Supporting Families, Preventing Tragedies


Near Miss



4 January 2010

I never thought I would have a horror birth story but sadly, I did.

We had been working in Australia for a couple of years and had decided to come back home to New Zealand. We had been together for about 4 years, and while we were in Oz I had been talking about wanting to start a family but my partner Jason said he didn’t want to. Of course, every now and then I would bring it up and after we had been back home for about 18 months, he said ok. YAY! So after our first try we were pregnant. When we found out I was a bit nervous but Jason was so happy he couldn’t get the smile off his face I don’t think I had ever seen him smile so big. My pregnancy went ok. I only had some problems with muscles and wasn’t allowed to do heavy lifting, which was what my job was, so had to change positions at work. Other than that everything was normal.

On the 4th of January 2010 at 2.30am my waters broke. I then rang the maternity unit to let them know and to find out what to do. We live a hour away so we didn’t want to be stuck having a baby in the wrong place. I was told to go back to bed, which was fair enough. 15 minutes later I started having contractions and within a hour they were about 5 minutes apart and 60 seconds long and I was in a lot of pain. Nothing was helping so I rang maternity again to tell them. I was then told not to time the contractions because things would not be happening that fast and to go back to bed. But of course I was in a lot of pain and I couldn’t even get into bed again. The pain was getting worse and my partner was getting very worried but I told him that the midwife said that it was ok. Some time later Jason rang up and said he was worried. The midwife asked to talk to me but at that stage I could not talk and he was told that we should come over if we were that worried.

We got to Taupo Maternity about 6am and I was still in a lot of pain and very uncomfortable. I was examined and when the midwife did this she was very rough with me and it was very painful. I screamed and told her and she just told me off. It would have been easier to deal with if she had talked me through it. The baby was posterior so that’s why I was in so much pain. I was fully dilated, and was told I could start pushing at any time. Everything was going along ok I got in the birthing pool and felt better. During that time there was a shift change, so during my labour at this unit I had 4 midwives caring for me. I was not being informed of what was going on or what to do and how to push, and the little bit of information they gave me was not helping. At the time I did not know that it was time to start pushing the baby OUT, no one had told me! Also the birthing pool was at 41 degrees. I had been informed that this should be 37 degrees- anything hotter or colder, the baby could go into shock when born and suck in water. Of course at the time, I was in so much pain and I had put all my trust in the midwives. They must know what they are doing, I thought, so didn’t say anything.

Then I was told I had to get out of the pool because I had a temperature. That’s when everything started to get worse. I was really hot and could not cool down. They got me to sit on the loo but there was no plug for the fan to help cool me down. Then after 2 hrs of pushing one of the midwives said I had been pushing for longer than I should and said she might give Rotorua a call and then she told me to examine myself to feel if the baby was moving down during a contraction. I was shocked that she asked me to do this. I said no. I beleive this is not my job to monitor myself I do not have any experience in giving birth and this was my first baby. I put all my trust in the midwives. I did not do what she asked me because I could not. I decided to get in the shower to cool down but that did not work because the shower only had hot water coming out and we couldn’t get any cold water at all.

I was given some herbal remedies to move things along that didn’t work. I was then dehydrated (when I had got there initially, I was told to only sip water and now I was being told to guzzle it), and they tried to put in an IV but couldn’t.Then a nurse came over and put one in my arm. Then they decided to examine me. I was exhausted and could not move and I asked them if I could go to Rotorua now. They said they were going to talk to the Rotorua staff now and they called the ambulance. I had been pushing for about 3-4 hours at this stage, and you should only push for 1-2 hours at the most!!! It took 45mins for the ambulance to get to Taupo then another 45 mins to get me in. To me it had felt like I’d been there for hours. They asked me to walk out to the ambulance but I couldn’t even get onto the stretcher. They had to slide me onto it. Then they gave me some gas. Half way to Rotorua they ran out of gas and on the way there not once did the midwife check to see if the baby was ok. I found out about a year later that before we left the baby’s heart rate had gone up and she was getting distressed, so you would think they would have checked.

