It is inexplicable that women in our society are left alone with their newborns at the time they need family support the most. Feeling utterly exhausted, overwhelmed and traumatised with a tiny new being to care for, I needed my husband with me. He was told to leave. I felt totally alone, confused as to why he had gone.
A busy hospital ward
My stomach started to distend instead of decrease in size. I threw up all morsels of food and drink I tried in vain to get down. I was suffering from post-operative ileus; my bowels weren’t functioning properly after the operation where they had been handled. I had to ask for someone to hand me Ewan from the cot he had to sleep in. I couldn’t feed Ewan independently. I could hear new mums, looking relaxed and healthy, talking to their babies, holding them and smiling. I felt totally out of place as the pain worsened whilst other mums were being discharged.
This was not the right place for me. I was x-rayed and CTG scanned as staff puzzled over my condition. I was transferred back to labour suite in the observation room where I received one-to-one care. I was all wired up, including a tube down my nose into my stomach, and was on various drugs.
I was desperate to be well, to enjoy being a new mum, to get to know my baby in peace.
The second night in hospital was the longest, most sleepless night of my life. The busiest night of the month, staff dashed about as countless women laboured; the cries of labour and the screams of newborn babies filling me with guilt and jealousy. I felt I had failed. Why could others give birth naturally but not me? I relived the pain, the panic, the operation as I heard sirens, panic and running, as a woman was raced to have a caesarean. Pressing the buzzer for help a very young, inexperienced and poorly trained locum healthcare assistant eventually arrived. She failed even to change Ewan’s nappy. She sat stonily, silently, offering no words of comfort, simply ensuring I didn’t fall asleep with Ewan on me for fear of him suffocating.
I needed my husband with me. With pain I attempted to reach my mobile phone but failed. After an hour my midwife came, informing me she couldn’t ring my husband because it would scare him in the night. Alone I lay, unable to sleep with the noise and the bright lights, unable to hold my baby or have my husband by me for comfort. My stomach, painful, felt like a tin drum, puffed full of air.
If I felt like this, what do women in less fortunate situations than I feel?
Those with limited family support, those suffering more pain, those in even busier wards with less care?
UK National Health Service hospital maternity care was a revelation to me.
About Caroline Jane Cole
I am a full-time Mum to Ewan James, born in June 2010. When I get chance, I write on natural parenting issues, on topics including sustained breastfeeding, baby-wearing, bed-sharing, home-education and natural living, for parenting magazines and websites. I am an active member of La Leche League GB and a trained breastfeeding peer supporter. See my website; www.stoneageparenting.com.