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Episode 181

Stacey June

In this week’s episode I chat to Stacey June about her fertility journey and homebirth. When Stacey first met her husband, Ben, he was open about his experience with prostate cancer and his wishes to become a father. Stacey knew that their journey to parenthood would be assisted but it was a non-issue for her; she knew Ben was the one and they started their first IUI treatment within months of meeting. Stacey talks from the heart about assisted conception, conscious birth preparation and her empowering birth experience. 

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As well as being an author and radio presenter, Stacey hosts the Couple Goals podcast with husband, Ben. The first season details their fertility journey and the second season, launching next week, is an honest discussion about their postpartum experience.

Their fertility journey isn’t entirely unique but their willingness to share all the intricate details on a public platform is. Stacey admits that she accepted the reality of falling pregnant using assisted methods without any qualms; it was never an issue for her. “Ben had pancreatic cancer when he was 36 and had his sperm frozen so while he still has full function, he doesn’t ejaculate. We started the conversation about having children early in our relationship and we opted to try Intrauterine insemination (IUI) after nine months together. IUI is essentially the injection of sperm with a turkey baster but you’re assisted in a hospital setting. They’re also very specific about the details of ovulation so they do it on the best possible day so you’re not wasting precious sperm,” she says.

Stacey and Ben were absolutely floored to learn that they fell pregnant on their first attempt but sadly, they miscarried at 8weeks. “It was such a shock, it’s always a shock, but particularly because we had seemed to overcome such odds to fall pregnant that losing the baby wasn’t something we considered at all.”

They dedicated six months to grieving, processing and healing from their loss before they started the IUI journey again. Stacey admits that the two weeks between ovulation and doing the pregnancy test is the most agonising wait but it was all worth it on their fourth round when they fell pregnant with baby Brynn.

“I tried really hard not to test early but eventually I did the test and it was so faint that I called it negative. We were staying with friends and we cried and just decided to let it go and then my friend asked to see the test and she told me it was definitely a line and that it was most probably positive. I started to allow myself to feel like it might not be positive but there was still a chance that it was.”

By 16 weeks Stacey started to relax and enjoy the pregnancy journey. She booked into the midwife program at Randwick Hospital and noticed that a few of the midwives were wearing homebirth badges so she enquired about the possibility of birthing at home. “The program is only about a year old at randwick and I naively thought homebirth with public midwifery support was something that everyone had quite easy access to. Once I realised this wasn’t the case I became very grateful for the opportunity to have a homebirth and be supported in the way that I was.”

Stacey had to be certain that she wanted a homebirth to ensure she was a prime candidate for the program which is highly sought after. She also agreed to have all the tests and scans done to reassure Ben that she was in the best possible place for a successful homebirth.

Birth preparation was a priority for Stacey and Ben so they actively sought out a variety of services, including Shebirths and doula support. They admitted early on that they had been fed a fearful, frightening and unhealthy narrative about birth since a young age so together with their doula they worked through undoing those stories and replacing them with positive, empowering narratives that informed and inspired their own birth.

“I really resonated with the research I did that suggested that the brith space should feel similar to a space you would create if you were making love. I thought of birth like that and I needed my doula to be the protector of that space so Ben and I could be in the birth together.”

The only curveball thrown at Stacey was towards the end of her pregnancy when she tested positive for Group B Strep (GBS). She opted to do it with her GP as she knew that a positive test through the hospital system would mean the end of her homebirth plans and require her to have hourly IV antibiotics throughout labour. She opted to treat herself with probiotics and get retested before she disclosed the information to her midwives and thankfully, the next test was negative.

At 41 weeks + 3 days, after a few weeks of mild contractions, Stacey went for a walk and met Ben for lunch at the local pub. “I all of a sudden had the distinct feeling of wanting to turn inwards so we went home and that’s when it all began.”

She vomited a few times, a deep purge which was intense but she admits it felt so good to clear out and make space. She laboured gently into the night and by 11pm her midwives declared she was in active labour. She moved from room to room, shower to bed and just went with the labour, supported by her close knit team.

“I kept reminding myself not to ask unnecessary questions, that the answers were within me and I just had to listen to my body, that it would tell me what I needed to know.” It was this unwavering trust in her body that ensured a smooth and powerful birth experience.

As the sun was beginning to rise Stacey asked her midwives to check her progress. “It was like I called a meeting and I basically said that I was ready to know where I was at. I hadn’t had any internals but I really wanted to know so that I had a plan for the rest of the morning. They told me I was above 5cm so they took a nap while I laboured and when they woke they broke my waters.”

Stacey was in the bath when she locked eyes with Ben and was overwhelmed by his love and awe of her; shortly afterward she had the sudden urge to push.

“I couldn’t get over how full on the pushing experience was, I’m still in awe about it all. I knew that a relaxed pelvis was the key to birthing and to be honest I found the pushing more approachable because I knew where we were going, I knew what had to be done. The few hours beforehand were the hardest because there was so much unknown.

“His head came out, went back in and finally his head popped out but he got a bit stuck even though his shoulders were out so they got me to stand up and I had to put my foot up on the edge of the pool and they needed to help him out. It was his arm fat holding him in, funnily enough. We sat straight back in the water but the cord was really short and he was so big so it was all very ungracious….it was all quite awkward which isn’t something you really hear much about,” she says.

The following hours were spent staring in awe at Brynn and debriefing with her birth team. “We were all so proud of ourselves and the post-birth debrief is definitely my favourite debrief. We all hung out in the loungeroom and when everyone had left we just sat there and thought we were awesome.”

They observed a babymoon with few visitors and lots of space to rest and connect. Despite their preparation and smooth birth, the postpartum experience still came as a shock; the raw intensity of it. “We had a really interesting beginning but the postpartum story is very different to the birth. I’m sure it’s the same for many people but it’s really not told because no one has the time or the energy to tell it.”

Topics Discussed

IUI Home water birth

Episode Sponsor

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