I was 29 years old when I became a mum.
It’s not a bad age to become a first time mum, although personally I did feel I was slightly young to be embarking on such a big life change. I was more acutely aware of this due to the fact that I was the first out of my friends to get pregnant and have a child.
I was ill prepared and disadvantaged from the start because no one could really give me honest advice about children or childbirth. Even my own mum could offer no real help as things have changed drastically since she had my sister and I, so her knowledge was also null and void.
Because of this I trusted my care entirely to the health professionals I was allocated.
I had no one else to turn to during this time so every question I had was directed at them, and I believed that they had the answers I desperately sought.
I remember the weight of my gigantic belly being laughed off. My worries and concerns that my child was going to be big. The immense feeling of internal tearing I could feel. The fact my skin felt fully stretched and uncomfortable like it was just going to rip apart.
The crippling debilitating pain I felt in my upper left side which saw me admit myself into hospital three times before my due date because the pain was excruciating. I vividly remember brushing my teeth in tears because I couldn’t stand up straight and the idea of walking a few steps to my bed afterwards seemed like an impossible feat.
To this day I don’t know what that pain was, but logically it must have been my son doing his best to crack my ribs as the space internally became too small for him.
I was told just to ‘walk’ to kick-start labour. They weren’t listening to me. I couldn’t walk.
But I trusted them and all my niggles, aches and pains just made me feel stupid.
In hindsight I was let down hugely by the system from start to finish.
What I didn’t realise then but learnt with my second child was that I had a choice.
I had a choice over every aspect of my care including the hospital I gave birth in.
My birth with my son wasn’t any better. If my team had listened to me they would have known my son was too big for my frame (later confirmed by a consultant). A caesarean could have been scheduled in and the labour would have been kinder to me compared to the 48 hours of induced labour I endured.
I remember my waters breaking along with a lot of blood but because my body didn’t go into proper labour I was induced that evening by a midwife who didn’t believe my waters had gone and she felt I was being given a bed when I didn’t need it.
That made me feel great *rolls eyes*.
She gave me some high dose induction drugs via the pessary and the drip and just left me alone for 12 hours.
Some women can bear induction pain, I couldn’t. In fact the pain was so bad I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t even move position. It was like I was frozen just dealing with the contractions coming thick and fast.
I had to send Mr London Mum out of my room to go and find anyone to offer me pain relief. Being left alone I felt so vulnerable and scared. I was in the most pain I’d ever been in and I had no one there to help me.
Internally I felt conflicted. I felt like as a woman this must just be what labour was and I just had to deal with it, but the other side of me knew that this wasn’t right.
When my midwife finally reappeared with a pill for me to swallow she was surprised at how silent I was because of the strength of my contractions. My silence wasn’t because I was bearing it. It was because I couldn’t bear it. She refused to entertain any other pain relief telling me I was coping and not listening to me through the limited amount of speech I could muster.
With my new midwife taking over I eventually had the epidural which she’d requested on my behalf. She could see I wasn’t coping and she never left my side. She was the care I needed all along. Someone who supported me from beginning to end.
Little London’s heart rate kept dropping and the full emergency team were called in a couple of times before they picked up that I had sepsis. Every time my body tried to sleep his heart rate would plummet some more. As I knew all along a caesarean was the only way to get him out safely.
If only they’d listened to me about his size.
His birth was a whirlwind. I got a quick glimpse before he was taken straight down to intensive care, and that immediate bond you should have with your child was ripped from me.
My experience can only be described as traumatic. It without a doubt contributed to my post natal depression.
For close to a year afterwards I couldn’t discuss his birth without crying. My body was in shock and I really could have used some sort of counselling to get me through those dark days to help me recover. But no one ever asked me how I was.
For months after I blamed Mr London Mum. I had no one else to blame. He’d take the brunt of my anger about the whole experience. Some of that trauma I still live with now. The diastasis recti, the back pain because I have no core muscles. The physical aspect over how my body looks knowing I can never return to how I used to be. That loss of feeling womanly and the damage that does to a woman mentally.
With Baby London I knew that I needed to be more in control over how her birth panned out.
My first step was making sure I chose the right hospital to give birth in. With two hospitals in close proximity I had the option of one of the best hospitals to have my daughter, or one of the worst hospitals to have my daughter. My brain told me to go with the former hospital, after all why wouldn’t I?
But just to make sure I was picking the right one I decided to do a little bit of research.
What I uncovered was that the best hospital was usually over subscribed and therefore they lacked adequate post natal care- something I knew I’d need this time around as I had zero post natal care when my son was born. And the second hospital although it was under review for being one of the worst hospitals actually had an outstanding maternity ward with amazing post natal care.
Without the research I wouldn’t have known that.
So much to everyone’s shock I chose the second hospital- the one that had been on the news because it was being monitored for failings.
The care they provided me with and the support I had throughout my pregnancy with my gestational diabetes diagnosis made me feel secure I’d made the right choice. Never was I made to feel silly if I went in worried about baby movements or bleeding. They understood my fears and I never felt judged.
On the day my daughter was born the phlebotomist talked gibberish to me to help me get through a blood test knowing about my needle fear. While my midwife held my hand and stroked my hair as the spinal block was put in and made sure I was well looked after the whole time.
I felt like I had real support on the post natal ward and they truly cared about the wellbeing of my daughter and my recovery. I must have pressed that red button to call in the staff about twenty times a day and they were always ready to help me and answer my questions- something I didn’t feel comfortable with doing at my son’s hospital. I knew a few of the nurses by name by the time I left as they’d often stop by my bed for a little afternoon chat. I didn’t feel like being a patient was a hindrance on anyone.
I suppose the reason I’m writing this post is because Care Quality Commission (CQC) have started a campaign that I feel very strongly about. They want all prospective parents to know that they have a choice. A choice in the care they receive and a choice when deciding where to give birth- whether in a hospital or at home. Through their website, parents are able to learn more about their local hospitals to help them pick which one works best for them.
I wish as a first time mum I had known that I could have chosen my care and the hospital I had my son in. I feel like I wish I’d had more of a voice so they actually listened to me instead of brushing me off. My fears were valid and I had to battle through that alone for a long time until slowly my post natal depression ebbed away. I would hate another mum to ever feel that low as a consequence of her pre or post natal care. It takes away those years with your child you can never regain and that’s not forgivable.