There is no one single story of becoming a parent. We are on a parenting journey for the rest of our lives and between us we have millions of stories we could share, so where do we begin…
Let me start with what made me want to create the Unspoken Parents community.
Warning: This post contains descriptions which some may find upsetting. If you are currently pregnant approach with caution.
I was classed as a low risk pregnancy, every prenatal appointment had gone well, and I was looking forward to the next 5 weeks of my pregnancy, going on maternity leave and putting my feet up!
As a first time Mum, everyone tells you that you will go past your due date and labour can take days. For some reason, I had it in my mind I was going to give birth early, maybe it’s because I was 4 weeks early myself, but I was fixated on it.
On the 9th April 2018, my day started like any other day, I was feeling pretty pregnant and the last thing I wanted to do was get on a commuter train into central London. I was in a bit of discomfort, so I opted to work from home, even though I felt guilty to ask, this was probably the best decision of my life.
I continued to work until just past 3pm (take note of the timings, they are important!). My Mum called me around 4pm and I mentioned I was experiencing pains, she told me to call the hospital and insisted I called her back. If she had not told me to do this, I wouldn’t have called the hospital, I’ve never liked to cause a fuss and especially over what I thought was nothing. I was 5 weeks away from my due date and the pains were like a constant dull period pain, nothing to worry about I thought. But my Mum making me call the hospital, probably saved both our lives that day.
Jason, the Dad, was in West London at the time and I was in South London, I didn’t want to bother him, so I told him I was just going to get checked out and got a taxi to the hospital. I arrived at 4:30pm and was told to sit in the waiting room. By this point the pain was starting to get pretty bad and I was walking around, trying to take my mind off it, but it was still not what I would describe as labour, so I didn’t tell anyone. Thinking about it now, I was actually in a lot of pain and I wish I had spoken up rather than keeping it to myself. We should always trust our instincts and speak up if we can tell something isn’t right.
At 5:30pm everything changed as I felt a sudden gush of liquid. Complete panic set in as I put my hand between my legs and saw blood. I rushed to the midwives and they told me to show them in the toilet, they were trying to calm me down but when they saw how much I was bleeding, I could tell they were worried. They sat me down in a corridor with all these other pregnant women whilst looking for a doctor, but I was completely hysterical on the phone to my Mum and Jason, not knowing what on earth was happening to me and the baby. Once they found a doctor I was moved into a room and undressed myself in the bathroom. I remember the sound of the blood hitting the floor, it was pouring out of me. I was shaking and crying uncontrollably as they moved me to a bed to examine me. The doctor then told me the last thing I was expecting to hear that day, I was 5cm dilated and the baby was coming today.
Now I am no writer so it’s hard for me to put into words just how terrified I was for my baby’s life and my own. I was completely alone, unprepared and had no control of the situation.
With no time to even think or understand what was happening, they rushed me into theatre as the baby barely had a heartbeat, and I was prepped for a caesarean. But in the space of 20 minutes I had gone from 5cm to 10cm dilated, so they told me they had to deliver the baby naturally there and then. I barely knew what was going on, I couldn’t comprehend what was happening, just over an hour ago I came to the hospital with mild pains, no idea I was in labour and now I was being told to push. All the hypnobirthing classes went out the window, and now I was having a very intrusive and emergency birth. I think this is why I had further to fall emotionally, this is not what I had planned and prepared for.
I was in so much shock and drugged up which is not what I wanted. I didn’t know what was going on, but there was was so much equipment and people in the room and they were telling me to push but I couldn’t feel a thing. It was awful and traumatic, but it was extremely quick. At 6:43pm they delivered Joshua. My hospital notes said by labour time was 45 minutes!
How could this have happened with my first labour? Joshua was born in very poor condition and they had to take him straight to the NICU ward with me only seeing the top of his head for a second. I had no idea if he was ok or alive and I was just lying on the bed helpless while they stopped the bleeding and removed the placenta. As a Mum you dream of seeing your baby for the first time with your partner and having skin to skin contact. To have none of that was devastating, and something which still causes a lot of hurt.
When I was brought out of theatre, I finally saw my partner who had just arrived and broke down. There was no sign of our baby, I had given birth, but I didn’t feel like a mother, I just felt like I had been in an accident. My stomach went flat almost instantly, and I felt empty and lost.
After only a couple of hours, and still unable to see my baby, I was moved to a ward with parents who all had their babies. I could hear them, and I just broke down again. My partner thankfully was able to pay for a separate room to remove me from such a thoughtless and heartbreaking situation.
Sleep was completely out of the question after what we had been through and I was determined to see my baby that night. I had lost a lot of blood, felt really faint and in a lot of pain after the episiotomy, but at around 3am I managed to make it to the NICU ward. The machines and beeping noises were overwhelming, and Joshua was tied up to so much equipment I could barely see him. I wasn’t allowed to hold him, I just remember staring at this tiny and fragile baby in the incubator feeling so disconnected from him.
I was in a separate part of the hospital from my baby and there seemed to be no communication between the nurses, some of them even asked where my baby was, which was so upsetting. The worst part was being asked to go home the next day. Leaving the hospital without my baby is something I never considered I would have to do. How was i going to bond with him? How was I going to breastfeed? It was probably more heart wrenching than the actual birth.
Jason and I had 3 long weeks of going back and forth from the hospital visiting Joshua. It was the most emotional time of our lives, but we were lucky, Joshua went from strength to strength each day. We are so blessed to have such a healthy and happy baby, but there were other families with premature babies who had to watch their babies move backwards from the ‘going home’ room.
Having a premature baby is extremely worrying and traumatic for any parents, and something I relive all the time. Despite my family and friends knowing I had a traumatic birth and a very difficult start to parenthood, I wish I had spoken up more. I became withdrawn, didn’t want to speak to people and when I did tell people my birth story, I brushed it off.
It’s only when Joshua turned 10 months old, together as parents we recognised we had experienced a lot of trauma and really spoken to each other and decided to get some help.
Writing this has undoubtedly been difficult, taken several attempts and quite a few tissues. But whatever your story, I don’t want other parents to put their experiences to the back of their minds which can manifest into something far worse for your mental wellbeing. We find strength and peace in talking to others.
Help raise awareness. Tell your story.