While scrolling through Facebook, one of my friends had shared a post from a young woman who had given birth this year and was pledging her support for #butnotmaternity campaign. The post had gone viral, clearly striking a chord with a lot of people. What hit me hardest was a picture this brave woman had posted, of her partner stood outside while she laboured inside.
Usually I don’t give so much of an introduction to these posts but feel I need to for this. Abbie was a 20-year-old first time mum, scared and alone in hospital while she laboured for 4 days alone. Without a birth partner with her, the way Abbie was treated was unacceptable and shouldn’t be happening to anyone. Abbie was so distressed she begged her mum to take her home.
Birth partners are not visitors. Birth partners should be there for as long as the labouring mother wants them there. Abbie should have been able to have her partner there holding her hand. This is Abbie’s story.
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Where do I begin? This year has been a whirlwind for sure. I found out I was pregnant last November when I was 20 years old. The news was a huge shock, and I didn’t know how to take this information in. This news put a strain on my job as a health care assistant as I couldn’t do the heavy workload.
I was so excited to experience being pregnant and sharing all the precious moments with the people I loved. We had our gender reveal and found out we was having a baby girl! I was over the moon! We had planned a baby shower, but that soon got robbed from us due to COVID-19 and I was advised to go off from work early. Being pregnant at that time I was deemed high risk, especially with working in a care home. Thankfully, my partner moved in with me at my parents’ house so we could be in lockdown together.
Back in April I was 6 months pregnant and my partner and my dad fell ill. I was terrified worrying about whether it was the virus, being high risk and scared of harm coming to the baby. They both tested positive. My heart sank and we had the difficult task of trying to separate ourselves from each other in the house. I got tested and I was negative which put my mind at ease. A few weeks went by and my partner and father got a negative test so we could go back to the new normal.
The week of what should have been my baby shower was a very difficult week full of tears and frustration as I couldn’t experience anything. My mum planned a lock down baby shower just for our household and this meant the world to me! This also became the day I got engaged to my amazing fiancé I was on top of the world! The happiest I’ve ever been.
A few months later, I unfortunately had to go into hospital with reduced movements at 38 weeks and 4 days. I spent a few hours went by on the monitor, and then I got told a doctor wanted to Speak to me. When the doctor finally came to see me and said she wanted to admit me into hospital to be induced millions of scary thoughts rushed through my mind. The doctor could see the fear on my face so she said “look at it this way the next time you leave hospital is with your baby” once she said that I calmed down but then came to the quick realisation I was going to be on my own without my mum and without my partner.
The first night being in hospital was very scary. I had my first lot of gel to induce me and was hooked back up to the monitor. The midwives were very reassuring and that they would give me my next gel in 6 hours. Skipping to my second day of hospital I was examined and told my waters could be broken, with so much excitement I quickly Face Timed my family and told them the good news! The midwife came in and told me to tell my partner to make his way down to the hospital. I was so excited to be that little bit closer to meeting my baby girl!
Ryan rang me that he was outside waiting for the go ahead to come be with me. 5 minutes went by and I was still waiting. 20 minutes went by and I was still waiting. 2 hours went by and I was still waiting with Ryan stood outside in the cold. I buzzed for the midwife to ask when I was going to go down to delivery suite, and she told me another 5 minutes! After being messed around so much I didn’t believe her and so I told Ryan he may as well wait at home where he can get rest. I was faced with another night on my own, not knowing what was going to happen to me or my baby. Everything was uncertain, and I was frustrated and scared.
Morning time eventually came around and I was still waiting. I asked over and over what was happening, and nobody could tell me. I felt completely lost and alone. 30 hours went by and I was still waiting. I was in absolute agony at this point and they left me in pain. I was alone and so had nobody to advocate for me, nobody to help get my voice heard while I struggled in pain. I felt like I was being robbed of my basic human rights. At 4 in the morning I was on the phone to my mum, crying my eyes out and begging for her to come and take me home.
At approximately 7:02 AM my pains changed, and I knew these were real contractions. I buzzed the midwife; she gave me meds and that was that I was left again screaming and crying in pain. Alone. I had enough I rang my mum and Ryan telling them what was going on so my mum rang the ward and asked what was happening with me only to be told they were waiting for me to become a red flag (emergency) before doing anything with me! How is this ok to leave someone in agony for so long? My mum asked could she speak to the doctor who promised to break my waters 30 hours previously to ask why it hadn’t been done yet. She was told this was something that couldn’t be arranged. So, my mum said she was going to get in contact with PALS, and that enough was enough. We had respected and adhered to the government guidelines. But I had been left to suffer, and it was time for the hospital to respect what we considered to be my basic human rights. I was being left alone in pain and it wasn’t right. After my mum’s conversation with the midwife, they finally agreed to examine me again and take me down to the delivery suite for my waters to be broken.
When I finally got to see Ryan my whole body relaxed even though at that point I was physically and mentally drained from this experience. 4 hours went by and 1 hour of pushing and I finally got meet my bundle of joy!
Lily-Mai Brenda Armstrong
2nd July 2020