medical notes

In the blur of days following the birth of my twins I was given a leaflet with details about someone I could contact to discuss my birthing experience.  It didn’t seem relevant at the time as I was trying to look after two new beings whilst slowly (and painfully) emerging from a drug-induced fog.

Whilst I knew that I had nearly died in childbirth; I buried that piece of information and instead focused on surviving those first gruelling months of motherhood.  As I became more capable in my role I had more headspace for thought; and when I thought about “the birth” I usually found myself crying.  I assumed it was hormones and tiredness; and that it would pass.

When the twins were 6 months old I took them to see a Cranial Osteopath to help with their sleep issues.  Whilst there, the Osteo asked me if I’d been administered many drugs during the birth.  I said I didn’t know and explained the length and difficulty of the birth, resulting in an emergency c-section. He suggested that I had probably been given quite a lot of drugs and that it would be pertinent to get my notes to know exactly what they had pumped into my body; particularly since it could have impacted the twins.  I hadn’t even considered this…and so I set about the mammoth task of getting my medical notes from the birth.

I phoned the hospital and asked how I should go about obtaining my medical notes.  I was transferred a couple of times; quizzed on why I wanted the notes and then advised that a form would be sent to me.  The form itself was reasonably straightforward; however, there was a section about whether or not I intended to take legal action against the hospital.  I duly completed the form and sent it off registered delivery.  After a few weeks I called the hospital to ascertain when I might receive my notes; and they advised me that they had not received my request.  I provided them with the registered delivery details and suggested they look into it.  A week later I called again; and again; and again.  Eventually I lost my patience and suggested to the last lady I spoke to that perhaps they were deliberately avoiding dispatching my notes to me because they had something to hide.  Interestingly she called me within the hour; advising me that they had tracked down my request and that my notes would be copied and sent to me within the week.  A week later I called again – apparently they were short staffed and my notes hadn’t been copied; after another of my outraged rants I was advised that someone would do it that day.

I received a large bundle of notes a few days later which I read; and using Google, partially translated into comprehensive chunks.  I was indeed administered a shit-load of drugs over a 48 hour period; all of which I copied down to share with medical professionals in the future regarding my health and the health of my twins.

For about a year after giving birth; any discussion or thoughts about it resulted in tears.  I am pleased to say I can now talk about it like a rational person; however I do bear a bit of a grudge against the hospital….for two reasons.  1) the idea of talking through your birthing experience with someone post event is a really good one.  It would probably be better for a health visitor to provide the contact details once you are home and settled, with an explanation about how it could help; rather than pushing one of many documents into the hands of a scared and exhausted new parent.  2) we are all entitled to access our personal data and should be able to do so without hurdles or hindrance; particularly if that information we are seeking to obtain is pertinent to our well-being!

new born imperfections

When the twins were born they were very little – 4.9 and 5.4lbs.  They were also born with black hair which was a bit of a surprise; but apparently this isn’t unusual for new borns.  Just as eye colour changes, so does hair colour.

One of the first new born problems we encountered was Barnaby’s inability to retain and maintain heat.   This is considered dangerous because a new born may need to draw on glucose reserves to keep its body warm. At one point, he was taken away and placed under a heated lamp.  He was then put in a heated cot and brought back to me.  He stayed in the ‘hot cot’ for a few days until he could regulate his own body temperature.

Emilia had a red mark that started on her nose and spread over her forehead and eyelids.  I thought it might be a permanent birthmark but after about a year it started to fade.  It reappears very faintly when she gets really upset, but otherwise it has pretty much disappeared.  Again, this is not unusual.

The twins were induced at 37 weeks and so when they were born they were quite under-developed.  Consequently, Emilia was unable to latch-on which is common in premature babies, and so despite my best efforts she only drank breast milk from a bottle. 

Barnaby showed a willingness to latch-on but something was preventing him from getting as much milk as he should.  Upon a full examination, it was discovered that he was tongue tied.  This is when the string of tissue under the baby’s tongue (frenulum), which attaches the tongue to the floor of the mouth, is too short.  Whilst we were in the hospital I was asked if I was happy for the unnecessary bit to be cut and it was done very quickly after he had been given a little bit of a sugar hit.  Thereafter he could breastfeed without a problem.

