Giving Birth During Cyclone Yasi

*This is very long and personal post about my daughter’s birth. But I’m sick to death of only hearing the ‘good’ stories while mine goes untold*

February 1st is my daughter’s second birthday. A milestone that five or six years ago seemed completely impossible, yet it’s not a milestone I’m not yet able to embrace without still reeling from the trauma of her birth.

I should be delighted in the fact that my beautiful, intelligent, independent, happy and fearless little girl is growing up into an amazing child. Every day she does something that makes me think, “holy shit, this kid is awesome”. And while I do feel that, I still feel pain. I feel angry that I was cheated of the first few days of her life, I feel angry that after two years I still have yet to regain my abdominal strength, I’m angry that after two years nothing has been done to make sure what happened to me never happens to anyone else again, but the thing I’m probably most angry about now, is that I had to suffer all of this in silence, while nothing but happy, positive stories abounded in the media about other women while I was forgotten. I’m the horror story that people tell other women about, saying, “no matter what happens to you, it will never be as bad as what happened to her”.

Before I had my daughter I suffered multiple miscarriages and secondary infertility as a result. I had one miscarriage alone in Adelaide, in a hotel room on the other side of the country from my husband and any support. I ended up being hospitalised and requiring emergency surgery I was haemorrhaging so profusely. I know all about the hell women go through trying to have children. I’ve been the crazy person who gets emotional at an Elevit ad.

Twelve weeks after this incident I was again in Adelaide, on a midwifery placement for university. I was loving my placement, but I got very sick, tired and run down. I thought it was just the stress of trying to keep up with the demanding learning curve I was on until I started peeing a lot in the night. On a whim, not really expecting anything to come of it since I’d I can assure you there was only one very unlikely chance, I peed on a stick and to my absolute horror it was positive.

Why horror? I had just lived through the worst few years of my life. I had spent thousands of dollars for people to put things in places polite people don’t talk about to work out what was wrong with me. I had seen those lines on a pregnancy test far too many times to get my hopes up. Every time I’d been pregnant in the past I had a wonderful first scan, only to find out at the next that our baby had not survived. It was brutal, destructive agony. I had put my entire life on hold for years, giving up the sports I loved, the food I loved, the alcohol, everything and every glimmer of hope I had was destroyed a little more effectively each time. At this point in my life I was an empty shell, trying desperately not to give in to the despair that ate at me every day. I had just made the decision to give up on this dream and try and concentrate on finding some peace within myself. On seeing those lines again, so very close to the most traumatic experience of my life to date, I couldn’t hope. There was no point. It was all going to end soon, so why let myself feel anything?

I returned to Cairns and had a scan. I had no doubt in my mind that I would not be receiving good news and had already steeled myself for another round of soul crushing torment. But there was no bad news to be had. There was a perfectly health 8 week old baby swimming around in there. I was still not convinced, given my past history. In fact, at each point in my pregnancy I was in denial. I was prepared for bad news at every turn but never received it. In dramatic contrast to my other pregnancies I did everything wrong during this one. I sat on my arse eating pepperoni pizza up to five nights a week, chugging back cokes like they were going out of fashion.

But somehow, everything turned out alright. My due date came and went. Despite appearances, my baby was scanning small. I on the other hand was a raging fatty and couldn’t even put on my own underwear without help. My obstetrician wanted to let her cook as long as possible.

Unfortunately this was where we ran into the real problems. The day before I was finally to be induced, 10 days past my due date, a category 5 cyclone, Cyclone Yasi, decided to rear it’s ugly head and bear down on Cairns. As both of Cairns’ hospitals are right on the waterline, all surgeries were cancelled, including my induction.

Even more unfortunately, that Monday night at 10pm, the night before I was to be induced, I went into labour. And boy did I go into labour. There was no gradual lead-up, no contractions 10-20 minutes apart, it was happening there and then and it was excruciating. Several years prior I had been involved in a car accident and damaged my spine – this was where I was feeling everything.

We went up to the hospital anyway, although they were not exactly glad to see me as I’d ruined their plans for a peaceful evacuation. I laboured long and hard through the night and the morning, no amount of pethidine or hot water would quell the pain in my back and I was refused an epidural.

Eventually, after 9 hours my waters finally broke and I was assessed, only to be told that it was just the beginning and that I would not be able to have an epidural for at least another 4 hours. If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie where a woman is trying to give birth and comes out with all of the four letter words and threatens to tear people limb from limb? That was me. They could not run the risk of the epidural slowing down labour when Cyclone Yasi was on her way. Bitch.

I’d been given an ultimatum that if this baby wasn’t born by 6pm at the latest, I had no option but to have a c-section as the hospital was closing and I would have to be evacuated. I never thought it would really come to that. I eventually got my epidural but it took three attempts to get it in right and things went swimmingly for me – except that the baby had rotated, gotten it’s head stuck, I wasn’t dilating properly and then they lost the baby’s heartbeat.

I was terrified. I was convinced that this was it. My ultimate punishment for being so lax looking after this pregnancy, that I was going to get to the end and have my baby die before it was born. I had so many people up my nether regions then that I should have been charging. They attached an electrode to her head and found her heartbeat once again.

I stopped dilating and my labour slowed. I was given syntocinon to speed things along but the baby had a bad reaction to it and the decision was made to give me an emergency c-section. By this point it was almost 5pm and I just wanted this hell to be over.
I was prepped for theatre and I was scared beyond belief. Not only do I not like surgery as a general rule (you should have seen the panic attack I had just getting my gallbladder out!), but only a few months prior it was me standing on the other side of that curtain watching my obstetrician perform them on other women. I knew exactly what would be happening and it made me sick. The only upside was that I had no doubts about the ability of my obstetrician to perform the surgery competently. That’s generally my biggest concern with surgeries, I have serious trust issues.

I felt nothing. Just some tugging and pulling and the noises that I knew were associated with different things. James was a little green around the gills, but otherwise fine. Then all of a sudden I was empty. It was the most surreal feeling and I don’t think I could ever adequately describe it to someone who hasn’t felt it, but it was like I was forcibly hollowed out with no pain. I was handed an almost blood free, but very cheesy baby girl. I had no idea what I was having, so this was at least one nice surprise.
Then they topped up my epidural and I went numb from the shoulders down andI freaked out because I couldn’t feel myself breathing and thought I was dying.

