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Episode 159

Sarah Harris

In today’s episode I interview Sarah Harris - @6.little.wildflowers. Sarah and her husband Rhys live on a sheep station in far west NSW and they have travelled a 200km dirt road to Mildura, the closest large town, for all six of Sarah’s births.

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Image by Essie and Elsie

For women who live in rural and remote Australia, it’s not uncommon to move to the closest town in the weeks leading up to their due date so they can access midwifery or obstetric care. Sarah’s body always gave her a sign that labour was imminent and so she stayed at home for her six pregnancies and made it to the hospital with plenty of time to spare.

She’s spent the past 10 years growing, birthing and feeding babies and regardless of the fact that baby number five and six were surprises, she’s adamant that there’s no more. After losing her first pregnancy in an early miscarriage, she went on to conceive Isabelle and admits that she was very blasé when it came to birth preparation and awareness.

“I had no idea what I was doing and to be honest, the only thing I read about birth was from a magazine,” she says. After having a show and mild contractions, Sarah and Rhys made their way to Mildura Hospital and were largely left on their own. “I was an absolute mess, really. I was yelling and crying and it was only when Rhys went out to get someone that they came in and noticed that Isabelle was crowning. I just remember thinking that I needed to get her out and stop the pain and so I pushed without breathing and that resulted in a second degree tear.”

In the days that followed they had a steady stream of visitors and Sarah struggled with breastfeeding because of oversupply and flat nipples. It was only when Sharon, a well-known Mildura-based midwife came in on day four that everything changed for her. “She basically said we needed to go back to the beginning so she drained my breasts with the pump – I never knew a breast pump even existed – and then gave me nipple shields to use and thankfully, they made all the difference.”

Isabelle was a very settled baby and Sarah fell pregnant again when she was only 8months old. She enjoyed a very smooth, easy pregnancy and despite being heavily pregnant in summer (with temperatures often in the high 40s) she has only fond memories of the last trimester. Her labour started with aches in the right hip and down the leg and once they got to hospital, labour was very quick.

“Ruby’s birth was one of my easiest with quite short, sharp and irregular contractions to begin with. It was only 2 hours long and I felt absolutely amazing afterwards,” she says. Once again, she had trouble with feeding and used nipple shields to feed. Whilst Ruby is now 8, a recent trip to the dentist confirmed that she has a tongue and lip tie and Sarah is certain this was the cause of her difficult latch as a baby.

Sarah loved having two babies under two and only waited to have a third because she was maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding. The gap between Ruby and Ava is her biggest and coincidentally, Ava’s pregnancy and birth was Sarah’s hardest (another example of a tricky third birth!). At 39weeks she went out in the ute with friends and after bouncing about in the paddock she noticed her water’s breaking that night during dinner. The next day she went to hospital in early labour – thinking that it would be a quick progression – and yet labour dragged on. After the birth she had a postpartum hemorrhage and lost 600ML of blood. “I was wrecked! I couldn’t get off the bed of even move and Rhys just held Ava while I recovered.”

Ava self-weaned at nine months old and Sarah admits that she was devastated. “I expressed for a few months and bottle fed her but once I realised that it was just in her personality, I accepted it. She did everything early – walked, talked – it’s just who she is.”

Regardless of Ava’s challenging delivery, Sarah was excited to add a fourth baby to the family and she experienced a smooth and joyful delivery with Poppy. It was the first time that Sarah had the opportunity to give birth in the public hospital and have postnatal care in the private hospital and she relished the 5-day holiday she had with Rhys by her side.

Thinking that her baby days were over, Sarah sought treatment for her painful varicose veins that had gotten progressively worse with each pregnancy. She had laser treatment followed by injections and it was before one of her treatments that she realised her period was late. She knew she couldn’t have the injection if she was pregnant so she drove 200km to buy a pregnancy test, did it on the side of the road and when she got home, told Rhys they were expecting baby number 5.

Regardless of the fact that a psychic had told her she would have lots of children, Sarah took a long time to get her head around the fact that she was pregnant. “I found it really hard to cope with the sickness considering it wasn’t planned but as soon as sickness went away I was fine. I saw an obstetrician this time around because it was the only way I could have the postpartum care in the private hospital and labour was gentle and easy. A friend had given me a bottle of clary sage so we used it to get the contractions going and literally ten minutes after it was applied, Clementine was born (after only 30minutes of active labour!).”

They left hospital thinking it would be the last time and yet 16months later, as she was preparing to have another injection for her varicose veins, Sarah felt the familiar symptoms of early pregnancy nausea. They waited till she was 18weeks to announce the pregnancy to family and friends as they were a little concerned about how people would react. Thankfully they were only met with happiness.

Sarah embraced planned a babymoon to Noosa and booked a birth photographer for the first time. She was under the care of the midwives in Mildura who were very laid back and let Sarah guide them in her labour. She resumed her default birthing position (on her knees on the bed) and birthed baby Posie after 45minutes of active labour.

image: Essie and Elsie

Topics Discussed

Surprise pregnancy, Remote Australia, Rural Australia, Flat nipples, Varicose veins, Nipple shield, Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH), Tongue-tie, Natural birth

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by Mama Goodness.. Mama Goodness is a Melbourne based company who deliver plant powered, organic and postpartum minded meal packs to new mothers every Tuesday night. They also offer nutrient-dense breastfeeding treats which can be delivered Australia wide, as well as handcrafted herbal products that can be used by all birthing people and their bubs.

As a special offer to the listeners of todays episode, Mama Goodness are offering 10% off all of their products when you use the code “AUSBIRTHSTORIES” at the checkout.

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