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Mothers were shamed and traumatised at Shrewsbury hospital. I was one of them

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I had two babies there and my experience was so terrible that the memory haunts me 20 years later. Even now I feel a deep, scorching rage

I have been having so many baby dreams recently. Nonsensical images of babies sliding down chutes and falling into deep water below. Dreams where I dive in and swoop the babies to safety, pushing the water from their lungs and wrapping them in soft blankets, lined up as I watch over them. I know why. There is no deep Freudian meaning to find – the publication of the Ockenden report into failings in maternity services in England has meant that the events of nearly 20 years ago, yet again, have begun to stalk both my conscious and unconscious mind.

I gave birth twice at Royal Shrewsbury hospital. “Gave birth” sounds so everyday, so ordinary, so gentle, but in reality both of my experiences were visceral, violent and have stayed with me for two decades. For the birth of my first child, a son, I arrived at the ward, contracting regularly and close to needing to push. The baby was back to back so I was in lots of pain. I was given pethidine, a drug that rendered me drunk and forgetful, my agency gone. Perhaps it is a blessing that I can only remember snapshots of the next four hours; the abject terror on my partner’s face, the hastily inserted drip to re-start my contractions and the fretful scribbling of the CTG machine showing them rising off the scale. After interminable hours, a doctor was called and then another. They attempted a ventouse delivery and I can remember the cup popping off the baby’s head and the doctor reeling backwards. Next the forceps were used and finally after hours of pain my son was delivered. He was big for a first baby and bore the scars of the forceps blades down both sides of his face.

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