The day I found out I was pregnant was one of the best of my life. We hadn’t been trying long but as I was the ripe old age of 34 I had worried that we might struggle. I must have used 30 tests in the weeks after finding out, just to make sure… Then the morning sickness started and I no longer needed a little strip of paper to convince me I was pregnant.
Apart from severe morning sickness, my first trimester passes without distinction and soon it was time for my 12 week scan. I was both nervous and excited for this as it would be the first time I would see my Baby, but it would also be the first chance to see if anything was amiss.
Luckily Baby was perfect, however a worried sonographer discovered something that none of us expected. A massive fibroid tumour. While usually benign, fibroid tumours can grow to dangerous proportions during pregnancy and this one had become a monster.
My dull and by the book pregnancy had gone out of the window and been replaced with threats of increased miscarriage possibility, immense pain, and the possibility of dangerous post partem bleeding. I would now have to attend extra appointments with a consultant and have many additional scans.
As if this additional stress wasn’t bad enough, it was compounded by the fact that very few nurses and midwives knew anything about the side effects of large fibroids, in fact, some hadn’t even heard of the condition. By half way through my second trimester I had become an expert on them and regularly found myself educating the healthcare professionals who were supposed to be caring for me.
My 20 week scan came and Grumpy Dad and I received the terrific news that we were having a perfectly healthy girl. We also received the less pleasant news that my fibroid had continued to grow and was now showing signs of a condition called red degeneration. The fibroid had begun to bleed into itself causing the muscle to atrophy. This wasn’t unexpected and would pose no risk to my baby, but I had hoped to avoid it as everything I had read suggested that the condition would cause more pain than childbirth!
A few days later I found myself in A&E due to fibroid pain. I spent the night in hospital and was then allowed to discharge myself as there really was nothing that could be done other than giving me mild pain killers and a cold compress.
The next week of my life was agony. Grumpy Dad had to stay home as I was incapable of rolling over, let alone getting out of bed. I would hate to say whether the pain was as bad as childbirth, but I remember it far more vividly. Agony, as if I had a spear through my body and I couldn’t even cry as crying was too painful. All I could do was lay on my side and whimper.
Eventually the pain did subside and I even returned to work for a few weeks before heading off on early maternity leave.
The last weeks before Baby were born were stressful. We moved two weeks before she arrived and for several weeks before that I was up and down to the hospital like a yoyo due to high blood pressure. Despite this, the day I went into labour was a good one, spent finishing the decorating in Teens room so that he could move in. To be fair, Grumpy Dad did all the work while I bounced on my birthing ball and made helpful comments like “I think you missed a spot”.
That night I began to have what I thought were Braxton Hicks, but by midnight I was sure they were real contractions. A visit to the hospital revealed that I was 2cm dilated, but as my contractions had stopped the moment I entered the labour ward, I was sent home. A few hours later I was back with more contractions and a slightly panicked Grumpy Dad. This time they didn’t send me home. My blood pressure was through the roof and my blood work from my earlier visit showed abnormal cells. Words like preeclampsia were now being thrown about and it was decided that I should be induced. An hour or so later the midwife broke my waters and asked me to walk around for 3 hours to get things started. Thirty minutes was all it took before I was on gas and air and unable to get up from bed.
If I’m honest I don’t remember much of my labour. I remember asking for an epidural several times but changing my mind when the contractions subsided, and I remember not trusting the junior midwife who was put in charge of me. I also remember the moment when my body started to push. This was unlike anything I had seen in the movies, where pushing appears to be a conscious effort on the mothers part. In my experience my body convulsed and I mooed like a cow, while the midwife shouted at me to stop pushing, something that I was incapable of doing.
Everything then became very intense. My blood pressure rose so they gave me tablets, I couldn’t stop pushing so they gave me Pethidine, and then most worrying of all, my baby started to look as if she was in distress.
The junior midwife was still shouting at me to stop pushing, telling me that I would hurt my baby and I was becoming frantic. All I could think about was that I was hurting my baby but I couldn’t stop. I vaguely remember whimpering “I don’t want to hurt my baby” but I was terrified that because of me she would die, or be brain damaged like both my mother and brother had been. Luckily the junior midwife couldn’t place a clip on my baby’s head and had to call a senior midwife in who immediately overruled her, saying that my body knew exactly what it was doing.
A few minutes later my beautiful baby girl was born, she was perfect and has continued to be perfect ever since.
I was somewhat unlucky in my pregnancy to have a condition which was little known, but I was lucky that the only side effect I suffered was that week of intense pain. What concerned me was the lack of continuity. I rarely saw the same midwife so I was constantly repeating myself and the danger signs of preeclampsia were missed.
I was also unlucky to have an inexperienced midwife attend me when I should have been marked as high risk. Had the senior midwife not been called when she was things could have gone very differently and I might not be sat here now with my healthy baby snoozing peacefully beside me.
Sadly I’m not alone in my experience of maternity care that was under par. It’s becoming increasingly common and not everyone gets the happy ending that I experienced. If you are concerned that you experienced negligence during your pregnancy, labour, or aftercare, it may be worth consulting a clinical negligence solicitor, who will be able to advise you on taking the matter further.
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