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Birth Stories

“I didn’t have PPD, I had ‘new mum rage'” – Bria’s story

Trigger Warning: This birth story discusses trauma. Topics discussed include induction, C-section, NICU stay, physical, emotional and mental trauma. If you are seeking support for your birth trauma, we have downloadable resources here or you can join one of our free Peer2Peer Support programs.

We were over the moon the day we found out we were pregnant with our beautiful little boy. After years of trying and then subsequently giving up and deciding to live our lives childless but still rich and full, we had been blessed with a surprise. It was April 2020, and even though that line was faint, my body was telling me, ‘This is it.’

We were overjoyed and contacted our parents instantly to let them know, being unable to hold back our joy. Afterwards, I took a few minutes to mourn the life I had reimagined for us – travelling overseas on a whim, late nights dancing, restaurants whenever the moment felt right – then I got straight back into the joy of finally becoming a mum.

My partner listened to podcasts, I read blogs and websites and participated in online baby courses as it was still during the Covid pandemic. We talked about the kinds of parents we would be, confirmed and reconfirmed our beliefs and morals on which we would raise this being and how we wanted them to see and think about the world and people around them. It was electrifying.

Again, this was 2020, so shortly, I would come to a big decision about vaccination. I weighed my pros and cons; this was a new vaccination, and anything was possible. After talking with my GP and partner, I decided to go ahead with the vaccination no matter the outcome, as I rationalised that it was better to protect the host and hope for the survival of my baby than risk both. I was shocked going into the vaccination hub to find not many other local pregnant women had opted to vaccinate at this time. I am so thankful today I talked about it and made my decision.

My OB appointments were simple enough, and everything seemed good, which was a relief. I am by no means a petite young lady, so I was worried about many things I had read, but each time, I was reassured that I was doing everything I could to help and protect my baby.

As I was on the bigger side, I attempted the NIPT test, but unfortunately, it failed twice, leading me again to think about the fact I could have a baby with any known developmental or underlying physical issues, and I was rolling the dice. But something told me everything would be ok.

At the 20-week scan, we finally found out the sex of our soon-to-be 3rd wheel – a boy! The last 6 years of trying and many years beforehand thinking of having a baby, my thoughts had always leaned towards wanting a girl until the day I found out I was pregnant. That day, I turned to my husband and said, “I hope it’s a boy”, to which he agreed. That scan made us more excited than before, a boy! A perfect little boy to join our family. My husband literally leapt off the couch in the scan room and yelled for joy as I tried to hide my embarrassment from the technician but also relished the moment.

From then on it was a mix of appointments, check-ups and planning. But if you are reading this and have a child, or if you’re a superhero and have children, you know that planning for anything involving a child is most of the time a good waste of time. 

When you are set to have a baby, your OB or health practitioner or all the reading material you go through will tell you to make a plan about the birth and what you want – positions, drugs, interventions ect etc. If you’re wondering what my plan was, it was simple, we all go home healthy and happy. And for the most part, we got that.

At 38 weeks and 2 days, we attended our local hospital after our bundle of joy decided to stop moving, which had happened in the past. The OB and the midwives decided that enough was enough and they scheduled us to return in two days’ time for an induction. My husband and I were so excited to finally meet our little boy.

It was Sunday, 19th December 2020, and this is where the story really begins.

We started with the balloon catheter, a joyful experience to none, and although I knew there would be discomfort, I was not prepared for the pain I experienced. I tried to push through, but eventually, I mentioned to the midwife looking out for us about the pain. She investigated by contacting the OB, who had left for the day, and they concluded that they had put the maximum saline amount in and that they could take some out to relieve the pain. At this point, it had been 6 hours and I decided to leave it as I believed it would only help move things along faster.

The next day was the 20th of December 2022, the day that would change my life and my husband’s life forever. The balloon catheter was removed at 2cm dilated, and the induction drugs began. I was so excited and ready for the months of waiting to finally be over, with so much enthusiasm and joy that I had no idea what was ahead of me for the next 10+ hours.

Every time the drugs tried to be increased, my son’s BP would bottom out, meaning the drugs would be reduced or stopped for a bit, before trying again. This went on and on. In the meantime, at around lunchtime, I began to experience small contractions. I had opted previously for an epidural, so by 2pm I was ready for it. A lovely young lass came down and explained to me the pros and cons and how to sit for the procedure – edge of the bed, feet on a chair flat, bent over as far as I could holding my partner’s hands for balance. The idea of a needle going anywhere near my spine obviously I knew it would hurt, but I was not prepared. The first 3 attempts completed by this lovely lady resulted in the same nerve being hit 3 times and the head of anaesthesiology was called to complete the epidural. On the first try, again hitting the same nerve; after this, they opted to put the epidural higher in my back and on the first try and 5th attempt all up we finally had success. 

We were back on some sort of track; the drugs would begin, and my son’s BP would drop out, so we would stop-start, this went on until about 5pm, and then we had a visit from the OB, and our options were given to us, we could:

    1. Continue for the next 3 hours on the drugs, which to this point had not been successful, or
    2. We could go in for a Caesarean.

    I asked how far I had dilated as I thought we should keep going if we were almost there. Only 3 centimetres. All those hours and I had only gained 1 centimetre since the catheter. We had a pretty simple answer but I wanted to make sure my husband and I were on the same page after a day of having nonstop people in and out, we were finally given 5 minutes alone to discuss our options, and finally, the days emotions came flooding in and I burst into tears. Not for pain or sadness or fear but because I was finally able to let my guard down for the first time in over 24 hours. My husband and I agreed to move forward with the caesarean as we were over waiting to meet our little guy.

