There are many things that let our little family down before and after Francesca died. Its something that I feel anger and upset towards each time I think back over these things and the bottom line is the support is simply not there for those in our situation. Now I can only speak from my own experiences and I’m fully aware that others may have had a lot more help, support and understanding from the professionals but its became quite clear to us that depending on your location within UK depends on the availability and the type of support your offered when your child dies. We had to deal with many “let downs” over the last few months so I thought in this blog I would highlight some of the concerns we found in terms of our community midwife care with Francesca.
The day we had to leave Francesca behind in the hospital room will haunt us forever along with the fact that in our baby’s place we were handed a memory box, stillbirth certificate , post mortem leaflets, a pile of medications and instructions to google the nearest SANDS meeting. I discharged myself early as to be honest I was so broken that I knew if I spent one more minute with Francesca I would never be able to leave her so I knew I had to go and accept the fact her little soul was no longer with us. Our hospital aftercare in the days we spent is something I cant fault and will always be grateful that but it was when we left the ward that everything changed. Its taken me a while to write about this as in some ways its hard to look back on and separate the feelings of abandonment from both a mental health aspect and also the physical wellbeing of someone who had just went through a traumatic birth.
I was still very ill due to complications in labour, when I decided to leave hospital on the Friday but the doctors understood my reasons for leaving. So I was assured a midwife would be out on the Sunday (giving us a day to ourselves) to check how my body was holding up and was advised that there may a chance I would readmitted if things hadn’t improved so I felt confident that I had support there. But the Sunday came and went, so did the Monday and by the Tuesday I was becoming very unwell again and dealing with one very worried partner. I didn’t have a clue what had happened to my body by this time , I didn’t know if the symptoms and physical affects I had were a normal part of giving birth and I NEEDED someone to ask. In that dark time I remember thinking they must not think I matter as much as the mummies who could bring their healthy babies here, I don’t matter as much as them, why should I when I don’t deserve it. I must be expected to just deal with painful things happening to my body quietly without too much fuss. I look back at that time and feel completely heartbroken for that girl sitting on the couch throughout that time thinking all of those awful thoughts.
Steven had called the hospital on the Monday to check why a midwife hadn’t been sent out yet and they were shocked to say the least and arranged for a community midwife to call him back which they did and he will never forget them saying to him that “yes we know Charlene has been discharged we’ve been reading her notes over the weekend”.. what no phone call, no thoughts of maybe a visit should be arranged or even attend the visit requested by the hospital …simply that in our eyes they were sitting on their arses reading notes while I was crumbling apart. So Steven had to again ask that a visit be arranged asap so the next morning our usual midwife showed up with her supervisor. They asked to check the stitches from the episiotomy which the usual midwife checked and then had to reprimanded by her supervisor over as they way she had checked nearly caused more damage. It was in that moment I thought this girl has no clue what she is doing. I also wasn’t surprised as if I’m being honest I never had the best experience with my midwife. She was friendly but was never able to answer any questions without calling triage or her supervisor and very rarely returned a phone call. I even asked Steven to come to one appointment with me so he could see for himself and even he was shocked and his exact words were she seems a bit out of her depth.. I never thought to ask for another midwife though as Francecsa was coming along nicely and we paid for extra private scans to check her growth so aslong as our baby was healthy it didn’t matter to me, .. maybe this is what all midwives are like. But then we found out something at Francesca’s investigation that changed my trust in midwives completely. My midwife had said at my 38 week apt that I would receive a sweep at my 40 week appt if things hadn’t progressed by then explained but her diary was too busy that week so I would be scheduled in for my 1st sweep at 41+1 weeks as that when she was next free, the day Francesca was born and died. I remember coming away from that appointment being worried, confused but put it down to me overreacting and maybe again this was normal to leave someone so long overdue. I was wrong, we’ve since been advised by a obstetric consultant that a patient should never be left 3 weeks between appointments at the end of their pregnancy term, especially with first time mums and they cant say for sure but there’s a chance that a sweep may have brought on labour and in turn our baby girl would still be alive as she would have been born before her placenta completely broke down. How’s that for a kicker…the unknown, the chance that if I had the appointment at 40 weeks when I was supposed to my baby girl would still be alive. These are all the regrets I live with now, not trusting my instincts or speaking up or doing…anything, something until it was too late. A mistake I will need to live with.
