Saturday, 2 April 2016

A Tale of Two Birthplaces Part 2: Hospital Transfer

So my last blog post ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. OK not that much of a cliffhanger because I'm clearly fine, but still. I'd had my lovely, dreamed-about home birth, but a postpartum haemorrhage meant I couldn't have my lovely, dreamed-about post-birth experience of cuddling up on the sofa, introducing Preschooler to her brother while he was still hours old, and generally relaxing in my family home. I had to go to hospital.

I went in an ambulance which sounds dramatic but it wasn't really. One of the midwives came with me and I remember feeling awfully rude as she and the paramedic chatted to me when all I was interested in was staring at Baby. After a while we got to the hospital and I was wheeled through to delivery suite. That was a really difficult moment. There I was clutching my baby who I'd anticipated only being seen by immediate family at this stage, and everyone in the hospital waiting room was looking at us. I'll particularly never forget the woman having a fag outside the hospital who stood shaking her head at me, as if I'd done something awful. At that moment I wanted to cry.

I have to admit my whole experience of being in hospital was coloured by the fact that I didn't want to be there. The care was fine - for most of the day the midwife who'd come in the ambulance looked after me so I at least had continuity of care. But what I thought would be a stay of a few hours just got longer and longer. I had to have blood tests straight away then 6 hours after birth, then it was decided I should have IV fluids which meant a longer wait. (Why they didn't give me fluids in between the two sets of tests I don't know.) Baby was brilliant the whole time, feeding well and being really calm, but I was annoyed by everything. The noise, the bed, the vent on the ceiling that wasn't quite straight. I simply didn't want to be there. We video-called my in-laws to show Preschooler her brother - her reaction was a big, “wow!” While that was lovely I couldn't help but feel she shouldn't have had to see him for the first time on a phone screen.

After I'd had my fluids I was transferred to postnatal ward. My midwife had said I should stay for a couple of hours and consider staying overnight, but made it clear the choice was mine. I felt fine and was eager to get home, thinking I'd recover better in my own bed with my own stuff around me. Sadly the moment I was handed over to the hospital staff my wish to go home that evening was met with mild derision. We waited for a couple of hours only to be told that my second blood test results were unavailable due to server problems. More waiting made it clear they weren't going to be back before my husband had to go home, so the choice was taken out of my hands, I had to stay.

That night I was miserable. Baby slept for four hours straight but I was kept awake by the sounds of crying, snoring, noisy conversations and women labouring in the adjacent antenatal ward. I think I got about 20 minutes sleep. All I could think was that if I'd been at home I'd have been asleep, and comfortable - the hospital bed was horrible!

In the morning I made it clear again that I wanted to go home as soon as possible, but was told I'd need to wait for the well baby check and hearing screening, which would mean staying until the afternoon. Luckily my midwife from the home birth team came to see how I was doing and got things hurried along. I video called with my husband and Preschooler, she was really missing me by this point and said she'd asked for mum milk when she woke up. I felt awful for not feeding her the day before, and for not being there for her. When my husband arrived later on he said she was really upset and just wanted to start the day again, get back in her pyjamas and have mum milk in bed like any other morning. I cried thinking about it. By this time all the checks had been done but the midwife in charge of my paperwork was nowhere to be seen - she'd been called away onto another ward. When she returned to go through my discharge she was very apologetic, but by then it was gone midday. Lunch was being served so I quickly ate mine then at last we headed home. My husband went to fetch the car while I sat with the car seat in the waiting area, the one I'd been wheeled through the day before, and I told Baby we were going back to where he was born. It felt strange. But I was so relieved.

It didn't hit me until writing this post just how upset I am about what happened. If I rationalise it I know it was probably for the best that I went, but I still feel so sad and angry that I had to stay so long, especially as I felt fine. To have to wait over a day to introduce Baby to his sister, and to be away from Preschooler for longer than I ever had been before, was painful.

The hospital staff were great but clearly overstretched, and it was frustrating that so much of the delay was down to simple things like test results not being available or staff having to work across two wards. I also felt frustrated by the lack of choice I was given once under the care of the hospital staff - the home birth staff phrased everything as a choice, but the hospital staff seemed much less flexible. But again, that might just be me seeing things through the lens of not wanting to be there anyway.

I hope with time I'll come to accept everything that happened after Baby was born, the birth was such an amazing experience it's sad that the memory of it is tainted by what followed. People will tell me that the important thing is we're both healthy, and that is important, but it's not all that matters. Home birth came as a package in my head - not just labouring at home, but recovering at home too - so having the second half of the deal taken away from me was, and still is, hard to get my head around. The staff in hospital do a great job, but it would be great if they were resourced enough to allow women more choice over their care.

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