I’ve always been a fan of literature and reading, and one of my favourite all time quotes is from Dickens “A Tale Of Two Cities” which reads –
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way”
To me, this has always spoken of happiness and joy in one hand in comparison to sorrow and despair in the other – and that’s exactly how I feel about my c-section. I’ve not told this story online before and it might be triggering talking about medical talk and PTSD etc so please don’t read this if it may upset you.
If you read my last post, I was ready in hospital to have my section and had been kept in for days beforehand ready for the birth on Tuesday. Tuesday came around and Adam and our mums turned up bright and early as I was scheduled to be going into theatre at 8AM. The doctors had cleared their diaries and decided that I would be their priority for the morning to ensure a safe delivery for my baby.
8AM rolled around and the doctors still hadn’t came to get me and so I waited patiently in my room with my family getting more and more nervous and anxious about the upcoming procedure. Finally, just after 9 the doctors came and everybody took me down to the delivery suite where I would be going after surgery and we had a quick discussion about what would be happening. I was then quickly whisked into a tiny room to start the epidural process to numb me in preparation for surgery. We were all crammed in the smallest room and it was boiling hot – the sweat was rolling off me. I was asked to sit on the table bend forward whilst a doctor attempted to get a needle into my back. After almost an hour of him trying, I was crying in pain and asked for a break to which he snapped back at me “well I don’t get a break”. This was the start of his negative attitude, and sadly not the last. Eventually he got the needle where he thought he wanted it and he asked if i thought it felt central and I said no, but he left it anyway. They took so long with the needle because they wanted to leave it in my back for extra pain relief the next day (which never got used).
It was then time to go into theatre and have my baby. The doctor who had put my epidural in was spraying me with cold spray down my side and asking if I could feel it, to which I was saying yes I can. I could feel it up until my hips but not after that. I kept telling him I could feel it but he didn’t seem to believe me and said I could feel the pressure when I was telling him I could feel the cold.
I was laid down on the bed and the sheet went up right in front of my face and I knew it was time. I was still being sprayed with cold spray and feeling it and so the doctor started pumping me full of drugs. From the first touch of the scalpel on my stomach, I felt everything. I felt like I was actually going to die. I was crying in pain as they burned me to cauterize the skin and made cuts to get to my womb. I was then told I would feel a little bit of pressure as they delivered Eleanor, but as I wasn’t numbed properly it felt like they were scooping my insides out. I was still crying and telling them it hurt but all the doctor would do was spray me and give me more painkillers. I was so thankful for Adam being there to hold me, reassure me and sing to me to try and calm me down. Finally, at 11:36 on 13/10/2015 she was born and I laid there whilst Adam held her and they stitched me up.
Finally I got to hold my baby girl and I was so happy that she had arrived and was healthy. The doctors put her onto my chest for skin to skin contact as I’d requested and wheeled me into the post op room with her snoozing on me. From there we went back to the labour ward and our mums got to meet Eleanor and that’s as much as I really remember.
After that the day is a huge blur till the evening when I was filled in on the days events. Due to the amount of painkillers in my system, I actually stopped breathing twice as opiates suppress the respiratory system. I don’t remember any of this obviously as I was out of it, but this was quite terrifying for my family – in particular my brother who walked into the room as a team of doctors were running in to make me breathe again.
(Me when I was out of it)
When I came back around in the evening I was quite aware that I couldn’t feel my legs.I hadn’t expected this and so I was quite alarmed. Without having the use of my legs it was really hard to move myself on the bed – even more so as I had wires etc connected to me. The sheets were quite soggy with my sweat and so the nurses decided to change them with me still in the bed which was hard considering I couldn’t move. The nurses went to find a couple of people to help change the sheets with me still on the bed and at this point the doctor who had the bad attitude with me previously and who had given me too many drugs popped in to see I was okay and got roped into helping change my sheets. After the sheets were changed and I had been repositioned into a comfier position, the doctor then remarked that he wished he hadn’t bothered coming to see me and left again. Once again this upset me and left a negative feeling on what was supposed to be one of the best days of my life.
Seeing as I was out of it all day, I missed quite a lot of time bonding with Eleanor and I was really upset about this. Adam was there through it all though and dressed her, changed her, held her and was so wonderful with her and so hands on from the first moment. He was so supportive with me even though he knew how distressed I was and somehow made it all better. I’ll never forget him sleeping on the uncomfortable blue sofa and refusing to leave my side till the morning when he went home, changed and brought me breakfast as I’d had nothing since the Monday night. I was feeling a lot better by the Wednesday morning after having some breakfast yet once again it was ruined by the staff who then piled into my room (around 8-10 of them) and proceeded to lecture me about my weight and tell me I would be dead within ten years if I didn’t lose weight after my pregnancy. Once again, what was supposed to be a lovely blessed time was tainted by lectures on my weight and talking about things not even related to my baby.
At the time I did know I needed to lose weight. I had been watching what I ate and working out before I got pregnant and barely gained during (I actually lost weight at first) and had every intention of getting back on track when Eleanor arrived – but they didn’t ask me about any of this and they just presumed I was going to go home and eat blocks of cheese dipped in butter.
I was also told I wasn’t allowed to breastfeed unless supervised because I have sleep apnea and they thought I would crush the baby with the weight of my breasts if I dropped off which meant I had to learn to pump and then bottle feed which was a chore and took twice as long to feed. I only lasted 5 weeks of not being able to pump enough, or pumping for hours through the night and then leaking when I didn’t need to pump. It was a nightmare and quite frankly put too much pressure on me. I had it drummed into me that breast was best and breastfed babies go further in life etc etc but in the end I was just happy to have a baby with a full tummy.
