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!

birth

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.