Madelin & Tom’s Birth Story
My pregnancy journey started off without a hitch. I fell pregnant after 3 cycles of actively trying – by the time I went to visit the GP I was 8 weeks and they booked me in for a dating scan. Once they confirmed that yes I was definitely pregnant and yes there was a heartbeat, the discussion began about what line of care we would like to use. With the two options being either shared care with our GP and the local hospital or a private Obstetrician. Not having private health care we went down the line of shared care, and straight away had all our hospital and GP appointments booked in.
I had always had in my mind that I would like to have as much as a natural birth as possible. I didn’t know a huge amount of birth at this stage, but had been surrounded with stories of induction, epidurals and caesareans so I just thought that it wasn’t out of the question that one or all of these things could happen to me. My husband and mother-in-law were very firm believers in natural birth and not letting doctors push you around, so I sort of had that in my head from the beginning but didn’t think too much about it. I also knew that I wanted as little scans as possible (in the end I had 4!).
At our 12 week scan everything was going well, there was a healthy baby in there growing as it should. The day after my scan I received a call from the ultrasound clinic, asking me to come in again that day for an internal ultrasound. I had no idea why this was and we spent the whole evening and next morning completely worried and stressed. I did the ultrasound that next day and they didn’t tell me why it was needed, I then had to wait for my next appointment with my GP (a excruciating whole week away) to find out what was going on.
Finally when the appointment arrived I was to find out that everything was OK! In my first ultrasound that thought the placenta was a bit low, and possibly blocking the cervix and apparently an internal ultrasound should have been performed then and there as I was “borderline”. Upon the internal ultrasound they found that everything was fine and the placenta was completely clear of my cervix. At the time I was a bit unhappy with how this had been handled but tried to not let it bother me and just got on with things and waiting for our 20 week scan.
Once again we headed into our 20 week scan, which again showed us that everything was going really well. I had my GP appointment later that week and they confirmed that yes everything is going fantastic. That afternoon upon reading my report from the ultrasound there was a comment in the report saying an abnormality had been found with the cranium and it was a lemon shape. I of course “Dr Googled” this straight away, and the most horrific things come up such as Spina Bifida and a whole range of other things. I immediately called the Dr to find out what their take on this was and why it hadn’t been mentioned in my appointment – unfortunately they were away now for a few days so I had to wait it out and stress over this report. Finally when I got in touch, I found out that actually, they hadn’t seen this note on the report and apologized. I started to stress even more and truly started to feel like I was on this journey by myself and they perhaps were not giving me the best care.
On their recommendations we booked in to have another scan at 27 weeks to check on the progress of the cranium and see how the shape looked and if everything in the brain was developing as it should. Those weeks spent waiting were torture, I don’t think I had stressed so much in my life and were just thinking of all the possible things that could go wrong. We had the scan and then the follow up appointment – the cranium was fine! Completely normal shape and everything was growing and developing in the brain as normal. Nothing to stress about, it was just something noted in the 20 week scan which I would later call a “variation of normal” not an abnormality.
The downside to this scan now was that the baby was measuring slightly small. The whole time through the pregnancy people had commented on how small my bump was and “are you sure you’re that far along!”. I am a small person myself and have a longer torso, so I never felt that the baby was too small it was just how I carried. However hearing these comments all the time, even from strangers in the supermarket does start to get to you.
Now I was being pressured into having another scan to check the growth at 32 weeks. About this time I begun my hospital appointments, they recommended the Positive Birth Program run via Zoom. I had already heard a few things about Hynobirthing and both my husband and I were interested in finding out more. We booked in to the next available course.
The course started when I was about 31 weeks, straight away I just loved everything about it and all the knowledge we were being given. One of the things I took from that very first session was that it’s your baby, your decisions and you have every right to stand up for yourself as you need to advocate for yourself and your baby. I had always had the opinion that the doctor knows better, and you should listen to everything they say. However from my pregnancy journey so far I was beginning to have a bit of doubt about this, I didn’t think I was allowed to voice my opinions but this gave me some confidence that it was OK to do.
I started devouring all the information we were given through the course, the articles, book recommendations etc. I read Rhea Dempsey’s “Birth with Confidence” and “Beyond the Birth Plan” which I can’t recommend enough. I listened to all the podcasts Positive Birth Australia, Australian Birth Stories and Beyond the Bump. I started to gain a much better image of birth, what it meant for me and what the human body is capable of. It also introduced me to that saying “cascade of interventions” and I knew that I didn’t want to go down that path if everything was going fine in my labour. Through the Positive Birth course, I started to understand how incredible the human body is, how all the hormones work and how certain techniques can aid your labour efforts. I started to feel more confident and was ready to tell my GP that I didn’t want to go ahead with the extra scan.
