What Pregnancy & Squidge’s Birth Taught Me
We do not feel that the doctors charged with my care in Squidge’s safe delivery had enough regard for the fact that I am a disabled mother. We do not know whether this was just due to a lack of knowledge of my specific disabilities, but we are not willing to allow this to happen to another disabled mother.
You should be able to know about your doctor’s experience with specific disabilities. I was simply told that disabled mothers had been dealt with at the hospital. That’s not detailed enough and I should hope that no-one else had to argue for the delivery that they wanted the way I did. It’s not acceptable. Doctors should be open to discussing disabilities with expectant mothers – they are the ones that know their bodies best.
I do not want my experience to be that of any other disabled mother.
From my own experience of pregnancy and birth, I believe disabled parents should be able to:
- request complete transparency with regards to their obstetrician’s experience of the mother’s specific disabilities and related issues and request a change if necessary.
- elect for a Caesarean delivery after a single open discussion about all possible delivery methods. I do not believe it is necessary to repeatedly state your wishes, particularly if your assigned doctor has little experience of disability. Mothers have the right to choose. Doctors should not repeatedly attempt to dissuade mothers from the choice they have made after an informed discussion.
- receive informed support about how and where to access disability aids for new parents, or services to support adaptations to equipment or the home.
Getting Squidge here was one hell of a journey.
“Us” on the 17th December 2016 – the fateful birthday that was not to be! I can’t believe she was somewhere in there!
Squidge’s journey into the world was a lot more traumatic than it ever needed to be, and that in itself breaks my heart. The NHS is an incredible institution full of equally incredible people who work tirelessly to safeguard our health and wellbeing. For all the negativity in my birth experience, I would be doing the midwives and physiotherapists and anaesthetists a disservice if I didn’t say thank you for taking care of me and Squidge.
This story isn’t being told to accuse anyone of ignorance. I just wish that those put in charge of my antenatal care could have been better supported in understanding my disability before they were faced with it. A course of action is needed to help doctors understand the individuality that exists within disabilities. It is not enough to say they have cared for a disabled mother before. She is not me. I am not her.
I was never in labour, although Kev disputes this because we saw so much evidence of contractions on those bloody ever present machines! I never got past 2cm dilated and as it turned out, I was never capable of giving birth naturally.
I wish I’d shouted louder (both figuratively and literally!) because I knew this all along, but was coaxed into following through with plans for a natural birth. I would have loved to have been capable. I believe my caretakers hoped I was. But that shouldn’t negate the need for a Plan B.
I never expected childbirth to be like it is on TV. Antenatal classes taught me that the waters rarely go before labour starts and it almost inevitably lasts more than 30 minutes screen time. However, I certainly didn’t expect meeting Squidge to be quite the waiting game it turned out to be.
When induction of labour presented itself as an opportunity at 38 weeks to release me from the tiredness and omnipresent pains of being eternally pregnant, we jumped at it. We weren’t under any illusions that induction in itself would be a quick process either, but at least it put an end in sight.
The doctors spoke of 3 stages
- Prostin gel (basically in the same location and with the same purpose as the pessary… two applications up for grabs in 48hrs if no joy)
- Having my waters forcibly broken and being hooked up to a drip to really force and ramp up contractions.
Options 1 & 2 were fine by me. My oldest sister gave birth to my niece about 12 hours after she had a pessary, so I could have gotten lucky by some genetic connection.
However, I was always apprehensive about option 3. I’ve not got the world’s best pain threshhold so really didn’t want to go from 0-60 as far as labour pains go in case I couldn’t handle it, especially given that this course of action meant the idea of a water birth was out – and that was the only way I could see myself giving birth with relaxed muscles.
Aside from any of that, no-one had actually addressed the concerns I’d been mentioning since I made my first request for a Caesarean known in my second trimester. I really didn’t think I had the physical capability to open my legs wide enough to give birth naturally.
As it turned out, the same principle applied to having all manner of things inserted in me to hasten labour. It hurt. And it only became apparant then that me having been able to climb into the birthing pool was not akin to having the necessary hip extension to give birth. And I was scared. It felt like the longer we went on with no viable contractions and no baby, the faster my choices were being taken out of my hands.
The whole charade, from walking through the door of the induction ward to holding Squidge in my arms for the first time took 9 days. They were, without question, the worst 9 days of my life.
Anything telling my story can do to stop another disabled mummy going through a similar birth experience will make this whole endeavour worthwhile.
We attended the induction ward at 7:30pm. We’d been psyched up to go all week, but for some reason this was the earliest time that day they could admit me! So we went to the cinema and out for lunch as a last “date” before becoming parents. We went to see Office Christmas Party which was awful. Kev was offended that a film of such bad calibre now has a part in our daughter’s story.
- When we got to the ward, we were told there would be no inductions started tonight.
- Kev has an uncomfortable night’s sleep n the lazy boy chair and is counting down the hours til he can go to the on-site Starbucks.
- Pessary administered by midwife
It was extremely painful. I remember my body coming up off the bed in protest. It needed to be adjusted a few hours later. Again, so painful. Began wondering if my hips could really do this.
- For the half-hour that he’s gone, I’m having the closest I ever got to having contractions. I shout at him for missing them!
- No interaction with a doctor.
- Another exam. Still painful. The pessary has barely got me to 1.5cm dilated. Definitely not in labour.
- Prostin gel administered twice by a midwife, hoping that this will help with dilation.
- Rest day – no treatments
- We’re told to expect to see a doctor that evening to decide whether to administer a 3rd dose of Prostin gel or to forcibly break my waters and put me on a drip to force and accelerate contractions.
- Told the doctor will not attend that evening due to emergencies elsewhere and there would be no further treatment tonight.
