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Episode 170

Aleisha

In today’s episode I chat to Aleisha about her two births and, in particular, her drama-filled second birth with baby Jude in the midst of Covid-19. In the days leading up to Jude’s arrival, Aleisha’s husband, a paramedic, had possible exposure to Covid-19 when he transferred a patient. It was only two hours before they had to go to the hospital that they got the all clear for him to attend although there were very strict rules in place. So began a positive and incredibly healing birth experience that was as exciting as it was overwhelming. 

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Aleisha fell pregnant with her first son, Arlo, only a month after coming off the pill. She knew straight away that she was pregnant as she had implantation bleeding and severe reflux (which lasted right up until she gave birth). She admits that being a paramedic, she was a little overconfident about her birth and did the minimum of preparation. “I was in the mindset that I knew what I was doing and honestly, how hard can it be? Let’s just say that when it came to my second birth I did a lot more mindful preparation!”

She presented to the hospital at 33weeks with reduced foetal movements and during a scan they discovered that she had a decrease in amniotic fluid, the placenta wasn’t working as it should and Arlo was on the 5th percentile for size. Subsequently, she had to go into the hospital every second day for monitoring. Understandably she was incredibly concerned about the possibility of stillbirth and wasn’t sleeping well as she would constantly wake to feel for movements. She had two steroid injections and had her induction scheduled for her 37th week.

Induction began with a balloon catheter that was only meant to be in for 12 hours. However, on the morning it was supposed to be taken out, there was a fire on the freeway and a lot of the midwives couldn’t make it to the hospital. Reduced staff and a busy birthing suite meant that Aleisha had to wait another 12 hours for it to be removed. Her waters were broken at 6pm and a few hours later, after she had showered and was having mild contractions, the IV syntocinon drip began at 8pm. Within minutes her contractions were coming hard and fast and the intensity of them completely overwhelmed her. An internal monitor was placed on Arlo’s head and within a few hours of her labour. Aleisha requested an epidural. After waiting for the anaesthetist, sitting on the side of the bed and being completely prepped for the epidural, her midwife had to attend a birth in the room next door and therefore Aleisha had to stay on the bed, sitting, for 30minutes.

Once the epidural was finally administered she almost immediately felt the pressure to push. The midwife checked her, confirmed she was fully dilated and suggested they wait an hour to start pushing so Arlo could descend naturally. However, after thirty minutes his heart rate started to drop and Aleisha began pushing, an experience that she found really hard to navigate considering it was her first birth and she was also numb from the epidural.

“I had been pushing for 40 minutes when they threatened to use the vacuum and give me an episiotomy. So then I pushed and he was born. His hand was over his head so I tore and the placenta didn’t deliver on its own. Unfortunately, the cord snapped and I haemorrhage and regardless of the OB trying to remove it manually, it wouldn’t budge. After one-and-a-half hours they took me down to theatre, had to manually dilate my cervix as it had closed again and they finally got it out.”

Aleisha admits that while she wasn’t overly traumatised by the experience, her husband Blix, was. “He says you expect everything to go normally and then he’s sitting with a newborn and I was in theatre after bleeding everywhere and he just had to wait as no one updated him.”

They spent two nights in maternity but were given a very small room, usually used for day visits, as the ward was so full. They opted to go home regardless of the fact that Arlo wasn’t latching well and so began a hard few months of feeding difficulties, severe reflux and a lot of sleepless nights.

“At 3 weeks he got horrid reflux as well as being diagnosed with cow’s milk protein intolerance. He wasn’t gaining weight or feeding at all, it was a screaming match between us, it was really stressful and he went onto a prescription formula at 7 weeks. I had no idea what I was doing as a first time mum and I think that had a lot to do with it as well.

“I didn’t realise how bad my mental health was, I delayed going to mothers group because I just had this screaming baby. I eventually went when he was 4months old and we were introducing ourselves and I just sat there sobbing. I don’t think I’d bonded well with him because of how much he would cry and how he wouldn’t eat. I’ve made a couple of good friends from my mother’s group and the community definitely helps, everyone was so supportive.”

After a holiday in Hawaii in early 2019, Aleysha returned home to discover she was pregnant. However, at an 11 week scan she was told that she’s had a missed miscarriage and that her baby has passed two-and-a-half weeks prior.

“I had to have a D&C but the public hospital couldn’t fit me in for five days as it was the Easter long weekend. I was struggling with the concept of carrying around a baby that had died so I called a private OB and she was able to get me in that day. Afterwards, I was so, so desperate to be pregnant again. I was tracking my cycle, noticing every symptom, it just consumed me for the three months after the D&C. It wasn’t until the 3rd month that I realised how bad it was for my mental health so I just stopped tracking and let it go with the flow and I fell pregnant with Jude.”