The paediatrician came over to me and told me that my little girl was not doing so well. “She has breathing difficulties”. I was asked what I wanted to do – I could leave it an hour and see if she settled on her own as most do, or I could transfer her to the public hospital to be evacuated to a neonatal unit in Brisbane, but I only had a half an hour window to make those arrangements before the hospitals closed. There wasn’t a choice, she had to go. So they took her away and that was the last I saw of her in Cairns. I was stitched up and sent to recovery while the obstetrician made arrangements for our evacuation.

She came back to tell me that she had arranged for us to be sent to the same hospital in Brisbane, but that there was a strong possibility we would have to be transported separately. And my husband was not allowed to go with either of us. She also told me that there was zero possibility that my uterus would stand up to another labour. If I chose to have another child, I would have to wait a minimum of two years before it would be strong enough to have overcome the damage that was caused trying to excavate her.

James opted to stay with me until we were both at the public hospital. When I arrived, the ambulance staff brought me in through emergency and asked what to do with me. None of them knew I was coming so they just told them to take me to maternity. They took me up to maternity which was completely deserted – no patients, no beeping monitors, no crying babies, no staff and most of the lights were off as they too were in the middle of evacuating. It was like being in a horror movie. The nurse on staff at the time was really unimpressed as she also had no idea I was coming or what to do with me. They shoved me in a room and left me there to wait for the evacuation order.

I sent James down to SCBU to check on our little girl. I’d seen her for all of 30 seconds and we hadn’t named her yet. We decided on Cailee, as James was fond of Kaylee from Firefly and I’d always liked the name Ceilidh, but with a surname like Margach we decided Cailee would be kinder as then people would at least be able to pronounce half her name without tripping over some superfluous letters. We didn’t even know the normal things, like how big or how long she was, all the stuff parents proudly prattle off as they notify friends and family.

I was panicked about her breathing and James wasn’t asking the SCBU nurses the right questions for me. It wasn’t his fault, he hadn’t spent the last 10 years in the medical field like I had. But he must have impressed the fact on the nurses there that I was very much not OK with the whole situation because they took a photo of her for me, which they then printed out for James to give to me. That photo was the only proof I had during the whole evacuation that I’d even had a child and this wasn’t some crazy nightmare. I clutched it in my hands desperately until she was safely back with me. I still have it. I guard it jealously even though it reminds me of the hell I went though. They were also able to ascertain that we were to be sent to Mater Mother’s hospital.

The photo the SCBU nurses took. I carried it with me through the whole ordeal

The photo the SCBU nurses took. I carried it with me through the whole ordeal

James was on the phone with his sister by this point (it was almost 10pm now) and her husband worked for Qantas. Very, very, luckily, he was able to get James a seat on the absolute last flight out of Cairns before the airport was shut down. But it left at 2am and he had to be at the airport by midnight. He arranged for his parents to drop him off and I had to say goodbye to him then and trust that we would all meet up again in Brisbane. I was then left alone in the room, scared, hurt and frightened for my baby girl who I’d barely seen.

In the meantime, nobody had come to check on me. I had been out of surgery for 4 hours and had one post-op check. I was starving as I hadn’t eaten since the night before and I’d thrown it all up when my contractions started not long after that anyway. I was alone, starving and totally overwhelmed with exhaustion and hormones.

Eventually someone came and wheeled me down to emergency to begin the evacuation. It was the first of many bed transfers and many looks of disbelief. The majority of other patients to be evacuated with me were either mental health patients or the elderly. Nobody could understand why a 27 year old who looked relatively robust wasn’t able to get out of bed. I had to explain over and over, to emergency staff, to ambulance staff, to SES staff, to Air Force staff, that I had just had a c-section and then I had to say no, I did not know where my baby was, or if she was OK. Then I would start to cry and make things awkward for everyone. Everyone wants to congratulate you and ask you all those questions like “how big” only I wasn’t able to answer them, I was just able to weakly proffer the above photograph before crying again.

It was a colossal clusterfuck (only appropriate word, I swear) of disorganisation. When I arrived at the airport I was wheeled (still in a bed, mind you) and left to the side while they decided how to load the patients onto the plane and who was on which plane. They wheeled me onto the tarmac about midnight and under the wing of a Hercules C130. It was raining, so lucky I was under the wing, I was relatively safe, but I was now in a huge amount of pain after my multitude of bed transfers and the fact that I now had no pain relief. I’d just had my guts ripped open and no painkillers!

SES evacuation patients during Cyclone Yasi (source: Daily Telegraph)

SES evacuating patients during Cyclone Yasi (source: Daily Telegraph)

When I was still in the hospital, I was told I would likely be airlifted out on the floor of a helicopter and I didn’t give it much more thought than that. When they were ready to load me into the Hercules, I had to have another bed transfer onto one of their patient stretchers. Holy crap. Those stretchers were barely wider than I was and some arsehole slung a strap around my waist, hitting me nicely in the middle of my fresh wound. I screamed to high heaven from the pain but I got another round of “sorry, didn’t realise you had a c-section” and “it’s the only way to secure you in these stretchers”. I was then carried jarringly into the plane and placed on the floor. That much I expected.

What I did not expect to happen next was to be pulled forcefully off the ground and go hurtling towards the ceiling at a great pace. I screamed again, sure that I was going to hit the stretcher above me and that my guts, which were in agony, was going to get knocked again. I didn’t but I was very, very close to it and being somewhat claustrophobic, something I didn’t realise I was until this very second, I freaked right out. I had a full blown meltdown and wasn’t able to be calmed down for a very long time.

Patient transportation in a Hercules C-130. I was racked second from the top (note this is not of me). (source: Illinois Photo).

Patient transportation in a Hercules C-130. I was racked second from the top (note this is not of me). (source: Illinois Photo).

One of the Air Force nurses came and had a talk with me when she was handing out earplugs. It was going to be very noisy inside the plane and there was also no air conditioning unless the plane was in motion. She calmed me somewhat, but I was still freaked. All I could think about at this point was that my hospital bag was 5 feet away, my mobile was running out of batteries and how the hell was I going to find my kid and my husband if things went south?

