What went "wrong" with my childbirth...?

(72 Posts)
bt98 Wed 26-Feb-14 09:20:36

I have a 17 month old son and am still getting my mind around the whole birth experience. I knew it wouldnt be a walk in the park but I was not expecting psychological trauma either. When I try to talk about it with my partner, he clams up, saying it's too horrible to think about, watching me suffer and seeing all the blood and guts on the floor (his words), he just leaves the room if I talk about it.

I really need to deal with this if I am every going to have another baby. Some of the questions I have which remain unanswered are things like...

- Why didn't my epidural work? After a brief period of relief I could once again feel all the contractions in my front and back after getting the maximum dose. I could move around on my legs and still needed gas and air all the way through labour. The anesthetist was too busy to replace it on the night. I expected this to be my lifeline for getting through labour but it failed me. Is it something that I did wrong or might easily happen again?

- Why did the midwife take away the gas and air at the crucial pushing stage, when the pain was worse and I was most scared? I remember arguing with her, she just refused and later another midwife said she would have let me have it, so is this really a judgment call and should you have to argue in the midst of labour for desperately needed pain relief? So much for freedom of choice and having a birth plan when they spring these changes on you at the worst moment.

- Why didn't they take pre-emptive action when they knew all along my baby was posterior and it being my first birth it would be that much harder?

- In the end I had maternal exhaustion and couldnt push at all. I had an episiotomy and forceps delivery, I hemorrhaged > 700mls, and there was concern over placenta remaining inside. Is this normal and is it likely to happen again? My haemoglobin was 88 after the birth and I was very fatigued, tearful and depressed for weeks afterwards, though this might be a normal effect of all the sleep deprivation?

I had a debrief after the birth with a midwife but all these questions led to vague inconclusive answers. I feel bad about my birth experience even all this time later, it was not what I had hoped for, and my partner says the only reason I could possibly contemplate doing it again is I have blocked out the worst bits and was too high on the gas to remember. Is he right?

I pretty much feel that the birth was the start of a psychological roller coaster ride that I am still on 17 months later, I have not felt sane for a day since, having a baby has changed me so much.

Thanks for reading x

AlwaysDancing1234 Wed 26-Feb-14 09:25:49

Sorry to hear you had an awful time. Could you perhaps speak to your GP or health visitor and tell them you need a "debrief" I.e. Someone to go through your birth bites with you and answer your questions. It may not be something they could arrange straight away but you have a right to see your medical records (and have someone explain them to you).

AlwaysDancing1234 Wed 26-Feb-14 09:26:21

Birth notes - not bites (sorry)

waddleandtoddle Wed 26-Feb-14 09:31:16

Oh gosh that sounds horrendous, bless! Maybe ignoring your difficult birth is your DH's coping mechanism? One of my friends saw his wife have a difficult birth - lots of blood and baby born not breathing (thankfully a lovely little boy now) and he's gone on to support his wife at 2 more difficult births BUT he has only mentioned this once in 7 years.
The bit I can relate to is the gas and air. It was taken from me for the last 2 hours and I remember being delusional with pain. The midwife took it of me because I was using all my energy to push the gas but not push the baby. She was right - once taken I immediately started to push right.
I hope you find the answers you need x

hazchem Wed 26-Feb-14 09:33:47

I can;t tell you what went wrong but it sound like you need to work though both the birht and how you feel about it. You should be able to access some counseling through the hospital you gave birth at. You could also contact Birth Crisis and talk to one of the trained people there www.sheilakitzinger.com/birthcrisis.htm

I am sorry you weren't treated well during or after birth.

bt98 Wed 26-Feb-14 09:44:00

Thank you.

I have moved countries since but I do have a copy of my birth notes. I signed up for a health visitor a few months ago but they apparently havent assigned me yet.

I suppose I am hoping someone on here will magically have all the answers before I go charging towards my GPs office and make it "real". Right now it's just all interalised. I know I will breakdown in tears when I try to talk about it face to face with someone, that scares me.

I feel bad for my partner too. I dont know if its healthy to just bury it like that, will he be unable to cope at any future birth? If he cant even talk about it now, how can he even be present next time?

Childbirth is so natural, and I know there are a lot of other women with similar trauma to me. How do we manage to screw it up this much... sad

bt98 Wed 26-Feb-14 09:45:18

Oh thank you very much for the Birth Crisis link!

JoinTheDots Wed 26-Feb-14 09:54:22

You poor thing, it sounds like you went through a real trauma giving birth.

