Trigger Warning: This birth story contains details of instrumental delivery, haemorrhage, tearing and prolapse. If you are triggered by these topics you may wish to skip this blog or read it once you have support available. If you are seeking support for your birth trauma, you may wish to contact our Peer Support Service.
The pregnancy with my daughter was fantastic and I was excited about my impending VBAC. I had fought for it and found an OB and Midwife at a private clinic who would support me with my decision, but looking back, I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
I was told in the days leading up to my due date that I had no worries about birthing naturally, my pelvis was a good size and my daughter was ‘in position’ so I was excited that I was finally going to get the vaginal birth experience I wished for with my son (5 years prior born via elective c-section due to being Frank Breech). At my last appointment with the Midwife, I explained that I had been slightly leaking urine and asked if that was of concern but she said its normal and that I’ll just have to concentrate on my pelvic floor exercises after birth. This should have been my first warning sign but I didn’t know then what I know now.
Sadly, I didn’t have my OB for the birth as she was on holidays so even though we spoke about how I wanted to use the shower and if I had to constantly be monitored (due to being VBAC) then I wanted to use the portable monitor in the shower and she was on board. She said “I’m fine with it, I tested it on another lady a few days ago, I know it works and I’ve put it on your file, but if they don’t do it, you’ll have to tell them that’s what you want” and off I went.
I was now overdue by 7 days and had another check up appointment with a replacement OB. He checked everything and said we can wait until 42 weeks to see if she’ll come on her own. I was happy as that’s what I wanted.
I made a call to my OB’s office to ask a question (I can’t remember what for now) and mentioned to the Receptionist that I was going to wait it out until 42 weeks. Then, maybe 10 minutes later I received a call back from the Receptionist saying that she had spoken to my OB (who was on holidays) and that I had to call the ‘stand-in’ OB to arrange an induction in the next 3 days because she will not let her patients go more than 10 days overdue because of the risk of baby being stillborn. I was terrified so I quickly called back the ‘stand-in’ OB and told him what I’d been told and he advised that it is my body and I can make the choice that is right for me. He wasn’t aware of any increased risk of stillbirth due to waiting until 42 weeks and at my checkup that morning, there was no medical reason why I couldn’t wait until 42 weeks but he said it was 100% my decision. Still terrified at the prospect that my daughter (that I’d waited 5 years to conceive) could pass away before being born, I decided to go ahead with the induction and that’s where my prolapse journey started.
I was booked in for my induction on Thursday morning but on Tuesday night I started having pains so I rang the hospital and they said that as I’m having a VBAC they wanted me to come in to be checked. So I went in and it turned out to be nothing, but they kept me in overnight anyway to be monitored. It was decided that because I was already there and staying overnight, my induction would be brought forward to Wednesday instead of Thursday.
So, I was induced at 41 weeks. The nurses told me in the morning that the OB would come at 7.30am to break my waters so my husband decided to pop home to shower and see our son off to school with his grandparents to reassure him that all was ok. But nevertheless, no support person present for me and he broke my waters anyway. After my waters were broken they brought breakfast in so I ate whilst waiting for my husband to return. Still no husband and the nurse comes in at 8am to start the Synto induction.
I told them I wanted the portable monitor and they had it on initially but they kept saying that it was slipping off so they wouldn’t be able to use it anymore and I had to stay on the bed attached to the non-portable monitor.
Not long after the drip had been started, the contractions came on fast and furious. From the very first contraction I told the midwife that I needed Epidural because the pain was horrific and I had to get out of the bed and stand up. So she helped me off the bed and I was hunching over the mattress trying to manage the pain as best I could. She told me to try the gas so I did and it basically did nothing for the pain. Second and third contractions came and I was told that the portable monitor wasn’t working while I was standing on the floor and leaning over the mattress so I had to get back into the bed. The Midwife asked if I wanted Pethidine and I accepted because I was in agony. I still kept asking for Epidural though.
The details are blurry, as you can imagine, but it was maybe about this point my husband finally returned and saw how much pain I was in and that I was high on the gas with my eyes rolling back into my head so the nurse took the gas off me and said I couldn’t have any more.
