When I went into labour with Squidge it took me several hours to work out that it wasn’t just really bad Braxton-Hicks and that I wasn’t going to make it to my c-section date (booked for various health reasons).
So when the contractions suddenly started coming thick and fast and the pain in my back hit me like a train, I was doubled over in agony, vomiting in pain and screaming through each contraction because it hurt so much and I was absolutely terrified.
I had never known pain like it.
I had no idea what to do.
The Northern One recognised that my labour was far more advanced than we’d initially thought and so called an ambulance.
The first paramedic arrived in a fast response car and marched into the house leaving the front door wide open. Our bathroom is downstairs and the hall is quite short so anyone who walked past the front door had an unobstructed view of me in full blown labour.
Even through the cloud of pain and fear I could see that he was completely unimpressed at having been called out to an non-imminent delivery or ‘maternataxi’ even though it was fairly obvious that I was not in the very early stages.
He asked how long my contractions were lasting, how far apart they were and whether my waters had broken. On being told that my contractions were lasting about a minute, were approximately three minutes apart but that this had only been the pattern for the last 30 minutes and that my waters hadn’t broken he pronounced that I would be in labour for hours yet and that I was only in the early stages.
I also appreciate that paramedics aren’t given in-depth training into how to care for a woman in labour and that they are given algorithms to advise their decision making process. However, any properly trained medical professional knows that algorithms are not applicable in all situations and are not designed to replace independent thought and practice.
He reluctantly handed over the cannister of Entonox and the relief was so instantaneous that I sank to the floor, thanking a God that I don’t believe in for the respite from the pain. I could hear him asking the Northern One whether he was sure that I couldn’t travel to hospital in the car, despite having witnessed me simultaneously screaming, vomiting and sobbing minutes before.
Up until this point the Northern One had been incredibly calm and polite but he lost his temper, pointed to me hanging over the side of the bath trying to use the Entonox to breathe through a contraction instead of screaming and angrily asked whether it looked like I was capable of getting in the car.
He was nearly as scared as I was; finding himself in a situation far out of his control.
If Squidge’s arrival had been imminent he could have delivered him safely but apart from that his experience of child birth was limited to being medical student stood in the corner of the delivery room after the labouring woman had reluctantly agreed for him to be present.
At no point did this paramedic attempt to be at all calming or reassuring and was still incredibly reluctant to call for an actual ambulance to take me to the hospital. Instead he decided to tell the Northern One that he knew I was only in early labour and that I wouldn’t deliver for hours yet because his partner was 14 weeks pregnant with their first and so he knew what he was talking about.
After stating that his partner would never make so much fuss about being in labour and watching me scream for another few minutes he decided that he would actually call for an ambulance so I could get to hospital.
When the ambulance and two new paramedics arrived things didn’t get an awful lot better. I was now either contracting or vomiting and still sobbing as I was in almost constant pain but instead of being treated with the smallest scrap of empathy I was instead told to ‘Stop that silly screaming’.
The entire way to the hospital the paramedic sat in the back with me did not say a word. I may not have looked particularly approachable with my eyes screwed shut and a death grip on the Entonox but I was alone and terrified. The Northern One wasn’t with me as he was driving the car with my hospital bags packed into the boot.
When we got to the hospital still neither of the paramedics spoke to me apart from to berate me from using up the entire cannister of Entonox. Instead of demonstrating to them that I was in a huge amount of pain they told me that I was being ridiculous and that having used up the cannister was completely excessive.
It was probably only a few minutes until we got to the labour ward and I was given more Entonox but it felt like hours and I bit the mouthpiece so hard to deal with the pain and not scream that I could feel my jaw grinding.
What those three paramedics probably don’t know was that Squidge arrived within half an hour of my arrival on labour ward and that he was born with the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck. I had to stop pushing so that the midwife could release the cord but he was still born completely blue, the paediatric emergecy team were called and Squidge didn’t make any effort to breathe for several minutes.
If the paramedics had waited any longer to take me to the hospital or if we’d become caught in traffic I could well have delivered him in the ambulance and the outcome could have been very different. I couldn’t have told them that I needed to push or how dilated I was; I had no idea I was pushing or that I was fully dilated until the midwife told me so.
Instead of the bright, cheeky, healthy little boy he is today Squidge could well have suffered from oxygen deprivation and developed cerebral palsy or any number of disabilities.
He may even have died; in an ambulance parked the side of the road before his Daddy even got to meet him.
One size does not fit all.
Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.
Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.
In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading’Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.