I am not a midwife or a health care professional, but I did have gas and air removed at the pushing stage and I too was a bit confused. I was told at the time this was because you "need" to feel the pain in order to push properly and to the maximum. It is seen by (some?) midwives as a motivator.

No idea why your epidural failed, but I do know someone else who had this, but she got a top up, so it was not as much of an issue.

If you want another baby in the future, would you look into having a doula there with you and you DH? Someone who was on your side and an advocate for you and your wishes so you so not need to fight for any pain relief you need. I also think you need another debrief, or even counselling would be a good idea.

Vakant Wed 26-Feb-14 09:58:22

I can only comment on the one aspect that was similar to my labour - midwife withdrawing gas and air at pushing stage. This happened to me and it was because I was just so completely out of it on the gas and air that I couldn't follow instructions. I was wailing at the midwife that she wasn't helping me or instructing me what I needed to do (she was, I was just too out of it to listen) and I was just randomly pushing and not waiting for a contraction. Baby was in distress and the pushing was basically ineffective, and causing baby further distress. Withdrawing the gas and air made me focus, I wasn't happy about it at the time (I really loved the gas and air!) but in hindsight it was for the best as I managed to push baby out eventually and only just avoided a forceps delivery.

whatsagoodusername Wed 26-Feb-14 10:09:39

thanks Sorry you had a hard time.

I would blame the anesthetist for the epidural failure. Maybe it was administered incorrectly? I don't know, I didn't have one because the idea of having lines and wires and things attached was horrific to me at the time.

My midwife took away my gas and air for a bit in the pushing stage with DS2 - I think she thought I was concentrating on it more than I was on pushing, which is quite possibly true! She did return it after a short time, so perhaps by the time you had the second midwife, your first one might have returned it to you.

I also had the retained placenta and hemorrhaging with DS2. I was in a lovely MW led birth centre and got sent off in an ambulance to the hospital post-birth to deal with it, where I had to stay for 3 days to receive blood.

As far as I am aware, the retained placenta just one of those things that happens from time to time <unhelpful>, difficult to detect unless you are high risk anyway and having loads of scans if not impossible and the resulting hemorrhaging is one of the effects. I don't think that having it happen once means it will happen again just opinion, I don't know anyone else who has said they had this happen.

A low hemoglobin count will make you very fatigued. Being fatigued can make you tearful. A traumatic birth can trigger some PND. Not having answers makes you go over and over and over it, making it difficult to move on.

My birth plans were complete jokes. I think most of them are, to fool you into thinking you have some control over the situation you are going into. Childbirth is natural, but a lot of the time it just doesn't work well.

whatsagoodusername Wed 26-Feb-14 10:18:10

Regarding contemplating doing it again - you could have the easiest birth in the world next time. It's impossible to tell what will happen and no two births are the same. Yes, you might have blocked the worst bits and been too high to remember well, but that doesn't mean next time will be bad.

I second the suggestion of a doula if your DH is also traumatised by your first birth. Then if it's too much for him, he can step out for a minute or two and be confident you have someone with you. And it will take the pressure off him.

floppops Wed 26-Feb-14 10:43:21

Your birth story sounds a lot like mine ended up. But my epidural did work-thankfully and was topped up 3 times till I got the epidural shakes which actually was really frightening. I had a ventouse delivery and episiotomy and PPH too. I also tore my cervix which I only found out about when seeing a private gynea a while afterwards. My DD was delivered back to back with her arm up-really painful. My first contraction was mind blowingly painful and made me throw up.
I also felt very traumatised by the whole thing and the way I was treated.
That was 4 years ago. It took me a long time to not feel tearful talking about it and my DH still cannot talk about it. It just frightened him so much.
Anyway I am due my second DC in 2 weeks and I am having an ELCS privately. My mum has given us the money as she didn't want to see what happened the first time happen again-re bad treatment during labour and horrendous aftercare.
So I guess my advice is hang in there, you will feel better eventually. I can't say you'll ever forget. But what I focus on is that I and my gorgeous DD survived it.

bt98 Wed 26-Feb-14 14:32:57

Thanks for the extra comments. I am almost overwhelmed by your kind words. This is the first time I've ever really been able to talk about it with anyone who seems to understand my mixed up feelings about the whole thing.... Doesnt help that my mum says she pushed out all 3 of her kids without making a sound, no drugs, no gas, nothing but happy memories. Actually I'm sure it was hard on her too but I guess time (30 years) really does heal....

