Last week I visited the local Gentio Urinary Clinic. For those of you who have never visited one, it is a sexual health unit. It is run for the benefit of all non-virgins and also for women who need to have a check up, down there.
I was there for a smear test. A very firm reminder from my doctors had arrived at my door a few days previously instructing me to undergo this test as soon as possible and also berating me for having ignored the initial two letters which they had sent.
I am fully aware of how important it is to have these checks for abnormal cells and how early detection can profoundly improve one’s chances of survival should the worst be found. However, I was determined that when I have these tests performed, I would need to be knocked out before hand.
As I sat in the waiting room clutching my queue number ticket, I could not resist having a scope round the room. It was occupied mostly by men of various ages. I have to say that I was really impressed by these guys! I figured that either this was their first time and therefore did not have a clue what was about to happen to them or they were being very responsible and fixing any health issues rather than ignoring them and worse passing them on. One bloke in particular was very good looking and as he took a ticket he threw me a flirtatious smile, Was He Kidding? I admit my evil feminist side could not resist an inner grin when he returned from his appointment with deathly pale skin and watery eyes.
A nurse called me for my turn and can you believe it…she was a former pupil of mine. Last thing I wanted was for someone to be asking me about their exam certificates while meandering my downstairs. As I sat in the examination room being asked the usual routine questions I could feel my heart thudding, I felt sick and dizzy. I asked in complete seriousness if there was any chance I could be sedated before hand and the doctor laughed. Tears started to roll as I undressed behind the curtain. I shakily climbed onto the couch and then that is when they returned… the flashbacks.
I was in the labour room again.
I was induced on Monday, again on Tuesday, waters broken for me on Wednesday & then given an epidural Wednesday night. The next 12-hours in labour were fine, almost enjoyable, unfortunately assistance was needed – I’d been pushing for over 2 hours without sucess. A doctor came in to the room with another woman, neither of them bothered to speak to me, not a single word. The venthose failed and several more people came into the room but again no one spoke to me. At one point there was 10 people in that room, for what purpose other than to be spectators I do not know. The doctor then informed the room, not me, that he would have to use forceps, I cried out “No, Please No” and looked to my Mum for help, the nurse snapped at me that I would feel nothing, so harshly, that Mum firmly told her that I was frightened,.Those three words were the only ones that I had spoken since the nurse had entered the room. The horror of my body being paralysed when I was so desperate to defend myself. Feeling my child ripped from me in such a brutal way. To see all those eyes watching in fascination and ignoring my terror, not one attempting reassurance or comfort. It is those people that haunt me!
Ten years on and I still feel pathetic, as I explain that I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stres Disorder) and that under any other circumstances, I’m hard as nails – seriously, nothing, except for waterslides, scares me! My second child was born via C-Section and it was a wonderful experience. Yes, I know, we are suppoosed to advocate natural birth but lets face it, how natural are those inducing tampon thingies, a ‘hook a duck’ stick popping your water, a spinal, a suction venthouse contraption & giant bloody salad forks shoved up your fuffer?? Why do some women self-proclaim themselves superior for having done it ‘the natural way’ as if its a pass or fail system?
Three women surrounded me on this occasion. Three women to witness my utter humiliation as I sobbed on the examination bed. I finally understand the expression ‘climbing the walls’ now as that is precisely what I attempted to do, I needed escape. I apologised for my behaviour repeatedly throughout the procedure. I assumed those women would find me ridiculous. As it turns out, one of the nurses had a very similar experience 15 years ago. As a result she only has one child. She says she will never give birth ever again and I felt angry for her!
I fully understand that childbirth is a painful business. Things can go wrong and Doctors need to act quickly for the sake of both woman and child. But is it really necessary to ignore a patient’s need for information, permission and civil manners? I realise that dignity is hard to maintain during birthing but should women have to feel utterly powerless in the process?
I’ve heard many women say that their experiences were “easy” “enjoyable” “painful but quick” – bloody show offs! At the end of the day, it was not the act of giving birth that haunted me, nor was I naive as to what to expect. What I struggled to come to terms with, was the fact that my physical ordeal had become a free-for-all show and as I lay naked & paralysed from the neck down, nobody had the courtesy to so much as look at my face, let alone say “Hello Lyndsey, my name is …”
If you have been through a traumatic birth experience, or need advice on how to support someone who has then there are some support groups online, such as The Birth Trauma Association, Mind and Pandas Foundation.org.uk