By the middle of day two I had enough feeling left in my legs and decided to get up and sit in the chair as I was sick of the bed. It was then that I found out that my pressure dressing for my c-section scar wasn’t stuck on me properly and was sticking my thighs to my stomach rather than being stuck to my under stomach. This meant that every time I wanted to stand up or move, I had to unstick the bandage from myself before I could go anywhere and it got very tedious.
I soon got into the swing of caring for Eleanor and kept trying to express colostrum and they wanted me to go home on the Thursday, however I had wanted some more help with breastfeeding and expressing and so I stayed another night. For some reason I was never moved to the post-labour ward and stayed in the actual labour ward and so never got to have the new baby photos and almost got forgotten about. One day I got trapped in a chair and pulled the buzzer but nobody came for over twenty minutes whilst my baby cried and I couldn’t get to her. I had been sitting in a reclining chair with my legs up (to stop blood clots) pumping milk and didn’t have the strength to actually push the leg part back in and push the chair back up to get out. I ended up using every ounce of strength I had and throwing myself off the chair almost sideways to get out of the chair and get to Eleanor who was so distressed by this point. I understand nurses are busy and there’s births going on, but I was so panicked and desperate after being left so long – it was awful.
Finally the day came to leave and I was happy to be going home. There was some wonderful nurses on the labour ward, but most of the higher staff had been less than kind to me and I was ready to come home and get on with motherhood. Despite being told by staff that they thought I would need “extra help”(which I never have – I do the majority of the caring for our child and manage just fine), I was ready to get home and get into a proper routine with Eleanor. Adam came for me after work and I packed up my bits and got Eleanor ready in her car seat and we were ready to go. Later I would find out I wasn’t discharged properly and no paperwork or medical notes were sent to my doctors, no follow up diabetic appointments were made for me and I had to chase up getting medical stockings which I should of been discharged with. I really did feel forgotten about. It was quite annoying because I had to get prescriptions for medication from my doctors, but they hadn’t sent any paperwork over to my doctors so I had to call the doctors who then had to fax the information over before I could request my medication and make postnatal appointments.
I know that I have complained in this post, and really I shouldn’t complain about the NHS because it IS a free service and they do wonderful, incredible work every day but unfortunately I had a bad experience with them with things going wrong (which can’t be helped) which coupled with the fat-shaming and constant negativity about my weight – it all left a bad taste in my mouth.
A few weeks after I left the hospital I came back to have a meeting with a consultant as I complained about how the doctor treat me and how the procedure went in general and after I explained my story he admitted that they used the incorrect technique in my back and they should’ve used a shunt instead and he couldn’t understand why one wasn’t used. I said I understood I was a difficult patient and am aware how overweight I am yet he admitted that I’m not much bigger than the majority of the women coming through his doors and that his staff don’t have enough training on plus sized mothers. He assured me he was going to look into more training and research for plus sized pregnancies. I then brought up the way the doctor had treat me and how he refused to believe that I wasn’t numb which resulted in me feeling the whole operation. I explained that from the first moment he had a bad attitude and the consultant told me he was actually known to have a bad attitude and that was just how he is. Okay, there’s having an attitude but when a person is in the most vulnerable position they can be in – you really don’t need somebody having a negative attitude or making you feel upset. It’s really shitty and I felt like nothing and nobody would help me when I was going through the worst experience of my life.
This post has taken me a lot to write. Bringing it all up and re-living it all is so triggering to me and I’ve taken weeks to write this in tiny pieces as I’ve had to put it down and walk away and reassure myself. Since my section I have accessed counselling and have been diagnosed with having PTSD. I still have nightmares (thankfully not as frequently as they were) and I wake up crying, screaming, talking in my sleep, grabbing Adam or getting trapped in dreams. I dream about members of my family being trapped in medical situations, or I dream that I’m being chased by medical staff. I dream that Eleanor is getting taken away from me because I’m not good enough or that people are tearing at my flesh and worse things that I can’t even write about right now. I’m quite agoraphobic and I’m quite scared of being outside on my own and I’m working on building myself back up and building up my confidence. I still find it hard to watch medical scenes on TV and I can’t go to the doctors alone but that’s okay because I’m not perfect – I’m a work in progress and I will get there one day.
I really hope that one day I will be able to have another child. Right now I don’t think I could put myself through it again physically or emotionally because I’m still healing, but I really want Eleanor to have a sibling. Maybe I’ll never have another biological child and maybe I’ll go down the route of adopting which has always been a dream of mine – but not right now. Right now I want to enjoy my beautiful baby girl and grow with her. She inspires me every day and is the reason I get out of bed and go along with my day. Throughout my anxiety and PTSD, she is that one shining beacon of hope that gets me through and when I feel like I’m fighting against the current and drowning, she gives me the strength to pull my head above the water and keep on trying.
They say that time heals all wounds and love conquers all, and I hope that this is true. I hope that one day my c-section will be a white faded scar and a distant memory and memories of my beautiful family will slowly push the negative thoughts away and replace them with nothing but positives. I know I’m not there right now but I have so many hopes for the future. As Eleanor grows – as will I.
I hope this hasn’t been a too “woe is me” post and in no way am I looking for sympathy – I’m just a plus sized mum telling her story and trying to open up in the hopes of helping others and breaking down the stigma around PTSD.
Thanks for reading,