Health Stories

My 76-hour labour made my brain explode

Grace's birth was extremely traumatic

Grace Mountain, 36, suffered three days of agony, followed by three years of hell.

Here, Grace tells her story in her own words. 

Only together for months, it was definitely a surprise. But when my boyfriend Mike, 28, and I discovered I was expecting, we were thrilled.

I already had a son, Jacob, seven, and it was exciting to think he was going to get a little brother or sister.

Two years earlier, following years of pain and exhaustion, I’d been diagnosed with Chiari II malformation – where the brain slips to the base of the skull and pushes down on the spinal cord.

I’d had surgery to remove a piece of my vertebrae from my spine to release pressure, and I’d coped by using pain management.

Weirdly, pregnancy helped relieve the symptoms.

In October 2013, I went into labour. But, after 24 hours, baby Patrick, as we’d decided to call him, still hadn’t arrived.

Something’s not right, I began to fret.

Midwives reassured me I wasn’t dilated enough yet. But I was in agony and exhausted.

My condition meant I couldn’t have an epidural so I didn’t even have pain relief.

Michael and I with newborn Patrick
Me and Michael with newborn Patrick (Credit: Medavia)

Another 48 hours passed.

‘He should be here by now,’ I cried desperately.

Then, when I’d been in labour for 76 hours, an agonising sensation suddenly ripped through my head.

I was having a seizure.

Through the haze, I heard the neurologist’s voice.

‘If you don’t get that baby out now, they’ll both die,’ he said.

I was rushed in for an emergency caesarean.

An hour later, I woke up in the ICU, in pain and alone.

Sneaking a look at my notes that had been left in a folder at the end of my bed,
I read that my heart had stopped and they’d had to resuscitate me.

But I only cared about one thing.

Where’s my son? I panicked.

After six torturous hours, Mike brought Patrick to me.

‘He’s perfect,’ I gasped, completely besotted.

Three days later, we were allowed to go home.

I still felt weak, but I put it down to the mammoth three-day labour.

Only, six weeks later, my head was still in agony.

Then, as I got out of bed one morning, my legs buckled and I collapsed.

‘I’m calling an ambulance,’ Mike said.

Grace recovering after more brain surgery
Recovering after more brain surgery (Credit: Medavia)

Doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with me. But back home, I still couldn’t walk properly.

Unable to care for Patrick or work, I begged specialists for more tests.

But they thought that my symptoms were ‘remembered pain’ from my previous brain surgery.

As months passed, I missed out on so much with the boys.

Mike’s mum moved in with us to help.

But with the hospital saying there was nothing wrong with me, everyone started to believe it and it was a very lonely time.

In March 2014, we even moved to a specially adapted home that catered for my lack of mobility.

Frustrated and distressed, I made an appointment with a new doctor.

‘You have to help me,’ I pleaded.

By now, I’d been in constant pain for three years.

When he referred me to a specialist in Chiari malformation, I thought I might finally get answers.

After an MRI scan, the specialist had shocking news.

‘I don’t know how you’re still functioning,’ he said.

He explained my brain had burst out of my skull, slumping onto my spinal cord – and it had been triggered by the pressure from the 76-hour labour!

‘If you didn’t come in when you did, it wouldn’t have been long until you became paralysed or died,’ he said.

Grace and family
My family make me feel so lucky (Credit: Medavia)
My perfect boy Patrick (Credit: Medavia)

I immediately had surgery to have a plate fitted to push my brain into place.

Within days of returning home, I started vomiting and my head felt like it was going to explode.

Then I began having seizures and was rushed back to hospital.

‘Am I going to die?’ I asked a nurse, but she couldn’t answer me.

More brain surgery followed, then six weeks of recovery, which meant more time away from my precious boys and Mike.

Finally, I was discharged, but it’s been a slow journey.

I’m still in pain and rely on a walking frame. Patrick, now five, doesn’t understand why Mummy can’t play with him.

I feel so guilty I haven’t been able to spend as much time with him or Jacob, 14, as I’d like.

Now, I just want to concentrate on my family.

As long as I have them, I’m the luckiest woman in the world. ●

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