24 May 2012

The US vs the UK: Part 1

In the weeks leading up to the birth of Lowri to say that I was nervous would be an understatement. It's funny because looking back I was not really nervous at all about Eleri. I knew my options, or lack thereof, and I had genuinely convinced myself that it would not be that bad. I read books on natural childbirth, went to classes,watched videos, and then read some more books. I really felt prepared.

The truth of the matter was simple. On one hand I could have as much pain relief as I wanted. But an epidural also came with a stay on the 'ward' side of the hospital. Two to a birthing suite and then 6 women plus their babies to a room. The UK does not have a fancy nursery for babies that you can call whenever you want and they will come get your child. Nope, baby stays with mom 100% of the time. Or, on the other hand, I could have a private room to give birth in, a private room to stay in and a private bathroom in the birthing center. But no pain relief. Ok, I take that back. 'Gas and Air' was offered, which is nitrous oxide, but i could never grasp the breathing/sucking on the mask, carrying the big tube around and dealing with contractions. To me it was an easy decision. Private room. Birthing center. Natural birth. Not a question.

But this time around was different. Because of the complications I knew I was going to have to be induced a month early. It made sense that if I was going to be medically induced then there was really no point in going natural after that. I may as well opt for the epidural. So that was my plan. Easy right? You would think that after giving birth to a nine and half pound baby naturally I would have no qualms about an epidural on what was almost guaranteed to be a much smaller baby.

But I was scared. Really scared.

It was one third scared of the unknown and two thirds terrified of the aftermath. I had no idea what an epidural would be like. Would it work? Would I feel anything? Would I have back pain or headache issues afterwards? I didn't know what to expect and that was making me nervous. But mostly I was having serious anxiety about the hours and days following the birth.

I had no idea just how traumatic Eleri's birth had been to me until Lowri's got closer. When I looked back, I thought about the labour part. Granted that was not the most fun I have ever had, but it was manageable. So I had convinced myself that whilst it was different in the UK, it wasn't really all that bad and I had been just fine.  But it was what happened afterwards that really scared me. E was born at 8:08 pm.  Hospital visiting hours were over at 8. They let Rhys and my mom stay for about an hour afterwards. They brought in tea and toast, because that is all you are allowed after birth, and when we finished the midwives said it was time for them to go. I had gone through 22 hours of labour in the most interesting, and painful, positions possible. My baby came out dark purple and not breathing. She was breathing by this point, but still fairly dark in colour. My arms were so weak that I could not pick her up. I was bleeding profusely- quite possibly from having to walk down the hall to get stitches and then walk back to my room. I had already soaked through my sheets twice. I was mentally, physically and emotionally spent. And now my husband and mother were being told to leave and here I was alone. Alone with a baby that wasn't even 2 hours old.

I love Eleri so much that it hurts, so hear my heart when I write this- that first night alone with E was without a doubt the worst night of my entire life. She screamed and I couldn't calm her down. She wanted to eat and I couldn't get her to latch on. I fainted twice when I got up to go to the bathroom. I bled through my sheets again, and when I called up to the midwife desk to ask for new sheets, they brought some in, put them on a chair and said I could change them when I got a chance. I couldn't do it; I tired, but my muscles wouldn't work. I laid in bloody sheets all night. (to be fair, they did change them about 6 the next morning when they came in and slipped in the pool of blood that had gathered under my bed)

I was terrified and exhausted and all alone. I did not have a clue what to do. I called Rhys and my mom countless times, but there was nothing they could do. Visiting hours were over and they were not allowed back in. The midwives were understaffed and had to see to the women giving birth. I was completely on my own. I know I have blogged about this before, but at one point Eleri was crying so much, and I was so broken and at a loss that I summoned every last bit of strength I had, picked her up, and walked around the room, sobbing and reciting Bible verses to her over and over. I couldn't think of anything else to do. I was miserable.

Rhys stood outside of the ward doors for about 2 hours the next morning buzzing, asking to be let in. When he was finally allowed in, they released me to go home- almost exactly 12 hours on the dot after E was born. I could barely stand, let alone walk but I somehow managed to hobble to the car.  Once I got home, I was so shattered from the birth and that first night, that I was pretty much useless for weeks. Literally weeks. I struggled to do anything, I was an emotional wreck. I had nightmares about waking up alone, with just the baby. I even struggled to want to be around E for a while. I was traumatised.

Obviously things evened out and most of the horrid details of the aftermath were shut away somewhere else in my brain. But as the birth of Lowri got closer, those memories came flooding back with such a force that I nearly lost it.

Rhys and I talked about it constantly; how all of the things I was fearful of were circumstantial. He would be allowed to stay, the room would be private regardless, I would not have to bring in my own sheets, towels, pillows etc... There was a nursery for Lowri if I needed a break, the bed was not a metal frame without a mattress at the head, and the nurses in the US actually helped you with things like bleeding and sheet changing. I knew all of those things in my head, but I had a hard time believing that. I made Rhys promise multiple times a day that he wouldn't leave. And I packed extra things in my hospital bag just in case it wasn't as glorious as everyone said it would be.

Rhys told me to stop comparing the two. But the only other place I have given birth is the UK, it was the only experience I had to fall back on. The more I thought about Eleri's birth (aftermath) the more I feared Lowri's.

But the day came regardless. 12 May, 5am sharp at the hospital to be induced. It was a strange feeling, but also an completely unavoidable situation. The baby had to come out, and soon. So here I was, facing labour, delivery and recovery once again.


Stefanie said...

WOW. That experience would make me never want to have kids again! I hope to read that your hospital stay in the U.S. was a better experience.

Hannah said...

The suspense is killing me!

Elizabeth said...

I had no idea you had such a difficult experience in the UK. For some reason, I pictured it being more glamorous than here. I'm sorry for that. I wish I could have given you more encouragement, esp regarding the wonderful hospital I knew you were having Lowri in. I had a great experience there twice, and I have such confidence in the nurses there.

I hope Lowri's birth was magical and your recovery is/was going beautifully!

ally said...

you made me cry... xo :)

The Bishop's Wife said...

Kristina, you are such a strong, brave mommy. I'm so proud of you. I can't wait to hear Lowri's story!

kaw said...

Really? You're going to leave us hanging right there? :)

I had a hard first delevery with Thomas because of severe tearing, so I can't imagine what it would have been like if I had been in the UK. I'm amazed you decided to have another baby!

Gretchen said...

WOW! That's intense. I can't wait to hear the rest of the story and I'm hoping it's better. You are one strong brave woman!!!

Sohailah said...

Go socialized healthcare!

(Glad you're back in the US of A, even WITH all it's faults. That sounds horrific). Ok - Hell is horrific, I get that, but that would be a terrific hurdle to overcome in one's mind. Love you!

Carol said...

Please! You must write the next post! I am dying to know. Also, the UK birth system sounds like a third world country. How could that possibly be in the first world? Seriously. I am so thankful that Lowri is here and safe, and I can't wait to hear about her birth.

Katie said...

Oh my goodness, Kristina. You are so strong and so brave. I can't even believe what it must have been like.

Anonymous said...

That's funny, I've just had baby number two at that centre and it was great. There isn't a restriction on visiting hours, my husband was allowed to stay as long as he wanted and overnight and we were offered other things than tea and toast.

Third world country my arse!


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