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Alison

Age at interview: 32
Age at diagnosis: 30
Brief Outline: Alison had a very straightforward pregnancy with her first child. She had an emergency caesarean, and her son was born healthy and strong. However, Alison haemorrhaged as her uterus refused to contract. The doctors were forced to perform a hysterectomy to save Alison's life.
Background: Alison is an accountant, married with one son. White British.

More about me...

After a very straightforward, and happy, pregnancy, Alison went into labour naturally on her due date. Her labour proceeded in a straightforward manner, with some diamorphine and gas and air. However, once fully dilated her baby was back to back, and getting distressed. The doctors took her into theatre to attempt a forceps delivery, and then a caesarean section. They explained that they needed to do the caesarean operation to protect the baby. Her son was born and started crying immediately and was healthy and strong. She saw him but did not hold him before he was taken out of the operating room while she was stitched up. 
 
However, although she felt fine once he was born she realised that a long time had passed, almost two hours. There were a lot of people in the room, although the atmosphere was very calm. She did not feel particularly weak or dizzy, but after a while they told her that they were going to put her to sleep for a while. She woke up over 12 hours later in the middle of the night, in intensive care (ICU). Her uterus had refused to contract and therefore had not stopped bleeding. Although the doctors tried various methods to stimulate its contractions, none of them worked, so there was no option but to perform a hysterectomy. 
 
It was 27 hours after the birth that she was finally able to see her baby. She spent just about 12 hours in ICU and was then transferred to a labour room where she stayed with her baby for two days, before being transferred to the maternity ward. She went home after 6 days. She was supported to start breastfeeding and successfully managed it, after a wobbly day. The obstetric consultant came to see her several times in the hospital to explain what had happened. She has made a good recovery and her son was 2 years old when she was interviewed. She has no physical side effects, however, she has had emotional issues coming to terms with the hysterectomy and the fact that she almost died. She was offered a follow up appointment at the hospital at 10 weeks which she found very helpful, and has had two periods of counseling with a fertility counselor at the hospital. 
 
 

Alison, who had a haemorrhage after giving birth to her son, said that apart from a little blip...

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And, you know, obviously when I got pregnant for the third time, thought, was quite hesitant and not quite sure whether I had, I wanted to be excited, but wasn’t quite sure whether it was going to work out or not. And at about five and a half, six weeks I had some slight spotting and thought here we go again, another one. But that passed and everything seemed okay and had an early scan at eight weeks, and everything was okay. 
 
And so apart from a little blip early on and feeling quite sick for the first three months, I actually had a really lovely pregnancy, really enjoyed being pregnant, you know, I felt, I felt really good actually and felt happy and confident in myself, what my body was doing and yes, had a really nice time actually [laughs]. Which will all probably annoy some people, because they aren’t as fortunate to have such a nice, a nice pregnancy, but yes.
 
 

Alison had a haemorrhage and hysterectomy after her son was born. She said the atmosphere in the...

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Really calm. Really calm, yes, yes. It was to be honest the whole time the room was, never felt any sense of panic or even, I never really got a sense that there was anything particularly wrong. So they had taken my husband and baby out. And I just, my main memory was laying there, thinking I’ve been here for quite a long time [laughs]. Is that right? Because I’d not done it before, you don’t know that that’s not right. 
 
And I do remember them talking about blood, and I think, I thought, that’s a bit strange and I remember them talking about they were talking about O negative and I do remember laying there saying, thinking, but I’m O positive. Are they going to give me the wrong blood? Oh my goodness, they’re going to give me the wrong thing. And trying to catch the attention of, of somebody who was there, saying, “Excused me, I hear people talking about O negative and actually I’m O positive.” And they said, “We know you’re O positive, its fine. You know, it’s not the thing to worry about.” But at the time, is lying flat on your back with lots of people around you, it’s a little bit, it’s a little bit scary when you think you might be given the wrong, the wrong blood. 
 
And were there a lot of people in the room?
 
Yes, but I’d been expecting, we’d done ante natal classes and had been prepared for when you have a Caesarean there can be sort of twelve people or more in the room at the time, and it didn’t feel like that there were lots more than that in the room. So I wasn’t particularly put off by the amount of people here. It was more just lots of faces and its quite a strange angle to see people from as well, laying, you’re laying down and all you can see is faces peering at you [laughs]. It’s a little bit weird. But yes. I did seem yes, it was just, it was quite calm and I was, may be because they’d given me various drugs to sort of keep me stable and that kind of thing. I guess. 
 
