Wednesday, 26 February 2014

A letter to my midwife

Dear Carrie,

I'm fairly sure your name is Carrie.  I have no idea of your surname, or whether you are still working at the same hospital 16 months later, but you are young and tall and blonde and there can't be too many ladies like you in midwifery.  So I hope I can track you down (in a non-threatening or stalkerish way!) and give you this letter one day.

You were on duty in the "Home from Home" midwife-led unit one clear November evening back in 2012.  We came in around 7pm, desperate to be admitted after a number of false starts and recommendations to "walk around the block a few times and come back when the contractions are more rapid".  I think you could see the look of desperation on our weary faces when you agreed we could be finally admitted.  I was so relieved to be In Labour, I had been variously convinced I was ready to give birth for the last 6 weeks.  This was it.

You might remember I started off at about 3cm dilated that evening.  This was after a long 40 hours of steady but unimpresssive contractions at home. 3 cm for two nights of no sleep! Hardly seemed fair, but we knew this could often be the way with first labours and you reassured me that things were going to happen.  You encouraged me to move around, bounce on my ball, listen to my iPod long after my husband had fallen asleep on the easy chair.  I tried to go easy on the gas & air, but those contractions were painful.  I had no idea at that stage that I was in dreaded "back to back" labour.   I didn't know what labour was supposed to feel like, I assumed it was normal to feel searing pain down my back - and nothing at all in my tummy or pelvis.  I didn't say anything, I was determined to be like those brave women you see occasionally on TV who breathe their babies out with the minimal of fuss.

I think at some point that night, or early in the morning, I lose track of time, you went off shift to be replaced by a well-meaning but ultimately inexperienced midwife and a student.  They were chatty and confident and again this gave me hope that all was well and we were about to have a normal birth.

I think you were as surprised as we were to discover we had not progressed beyond 9cm by the time you came back on shift and took over again, late on Saturday night.  We were pleased to see you - we had by then been transferred to the much scarier doctor-led birth centre and it was hugely calming to see a familiar and friendly face.  By this point, we had been given a failed course of Sintocinon (the cannula had fruitlessly tissued into my arm, unnoticed by any of the many many medical staff who were popping in and out).  All the while, my baby's precious waters had now been broken for well over the recommended maximum of 24 hours.  Luckily the midwives were not the only ones to undergo a shift change.  The first doctor in charge of us was apparently very "anti c-section", and was working towards a vaginal delivery - despite baby's presentation, the prolonged rupture of membranes, the failure of my cervix to progress (it had gotten to 9cm but frustratingly was back to 4-5cm due to swelling) and my overwhelming exhaustion (I had refused an epidural despite many recommendations to have one).  With the shift change came a fresh approach, the new (female) doctor came into the room, took one look at me and whisked out the c-section consent form. We couldn't sign that thing fast enough.

We were relieved, and I think you were too.  A C-section would mean this would all be over and we could finally meet our little boy.  You were, as always, calm and reassuring.  You explained how such a procedure was very routine.  I'm not sure how the subject arose, but you explained how it would be the doctors doing the section, with you on hand to catch the baby.  You laughed and said you'd never yet had to assist "from below".

A short while later, there we all were - an eerily hushed operating theatre, filled with doctors, a sense of desperation building.  Just let him be ok.  Just let him live.  I'm not needed anymore, just don't take our baby, his daddy needs him.  A bright, white light.  Should I head towards it, or away? I wasn't sure.  I wasn't sure of anything, until I heard him cry and saw you hold him up to me.  Alive!

I learn later (though I guess it was obvious given the eternity of time the operation took), that the section was obstructed,  the baby in entirely the wrong position and stuck in my pelvis.  I learned that you did indeed have to assist from below in order for the doctors to pull and lever him out.  I learned that my uterus was very close to a catastrophic rupture, and the doctors were desperately trying to stop me bleeding out on the table.  Apparently they counted and weighed every swab, every pad... I had lost 3.5 litres, significantly more than half my blood supply.

You were there throughout, calm and professional.  You weighed the baby, cleaned him up - and held him while daddy was holding my hand.  You stayed with me all night on the High Dependency Unit afterwards, and even managed to get baby onto my chest for some precious skin-to-skin, and an attempt at breast feeding.   I remember saying to you on the ward that night, and saying something like "I guess this is the night shift from hell for you", and you agreed.  I think that was one of the last lucid thoughts I had, before I slipped into psychosis.

Carrie, your hard work, dedication and care has stayed with me throughout my long illness.  I hope someday to thank you in person, but for now please just know how much I appreciate the amazing job you and all your colleagues do.

Best wishes,


  1. This is beautiful, I wish I had such a supportive midwife with me and I'm glad you had that care from this wonderful midwife. I hope you do get to meet her one day. I met the one who started off my labour and probably caused my uterus to rupture with her heavy handed approach to Syntocinon but she just didn't 'get it'. I hope you get to meet your 'Carrie', she sounds lovely.

  2. This is a beautiful post, your very lucky you had a supportive midwife, mine isn't very nice :( x