She was never debriefed after her first hospital experience and she wanted continuity of care so she sent her referral to the MGP group at Sunshine Hospital and was accepted. They opted to do hypnobirth together with a private practitioner and worked through a lot of their fear and trauma. “would have been the last person to do it but after Arlo’s birth experience I felt like I wasn’t in control and I didn’t want to feel like that again. We did two 3hour sessions and it was very beneficial, not just for pregnancy and birth but for life,” she says.

Two days before she had Jude she went into hospital for monitoring and the OB started looking at the possibility of induction as she was concerned about the placenta. Later on she had an acupuncture treatment to bring on labour and afterward Blix called to tell her that he may have been exposed to Covid-19.

“He called to tell me that he was in full protective wear as he’d just transferred a patient who may have had Covid-19 but he wasn’t wearing any protection during the transfer. As a result he had to socially distance from work. Aleysha then had to call her midwife with the information and she was told that he wouldn’t be able to attend the hospital for 14days.

Of course, this was all happening whilst Aleisha was having mild contractions. “I had to go to the for monitoring again and on the way there I just started crying. There’s a global pandemic and now my husband can’t come to the hospital! I started noticing period pain and my OB said that the placenta wasn’t working well and scheduled induction for Monday but then she gave me a really good stretch and sweep. I was 4cm dilated and 1/2cm effaced so I went home and had dinner, put Arlo in the bath and then tucked him into bed.”

It was around 8pm when she had a call from her midwife to tell her that Blix couldn’t come to the hospital for the birth. There was miscommunication between the paramedic management and the midwifery team and so while it was being cleared up, Aleisha’s labour stalled.

I was completely overwhelmed. I just kept thinking: What am I supposed to do? I can’t birth by myself? Who is going to come with me? We started making a plan B which was, essentially, to birth in the back of the car in the hospital car park. Thankfully it didn’t come to that has the necessary calls were made and they called me to say that Blix could come to the birth but he had to wear a mask and once he was in birthing suite he couldn’t leave.”

Aleisha took herself off to her bedroom, turned off the lights and listened to a hypnobirthing track whilst bouncing on the fit ball. Labour recommenced and contractions were steady and productive.

“At 10:45pm we were reversing out of the driveway and I knew I was transitioning. I had the urge to push and we were 8minutes away from the hospital so Blix called the midwife and she was behind us and said that if she saw us on the side of the road, she would stop to assist. We got to the front of the hospital, I got out of the car and I started squatting and pushing, we were walking to the door and we got undercover and I fell to my hands and knees, I was pushing and then my waters broke and I screamed: the baby’s coming! Blix pulled my pants down to see if the baby was there and he wasn’t and thankfully a midwife came out with the wheelchair and she told me not to push. I was trying to hold it in, I knelt on the wheelchair facing the back and she said I had to sit down which was tricky! The security guard pushed me and was running to the elevator. Blix got a mask from reception at the birthing suite and we arrived in the birthing room at 11:08 which is when I fell on the floor from the wheelchair and Blix caught Jude at 11:14. He latched on perfectly about half an hour after birth and has been feeding and sleeping beautifully ever since.”

Aleisha admits that they were both overcome with relief once Jude arrived. “He was here, everything was ok and we were both at the birth! The placenta was really healthy and I had a much less stressful afterbirth experience. Plus, I got the oxytocin rush and I honestly felt like superwoman. I had such an overwhelming sense of pride and honestly, it was a very healing experience after what I went through with Arlo.”

They stayed in the hospital overnight and went home by mid-morning the next day. She had a few visits from the midwife over the first week and was then discharged from their care. She’s since only had over-the-phone conversations with the community nurse. “I really feel for those first time mums who don’t have the support of face-to-face visits.
You need someone to see you and really ask how you are and how things are going. You don’t get that same experience with a regular telephone call.”

Topics Discussed

Reduced foetal movement, Balloon catheter, Afterbirth, Haemorrhage, Manual removal of placenta, coronavirus, Placenta, Postpartum haemorrhage (PPH), Missed miscarriage, Hypnobirth, Induction, Covid-19

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode of the show is brought to you by Haakaa. Haakaa is a New Zealand family owned baby brand that provides parents with safe, natural, non-toxic, eco-friendly baby products. Their brand are100% committed to creating stylish, practical and sustainable products that are safe for families.  One of the most-loved product is the Haakaa range is their Haakaa pump (by mums all over the world), it is multi- award winning globally. These pumps require no electricity, no cords, makes no noise and fit into your handbag! Its also made of 100% food-grade silicone meaning its toxic free! The pump attaches purely with suction and can be used as a manual pump or simply catch your let-down while you’re feeding baby on the other breast. Saving every drop of liquid gold.

Haakaa are kindly offering all Australian Birth Stories listeners a 15% off discount using the code Australianbirthstories15

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