I did feel quite relaxed and I do have, there are certain things that really did stick in my mind. One is somebody squeezing my arm very, very tightly to try, I think to try and put a line into my arm to… obviously give me fluids or blood or something like that. And I remember thinking that’s really painful, don’t do that, but, and then at one point I felt like I was suddenly really struggling to breathe. And being quite frightened that nobody had noticed. Not, kind of really forgetting that there was somebody obviously monitoring me quite closely [laughs] right by my head. But because I couldn’t see them that was quite scary. I suddenly thought, oh my goodness, I’m going to stop breathing and no one’s going to notice. And it’s really, it’s really strange in the cold light of day and your rational mind thinks that would never have happened but at the time, you don’t, I guess you don’t think particularly rationally about those kinds of things so… 
 
But they’d spotted it and they gave me some oxygen and you know, it was fine. And then, even though I felt I had been there a long time, I didn’t really have any recollection of how long I’d been there and I do have a memory of looking at the clock and seeing it was 2 o’clock. And my son had been born at quarter to twelve and I thought, that’s a really long time. And then obviously at some point quite close to that they said, “We’re going to give you, we’re going to put you to sleep for a little while.” But I still didn’t know why. But it didn’t really concern me, I wasn’t really bothered about the fact that they were putting me to sleep. I j
 

Alison had a haemorrhage and hysterectomy. She came round in intensive care but had no idea where...

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And the next point was when I came round, looking at the clock, the first thing I did, is, really strange that I looked at the clock when I came round and when I came round I’d got tubes that didn’t, I didn’t know that I’d got tubes everywhere, but kind of, could obviously feel that I’d got something in my throat, and in my nose. And I do, I just remember being very, very groggy, and coming round and I must have at some point, asked them for my glasses. Because without them I wouldn’t have been able to see anything at all. And I remember looking at the clock and it was early hours of the morning and thinking, I don’t know why I knew it was the early hours of the morning, but I knew that it must have, it was sort of probably, it was, it must have been about half, was it half three or five o’clock, something like that anyway. It was, it was, and I thought, gosh I’ve been out for a long time. 
 
And I asked for my husband and they said, “Oh he’s gone home. We’ll ring him, and we’ll get him to come back.” What he must have thought having a phone call at half five or something in the morning. He must have, I think when we spoke about it afterwards, I think he, he’d really thought something had happened, something that I had taken for the worse or something when they got the phone call. He got the phone call at that time. But they’d sent him home to get some rest. And so, yes, I’d ask to see him.
 
But when, the first thing I said to him, when he, he ran in across the intensive care. I didn’t know I was intensive care at the time, but he ran in across the room to me, and even before that, I’d kind of known something was really wrong. My first words to him, were, “Phaw, I’m not doing that again.” [Laughs]. And he said, “You can’t.” Or something along those lines. And as much as that, hearing him say that, was just a complete, just was, it was you know, it was just devastating, to hear that I kind of knew that that had happened. And I don’t know how I knew, but just, it wasn’t a surprise when he said it. Which, and I’ve no idea, because the nurses and the midwives hadn’t told me what had happened. Nobody had mentioned it before they put me to sleep. So I had no idea that that had definitely happened, but for some reason, it wasn’t a shock.
 
 

After her haemorrhage and hysterectomy, Alison woke up in intensive care. She was bloated and...

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And when you finally got to see him, were you able to hold him at that point?
 
Yes, yes.
 
That was good.
 
Yes, it was. Yes. Yes, very emotional [laughs]. But yes, that was… but it was, that was hard as well, because I was still so, I was incredibly bloated. I was, I looked like, I don’t know what I looked… [laughs]. Somebody else who’s been through it described it as looking like a marshmallow man, and I think that… My, my fingers were so swollen, so blown up with all, just all the fluids I think, and the trauma and everything else. I couldn’t even bend my fingers. So trying to hold a baby with massive arms and fingers and everything else and being really, really sore and weak, was actually really hard and so I wasn’t able. I wasn’t, didn’t feel I was able to hold him for very long, and then I felt guilty that I couldn’t hold him for very long. And, that was quite, that was quite hard, because you want to hold them, and I think you see, before you have a baby, you see all these sort of idealistic, you have this idealistic picture in your head, and what it’s like when you’ve got a baby, that you’ll spend all the time cuddling them, and I didn’t feel like I could do that, because just holding him to start with, was just exhausting. So that was really, that was really difficult sort of emotional battle really. You want to be doing something, but you know, physically you’re not able to do it so… that was quite hard.
 
 

Alison had a hysterectomy after her first baby was born. She was discharged from intensive care...

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So they took me, from Intensive Care they took me to the labour, the labour suite, because it was more one to one care on the labour suite. So they said that’s, I needed my own midwife effectively and so we both stayed there. 
 
Yes, so we were both. We had obviously a room here that we both stayed in. Which was nice that we could both be there really rather than separated again.
 
And how long were you in that room for? How long did you stay in the labour ward?
 
I was in, I was in the labour suite until, for two days. Or yes, kind of a day and a half. So I went there on the Monday, Monday afternoon, and I was there until the Wednesday morning. And they transferred me up to the maternity ward after that. Once they’d got me, they got me out of bed on the Wednesday and I was able to walk a little, shuffle actually, a little way, and then they transferred me up to the maternity ward.
 
