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Placenta Praevia Survivors - I feel traumatised, how was it for you? (Long, sorry)

(9 Posts)
VerityClinch Fri 24-Jul-09 18:34:59

Three weeks after my elective c-section for grade 4 praevia and I am still feeling shocked about the whole thing.

I was very anxious about the surgery, having had the consultant go through all the worst case scenarios with me (not at my request, I guess they just have to take you through all the possibilities, including hysterectomy etc etc) and didn't enjoy the procedure at all, found it very claustrophobic having people coming at me from all angles, and all the beeping of instruments, tubes going in, tubes going out, top ups of this and that, a problem with my blood pressure, anti-sickness drugs and, of course, not being able to feel anything from the boobs down (I know this is a good thing in the circumstances, I just hated feeling so out of control).

Because I was so anxious (I was nearly in tears just walking into the theatre) they strapped my arms down so I wouldn't shake any of the tubes out. I found that really horrible, stretched out on the table like that, completely at the mercy of all these people.

There were a bloody lot of them too, two anaesthetists, the consultant/surgeon, two midwives, a "theatre assistant" and three senior house officers (whatever they are) - but I was too scared to question any of them being there. My husband was there too, although he seemed rather lost amidst all those people.

I lost 3.5 pints of blood and had a transfusion. Fully conscious for the whole thing, including watching myself bleed out into the spin and save machine (not that they saved enough to retransfuse me my own blood - I bled quickly and most of it was just suctioned off - but I still saw about 600ml whizz out through the tubes and drip down into the collection thing).

They asked at the start if I wanted the screen to be dropped to see the baby come out, and I asked if they could ask me when we got to that point and I would see what I felt then. In the event, I was bleeding by then, they never dropped the screen and I only have photos of my little ones first minutes to go by.

I did get to skin to skin with my daughter within about 10 minutes of her being born, while the transfusion was finishing, but I was very shellshocked and couldn't try feeding anyway, as was covered in wires/tubes etc (although they had unstrapped my arms by then, so I could hold her).

I don't think it helped that there was an emergency in the theatre next door and an alarm went off "obstetric emergency in theatre two, obstetric emergency in theatre two" - I asked "what the hell theatre is THIS?" and everyone laughed and assured me that if it was MY emergency I wouldn't know anything about it. Oddly enough, I didn't see the funny side.

Of course, I am ETERNALLY GRATEFUL that the whole thing went well, and I do have he most gorgeous daughter, who is fit and well and doing great, but I can't shake the feeling that I had life saving surgery, and got a baby, rather than any kind of meaningful birth experience.

For anyone else out there who went through this - and I know there are a few - how was it for you? Am I being pathetic, do I need to pull myself together, or did you find it equally shocking?

chocolatedays Fri 24-Jul-09 18:50:06

I am sure many will come along soon but I didn't what to leave your post unanswered for long. I am sorry to read how shocked and traumatised you feel.
You are entitled to have a birth review where you can go through your birth case notes with the senior team and review the experience. This can help you understand what happened when and why and also help the clinical team understand what it like to be in the receiving end (and maybe improve). Talk to your midwife / health visitor.
Did you go to anything like NCT? If so, you may find your NCT leader would be willing to attend with you as their experience might help you ask the questions too.
A meaningful birth experience is a tough one - for many of the mums I've met over the last year the birth itself is something with no meaning or even bad meaning/memories...
but they are all wonderful (albeit knackered!) mothers with great kids.
I'm not sure if this helps?

swissmiss Fri 24-Jul-09 20:26:48

Verity, you are not being pathetic nor do you need to "pull yourself toghether". You've been through a difficult and traumatic experience and I can relate to what you've described.

My circumstances were slightly different, last Sept I had a manual removal of a morbidly adherent placenta under spinal block in theater, following a relaxed and laid back water birth. I was treated fairly appalingly, imo. It was physically brutal and emotionally terrifying. I had a consultant debrief afther the birth, not that useful, was prescribed anti-depressants at my 6 wk check for post natal depression and 5mths after my GP referred me I'm still waiting on local NHS metal health services for an assement appointment for treatment of Post Traumatic Stress angry.

May I suggest you contact either Birth Crisis or Birth Trauma Ass. for some support. Just this week I called Birth Crisis and, having spoken to Sheila Kitzinger herself, for the first time feel that how I now feel about my birth experience is not "abnormal" (sorry poor choice of words - still struggle to express myself on this subject!)