The plane trip was agony. Once the plane started it was freezing cold and all I had on was a sheet protecting me from the whole world seeing all of my rude bits. The woman in the stretcher above me had a bladder problem and kept urinating. Eventually all of the bedpans were used and so they shoved a towel underneath her to catch it. It didn’t. Her pee dripped all over me, it was disgusting, I was revolted and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The bitch in the stretcher below me kept using my waist strap as a support for herself and would pull it down tight every few minutes – the waist strap which was the only thing securing us in these stretchers which was wrapped right around my freshly opened abdomen. She couldn’t hear me yell at her above the noise of the plane so I tried to hit her whenever she did it, but my arms weren’t long enough. I’d long since run out of drugs by this stage so the pain was beyond imagining.

Eventually, at 7am, we landed in Brisbane. It took them an enormous amount of time to load us off the plane and since the plane was off, there was no air conditioning. I was packed inside a tin can on a blistering hot tarmac with 20cm separating me from the women above and below me. I sweated everywhere. My neck, my hands, my legs, my feet, my groin, my hair, my wound, everything was dripping. I was on the verge of passing out from heat exhaustion and pain when they lifted me out of the plane and put me in the back of a truck with some other people and some of our bags.

I begged someone to hand me my bag where I clutched my phone (less than 10% battery) and texted James. He was here in Brisbane, but Cailee wasn’t. He’d been to the hospital and told that we were both expected but neither of us had showed up yet. More full blown panic ensues.

Where the fuck was my baby???? How was it possible she wasn’t there? Had the hospital collapsed? Had her plane crashed? Did she die from her breathing complications and nobody could find us to tell us? I nearly died of fright when he sent me that.

I got another text not long after saying that her plane wasn’t due to arrive until 10am, they had to wait for a special flying doctors NICU airplane and NICU specialist to fly with the rest of the sick babies. But I had no way of knowing what had happened to her in the meantime, and neiher did he.

I was eventually taken off that godawful stretcher and placed onto a bed inside a makeshift tent on the tarmac. It must have been a zillion degrees that day and the tent had no air conditioning either. It was supposed to, but I got the defective tent. Naturally. I was desperate for pain medication but nobody was able to give me anything. I also wanted to sit up. I’d been lying on my back since 5pm the night before by this point but the bed I was transferred on did not have a raisable head, so I was stuck. I couldn’t move of my own accord as the pain was beyond describable.

They handed us out bottles of water and cold compresses as best as they could. I was eternally grateful that I still had my catheter in as I drank most of their water supply and I didn’t have to get up to use the toilet. But I was still sweaty under that disgusting sheet soaked with someone else’s urine. I had a big pad wedged between my legs as well to stop the post-partum bleeding which was coming on rather heavily. Not the prettiest thing when you’re sitting in the hot sun for hours on end. The stench of me would have made me vomit, if I’d had the food inside me to throw up. As it was I was so dehydrated from boiling in the sun I couldn’t even puke up the water I was drinking.

Doctors and nurses of all shapes and sizes kept coming in and out trying to categorise us and work out where to send us. A woman came in and put a tag on my arm saying I was to be sent to the Royal Womens. I told her I was supposed to go to Mater. She said I was going to RBWH. I argued with her. She said she’d check but no promises as everyone was just going where they were going. I told her my baby was going to Mater Mothers and there was no force on this Earth that would stop me going to her.

I messaged James, despaired once more. He double checked with Mater and they were definitely expecting me. I felt lost, like nobody cared about me or my baby or getting us back together. They were just there to do a job under the hot sun and they didn’t really want to be bothered with making an effort for me. James got the Mater staff to call the emergency team at the airport and insist on my being transferred there. In the meantime, Cailee arrived in Brisbane and was taken to the NICU. James was with her and he said she was OK. I was finally able to relax a small bit knowing she was alright, but then knowing she was so close and I wasn’t there with her made me incredibly furious.

I asked everyone who came past me to send me to the Mater and then to give me drugs for the pain. The answers were all “I’ll see what I can do”. I begged, I pleaded, I swore every curse I could think of and promised bloody retribution if they didn’t listen to me. Come 3pm I was starving, exhausted, hot, stinking and angry and I was having mad thoughts about getting a taxi to the hospital myself if they weren’t going to send me. I didn’t care if I was naked and bleeding and unable to even roll onto my side, let alone walk, I needed to get there to see my baby. Not long afterwards I was bundled into the back of an ambulance headed to Mater, finally. I guess if you kick and scream loudly enough someone will listen, eventually.

The ambulance ride was pure hell. Every single stone, bump and pothole felt like it was tearing my flesh apart and I could have sworn it went on for hours before I was finally inside the Mater.

Once I was there, I was taken to a room to get admitted properly, where a lovely nurse actually asked me how I was feeling and if there was anything she could do for me while she waited for the paperwork to be processed. I cried all over her and said I’d really like something to eat, I haven’t eaten for two days. Horrified, she rushed off and brought me back two trays of dinner. Then I asked for pain meds and she was appalled that I’d had no pain relief since my c-section 24 hours previous.

I had some very strong painkillers, she helped me wash myself and transferred me to a wheelchair. It was very slow going as I was weak as a kitten and still in huge amounts of pain. I was wheeled up to my room first to drop my bags off where my friends Penny and James were waiting for me. Penny had very kindly picked James up from the airport at 4am and James (yes, two James’s very confusing I know) was there for moral support. Only two of us were able to visit her in NICU at a time, so friend-James wheeled me in to see her.

Safe in Brisbane. Idiots couldn't even spell my name right, any wonder I had little faith?

Safe in Brisbane. Idiots couldn’t even spell my name right, any wonder I had little faith?

She was in a humidicrib and had a nasogastric tube in. She was perfectly normal according to the monitors but I wasn’t allowed to hold her or touch her. I just sort of sat there in a daze with friend-James who was also a bit dazed “dude, that’s your baby”.  She was blonde, which I wasn’t expecting. I was sure that she would have dark hair or be a ginger. She had big beautiful eyes and with the blonde hair, I remember thinking to myself that I’d picked her middle name (Paige) well as I had a fleeting image of a Paige I knew when I was a kid.
She was over 24 hours old by this point so I asked the nurse what they’d been feeding her, assuming thats what the nasogastric tube was there for. I was told they hadn’t fed her anything, but had just been giving her glucose. I lost my shit at them. How dare they not feed her? They were taken aback saying “but we only have formula”. I said I didn’t give a shit what they were feeding her, just bloody well feed her! Apparently they needed my permission, but James had been there all day. She was his child too! What if I’d never made it?