And were you able to lift your baby at that point, or was it too painful to lift him?
 
No, I was told I shouldn’t lift him until he was six weeks old. Nothing heavier than a litre of water for six weeks apparently. And given that he was heavier than a litre of water when he was born, that was quite difficult [laughs]. And I had to have him passed to me if I wanted to hold him or feed him, and that kind of thing, so yes, that was, but those first two days to be honest were, I felt so, weak well for quite a long time I felt really week, but on the Tuesday, so when he was two days old, they gave me three more units of blood because my blood count had dropped quite, quite a lot. And was just feeling really, really exhausted and just not with it at all. So they gave me some more blood, which pepped me up quite a lot, and I felt a lot stronger, I felt a lot stronger, once they’d done that. And obviously over those couple of days [they] were taking various cannulas out and bits, other bits and pieces and [laughs] so you start to feel a little bit more normal. I guess. Once you start getting, getting things taken away and drains taken away and that kind of thing. So that gets a little bit more, a little bit easier to start cuddling babies and getting out bed and things like that, so…
 
 

Alison had to wait 27 hours before she met her son, as she was still on ITU. She felt sad that...

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When did you finally get to see your son?
 
When he was 27 hours old, 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A long, long time. They decided that he couldn’t be brought into Intensive Care because the infection risk was just too great for him. And I guess, that’s hard to, it’s hard to sort of hear that, because that’s what I really wanted to see him. But again I didn’t want to expose him to any unnecessary risk. So I had to just wait until I was stable enough to be transferred to the labour suite and we had to wait for a porter to come and get me, and [laughs] It was the longest… we had waited about three hours to be, from the point at which they said I could go to the point at which I actually went. And that’s the longest three hours ever. It was horrible. It was really, really horrible waiting such a long time. 
 
And… that… all that was going through my head the whole time was I haven’t even had a cuddle with him yet. I’ve not even, I’ve not even touched him yet. And that was, I’d seen pictures, because Mum and Dad, and husband had taken pictures and shown them to me, so I’d seen him. But, in a way he’s kind of that… it was lovely to see the pictures and actually see. They’d taken loads of pictures of his first feed. And that kind of thing, but in a way that’s hard as well, because you think I should have been there for that. And I still feel that. I still feel I should have been there for those things. And that’s, you’re never going to get that, never get that back.
 
And where had he been at that time. Had he been in the maternity ward?
 
Yes, he was above the maternity ward, and all the midwives loved him [laughs]. They looked after him so well and you know, they’d all, yes, they’d all really taken to him which was nice that, you know, that he’d been so well looked after. So yes, that was good, to know that he’d been looked after so well.
 
And your husband had been able to spend some time with him as well?
 
Yes, yes, so he’d been up there and yes, and obviously sat with me for a bit, and then there comes a point where there is only so many beeping machines that you can sit and listen to and if, if I’m not, he knew they weren’t going to bring me, bring me round any time soon. So it makes sense that he’s with, with our son, and sort of spending some time with him. And he’s having cuddles with somebody, rather than nobody. 
 
And when you finally got to see him, were you able to hold him at that point?
 
Yes, yes.
 
 

Alison was very emotional when she was finally able to hold her son. She was still in ITU, but...

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Yes, it was. Yes. Yes, very emotional [laughs]. But yes, that was… but it was, that was hard as well, because I was still so, I was incredibly bloated. I was, I looked like, I don’t know what I looked… [laughs]. Somebody else who’s been through it described it as looking like a marshmallow man, and I think that… My, my fingers were so swollen, so blown up with all, just all the fluids I think, and the trauma and everything else. I couldn’t even bend my fingers. So trying to hold a baby with massive arms and fingers and everything else and being really, really sore and weak, was actually really hard and so I wasn’t able. I wasn’t, didn’t feel I was able to hold him for very long, and then I felt guilty that I couldn’t hold him for very long. And, that was quite, that was quite hard, because you want to hold them, and I think you see, before you have a baby, you see all these sort of idealistic, you have this idealistic picture in your head, and what it’s like when you’ve got a baby, that you’ll spend all the time cuddling them, and I didn’t feel like I could do that, because just holding him to start with, was just exhausting. So that was really, that was really difficult sort of emotional battle really. You want to be doing something, but you know, physically you’re not able to do it so… that was quite hard.

 

Alison was eventually successful in breastfeeding her son, and went on to feed him for a year....

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Yes, and what about breastfeeding was that, were you able to do that at all?
 
