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Birth Stories

3c Tear and Infant Birth Injury – Rebecca’s Story

erbs palsy

Trigger Warning: This birth story involves birth infant birth injury, NICU and severe pre-eclampsia.  If you are triggered by these topics you may wish to skip this blog or read it once you have support available. If you are seeking support for your birth trauma, you may wish to contact our Peer Support Service.

I’m Rebecca, Mum of 2 gorgeous boys, Oliver 6 and Oscar 1.
 
I had reasonably “normal” birth for my first son, 9 hours of labor ending in a forceps delivery. Mum and Bub were fine and that was that.
 
I did so much research in my second pregnancy wanting a natural, medication free vaginal birth – was told by my health team no worries, the first bub would have paved the way for the second and it should be straight forward.
 
Unfortunately for us that was not the case.
 
I had Braxton hicks on and off from about 33 weeks with this pregnancy, something that I never had in my previous pregnancy, I also suffered from pubic symphysis dysfunction, which meant a lot of painful tweaks here and there.
I was assessed at 33 weeks for “pain” that was causing mild contractions, but I had no other symptoms and it eventually went away. I like to note that at this appointment  my blood pressure was slightly raised which they questioned, but as I had been fine at all my checkups they dismissed it.
 
At 39+6 my waters broke in the evening and I noticed there was meconium, I called the hospital and was advised to come up, contractions had come almost instantly and intensely. We waited about 15 mins for the babysitter to arrive and then it took us only 10 mins to drive to the Hospital. Upon checking in, the midwife confirmed meconium in my waters. When I say meconium it was basically black liquid pouring out of me instead of clear.
While my husband was moving the car the midwife was checking my vitals and noted my BP was quite high.  At this point my contractions were 2-3 mins apart, and she was trying to retake it in between contractions but there was not much of a break.
 
Please note – from here is very much my husband explaining a lot as I have blocked most of this from my memory.
 
The midwife called the doctor into the room and as my husband arrived back so did the doctor. I remember her introducing herself and checking my BP, ordering a drip, and my husband says she then began to check my reflexes and he noted that “your leg had this crazy seizure when she checked your reflexes”. A met call was made and about 4 more midwives and the OB was paged, she explained that I had severe Pre Eclampsia and this was going to be a very intense and fast delivery.  At this stage I was ready to push, the doctor was telling me I was allowed to push. The midwives and nurses were connecting me to all kinds of IV’s and monitors, and then I remember the Dr saying – call “OB’s Name” over and over. We were quickly transferred down to the Operating Theatre. There was no time for any epidural or spinal block so the OB administered a Local Anaesthetic  (that did not work) and used forceps to help bring our son into the world. My poor husband is possibly more traumatised than I am by this whole part of the birth as he said the scream I let out is nothing he had ever heard in his entire life.
 
Oscar needed resuscitating and his Apgar score was only 3. They quickly took him and my husband to the NICU and explained to me that they were going to put me to sleep to stitch me up. At this point I didn’t even know if my baby was alive, or even if I was to be honest.
I remember waking up in recovery and feeling like I hadn’t even had a baby. They wheeled me back to my room via the NICU where I got told I had a little boy and met him through his cot glass. For 24 hours I wasn’t told much, I had constant drips and medications to help bring my blood pressure down as it was Extremely high. 
I was told I had a 3c tear, and would need to see a women’s health physio to ensure I didn’t have prolonged complications and should I want more children I would need to have a caesarean. Still a year later I am seeing this physio, its exhausting.
 
Our son improved quite quickly, he was quite sore and a little guy at only 2890kg. I’ve had issues breastfeeding both my boys, so once we established a feeding schedule of both breast and express bottle feeding after 4 nights he was allowed back to the ward with me. 
 
During his time in the NICU he had an IV and splint on his arm for various fluids, antibiotics etc so we had not noticed that his left arm was quite limp. On day 3 in the NICU they removed the splint, we hoped he would then move his arm more but by day 5 when we were getting ready to go home, he had a final check with the paediatrician and we mentioned that he didn’t really move his left arm.
 
She told us very casually, Yes I can see he has Erb’s Palsy and referred us to the hospital physic and the Royal Childrens Hospital Brachial Plexus Clinic.
We were handed some flyers, told to do a few stretches and were sent on our way.
 
Once I got home I did a bit of research into what Erb’s Palsy is. basically its when there is Damage to the nerves in the Brachial Plexus (the branch in the shoulder where the nerves extend into the arm). Sometimes these nerves just get stretched, other times they can completely tear, we were lucky that Oscars has just stretched quite a bit.
 
It is an injury that can heal over time as a child grows and the nerves grow, other times it can require surgery to help correct and some people will never have full function of that limb.
 
We have tried to be very pro active. After a lengthy delay through the public system I decided to see a private paediatric physio who explained that the physio won’t heal the injury, it however is used to ensure that the muscles stay lose and encourage babies to try to use their limb more. 
 
infant birth injury
We saw the physio once a fortnight and did exercises 3 times a day, our son was slightly delayed in some milestones such as rolling over, as he could not lift his arm above shoulder height for quite a long time.
 Doctors at the RCH informed us that he may never have full function in his arm – which devastated me because the paediatrician at our local hospital was so casual about the injury and just brushed it off.  But the doctor at the RCH told us to keep encouraging play with that hand, do our physio and hopefully he will not be too limited. They encouraged us as he got older that gymnastics would be good to help build muscle tone, as sometimes this can be significantly less in the injured arm than the non injured.
 
I am so happy to say that we persisted with the physio for 9 months, our son can now lift his arm above his head, he uses both hands equally. We still have some delays such as pointing and pincer grasp, but signs of him trying are there. He no longer see’s his physio and the RCH clinic have tentatively discharged him, only needing a checkup at 2.  We will still need to continue to encourage him to use both arms equally and will enrol him in a gymnastics program to ensure even muscle tone in both arms, but we are so lucky to have such amazing progress for him after a devastatingly traumatic birth for the both of us. I’m so glad we are seeing amazing improvements.
 
My husband is doing well. He is not one to talk too much about feelings but he is very grateful we are both alive and healthy. We are also both thankful we had already decided Oscar was going to be our last baby. 
The hospital were wonderful in ensuring both my husband and myself were given/offered a debrief on numerous occasions. I had monthly check ups as I took almost 6 months to heal and the same doctor from my delivery actually happened to see me at those appointments and checked in on us both. 
In terms of our son though, it took me calling and checking 4 times as well as my lactation consultant to follow up the referrals for his physio and RCH clinic. Hence why I went private in the end.
 
I feel thankful in a way for my experience as it’s pushed me to finally pursue a dream and I am currently almost finished my first year of a nursing/midwifery degree and I hope to be able to help support mothers going through similar experiences or help prevent them!
 
Thanks for reading our story.

If you would like to connect with a mum who has experienced birth trauma, please contact our Peer2Peer Support service to connect with one of our Peer Mentors.

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