My son’s birth is the reason why I started blogging. At first it was to unleash the torrent of emotions- confusion, sadness, grief, betrayal- that were swirling inside of me. He was ten months old at the time, and the flashbacks and nightmares I suffered were as raw as the day he was ripped from my body. So I wrote. And I told my story, what had happened to me. And lots of other women contacted me to tell me their story too. And soon it became clear that I was not the only person who had suffered a traumatic birth.
I was elated at the fact that I was not alone. I was not overreacting. I was not going to have to deal with this by myself.
But I was sickened at the fact that so many women could relate to what had happened to me.
My son’s birth changed me. He is now three and a half years old and has a younger sister, but the events of that night still haunt me. I am still forced, some nights, to watch the scene of his birth over and over in place of sleep. I can still feel the tugging of the tube being pulled from my throat. The ache in my heart as my son was handed to me. The throb of realisation, weeks later, that he had spent the first hour of his life alone, and fighting to breathe. The agony of being discharged from hospital- against my wishes- with no pain relief. The shock of undressing in front of a mirror that night and seeing what was left of my body. Angry purple bruises that spread from my throat to my toes. A furious wound creeping across my stomach. And something else, in my eyes, that sometimes never really goes away.
I hated myself. I hated the fact that I had let myself be treated this way. I hated the fact that I had allowed my son to be put into such danger. I was furious that I had been just another number in a long line of women who had not been given the care they were entitled to.
And amid all of the terror and the pain and the anguish of my hospital stay, a lady came to see me. I remember that she congratulated me and I asked her what for. It seemed so strange to congratulate someone who was quite clearly falling apart. She asked if now was a good time to speak to me. Could she say hello to my son? Could she leave a letter with me, to hand in to Boots at my own convenience? She told me that her son had also been born via c-section and that she still remembers how she had to hold a hand over her scar when she laughed. I remember this because I remember wondering when I would ever laugh again. Whether I would need to hold a hand over my scar too? She spent a few minutes with me and then she disappeared, into the sea of clinical masks and cold but necessary assessments. She was the one solitary friendly professional face I saw.
There are so many things that our maternity wards need.
We need more midwives.
We need more training and understanding in Birth Trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following childbirth.
We need medical staff who listen.
We need medical staff who talk to patients.
We need medical staff who empathise.
We need delivery rooms that are fully equipped and ready to use when they are needed.
We need to maintain dignity of women.
We need to ensure after care of women is consistent.
We need to ensure there is after care of women who have suffered a traumatic birth.
We need trained counsellors who are able to talk through a patient’s notes with understanding and with clarity.
We need to deliver consistently high standards of care to all women.
These are the changes that our maternity services need.
If you ask me what I think about the Bounty Lady I will tell you. There are far more important issues for our NHS and our maternity wards to worry about. There are far more important causes to get behind. There literally are matters of life and matters of death and whether or not the Bounty Lady is allowed to come and see you is not one of them.