Yes, yes. So they, when, obviously when it was obvious that I, because I was still in theatre and he needed a feed, the midwife spoke to my husband and  he told them that I wanted to breastfeed and so they cup fed him for the first, for the first two days, and so on his third day, so on the Tuesday while I was still on the labour ward, they started to, they cup, they started to give him to me to try and feed him, but he was, he didn’t have, he had hardly anything, but you know, it got him used to starting to try. And then they’d cup feed him, and then when I went onto the maternity ward, they got the breast pump out, so I started to, it was quite, it was really tiring day, it was, actually, probably my lowest day was that day, which is quite a, sort of three or four days in, you think, I think all your hormones are flying around all over the place, and so I was. I was feeding him and he was being cup fed, and then an hour and a half later, I was having to, to express milk, and then an hour and a half later, try and feed him, and then he would have a cup feed of the expressed milk and then some formula and then an hour and a half later he was back on the pump, and it just was relentless but at the end of the day, I just said, “I can’t do this anymore.” [Laughs]. “I just can’t.” And I just was in tears that evening. I just thought, oh I’m just not, because I didn’t feel physically strong enough to deal with it either. I just thought I’m trying to get over this major operation. I’m trying to look after my baby. I’ve got this silly machine that’s just driving me mad. I felt like a cow, and it was just horrible. And I just was miserable. And I just didn’t know what to do. And I just thought how can I do this all night? When I need to sleep. It’s bad enough having to feed a baby every three hours or so. Without having to get up every hour and a half to be expressing milk as well.
 
And so I spoke to the midwife. The midwife came in to talk to me, and she said, “Well what we’ll do is we’ll knock it on the head overnight.” And they actually, the first three or four nights, three nights I think, they actually, for about a four hour period or so, they took him to like where the midwives’ station was in the ward, and they looked after him for me, so they did that on the labour suite, and they did that for one or two nights when I was up on the maternity ward. And then I could get a block of sort of four or five hours sleep. Which was kind of what I needed I think, just to get my body to start repairing itself. 
 
And then on the Thursday morning the doctors came in to see me, and to see how I was doing and they were asking about how I was getting on with breast feeding and I just burst into tears and said, “I just don’t think I can do it.” And one doctor said to me, “If you can breastfeed after all of this. Then that’s amazing. But nobody will think any worse of you, if you can’t.” And that made me realise that I’d been, not putting the pressure on myself, but I’d been thinking that other people were expecting me to do it. And as soon as somebody said, “its okay if you can’t, I was able to do it.” But my rule was the pump goes, because that was the bit that was getting me stressed. So the pump went, and I said, “If I can’t do it by myself today, that’s it. He’s on a bottle.
 
And just knowing that it was okay if I couldn’t, I relaxed and I fed him until he was a year old [laughs]. And he had no more formula and that was it. It was just like someone had flipped a switch and I think it was jus
 

After her haemorrhage and hysterectomy, doctors came to talk to Alison like a “normal person” and...

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They were pretty good actually. And they were just good at talking to me, about, like a normal person, rather than you know, and answering my questions honestly. When, when my son was a couple of days old, yes, the head anaesthetist at the hospital came to talk to me, because there was a big meeting that afternoon and they were going to be discussing my case, and he wanted to come and talk to me and find, just have met me, and let me know they were going to be talking about me, and find out a little bit more about what had happened and, and I just, those little things like that, doesn’t take a huge amount of time out of somebody’s day, but it actually just makes you feel that you’re important, you know, you matter that you’re not just another number, or a statistic or whatever makes you feel value. You know, like you, not valued because you’re a patient, but do you know what I mean. Its, that they’re not just doing their job because they have to, that they actually care.

 

Alison was going “stir crazy” in hospital, but she was also quite scared at the prospect of...

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Looking back, not great, physically still very weak, but I was just desperate to get home. I’d just had enough of being cooped up in a little room. They’d given me a, a side room in the hospital, and as much as that was great for visitors and being able to be private and that kind of thing, actually after six days of being cooped up in solitary confinement effectively, I was going stir crazy and I just wanted to get out. 
 
But actually leaving hospital after six days was quite a scary thought as well. Just, it’s amazing, in having such a short period of time, you become almost institutionalised, your little bit, you know, its familiar, it’s easy, there’s people there who know what to do if… And you come home and you suddenly go, “Oh no, I’m on my own with a baby,” [laughs]. Well not on my own, but you know, it’s, but yes, physically I was still pretty weak. 
 
I remember the drive home was really uncomfortable and I don’t think my husband has ever driven as slowly as he did on the way home. Every little twist and turn in the road was like, “Slow down, it hurts, slow down.” And we live on a steep hill. We had to make sure we parked the right way round, so I could actually get out of the car, because even lifting my legs up, over the ledge, to get out of the car, was really, really uncomfortable, and just shuffling down. Shuffling down the drive, and just everything was really slow and just, just really hard work. Just even little things was really hard work, but I was just glad to be in my own environment and just, just more comfortable, being where you can relax properly, and you can have people in whenever you want or need them here, and that kind of thing. So that was definitely better than being trapped in the hospital.
 
 

Alison had a follow up meeting with the hospital ten weeks after her haemorrhage and hysterectomy...

