Written by Minna Burgess, Brisbane birth and newborn photographer, as part of the Remarkable Mothers Series.
Most of us don’t give much thought to the third stage of labour. The part where a woman delivers the placenta and membranes. We generally take that bit for granted and assume that once the baby is safely in our arms we are out of the woods. However, this isn’t always the case, as first-time Mum Melissa found out when giving birth to her daughter 3 years ago. I spoke to her about her difficult road to recovery after receiving surgery for a retained placenta, and the miraculous complication-free birth she had 2 years later with her second baby girl.
Since early primary School Melissa knew she wanted to be a Mum of two before she turned 21. With the birth of her second daughter just five days after her 21st birthday it’s safe to say she made her dream a reality, but unfortunately bringing her first baby into the world wasn’t as straight forward as she had hoped.
“When birthing my eldest she came out blue and with the cord around her neck. I was told within ten minutes of her being in this world that I had a retained placenta and needed to go into surgery to have it removed,” she explains. “No one was telling me what was going on, I was trying to see over the doctors and nurses asking what was going on and not getting a reply. I felt quite distressed.”
Melissa lost three and a half litres of blood in surgery after having held her brand new baby girl for only a few very short minutes. “I had a balloon keeping my bladder in and tubes coming out of everywhere, she recalls. “I couldn’t get out of the hospital bed for six days and had to rely and the nurses to help me breastfeed my precious little girl.”
For the people closest to Melissa it was a big shock. “When they came to visit us they would go pale. My Mum even fainted when she saw me. I was told I would not naturally be able to have another child.”
Most new Mums are fortunate enough to remember how they felt in the first few hours after the birth. Those moments when everything has calmed down and it’s just you and your baby, getting to know each other. For Melissa it was different. She went into shock in surgery and has great difficulty recalling what happened. “There’s a gap till the next day when my Mum was visiting. I do remember looking at her sleeping and I felt overwhelmed that I had this little being who would be 100% dependent on me, in every way. I just kept crying and couldn’t explain at the time why,” she says. “The nurse sat next to me, hugged me, and said it was ‘normal’ and they were baby blues. I was terrified.”
Bringing her new baby home was challenging and scary but thankfully the baby blues didn’t turn into post-natal depression for Melissa.
“I was angry, scared, anxious but so in love with Ava. Nighttime was the worst, I didn’t cope very well the first few nights at all. We’d gone from Ava being in NICU and having someone’s eyes on her at all times to it being just me, and if I closed my eyes what would happen then? One night in my sleep deprived state when Ava wouldn’t stop crying, I’d fed her, changed her, walked her around for an hour, I could feel I was about to snap and wasn’t coping well and had to lay her down and walk away to breathe for a minute. When I had that minute to calm down and picked her back up she stopped crying and fell asleep,” Melissa recalls.
“Sometimes it felt like it was more than just baby blues. I was reassured by the home nurses that how I was feeling would pass and it did by the second week. Even through all the sadness and worry, I still had this deep need to care for her. We were able to connect and we have a very strong bond, but I still feel sad and anxious when I think about the first day of Ava’s life in this world being taken from me,” she says.
When Melissa fell pregnant naturally two years later the doctors were concerned there would be complications and risks, but it turned out to be a completely different experience. “It was so nice to have Lara come out and be placed straight on my chest, crying the second she came out. I was so thankful and over-joyed to be able to nurture her, hold her and have that precious first time with her. There was no intervention by medical staff, we were just left to be in our own little euphoric bubble,” she says.
“Both my girls make me unbelievably happy and I’m so grateful to have my two precious, healthy, happy babies in my life. I have learnt from this how fragile I am but also how strong I can be. I now believe I can do just about anything.”
To read more about retained placenta click here
Minna Burgess is a birth, newborn, baby and family photographer based South West of Brisbane. Every month Minna donates a free photo session + images to a remarkable mother or family who has been through a difficult time. The Remarkable Mothers Blog Series aims to provide hope and inspiration to new Mums.
Contact Minna to book a photo session or to tell your story. firstname.lastname@example.org (tel: 0432 953 003)