Hear my voice | My birth story and lessons learned, Part I

Rachel, a Healthwatch Essex Maternity Patient Partner (MPP), is our guest blogger this month and is sharing her maternity story and experiences below in the hope that others will learn something from her story.

In the space of two years, I experienced two very different births at Broomfield Hospital. Both experiences led to two healthy babies and for this I am very grateful! My involvement with Healthwatch as a MPP provided me with the confidence and knowledge that enabled me to have an amazing labour with my second child.

My first labour felt like it lasted for years. Although at the time I was working full time in London, I felt like I had loads of time. I checked my baby app daily and loved seeing what size fruit my baby was. I went to bed early and slept in late at the weekends – it was great. My ante-natal care was good, and I was lucky enough to see the same midwife for most of my appointments. My easy pregnancy then became a bit harder when I started suffering with pelvic gridle pain, around month 6.

Fast forward to my due date, and when things went a bit array.

After already being examined the day before my due date, (I had a little discharge) I went to my final ante-natal appointment and was told by my midwife that I needed to have another internal examination. As it was my first pregnancy, I just did as I was told. This time they said it was amniotic fluid and that I needed to give birth within the next 12 hours. I was really hoping for a natural birth, but was told that if I hadn’t gone into labour by 2am the next morning then I would have to go back to the hospital to be induced.

At 2am my husband and I went back in, and by this time I was in pre-labour, having mild contractions about 10 minutes apart, and a few centimetres dilated. Unfortunately though, it wasn’t happening quick enough for protocol. My husband and I pushed back but we were told by a number of doctors and midwives that we were putting our baby at risk and that we needed to be induced (although there were no signs of the baby being distressed). By the time they got around to carrying out the induction, my husband had to leave for the evening as I was put on the shared ward and no partners were allowed in past 9pm. That night was one of the worst nights I’ve experienced, being induced was painful and scary on my own. I was in a lot of pain and I had no support. My husband waited in the bright, cold hallway all night. I had to keep hobbling out (stopping between contractions) just to see him for a couple of minutes. I cried all night. For what should have been an exciting, special experience between me and my husband, ended up being a nightmare.

Eleven hours later, he was allowed into the waiting room and so I stayed in there with him until he was allowed back on the ward. By this point, neither of us had had sleep for two nights. After waiting a few hours to be seen, we were then taken to the labour room. My daughter was back to back and I was in constant agony and feeling under so much pressure to dilate, which was just happening so slowly. I think my body was too tense from the stress. The midwife had to pop my waters and I was finally allowed gas and air that evening and had an epidural before I was given the drip. When it was time to deliver, the baby wasn’t coming and we were told we needed to go to theatre. Once prepped, we were then told we had to wait as there was an emergency that had to go before us. In that time the last midwife I had (I had so many) was very supportive and encouraged me to push. I managed to give birth to my baby girl not long after.

It was a whirlwind of emotions. I felt that every person I met during my labour (from that final ante-natal appointment), apart from my final midwife, was very negative and didn’t listen to what I felt or what I wanted. My final midwife was the reason I was able to give birth naturally – she made me feel calm and empowered. As protocol, we stayed in hospital for 5 days afterwards so that my daughter could have antibiotics and undergo tests. The post-natal care was very good and I picked up a lot of information during my time there.

Although it wasn’t a terrible labour, I felt traumatised after my experience and my husband and I decided not to have another baby. I felt bad for my husband especially, as despite being my support throughout my time in hospital, he wasn’t even offered a drink. He felt terrible having to stay in the hallway the first night and not be by my side knowing how upset and scared I was. Looking back, it’s a shame that we felt cornered and pushed down a path that we didn’t want or feel was necessary. I wish we knew then what we do now.

Fast-forward a year, I find out I’m pregnant with my second baby. Within this time though, I had joined HealthWatch as a MPP and learned so much, it gave me confidence that I could have a positive experience by taking more control and making informed decisions. I met HealthWatch Essex at a meeting I attended following my first birth. I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of a group that would positively influence and improve maternity services.

Part II of Rachel’s story and details of her experience as a Healthwatch Essex Maternity Patient Partner will be published on Friday, 19th June.

If you would like to share your story and experiences, click here to see how you can get involved or become a Healthwatch Essex Ambassador.