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So you were talking about getting out and about and stuff. Did any doctors or anything come to see you during that time? Did you have any health visitors?
 
So the midwife came to see me the day after I was discharged from hospital, and again, two or three days later, and then she also, she did another visit I think. But sort of a few days or a week after that. So I think she came round an extra time than she might have done. But then she said to me, “Do you want me to keep coming here, or do you want to go to the clinic?” And I was quite happy to go to the clinic if I had someone to go with me, and so my Dad came and helped me get into… came to the clinic and that kind of thing. So I did get out and about doing things like that, but again with somebody helping. And then when we were transferred to the health visitor she came here the first couple of times and then we started going to the clinic as usual. 
 
But yes, no, we didn’t have the doctor; the doctors didn’t come round to see me or anything like that. I had the usual six week checkup, but at the doctors.  And then I had a follow up appointment with the consultant at the hospital at ten weeks.
 
And how was that? Was that the obstetrician? So the clinic appointment?
 
Yes.
 
Was that with the same obstetrician who had seen you in hospital?
 
Yes.
 
And how was that?
 
So that was more of a, a bit more of debrief than anything else, and so it wasn’t a detailed physical checkup or anything like that. It was more of a talk through what had happened again. Which actually was really helpful because I’d had time to think about, and obviously think a lot about what had happened and dwell on what had happened. 
 
And I’d also got lots of questions about the longer term. I think up until, well for quite a long time, you’re dealing with that immediate how I feel now, physically what I can and can’t do now. That you don’t really have much consideration for longer term health implications and I started, at that point to have lots of questions about, Will I go through the menopause early? What will I be able to do? That kind of thing so it was quite helpful to have that follow up.
 
So on the whole you found that consultation quite reassuring did you?
 
Yes, and it was nice to be able to talk about what had happened from a medical perspective, away from the immediate event. I mean, she was very good at, she did talk to me several times while I was in hospital about what had happened and why it was necessary. But it’s quite, I think, because you’re living with, trauma sounds quite dramatic, but you’re in turmoil at the time. You know, you’ve just been dealt this huge blow that you’re not going to be able to have any more children, and biologically of your own. Or you’re not going to carry any more children of your own.  And you’ve had, and you’ve been constantly told that you are very, very poorly. And so you’re dealing with that huge piece of news and trying to deal with a new baby, and feeling physically quite rubbish. So it’s really hard to absorb it all and take it all in and I don’t know that I’ve necessarily internalised everything that happened even now. Because you just, you forget things and so it was quite, it was really good to have that follow up appointment actually, to just be able to go through it again.
 
 

Alison was very worried about how she would cope once she was discharged from hospital. She...

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And, I also think that… the hospital knew that I was anxious about how I would cope when I got home. And I actually think it would be helpful if people said… talk to you about, your, exactly about your specific circumstances rather than just a general, ‘Have you got family and friends who might be able to help you out?” Be more specific and ask more specific questions about, ‘Okay so when’s your husband going back to work?’ Or you know, ‘When is somebody around with you full time?’ And maybe then get somebody if it’s not the midwife from the hospital or doctors in the hospital, get somebody out in the community to come, like the community midwives or health visitors to actually come back and have a conversation with you as a Mother. Not, with no, no intention to kind of check how your child is doing, but actually talk to you about how you’re feeling physically. What’s the next milestone for you in terms of your husband going back to work in three days or whatever. ‘Okay so realistically what can you do now?’ ‘What can we do to support you and help you?’ Because I was able to do that, because I stopped myself from getting worked up about it at a point where it wasn’t actually relevant and when it became relevant, I was actually stronger than I’d expected to be. But some people might not be like that. They might not have that will power or whatever it is that stops them from fretting about it from the point that they find out what’s happened to them, to the point at which whatever it is, the next stage happens to them. And it would be, I think it would be helpful, for somebody to just sit down with them and say, ‘Well we’ll talk to you again in a week, two weeks or whatever and then let’s figure out what, what you can specifically do.’ Find out about the lay out of your house. Because sometimes, it just takes someone to go, ‘Well you don’t need to come downstairs. You can stay in… Why don’t you just get your husband to take a kettle, and a toaster, and this, that and the other upstairs and you’ve got things upstairs and you can just spend the day upstairs rather than having to carry a baby and the cot, and everything else downstairs. Just really go through it on a very practical level rather than. It just didn’t feel that that was… That was something I feel quite strongly about but I don’t know who should provide that support but… that was missing really.

 

After her son was born by caesarean section, Alison started to bleed. She did not realise she was...

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 Really calm. Really calm, yes, yes. It was to be honest the whole time the room was, never felt any sense of panic or even, I never really got a sense that there was anything particularly wrong. So they had taken my husband and baby out. And I just, my main memory was laying there, thinking I’ve been here for quite a long time [laughs]. Is that right? Because I’d not done it before, you don’t know that that’s not right. 