I don't know if any of that is of help but I hope that in time you manage to find some peace with your experiences. Please remember to look after yourself and request/demand help and support as you need it.

mzmum Sat 25-Jul-09 22:20:42

Verity, so sorry too that you've been thru such a traumatic experience. I am a placenta praevia grade 4 survivor who had a planned c-section in January this year. Fortunately for me, I went thru nothing like you did, you've actually made me feel very lucky... I dreaded the worst after being diagnosed at 22 weeks and ended up making it to 38 weeks with only a short 3 day admittance for a small scare at 30 weeks.

My planned c-section was actually 100 times better and less traumatic than my natural birth 3 years before. In fact I found the whole experience incredible and dare I say enjoyable.

It sounds like this was your 1st birth & that is awful to have your arms restrained. I can only imagine that because it was your first experience, you so imagined it not to be like that. The only thing I can honestly say is from what I've heard in the last few years, it's actually quite unusual to have a pleasant birth experience! I know that probably doesn't help much but remember there's soooo much intervention these days that unfortunately hardly anyone I know has had a straight forward experience.

I really actually don't know what to say to make you feel better except that you will forget it more & more very very gradually (I'm not sure I'm over my 1st natural birth yet) and you do have an amazing healthy baby due to the fact you bravely went thru what you did. Remember, only 50 or so years ago, we both would have died from this condition....... A hard fact I know but hopefully one that will bring it home how serious a situation ours was. Please try and focus on your amazing baby and i do hope you start to recover from your hard experience soon.

Cremecaramel Sat 25-Jul-09 22:36:31

are you sure they strapped your arms down because you were anxious? If your arms were on armrests out to the side of the operating table, then they use velcro tapes to make sure they don't fall off. I can assure you the midwives consider themselves advocates for the mother and wouldn't allow you to be restrained unless you were in danger of falling off the table.

PacificDogwood Sat 25-Jul-09 22:38:51

Verity, congratulations on the birth of your daughter!

I had Grade 4 Placenta Praevia 5 years ago. It was diagnosed when I had a significant bleed when pregnant with DS2 at 25 weeks and came v close to having him delivered that night. It did not occur to me that things were really quite serious (I am a GP, BTW, lol) until I had been told I had to be tranferred to a different hospital as "my" hospital did not have an neonatal ITU cot available and it suddenly dawned on me that having a consultant obstetrician, consultant paediatrician and consultant anaesthetist in my room at 3am on a Sunday morning was NOT a good sign.
Thankfully, things settled and I spent another 5 weeks in (various) hospital(s) (again tranferred when bleeding another couple of times as no cots available) until he was finally delivered by emCS at 31 weeks. He was whisked away for rescusitation and then to ITU and I only saw him a couple of hours later feeling like sh** when wheeled into the unit in a wheelchair... He is now a chunky, cheeky 5 year old smile.

I did not find the whole experience particularly terrible and was certainly not traumatised by it afterwards, obviously helped by the fact that we were both ok afterwards, and also by the fact that I had 5 weeks time to come to terms that this baby was only ever going to be delivered by CS. It probably also helped that I had already been to theatre (during my training) and had had previous surgery myself.

I am sorry your experience has left you feeling so bad. A lot of women do find a kind of debrief with the consultant or an experienced midwife helpful. Also, I think sharing birth stories and hearing other's experiences, good and bad, can help.

BTW, I have had 1 induced vag birth, above mentioned CS and 1 VABC and much as the VBAC was the most amazing experience (less drugs, LOL) I have fond memories of all my deliveries and am kind of chuffed that we are all here to tell the tale.

I hope that your experience of motherhood will improve with time. IME, it does get better and better!

Sorry for the ramble, HTH a bit smile.

kitstwins Sun 26-Jul-09 16:43:14

Congratulations on the birth of your daughter but I'm sorry you had such a shocker. I always think it's funny how you can have both the wonderful (your baby) and the terrible (the birth/process of birth) on one day or event but I've learnt the two aren't mutually exclusive. In fact it's the fact that you have two such extreme experiences and emotions over one event that makes it all the more confusing and upsetting. The moment of your child's birth is supposed to be joyful and wonderful and for many of us it isn't and there can be a huge struggle with that; guilt that you don't feel a certain way, rage that this has happened to you, fear at what happened.....