Later that night, at around 9pm, I was finally able to hold her. My husband and been able to hold her all day before I got there, but this was the first time I was able to fully relax since everything started three days earlier.

First cuddles!

First cuddles!

Over the course of that night I developed a raging fever and a severe respiratory infection. My wound was also showing signs of infection and I was placed on IV antibiotics every few hours. It was torture. I couldn’t lie down as my lungs would fill with garbage and I would have to cough which hurt my tummy. and I couldn’t lie on my side. I had to try and sleep sitting up so I didn’t cough, but my bum started to hurt and I got an awesome pressure sore by the end of the week.

The next day my cannula came out of my arm. As I was on IV antibiotics for such a serious infection they tried to resite it. Because of the not eating (and I still hadn’t really, I just couldn’t keep it down) and the dehydration, it took four doctors NINE attempts to get a new one in. The registrar, a paediatrician, an emergency doctor and an anaesthetist. The anaesthetist finally got it inserted into the underside of my wrist. Really not a fun place when you’ve got a newborn.

Then a very unlovely midwife came in to tell me I was being sent home the next day. I’d been there less than a day myself, my child was in NICU, my home was in Cairns being ravaged by a goddamn cyclone and I had no idea if my house was even still standing and this bitch wanted to send me home? I cried and wailed until the Nurse Unit Manager came to see me to assure me they wouldn’t send me home until I was ready. The only reason she said that was because I insisted that they call my obstetrician. She had told me that I wasn’t to come back for at least a week, I was to try and rest as best as I was able.

My cannula came out again in the middle of putting some antibiotics through that afternoon. My entire left arm became angry, red and inflamed and it burned to the touch. The bitch midwife tried to tell me that it was ok and wanted to run some more antibiotics through. I told her no way in hell was that going to happen, the cannula had clearly tissued and I was showing signs of phlebitis. Don’t argue with a woman in pain who knows your job. A different registrar came in to assess me and decided to just switch me to oral meds instead as my fever had gone down somewhat

That day Cailee came out of NICU. We were sent home on the Sunday (a few days earlier than I would have liked, but later than they wanted). James still had to arrange his own flights but managed to get a ticket on the same plane, thank God. I could barely hold her I was still so sick, there was no way I could have flown on a commercial flight with a 5 day old baby when I could barely hold my own head up. The staff at Virgin were incredibly accommodating, clearing out the first row for us, giving me a wheelchair because I couldn’t stand and coming to check on us regularly. Cailee slept the whole way home in James’s arms.

Once we were home I was still incredibly sick. I couldn’t eat, I busted my wound open once, I had no energy and Cailee would scream constantly. Three weeks in I made the decision to supplement breastfeeding. Not long after, James accidentally fed her formula one night after she’d already had a feed and she slept for twelve hours. We ‘overfed’ her again the next night and she did it again. We finally worked out she was hungry as she wasn’t getting enough from me, what with me being so sick I wasn’t making enough milk for her. I stopped breastfeeding entirely, she stopped crying and started sleeping and I finally started to heal.
The agony of being separated from the people you love, from your child who is only hours hold who you haven’t even really met yet, during a natural disaster is beyond imagining. The pain, both physical and mental, still lingers with me to this day. I am still limited in a lot of physical activities because of my injuries which frustrates me.

The thought of having another child made me so violently ill that I refused to even touch my husband for 18 months after she was born. If I touched him, I would get pregnant immediately, my uterus would rupture and I would die. It was a fact. The ease at which you get pregnant is inversely proportional to how much you want to get pregnant and I really did not want to get pregnant.  I had to beg several doctors to get a Mirena inserted, because despite my trauma “I was young and would change my mind about wanting more”. Bollocks.

It’s been two years and the thought of going through that again makes me want to scream. Why doesn’t anyone understand how traumatised I was by the whole thing? The only person who seemingly got the extent of my trauma was my therapist who diagnosed me with mild PTSD. If I had my way I’d get a tubal ligation so there is never any chance of getting pregnant again, but as we are both under 30 nobody wants to even consider it.

Two other women gave birth in Cairns during Cyclone Yasi. One in a hospital safe in Innisfail, the other in an evacuation shelter. Both were very lucky to have uncomplicated births and happy stories you can laugh about in hindsight. They get featured in the paper each year and yet my story is always forgotten. This is the real story. I don’t laugh about it. It was, if you will excuse my crassness, fucking traumatic, terrifying and grossly mishandled. We live in the tropics and are no stranger to cyclones. I can list the names of several in my lifetime alone, there was absolutely no excuse for the evacuation to be so last minute, disorganised, ineffective, terrifying for those of us involved, and having the potential to be catastrophically negligent through miscommunication and inadequate planning. Cyclones are not new, the potential for disaster has been real for as long as both hospitals have been on the waterline (as in, since they were constructed well before I was born) so how was it that there was no real plan in place?

Since then, the only time I’ve discussed this publicly is with people I know, and a lady at the Cairns Base Hospital who was interviewing patients affected by the evacuation. I even have some doubts about posting this now, even though I know that it’s the right thing to do, even if it just makes a few people I know stop asking me when I’m going to stop being so selfish and give my daughter a sibling (go and take a long walk off a short cliff, bitches).

21 months old, happier and healthier & afraid of nothing

Happier and healthier & afraid of nothing

The upside to all of this is that Cailee is one of the happiest, healthiest (seriously, kid eats like a horse and can run a kilometre almost as fast as I can), fearless and generous children out there. I hate everything about her birth, but then I realise that if I’d been a day later there’s a strong possibility that she wouldn’t be celebrating her 2nd birthday.  I don’t have to have liked it, but I can live with it.

65 thoughts on “Giving Birth During Cyclone Yasi

  1. I’m horrified.

    They transported you under a ‘leaking’ patient and then everyone acts surprised when your wound gets infected??

    The way they separated the THREE of you is bizarre. What is this, a third world country?

    :)And the ‘first cuddles’ picture is adorable.

