From labor to present, pain and neuropathy

Below is a Brooke’s story. She’s from regional Western Australia and suffered neuropathy in her foot and leg after giving birth. Brooke, thank you for sharing so much of your journey with all of us.

At 1:30pm, on my due date, my water broke.

Once we arrived at the hospital, I was sat on the bed and was told by Nurse N, ‘if you would like pain medication, you must ask us. We will not offer it to you.’ I remember trying lots of different positions to cope with the pain. I got in the bath and went for a walk, but something just didn’t feel right. I told them how much pain I was in and how my legs had no strength. I opted for the gas whilst in the bath.

By 4pm, I was in such excruciating pain all I could do was lay down. Nurse M said to me, ‘you have a very low pain tolerance. You just wait until you have to push.’ At this time, no contractions were showing on the monitor. My boyfriend and I recorded my pains and they lasted from anywhere from 5-10 minutes. In fact, I don’t recall a time where the contractions were constant on the monitor.

At roughly 6pm, I remember asking for an epidural. I was strongly discouraged from getting an epidural. I remember being told that my labour would start to slow down and I would require intervention to deliver the baby. I also remember looking at the monitor at some point and my blood pressure was extremely high and the baby’s heart rate was around 190.

I told my boyfriend repeatedly that he needed to kill me. I can’t explain the pain I felt. It was horrific. At roughly 8:30pm, I got an epidural. One midwife tried to insert a catheter and she couldn’t get it in all the way. She then tried a different size. It still wouldn’t go in. The other two midwives tried, but no one could get this thing in more than half way. I remember seeing blood in the bag. In the end they didn’t bother with the catheter. I remember being told that my baby’s head was in an awkward position and blocking the catheter from getting all the way through.

It took about 30 minutes for the epidural to work. I had the epidural for 5 hours and then they told me they needed to turn it off because I was fully dilated and they don’t believe in pushing while the epidural is on. The epidural was turned off and I started pushing at around 2:30am.

I pushed for 2 and a half hours before I suddenly felt less pain. I believe the baby had turned his head. I could feel my contractions becoming regular and I could actually breathe through them. I asked to get up and walk but they said that wasn’t allowed.

Half an hour later, at 5am, Dr. S suggests a vacuum extraction. My son was born at 5:24am. I walked from the delivery suite to the recovery room. A few hours later, Nurse L asked me to get up and I fell on top of her. My whole right leg and foot was numb.

I ended up with a nerve injury. It took 14 weeks for me to regain full use of my foot. It took 16 weeks for me to get up from a seated position without having pain shoot up from my pubic bone.

It states in my discharge papers “post her epidural (the mother) developed some difficulty with walking with numbness in her R leg.” However, this is not supported by the physio and my 3 week check up with a GP who said that the type of injury I had, L5, is not in the vicinity of where epidurals are placed. I have no medical training and trust that what is was written in my discharge papers is correct. 

I left hospital and could not drive for over a month. I was not able to walk and get my baby as I may have dropped him. I relied on my boyfriend full time for weeks in doing menial tasks such as showering and cooking. I had numerous exercises and activities I needed to do throughout the day and night to regain the use of my foot and the feeling in my leg and toes.

I am lucky that I now have full mobility in my right foot. I still have reoccurring hip and back pain. I am able to manage this through pain medication and continuing the exercises I have been given.

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