A few days later when Barnaby was being examined again, the nurse pointed out a red mark on his chest.  It stood proud of his skin and was a deep red colour.  She told me it was a ‘haemangioma’ which is due to the extensive development of blood vessels in that area; and that it would grow and fill with blood, and then after a few years it would start to disappear.  Barnaby is nearly three and the mark is probably 2cm wide and 0.5cm in protrusion.  The blood has disappeared and the mark has deflated and is now a pale pink colour.  

Between 5 and 15 days after a baby is born the umbilical stump dries out, turns black and drops off; then a couple of weeks later the belly button heals completely.  Once the cord remnants were gone it was clear there was a bit of a problem with Emilia.  Both her belly button and the area around it protruded a lot.  It wasn’t an ‘outy’ it was more like a little hill.  We took her to see the doctor who referred us to the hospital where we were advised it was an umbilical hernia. Apparently umbilical cords pass through a small opening in their stomach muscles which closes soon after birth. An umbilical hernia occurs when the stomach muscles don’t join completely and the intestine or other tissues bulge through this weak spot around the belly button.  We were advised that it wouldn’t be causing her any pain and that if it didn’t shrink back over the next two years we should return and they would consider options.  Luckily it did shrink back after about a year or so and she now has a perfect little button.

Having researched each problem at the time and again to write this, it seems to me that these things are perfectly natural and reasonably common in newborns; but it didn’t stop me from being in a constant state of anxiety for quite a few months after they were born. 

I was lucky (I can say that now even though it didn’t feel that way at the time); we were kept in hospital for about 5 days and so the nursing staff were able to spot problems and imperfections quickly, and provide us with the information we needed.

Whilst supportive in some ways I didn’t find our health visitors able to help us with many of the issues we identified after we returned home.  Instead they referred us to the GP again and again.  A large majority of the GPs we saw either seemed bored with my concerns and/or left me with the distinct impression that I had become a neurotic Mum.  To avoid this I decided to visit doctors only when absolutely necessary and instead became a homeopathy and acupuncture convert; something that has proved invaluable over the last few years.


Mother B

When I had put together my Birth Plan, I had bravely (naively) stated that since I have a pretty high pain threshold I didn’t want to take any drugs that could impact the babies. Three or four hours into labour I had abandoned the plan and asked for every kind of pain relief available…as a consequence my recollection of the next few days is patchy.

Things I do remember are: being in a very high bed; being hooked up to lots of machines and tubes; being monitored every few hours; bad reception on the radio; seeing a sequence of anxiety, boredom and expectation on my husbands face in loop mode; being hungry and not being allowed food; reminding myself that a large proportion of women go through this at least once and so it can’t be that hard…

Over the thirty two hours I was in labour, sleep was intermittent. Since there was no knowing when I might be sufficiently dilated, KB was allowed to stay the night in my room. He was guided to the birthing mattress and given a pillow and a blanket. Because I was awake so much through the night I knew that he had slept soundly. The following morning when he awoke he told me how uncomfortable he had been and that his neck hurt. I remember this exchange vividly…my poor poor husband had a sore neck whilst (by that time) I had been in labour for twenty hours!!!

My dilation progress was slow; and every time I was checked and advised that nothing much had changed I felt like I was a disappointment, a let-down, a poor performer. There was very little to do but watch the clock; despair at the highly depressing day-time TV; and look at the hideously flat stomached, tanned women in the magazines I had taken in to keep me distracted.

The latter part of the second day is particularly hazy…but at some point I was told to start pushing…and I did! A lot. The number of voices increased, the chatter became faster and then quieter…and then a male voice announced that the babies were in distress, my temperature had dropped and my blood pressure had increased…or maybe it was the other way round…and discussion about an emergency caesarean ensued whereupon I was presented with a consent form. I could barely hold a pen but they wanted my signature which I gave in the hope that the chat would stop and the action would start. Kelvin looked tired and strained and was hovering…he hovers when he’s not sure what to do…I knew at that point that there was a possibility this could all go horribly wrong.