    Gosh, I’m so sorry you went through all of that, when other women go in and get out the same day with their babies. I’m really sorry.

    • I can understand why they separated us leaving Cairns, given limited flights out and having to get the people who needed care out as soon as possible, but on the way back? No idea. I’m just glad that our brother-in-law got the flight out for him cheap. When it was announced the airport was closing the cost of every flight out went up tenfold.

      I’m ok with it now, but it did take a while, and it did mess me around a bit. I just hope that by talking about it a bit more and when I finally graduate as a nurse/midwife (whenever that may be now), I’ll be able to affect some change.

  2. Wow, True. There are no words for the disgraceful time you had. I am sad for your horrific experience, I had tears reading it. I know all is well now, but i feel the loss for you, that you can never get back the experience of having your first child. It was wrong and much more traumatic than even a natural disaster ‘should’ have been! ((Hugs))

    • That is one of the things that hurts the most – she was my first and will be my only child and what should have been happy times to remember weren’t.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing your story.
    I’d say it’s unbelievable but I feel like that would be insulting. I’m so sorry that you didn’t get to experience those first days with Cailee. I had to have a c-section myself- I cannot IMAGINE going without painkillers in the 48hrs following, let alone going through everything else you did. Go you for raising a beautiful, strong wee girl. And good on you for finally getting the truth out- hopefully it brings you some peace, and gets the attention of the people who should be apologizing. All the best.

  4. I’m sorry, I couldn’t read it all. I started crying quite early and I just felt the anxiety of not knowing where your baby was. Emergency C-sections are not fun in normal situations and the separation from your baby is hell. I understand why they thought they should separate you but you should have been kept with your baby!
    I would have been screaming at everyone that is for sure.
    I hope no one else has to endure this terrible treatment.

    • I hope nobody else does either. That’s one reason I decided it was time to share, it wouldn’t have seemed like much to anyone who may have been working at the time, but it really was hell for me. If it stops this happening to anyone else, I’ve done my job by speaking out.

      • Your story is shocking. My son was born by c-section on the morning of the 2nd February 2011 at Townsville Mater Hospital. We too were evacuated and my baby went to Townsville General and I was evacuated to the mater hospital in another location in Townsville. We spent four days apart. I couldn’t move and had to beg to have my baby transported back to me 4 days after Yasi. It was agonising being without your baby with you husband and nearly 3 year old at home seeing out the storm. When we applied for a Centrelink payment they told me we were not affected as we were not displaced. We fought them for it and they acknowledged that we were traumatised by our separation of our newborn baby for 4 days. I too held him for 40 minutes and he was whisked away to Special Care at the Townsville General. (He was a 35 weeker). I was told there was no room for me to go with him.

  5. I’m sitting here in tears for you. Tears because I have PTSD after a revolting caesarean section too, even though my circumstances were vastly different to yours. Thank you so much for telling your story. I’m a nurse too and it disgusts me to hear stories of the system failing. I’m just so sorry that you had that happen. You are a brave and strong woman. Cailee is very lucky to have you as her mum.

    • I’m sorry to hear you had a similar traumatic birth experience. Unfortunately I’ve heard of so many people, even among my friends, having traumatic births that it really shocks me that it’s still a thing. And yet those that suffer from birth trauma rarely tend to speak of it out of some kind of fear of seeming weak or hysterical which makes it very hard for people to come to terms with.

      Hope you and your child are well now.

  6. Reblogged this on Evie Meeny Miney Mo and commented:
    This mother’s story is horrifying. Contains lots of triggers- birth trauma and also natural disaster triggers. It’s seriously a must read though, her story needs to be shared.

  7. You are totally inspiring! I had a very traumatic (well compared to you not so much) birth with my 2nd and he’s just turned two and still to this day I’m completely saddened by it so I can totally empathise with you! Definitely have no idea in comparison but his birth has affected me to my very core! Like you said, I don’t have to have liked it but I can live with it! That’s totally how I feel about my little boys birth! I’m so glad your beautiful daughter is happy, and healthy and I’m glad you’ve spoken out! Well done you! X

    • Thank you for your lovely words.
      It’s a very hard thing to get over when things don’t go as planned and you’re hurt in the process (emotionally, physically, it’s all equal when it comes to birth I think). It has definitely affected me to my core as well, fundamentally changing a lot of my beliefs I’d held previously about birth, babies and even myself.

      I hope you and your little boy are doing well together and come out stronger for it.

  8. Ur story is a lot like my mums but hers wasn’t in a disaster but it was pretty bad… She only ever had me and her surgery was so bad she suffered for 12 yearsuntil they ddecided to re operate and fix the dodgy doctors stuff up.. Very sad… I understand why I never got any brothers and sisters totally your daughter will to… Your strong as mate nothing will stop you now

  9. Ur story is a lot like my mums but hers wasn’t in a disaster but it was pretty bad..She didn’t get to see me for 2 weeks cause I was premmie. She only ever had me and her surgery was so bad she suffered for 12 yearsuntil they ddecided to re operate and fix the dodgy doctors stuff up.. Very sad… I understand why I never got any brothers and sisters totally your daughter will to… Your strong as mate nothing will stop you now

    • Thanks Charmaine.
      Two weeks must have been absolute hell for your poor mother. I’m glad she got the help she needed in the end. You’re a great daughter for being so understanding of it.

  10. Have you considered going to the cairns post and seeing if someone would publish this? Although I am sure it will reach a lot more people via social media than the cairns post anyway. I felt sick reading about what you went through. Even in the first paragraphs with the trouble you had getting pregnant and the babies you lost, I’ve lost 3 myself and the agony is gut wrenching. I just want you to sue someone’s ass!!! But who’s? Everything you said about cyclone readiness is absolute, it should have been handled better, professionally, you weren’t even treated humanely. I hope the rest of your time as a mother brings you so much joy and eventually peace to this horror you have endured.

    • To be honest, I haven’t. I had no idea that writing this would reach as many people as it has. I thought it would get maybe 30-50 views from my die hard mates and anyone who was passing curious and that would be it. Attention or publicity wasn’t really my goal, catharsis was.

      I really can’t complain about the treatment I had at CPH having her, it was brilliant under the circumstances (seriously, I had the entire complement of wonderful staff to myself!) and even without the cyclone things would have unfolded as they had. Obviously it was not how I envisaged it to go, but I couldn’t help that in the end.

