April 10, 2015

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Birth

I rarely talk about the birth of my third child. I did, however, include it in the book that was never published. And after Lana raised the issue of birth this week, I decided to haul it out and share it with the world. Be warned. It's traumatic.
My caesarean section was bizarre. There was no labour, no pushing, no transition, no process. One moment I was pregnant, and then, within a few minutes, I wasn’t. And there was my daughter, beautiful and healthy, emerging from the other side of the screen.

The baby was cleaned up, and shortly afterwards we both returned to my room. After twenty minutes or so my mum brought my big kids in to the hospital to meet their baby sister. Photos were taken and phone calls were made. I was light headed, but calm, and glad to have my daughter safe in my arms.

Then they left, and it was just my (then) husband, me and the baby. And suddenly, I wasn’t feeling so great. My stomach hurt, and it was grossly distended. And when the nurse came in to check my pad she noticed that my legs and my gown were soaked with blood.

“We’ll need to keep an eye on this,” she said, and I felt a tinge of alarm.

“Is everything okay?” 

“I’m just going to give your stomach a massage to help move some of these clots,” she told me.

“So I’ll be okay after that?”

The nurse just smiled. She massaged my stomach, but it was agonisingly painful.

“Stop!” I cried. “It hurts!”

“I’ll get you another shot of morphine,” she said, and left the room. My husband looked worried, and he never looked worried.

I counted the minutes until the nurse returned. By the time she gave me my shot, my pad was drenched again.

“I think we need to call the doctor,” my husband said.

“I’ll call the registrar,” the nurse told him.

“Call Kerri’s specialist,” my husband shouted after her, but she had already left the room.

Around twenty minutes later, an unfamiliar doctor pushed his way through the curtains. He looked about fifteen. I felt woozy, and my stomach was still sore.

“I’m Dr Amira, the registrar,” he announced briskly. “I’m just going to check your stomach.”

He felt around my stomach and I winced. Then he checked my pad. More bright blood.

The doctor chewed his lip, furrowed his brow and made some notes in my file.

“I want you to call Dr H,” my husband said.

Dr Amira paused. “We don’t disturb the specialists unless there is an emergency.”

“It is an emergency. My wife is bleeding.”

The young registrar looked profoundly uneasy. “Let’s give it another hour and see how she is, shall we?”

“Call him right now or I will go downstairs and page him myself,” my husband hissed at him.

Just then, my mobile phone rang. It was my son, calling me from my mother’s house.

“Hi Mum. How’s the baby?” asked my beautiful son.

“She’s good darling,” I said. “How are you?”

He answered, but I kept losing track of his words. I tried very hard to focus, but I felt like I was floating away. It’s the morphine, I thought. The drugs are making me fuzzy.

My son was saying something about homework and bedtime, but I couldn’t understand him. And I felt strange. Very strange. I was staring down a narrow tunnel, and I was being sucked into its vortex.

I was fading. I felt it. I was fading.

“I have to go now darling,” I said, and I let the phone slide from my hand.

Suddenly there was a commotion. People gathering around. Loud voices, needles being stuck into my arm, thermometers in my ear. I floated in and out of the scene, trying to stay awake. And yet, even though I was losing consciousness even though my eyes kept drifting closed I was panicked in every fibre of my being.

I was haemorrhaging both internally and externally and I could do nothing to save my own life. I was completely in the hands of the medical team, and they had not inspired me with confidence. I could feel myself dying. It was my worst nightmare coming true. I was dying. I was going to die.

I didn’t think of the new baby, who wasn’t even real to me at that stage. And I didn’t think of my husband, although he was standing there next to me. I thought of my parents, who had just lost their only other child. And I thought of my older two children, and how lost they would be without me.

“You don’t understand!” I screamed to the registrar. “You can’t let me die! YOU CAN’T LET ME DIE!”

The registrar spoke firmly, but I could hear the unease in his voice. “Please try to stay calm, Kerri. We’ve called Dr H. He should be here any moment. Just hang on.”

Hang on? HANG ON? What was I supposed to hang on to???

And then I saw the most wonderful vision appear before me. My white haired obstetrician materialised in my room. He was already in his scrubs.

“We’re taking you straight back to theatre,” he said briskly, and laid a reassuring hand on my arm as the staff began wheeling my bed out the door.

“Am I going to die?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “Absolutely not. I won’t let you.”
 Here is the discussion with Lana that triggered this post. More to come.