At every GP appointment they were conducting the fundal height measurement, the GP and the hospital both had different measurements each time. The hospital midwives said the growth was fine, however the GP still kept commenting on my pint sized bump. I had the referral to book in for the scan, but I never made that phone call. I knew in myself that the baby was growing, we were taking photos of my bump and you could visually see it getting bigger. Not to mention I was growing out of my pants all the time and the kicks were getting stronger and stronger.
The final straw came at my appointment around 32 weeks, in which we were to go through some of my birth preferences (thanks to the Positive Birth courses I was starting to work out what I would like) so my husband was invited to attend. We felt good going into the appointment as we thought, yes we can stand up for ourselves and tell them what we want. As we sat there talking, it wasn’t much of a discussion just more about being told how our birth would happen, without much of a chance of us saying anything. I then hopped up on the bed and had my fundal height checked, it was still measuring 28 at 32 weeks. Even though I had been at the hospital 2 weeks earlier and they had measured 29. I thought this cannot be true, how is that even possible when I had just gone out and bought new pants and underwear as nothing was fitting over my bump! We then had the chat again about my next scan, I told the doctor that I still hadn’t booked it as I didn’t think it was that necessary. We were told then and there that I had to get it done, quite firmly, and I didn’t feel like I had a chance to say anything else on the matter.
We left the appointment feeling deflated, and upset (it was not the first time I had left the surgery in tears). How could this pregnancy be so stressful? I was fit and healthy, but every time I left this place I was left feeling like everything was going wrong.
In the lead up to this appointment we had a few discussions about changing doctors, we had even looked up private midwives for a home birth. The more we thought about it, the more birthing books I read, the further we got into the Positive Birth course the more I realized that perhaps a home birth was the way to go. My husband was the main advocate for this, he strongly believed in this so it was great having his confidence behind me.
On the way home from that appointment, in tears, I decided I cannot keep going down this path. I was sick of feeling stressed and like something was wrong all the time and not being listened to.
We made the call to the private midwife that afternoon. It must have been meant to be, as the only availability she had was in early April which was when I was due.
We met with the midwife in our home about a week later when I was almost 34 weeks to see if this is what we wanted to do. From the moment she walked through our door, both my husband and I felt immediately at ease. We spent the next, nearly 2 hours talking all about my pregnancy, how I was feeling, checking baby’s heart rate and all my measurements. I was told then that everything was looking great, I had a very healthy baby and I was doing great. For the first time in months I finally felt relaxed and excited about my pregnancy and birth. We didn’t have to do the follow up scan, or any other scans from that point. One thing the midwife had pointed out in my notes is that the Dr had said I approved to have syntocin to birth the placenta – this was one thing I was definitely against as I wanted to birth this naturally!
Each appointment went really well, we spent 1-2 hours with our midwife at each appointment (which was a stark contrast to the 10 minute in-and-out consultation with the dr). I could start focusing on myself and preparing for the birth.
Once our Positive Birth course finished I continued on practicing many of the things we had learnt. I listened to one of the meditations nearly every day, did the pressure points, took some time to relax and did the exercises and stretches recommended.
I had also been to see a womans health physiotherapist who had given me similar exercises to the optimal positioning exercises, as well as pelvic floor exercises, which I did religiously every day until the day before I went into labour.
At 38 weeks I went to a labour prepping massage, which was amazing and relaxing. I then did two sessions of acupuncture one on my due date and one the following week.
As my “due date” loomed (3rd April), I was feeling so relaxed and happy. I knew that the due date was just a date and I had no expectations of going into labour around then. I also had no pressure from my midwife to be induced (the word wasn’t even mentioned). The baby was in the optimal position and was fully engaged, so I knew it was only a matter of time.
At the 41 week mark I started to feel a little anxious, as I didn’t really have any signs of going into labour that I had read about. I was having Braxton Hicks, but that was about it. We had discussed the options of going in for extra monitoring about half way through the following week, to make sure baby was still all healthy and going well. I continued doing all my positive birth practices and made sure I took the time to relax, as I knew the baby would come when it was ready.
At about 5am on the 11th April (41+1) I woke up to my waters slowly leaking. I was surprised and excited, but also nervous. I knew from what I had read that I was essentially on a bit of a timer with my waters breaking first.
That day I just tried to get on with things, we had quite a relaxing day, we went for a big walk and starting getting the house sorted and preparing a bit of a birth space. I had my clary sage in the diffuser, a salt lamp and fairy lights set up to create some nice dim lighting.
I had very mild period cramps towards the afternoon, I still had in my mind that my real labour was still ages away and I could be feeling like this for another day or so. We decided that afternoon to head into town to pick up more groceries in case this was it! There was also a big storm coming in so I was paranoid about loosing power, so we also wanted to get extra fuel for our generator as we have an electric hot water system and the thought of a cold birth pool was not appealing!
On the way in to town, my waters really started to leak! Lucky I was sitting on a few towels. I sent my husband into the shops quickly and we took off back home.
