Guest post by Nicola Chegwin
The #NotNeurotic series is published in partnership with BetterYou, whose sponsorship enabled me to pay Nicola, and four other writers from under-represented backgrounds, for their contributions. You can find more information about BetterYou, and their new Madeleine Shaw range of family health supplements, at the end of this post.
Motherhood never came naturally to me. After I got married at 23, in what I can only imagine was an act for spite for the way teenage me treated it, my body decided to develop quite extensive endometriosis. Two operations and countless procedures later, I was told I was very unlikely to have children.
In October 2015, I started to get very sick. My periods had stopped, I was nauseated, lethargic and my boobs felt like someone had replaced them with hot rocks. After five negative pregnancy tests (including one at the doctors), my GP convinced me to take another one but “don’t get your hopes up” because it would “definitely be negative”. We just needed to “completely rule it out before we proceeded with other tests”. Words like ‘menopause’ and ‘cancer’ were being quietly mentioned. I didn’t particularly want to have to face yet another test but I supposed the doctor knew what he was doing.
And there it was, that little blue line of confirmation: I was pregnant.
Whilst this was obviously a very wanted pregnancy and there was no reason for me to feel so lost, I felt like I was living life through fog. I was diagnosed with antenatal depression before the end of my first trimester. Culturally, we have started to become more open with regards to postnatal depression but its pregnancy equivalent is relatively unknown, despite how dangerous it can be. In the media and online, pregnant people are shown through rose-tinted glasses. It’s portrayed as this beautiful, nurturing, magical experience and we instantly think of the gorgeous photos of Demi Moore and Beyoncé, effortlessly gliding their way through their trimesters. I didn’t glide anywhere. By the time I fell into my third trimester, I was totally reliant on my wheelchair and having someone there at all times to push me. I was like a very angry Weeble.
To add to the list of ‘why my body doesn’t particularly like me’, I suffered a spinal break and spinal cord injury when I was 19. It was a fight between a pedestrian and a taxi, and the taxi won. Consequently, I’ve since been diagnosed with Complex Regional Affective Pain syndrome (yes that really does abbreviate to CRAP syndrome), a displaced pelvis and sciatica, amongst other things. Since I started under the care of my local maternity service at eight weeks pregnant, every professional I had come across had agreed that a planned caesarean was a good idea. There was no point in waiting for me to go into labour, when in all likelihood, I’d just end up having an emergency caesarean because my body couldn’t cope.
This is where The Keeper of the Caesareans becomes involved.
With my mental and physical health rapidly deteriorating, my wonderful mental health midwife organised for me to see an obstetrician who happily agreed to a caesarean. A couple of months later, I also met with an anaesthetist who assessed me and recommended a spinal, as well as taking me through all the complications of regional anaesthesia. This all sounds like its done and dusted, right? Wrong. It turns out that only a consultant can fully sign off on an elective caesarean so, at 35 weeks pregnant, I went to what I assumed was going to be an easy appointment. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of the worst appointments of my life.
I was already very pregnant so obviously tired, emotional and in a lot of pain. All I wanted was a date for my son to be born and, if I’m totally honest, for me to get my body back. My quality of life had become almost non-existent and I was really, really struggling. Arriving with my husband, I saw there was a trainee in the room. His presence was indicated by the doctor with a wave in his direction but nothing else was said. As it was, it was very embarrassing having an extra body in the room when I ended up feeling so humiliated.
Almost immediately, the doctor started to berate me. She “couldn’t see why” I was having a caesarean section; it wasn’t like I had a broken pelvis. When the doctor asked me when I would personally want to have the caesarean I replied I would prefer it as soon as possible. By this I meant from when my son was full term, as I am fully aware that is between 37 and 42 weeks (not 40 weeks, as this Doctor tried to tell me). The doctor called me selfish and quite forcefully intimated that I would cause my new born child to be in special care. She could assure me that my quality of life would then be even worse. Any attempt to clarify was ignored.
She then asked me why I didn’t have my all notes with me from the seven and a half years I had been under the care of several hospitals throughout England and was very frustrated that I couldn’t remember the names of all the consultants that I have been with in that time. Apparently, she was unable to do her job without that information; I should have it and she couldn’t make a decision as to why I’d need a caesarean without it. The fact that I have a broken spine and physically couldn’t walk, along with the opinions of several other obstetric professionals was apparently not proof enough.
I was in tears and terrified because, at 35 weeks pregnant, I was now going to be forced to give birth vaginally when I knew I wasn’t physically or mentally capable – all because one doctor didn’t believe me. After a heart stopping few minutes, she capitulated because she supposed it was “too late to change it”, but I was made fully aware of her opinion on the matter.
Apparently I was the third person the doctor had made cry that day and it wasn’t even lunchtime!
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