They were hoping that things would get moving again once the ambulance was on its way, and be able to turn around and go back but nothing happened and they were not in any hurry to get there. When I got to Rotorua I had two midwives by my side at all times. They got the doctor and put me in the stirrups then got two paediatricians because by then the baby was very distressed. I was very exhausted. I couldn’t even roll over by myself they had to move me around. I had no more contractions. They gave me something to try and get the contractions going again but nothing happened. The doctor had to give me a episiotomy. He tried the ventouse first but it did not work so had to use the forceps. Our baby was taken away as soon as she came out and was checked out. Jason didn’t even get to cut the cord. She was 8pound 12oz. I was told she was just too big for me to birth. She was fine and then was given to me. When they asked me if I wanted to hold my baby I turned away. I didn’t want to deal with her on top of everything else but decided I’d better, but couldn’t really enjoy it at all and I wasn’t interested in her. I was torn up pretty badly. I had 3d degree tears in two different places and some scratches. It took about an hour to stitch me up and the tears were so deep that the doctor was going to take me to theater, but he didn’t want to put any more stress on me or baby so he said he would keep an eye on the bleeding and if it didn’t stop in 4 hours he would take me to theater. Thank god the bleeding stopped and that I’m a fast healer. Jessica (baby) had a black bruise on her head the size of the palm of my hand. The doctor said it was because of all the pressure on her head during labour. All the doctors and midwives in Rotorua said it was a really bad birth and I should have never been put through that, I should have been in Rotorua a lot sooner. I am very grateful in the end we were both ok. But things could have been a lot worse things could have gone very wrong. We are very lucky Jessica didn’t get brain damage or die. The care and midwives in Rotorua were great, and the midwife who took over as soon as I got to Rotorua and looked after me was fantastic. The love and support she gave me helped me through. I don’t think I would have coped with everything if it wasn’t for her and I am so grateful for all her help.

I was very sore for a long time afterwards. My back was very sore as well and I had a lot of trouble with my back. I was told by the doctor after the birth that its because the baby was sitting very low for a very long time and it should have never happened. It took seven weeks before I could walk for more than 5 mins before getting sore and couldn’t move. I am so grateful for Jason at nights when we needed to rock Jessica to sleep. Because I was so sore I couldn’t do it, which really upset me.

In the end I was in second stage labour and pushing for 6 and a half hours, and it should be a maximum of 1-2hours. I feel I was treated like a number in the textbook. First time mums are meant to take 12 hours before they are fully dilated, I only took about 3 and a half hours. I feel as though they didn’t know what to do when things went wrong and didn’t take things seriously and were determined to let me have a baby there that day. These decisions placed myself and my baby in great jeopardy.

I never went back to Taupo, not even for post-natal care, and still to this day have never seen any of those midwives again because I just couldn’t face them.

18 months later we are doing fine and are very happy with our lovely little girl. However I am traumatized by what had happened that day. I had trouble sleeping at night and it is all still very fresh in my mind and at times when I speak out about it I get all upset again. I found out later on that my stomach muscles were badly damaged by it all and lost all their strength and I was told I will never get that strength back. However I am trying my hardest to get it back and not let it hold me back. I did end up with severe depression but am better now and I am part of a group of mothers called mum to mum to help other families and mothers.

I put a complaint through for the service I got at the first maternity unit and got an good response, but I am not 100% happy with because they beleived they didn’t do anything wrong. From other complaints they are improving there services and getting advice from other mums so these things don’t happen again. And I have been told that since then the head midwife which also was the one that was making all the calls that day has moved on.

I feel as though I was not looked after properly and that I should have been told to go to the maternity unit sooner and been believed when I said I thought I was in full-on labor. I understand that they can’t tell what’s going on over the phone, but I was reassured over and over again before giving birth, that they would know just by talking to me over the phone and that when the contractions were 5 minutes apart that they would get me to come into Maternity. I was also reassured over and over again that if I had my baby there, that even if the slightest thing goes wrong, they would send me to Rotorua ASAP. I feel as though I should have been sent to Rotorua a lot sooner, and they should have been monitoring me and the baby more. I felt a lot safer when I got to Rotorua.

The reason for speaking out and letting the world know what happened is for awareness. Awareness for new and all mothers and support people and everyone else, to be prepared for everything that can happen, and awareness for all midwives that we are not all the same and you need to listen to us and respect us like human beings not just a number. We are people with feelings that need to be cared for and we do know what is going on with our bodies.

I have been physically and mentally damaged for life from this. Jason doesn’t want to have any more children because of what I went through and if we did I would have a c-section!


Red Flags

        RED FLAGS

  • Lack of monitoring
  • “Normalising” the abnormal
  • Lack of action/delay in getting emergency care
  • Going over due date
  • Failure to progress in labour
  • Meconium-stained liquor (waters)
  • Lengthy handover during emergency
  • Inconsistent reporting and documentation
  • Your concerns being ignored

    Click here to read more about common warning signs


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