I remember being rolled down a very brightly lit corridor and welcomed into a theatre. A sheeted wall was erected covering my lower half; and a male voice suggested a ‘who’s who’…I think there were about 13 introductions.

Before the team started cutting me open they kindly checked that I couldn’t feel anything. Luckily I couldn’t but I was well aware of what they were doing as my body was being rocked from side to side. Kelvin was sitting by my left shoulder and I felt like I needed to be strong for him but my teeth started chattering and I suddenly realised that I had absolutely no control over my body whatsoever.

Shortly after my post operation “clean-up” up I had the opportunity to properly hold my babies; a boy and a girl. My initial observation was that they had black hair – I hadn’t even considered that as a possibility, and wondered if KB was maybe wondering about that… My second observation was that they were incredibly small, tiny in fact. I was wheeled into a ward with four other women all of whom were attempting to sleep, and I was positioned with a plastic cot on either side of me. At that point KB said he was going home to get some sleep but that he would be back first thing in the morning. I felt an overwhelming panic set-in. Why did he want to leave me now; how was I going to cope without him; would he come back or had he seen enough to scare him off? A lovely nurse came to see me soon after his departure and asked me if I needed anything. All I could think of was a lovely cup of tea, so I asked and shortly thereafter she helped me sit me up and gave me my first cup of tea as a mother. It was delicious. My delight at the tea was soon replaced with the realisation that logistically I was somewhat incapable. I couldn’t move without searing pains around my abdomen; and so couldn’t put the empty tea cup anywhere, let alone twist to touch my babies. I was desperately tired, but I was gripped by the fear of something happening to my babies. Was I supposed to be feeding them? Should I be holding them? Were they breathing….? I rang the bell and the cheery nurse reappeared…I asked her what I should be doing and she told me to get some sleep and that they would be monitoring the babies for me. I felt relieved…but then started to worry that they could accidentally get the babies mixed up with other babies and I hadn’t spent enough time time looking at them to recognise whether I did in fact have the right baby. Two cups of tea and more irrational worrying later, the nurse told me they needed to take my little boy away because he was struggling to keep warm. After an intolerable hour I called the nurse back and said I needed to see him. I’d worked myself into an awful state and I think the nurse could see that. He was brought back in a heated cot and I fell asleep shortly thereafter.

getting & being pregnant

Getting pregnant is easier for some than it is for others.  Below, we have each given our accounts on pregnancy:

Mother T

My partner and I have been together for 14 years. (No, we’re not married yet, would I like to be?….. Well I think so, not sure!…ask me again in a couple of months!) 

We met on our first day at Uni. We were good friends for the first year and then we crossed the line of that friendship and haven’t been apart since.  We have been there for each other through thick and thin, and really early on in our relationship he had to take on my health issues too. Just before I went to Uni I discovered I had Cervical Cancer, which thankfully was caught in time and the bastard was removed. Two fingers up at you Big CC, but then the following year while at Uni I found out I have endometriosis. Now it’s a pain in the ass. Quite literally. So 13 years later and 4 operations it has settled slightly but unfortunately will always be with me and make my life hell, with hormonal outbursts, painful breasts, painful sex, painful ovaries feeling like they’re going to explode, and pains up my bum. But when I first found out, I had some doctors saying that if you want kids then try now then have a hysterectomy, or that I wont be able to have kids at all. This was in my 20’s when I wasn’t ready to become a mother or hadn’t actually been thinking about it BUT then that’s all I was thinking about. It haunted me. I didn’t want to listen to the matter of fact doctor and I certainly wasn’t going to have a hysterectomy. I took a lot of hormonal drugs and painkillers instead and saw a lot more doctors, and had a lot of people poke and prod my most intimate parts. This fucked with my body and my mental health.  I began to believe that I was never going to have children and hated my body.  Especially ‘down below’.  I binged, I put on weight, I got lost in who I was as a woman, I became very self conscious, very unconfident and worse of all I was jealous of other girls/women, who had no problems in that department. 

