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5 Common Postpartum Experiences
In today’s episode, I interview Rachel. Rachel was living in Bali when she fell pregnant unexpectedly. While considering significant cultural differences with her Balinese partner and what that would mean for her baby, she opted to return to Australia for the remainder of her pregnancy and birth. In her final weeks of pregnancy her relationship broke down, she navigated her hospital’s induction policies and she laboured and birthed with the support of her mother, doula and midwife.
My lifestyle in Bali was nomadic and spontaneous and I definitely didn’t plan my pregnancy. I had been with my partner for four months when I had a dream that I was pregnant yet I didn’t have any obvious pregnancy symptoms at the time. In Bali it’s illegal to abort a baby and I’m the type of person who believes that things happen for a reason, I had an overwhelming feeling that my pregnancy was meant to be and I trusted I would find a way to work things out.
My partner was Hindu Balinese but it wasn’t until I discovered I was pregnant that our cultural differences came to the forefront. I was going to have to sacrifice a lot; I would have to live in Bali, convert to Hinduism and we would have to get married and live with his family. My partner was the only boy in the family and that meant he would live in the family home forever and look after everyone and I worried that if I had a boy he would be in the same situation. I also knew that if I was married, especially as a foreigner, I wouldn’t have had many rights in regards to my child.
At times I’d felt like I failed my baby – Lenny – by not living in Bali and sticking it out. But I just needed to go home and be around my people for support. I realised that I needed to step away from Bali for a while so I could work out what I wanted and think without the pressure of his family and their cultural beliefs. I was scared for my entire pregnancy, petrified actually.
I’ve got a few health complications; I’ve got a bowel disease that flared up in pregnancy so when I returned to Adelaide at 12 weeks I was just so glad to be home and to have access to my specialist who helped me get back on track.
I stayed in the relationship and the plan was that he was going to come to Adelaide for the birth and then we’d work it out afterwards. He arrived when I was 39 weeks and the first conversation was about my plans to come back to Bali and I reiterated that I couldn’t make that decision till after birth and he told me that there was no point in him being there so the next day he got on a plane and went back to Bali. It was sad because I knew that Lenny didn’t have a dad but then there was relief as well because it meant I was starting a new life chapter with just Lenny and I.
I had my own midwife and she was the most amazing woman. I have a newfound appreciation for midwives and what they do, the space they have to hold for a woman in labour. I was also gifted a doula from my cousin and in hindsight I wasn’t sure if I needed her but she was such a vital aspect of my late pregnancy, labour and birth support.
I wanted a vaginal birth and I was 10 days overdue and my midwife was planning to do a stretch and sweep but she couldn’t do it because my cervix was totally closed. She started talking about booking an induction for the following night but it wasn’t what I wanted. I asked her what my options were. I knew that if something didn’t feel right, if the scan showed signs of concern I would be happy to be induced. But I was feeling really well, the ultrasound showed healthy fluid levels around my baby and there were no issues on the monitor.
It’s so important when you’re making these choices that you have all the information. If I hadn’t questioned their suggestion for an induction and trusted my gut I may not have had the amazing birth that I did. Instead of an induction I opted to go to the hospital every day to be checked. The judgment and conversation with doctors was challenging, I had to constantly stand my ground and reiterate tha I’d made my choice based on information. I wanted to take it day by day but I also knew that I was confident to go to 42 weeks and comfortable to be induced after that.
As soon as my midwife did a second stretch and sweep I knew labour had started. On the way home from the hospital I bought hot chips which I deeply regretted because I felt those hot chips during every contraction before I eventually vomited them up.
My mum and doula were with me at home and I wanted to labour there for as long as possible. My midwife told me that if I was chatty and wanting to talk I wasn’t ready to go to hospital. I was really conscious of that and having the doula was really helpful. My mum found supporting me to be quite traumatic, it was hard for her to see me in so much pain. Having my doula there was so important because she was so calm and she knew the pain I was experiencing and the sounds I was making all had a purpose.
I wrote a birth plan so I was educated about all my options and in it I detailed that I wanted an active labour but honestly, my labour was intense from the get-go and I definitely didn’t stay active. Standing was so painful for me, laying down was allI could manage. At one point I was standing in the hallway leaning against the wall and I couldn’t manage anymore, it was so painful. Before then I had felt safe and comfortable at home but something shifted and that’s when I decided to go to hospital.
The car trip was horrendous. My only coping mechanism for pain was that I took myself to a different place. I was closing my eyes during contractions, it was how I zoned myself out and focussed on my breathing instead of focussing on my pain.
Once I was in the birthing suite my midwife checked me and I was 8cm so she helped me get my clothes off and get in the bath. I’m not sure I would have managed transition without the water. As soon as I got in there I felt soothed and refreshed and I had the energy to keep going. I won’t ever forget those moments in the bath. I remember my doula consoling my mum because it was so hard for her to see me in deep labour, as a mum she wanted to instinctively take the pain away from me but she couldn’t. Doulas are so worthwhile to support your support people, it’s something we don’t often think about but I don’t think my mum and I could have done labour without her.
I was really vocal and loud. I can’t even put the experience into words, it’s the most animalistic experience, you morph into this superhuman, what the body can do is unbelievable.
I pushed Lenny out in 20 minutes and by that stage I was so ready for it to be over. When he was born and put on my chest I was just in shock, I couldn’t believe I had a baby on my chest or that I did it. It was the most magical experience. I think it’s so important to have people in the room who hold the space for you – they were such an amazing team. I didn’t have a partner but I had a powerhouse support team and I’ll forever be grateful for them.
“When my doula and mum went home to sleep and my midwife stepped out of the room I realised that this was it. It was just Lenny and I and it was confronting because I
didn’t know what to do. I still don’t know what I’m doing 10 weeks post-birth. It’s about getting comfortable with being uncomfortable and you honestly can’t tell people what motherhood will be like because you can’t paint an accurate picture of it. I’m just navigating each day, doing the best that I can and trusting that I’ll figure it out.”
Single mum, 42 weeks, Water Birth, Midwifery care
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