While every woman hopes for a wonderful birth experience, sometimes no amount of mental and physical preparation makes a difference when the big day arrives.
For Victorian mum-of-two Laura, unfortunately, neither of her births went to plan when the unexpected happened. Here, she shares her harrowing birth story with Mum’s Grapevine.
We want to give you a heads-up. We’re going to talk about traumatic birth and postpartum depression and we know these topics can be incredibly emotional and triggering. If you’ve experienced these challenges or if you’re feeling vulnerable, it might be a good idea to skip this one for now.
“When falling pregnant with Emilia, our little boy Harrison was almost 2 years old,” Laura says.
“Our journey to our second pregnancy was much easier and quicker than our first and only took us 3 months before we were pregnant. It had taken almost 10 months to fall pregnant with Harrison. My first few pregnancy tests were very faint, then progressively got darker over the next few days.
“At 5 weeks pregnant, only a week after a positive test, I had bleeding. The wait to see my obstetrician was torture as I thought I’d miscarried. We saw him a week later and heard her heartbeat – instantly relief! But I wasn’t prepared for him to tell us that there was a second empty sac, most likely a twin that had reabsorbed. I put two and two together. Was the bleeding from the twin? From that moment I was constantly living in fear that something would happen to this baby.”
Still dealing with difficult memories from her first birth with Harrison, which was an induction due to intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), Laura decided to do hypnobirthing classes to help her get ready for baby number two.
“I didn’t want the trauma of my previous birth to take away from this one. I had so much fear going into it and hypnobirthing was my way of ensuring this birth would be better. I had an image of how this birth would look, being able to hold my baby once she was born, have the fresh, just-born photos and spending those first few hours together, just her, Scott (my husband) and I. Boy was that image in my head far from what I could have imagined happening.
“28 weeks rolled around and the growth scan showed that she was small (24th percentile) but nothing too worrying. We then had another at 32 and she was still around the 24th and still within an ok range.
“At 35 weeks, I was hospitalised for monitoring and the OB on duty made the comment that if they weren’t happy with what they saw on the monitor, and I could be meeting my baby the next day. We already knew she was on the smaller side, but nothing could have prepared me for the coming weeks. Later that week I was hospitalised again, this time with gastro that Harry had passed on.
“At my 36 week growth scan, Emilia had dropped from the 24th to 7th percentile for size. The fear of another IUGR baby and likely induction became real again. I knew something was wrong when the sonographer kept taking the same measurement over and over, hoping for better numbers to come up. She explained that she needed to find out if I had to go straight to the hospital, excused herself to talk to her colleagues and came back saying that I needed to see my OB the next day. I was terrified.”
Laura was then given two choices – to be induced the next day at 36+2 or be monitored daily for a week and give birth at ‘term’. She decided to wait.
“From then, I was having daily CTGs between the hospital and my OB’s rooms and two rounds of steroid injections in preparation for Emilia’s early arrival, with the aim to make it to 37 weeks.
“Going in for monitoring daily was always such a gamble. Would I be going home or would I be having her then? One of the days, they kept me for hours as they weren’t happy with what the CTG was showing. I just wanted to make it to 37 weeks. Thankfully I did.
“I was induced on 37 weeks to the day at 7:30am using Prostin gel (to soften the cervix). The cramping started within 10 minutes but was bearable by breathing through them and trying to stay relaxed – unlike with Harry where they had to inject me to slow down immediate contractions. By 9am, we were moved to the birth suite where I was able to move around and we were able to implement what we’d learnt through hypnobirthing. I used breathing, the birth ball and TENS machine until around 12:30pm when things ramped up suddenly and moved to the gas. The gas helped take the edge off but by this point, the pain was beginning to get worse and worse with each contraction and they seemed to be coming on closer together. I knew I wanted to do everything to remain calm and an epidural this time around was what I wanted.”
‘I was 10cm dilated within 4 minutes’
Laura was checked by her obstetrician just half an hour later at about 1pm and told she was still only 3-4cm dilated. Her obstetrician broke her waters to try and move her labour along, and as the TENS machine and gas were no longer easing her pain she asked for the epidural.
But when things ramped up suddenly, there was no time to get it done.
