Administered too late it had no effect. My body was in turmoil from the sudden surge of drugs. It rejected them all. I was violently projectile sick all over the room.

More drugs were pumped into my system. I was given syntocinon, a hormone drip which increased the pain and frequency of the contractions. My panic reached new heights. I needed my mother. She arrived in the night, sensing there was something seriously wrong. Later she described the horrific scene before her of a woman trying to wrench a foetus out of her daughter with huge forceps. I gripped onto my mum’s hands on my left, my husband’s on my right.

I sensed crowds of people hovering around my bedside. I tried in vain to follow the doctor’s instructions to push, opening my eyes for a moment to focus. Twice the doctor tried and failed to deliver Ewan using forceps. His heart rate dropped as the forceps delivery was abandoned. I cried as I was informed I had to have a caesarean section under general anaesthetic. Devastation I couldn’t give birth naturally. Relief the pain would end. I had been in active labour for thirteen hours, a long labour even by the doctor’s standards.

Part One: Hopes and reality of labour

Part One: Hopes and reality of labour


Midwife led birthing centre

I had hoped to give birth to Ewan in the local midwife led birthing centre, Darley Dale. However, I was put under consultant led care because the doctors found I was carrying Streptococcus B bacteria. Treatment for this includes the administration of antibiotics during labour and birth. This is a common infection present in up to half of the female population, which can cause severe infections in the newborn. I accepted my doctor’s advice, but felt saddened I was unable to give birth in the less interventionist, more homely environment of a midwife led unit. Having read about the many benefits of using water during labour, I fought to be allowed access to this in hospital. Eventually I was assured I could use water at the times I was not being administered the antibiotics.

The start of labour

The start of labour is a significant, often exciting time for pregnant women. Mine certainly was! Labour began slowly, mild tightening like period pains which came and went for over a day. I slept soundly my last night at home, before going swimming to relieve and distract me from the pain. I rocked to and fro on the birthing ball whilst listening to Buddhist chanting music, focusing on the deep, resonating tones of the monks as I breathed. I ate a hearty cooked breakfast to energise me, in preparation for the labour to come. I sought comfort from my parent’s border collie, who sensed my pain, nuzzling close to offer comfort. It was as if he knew.

From free movement to the confines of a hospital bed

In an active labour suite in hospital, I felt in control and on top of the pain. I was relaxed, moving around the room and squatting to use the birthing ball. A huge gush as my waters broke, with traces of meconium. Foetal excrement can be an indication the baby is in distress. However, in women who are overdue this is more likely to happen anyway, without the meconium necessarily being any sign of distress. I was informed I needed to be strapped up on the bed to an electronic foetal monitor, with electrodes monitoring my heart rate continuously.

It never occurred to me to refuse.

This severely restricted my movements, whilst jeopardising my hopes of using the birthing pool. As a first time mother I felt powerless in my patient role. I accepted, without question, the authority of the medical establishment, against my instinctive need to move freely around the room.

Electronic foetal monitoring

Although restricted I was determined to be as active as possible, kneeling on the bed with the birthing ball rocking from side to side. Both my heart rate and Ewan’s remained static for many hours, as we both remained calm. A handheld foetal device which the midwife uses periodically for short periods would therefore have more than sufficed, whilst allowing me freedom to labour as I desired, including being immersed in water. Research indicates no positive effects of electronic foetal monitoring. Instead, rather alarmingly, their use indicates an increase in the rate of caesarean sections in labouring women (see Michelle Odent). I can appreciate why. Caesarean sections also carry many risks for both mother and baby. Breastfeeding can also prove more difficult to get off to a good start and manage whilst recovering from surgery. Why are electronic foetal monitors used so readily? Part of the answer lies in the fact we live in a risk averse society, scared of not insuring against all risks by constant monitoring.

Michel Odent. Birth and Breastfeeding: Rediscovering the Needs of Women During Pregnancy and Childbirth