      The transfer could have definitely been handled better and that’s the thing that pisses me off the most because surely the threat of this has happened before? Those hospitals have been there forever and we’re constantly getting in the way of cyclones. They can’t seriously have waited until that particular Monday and gone “oh crap, WTF do we do now?”

  11. good god! this is unbelievable. and i agree. there is definately no reason why they should have had to deal with the situation in the way they did! they should have been well prepaired, and had plans in place! howervr, this is not the only failing of the cairns area, in relation to the cyclone. so many other things were badly handled. for one thing, they didn’t even hade cyclone shelters properly set up! they had to come up with them very quickly, and poorly! i am amazed you have coaped as well as you have. i certainly would still be trying to coap with it, / understand what on earth happened to me. i must admit, i to cried for you and the horrible experience you had to go through. i’m glad your little one is doing well now. good otosee the little ones bounce back from hardship, even when they start out in horrible situations. and i can only imagein what it must have been like for her, not seeing her mum for so long! my soulmate remembers her time as a baby, even being born. she never had the memory block that most of us do, due to the traumor. she remembers everything. and i can’t imagine how little cailee must have felt, not having her mum with her. or her dad for that matter. but hopefully it will be a memory she will not remember. or if she does, hopefully it won’t impact her.
    good luck with bringing your little one up. i wish my soulmate was here in australia, for us to have a family. but on the other hand, i’m glad she isn’t here, cause i’d hate to see her suffer at the hands of our badly prepaired officials and so on.

    as a side note, if you are interested in getting this out there more, i might be able to help. i know somebody who works in the paper, in the internet / online side. and i think he sometimes does put stuff in the paper from online sources.

    my best regards to you and your family. you have survived something horrible, and something that should not have happened. hopefully you become stronger from it in time, and help it to never happen to others.

    • Yes, you’re right. There were a lot of things that could have been done better during Yasi. You’d have thought after cyclone Larry these things would have been addressed.

      I’m not really interested in any extra exposure to be honest. I wrote this for myself because I needed to and never even imagined that so many people would find their way here to read it. It’s a little scary actually.

  12. God. That’s nightmarish. There are plenty of birth horror stories I’ve heard, my own mother’s experience with myself being one of them. I think yours might take the prize though. And it’s maddening that you can’t DO anything about it. And the refusing to feed your baby because they just had formula? What kind of stinking garbage is that? It’s not like it’s fucking strichnine. A Whole damn generation of babies grew up on it and are managing to live longer than any previous generations, as the shrinking probability of my having social security attests.

    • Exactly Kea. It comes back to the pervasive argument that “breast is best”. It’s an argument that serves nobody really – it turns ordinary women into scary sanctimommys and it alienates women who struggle or have no desire to do it. Actually it’s quite horrid, I’ve had friends who either couldn’t/didn’t want to breastfeed (and despite what all the glossy magazines would have you think, there was nothing magical about it for me – it was downright awkward and felt very strange) and they were publicly ridiculed and shamed, by their peers, their mothers groups, their families and even their nurses and doctors. It’s disgusting to me that there’s no room for actual support of choice – we make such a big deal about supporting people’s right to choose on so many other topics yet this one’s a no-no?
      Happy mothers = happy babies, the math is really simple.

  13. Oh my – I am sitting here bawling my eyes out and I have to go and do the school run. Thank you for sharing this story. You are a very brave woman and I don’t blame you for not wanting to have anymore children. I hope you do find some sense of peace in getting your story heard. You at least deserve that.

  14. I am so lost for words when reading your story. It breaks my heart reading your story.

    I had my daughter during cyclone yasi as it was crossing the coast. I had her at the emergency center that CBH had set up at the last minute, and they weren’t prepared for anyone coming in and having babies and they had 4 babies in one night. I can’t fault the staff as they were excellent.

    What really scared me the most was it was not clean, and if someone needed a c-section they were screwed as they couldn’t do one. Try only had gas, and the lady next me baby had to turned at the last minute and they had to turn it back, and to see what she went through scared the hell out of me.

    I could not even imagine what you went through. You are a truly an amazing women.

    • That’s horrific. Where was the emergency centre? How could they have not planned for women having babies? I used to work at CBH and I’m pretty sure there was never a single day when there wasn’t a baby born.

      How utterly frightening for the woman next to you. I could not have managed without anything stronger than gas, so for you to have gone through that, you have my admiration! It’s scary to think that once upon a time that was the norm though. No wonder women had such a low survival rate in medieval times.

      • The emergency center was set up at Bentley Park.

        It was definatley an eye opener, and an experience that I will never forget.

        She is my little miracle baby, as I had problems early on in pregnancy, and very grateful that every thing went fine during my labour. The staff were excellent as well. When my little girl was 3 weeks old we found she was having silent seizures and when I was in the emergency department they all remembered me and my baby girl, and they kept popping in the whole week I was in the hospital with her to visit. The staff were brilliant.

        They did have a few kits made up for the emergency, but they weren’t expecting 4 in that night. They were expecting people to come in with injuries from the cyclone.

  15. Wow. Just, wow. I knew these types of stories had to exist (I lived in the tablelands as a kid, I know what cyclones can do) but you never really hear about them. As horrifying and sad as your story is, it’s refreshing to hear the “other side”. As opposed to all the feel good pieces that are highlighted ALL THE TIME.

    • Thanks. I’ll admit it does make me a little miffed that they kind of glossed over the impact the evacuation had on other patients. Although my circumstances were extreme, I surely can’t have been the only person evacuated who felt incredibly scared and vulnerable.

  16. I feel for u more then u know. U have touched the hearts of all who have read this n I urge u to take it further if u can, with the media n even ACA.
    I wish u all the best xxoo

    • Thanks Trista.
      I think it’s gone far enough really. I’ve had my say to the hospital and suggested some ways of improving things, like better communication. If the evacuated patients at least had one or two people floating between them facilitating conversation with their loved ones and sourcing information for them, I would have been so less stressed.

  17. Dear Garner,

    It is good to read your blog. Great stuff!

    I just read your birth experience story.You are a good writer. Can I share that story on my blog ?

    Also, I have linked your site from my front page (see Blog Roll or right hand side)!

