Recently I was asked by UK medical negligence solicitors Your Legal Friend to talk about my pregnancy experiences, to help raise awareness of quality maternity care. In my eyes, good maternity care is an essential factor in having an enjoyable pregnancy but unfortunately for a lot of people, this is something they are denied. My personal care wasn’t bad but it certainly is not something I would write home about.
My first encounter with maternity care was very early on in my pregnancy at around 5 weeks. I’d had a bleed, I am not going to beat around the bush here but bleeding in early pregnancy put me in a dark place and tainted my whole pregnancy. The care I received at the time made the situation ten times worse. Despite making around seven phone calls and having two doctors appointments I was simply told “it’s very normal” despite the bleeding continuing for a week. That’s one week I spent mourning the loss of my baby, I genuinely thought I had lost him. At one of my doctor’s appointments, I saw a nurse who I quote said “it’s very normal, but even if it were a miscarriage there is nothing we can do anyway” – I just wanted a scan to know what was going on either way. Eventually, I got my scan when I had to go to the doctors for a third time after a large bleed with expected ectopic pregnancy. This is what annoys me the most – what if it were ectopic? Why wasn’t it taken seriously straight away?
Anway, my little grain of rice was absolutely fine so I was assigned a midwife. My midwifery care was okay, we all got on well but the experience never felt as personal as I had imagined and I never felt very informed. I remember asking whether I should be having a flu jab at one point because it had never been offered to me and whenever I asked a question I was told to bank it for my antenatal classes which is something I never actually managed to attend due to Rory being a little early.
My labour had its problems, but the staff were not it. Some of the midwives were a little unsympathetic but to be honest I expected this. When the decision was made that I needed an emergency cesarian I was glad to have my midwife Lorraine. She was a bit of a love her or hate her type, I think she rubbed my mum and husband up the wrong way but I loved her ‘no nonsense’ approach, she made me feel really confident. She had her shit together and I liked that she seemed to know what she was doing. The staff, doctors and surgeons that were part of my emergency cesarian were faultless and I think this is the first time I am taking a step back to appreciate them. They were all incredibly friendly and kind, doing everything in their power to make Rich and I feel comfortable, ease out fears and ultimately deliver Rory safely. Once he was here, they looked after me well and supported Rory and my bonding process as quickly as they could. They were all incredible people and excellent at their jobs.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my aftercare was abysmal. I had suffered a traumatic labour and there was very little acknowledgement of that. I felt like I was being really dramatic or that it was just me that felt the way that I did post section. I wasn’t visited by my health visitor until about 10 days after birth where they dropped in some bottle sterilisation advice ( a bit late really?!!). My mental state wasn’t helped by the fact that I was incredibly poorly after labour. I’d lost a lot of blood during labour and was very anaemic which also kept being overlooked. I would often be told I may need a blood transfusion but left appointments with the advice of “eat more red meat”. One night I was faint and had bad heart palpitations and was told by my GP the following day (the same brilliant one who got me my early pregnancy scan when I was bleeding) that I’d had a heart murmur and should have been given blood after my operation.
As time went on, I learnt more and more about other cesarian mothers having a really hard time mentally and I joined support forums. I did this research off my own back and later learnt that there is free counselling with the NHS specifically for traumatic births. No one really checked in with my mental state or offered any advice or support. Those first few weeks I felt incredibly isolated and lonely off the back of my experience and I don’t feel I was offered the mental support I required. I am incredibly supportive of the NHS and think they’re amazing, but I do think they miss a trick when it comes to postpartum support and care. I desperately needed someone to tell me that I went through something horrible and that it was okay to feel really really sad about it, it was okay to envy people that had lovely birth stories and that it was okay to cry about it. I wanted someone to tell me I wasn’t being stupid and that I certainly wasn’t alone in my feelings.