Differences In Care

I always thought my care during my first labour was poor. Infact, it was non-existent, but I never realised how poor until I had my second labour to compare it to, and they couldn’t have been more different.

Both my labours have been induced, my first, at 21 weeks because my baby had died inside me and my body refused to acknowledge this so labour had to be started artificially so I could deliver my sleeping baby.
My second at 38 weeks because of what had happened in my previous pregnancy and the objective was to deliver this baby safely as soon as possible without creating any more risk to myself or my baby.

Both my labours were relatively short from the start of painful contractions (established labour) my first was about 12hours, my second was 7hours.

But this is where the similarities end.

I shall start with my first pregnancy.
As I was ‘only’ 21 weeks pregnant I was referred to gynaecology instead of the antenatal ward for my care. This instantly meant that my care was to be led by nurses and not midwives.
I was given a private room on the gynaecology ward and had my first pessary inserted. Apart from having my blood pressure and temperature checked occasionally I was left with my family until it was time for another pessary to be inserted.
My contractions began getting stronger and stronger but the nurses didn’t seem bothered because my waters hadn’t gone, that was the only question they asked when they checked in. I was offered codeine for the pain but nothing else. Gas and air wasn’t piped in to the department and wasn’t offered.
I was terrified. I was naive. I was 21 and 21 weeks pregnant. I hadn’t don’t any research about birth yet – who does that until they’re nearly there? And it wasn’t exactly explained to me that I would be going into full on labour so I didn’t know to research it – though I’m not sure I would have as I had just found out my baby had died – I wasn’t in a googling mood. I didn’t realise contractions hurt, I had always assumed that it was the actual pushing the baby out that hurt.
The pain was unexpected and excruciating, made 10x worse by the fact that I panicked and there was no one there to calm me down (I had my mum and fiancé there but they were just as clueless about induced labour as me so comforting words didn’t help) I threw myself around the room trying in vain to get comfy. I had never been in a pain that I couldn’t make better somehow. There was no position that helped, believe me I tried them all.
Eventually I sent my fiancé to ask for pain relief. It was the middle of the night, there were two nurses on the whole ward and one doctor on call. Someone else nearby kept crashing, the nurses were flat out and I was told that they’d get the doctor to come and give me an injection as soon as he was free. (It was never explained to me what pain relief was available or what I would be given, so I am still unsure what this injection would have been of) no one came and I decided I needed to go to the loo (baby was coming).
I couldn’t walk, I was supported the whole way and as soon as I got there I collapsed to the floor and passed out. I vaguely remember that by chance a nurse popped her head round the door to see if I was ok and then the crash button was pressed and doctors and nurses came running. I was helped onto the bed and remember being surrounded, but the crowd quickly disappeared when they realised I was ok. I was talked through the next contraction by a nurse and it was nice, I didn’t panic, I controlled my breathing and it didn’t hurt as much, but after one contraction she left and I panicked at the next one. They had finally listened that I was in pain and got me a canister of gas and air from the delivery suite, but I had three puffs on it and passed out. The crash button was pressed again and I was given oxygen and came round. No one had even checked how dilated I was, literally for hours no one had been down there. I told them I felt something happening, and the nurse looked, told me to push a couple of times and I delivered my daughter in her waters. Everyone left and the nurse took her away to ‘clean her up’ even though I begged for her to be ‘cleaned up’ in the room and not taken away from me. My beautiful, perfectly formed tiny baby was brought back in and we were left alone with her for 6 whole, uninterrupted hours. The only hours I’ll ever have with my daughter.

With my second labour I was on the delivery suite, with a midwife assigned to me, doctors on call and it was a completely different experience. My midwife didn’t leave my side the whole time, and had this had been my first labour she would have talked me through the contractions. I, however, knew exactly what to expect, that it hurt, a lot, but that I had survived it last time with no pain relief and I could and would survive it again. I didn’t have any pain relief with this labour because I didn’t need it because I kept calm and breathed through my contractions, the only time I did panic was when I felt the urge to push and it hadn’t been very long since I was only 4cm dilated so I didn’t think I should, but within seconds the midwife had realised I was panicking and was there calming me down and reassuring me. Quite soon after that I delivered my healthy 7lb9oz baby boy into my midwifes hands. It couldn’t have been a more different experience from my first labour if I tried. The main difference being that I didn’t panic, and honestly I know now that the panic made the pain so much worse.

Midwives are important during birth, yes they’re there for the wellbeing of the baby, but also to support the mother through labour. A midwives role is to keep the mother calm as stress for the mother causes stress for the baby. Obviously with my first labour this didn’t matter, but it made the whole experience incredibly traumatic for me. Hospitals know that, and that’s why they provide them. They have specially trained bereavement midwives for those having stillbirths. What was the difference between my daughter being born asleep at 21 weeks and another baby stillborn at 24 weeks? They get a midwife. I didn’t. I still went through labour, I still got to meet my sleeping baby, why didn’t I need to emotional, mental and physical support that a midwife gives a woman during labour?
Since I went through this I have found and talked to many other mothers in similar situations, many of which, around the same gestation or less got to have their babies delivered by midwives. I am glad that not all hospitals have the same policy, I’m glad that not every mother having to deliver their tiny sleeping baby have to do so almost completely alone with minimal support, but why should any? I believe that any woman going through labour should be given the support of a midwife.

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