During that first midwife visit her supervisor advised I head straight back to hospital as there were still problems with my BP, pulse and other things so off we went and I was readmitted again. I’m so grateful Steven took charge at that time and made the midwife visit as I wouldn’t have done anything, I was in such a dark place, I just didn’t care and it scares me to think that maybe I’m one of the “lucky” ones in a way as imagine if I had been alone at that time like many others who live far away from family and friends and maybe don’t have the support of a partner. Would they be left and forgotten about until its too late to help. It sounds dramatic but when you take into account the physical aspects as well as the crippling grief, shock and pain, it can become a very dangerous place to be without any help.
I was advised that another midwife visit would be arranged the following week so I let them know that we would be heading away for a couple of days straight after Francesca’s funeral so knowing I would be getting hospital care until then would it be OK to arrange a visit for the day we got home from our break which was agreed. So imagine my surprise to receive a phone call while I was away saying she had tried to visit but I wasn’t home,,yip that’s right ..remember we had that conversation or did I pull it out my ass! So another day was arranged and I was really struggling by this point so was welcoming the chance to ask some of the millions of questions I had whizzing about my brain but when the day came, a phone call came in place of the visit as due to heavy snow she wouldn’t be able to attend so rather than just discharge me from her care she at least wanted to phone and check in with me first oh and did I have any questions?.. well only about 2 A4 pages full but please don’t trouble yourself.. ( sarcasm the lowest form of wit? il take that!) So instead I asked that she arrange one thing for us and that was to find out the name of the consultant we would be meeting at Francesca’s investigation and let us know their name and number so we could arrange a pre meeting as we had a lot of questions we would like answered which she agreed to and told us she was call us back the next day . So I left that call deflated and feeling alone in terms of support but at least we would be one step further in the process of the hospital investigation. So imagine my anger when 1 week later I had to call and chase up this info only to be told by her supervisor that the midwife had gone on holiday and hadn’t bothered to chase up anything I had asked her to. I am so thankful to that midwife I spoke to that day though as within 2 hours she had called back with the information we asked, set up a meeting for us and apologised profusely for this as I should never have had to chase this up. Over the following weeks I was back in hospital as my womb placement hadn’t gone back as quickly as it should have and that was causing the pain I was in and the blood I was losing daily was way out with normal range . I remember Steven being really worried about me all those weeks and me assuring him that this was “probably” normal part of post partum body issues, I was wrong, it wasn’t and the only reason I knew to go for help at that stage was due to my aunt who’s a nurse (previously a midwife)checking in on me and letting me know this was not normal and that I should seek help. If I had someone following up with post partum aftercare as I thought I would then these things would have been caught much earlier. I was a first time mum with absolutely no clue what to expect and no one to ask except family members and friends but none of them had gone through what I had so couldn’t help in the ways i needed.
I cant even put my disappointment into proper words to explain how let down we both felt after leaving hospital and that’s just from the midwifery care side of it. This is just a few things from our experiences of this care and there are many more. Of course there are always 2 sides to every story and I would hate for this to read as simply a bitter twisted post but I strongly feel that in order to help change the support given in these tragic circumstances then difficult posts like this need to be written showing different experiences like ours.
Steven still cant believe that some mums are left without anyone assessing their mental state or physical well being and to be honest if we hadn’t lived it I wouldn’t have believed it and maybe thought people were exaggerating but it happens and it bloody well shouldn’t. I have spoken to mums who were blessed to bring their babies home and have learned that they received home visits continuously for a couple of weeks following the birth of their baby to check their physical wounds and health so why does it differ for the ones that aren’t so lucky. It still sticks n my throat with the feeling that maybe again I wasn’t worth it as I didn’t do my “job” properly and don’t have the cute little baby I was promised at home with me.
I am pleased to say that during this pregnancy the midwife care couldn’t be any more different. Our consultant leads our care but I still require midwife care for bloods etc so knowing the lack of care we received previously he wanted to ensure we had the best midwife care and requested that the midwife who looked after his wife with his 3 children be the one to look after us this time. He wanted someone with the very best attention to detail and trustworthy. I now have a midwife who is attentive, experienced, knowledgeable, understanding and above all instills confidence in me that she has my babys needs at the forefront of her mind. I never need to wait days for her to return my calls or phone and chase up anything she has said she will do as before it even enters my mind she calls me with an update, not that she needs to but just that she wants to as she knows how difficult pregnancy after a loss of our baby girl can be. She always refers to Francesca by name which means the world to us. If I had one wish from all of this is that we had this care the first time around and didn’t need to suffer the loss of our baby girl to make sure our baby boy has the best chance at a life here on earth.
As Always For Francesca Alexis Johnston
Born 8/2/18, Forever Loved and Forever Missed XXX