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  • Writer's pictureminie

Of blood and milk and tears

Updated: Apr 12

Here’s what I wrote in my journal on 4 December 2022:

 

We all know that giving birth is going to be painful.

Whether it’s labour or a caesarean (or, if you’re lucky like myself, you get to experience the “joys” of both!), your body will definitely go through something major.

Ok. I managed. After an induced labour where I dilated from 0 to 9cm in 3 hours and then stayed at 9 cm for 10 hours (with no epidural), and then had an emergency caesarean, I did it.

The midwives even complimented me. Not one scream.

Great, give me my painkillers and let’s move on.

 

But then they put you in the maternity ward, and that crushes you completely.

 

You’re not in control of your body, you still bleed like hell, the first attempt to take a shower almost ends up with you fainting on the bathroom floor, the stabbing pain inside is excruciating and it reminds you of the contractions of labour.

Meanwhile, you wake up in the middle of the night with flashbacks of the final hours of labour, shivering and scared, for how vivid all that pain still feels in your muscles. You can still hear yourself sobbing, begging for an epidural, then you see in front of you that blue curtain of the operating theatre, and you’re staring at it desperate to see your baby alive, even just for that second, before they take her from you and bring her to NICU.

 

And when you wake up with these images flashing in front of your eyes, you’re surrounded by women who have their babies with them; you implored the midwives to put you in a generic women’s health ward, because it’s just too heartbreaking to hear those little voices, while you are in the dark, alone, knowing that your baby is probably screaming the same way in the children’s hospital, and some stranger is taking care of her (as experienced, loving and sweet as they can be, they’re still strangers).

But no, you have to stay there: they didn’t have a bed for you elsewhere.

 

The first day goes quickly: they come to check the wound, quickly ask where your baby is, and they insist that you express milk, day and night.

Every time they see you: “Are you expressing milk?”.

Meanwhile, you push yourself to go see your baby (well…go…they push you on a wheelchair, silly!). It takes 2 nurses to place the baby on your chest, with all those tubes she’s attached to, and it just feels AWESOME! But then you start losing your energy, the scar is still too painful, and you need to give your baby back to the strangers and go all the way back to maternity and lay down. It’s too soon; it’s always way too soon.

 

And then THAT midwife starts telling you that by 10am on the third day you will need to go home, and that they “need your bed”.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t even been able to poop yet (well, you wanted the painkiller…didn’t you know that painkillers give you constipation?), nor matters the fact that you can’t walk more than 10 steps: they are busy and they need your single bedroom.

 

And when you’re able to get the manager to discharge you on day 4, there the same nurse goes again: when I asked her the painkiller and said my ID number by memory, she comments sarcastically with her colleague, in front of me:

“When they know their number by memory, it means they’ve been here for too long!”

“Oh yes” goes the other one, “DEFINITELY too long”.

 

I’m not welcome there; they don’t want me, there.

After all, I’m staying in a single bedroom and I don’t even have a cute newborn at my side, to cheer them up during their shift!

So here we are. Discharged on day 4, instead of spending the morning with my baby in NICU, I still had to wait 4 hours and half in that room for the paperwork to be signed by a doctor.

 

Move on, Minie. it’s unlikely you will have to see that maternity ward and those midwives ever again.

They could have supported me in my first hours as the mum of a cardiac baby.

Instead, all I’m left with is a big diaper full of blood, a production of breast milk that not even the biggest cow in the Hunter Valley, and lots, lots of tears.

 

One year after, these memories are still very fresh in my mind.

That sarcastic face, turning to her colleague to make a mean joke at my expenses, the NUM (nursing unit manager) excusing the nurse because she was “trying to be funny”, the physical pain, the birth trauma and the sadness of being a recovering first time mum without her baby at her side.

Not to mention the deep fear for my baby's safety, who had a few metabolic problems at birth and who was waiting for an incredibly complex heart surgery.

 

I am pretty sure that those two nurses have completely forgotten about me, by now, and keep working at the maternity ward at Westmead Hospital, occasionally making fun of mums in their most fragile moments, when they’re tired, hurt, hormonal, alienated by all those physical changes.

They are certainly approaching retirement pretty soon, and that’s a great comfort for me. They shouldn’t have been doing that job in the first place.

There are too many good nurses around, to have these types of midwives in wards as delicate (and as in need of empathy) as the maternity ward.

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