 
And I do remember them talking about blood, and I think, I thought, that’s a bit strange and I remember them talking about they were talking about O negative and I do remember laying there saying, thinking, but I’m O positive. Are they going to give me the wrong blood? Oh my goodness, they’re going to give me the wrong thing. And trying to catch the attention of, of somebody who was there, saying, “Excuse me, I hear people talking about O negative and actually I’m O positive.” And they said, “We know you’re O positive, its fine. You know, it’s not the thing to worry about.” But at the time, is lying flat on your back with lots of people around you, it’s a little bit, it’s a little bit scary when you think you might be given the wrong, the wrong blood. 

And were there a lot of people in the room?
 
Yes, but I’d been expecting, we’d done ante natal classes and had been prepared for when you have a Caesarean there can be sort of twelve people or more in the room at the time, and it didn’t feel like that there were lots more than that in the room. So I wasn’t particularly put off by the amount of people here. It was more just lots of faces and its quite a strange angle to see people from as well, laying, you’re laying down and all you can see is faces peering at you [laughs]. It’s a little bit weird. But yes. I did seem… yes, it was just, it was quite calm and I was, may be because they’d given me various drugs to sort of keep me stable and that kind of thing. I guess. 
 
I did feel quite relaxed and I do have, there are certain things that really did stick in my mind. One is somebody squeezing my arm very, very tightly to try, I think to try and put a line into my arm to… obviously give me fluids or blood or something like that. And I remember thinking that’s really painful, don’t do that, but, and then at one point I felt like I was suddenly really struggling to breathe. And being quite frightened that nobody had noticed. Not, kind of really forgetting that there was somebody obviously monitoring me quite closely [laughs] right by my head. But because I couldn’t see them that was quite scary. I suddenly thought, oh my goodness, I’m going to stop breathing and no one’s going to notice. And it’s really, it’s really strange in the cold light of day and your rational mind thinks that would never have happened but at the time, you don’t, I guess you don’t think particularly rationally about those kinds of things so… 
 
But they’d spotted it and they gave me some oxygen and you know, it was fine. And then, even though I felt I had been there a long time, I didn’t really have any recollection of how long I’d been there and I do have a memory of looking at the clock and seeing it was 2 o’clock. And my son had been born at quarter to twelve and I thought, that’s a really long time. And then obviously at some point quite close to that they said, “We’re going to give you, we’re going to put you to sleep for a little while.” But I still didn’t know why. But it didn’t really concern me, I wasn’t really bothered about the fact that they w
 

Alison had to wait 27 hours before she met her son, as she was still on ITU. She felt sad that...

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When did you finally get to see your son?
 
When he was 27 hours old, 3 o’clock in the afternoon. A long, long time. They decided that he couldn’t be brought into Intensive Care because the infection risk was just too great for him. And I guess, that’s hard to, it’s hard to sort of hear that, because that’s what I really wanted to see him. But again I didn’t want to expose him to any unnecessary risk. So I had to just wait until I was stable enough to be transferred to the labour suite and we had to wait for a porter to come and get me, and [laughs] it was the longest… we had waited about three hours to be, from the point at which they said I could go to the point at which I actually went. And that’s the longest three hours ever. It was horrible. It was really, really horrible waiting such a long time. 
 
And… that... all that was going through my head the whole time was I haven’t even had a cuddle with him yet. I’ve not even, I’ve not even touched him yet. And that was, I’d seen pictures, because Mum and Dad, and husband had taken pictures and shown them to me, so I’d seen him. But, in a way he’s kind of that … it was lovely to see the pictures and actually see. They’d taken loads of pictures of his first feed. And that kind of thing, but in a way that’s hard as well, because you think I should have been there for that. And I still feel that. I still feel I should have been there for those things. And that’s, you’re never going to get that, never get that back.
 
And where had he been at that time. Had he been in the maternity ward?
 
Yes, he was above the maternity ward, and all the midwives loved him [laughs]. They looked after him so well and you know, they’d all, yes, they’d all really taken to him which was nice that, you know, that he’d been so well looked after. So yes, that was good, to know that he’d been looked after so well.

 

 

The consultant who had performed Alison’s hysterectomy came to see her several times during her...

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So the consultant who performed the hysterectomy did, spoke to me on several occasions actually throughout my stay, about what had, what had happened and why it had happened or not necessarily why it had happened but why, why she’d had to do the hysterectomy and she did come and speak to me on that first day and see, to see how I was, and talk through what had happened. And explained obviously that they, the steps that they’d taken to try and, so that they didn’t have to do the hysterectomy, and why it had been necessary to the hysterectomy in the end as well. So…

 
Can you remember why it was that they had to do it?
 