Every time I was told to push, the midwife would say to me, “if you’re screaming, you’re not pushing hard enough, hold your breath and push as hard as you can” and with every push my daughter would crown and then retract after I stopped pushing.
The anaesthetist came into the room for the Epidural and said to me “you’re about 15 minutes off having a baby so we’re too late”.
The OB had been watching the progress for some time. The drip was started at 8am and contractions started relatively soon after and by this time it was maybe 9.30am and my daughter was stuck. Her head was crowning but she wasn’t getting anywhere so the OB said that I could continue trying to push her out for hours but she’s not going anywhere and all I’m going to do is damage to myself or my daughter so he asked me if I consented to vacuum delivery. Having not been informed of the risks of vacuum delivery or the fact that I could end up with pelvic organ prolapse as a result, I accepted the vacuum delivery to ensure my daughter arrived safely.
My daughter was born by 9.45am and I was stitched up in birth suite after my episiotomy.
In the days immediately after birth I felt fantastic but fast forward to about 2-3 weeks postpartum and I felt ‘something’ down there. I was uncomfortable, it felt like something was stuck inside and even walking around was a problem. Lifting my daughter made it worse even though she was tiny. I felt so fragile and weak and broken but had no idea what was wrong with me. I had been crying for days and my husband finally said to me, call your OB’s office and see if the midwife will see you to make sure everything is ok or at least be able to tell you that what you’re going through is normal for post-vaginal birth. So I made the call and was told that they don’t see patients until 6 weeks postpartum. I was shattered! I had paid a private OB to look after me during my pregnancy and post-birth and they wouldn’t see me despite my concerns and discomfort.
My only other option was to call the OB that delivered my daughter and ask if he would see me. He obliged without hesitation so he examined me and said that everything was ‘as he would expect for someone who had a baby vaginally 3 weeks ago. Some laxity but no prolapse”.
At about 4 weeks postpartum I was still suffering and I just couldn’t accept that nothing was wrong because I felt awful, was so uncomfortable and couldn’t stop crying so I went to see a Women’s Health Physiotherapist and she confirmed my worst nightmare (after finding out from google searches that this was most likely what I have) – I had pelvic organ prolapse and as I still had stitches at that time, she estimated that it was probably a stage 2 Cystocele. I left her clinic feeling terrified of the future, depressed that I wasn’t going to be able to get back to the exercise I loved pre-pregnancy and generally just fearful of how life will change and of all the things I wouldn’t be able to do with my daughter or my 5 year old son. I was broken.
In the months that followed I googled everything about prolapse, I joined every facebook group I could find and I found another Women’s Health Physio closer to home and booked in to see a Urogynaecologist. I had never even heard the word prolapse before and I certainly wasn’t warned about it by my OB or midwife, not ever, not at any of my appointments throughout my pregnancy.
The Urogenaecologist confirmed that I have a stage 2 bladder prolapse and was stitched too tight after my episiotomy which has meant that almost 2 years later I still have problems. I can have another surgery to fix the overstitching but at this point, I’m too terrified of anything being made worse so I haven’t had the courage to do it.
I am surprised and angered by the fact that in 2018/2019 (at the time) there wasn’t more help available to women with prolapse and the help that is available is expensive and out of reach for some.
I felt uncomfortable and sad and I cried almost every day for so many months. It literally consumed my thoughts every day for much longer than I care to admit. Many moments during the months after the birth of my daughter that should have been special, were overshadowed by my tears and sadness and despair. Everything I found out that I couldn’t do anymore I just had to add to the list of things that prolapse took away from me. There were even times when I considered ending it all because I was living in misery. I remember 4/5 months postpartum being probably the worst time in terms of physical symptoms so that took a lot of mental strength to get through, but honestly, I think the two things that helped me most (other than my husband and children) were my Women’s Health Physio and the prolapse group on Facebook called ‘Pop Fitness” – Haley Shevener and Annemarie are amazing and so good at what they do.
I am now almost two years postpartum and although I still have issues due to being stitched too tight after my episiotomy, the symptoms of my prolapse have improved a lot and it doesn’t consume my every thought, every day, any longer.
If this story helps even one other mother navigate her own birth trauma, I’m happy!