You had a highly medicalised birth and I think you'd really benefit from talking through your hospital notes with someone at the hospital. If you speak to your hosptial's PALS department (Patient Liason) they'll be able to arrange this for you. You can see the people involved in the operation or people totally different but you'll be able to get answers to your questions. Why did this happen? Why did I feel this way? Why didn't this happen?

I had placenta praevia - partially over my cervix and then it moved away but was still in the 'risk area' so very close. Unfortunately though it was very unstable and I bled heavily from 23 weeks (with several early labour scares including 25, 28 and 31 weeks). They managed to block the labour on all three occasions but from 30 weeks I was kept in hospital on bedrest until I had an emergency section at 35 weeks after a massive bleed in the night. My c section went wrong as they punctured my dural membrane (went in too far with the epidural) and then the alternative spinal block didn't work. In the end I had a general anaesthetic and so missed the birth of my twins, which I'd been holding out for as my 'reward' for enduring five weeks on a hospital bed. My last memory is machines bleeping and of my anaethetist pressing violently down on my windpipe. It felt like dying - pure terror. And then I woke up and was really ill from the anaesthetic and spent all day on HDU dry retching, which is pretty painful when you've no epidural for pain management. So that was my twins' birthday; the first day of their lives, supposedly a magical day that I'll always remember.

I've been so angry about what I lost that day. Yes, I gained two healthy babies and in many ways that is all that counts, but the process was horrendous. I lost the moments of my childrens' birth which was hugely upsetting, and I had a violent, traumatic memory of the process. I'm angry it happened to me, although I now have made a certain, uneasy peace with me. It has got easier with time, as the process of motherhood gives you far more memories to make up for it. But at the end, I only have one great regret in life and i don't think that will ever change. On my deathbed I'm sure I will regret in my heart that due to bed luck and pure mischance I lost the moment of my daughters' birth.

In a very longwinded way I'm saying you're allowed and entitled to feel this way and it's important that you allow yourslef to acknowledge and process what you feel. The worse thing you can do is squash it all inside you for fear of seeming 'ungrateful' or 'making a drama out of it'. Again, the paradox is that you can feel intensely traumatised or angry about your childs' birth without it having any affect or impact on how much you love and adore the baby that came from it.

Things that helped me were talking through my hospital notes with the hospital staff (arranged through PALS). I got a lot of answers and peace from that. I also wrote a no-holds-barred birth story about what happened and how I felt and I gave it to a couple of close girlfrieds to read. It felt important to me that someone else knew exactly what I went through that day. And finally, some counselling. Sheila Kitsinger's Birth Crisis Association is a trememndous support and a really good place to start. Having someone listen and know how terrible it all was and not judge you for being selfish or not 'grateful' for your healthy baby can be a huge help.

I hope you get lots of support. You've been very brave so far to get through what you've gone through.

VerityClinch Mon 27-Jul-09 12:50:36

Thank you so much everyone, that does really help and it's good to know I'm not the only person who didn't enjoy giving birth. And mzmum, you're right, the fact that not so long ago we would have died in childbirth is exactly part of my problem, I think. I feel like I had a lucky escape, but not a beautiful birth experience!

Actually, it even helps to get some sympathy and understanding here... I seem to keep running across people who view a c-section as "the easy option". As my mum said, "but lots of celebrities have them..." hmm Even my husband is struggling to understand. I'm not afraid of pain, not at all, but I am horribly afraid of knives, so this was certainly not the easy option compared to a natural birth (which was never going to happen anyway).

I have requested my notes today, and once I've seen them will make an appointment to talk them through.

Thanks everyone.

swissmiss Mon 27-Jul-09 20:14:43

The whole issue of the fact that not that long ago we would've died in/after childbirth is something that I also really struggle with. A "brush with your own mortality" is how a good friend (who's DSis was "lost" 3 times on the table during her c-s but survived with life limiting complications) of mine put it just last week. Sadly he understands better how I'm feeling that DH who just doesn't seem to be able to get how it's affected me (or maybe dosen't want to).

Well done for requesting your notes. 10mths later and I've still not manged that. As much as I want to know what happened, I also want to avoid it (messed up I know!)

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