    We rolled into the operating room so ready and prepared. I have my husband on one side and a lovely anaesthesiologist on the other side. Then all this happened:

        • The operating sheet went up, and they began to cut into me, this is the point where I noticed in the lights above I could see very clearly what they were doing as the sheet was not pulled high enough. I saw them cutting through my skin, and I start shaking, and the anaesthesiologist asked what was wrong. After I explain she calls to the nurses to lift the curtain higher – this is the point where one nurse mentions, out loud, this is the third time it had happened that week.

        • As they are cutting through my uterus, I begin to scream, and again the anaesthesiologist asks me the matter, and I explain that I can feel the scalpel cutting into me. She yells stop and gives me a second round of anaesthetic and we give it a few minutes and try again – nope, still pain, third round of anaesthetic.

        • Finally, our son is here, he is born – with the cord wrapped around his throat twice. No wonder his BP kept dropping, right?

        • While my husband is off cutting the cord, I begin to experience breathing issues. The reason is that my epidural was put higher in my back and I had at this point, had 3 rounds of anaesthetic to complete the caesarean. The lovely anesthesiologist sat with me, holding my hand and stroking my hair to calm me down.

        • My son was finally placed upon my chest to gaze upon with love and affection… for about 2 minutes before my stomach began to turn and I had to ask my husband to remove him from my chest so I could vomit.

        • Finally leaving the operating room with my son on my chest, I am flying high, trying to forget the last 45minutes and as we are leaving, the junior surgeon comes up to me almost in tears, rambling about trying to do a stitch, but it not holding and me being far too out of it to care what she is saying. What she is actually telling me is that she forgot they had broken my water and when she cut through the placenta, she cut too deep and cut the side of my sons face in his sideburn, a few millimetres from his ear.

      The next 3 days are spent dealing with midwives who give me conflicting information and advice and learning how to be new parents. During this time, we noticed that our son was yellowing and by the time we were ready to go home, we asked them to test our son over 4 times for jaundice, which the midwives obliged using a bilirubin meter each time and each time they assured us everything is ok, and we are sent home.

      The next day, the 24th of December 2020 a midwife came to our home and mentioned in passing about our son’s skin and eyes, and we mentioned that we brought it up at the hospital numerous times. She uses her bilirubinometer to test our son. At this point it reads 251; she mentions that 250 is the cut-off for a four-day-old and then adds that the bilirubin meter is not accurate and asks if we will do a blood test for an accurate reading as she is very concerned, she tells us that she will rush the results and call us. Sure enough, his level is 374, and we are told to rush to special care. 

      My Christmas eve is spent with my beautiful son in a humidicrib under 3 blue lights, me on a pull-out sofa chair after a caesarean and my husband at home alone. Christmas morning rolled around, and our son thankfully, was able to be removed and the three of us celebrated in special care with the amazing staff educating us and helping us and finally, we left hospital for good, all three of us alive and now healthy – just as we planned.

      It took me months to be able to fully understand everything I went through and recover from the physical, emotional and mental trauma I went through during my son’s birth. Although I will probably never be the same or think the same way about birth, I am ok, and this is the journey we had to go on for whatever reason. I personally took some of the following steps to help my journey through the trauma after birth:

          • I talked with my GP about my mental health, not feeling I was suffering from PPD but rather what I came to see as ‘new mum rage’ which I thought was bad and I should be medicated for. My GP was all too happy to agree with my conclusion but disagreed that I should be medicated and, in fact, told me I should be upset and mad over everything I went through. I should learn to channel that towards other things and control it myself, not with medication. Initially, I was annoyed with his thoughts on not medicating and thought I would not be able to overcome and control the rage I felt. Still, today, I am happy he did and said those things and I would like to hope that if he did feel medication was the right option for me, he would have guided me through that with support.

          • I talked with a counsellor provided by the maternal health nurse service in my city who would call me twice a week and helped me work through my feelings and helped me embrace what I had gone through and learn to talk openly about my experiences.

          • I wrote a letter to the hospital outlining everything we had gone through as part of my healing and then decided to email it to their feedback team, now knowing what would happen. I received a call within 2 hours of emailing it. I talked with the feedback administration lady about the changes I would like to see to help make sure the issues that were preventable didn’t happen to another new mother-to-be. This brought me power, thinking my voice had been heard and recognised by the institution I felt had failed me. The hospital became a regular visit for us as our son went through the first 12 months of his life, and I have slowly been able to walk through the doors without thinking they ‘failed’ me that time and try to see the times they have helped us since and learnt to heal that part of the story with each visit.

          • I talked to other mothers and family and kept talking, telling of my experience, what I would change, what I would keep the same, and how I felt things could be better. In doing so, I learnt that others had similar hardships and experiences, and it created bonds and a collective knowledge that I was not alone.

        I acknowledge that I am very fortunate, and although I went through some things, my son is beautiful, healthy and, most importantly, alive today, so I am beyond thankful as I know others are not as fortunate. I just hope that we can make talking about birth trauma more acceptable and help women who suffer in silence step out of the shadows and feel recognised for the warriors they are.

        If you’d like to chat to someone about your birth experience and start getting support today please reach out to one of our friendly Peer support Team.

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