So they said that once they’d delivered my son that my uterus wouldn’t contract. And because it wouldn’t contract, it wouldn’t shut the blood vessels off and therefore I was just bleeding and just wouldn’t stop. And they tried, there are several different techniques that they can try  so massaging the uterus,  they put a balloon in to try and  sort of effectively blow it up and bring it back down again to see if that would naturally contract. They tried, my understanding is like big stitches to try and sew it shut, to try and shut it, so it was slightly stubborn and wouldn’t [laughs] wouldn’t do what it was supposed to do, and they’d given me so much blood and I just, they just said that there came a point where it was obvious that these steps they were taking just weren’t going to work. And so, the only option left really to save my life was to take my, take my uterus away. Because that was the only, the only problem. It was, that that wouldn’t stop bleeding so…
 
 

Alison said that it was really hard to absorb the enormity of what she had been through. Having a...

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So on the whole you found that consultation quite reassuring did you?
 
Yes, and it was nice to be able to talk about what had happened from a medical perspective, away from the immediate event. I mean, she was very good at, she did talk to me several times while I was in hospital about what had happened and why it was necessary. But it’s quite, I think, because you’re living with, trauma sounds quite dramatic, but you’re in turmoil at the time. You know, you’ve just been dealt this huge blow that you’re not going to be able to have any more children, and biologically of your own. Or you’re not going to carry any more children of your own. And you’ve had, and you’ve been constantly told that you are very, very poorly. And so you’re dealing with that huge piece of news and trying to deal with a new baby, and feeling physically quite rubbish. So it’s really hard to absorb it all and take it all in and I don’t know that I’ve necessarily internalised everything that happened even now. Because you just, you forget things and so it was quite, it was really good to have that follow up appointment actually, to just, and to just be able to go through it again.
 
 

As her son’s first birthday approached, Alison became more anxious as it was the first...

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Then when it got towards his first birthday, I started to feel quite anxious and just really, I’d gone back to work when he was ten, ten and a half months old as well. So going back to work and leaving him for the first time, and everything else was quite. I did everything all at once I think, and I’d actually done some fund raising for the hospital as I went back to work and so I was in touch with one of the midwives at the hospital and I mentioned to her that I was starting to struggle leading up to his birthday and she put me back in touch with the same counsellor and I saw her a few more times, that’s how actually, and it’s strange, I thought I would have needed more support immediately after the event, but it was actually a year after that I felt that I needed more help. But I think that it just brought feelings out that I’d just bottled them up. I’d kind of packaged them away and said, that dealt with, and I hadn’t worked through my feelings, I’d just pushed them to one side and said, I don’t, that’s fine, that’s okay. Put a smiley face on and got on with it [laughs]. And it worked short term, but then it came back to bite me when I was least expecting it as well actually and so I struggled quite a lot around his birthday, which he really helped me to go back and think about what had happened and talk about, talk about the things, and really uncover the things that were bothering me. The things that I hadn’t even realised were issues really. She helped me to kind of talk those through and get to a spot where I could identify why I was feeling the way I was feeling, and, and also make me realise that there’s no shame in feeling upset about what happened. And that if other people have a problem with it, then that’s their problem. But, and so now, it’s good, because now I just say if I’m feeling a little bit down and someone will say, “Oh just think about what you’ve got.” And it’s amazing how many people say to you, “Oh but just look at the gorgeous son you’ve got.” As if, and then I would feel bad for thinking but that’s not enough, because he is enough. But it was almost as if, because I was still feeling bad, despite thinking of him, that he wasn’t enough to make… and I’ve now got to the point, where I say, “I’m feeling down about it, but that’s okay. I’m going to allow myself to feel down about it, or cry. Because that’s what I need to do, to get it out of my system. And I find it just being like that and not suppressing how I’m feeling means it’s over and done with, so much quicker than, than if I squashed, squashed the feelings and they just hang around for ages. So...

 

Alison was offered counselling while still in hospital. She went for a few sessions when her son...

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That was really helpful actually while I was still in hospital, the obstetrician offer… said to… I was going to ask actually about counselling, but she said to me, “Would you like to talk to somebody about it?” And I said straight away, “Yes.” Because I, I was really conscious that I wanted to try and, you know, obviously every Mum wants to be the best Mum they can be, but I didn’t feel, unless I got, got this out of my system and talked it through and dealt with it, head on, I didn’t feel that I was able to, able to be a proper Mum. I just I didn’t feel that I could be a good Mum whilst carrying this huge thing around with me, and I just felt that I need… that I would need to talk it through with somebody. And so, probably when he was about six weeks, I, I saw her three or four times. And actually that, short term that was, I didn’t really need to, I felt that then after that, I can cope with this, I’ve you know, dealt with a few things, and you know, I know the things that I need to do to help myself. And that was what I needed at the time. 
 