And then I fell pregnant at the age of 32. 

That was the day my life changed. My body finally did something awesome for me. I began to get fitter, healthier and a little bit more excited by this surprise. But there was still a little devil in my mind that said that my body was going to ruin this for me. I was super sick and had terrible heartburn but I loved being pregnant. I loved feeling my bump grow every day and the more confident I grew in the knowledge that I was nearing the 9 months and having a successful birth the more confident I grew in myself. Then 36 weeks in, She stopped moving. My heart felt like a lead balloon. I went straight to hospital and they hooked me up to all the machines until finally we heard the heartbeat to our relief. I went home so exhausted mentally and physically. I felt so sick. I slowly manoeuvred my way onto my bed when I most certainly heard a POP and felt wet down below. I tried to look down but couldn’t see pass my big belly, so like a beached whale tried to move off the bed and call for help – my waters had gone! – back into hospital!  My life changed again.


Mother W 

At the age of 38 I knew that I had fallen pretty hard into the medical category of ‘geriatric mother’. Not very sexy but I didn’t meet the right person to have children with until late in life.

Seeing the big 40 bobbing on the horizon, I was pretty convinced my baby boat had sailed but within a month of ‘trying’ I was pregnant. Sorry, awful expression that, far too visual.

I was naturally delighted but I was also paranoid that it was all going to go wrong due to my age. I didn’t buy any baby clothes until the very last minute and I was only brave enough to share the news on Facebook a month before my little fella was born. 

Despite my nerves, my pregnancy was a great experience, not an ache or pain at all. I can’t say the same for the stitches and sleep deprivation that ensued but it was fun while it lasted. 

Still suspicious that getting pregnant was a fluke and sure it would take longer the second time around, I was shocked to find I was pregnant again when our first born was just eight months old. 

My first reaction was to burst in to tears as I felt guilty that I’d not been a Mum long enough to Jack to be having another one. My sister said that it’s impossible to think you can give as much love to another baby as your first but your heart simply gets bigger. She was right. 

This second pregnancy was so different to the first. I craved crappy food and found myself devouring massive bags of giant chocolate buttons on the sly. The pains in my back and hips was so bad it hurt to lie down and I winced picking up my toddler. My bump was so massive I still can’t believe it when I see photos! Six months on and my body is still recovering, I still have hip pain lying on my side and sitting crossed legged is not much fun anymore.

Now a mum to two under two I feel so, so fortunate to have had them so late on and without complications but it is bloody challenging physically and mentally.


Mother B

I met my hubby working on a project in Sydney.  Previously we had both spent far too long with the wrong people and so wanted equality and fairness in our relationship from the outset. This worked well until we discovered that in order to get pregnant we needed some help from an IVF clinic.  This ‘help’ involved one of us (me) having daily injections, regular tests and probes, headaches, bruising; and a strong feeling that our equilibrium was slipping away.

We were very lucky that the IVF worked first time around; but the fact that we hadn’t fallen pregnant as easily as some people made us feel anxious about ensuring I did nothing to jeopardise the pregnancy.  I gave up sport (my addiction); alcohol (my relaxant); and reduced my (much needed) caffeine intake. We researched nutrition; and every ‘unusual’ sensation was rapidly googled with follow-up calls to the IVF clinic.  I became a borderline neurotic.

We discovered with great amazement and joy that we were having twins and – as you’d expect – I gradually ballooned into a hippopotamus with very fat ankles, and outstanding pelvic pain that made sitting/standing/sleeping pretty uncomfortable.  A hot Summer wasn’t hugely helpful nor was trying to juggle house renovations and commuting into London.

Whilst my husband was/is very supportive, I regarded him with envy and anger that his life was seemingly continuing as-was.  Meanwhile I was a (gigantic) shadow of my former self.  I placated myself with the view that it would all change back to the way it was once the babies were born, but of course it hasn’t which I have (with time) learnt to accept.