#MatExp – the longest, most exhausting, emotionally draining night of my life

Hi everyone! After a lovely summer break I am back and raring to go! As I am attending the NHS Expo on Wednesday as part of the #MatExp team I thought I would start with a birth story. This is the maternity experience of a friend of mine, told in her own words:

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“I had both my children by emergency c-section. My son was born after 28 hours of labour and was very unsettled from the minute he was born. He cried all of the first and second nights in hospital (and for a long time after). But the midwives were very kind to me as a first time mum.

When I had my daughter, it was very different. I arrived at the hospital at 9:30 am, 9 centimetres dilated. It was immediately obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to have a natural birth (she hadn’t descended – I have a very small pelvis), I had a section quickly – I was only in labour for 6 hours. My little girl’s arrival was much more calm and neither my baby nor I were nearly as exhausted as the previous time. She latched on easily enough, and as a second time mum, I was pretty much left to my own devices. She then slept most of the first night. I was confused by this, as my son had basically either sucked or cried the whole first night of his life. I now realise that this is normal for a c-section baby, especially as I had had extra diamorphine and anti-sickness drugs as I had a bad reaction the first time. I have also read that as long as the baby latches on within the first hour, they don’t really need another feed for 6 hours. I was seriously worried that I couldn’t get my baby to feed every two/three hours (which had been my recollection from my son – probably remembered from a few days old). I kept telling the midwives I was worried, but they just said, “Oh, she’ll be fine”. I do wish someone had taken the time to explain the above, I would probably have been able to relax and actually get some sleep that night!

The second night was awful. She was so unsettled. I couldn’t get her to settle. She wouldn’t latch and she wouldn’t sleep. I was exhausted. Because I’d been to the toilet etc, I wasn’t being checked as regularly. The midwives did take her when I asked and settled her to sleep but I woke up about 15/20 minutes later to find her back beside me awake and crying. I was then too shy to ask again. I was in a double room, but the other girl had been discharged so I was on my own. I then spent nearly 3 hours pacing the room with an inconsolable little girl. I know I should not have been doing this but I kept thinking someone would come in and check on me. I didn’t want to make a fuss. I was crying much of that time. In the end, another girl came in from delivery. One of the midwives took one look at me, told me to get back in bed and took my baby away. I got two hours sleep then.

I have fairly recently found out that the second night “heebeejeebees” is very common. I suppose that if you’ve had a normal vaginal birth, you’re at home for the second night, and there is some support around – be it partner, mum or both. They can take the baby, allow you to go the the toilet, lie down for a little while, give you a hug! That night, on my own in a hospital room by myself, with my husband at home, was the longest, most exhausting, emotionally draining of my life. I felt so alone and absolutely distraught that I had put myself though this again. Thankfully, I knew it takes me a few days to get the feel of having a newborn and after a fairly unsuccessful breastfeeding experience with my son (I have a real and medical issue with my supply), I was determined to have a better experience with my daughter. I thankfully didn’t suffer any PND and successfully combination fed my little girl till 5 months. I’ve had a happy and fulfilling time with her as a baby (she’s 21 months now) but I can really see how both breastfeeding and bonding can take a hit in those first few hours/days. Not having any support during the nights can surely be one of the hardest things about having a c-section. Either allowing partners to stay or providing maybe trained volunteers, just people to get you a cuppa and hold the baby for a little amount of time, or just to reassure you about what’s happening could help. I think we all realise that midwives are horribly overstretched and need to devote their time to the emergencies and those really in need, but those who look like they are coping sometimes aren’t and are just better at masking it, so as not to cause a fuss.

I’m sure this is already obvious to everybody in the profession, but hospital was such a pleasant experience in the day, and such an unhappy one in the night. Given that newborns are so prone to being awake all night, some better night time support seems like an obvious improvement.”

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