Guest post by Keshet Buckle-Hodgson
The most significant events I have experienced as a woman have been during childbirth. Both of my children were ten days overdue. My first child was born as a result of induction. Induction started at 11am and I was left on a ward. I was sure I was in labour, having called the night before with light contractions – but the nurses would not listen to me. I was given a ball, “watch out she’ll bounce right of here,” they laughed. But no medication for pain.
I laboured in front of other couples, men and women. They would not believe I was in true labour and would not take me to a private room. If it wasn’t true labour then couldn’t I halt the procedure, I asked. They told me the pessary laced with hormones was ‘too expensive’ to remove. Only when I began vomiting with pain did they take me in – I was in the delivery suite for 26 minutes.
I said I needed to push but the midwife did not believe me. She broke my waters without consent. The pushing stage was done in six minutes and my child was born. She had a wound to her scalp, like a deep cigarette burn. This is believed to be from the membrane hook used when she was too far down the birth canal. There is no hair there to this day. The ensuing legal action led me to complete a law degree, and then an LLM in medical law and ethics.
My second child was born seven years later. I considered care elsewhere but felt scared to stray too far from the hospital I can see from my bedroom window. I couldn’t afford private midwifery care, although I got quotes.
I was ten days overdue and unable to walk. This time they refused to induce me and I began to panic. They said they would only start the process on Christmas Eve, after 12 days post due date. I tried to switch hospitals to two others outside of the Borough but it was too late.
10 days overdue I went into labour spontaneously. I got to the hospital at almost midnight and he was born an hour and a half later. Even armed with knowledge of legal rights, consent and case law I was still not prepared.
He was swollen and ill, full of fluid and could barely open his eyes. I knew he had been inside too long. He passed meconium as he was born, my placenta was ragged and worn. They drew palmar creases on his body chart, a marker for Down’s Syndrome, but did not tell me. I found it in his notes the next day, without explanation. It turned out this was not the case.
Once he was born I could not move for pain. With an eye to ‘active labour’, there was no bed in the room so I lay on the floor in the foetal position, in too much pain to move. I was uncovered, and lying in blood, vomit and birth detritus for over an hour.
A senior midwife told the attending midwife to ‘have a go’ at stitching me up. Thankfully a doctor was called. We stayed for 12 hours but he was never given a cot. Instead my husband and I took turns to hold him whilst watching the other to make sure we didn’t fall asleep and drop him. So exhausted we didn’t think to ask.
In the end, my husband went home and got the pram. We walked home.