Category Archives: childbirth

Death of a Mother and Baby in Bristol, UK

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I feel a bit sad this weekend on hearing of the news of a mother who took her own life and that of her baby’s a few days postpartum, in Bristol, in the UK.  All life is precious, and any life lost is sad, but this double tragedy is close to heart as the hospital she walked out of in her slippers was one that I had worked in as a midwife from 1995-2000. She must have been in such a terrible, unreachable place to have done what she did. She is at peace now, but it leaves all those left behind with a big gaping hole in their lives that they will have to learn to live with.

It said in the news that she had a history of schizophrenia and depression, and some of the tabloids said she was afraid that the social services would take the baby from her. These allegations have yet to be proven. Whatever the reason, two lives were lost tragically.

It must be so difficult to have a history of mental illness hanging over you when you decide to start a family.  Difficult that you feel like society and the authorities are judging your capability to bring up your children safely. Mental illness remains such a stigma in society. Need this really be? With proper care and support from the multi-disciplinary healthcare team antenatally followed by careful observation in this postnatal period, could this have been prevented? I don’t have the answer, but this was a case that slipped through the net, which is very unfortunate and sad.

Some papers have been saying that recent cuts to the NHS in recent years, have left many maternity units short-staffed and maybe this contributed to some oversight, which in turn contributed to this tragedy. I myself know what it’s like to work in a unit that is short-staffed. You try your best to cover everything and see to everyone, but it’s nigh on impossible at times. You prioritize as that is all you can do, and thank goodness, almost all of the time, everything goes to plan, and nothing amiss happens. You leave your shift shattered, but feeling good that you did and gave your best to your clients that day.

I know the hospital I worked in was a great hospital and feel for all my ex-colleagues. The coming weeks will be difficult, with investigations going on, trying to discover how this could have happened.  This can only be viewed positively, in order to learn from this tragedy and to prevent further tragedies of this sort happening again.  I know when I worked in that hospital that it had a no blame culture, and I hope this still exists, as blaming is negative and does not help improve anything.

For whatever it’s worth I am sending out a virtual hug to all my ex-colleagues that work at this hospital.

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Labour and Childbirth… some of my thoughts

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I am a true believer in all women having the labours they want and want to experience, some want it all natural, with a doula, birth coach, midwife, whale music, water birth, hypnobirthing, some want all the drugs available, an epidural at the first contraction and some choose an elective caesarean section. One of my personal favourites was the Entonox or Gas and air as it was called in layman terms. I am not sure how widely used this is in Canada.

My role when I was a midwife was not to judge but to support what each individual client wants and needs. women also need to understand that sometimes, things don’t go to plan and many did come in with a birth plan.  Another one of my roles was to monitor the mother’s and baby’s wellbeing whilst in labour and watching the progress in labour, trying not to think about the medical model of labour, but keeping it tucked in the back of my mind. In my 6 years as a practising midwife in the UK, I have attended a variety of births, normal cephalic, high risk, breech presentation, premature labour, twins, quadruplets, the sad stillbirths the late terminations for abnormalities and many more… of course I did not experience everything and I still have a lot to learn when I gave midwifery up after my 2nd child was born and I felt I could not do a good job as a midwife as I was constantly sleep deprived and my children and family always came first. I felt I did not have much left to give women and their families going through such an amazing time, and so decided leave the profession. 

Childbirth is still something that can only be deemed normal in retrospect. We really cannot predict that everything will go as planned.  We sincerely hope that a normal and healthy pregnancy will result in a smooth labour and birth of a healthy baby but occasionally, babies do get distressed or labour does not progress for reasons like there may be cephalopelvic disproportion. It could even be something like the umbilical cord having wrapped itself inconveniently round the baby’s neck, the baby’s body, and the baby get distressed with each contraction. Whatever the cause, we don’t want these things to happen but they sometimes do. We have a duty to educate women about these possible events, not to scare them but to prepare them for things that may go awry. This way, if any of these events happen, then they will not be so traumatized or shocked and feel like the perfect labour and birth was denied them, or they were robbed of the wonderful experience of a normal birth.

I feel sometimes like my friend Katie Clinton puts childbirth is portrayed as the 2 extremes of the serene amazing natural birth (which does happen) and the horrific ones where everything appears to have gone wrong. In reality, most people fall in between these two extremes.

Finally, another friend has shared her experience of childbirth and parenthood, and I especially like the bit at the end where she says, I have had 12 years to experience being a mum, it’s not all about the labour or birth, it’s so much more.

LK Koay posted this on one of my posts

Suyin, fr young I saw how childbirth was being portrayed on tv and I grew up being afraid of all the pain, screaming and the propped up legs. To me, it’s painful, messy and unglamorous. I almost didn’t want kids! 

When I got pregnant, I cried. Tears of fear. When the 1st child’s due date loomed near, I told my doc n hubby that I want it as painless as possible n I wanted C-sect. 

On the day my water bag broke, the 1st request I made after the hospital settled me in a labour room was…. “where’s the anaesthetist? I don’t want to feel pain!”. When I realised the pain I felt wasn’t a stomach ache from wanting to visit the loo, I panicked even further that the most important person has yet to arrive! And I’m not talking abt the obstetrician! Anyway… overall birth experiences I had were wonderful. I felt almost no pain and I didn’t go thru what I saw depicted on tv. I had good birth experiences if you ask me. I wasn’t traumatised. I’m glad I did it the way I want, rather than what I should have done because others do it naturally to feel ‘how it feels like to be a mother’. I had so far 12 years to feel how it feels like to be mom anyway.