Today we are going to the hospital for E's consultant appointment, and I plan to pop in to the antenatal clinic to try to see the midwives who were there on the 28th July 2015. These two midwives are heroes to me. I can't actually see one of them without welling up - it's just getting embarrassing now!!!
The reason I think of them so very highly is that they listened, and this is something I had struggled with for most of my pregnancy. My own midwife was extremely passive, and had barely raised an eyebrow during any of our appointments, despite my complex history. I'd had various things to ask about during the appointments;
Thoracic pain - 'that's just pregnancy'
Carpal tunnel - 'that's just pregnancy'
Lower back pain - 'that's just pregnancy'
Reduced amniotic fluid on 20 week scan (I called her about this one) - 'don't google it - I'm sure it will be fine'
All she was interested in was;
'Are you planning to breast feed?'
'Are you taking pregnancy vitamins?'
My friend who was training to be a midwife was fuming at the reduced fluid response and told me to ring the hospital. I didn't want to because I didn't want to bother anyone, I felt, for the most part, that I was just being an annoying paranoid pain to my midwife, and my obstetrician was just horrendous. It took me about two hours but I did ring them, was told to go straight in, and they checked to see if I was leaking fluid. Something that I really think I should have been referred to have had checked following my scan? But I am no expert. Anyway it was all fine, the hospital antenatal midwives were lovely, and I left with piece of mind. In a weird kind of way I truly believe that going to the hospital that day, to get the fluid checked, saved E's life.
On the morning of the 28th July 2015 I had an appointment with the practice nurse for the whooping cough injection. E was unusually quiet. I'd been feeling quite unwell for a few days, so I wondered if she was also feeling a bit crappy too. I'd also been up all night with awful lower back pain, so I wondered if she was tired? When I think back to that now I know that the back pain was the first sign that something was wrong - but having been told 'that's just pregnancy' I hadn't even woken The Husband about it. I just took paracetamol and laid on the settee all night. This, at times, makes me angry. I wonder if things would have been any different had I called the hospital in the night? Probably not - but a little more time to prepare myself to have my baby, rather than a few minutes, may well have helped with my mental state (then and now).
At the practice nurse appointment I told her, 'my baby isn't moving this morning.' Unsurprisingly her response was full of disinterest;
'Oh my midwife used to say go and drink some cold water. It'll be fine.'
I left a bit peeved. I'd wanted a doppler. Thank god I didn't get one! But yet again - that don't care attitude, and feeling like you are being a paranoid pregnant lady freak! I was used to it by then - from my midwife, from my obstetrician, so why not throw the practice nurse in as well!
I met a friend for coffee and spoke to her about it. I had a cold fizzy drink before my coffee - no response. I knew she would after the coffee. Coffee was my vice during pregnancy. I only had one a day - but it was my treat, And always guaranteed to get E dancing. Only today it didn't. And now I started feeling a bit less of a paranoid freak, and a bit more concerned. The Husband was also texting me every few minutes by that point.
We had one of our fabulous obstetrician appointments that day at 3pm, so I knew we'd be having a scan later. Not wanting to 'bother' anyone else with my paranoid freak behaviour I sat tight. I went home and had lunch and laid on my left side. That would do it, that's what they always say. Lay on your left side. Nothing.
It just felt 'wrong', I can't even now understand how or why (besides the fact she was quiet), but it felt wrong. I spent about half an hour wondering what to do. Shall I just wait for my appointment? Shall I ring my midwife? She'll just tell me not to google it, or sigh, or tell me it's normal, and make me feel like crap. I just couldn't deal with her. So I decided to ring the hospital, they were so lovely before, and crossed my fingers that they wouldn't tell me to call my midwife. They told me to come straight up, for 'piece of mind', but they couldn't bring my scan and appointment forward. So I chucked a magazine in my bag, and prepared myself for a boring afternoon at the hospital.
When I got to the hospital and saw the first midwife I was all apologetic, because by that point I was sure that I was pissing everyone off with my paranoia and my 'complex history' - she was so lovely, listened to my story, and popped me on the CTG. Instantly we heard the heartbeat;
'Oh thank god!' Myself and The Husband breathed a huge sigh of relief. What a drama queen! We couldn't keep the probe in place so The Husband had to hold it. We kept losing the trace, because of the probe, we thought.
After around 20 minutes or so in walks the midwife with the lead midwife, and they were looking at my trace. They explained that the times where we lost the trace just meant that I should probably be monitored for a bit longer, but they would take me to the ward to do it.
'Oh it was the probe - it kept slipping.'
'Mmmmmmm well - probably just best we keep an eye on you, and maybe chat to a doctor OK?' How they were so calm I will never know. In fact when I asked them about it they didn't even know how they managed it! I imagine now how it must have been 'behind the scenes' - crash bleeps going off, theatre being prepped, and all the while I had absolutely no idea! Craziness!
So up we go to the ward, there was some kind of commotion to get me a wheelchair which I thought was completely ridiculous. I insisted I could walk. Once up on the ward I decided I would have to wee before they got me back on the monitoring, so I was faffing around looking for a loo. I'm sure now that everyone was literally going mad because I was so oblivious. Thinking back, once in the room I probably should have clocked that it was full of people, I didn't, I was too busy wondering how I was going to manage another hour or so laid on the world's most uncomfortable couch.
The doctor was constantly looking over my shoulder when asking me what had been happening. I remember thinking 'oh here we go again, someone else who doesn't give a shit!' Until the next words out of her mouth were;
'GET STEROIDS DRAWN UP NOW'
And that was the moment that I knew all was not well.
I knew though, that you needed two shots of steroids twelve hours apart, so for around 2 seconds I thought we still had time, until she looked at me and said 'I know you know what that means Michelle, and yes, your baby is telling us she needs to come now.' Less than half an hour later she was out.
When I'm thinking about that day, going over every detail, every moment, every second (a daily occurrence!) I quite often do a little worst case scenario story. What if I'd waited until the scan? I play that one out in my head often, how that scan would have gone. My psychology guru friend says that's common PTSD behaviour - so at least I'm exhibiting 'normal behaviour' in some area of my life!!!! But perhaps more worryingly, part of my 'worst case scenario' series involves what would have happened if I had called my midwife instead of the hospital. I obviously can't say, I am not her, but I feel I knew her enough to take a pretty good guess, and it kills me. I am so so so thankful to those midwives in the antenatal clinic. True heroes and credits to their profession.
Why is this such a common occurrence? The indifference, the nonchalance, the raised eyebrows, the rolled eyes. Why are pregnant women continually made to feel that they are over reacting? To the point that instead of getting help and advice we would rather just not bother anyone. I've heard so many stories, from real people (not social media), that are so similar;
'I was 32 weeks and I felt like I was in labour, I called and they said I wasn't, I went in and I was.'
'I was 42 weeks and in labour, they would not let me come in, by the time they let me go in it was almost too late and he will now be affected for the rest of his life.'
'I was 27 weeks and in pain, I was not seen, told I was fine, and I gave birth in my bathroom.'
'I was 22 weeks and in agony, I was told to calm down, I gave birth in my underwear'
'I was 41 weeks with reduced movement, told it was normal at the late stages, and I lost my baby.'
This has absolutely got to stop. I know we are an NHS under pressure. I know that most pregnancies and births are problem free. I know that pregnancy is not an illness. But the 'it'll never happen' attitudes really need to change. I know, as an A+E nurse I probably think differently. 'Worst case scenario' is my middle name! It has to be in my job. But really, it should be on the radar of everyone. Otherwise things get missed, and although that might just be a bad day for a health care professional, it is life changing for the victim.