When I first shared my postpartum story on social media, my only goal was to document my experience for myself - so I would never forget everything I had overcome and how strong and amazing I am. You can read more about my own postpartum story on the Mother of All Lists blog. Or you can listen to me discuss my experience with Tina Daheley on the Jeremy Vine Show.
I was simply not prepared for the response I got back and the realisation that my experience, no matter how difficult, is not an uncommon one. Since then, hundreds of you have been brave enough to share your own story with me - something I am so honoured to have been trusted with. I have shared many of your comments on social media, however, some of them are too long and too important for an Instagram post.
So I am creating a regular blog feature with some of your longer stories - I hope you find them helpful. As always, wishing you lots of love and healing.
"I just feel you are literally left to it as soon as baby pops out. Baby has loads of checks (which is right) but no-one seems to care about you anymore! The six week check up at the GP is a joke!! This should be done by someone who is an expert on postnatal care. She even told me I wouldn't get pregnant if breastfeeding which I knew wasn't true. My stitches tore on the 2nd day at home after the birth and my 2nd degree tear had opened back up - I had no idea what to do! I had a GP appointment and she told me it didn't look right (thanks, I knew that) and did eventually get referred... only to be told it was too late to do anything due to scar tissue and that it would have to heal itself? Gross. No-one warns you about the state you will be in once you give birth! It's all labour focused, as if that's the end goal. We need more support and someone that can care for us when we need it the most. First time having a baby you have no idea what's just hit you. What's normal or not. You aren't even your own priority."
"I have so much respect for the midwives who looked after me during the labour of my first child. However I now know that key things were missed that could have stopped my situation being so traumatic. I had an emergency c-section due to baby’s heart rate dipping during a non-progressive labour. As far as I was concerned, my operation went well - my baby was delivered and was healthy. The consultant came to my room the next day, stood at the door, asked me how I was and then left. Not even 1 minute of aftercare. We were then discharged and sent home.
On day 11 I had a wound infection that my health visitor picked up and arranged antibiotics for-she was amazing! I was in a lot of pain but enjoying my baby bubble. My postpartum bleeding was heavy and had never stopped, this was now week 5. My stomach was still very swollen, I just thought I had to adjust to my new body. At 5 and a half weeks postpartum I had a massive bleed, constant gushing for minutes, bathroom floor, walls etc. Horrific. I didn’t know who to phone so called the midwives! They told me they couldn’t offer me advice as I had been discharged from their care but it was most likely my first period. I knew this was not the case.
The next week was spent going between my GP and A&E. I also had another two serious bleeding episodes in this time. Finally I was given an ultrasound. The radiographer was openly shocked and told me to prepare for being admitted to hospital. I had a large piece of retained placenta still with me and serval large clots had formed around it. I spent the next 2 nights in hospital. After witnessing one of my horrific bleeds, I was put back to maternity (hurrah!) where I was put in a delivery suite and hooked up to a drip to induce labour. I had to deliver the rest of my placenta/be scraped out, a whole 6 weeks after birth!! All I was offered was gas and air and thankfully my wonderful mother was there!!
I did receive a verbal apology from my surgeon. It still pains me that on my notes my placenta was described as ragged and he thought there might be some left inside. It still pains me that this information was not passed on at the initial handover to the next shift. It still pains me that this information was not passed on to me. It still pains me that a very traumatic week for my whole family could have been resolved a lot quicker or avoided completely.
2 years and 9 months later (March 2020!) I gave birth at the same hospital and was cared for by some of the same midwives. My experience was amazing. But I was informed, clear, asked questions, challenged things. I was still discharged on day 10 by midwives but due to the pandemic (that was so new and oh so scary!) we saw them at home for longer than usual. We were incredibly lucky that in our area health visitors decided to still do newborn visits. Like so many other publicly funded bodies…these services rely on the goodwill of their employees to function at the most basic level."
"My now three year old daughter was delivered by forceps, I had an episiotomy and tore. Five days in the stitches became infected and the midwives didn't pick up on it. When I became ill at eight days, the midwives refused to see me and sent me to the GP, who sent me to hospital, who sent me back to the midwives. Eventually, after a week, I was seen, by which point a nurse described the wound as being 'about to pop'. The postnatal physio said I had 3/4 degree tearing, they also said the infection had likely made the damage worse. Because of this I was told any further births should be by c-section.
I delivered a healthy boy three weeks ago. My c-section scar became infected on day nine. Again, the midwives refused to see me, and I had to fight to be seen by my GP. I'm now on day seven of a course of antibiotics and fearful of the damage done. I understand our NHS and midwives are up against it, but postpartum care needs to be longer and more thorough. The damage done through my first birth caused more appointments and will require my having physio for life, which uses NHS resources. Had I been treated sooner, this possibly could have been avoided-thus saving NHS resources and me a great deal of pain and distress."
To share your postpartum story, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me @postpartum_matters.
I hope that by sharing our stories, we can change the conversation from ' bouncing back' to resting and recovering. And, as a society, we can start caring for and holding space for those who are postpartum.