In Our Shoes – Covid Pregnancy Series

[Childbirth Related Trigger Warning!] “I gave birth back in August. Our little boy was conceived after our one and only shot at IVF that we could afford. We had been trying for three years. I arrived to the hospital on the morning of my scheduled early induction due to my gestational diabetes. I was terrified, but I tried to stay positive while my husband left me at the hospital doors, tears streaming down both our faces. I was admitted to my ward by a business-like, but warm midwife. The induction process started pretty quickly and so I was tentatively positive, thinking that maybe I would be okay. Unfortunately, my experience went downhill from there.

The induction failed, as did subsequent efforts by the hospital staff to break my waters. On day two, a male student doctor examined me quite roughly and tried to break my waters again. Whether he was just inexperienced or just didn’t care, he was unsuccessful and it was excruciating. My waters were eventually broken the next morning, day three. I was in a lot of pain and needed gas to get through it. Once they broke, the doctor told me I would be moved to the labour room within a couple of hours and I could call my husband to get to the hospital by 10 am. I was so happy that I would finally have support and was looking forward to meeting my baby. 10 am came and went. My husband sat patiently outside the hospital, waiting for me to call him in. My contractions had started and I was sure it wouldn’t be too long. A new team of midwives took over in the ward who seemed unaware of how long I had been admitted for. When I enquired at 2pm as to when I would be moved to the labour ward, I was told my turn would come. The midwife coldly told me to get on with it. My husband had been sat outside for four hours at this stage. I lay in my bed crying and trying to communicate with my husband through the pain. At 5pm, after my husband sitting outside for more than seven hours, I was told I was being moved to a labour room. Due to high temperature and heart rate, my baby boy was born by emergency c-section that evening. My time on the post-natal ward was even worse than I ever could have expected.”

“I tried to breastfeed my son in the hours after his birth, but the effects of the drugs from the surgery made it impossible. I was left alone, holding him while I was nodding off, desperately trying to stay awake so that I didn’t drop him. Early the next morning, his blood sugar was checked and was so dangerously low that he was whisked to the NICU. He was understandably bottle fed, ending all hope I had of breastfeeding. I tried desperately to express colostrum for him, but no staff were available to assist me.

The next morning, I asked could I visit my baby. A midwife advised me to wait and I would be brought by wheelchair, as I was only just 12 hours after surgery. She asked a medical student to bring me. This student was unimpressed at having been asked to do this, told me to walk, saying that would do me good. When the head NICU doctor saw that I was walking she was horrified and insisted I be brought back by a wheelchair. Thankfully, my baby was returned to me that evening. From then onwards, I struggled with trying to care for him. I still dealing with the physical effects of the emergency section. There was little to no help available, as the ward was dangerously understaffed. My mental health deteriorated quickly.

My baby wouldn’t settle and would cry when he wasn’t being held. I had to try to wait for visiting hours for my husband to come so I could visit the bathroom. My disposable underwear and maternity pads would be absolutely saturated by this stage. I got so little sleep that I ended up hysterically crying one night. A midwife took my baby for an hour and told me to get some sleep, but I could still hear him crying. I lay on my bed sobbing. I felt I had failed my baby. When I finally got home, my husband was so shocked at how mentally broken I was that it triggered an anxiety attack for him. I will never have another child. Even if I could conceive naturally, I wouldn’t want to after my experience in that hospital. My husband was not a ‘visitor’, he was my support system and without him, I crumbled.”

This series was created with @InOurShoes_ covidpregnancy to raise awareness of the strict regulations still in place since March 2020 which forces women to use Irish maternity services alone.

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