  1. Nearly dying through medical mismanagement is alot more common than we think. I had peritonitis (originally diagnosed as kidney infection) and was very ill. I was in intensive care and had regained some sort of awareness and the respirator had been disconnected when the afternoon shift nurse came on. She said "are you still here?" I muttered something about waiting for a bed upstairs and she said "no dear, I thought you would have died". WTF!
    My doctor trains students in general practice and I was asked "What do you do?"by a student doctor. I confessed I was, in fact, a +50 law student. He told me " I am doing my JD, doctors are getting sued alot now, I put it down to American TV."
    I wish I had had the courage to ask him whether he thought negligence had something to do with it. The thing I have noticed about stories like yours and mine is that we keep them quiet, almost as if we had somehow done something wrong.

  2. Having had four kids au natural I would never feel superior to any woman who has a Caesarean. Why do women need to be all blokey and beat on their chests like cave men when they feel they have one up on their peers? Those memes are usually made to make a few people feel good about themselves unfortunately! Glad you came through your experience ok, there is nothing worse than that feeling of not being in control.

  3. Oh Keri, how awful. I had a horrible, HORRIBLE birth first time around. Made more horrible by the fact that... Actually, by quite a few different things. Won't start or I'll leave an essay as a comment. Thank goodness we all know this story has a good ending. x

  4. I have an experience that almost mirrors yours, Kerri, although my PPH occurred 14 days after giving birth. And with my third child too. I won't go into details but it was a terrifying experience made even more horrible as the lack of care at my private hospital was deplorable. My OB wasn't called until I had been left to bleed on a hospital bed for about 10 hours. Then, straight to theatre, two blood transfusion units, surgery on various bits and pieces, restitched, balloon catheter inserted and so on……. HORRENDOUS! I have some idea of what you were going through. WHY are they so reluctant to call the specialist?!? Glad ours both have happy endings xx

  5. Oh my gosh, Kerri. Oh my gosh. Even though you are clearly OK now, many years later, my heart was in my throat reading that. What a scary scary experience. I am so sorry you went through that!! You're a fucking hero. People think C-sections are the easy way out. They don't realise the risks. I was so lucky to have a successful life saving emergency one, although my son was taken to another hospital and I couldn't be with him for 3 days. It really affected me because I had always fantasised about him never abandoned by me and me never having to go through what my biological mother went through (I was taken away for adoption at birth). I healed by being able to talk about my experience a lot - I had read it was good for keeping PND at bay and I was lucky to have supportive people around who would listen. I have had two friends - one who had an artery nicked and was gushing everywhere and quite sick. Another who had some dangerous kind of infection or something inside her, which meant she had to go back into surgery a few days later. We might not all experience labour (I got an accelerated version of it because my body needed my son OUT before we were both in big trouble) but we put our bodies on the line as mothers, no matter how we deliver our babes! We go through stuff! Every one of us! x

    I blogged about that dumb meme not long ago. Not to give it air time but to replace the negative message with a positive one for the vulnerable mums out there who thought their experiences were less valid. Something I hear from women all the time.


  6. “No,” he
    said. “Absolutely not. I won’t let you.”Wow, and he didn't did he Kerri ? You are here, and we are all damn grateful for that. Love you. xxx

  7. Ugh. I remember talking about this with you when we first met- I also had a uterine haemorrhage after having a c-sec (in my case with my first child)... one minute someone was showing me my baby, and half a day later I woke up in ICU with stitches from hipbone to hipbone and on the first of the 13 blood transfusions I subsequently needed. THANK GOD we both gave birth in hospitals. My surgeon came to see me when I had recovered and told me that if I'd been anywhere else when my uterus filled with blood and burst my original c-sec stitches I would have died. Here's to not dying!! You and me both xxxxx

  8. I remember you telling me that. I can't believe you went back for a second. I don't know if I could have done it again. TO NOT DYING XXXXX

  9. He didn't!!!! Love to you too Fendi xxx

  10. Great post and of COURSE all birth experiences are valid. Stupid stupid meme xxx

  11. Oh god! Yes! The same!!! I think residents should be taught to call the specialist if there is ANY doubt. The stakes are just too high. Thank god we're both alive xxx

  12. I'm so sorry you did too. Birth can be so incredibly fraught xx

  13. Yes, that's exactly it. And thank you. Glad your experiences were so positive!

  14. That's really interesting. I did feel a sense of failure or shame.... Really not sure why. I still can't work it out. I will have to think about it some more. Thanks x

  15. You poor thing - scary stuff. The closest I've come to that was my ectopic pregnancy emergency and that horrible feeling of low blood pressure and being so out of control.

  16. Similar thing happened to me. I was petrified and my poor husband could only stand there holding our newborn while a midwife jumped on my stomach!


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