From what a lot of you are saying it seems midwives often take away the gas so you can focus on pushing. They never, ever told us this beforehand, and that I think is a bad thing to keep a secret. I was absolutely terrified of pushing and feeling him crowning/ tearing. I could feel all my contractions and I was fully dilated for a long time, allowing a passive descent, but every little push made me more scared. It didnt feel good, like they said it would. I was confused by this and didnt know what I was supposed to do. Embrace the pain?! How does that even work...

I adore my son and could imagine doing it all again because whatever personal hell you go through, bringing new life into the world is obviously worth it. So that is why I need to address this now, before thoughts of a second baby get real. I have a consultation with a therapist this week, as my doc referred me for anxiety/depression symptoms and I am going to talk it through with them. I think it is all connected, the loss of control during birth and the emotional/physical trauma might have had a bigger impact on me that I realised, until now.

You are right, birth plans are overrated, so much can go differently on the day. I was incredibly naive about childbirth and that was after reading all the books and going through all the proper channels. At least I feel I am better prepared for the next one, than I was for this one. Silver lining?

Floppops, good luck. I'm sure your 2nd will be such a different (and better) experience for you, there will be no comparison!

Feeling positive smilex

CailinDana Wed 26-Feb-14 17:01:23

The fact your baby was posterior will have been a factor OP. My second was posterior and was so different to my first. All the natural signals that I got from my first (which I assume were from my body responding to his head pushing on the right places) were missingand I felt much more confused and out of control. I felt something was wrong (mws didn't realise she was OP), I didn't get the urge to push and pushing felt scary because I was doing it against my body's will IYSWIM. It took a massive amount of effort to get her out, much more so than my first. It was a homebirth and mws were going to transfer me but I got angry and evicted her with every last ounce of effort.
OP babies are a special case. All the signals that direct your body are mucked up because your cervix isn't getting the right sort of pressure. Also the head is in the wrong position to descend so you feel all your efforts are in vain. IME mws seem to have very little idea about how to deal with OP babies beyond treating it like a normal labour then blaming you when things don't go as normal and pulling out the forceps at the last minute.

PenguinsEatSpinach Wed 26-Feb-14 17:26:16

Poor you.

I can only comment on one thing: why didn't they take pre-emptive action with an OP first baby?

There isn't much they can do. Both of mine have been OP. All they can really do is section you, which is an extreme response since many people have ok/good experiences even with awkward positioning.

What I would say is that there seems to be little education within the NHS on OP babies during labour. I have since read up and things like breaking your waters, telling you just to keep upright and walking, etc that are standard advice/steps aren't necessarily the right thing for an OP baby. Spinning babies website is good on this. I went into my second labour a lot more informed and am now on no. 3, when I will be expressing some very, very firm opinions in my birth plan (like no, I'm not lying down for monitoring without you trying other things unless you think one of us is in danger. Get off your bottom and try allowing me to be monitored standing up!)/

It is very hard when trauma feels brushed aside or not validated. Do you have anyone aside from your partner or mother you could speak to in real life? It's amazing how many people carry around a lot of emotional pain from labour. FWIW, my second was a very emotionally healing experience, so it might not be a question of coping all over again. smile

Minifingers Wed 26-Feb-14 17:33:02

Sorry you had such a hard time of it OP.

My thoughts:

1 in 8 epidurals fail in some way. Sometimes it's because the anaesthetist has got it wrong (with the best will in the world all health professionals involved in delicate medical procedures will sometimes get something wrong). Sometimes it's to do with the unique physiology of the mother.

The midwife should have let you keep the gas and air. She could have advised you not to use it, and explained why, but in the end it was your call. It's horrible not being listened to in labour.

Some posterior babies turn easily and the mother has a straightforward labour. Less likely in a first labour, but it's usually better to see how things go. There is nothing they can do early on except support the mother, provide pain relief, and perhaps see if changing her position helps the baby rotate to LOA.

Re: your PPH, 700 mls is not a huge loss, and wouldn't be that uncommon after an assisted delivery and a long labour. Retaining bits of placenta is also not that uncommon, and can cause problems. I had two bits come out of me in the days after the birth, which was seriously yuck. Ended up with a postnatal infection that brought me very low.

bt98 Wed 26-Feb-14 21:47:26

That sounds right about posterior babies. I did not have a real urge to push even after being fully dilated for 1.5 hrs, and could not feel where I was supposed to be pushing. Of course this was my only birth so I have nothing to compare to.