“Within seconds, my body went into back-to-back contractions and the trace on Emilia’s heartbeat was lost through the CTG. I was given multiple injections to slow down the contractions as she wasn’t coping but they weren’t working (he said he’d never experienced it not working before) and after three attempts at a fetal scalp monitor, still showing that she was in distress, a category 1 was called and I was being rushed to theatre to be put under a general anaesthetic for an emergency c section. I later was told that things were critical and there was no time for a spinal block and the GA was the only option. At the time, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening.
“Whilst being prepared for the general anaesthetic, screaming in pain and fear, my screams worsened and my OB realised something had changed in that short amount of time. I was 10cm now (4mins after leaving birth suite and being only 4cm) and there was no time to be put under – I had to deliver her right then. In a room with approx. 30 medical staff, I was given an episiotomy and forceps used to get her out quickly – I can still remember every bit of the pain so vividly. I gave birth to my baby girl at 1:34pm in a room of 30 people – all who saw her before me. I didn’t get to catch a glimpse of her but remember just waiting to hear her cry, hoping she was alright.
“They took her over to the resus area and gave her some oxygen – everyone kept reassuring me that she was alright and then I finally heard her little cries. Some small relief came over me knowing she was alive. Scott went with Emilia to special care whilst I was left in the theatre.
“My body didn’t feel like my own…there were so many people around and I couldn’t focus or process what had just happened.”
‘I felt robbed of bonding with my baby’
Laura was moved to the recovery room, alone and in shock. After waiting for a little while, a midwife from the birth suite visited her and gave her an update on her baby girl.
“The lovely midwife from our time in the birth suite came down to see me and reassured me that Emilia was ok and that Scott was still with her in special care. She gave me my phone and I was able to FaceTime Scott – my first time seeing my daughter was over FaceTime. I felt robbed of bonding with my baby. Something I may never stop grieving. Instead of snuggly, fresh newborn photos, I have a screen shot of our faces on a screen almost two hours after she was born.
“At just over 2 hours old, I finally got to hold my baby girl. I was wheeled into special care on a bed, oxygen attached and IV pumping through me, straight from recovery. They pulled me up bedside her tiny body in the humidicrib and I couldn’t believe that tiny baby had been who I was growing – or not growing well enough. I finally got to hold her, she felt so tiny but smelled and looked so perfect. My poor baby girl was hooked up to monitors, and an IV in her little hand but I could tell instantly our little fighter was going to be alright.
“The following days and weeks were brutal on my mental health. I fell into a downward spiral of grief from the trauma surrounding Emilia’s birth. I couldn’t sleep due to replaying her birth over and over each night and was given sedatives to help me relax to try get some rest. The days in hospital were tough. I had multiple debriefs with my OB and the midwives, and the hospital social worker but it just wasn’t helping me in processing the events.
Dealing with postpartum depression
Laura says the days and weeks following the birth of Emilia were a complete blur. Instead of soaking in the newborn bubble, she didn’t want to leave the house and was turning people away from visiting.
“I spent most of my waking moments in tears and often contemplated getting in the car alone and never coming back. Truly believing that Emilia and Harry would be better off without me. I didn’t feel fit to be a mother when I could barely look after myself.
“Two weeks later, I had an appointment back in the hospital which triggered a horrible breakdown with one of the nurses. I spent the day in the mental health unit where I talked to the psych, nurses and hospital in the home team. I didn’t want to stay there, I just wanted to go home. They couldn’t allow this unless I agreed to be part of the mental health hospital in the home program. And so began the journey of healing and improving my mental health.
“It breaks my heart that I’ll never experience the joy that comes with childbirth. Both my babies were brought into this world in traumatic ways for me makes me long for that healing birth, that I’ll now probably never get to have.”
We’re so sorry Laura’s birth was traumatic, but are glad she was able to get the help and support she needed.
If this story has raised any issues for you or you’re experiencing feelings of sadness please know there are plenty of support services available for you and your partner including …
- PANDA – 1300 726 306
- ForWhen – 1300 224 636
- Pregnancy, Birth & Baby – 1800 882 436
- Beyond Blue – 1300 224 636
More birth stories from the Grapeviners…
- Birth Story: ‘I gave birth on the bathroom floor’
- Birth Story: ‘My epidural caused a cardiac arrest’
- Birth Story: ‘I needed surgery to remove my placenta’
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