So there I was in the hospital so excited that I was going to finally meet my baby. As a first-time mother I was so excited but also very anxious… Will she be ok? Will I be enough? Will we be best friends? These thoughts consumed me whilst being induced. Sure, the thought of giving birth was scary – but they had my birth plan, so nothing could go wrong right? Wrong.
I specified in my birth plan, I didn’t want an instrumental delivery. What I didn’t know, was I should have been given an elective caesarean section as soon as I mentioned that. The labour was long and the birth wasn’t progressing. So, eventually I was told ‘either push or we’ll have to use forceps’. I was so confused?! I didn’t want forceps! I was so adamant and asked for a caesarean section. The response: “It’s too late we need to get her out. Now!” At that point as mother, you’d do anything. It seemed so straight forward and successful when you read my reports.
But little did I know, not only did I give birth to my angel, but my whole world was going to change in ways I didn’t even expect.
I was so happy to finally have her in my arms! I was on top of the world! The recovery in the first 2/3 days seemed ok. Painful but tolerable. Then that all changed.
Suddenly when opening my bowels, I felt like I was going to pass out. No matter how much I washed myself, I was never fully ‘clean’. I was told my stitches were infected and send to A & E, after 3 hours of crying my eyes out. They sent me home with a weeks course of antibiotics. The midwife would visit and tell me, “don’t worry, let the antibiotics do their job. Give it a week.”
After a week I made an emergency appointment at my GP. At this point I couldn’t sit down. I couldn’t even lie down. I couldn’t walk properly and couldn’t look after my baby. I couldn’t breastfeed because I was on every type of over the counter pain medication I could get. I remember when we got to the doctors office, I couldn’t even sit in the reception. I just laid on my side across the bench. Within 5 mins of examination, my GP told me he was going to get me admitted back to the maternity ward. The GP nurse held my hand and wiped my tears for the next hour whilst he prepared the hospital for my admission. Even at the point I didn’t realise something was very wrong.
When I got to the hospital they examined me, but I was in so much pain that I was given gas and air. Screaming at the top of my lungs. They told me I had a rectal-vagina fistula. I still couldn’t understand what was happening. They kept saying things and I just kept looking confused at my husband. The emergency colorectal surgeon came in; took control of a spiralling situation and explained everything. He said I would need a colostomy to heal. At that point, defeated, in pain, at the mercy of this surgeon, I agreed to do whatever I needed to get home to my baby.
I was rushed into theatre next morning and woke up to a bag on my stomach. I think it only truly hit me then. I would wake up crying in a panic. The thought of my baby at home without me ripped my heart to shreds.
The first time I had my bag changed the amazing nurses did it, I couldn’t even bare to look. When I did eventually I was surprised to see a little strawberry poking through my stomach and it didn’t seem so scary anymore. My main issue would be skin around the stoma. They taught me how to cut my bag and made sure the size was correct. I’ve always prided myself on doing things on my own, and this was going to be one of those things. The second time I needed a bag change, it was a solo military operation: I went to the bathroom, stuffed tissue paper up my nostrils and changed my bag. The nurses were amazed I managed to do this all by myself so quickly. But all I could think was I needed to get home. 5 days later I was discharged and home with my baby.
The next 18 months were some of the best and worst of my life. What I came to realise was due to medical negligence, my bowel was perforated when either:
A) Forceps were inserted
B) When my episiotomy was sutured.
I would have to undergo another 10+ surgeries. Including examinations under anaesthetic, because even being examined was like being ripped apart. To finally be healed internally and the fistula fixed. In January 2020 I had my colostomy reversal.
What I came to realise was even though at first I hated my bag, it became a part of me. It saved me so I could be part of my daughter’s life. From stuffing tissues up my nose to change my bag, to changing my bag in 2 minutes, it became part of my daily routine.
I couldn’t have done this with my amazing support system. My husband stood by my side and held my hand throughout everything. At times he took the role of mum and dad to our child due to all my hospital admissions. He truly is a hero. My parents were a second set of parents to my little girl. My siblings, their partners, my husband’s sibling- all took turns in motivating me and consoling me when I was at my lowest. My friends rallied around me and made me remember I am still me.
Most women aren’t aware of the complications of forceps and more work needs to be done to raise awareness and ensure mothers are given the right support and information.