That old cliche...........That was me apparently, well it was certainly how I was treated anyway.
In the news today is the tragic story of Tracey Taylor, who, despite repeated pleas throughout her pregnancy that she had been advised that she would need a caesarean section following the birth of her first baby, was strongly 'encouraged' that she could have a safe vaginal delivery. She unfortunately had the same complications as her first delivery, and after one hour of pulling with forceps, the result was an emergency caesarian section. Tragically her baby Kristian suffered severe brain injury and died 5 days later.
Sadly, her antenatal experiences mirror my own.
When my lovely fibroid Professor (aka GOD) heard the news of my pregnancy he booked me in to his next clinic the following week. Amazing really, considering the wait to see him following referral was several months (felt like years at the time). Aside from putting me on every drug possible 'to keep this baby where it should be', and congratulating The Husband on his 'swimmers' (!), he also mentioned that when the time came to meet our miracle that I would need a caesarian section. My womb at that point had been the subject of three operations in 18 months - the first involving diathermy (burning off) multiple deposits of endometriosis on the outside, the second comprising of 20 fibroids being removed from my lining with what can only be described as a small circular saw..........yep - not a good idea to YouTube the operation you are going to have. The third operation was more of the circular sawing situation, and as part of my recovery to reduce the possibility of scarring, a 'balloon' was blown up inside my womb, forcing it 'open', for 24 hours. Ouch indeed. The result of this was a nasty infection called endometritis, which left me septic and very unwell 3 days later.
So you could say, the old womb had had it's fair share of trauma. Serves it right really for deciding to grow the multiple blood sucking energy draining blighters in the first place.
GOD felt that due to all the trauma, and also due to the fact that this baby I had managed to conceive was a complete and utter miracle (the same chap had been telling me we would need a surrogate just 3 months prior!) for safety's sake a caesarian would be the sensible option. We reluctantly agreed. It wasn't ideal, but here we were, in a situation we never thought we would be in. We would do anything for the safety of our baby. And we trusted this man impeccably. He had done for me what several doctors either couldn't or wouldn't. He saved my womb, and now, thanks to him I was pregnant.
Due to my complex history I was referred for consultant led care during my pregnancy. Our first appointment was at around 10 weeks pregnant. We were seen by the registrar who listened to our history, questioned why I was on the medication I was taking, raised his eyebrows when he found out who was my fibroid Professor, and concluded with 'I'm going to speak to the consultant.' After several minutes in walks the consultant. An eccentric Indian chap, with a bow tie and a lisp. I thought 'I'm going to like this guy,' and then he started speaking.
'Why did you not come to me for your fibroid removal?'
'Why were they not taken as an open myomectomy?'
'25? I really don't think you had 25........'
'C Section? Why Is Professor M saying this? What is his rationale? I don't think this is necessary at all.'
The consultant made me feel like utter shit. And I left questioning The Husband on how many fibroids I'd had. Had I made it up? Dreamt it up? When were we told? Prof M (GOD) did say that didn't he?
They insisted on writing to Prof M to question his rationale. Prof's response to me was 'I have seen inside your womb, I have travelled this long journey with you. He has not.' Unbelievably, the letter sent to him from my obstetrician - consultant knobhead - stated that I was eager for vaginal delivery! An outright lie, I'd said nothing of the sort.
Women do not opt for a c-section 'just because'. Well most don't I'm sure. I was an avid watcher of 'One Born Every Minute', had listened to some lovely home birth stories from one of my friends, and I'd been a birth partner for my best friend twice. I knew the type of birth I wanted. A lovely water birth, maybe with a bit of hypno birthing, in a birth centre, with no fuss, no intervention and no pain relief. A magical moment between me and The Husband. The last thing I wanted was to be without The Husband, sitting on the edge of a cold theatre table, gowned up, while an anaesthetist stuck a needle in my back. Nor did I want to be hiding behind a screen while my baby was born. I was really disappointed that I had to forget my 'ideal' birth, and had started researching ways to make my planned c-section as 'natural' as possible. Now thinking about the birth I did experience, a normal planned c section would have been heaven!
It was all quite stressful and I wondered why the consultant was so against it. Of course you have the usual 'this is major surgery' stuff to think about, but really after the surgery I'd been through it was lost on me. And if a c-section was the difference between my baby being born safely, and the risk of me rupturing my womb and therefore risking my own life and the baby's, then surely it was a no brainer? I wasn't a silly scared girl worried about my foof being a bit stretched, or being in pain (I'd been in pain for the best part of 3 years....every time my womb had tried to 'give birth' to my fibroids.....) And then suddenly I felt sick. This was about money. I BET it was about money. I work for the NHS myself, I know all about these 'initiatives' and 'targets'. This was absolutely about money.
Following the figures released on the news today I believe this even more. A difference of nearly two thousand pounds between a vaginal delivery and a planned caesarian section. It speaks for itself.
The consultant didn't stop his knobbish behaviour there. At 25 weeks my scan looked like this:
For those who are not super at interpreting these things it basically shows poor baby E squashed in half of my womb, while the other half is empty, and the cause is a big mountain type structure in the middle, it's scarring apparently. The sonographer was horrified, and told us the images would be sent to the fetal medicine unit at one of the London hospitals. Once at my 'consultant' appointment half an hour later the airy fairy female registrar asked me if I was taking pregnacare, and said my blood pressure was Ok, see you next time.............The Husband and I looked at eachother in confusion:
'Did you see my scans?'
'Erm, are they going to fetal medicine?'
'No, the consultant says they are fine.'
'Erm......what about the mountain?'
'The baby will push it out of the way when she needs to, it's nothing to worry about.'
On the way out the door she then said:
'Oh, you are booked in for a c-section at 39 weeks, we received the letter back from your fibroid consultant.
I asked if 39 weeks would be OK - Prof M had said 38, just to lessen the risk slightly that I would start labour naturally.
'Nope - it will be 39. It's important she stays in there as long as possible.'
LOL - the irony here is hilarious (on a good day - when I'm not angry, when I'm not upset, and when I can think straight). She stayed in for just 29 weeks, because she was distressed, because she was squashed, because she absolutely COULD NOT just 'kick' through the mountain (the doctors who delivered her could not even pull her through it!). And the result? A crash c section costing about three times the amount of a vaginal delivery.
While I thank my lucky stars every single day that despite all of this E is absolutely fine, I feel so angry that similar things happen with devastating consequences, such as Tracey and Kristian's story. My counsellor says I'm using my ante natal care as an 'outlet' for my anger. Absolutely not true. I'm angry because my care, for the most part, was shite. During most of my antenatal care, and even post natally after my hugely stressful delivery, I did not feel listened to, I was virtually accused of lying about my history, I felt like I was wasting people's time, and that I was continually over reacting. Of course there were heroes to my story, such as the midwife at the hospital who took my call on the day E was not moving (I'd called the hospital because my named midwives response to everything was 'well that's just pregnancy.'), and the consultant who delivered her, who took the lead when the registrar could not pull her through the mountain. He removed my womb, put it on top of my abdomen, and just sliced it open 'like a butterfly chicken', I was told (!!!), and lifted E out.
The fact is - you put your trust in these professionals, and unfortunately that are not all on 'your side'. I squirm every time the media covers the UK's high still birth rates and question why the rates are high. In my opinion they are high because of attitudes. Until attitudes change and women are listened to, involved, and advocated, then nothing else will change.