    If you would like to return the favour and add a link to “The 4868 Report” (from anywhere on your site) that would be fantastic!

    If you have any social media sites you want to collaborate on, just let me know.

    Thanks for any consideration. Working together can really increase traffic to these blogs!
    It is all about supporting locals.

    Warm Regards,

  18. Hay True, its Susan, Mark (Caithness) Sister, well done for speaking out!! i cant believe what you went though, at the end of the day you have a beautiful daughter. its just a shame you had to go thourgh that! it made me all teary reading your story. x

  19. True I know you will never have complete closure from your ordeal but I am so proud of you for sharing this with us, I knew what had happened but you could say it was the ‘candy coated’ version but I’m truly lost for words this should never of happened … I do hope by your sharing that you can live with it that much easier… Your amazing and Cailee is growing up way too fast!!

    • Thanks Bec.
      It’s kind of a long story to really talk about. There’s still things that I’ve left out that I didn’t notice until I re-read it (I just wrote it and posted, no editing or anything).

      I’m hoping that the new disaster plan is going to stop a lot of this. It wouldn’t have been half as bad as it was had everyone been fully prepared and people affected were able to know what had happened to their loved ones, or know what the plan was for them so they could make plans of their own. It was the not knowing and the helplessness that really did a lot of us in.

  20. Reading ur story made me relive my son’s birth. It was the worst time of my life, lucky for me it wasn’t anywhere near as horrendous as yours 😦 so sorry for u luv xo my son was born on the 11/1/11 at 33wks 6days only weighing 1.640 kg 3lb 10oz. All along it was a high risk pregnancy as both my husband and I hav had kidney transplants. We wer told we would never hav children, after a lot of visits to medical specialists here and in Brisbane we wer given the ok to try IVF. Our first attempt failed. I was gutted, started eating crap, drinking coke and eating pizza lol then found out I was pregnant! I was shocked! My whole pregnancy was a dream, no morning sickness, hardly got a baby belly and felt great. I had to go to Brisbane for check ups all thru my pregnancy. They expected bub to come early. I was told I would hav to deliver my Bub in brissy, not having family ther freaked me out and my hubby would hav to stay here and work. I look after my mum who had a stroke when I was 15. So it was a scary thought. As my pregnancy was going so well I managed to talk them in to letting me fly down on the 17th of Jan (they wanted me down ther the 1st of Jan) On Monday the 10th of Jan I went for an ultra sound and got told ther was a problem with bubs heart rate. I then saw the Dr who told me that I would be having Bub in the next few days. Next min I was getting a steroid injection to help develop bubs lungs as he was still only 33wks. My husband was driving a truck and was on his way to Karumba 😦 I was all alone in Hosp. They then told me that I was on a waiting list to get flown to Brisbane to hav Bub ther. I phoned hubby and told him wat was happening. He started driving back. I then had a monitor put on me to keep check of bubs heart rate. Hubby arrived just after midnight (just got thru pass Ross n Locke as it was raining and flooding Gillies range was closed) he spent the nite with me helping hold the monitor in the right place. Ther was no news of the Royal Flying Drs. Then Brisbane started to flood! They told me they didn’t know wat was happening. Then at 11am they said the RFDS was at airport and it was time for me to go (without my hubby 😦 I got put in the Ambulance ready to be transferred then before I knew wat was happening I was pulled out! Ther was an emergency in Mackay and the RFDS was needed ther. I was taken back up. A short while later A dr came and told me I would be having my baby later this evening. Then next min they said bubs heart rate was dropping so rushed me in for an emergency c-section. That Tuesday my son Caylan was born, he was rushed to SCBU 😦 again worst time of my life 😦 on Friday they discharged me. Having to leave my baby ther was gut wrenching!!! We wer doing renos to our home so it was gutted, not at all livable. We had great friends who let us stay with them. I remember being with Bub in SCBU hubby was at house trying to tie down the roof as the cyclone was heading our way. The house was in a bad way, he ph me asking if I could help so I did. A friend who works for the government ph me and told me they wet going to evacuate the hospital. I rang SCBU straight away and asked if they wer evacuating. The nurse actually laughed at me like I was stupid and said no. So we continued covering skip with a tarp bringing old aircons in to the house etc. Then an hr or so later i went back to SCBU. They then told me they wer evacuating the Hosp, I was an emotional wreck I lost it started crying. Wanting to know if we (Made a really close friend another mum) wer going with our babies. They said yes! Like u said it was the most disorganized situation I hav ever come across! We waited hrs not knowing wat was happening. Then at 9pm we got told that the mums wer flying separately from our babies! We lost it! They told us we needed to get to airport now or would miss the plane. We had to get taxis ther think in total bout 7/8 mums. Got to airport and they knew nothing bout us. I had a fight with an airport staff member as she was telling me to calm down and I had no idea how stressful her day had been. Also she wouldn’t let me on the plane! After lots of ph calls, dramas, tears, one of the mums even expressed in the airport (we had to express often if not at the latest every 4hrs) then we wet put on a plane with all the mental patients. We arrived in Brisbane at 2am. We rang the hospital to be informed our babies wer still ther. They didn’t know when they wer leaving as yet. We wer fretting. The Cyclone was coming and our babies wer miles away from us in the path of the cyclone. We got no sleep. We kept waiting, we ph SCBU constantly wanting updates. They started getting annoyed. They stopped answering our calls. My friend then turned her no to private and they answered. We lost it. The last ph call we made and spoke to them was at 6.30am and our babies wer still at the hospital. After that nothing! We then got given the name of the hospitals our babies wer going to, all of us got sent to different ones. Lucky i was sent to the same one as my friend. We got to our hospital and no babies 😦 hrs went by no one knew where they wer 😦 it was honestly the worst time of my life. I can’t imagine how u dealt with it when u wer in a whole world of pain. It was a total balls up!! You should be angry, what u went thru was unacceptable. Yes it was a natural disaster but they should hav plans in place. Take Care and enjoy your beautiful girl, Cailee sounds previous and I luv her name xo

    • Oh my goodness Fiona! That’s disgusting! How hard would it have been to phone the parents of the littlies to tell them what was going on? That’s just common decency, and then to stop taking your calls! Honestly, I assumed that the parents of the other SCBU kids would have had at least been told what was happening, I’m really upset to learn that wasn’t the case.

