Birth Story – Baby Emily – Intervention can go so wrong

Dear Katherine,

I have included two stories for you, the birth itself and then what I like to call the aftermath! Hope they help with your clients.

The Birth
My waters broke at about 10:30pm on the Thursday night, 9 days overdue. I called my Doula to let her know what was happening. I decided to get a Doula for this birth because, I was determined to try for a natural delivery after not going into labour, being 2 weeks overdue and having 2 failed inductions last time, with it ending in an emergency c-section.

We decided it was best for me to get some sleep, as the waves hadn’t started yet. We were also conscious that if we called the hospital they would ask me to come in straight away. As I wanted to stay at home as long as possible, we agreed to assess the situation later and that I was to call her, when things progressed further.

At around 2am, after some sleep (I think I had more than my anxious husband did), some mild waves started. We dozed until about 4am when things started to seem like they were moving along. I got up to go to the toilet and noticed that I had what I thought, was a show.

I called my Doula again at around 5am and she said she would aim to be there in the next few hours. She arrived at 7am and I was still progressing steadily. At about 9:30am we decided to call the hospital. I told them that my waters had broken at 6am, I had a show at 9am and I was having very mild waves – a small white lie so they would not insist I come in straight away. They informed me that they were very busy and asked, would I mind waiting a while longer before coming in, which suited me, fine.

By this time Adam was getting our daughter off to my mothers and organising himself for the hospital. (I’m not too sure exactly what he was doing, but he was very busy). At this point I was glad I had the support of Jacqui my Doula who mostly stayed with me while I was practicing both my powerbirth and hypnobirthing techniques.

I was sick twice, once all over the bed which was a bit unexpected, but it gave my husband something to do besides worry.

At this stage I hopped in the shower for a while, leaving Adam to clean everything up, so I could continue focusing on turning inwards and being quiet.

The waves continued to come and go and around 12pm we decided we had better make the short 5min trip to the hospital, as I had been going for a while now, and before my husband had a heart attack.

We got to the hospital and I got settled and hopped straight into the bath, as I found the water the most relaxing and centring, while Adam and Jacqui informed the staff of my intentions to birth naturally, with no intervention and for my desire to have no knowledge of my progression throughout the labour. The staff at the SAN respected my wishes. However, they did have to monitor me a little more than I desired due to me attempting a VBAC.
They used the Doppler while I was in the bath and I had a few internals however these were done at the times I was out of the bath and with respect to our wishes; as much as possible.

I was lucky enough to have a midwife who was a Bowen therapist. She was able to do some Bowen moves on me throughout the labour. Being a Bowen therapist myself I found this invaluable, knowing the benefits of how it can remove some of the discomfort of the waves, as reported to me by my own clients.

My labour continued to progress slowly and I spent most of my time in the bath with Jacqui and Adam taking shifts to press acupressure points, I had shown them, through the waves when I lost my focus. Otherwise, I used my hypnobirthing techniques, which worked well. My doctor arrived at about 5pm to check what was happening. I think at this stage I panicked a bit and thought (my mind finally made an appearance) that as he was there, it must be time and I lost al lot of my composure. They checked me again and then he left so I concentrated on bringing my focus back to myself and being back in the moment and I hopped back in the bath.

By this time I was starting to get a little tired but I kept my focus on the here and now… not taking notice of the time. At around 7pm the doctor came back in to check and this time I ignored his presence however, I did feel like the baby was moving down further. He left again after talking to Adam and Jacqui, and I wanted to get out of the bath and get on the floor with the birth ball. Things were still going quite steadily so I went with that. Apparently the doctor popped his head in at 10:00pm, and I was very tired. All I could do was slump over the birth ball and only adjust myself slightly through each wave. Again they checked me, he spoke to Adam and Jacqui and left. I continued to be in the moment, although I was getting more and more tired.

At about 12:30am the doctor came back in and he wanted to talk to us, about our options. At this stage, by his calculations, I had been going for nearly 16 hours of steady labour (really closer to 26 if you count my white lies) and I was exhausted. But importantly, at this final check, bubs was starting to get distressed and I had only progressed to 3-4cms. (I asked to be told at this point so that we could make an informed decision). We discussed that the best option was another c-section because, if we left it any longer bubs may be further distressed. So I was prepped and by 1:25am on the Saturday morning, Emily Jane was born.

