It was the first day of July so it was still sunny as I said goodbye to the final patient of the day at around 6pm. I could hear birds singing through my open window, so I thought about going for a run while I still could. I was 35 weeks pregnant, so I knew my running days were numbered.
I stood up to go home and felt a warm tap running down my trouser leg. By the time I looked down, the tap had created a pool of blood on my carpet, which was oozing outwards like a fountain pen on blotting paper. It took me a few minutes to register what was happening before I called for help.
From this moment onwards was a haze but I vividly remember small snippets – which play in my mind like a Facebook story. Lots of nurses, an oxygen cylinder, my colleague calling 999, blood. oh, so much blood everywhere.
Yet despite this life-threatening scenario unfolding, I still remember the funny bits. Like Amy coming to the rescue with her sanitary protection, whipping down my trousers, taking one look at my G-string and saying, ‘Oh that’s not going to work is it?’
All I wanted to do was lie flat and stay alive
And the compassionate bits. Like Ruby holding my hand in the ambulance and letting my two-year-old sleep with her in bed so my husband could be with me.
And the humiliating bits. Like the experienced paramedic left utterly devastated about failing to insert a cannula into my shut down veins. And the same paramedic being shouted at by the midwife because I was wheeled into the labour ward lying flat on my back.
But I made him lie me flat and I couldn’t hold back and let him be shouted at like this. Every time I sat up or lay on my side, I had this floating feeling that made me feel like I was going to die.
‘It’s my fault,’ I shouted. ‘I made him lie me flat. I don’t want to die.’
I couldn’t really register the garbled response after this but all I remember is certain words like ‘oxygen’ and ‘baby’ and ‘umbilical cord’.
I felt guilty about my lack of concern for my unborn daughter. Here was everyone rushing around with drips and monitoring the baby and all I wanted to do was lie flat and stay alive. But no-one, apart from the paramedic, asked me what I wanted.
Lena was born via an emergency section that evening, completely oblivious to the fuss created by her head pushing down on my placenta. She continues to be as strong and athletic as the day she arrived.
I am told my consulting room carpets had to be steam cleaned and some of the receptionists were deeply traumatised by the experience.
And my lasting impression of the event? I will never assume that a mum would always wish to put her unborn child’s life before her own.
Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol
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20 December 2021
21 September 2021