      This whole thing should have been handled much better. Communication is the key in times like this. How much less stress would we have endured, had someone just actually told us what the plan was?

  21. You are amazing for posting this. Good on you. What you went through is beyond words. Your daughter is beautiful. Stay strong.


  23. Thank you so much for sharing your story.I found that I had to actually had to stop reading part way through your story as my tears were flowing for you. This is just so wrong at anytime let alone in this day and age. Why would a mother EVER be separated from her baby and no pain killers for so long after a C Section. I remember passing out just trying to get out of bed after a C Section let alone being shuffled from one bed to another etc etc. And I am certainly not surprised that you ended up with an infected wound after having another persons urine dripped on you.

    Another reason why the tears flowed so readily for me is that over 30 years ago having my first child I went through a very traumatic birth followed by an emergency C Section followed by infections and crying baby and what I now realise looking back I had PTSD but in those days in a little country town ( coincidentally not far from Cairns) PTSD was not even heard of. Obviously I didnt suffer anywhere near the trauma that you suffered but parts of your story brought it all back to me even after all these years It surprised me how raw it all still is. The similarities and the feelings I am still feeling now well into my fifties while reading your story of just what bonding I may have missed out on, And the hardest part back then was that I had to listen to everyones stories about how easy it SHOULD have been and about how C sections are handed out at a whim and being made to feel that I had to explain my situation to all and sundry and that somehow I had failed because things didnt go as naturally as they should have. Believe me I tried – 16 hours of trying only to be told afterwards that my baby had become jammed solid in my pelvis and there was no way I could have delivered him naturally and that any longer perhaps there would have been a dead baby and maybe even a dead mother.

    But what I wanted to say to you to give you some strength is that today over 30 years later my first born is a beautiful 6 foot 4+ handsome man who is today a successful professional lawyer and just last year married the girl of his dreams. And even though it did take me 41/2 years before I was brave enough to attempt another pregnancy I did have another beautiful son this time by elective C Section and early to prevent the same problem as before. After reading your story I can see that my deep emotions are still raw and still with me all these years later so I just have to think that mine was a life experience that was handed out to me to learn something from it. So just take things one day at a time and look at your beautiful daughter and think about how lucky she is to have such a strong Mother as you and after all that you have been though how lucky you are to have her. (I love the first cuddles photo. Cailee truly is beautiful). Look forward to what lies ahead for you and your family.

    • Thanks for sharing your story too, Ros. Congrats on raising a fantastic sounding son after all of that.

      The anaesthetist at CPH left my epidural in and topped up the drugs as much as he was professionally permitted to, but I ran out of it very quickly when the bed transfers started. I was completely out by the time I was in the plane and the nasty strap pulling started.

      I have my weak parenting moments, as do we all I think, but I have to stop and remind myself that if she’s as lovely as she is now, we must be doing something right.

  24. You are amazing. I can’t believe this happened in Australia, sounds like it should have happened in a war-torn country! Thank you for sharing. You did the right thing.

    • Thank you Anna. It’s scary the amount of people that have seen this, but from the amount of people that have contacted me via various means, I’m glad in a way that I’m opening it up for discussion.

  25. Wow. How sad are our medical systems.
    My heart goes out to you and your family.
    At the end of this story i think you are one very brave lady who showed courage strength and love.

  26. This is so sad and I am so sorry that you had to go thru this. I was so teary and nearly on the brink of bawling my eyes out. It’s sad to think that you are so scared to have another because of others actions. When you think of animal rights people and if they were to hear of such mistreatment of animals it would be plastered over the news with investigations court cases etc etc and yet when a you are left without food pain relief and left to lay in other peoples urine nothing is said at all. I am horrified that us as humans could get treated like this. Makes me so angry!! I am a mother of 2 boys and your story makes me feel so lucky and makes me appreciate that I got to hold them both after they were born.

  27. I can’t even begin to know what to say, being a mother to four children I do know how I would have felt being separated from any of them. I really don’t think there are words to express my total stunneness (if that is even a word) at how you were treated. I am just so I guess relieved that you have a beautiful baby girl and the courage to go public. You deserve so much more than our praising comments, but I hope they do help. You, Your Husband & Daughter are the true meaning of survivors. Take care and enjoy your little girl ❤

  28. Pingback: » A personal account of “Giving Birth During Cyclone Yasi” The 4868 Report

  29. Trudibelle, You made me cry, and we all know what a hardened bitch I am. You’re one strong woman. Cailee and you are very lucky to have each other. xxx

  30. Congradulations on writing this up and i hope that it trends and everyone here’s about it. I’ve been treated like crap for like ten years by doctors and nurses because of my chronic fatigue syndrome (which half of them don’t even recognise its existance) and i feel in the same boat as you with just wanting to scream my story and have all their badges (so to speak). Great job I will pass it on to everyone i know 🙂

  31. I cannot even begin to imagine living a moment through your nightmare ordeal – here i was feeling ripped off that my 1st born was whipped away to be placed in a humidicrib robbing me of first cuddles for a mere few hours – i was LUCKY!! Sorry you had to go through that true, it is a story that nightmares are made of.xx

  32. My heart goes out to you. As someone who also experienced a traumatic birthing experience (not nearly to the extent of yours) I truelly feel that more awareness and support needs to be given to birth related PTSD. As you said these are the untold stories and for me I felt shamed – shamed that I didn’t have the wonderful experience that you read about on magazines, shamed that during labour I had the thought ‘I want to die just to make it stop’, and later shamed that I didn’t stand up for what I believed in during my labour experience because I’d felt bullied. It took me a long time to deal with all of these feelings and I felt so alone. From reading your story and posted replies I know that I am not. While much support exists for post-natal depression, PTSD remains largely unspoken of. These are the mums (and dads) who also need support to help deal with the trauma. I have no doubt that you will be a fabulous midwife and will be able to provide valuable love and support to many parents in the years to come. Thanks x

  33. Lump in my throat reading your story, absolutely disgusted for your treatment! I’ve had two c-sections and could not imagine the agony you were in – let alone the separation from your baby!!!

  34. Pingback: I’m a Woman Who “Has It All” | True Writes

  35. Pingback: Seven Years On – My Kid Is Awesome | True Writes

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