I like to think if I could do it all again, I would have a better outcome. I am keen to stay positive about future births for my sanity. But I would be very scared if things started taking the same course. However I'm starting to feel that will so many variables I will never be able to fully prepare for the next one either - just play the hand I'm dealt and hope it's a good one. I love hearing other women's positive birth stories, even if it does make me feel very envious, it also gives me hope for the future.

Some of my close friends are now pregnant and keen to discuss childbirth with me... but there is no way I would want to unload all this on them as first timers :/

poubella Wed 26-Feb-14 21:53:15

My epidural failed which was pretty inconvenient seeing as it was my only pain relief during a crash section. I was told 'it happens sometimes ' with a shrug of the shoulders from the anaesthetist.

I console myself that both myself and my son are alive and well despite the trauma of his birth. Most women in the world don't have access to medical care during births so we are lucky.

CailinDana Wed 26-Feb-14 22:34:57

Poubella did they put you under?

poubella Wed 26-Feb-14 22:37:54

Yes I was given a GA when it became clear that I could feel the surgery.

What happened to me is rare apparently as spinal blocks are usually used for sections but as mine was urgent they just topped up the epidural.

As I said I was traumatised but now, several years later, I am just thankful that my son and I are alive and well.

bt98 Thu 27-Feb-14 11:55:15

Poubella that is terrifying. I'm so sorry. Surgery may have saved you and/or your son's life but it also traumatised you in the process. I'm glad you can put it behind you, and you are absolutely right that any pain relief or medical support we can get is a bonus in comparison to many underdeveloped countries. Many more babies survive because of medical intervention. It certainly is one way to look at things and be grateful for what we have. However it is probably a perspective that comes with time, insight, and a lot of emotional processing after the event. If trauma is avoidable with the knowledge and technology we do have, then surely we should harness this power to the maximum rather than have anesthetists shrug it off like it means nothing...

poubella Thu 27-Feb-14 12:08:50

Yes I think with time you can get over the trauma and once your last baby is born and you never have to see the inside of a maternity unit again it is easier to forget about it.

mrsbug Thu 27-Feb-14 12:31:47

Hi op, reading your story the thing that strikes me is the lack of control you felt over your situation. And your dp probably felt even less in control. Before we give birth we are given the impression that we have a lot of choice and control over our birth experience (via nct classes, birth plans, etc) and in so many cases that isn't how it happens.

Thinking about it from that angle I would try to find ways to ensure that you are more in control of the situation next time. So for example a doula might be a good idea, or a home birth (if medically advised) or at the other end of the spectrum perhaps an elcs?

Although you might find next time that just knowing in advance that you won't necessarily be in control of events will make it less traumatic on the day.

I'm not a medical professional so not qualified to comment on what exactly went'wrong' with your birth so I won't try.

Another thing I would recommend to anyone is natal hypnotherapy/hypnobirthing although make sure the version you use focuses on dealing with the birth experience you have and doesn't try to tell you that you can control the type of birth you have, as this is usually do to factors outside your control eg position of the baby).

Chunderella Thu 27-Feb-14 14:30:27

Minifingers is it that 1 in 8 epidurals fail or are you referring to the 1 in 8 women who are dissatisfied with their pain relief during labour? Because if 1 in 8 have failed epidurals, wouldn't the dissatisfied group form an even higher percentage because it also includes people who were denied epidurals and/or other forms of pain relief? And also there'll be people who didn't want an epidural but had the gas and air removed and weren't happy. So unless some of the failed epidural group aren't dissatisfied, you'd think it would be higher than 1 in 8. But there can't be many of them who are happy with the pain relief they received? Or are there? I do agree that the gas and air shouldn't just have been unilaterally removed.

I agree with the suggestions that you might benefit from a debrief OP. First birth combined with difficult positioning is bloody tough. It was interesting to read about Cailin's experiences as a second timer too.

Chunderella Thu 27-Feb-14 14:50:20

Also OP slight tangent but bear with me... I gave birth in the first week of August. You may know that this is when NHS doctors change rotations, so there are a lot of people in new roles around August and September. If your son is 17 months, I guess you gave birth in September?

I have a friend who is a very senior anaesthetist and she told me I probably got lucky by being denied an epidural, because so early in the medical year it would've potentially been administered by someone without as much experience. With that in mind, I guess there's a higher chance of that happening in September than it would do in, say, June? Maybe she was just saying that to make me feel better, but perhaps yours was done by someone who'd only been doing it a few weeks and therefore wasn't very expertly performed? It would be interesting to know if there's much variation in the level of failed epidurals, and of satisfaction with pain relief generally, according to month.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now