When I was pregnant I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to breastfeed, but then in those last few weeks, my maternal instincts went into overdrive. I started to imagine my baby being born and us having that first feed together. But just as my mind was made up, I was admitted to hospital with sky-high blood pressure. The next minute I had to be induced and my baby and I’s health was in danger. This is my story about what happened and how I was unable to breastfeed after a traumatic birth.
I was back and forth about breastfeeding
I really yo-yo’d on the idea of breastfeeding when I found out I was pregnant. Initially had a deep organic need to want to feed my baby with the body I was given, but as the pregnancy progressed I found a selfish seed in me that was so fed up actually being pregnant and cutting out foods and all the little vices I had. I felt like I had asked myself and my body to do enough and started to explore what it would be like to bottle feed.
I felt like I had asked myself and my body to do enough and started to explore what it would be like to bottle feed.
The closer I came to the end of my pregnancy my maternal instincts went from 0-100 pretty fast. The realisation I was going to be a mother was like no other and I found myself really treasuring those little kicks and bonding with my bump. I had a deep need to once again explore what it would be like to breastfeed and after discussing it with my midwife and friends, I was really excited to embark on this journey.
And just as if the universe spoke softly the decision to my body, my breast milk started to come in! I was so amazed. It was especially active when I was in the bath or shower. I couldn’t believe what my body was doing, it was all so real. As if looking down at the large moving bump containing an 8lb baby wasn’t enough, I just couldn’t believe how my body was now giving me the food I needed to feed him. My birth plan was quickly changed and I could not wait to get that baby on my chest the minute I had him. How amazing it is to be a woman!
At 38 weeks I noticed heavy swelling
On my 38th week of pregnancy, I had started to experience some heavy swelling in my ankles and hands. I went to see my nurse and was advised the swelling was not deemed enough to be classed as pre-eclamptic. However, my blood pressure was sitting a little high and I was advised to go to the hospital just to be sure everything was ok. Once there, my blood pressure was assessed over a period of a few hours. There were slight traces of protein in my urine but this was in the normal range for the later stages of pregnancy so I was deemed fit to go home.
I went to see my nurse and was advised the swelling was not deemed enough to be classed as pre-eclamptic.
I had a community midwife appointment the day so I wasn’t too concerned. It would be less than 24 hours until I could see another medical professional to put my mind at rest. At my appointment, the midwife took my blood pressure first, and lo and behold it was through the roof. The midwife suggested I lie on the bed and relax and listen to my baby’s heartbeat for a while and we could take it again, as it could be attributed to the early morning rush. Once again my blood pressure was even higher. She had no choice but to send me to the hospital once again.
My blood pressure just kept getting higher and higher
In the hospital I underwent the same observations only this time my blood pressure wasn’t stable. It was just getting higher and higher. The consultant was feeding me stat doses of medication to try and lower it to a safe level. I ended up being admitted overnight for observation.
I didn’t close my eyes to sleep once that night and for the first time in my whole pregnancy, I was scared for myself. Every anxiety-ridden thought I had ever had through this had been about the baby, never about me. My blood pressure was stabilised for all of about half an hour when I was shipped up to the maternity ward as there were not enough nurses on staff to keep an eye on me. So whilst four women came in and out with their partners and newborn babies’s I lay there at risk of having a stroke and having my blood pressure checked every 30 mins.
I lay there at risk of having a stroke and having my blood pressure checked every 30 mins.
A race to get my baby delivered
Finally, after what felt like a week my consultant came in the next morning and decided to induce me. This is not what I had pictured for my relaxing few days leading up to birth.
After 24 hours with a pessary, there were no signs of water breakage. I was taken up to induction where – after two attempts – my waters finally broke and I was labouring well. With contractions coming and going, I actually found I was managing pain levels pretty well with the gas and air. I was considering just using it as it allowed me to dull the pain but become lucid again after a few mins.
As the hours rolled on my blood pressure was once again becoming dangerously high. My midwife suggested I have an epidural as the nature of the anesthetic would lower my blood pressure and I was already exhausted. It took me no convincing because by this stage I just felt it was safer to get baby out!
Three attempts of the needle in my spine and my baby’s heartbeat dropped off the monitor completely. I saw the panic on my midwife’s face as she frantically searched around my stomach with the Doppler. Nothing. Her arm reached up past my face and the emergency buzzer was pulled and what seemed like 10 people ran into the room. I was getting socks pulled on, a catheter put in and the distant sounds of my partner being told he couldn’t come in as we needed to have a c-section and we needed it now. My last memories were being transferred onto a slab and a mask on my face, being told to count back from 10. I remember eight.
My baby was here but I was barely conscious
I woke up to see my mum standing over me. I was in horrific pain – which I now know was my uterus contracting. I was instantly put on a morphine drip. The next few hours to a day were a complete blur. All I knew was when I looked over to my left, there he lay, my baby boy Ezra. I couldn’t believe he was blonde. And then I drifted over again. This continued on and on and on.
For the next few days, I was slowly coming round to consciousness. I was starting to ask questions. The midwives were all so lovely and comforting and I was mesmerized by the fact my son and I were both living out of what felt like a nightmare situation.
For the next few days, I was slowly coming round to consciousness. I was starting to ask questions.
It hit me – I was unable to breastfeed after a traumatic birth
On my third day in recovery I looked over to see Ezra being bottle fed. All of a sudden I realised not only did I not get to give him his first feed but I was truly too ill to do it. I still had a catheter in, a uterus battery and so many cannulas I couldn’t see my arms properly. How could my body fail at the one thing it was made to do?
My dreams of having my little one feeding off me was gone and I wasn’t getting it back. I felt so guilty talking about my disappointment at not breastfeeding as I knew Ezra and I were lucky to be alive, and some other people are not so lucky. But now I understand it is ok to talk about it because although it was not as bad as it could have been, this was still my trauma, it was my journey and it was my story.
After 10 days I was discharged but I was still so weak
I left the hospital 10 days after admittance. I was on two blood pressure medications, pain medication, and blood thinning injections. Still immensely weak and really in shock, I didn’t feel as though I was living the dream when I took my baby home. My partner drove us all home and my dreams of us driving home as a family couldn’t have been further from what I had imagined. We didn’t speak a word on the way home. I just stared out the window. As soon as I walked in through my front door I vomited everywhere.
We didn’t speak a word on the way home. I just stared out the window. As soon as I walked in through my front door I vomited everywhere.
I ended up going straight to my mums where I basically slept for two days. My mum held the fort while my partner and I tried to process the last two weeks and now the new arrival. I felt so low in my first few days. Everyone had expected us to be this joyous family with our new little addition when in reality I could hardly move from the pain of my drain wound and just felt utterly traumatised. And as my milk dried up, the pain in my heart worsened. None of this was like I had planned! Why did my body let me down?
I was diagnosed with an amniotic embolism
I ended up finding out from my surgeon that my traumatic birth was due to an ‘amniotic embolism’. This is so very rare and really no one could have planned for it. Whilst I’ve made peace with what happened and have a healthy 18-month-old boy, I want to share my story to help others.
I want to let mothers know, especially first-time moms, that it’s ok if you don’t get that first ‘perfect’ picture for your Instagram, if you don’t feel up to having visitors, and if you don’t get to breastfeed. Everyone is different and everyone’s story is different. Don’t be afraid to tell it.
What is an amniotic embolism?
An amniotic embolism is a rare but serious condition which can occur prior to delivery, or in the immediate postpartum period. It is when the fluid that surrounds a baby in the uterus enters the mother’s blood stream. This can lead to potentially life-threatening complications for mother and baby. To find out more about amniotic embolism you can read this.
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