Supporting Families, Preventing Tragedies


Near Miss


Sunday, 6 April 2008

I was 19 and pregnant with my first child. For 2/3 of my Mum’s pregnancies she needed urgent hospital care. I take after my Mum quite a bit so my Dad was willing to pay for a Specialist Obstetrician, however when I asked about getting one I was told there were none in Palmerston North at all, no matter how much you were willing to pay. When I found a midwife she was fantastic, really up front about everything and we got on straight away. However, when I told her I wanted to birth in Palmerston North instead of Levin she said I would have to find someone else as she didn’t travel. My reason for wanting to be in Palmerston North was because Levin hospital doesn’t have specialists, they can’t do epidurals, C-sections, blood transfusions etc so if anything went wrong I would have to go to Palmerston North anyway (a 40 minute drive).

My replacement midwife was willing to see me for all my visits and travel to Palmerston North for the birth. My partner didn’t like her from the start. I really wish we had taken his dislike seriously.

It was about 3am on Saturday morning when I first started having contractions. I knew first labours tended to be long so waited until 8am before telling my partner and ringing my midwife. From that first phone call she acted as though my labour was inconveniencing her. She told me it was probably false labour, even though it was only a couple days earlier than my due date. When I called her back and said it was really contractions she told me she was busy and sent another midwife round to do an internal. My FIRST ever internal examination done by a stranger because my midwife was “busy”. I kept ringing her to see what I should do and she kept trying to put me off leaving for Palmerston North (the plan was to go to my Mother-in-law’s house in Palmerston North until it was time to go to the hospital). In the end I rang again and said I was leaving and got her to meet me there.

It was about 4pm when I arrived in Palmerston North. My Mother-in-law was shocked that my midwife hadn’t accompanied me. After another couple of hours there it was starting to get really intense so I called the midwife again and she was only just leaving. By the time she arrived in Palmerston North I was in a huge amount of pain and ready to go to the hospital.

We got to the hospital around 8pm Saturday. By then I had been in Stage 1 labour for 17 hours. She did an internal and told me I was about 7cm dilated. After another hour or so she said I was fully dilated and should push when I felt it coming on. Well I was still having contractions but felt absolutely no desire to push. After a while she got one of the hospital Midwives to check me.

It turned out I was only 4cm dilated and had been pushing for about 2 hours for no reason. Of course after 20 hours I was exhausted so the hospital midwife broke my waters to try and speed things along. When nothing was happening after that (an hour or so later) the decision was made to induce me. By this stage my blood pressure was dropping and I was barely conscious from utter exhaustion. When I got the epidural I had a reaction to it and my blood pressure dropped dramatically, I began vomiting violently and I lost consciousness. I was put on oxygen and the monitor on baby was telling them she was getting distressed.

My partner was so angry about the state I was in he went off at my midwife and she ended up leaving. The anesthetist was called out of another surgery and a Doctor was called to prep me for an emergency C-section. That doctor is my hero. His name was Dr. Phil (hehe!) and he encouraged me to try and push before we went. The induction drugs had done the right trick and I was finally fully dilated, a good 34 hours since my very first contraction. He kept encouraging me and encouraging me. I was barely awake but I tried my hardest and we started making some progress. I had to have an episiotomy and ventouse but at 2:49pm Sunday my little 6lb 4oz girl was finally born.

I don’t remember a thing about the moment she was born and that kills me. She was jaundiced and had to have photo-therapy, and that along with all the drugs and the traumatic birth contributed to her not being interested in breastfeeding. My midwife gave me no help in establishing breastfeeding, she barely checked on me after the birth. My initial midwife was walking past when she noticed my name on the door, she came in and spent 2 HOURS helping me with my breastfeeding technique. 2 HOURS when the woman who was being PAID to take care of me barely managed 10 minutes. I ended up changing back to my initial midwife (since I was back in Levin) but I still had trouble and ended up in hospital twice with Mastitis within the first 3 weeks of my baby’s life.

If I had had a competent midwife or was able to be under specialist care in the first place they would have noticed my labour wasn’t progressing and I would have been induced earlier. By her incompetence it was left so late that I was literally fighting for my life and my right to a vaginal delivery. Her incompetence in my care meant I missed the breathtaking moment that my daughter entered the world. I would give ANYTHING to have that moment back.

Her incompetence meant that I suffered from extreme exhaustion and guilt and I felt like a complete and utter failure. I was so traumatised that when I became pregnant again 2 years later I wanted to terminate because I was terrified of going through it all again. It was only because of my wonderful partner and family that I changed my mind. I spent my second pregnancy absolutely terrified of what was going to happen to me. I’m happy to say that my second labour was 8 hours from start to finish, no drugs, no drama, and I remembered every minute of it.

We need to change the system so Midwives are nurses first who SPECIALISE in midwifery. They need proper supervision for at least as long as a doctor would.

If it wasn’t for the amazing COMPETENT doctors and midwives at Palmerston North hospital I would not be alive today.

Stacey D

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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