Then when it got towards his first birthday, I started to feel quite anxious and just really, I’d gone back to work when he was ten, ten and a half months old as well. So going back to work and leaving him for the first time, and everything else was quite. I did everything all at once I think, and I’d actually done some fund raising for the hospital as I went back to work and so I was in touch with one of the midwives at the hospital and I mentioned to her that I was starting to struggle leading up to his birthday and she put me back in touch with the same counsellor and I saw her a few more times, that’s how actually, and it’s strange, I thought I would have needed more support immediately after the event, but it was actually a year after that I felt that I needed more help. But I think that it just brought feelings out that I’d just bottled them up. I’d kind of packaged them away and said, that dealt with, and I hadn’t worked through my feelings, I’d just pushed them to one side and said, I don’t, that’s fine, that’s okay. Put a smiley face on and got on with it [laughs]. And it worked short term, but then it came back to bite me when I was least expecting it as well actually and so I struggled quite a lot around his birthday, which he really helped me to go back and think about what had happened and talk about, talk about the things, and really uncover the things that were bothering me. The things that I hadn’t even realised were issues really. She helped me to kind of talk those through and get to a spot where I could identify why I was feeling the way I was feeling, and, and also make me realise that there’s no shame in feeling upset about what happened. And that if other people have a problem with it, then that’s their problem. But, and so now, it’s good, because now I just say if I’m feeling a little bit down and someone will say, “Oh just think about what you’ve got.” And it’s amazing how many people say to you, “Oh but just look at the gorgeous son you’ve got.” As if, and then I would feel bad for thinking but that’s not enough, because he is enough. But it was almost as if, because I was still feeling bad, despite thinking of him, that he wasn’t enough to make… and I’ve now got to the point, where I say, “I’m feeling down about it, but that’s okay. I’m going to allow myself to feel down about it, or cry”. Because that’s what I need to do, to get it out of my system. And I find it just being like that and not suppressing how I’m feeling means it’s over and done with, so much quicker then, then if I squashed, squashed the feelings and they just hang around fo
 

Alison had a hysterectomy and was given a couple of leaflets about recovery from caesarean and...

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So I’d had a couple of, well I’d had the physio come and talk to me, about exercises that I should do. I’d had a couple of leaflets about things, you know, recovering from a Caesarean, recovering from a hysterectomy. But actually, it didn’t, I guess because it’s something that’s not that common… and apparently I was only the second case in that hospital in ten years. They, there was not really any specific advice for, that I felt was targeted to a 30 year old woman, who had just had a baby, and had just had a hysterectomy. 
 
There was nothing to tie the two together. So the advice was, ‘Don’t lift anything heavier than a litre of water for six weeks’. And there was no kind of practical suggestion about what I might do when my husband went back to work for example. It was just, you know, “Well try and get friends and family to come and help you out.” But they were all at work, so [laughs] it was, I felt it was a real lack of… sort of specific, advice specific to my situation, I guess. That, you know, that was tailored to what I needed really. 
 
But I don’t know whether, I don’t know whether they really knew what a 30 year old woman who’d been through a hysterectomy could do within a reasonable amount of time. You know, generally, I guess that your typical patient having had a hysterectomy is generally older, I guess. And so, and hasn’t gone through nine months of child… carrying a child. So yes.
 
 

Alison described the online support group she found as amazingly helpful. It helped her feel normal.

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Yes, that’s been amazingly helpful. Just for… if you have a bit of a bad day you can just say, there’s always somebody who’s on line or somebody who will respond to your message and you can say, this has happened, have a bit of a rant without feeling like a bad person for having a bit of a rant about something [laughs]. And it might be somebody having made a unknowingly insensitive comment or something like that, and you can have a just a bit of a “ra ra ra ra ra this has happened”. And somebody goes, “Yes, I know how you’re feeling. It’s perfectly normal.” And just knowing that the way you’re feeling is normal is just such a huge reassurance I think. Until I scoured the internet for hours after it had happened, trying to find why, answers as to why it had happened and, you know, other people that it had happened to. Most of the experiences you go through in your life you know somebody else who has been through something similar. Or somebody who knows somebody who’s been through something similar and this was the first thing that had ever happened to me, that I thought, there’s no, I don’t know anyone else, and I really wanted to be able to say to somebody else, “How did you feel?” “What did you do about this?” “Is this normal?” And it was really weird not to be able to do that. 
 
And even talking to doctors wasn’t, you couldn’t, you know, my GP had never come across anybody who’d had this sort of thing, so I couldn’t even go to her and say, “Is it normal to feel like this?” Because she didn’t, she wouldn’t really know. So that forum was amazing, still is amazing, for just chatting through feelings and thoughts and even physical sort of side effects issues, you know, you don’t know if is just a pregnancy thing. You know, post pregnancy thing or if it’s because of the big ordeal that we all went through when we had our children. There were people on here who, who had the hysterectomy after their first child. There were people who’ve had four or five children and then had a hysterectomy. So the people who’ve had more children, could say “Well this happened with my other children, but this didn’t.” And so that’s really helpful as well. 
 
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