My doctor was very supportive of what I was trying to achieve through it all. He let me go a lot longer than his colleagues and bent the rules again for me (he did last time as well) and let my Doula, as well as my husband, into the operating theatre. He also let me have immediate skin to skin contact with Emily and let her go with me to recovery, all of which I was grateful to him for.

Despite having to have the c-section again, the birth itself was a positive experience and for me, I was excited to have experienced labour. What followed unfortunately was not so positive.

The Aftermath
Being a natural therapist, I have never been a fan of intervention, drugs, etc in childbirth despite having to have 2 c-sections myself due to lack of progression, being overdue and having a distressed baby(s). As such I had no choice however, I wanted to write to you to tell you what can happen after an intervention, that they often skim over in the prenatal classes, so you can let your classes know what can happen, if they decide to choose an epidural/spinal block, when it may not be necessary. If I can save someone what I have been through, I will.

During my births, I have had no choice but to have a spinal block in order to perform the c-sections. A spinal block is the preferred method of anaesthetic if an epidural hasn’t already been given, and because I hadn’t had any drugs throughout my labours, this is the standard course of action taken.

This time it wasn’t so straightforward for me.

I recovered quite well the day after the birth and knowing what to expect with a c-section after last time I was expecting some discomfort with my tummy. However, after they removed the catheter and stopped the intravenous pain relief, I began to get a headache.

At first I thought it was a reaction to the drugs, or because I was tired after such a long labour but I didn’t remember having it last time. As the afternoon progressed, it got worse until I finally mentioned it to the nurse at about 7pm, as it was getting quite bad, especially when I sat up.

She proceeded to ask me a whole range of questions about the headache, which was bizarre as I thought it was just a headache, and then she told me I could have what they call an epidural headache and that she would call my doctor.

For those of you unfamiliar with this, an epidural headache is when they accidentally pierce a blood vessel in the sack in your spine with the needle they put the anaesthetic in with. This causes your spinal fluid to leak out through the hole and causes a nasty headache. In medical terms it’s often referred to as a ‘Dural leak, or for us laymen an epidural headache, postural headache or chronic migraine.

Its instance from a spinal block procedure is about 1 in 20,000 (lucky me!) and is much more common with an epidural – 1 in 100. Apparently the epidural headache is much worse than I experienced (if that’s possible) due to the epidural needle being bigger therefore making a bigger hole/leak.

The fix for this is what they call a blood patch. This is a procedure where they inject your own blood into your spine at the original entry point using an epidural needle. An uncomfortable procedure that is pretty scary and leaves you for 8 -12 hours, flat on your back in the hope it sticks. The alternative is a couple of weeks (cases have been up to 5) with crippling headache and not being able to sit upright. All this with a new born… Sure!

I chose the procedure as horrific as it was.

This was just the beginning of my troubles.

As a result of the procedure I have had 3 months of pain in my lower back at the site of the procedures, despite seeing a chiropractor, acupuncturist and Bowen therapist on a weekly basis. I have been left with constant pain and some weakness in my left shoulder and arm, with me not being able to lift it above my head and no-one medical or otherwise, can tell me its exact cause. My guess is that it is to do with the leak into my spine. My chiro’ is positive that it will eventually be fixed, but it is taking a while.

As well as all this I was also unlucky enough to have shoulder tip pain, also a complication that can occur after an operation. Basically this is referred pain when air or amniotic fluid gets accidentally caught under the diaphragm. Ironically the fix for this is to sit up. With the headache you have to lie down but with the shoulder, lung and diaphragm referred pain; you have to sit up… not much fun.

Finally, the most devastating side effect of it all has been my milk not coming in AT ALL. I have had every test conceivable; to ensure that it wasn’t something more sinister due to the puzzling nature of the situation only to be told that I’m fine. It’s a mystery as I fed fine last time, with my eldest daughter only weaning herself 6 months before Emily was born. My Lactation Consultant is treating me as a re-lactation, but even then its not going as fast as it would for a normal case. Since then, I have done everything possible to increase it and have done so to about 40-50%, and I’m still working very hard on it, but have had to supplement her with Formula due to her not gaining weight. The most information I could find was some studies that show that some women who have opiates in their spine; can have trouble breastfeeding.

I have desperately wanted to let you and your classes know to think carefully before choosing intervention if they don’t need it, as there are many things that can go wrong. As I said, I had no choice due to my situations but it’s important to be aware and know that it’s not always just a simple procedure – someone has to be the 1 in 100.
Something to think about.

Chat soon