I decided I wanted to make a big dinner in case this was it and we needed some leftovers for the following day. I made a big Shepherds Pie, but started to struggle with contractions and towards the end I had to keep stopping and breathing. We then went for one more walk, this was at about 5:30pm. I still had in my mind that surely this can’t be happening yet, so I wanted to do everything I could to keep active and moving.
We came back into the house, decided to sit down relax and watch some Netflix and have dinner. I couldn’t finish my dinner and we got about 15 minutes into a show. The contractions were getting more and more intense. I had to really start focusing on my breathing and staying calm. We started to time my contractions at about 6:50pm. I had a TENS machine ready to go, but I never used it. At this point all I wanted was a hot shower on my back, so I hopped in there for quite a while, whilst keeping track of my contractions. At one point I vomited up all my dinner, and the contractions continued to get more intense.
We had been texting back and forth with the midwife all day so she was up to date with what was happening. When the contractions were starting to get more frequent about 3 in 10 minutes we were to call her to come over – my contractions just continued to intensify, they never really slowed down.
Our midwife arrived around 10pm, at this point I was out of the shower and bent over the exercise ball pushing into that with each contraction. My husband was there by my side rubbing my lower back at each contraction. The contractions continued to get stronger, after another vomit I entered to birth pool at about 11:30pm.
Stepping into the birth pool was instant relief, it felt so amazing. I continued to labour in there for a while, with my husband holding my hands and giving me words of support whilst the midwife poured warm water over my lower back and occasionally squeezed my hips together during a contraction.
At about 1:40am – the midwife decided I should hop out of the pool for a bit to aid progress, as contractions seemed slightly further apart. I was incredibly focused at this stage, all I could do was breathe, focus on the contraction (I was very vocal by this point) then breathe, have a sip of water and close my eyes.
My contractions started to really ramp up whilst I was standing, I started on the toilet for a bit and then moved into the spare room. I still hadn’t felt the urge to push so we decided to do a vaginal examination to see how dilated I was, this was the first examination I had. Prior to this the midwife was just monitoring babies heart rate with a Doppler and my blood pressure (both which had been nice and steady).
The examination showed that I was fully dilated and ready to go, not long after I felt that urge to push that we had learnt about. It’s a strange feeling to explain, but when you feel it you definitely know what to do! Your body sort of takes over and I just listened to it, and pushed during the contraction. Some were stronger then others and I really pushed, others didn’t feel as strong so I wouldn’t push as much for them. During one of these strong pushes my midwife came over to me with a teaspoon of honey – this was probably the most amazing thing ever and just what I needed at that time. It gave me a burst of energy, as by this point my legs were shaking and I was definitely feeling a bit of fatigue.
At about 3:15am I went back into the birth pool, just walking over to the pool at this stage was hard work. I felt like the baby was already half out it felt so low!
This part was all a bit of a blur, I feel like I was so focused on breathing and getting through each push. The midwife used a mirror so my husband could see, the head was crowning – it was nearly here! At about 3:45 the head was born, the release of the pressure nearly made me jump out of the pool. The little hand was pressed up against the face.
The next contraction came, it wasn’t that strong so I didn’t feel the urge to really push. The following contraction was so strong I pushed with everything I had and out came the baby at 3:51am. The baby was pushed forward so I could grab it, I was in total shock I think I just kept saying ‘oh my god, oh my god – it’s so big!’. I couldn’t believe the size of the hands and feet, no wonder those kicks had been keeping me away at night.
Funnily enough my umbilical cord was on the shorter side, so I couldn’t pull the baby far enough away to see the gender! So we just sat there staring at the baby, holding onto it in the pool until the cord stopped pulsing and my husband could cut it. Finally we could check, it was a baby girl!
Then it was time to get out of the pool. I stood up and waiting to feel some contractions again, I then started to push and my placenta came out – this was about 30 minutes after the birth and happened very easily.
Then it was time to sit on the couch for some skin to skin and breastfeeding. It all went really well, I then had a quick examination – no tearing or grazes and our little baby girl had her checks. She was 3.55kg and 52cm, a completely healthy weight.
By 7:30am we were tucked up in bed, after downing 1L of coconut water a cup of tea and some vegemite toast. We were also given the opportunity to look over my placenta, with the midwife. It was really interesting as she went through everything and what it does, quite amazing to learn more about it as it plays such a vital role in the babies life.
I had felt a bit apprehensive before giving birth about not having pain relief, but once I went into labour I didn’t think about it once. My body just took over and got on with it – it’s amazing what your body is capable of.
My birthing experience was such an amazing experience, and I can definitely thank the Positive Birth course for giving me the foundations to explore birth further to make our own informed decisions. Changing care providers so late into our pregnancy was a bit daunting, but I’m so glad we made the leap. We could not have asked for a more positive, empowering experience.
One thing I do wish, is that you are given all the birthing options when you fall pregnant and have that first appointment. There are different options out there, such as home birth or the MGP – that don’t seem to be mentioned it’s up to you to find out they exist.