A few weeks ago I finally had my much anticipated/dreaded debrief. As I covered in a previous post, it was ridiculously difficult to even get this booked. As the date loomed, I could feel a lot of my old emotions around the birth coming back and I started to sleep badly again. I would get into bed and struggle to fall asleep, just going over the birth again and again. Months ago I used to get this visual of the surgeon cutting into me, my insides spilling out, and that made a reappearance around the time of my debrief for a few nights. The week or so before the debrief I was not in a good place at all. It was weird, I was looking forward to it so I would finally have the answers I needed, but I was dreading having to talk about the birth in detail. Up until now, talking about the birth has been on my terms, but here I was having to sit in a room and talk about it at length.
Unfortunately we had to take Joseph with us to the debrief as we couldn’t get anyone to look after him which added to my anxiety as I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate if he was kicking off, plus I needed Nick there to support me and not be distracted by Joseph. But there was nothing we could do. We got to hospital and while we were approaching the door the mere sight of it made the panic rise in me and I didn’t know how I was going to get myself to even go in the building. The last time I left through that door I was completely broken, physically and mentally. But I knew I had to do this so I forced myself to go inside.
We were seen by a consultant who hadn’t been involved in my care and she explained that she had had a ‘quick flick through’ of my notes and she told me that ‘I’m not sure what the issues are’. I was a bit taken aback by this, but I think she just meant she didn’t know what I needed to know. Odd way to open a debrief but hey-ho…
I felt teary at the beginning when explaining that I found the birth extremely traumatic and had had therapy to deal with the issues surrounding it. However, I managed to pull myself together quite quickly, using some of the techniques my therapist had taught me. I had brought a list of questions and she suggested we work through them and read through the notes together. One of the major questions for me was why I had to have a C Section. When I was in labour, we were told that I needed a C Section because I wouldn’t dilate past 5 centimetres, Joseph had gone back to back and the consultant wasn’t happy with his scratch test result. However, after the birth, when I read my notes, I noticed the reason for the C Section was stated as ‘Abnormal CTG’. Now I obviously know that I was monitored continuously throughout labour, but not once did anyone tell me Joseph’s CTG was ‘abnormal’. So when I asked about this, the consultant told me that the main reason for the C Section was that the scratch test result was ‘borderline’, and I hadn’t progressed as much as they wanted me to. She showed me the printout from the CTG and seemed to be saying to me that if she had been my consultant she would have been happy with the CTG, which I was a bit confused by. I did find out, however, that when I got to theatre I was examined again and they found me to be 9cm. Why they didn’t then just let me labour naturally I still don’t know, but I was actually happy to know I did almost get to 10cm, as all this time I’ve thought my body had failed at the first hurdle.
Other questions I asked were about the blood loss and why I had lost so much, why we didn’t get to have skin to skin, what my infection was (she didn’t know), and why I was moved to the High Dependency Unit. She really took the time to answer all of my questions and explain everything in detail, not moving on until she was happy that I understood.
I asked her about future pregnancies and she said I could try for a VBAC, but I would have to progress ‘in a timely fashion’, or they would be concerned about rupturing. I would also have to give birth in hospital and be monitored continuously again (yay). If I wanted an elective section it would be booked for 39 weeks and no earlier. I feel like this is quite late and asked her about this, and she said that if I went into labour earlier than 39 weeks I wouldn’t be guaranteed a C Section – it would be decided on the day based on how many emergencies there are at the time. I’m pretty convinced that if I had to labour again, and if I was being monitored again and unable to move around it would end in an emergency C Section anyway, but she seemed pretty sure that I would go over 40 weeks again, being that Joseph arrived almost 2 weeks late. I’m not sure I believe that last point, but if we have another baby I am pretty much certain I would go for an elective section and not put myself through all that again.
I managed to get across to her with all of my questions that the overriding thing was that I wasn’t kept informed or consulted really throughout the whole process. She commented that this comes up a lot with mothers and that she ‘wished there was a way to convey that to the staff’…maybe just tell them? She noted that I was visited by the Doctors quite a lot after the birth during my hospital stay and I told her that all it would have taken would have been 5 minutes of their time to a) explain to me what had just happened, and b) ask ME if I had any questions, you know, being that I just had emergency major surgery.
When we left hospital, I realised that I no longer was scared of even being in the building. I didn’t feel much else though. I think I had expected some sort of epiphany moment, but it didn’t come. It took a few days for it all to sink in however, and I can say that now I have the full picture of what happened and why it happened, I can (for the most part) think or talk about the birth without getting overly upset. I’m not ‘cured’ by any means and it’ll always be a traumatic event for me, but I don’t feel anywhere near as bad about it as I once did.
So if you’re reading this wondering whether to have your debrief or not, do it. But only when you feel ready to do it. It took me nearly half a year to even feel ready to hear what they had to tell me, but I’m so glad I eventually got there.