- We both feel very emotional at this news. It’s been 4 days and still no labour and no baby. It’s getting too much. We want to see the doctor and know that this journey is nearly over.
- The midwife kindly calls down a doctor (not my consultant or anyone we have seen before). She is unable to answer our concerns about my hips and how I’ll cope with a delivery which will not be able to include the water birth I wanted if my waters are broken. I’m not even sure they can be broken if I cannot open my legs. I don’t want to be put on the drip if it turns out I cannot deliver safely.
- I state that I will not consent to the drip due to these concerns. I state that if we reach that point, I am requesting a C-section.
- It is agreed that the senior registrar will either authorise a 3rd Prostin gel the next day if I am dilated enough to proceed to a water birth, or we would go with the C-section.
- The next morning we are told that the senior registrar is unavailable to make rounds as expected due to an emergency.
- Another doctor (not the senior registrar) was seen around 10 hours after we expected them at 9am, after waiting and worrying about the decision all day.
- I was by now 2cm dilated. Another dose of gel was very unlikely to ready me for delivery, so Kev & I decided against it.
- Because I didn’t want to be put on the drip, or risk having my waters broken if I couldn’t open my legs, I was offered the chance to restart the induction cycle.
- It had been too long & Kev & I were too emotionally drained, especially given the lack of progress I’d had in dilating.
- So we said no and stated that we wanted the C-section.
- We were told we’d be scheduled for the morning (Saturday)
- I worried that slots would be given away and asked to be reassured that the section would happen the next day. The doctor stated that she would see me tomorrow and I was calm.
- At midnight, the midwives had me nil-by-mouth and give me my first dose of heartburn medication to prepare me for surgery. My notes state that a C-section will take place the next day.
- Midwives go through the surgery checklist with me and give me my final dose of heartburn medication.
- We finally meet the registrar:
“We’ll schedule your section for Wednesday!”
- I am sobbing, feeling that we have been robbed because we were emotionally prepared to meet our daughter today. I am so distraught, my nose starts to bleed. The doctors do not notice this as Kev tends to me.
- We are told sections never take place on weekends unless they are an emergency. “You don’t want an emergency section.”
- We never asked for one. We argue that we thought we were electing for a section today. We are told “I don’t know where you could have got that information.” This is where I wish we’d shouted. The doctor who gave us that information was stood NEXT to the registrar as she said this. But we were both too distraught and dumbfounded to point this out.
- The registrar says that Wednesday is the earliest elective slot available. We are welcome to stay in hospital until then! (5 days away?!) We refuse. I cannot stay somewhere where we are being misled.
Kev called his parents to come and collect us. The midwife was so kind trying to calm me down, even apologising for the care she had given preparing me for surgery, stating that my notes had said surgery was today.
We get our things. I don’t even bother to get dressed and am still sobbing when we’re asked to sign the consent form for Wednesday. Consent feels like a joke at this point, as the choice has been taken from me.
I remember leaning on Kev sobbing as he walked me out of the hospital. I had asked lots of people to assure me during my stay that I would leave hospital with my baby and everyone assured me I would so I was devastated to leave without my daughter in a car seat. I refused to get in the car, stood there in dressing gown and slippers sobbing that I wasn’t supposed to leave without the baby. My lovely mother-in-law ushered me into the car saying she was worried about me catching a cold. As it was, I was sniffling the next day, but right then I didn’t care.
I sobbed for the rest of the day.
Day 9 – Squidge’s birthday!
- We attended the ward at 7:30am. My waters had broken as I got out of bed to get dressed that morning. I’m hopeful that means baby has to be born today!
- We are one of 2 elective sections that day. The lady before me is back on the ward by 10:30am holding her new baby. We start to feel excited.
- The midwife utters the immortal words “You’re going to meet your baby today.”
- An emergency keeps us from the theatre until 2:15pm. Having been on the ward since 7:30am, I’m starting to feel the familiar anxieties of our previous stay.
- But then…. they come and ask for her hat and nappy and start wheeling my bed down!
- I start to panic about the needles. I have always hated them. What if I jump and paralyze myself?
The anaesthesiologists are jovial and funny. A breath of fresh air after it all! One lovely man tells me to wrap my arms round his neck to help me lean forward in the right position. I have to keep telling myself that “It’s OK, it’s for the baby!”
The anesthesiologist tells me that if I’m nervous and “worried I’m going to swear!”, I should “Tell me every swear word you know!”
I get upset, even as I laugh. “I can’t think of any. That sucks! I love swearing!”
- I feel a whoosh of numbness down my legs. The epidural is kicking in and they lie me down and put the screen up. I start worrying I’ll feel the cutting, so grip Kev’s hand and we talk nonsense to one another. I wish I could remember what we were talking about because whatever it was means we were both stunned by the sound of the Squidge’s first cry.
The consultant says: “Oh she’s a bit of a chunk!” We laugh. Before we’ve even seen her, we know she’s big and healthy, thank goodness.
They lift her over the screen to show us. She’s all red and angry looking. But she’s here! Our girl is finally born.
Kev follows her as she is weighed and wrapped and assures me that she’s fine, nice and big and beautiful! She’s 8lb 2oz. Perfect.
- The consultant tells us that Squidge has a cone head – evidence that she struggled to engage with my pelvis. She never dropped. She was always trying but never made it. My pelvis and hips were too narrow just as I feared.
- If I want to do this again, then a C-section is the only way. I am so relieved to know I never have to go through this again.
I hold this amazing creature in my arms, look down on her. “Hello you. I’ve waited so long to see your face! I’m your mummy!”
I look miserable in most of the immediate photos, but it’s actually because I was so overwhelmed.
Here is our first beautiful moment as a family….
Such a journey to be together….