Trigger Warning: This birth story contains details of instrumental delivery (forceps) and breastfeeding difficulty. 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.
My water broke at 4am after my first contraction.
I was totally calm and felt ready for labour. I was just excited and ready to meet my little boy. We headed into hospital pretty much immediately and labour progressed quickly.
The first stage was just 3 hours which I managed by being in the shower. It was painful and I had sterile water injections for back labour but was confident I could finish the labour without any additional pain medication. The midwife actually commented on what a high pain threshold I had which made me feel pretty good in amongst the fog.
I was checked and advised I could start pushing, so I did. Then after a while I began to lose blood and a doctor came in, checked me again and told the midwife I wasn’t actually fully dilated so I had to try not to push even though I felt like I needed to.
My blood loss meant the doctor tried to insert a canula but I was too dehydrated and they couldn’t get it in after at least 20 minutes of me having to stay still while contracting. The blood loss seemed to slow down but because I had lost some my plan of a water birth disappeared.
This is when it went really downhill.
After a while, I was allowed to start pushing again. I pushed for 2 hours and the baby was completely stuck and had severe swelling on his already 97th percentile head.
They said they needed to use forceps and the anesthetist was called to give me the epidural. The doctor spent at least 30 mins trying to push the epidural in while I contracted sitting up on the edge of the bed.
The doctor came in to try the forceps. I said I could feel pain still and the epidural was ineffective but the doctor tried 4 attempts despite this of the forceps. It was excruciating. I was screaming and have blocked some of it out from my memory. The doctor pulled so hard that her foot was up on the bench and the baby wouldn’t come.
They decided I needed to go to theatre for a caesarean. They took me into the anesthetic bay and loaded me up with all the drugs. I remember the word fentanyl being thrown around, along with another epidural.
Once in theatre they said I could choose between having a c section and a forceps. Someone mentioned in passing that to have the c section there was a chance the baby’s skull could fracture as he was so deep in the pelvis. I was terrified and decided that I would have to try the forceps again. I was surrounded by people and was petrified of doing it.
I had an episiotomy and the doctor pulled once and I felt him move, though no pain this time. On the second attempt he came out and was immediately taken away to the ressus table.
My husband didn’t cut the cord and he wasn’t placed on my chest. He was not breathing immediately and needed oxygen. I couldn’t hear him crying and was asking why. I was getting more panicked and didn’t believe them when they said he was crying but had a oxygen mask on so I couldn’t hear it.
Eventually he was placed on my chest but I still couldn’t believe he was ok as he was so still.
We were taken to recovery and I shook so badly from all the drugs I couldn’t hold him.
Once out of recovery I was taken to a ward. My baby was so sleepy from being wedged in my pelvis for 5 hours and had significant birth injuries on his head from the trauma of the forceps. Staff actually came in to check him out he was so battered. He couldn’t latch because of the injuries and I expressed colostrum for him in hospital. Eventually it seemed like he was latching.
Once the feeling came back after the drugs wore off I was in significant pain from the trauma. I was hooked up to an IV because I was feverish and they gave me antibiotics.
We were discharged once it seemed the baby was latching and sent home. I could barely move. It turned out the baby wasn’t latched properly and was getting next to no milk. The first two nights at home he cried with hunger and I’d try to feed but he just always seemed hungry.
The midwives gave me nipple shields and watched me feed and it looked like he was taking milk. On day 5 he was weighed and had lost 16% of his body weight. He was starving. I felt like I had starved him.
We were taken back into hospital and he was admitted into the special care nursery. I was so sleep deprived as he had cried non stop with hunger since we brought him home. I was hysterical and cried for pretty much 24 hours.
The nurses seemed fanatical about breastfeeding at all costs. They wanted me to try breastfeeding him for 45 mins, then pump for 15 mins then give him a top up of the pumped milk, so I was getting no sleep in hospital and was mentally and physically exhausted. I just wanted him to be fed. I was getting different messages about feeding and was made to tell my story multiple times.
Eventually we ‘cracked it’ and decided not to breastfeed and I decided to pump and give him expressed breast milk instead. Taking the step and making that decision was the best decision we could have made.
We were discharged after 2 nights in hospital and since then my baby has grown to become off the chart for height and 75th percentile for weight. I pumped for 6 months and now he’s 9 months old he has formula.
I felt like the whole experience was traumatising- the birth, the first few days and my experience back in the special care nursery. Now when/ if we have another I will make sure that if the baby has a large head I will request a cesarean. I will also request that the baby is weighed before we are discharged from hospital. I will be much more vocal.
It’s been hard to come to terms with the experience. People talk about birth stories like they’re the best day of your life – for me, apart from meeting my son, I look back at it as one of the worst.
If you are seeking support for birth-related trauma, please contact our Peer2Peer Support service to connect with one of our Peer Mentors.