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Episode 187

Jody Muston

In this week's episode I chat to Jody Giardina about her two natural births with midwifery care. Intent on experiencing a non-medicated birth with her first baby, Jody embraced a variety of preparation techniques that she used during pregnancy and labour (affirmations, visualisations and breathing skills) and they gave her the confidence to trust her body despite the concerns of the obstetricians on the ward. Her second pregnancy took an unexpected turn in her third trimester when her husband made the call to move from LA back to NSW at the start of the pandemic. Jody shifted her mindset to embrace a new birth plan and she subsequently experienced an empowering and quick delivery. Informative and inspiring, Jody’s story is proof that knowledge is most definitely power.

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Jody fell pregnant unexpectedly just before she married her husband, Ross. She found the discomfort and debilitating nausea incredibly challenging and didn’t experience relief from it till 22weeks. She focussed her time and awareness on consciously preparing for her birth which helped to shift her attention away from the discomfort. They were living in Bronte at the time and booked into the Randwick Birth Centre with plans for an unmedicated water birth.

“About five years before I fell pregnant a friend of mine had described her birth as a beautiful experience and no one had ever said that to me before. She went on to tell me that she had an unmedicated natural birth and the support of a doula so I intended to do the same, visualising that beautiful water birth throughout my entire pregnancy.”

Jody consciously chose not to focus on her due date and she didn’t share it with anyone she knew which helped relieve the pressure and anxiety from friends and family. She educated herself through She Births and enlisted the support of a doula. As you neared the end of her pregnancy she went for lots of walks, had acupuncture and chiropractic treatments and continued to tell her baby that she was ready and waiting to meet her. She had a fear of induction so was purposely doing everything she could to encourage labour to start naturally.

“All women have so much within them to be able to birth naturally; hormones, oxytocin, endorphins, relaxin; all the things to help us get through the very big experience of birthing our baby.”

Her waters broke one afternoon and she noticed meconium so the midwife encouraged her to go to the hospital immediately. As soon as she arrived she was told that she wouldn’t be able to labour or birth in the birth centre and would no longer be able to have the water birth she desired.

“It was really confronting to hear that and because labour hadn’t begun the obstetrician said if I contractions didn’t start by 8am the next morning I would be induced and yet she also said if it was up to her, she would induce now.”

Jody had to really focus on standing her ground and subsequently opted to create a new birth visualisation that embraced the changes she was experiencing. She was allowed to retreat to the birth centre to gather her thoughts and rest and two hours later contractions were 3 minutes apart so she was moved to the hospital birthing suite and cared for by one of her favourite midwives.

“Basically over nine hours of labour I probably had about 5 or 6 moments of pressure to have a cesarean from the obstetricians who were coming in and out of the room. But I never felt like I or my baby was in danger. I definitely found the contractions intense and the pain took my breath away, but I was using the She births techniques and we were working the room, using the bed and the ball and the shower. My contractions didn;t last for long but they were intense and very close together for the entire labour. Knowledge is power, and without it I wouldn’t have had the confidence to question the OBs and their advice. Throughout the whole labour I didn’t feel like my baby was in distress; it was innate intuition, I just kept saying to myself: I’m ok, she’s ok, we’re doing a good job here.

“They put a monitor on the baby’s head and then labour got really painful and my doula was encouraging me to breathe with her. And then my whole body changed and I started bearing down; it was like someone had dropped a bowling ball on my stomach and trying to push it through my legs, but there wasn’t pain, it was just intense pressure. It didn’t last for that long and then I was laying over the ball and the contractions were so fast and heavy and I started thinking to myself: I don’t think I can do this, maybe that c-section was a good idea. That was my transition moment.”

Jody’s midwife encouraged her to get on the bed and she was lying on her side, ready to push when a different obstetrician walked in and told her that they needed to talk about intervention.

“My midwife looked at me and the OB and said: we’re having a baby right now. It was almost like a call to action. The next contractions came and I felt like I wanted to push and her head was out in one push, it was the best feeling of my whole entire life, I only had a little bit to go and then with one more push she was out. She was screaming, she was absolutely fine, she was a great colour, she was perfect. It was the unmedicated birth that I wanted but it involved quite a bit of navigating to get there.”

They were all prepared to leave hospital the following day when the pediatrician’s noticed that baby Anouk’s oxygen levels were low so she spent the following five days in NICU which was incredibly challenging for Jody and Ross. The relief of finally going home and relishing in their babymoon was indescribable.

Jody had two miscarriages, both ending at eight weeks, before she fell pregnant with Roman in LA. She was unsure how to navigate the healthcare system over there but thanks to friends, she discovered a local birth centre with friendly, supportive midwives.

She was 32 weeks pregnant when the pandemic hit the US and the restrictions escalated.

“I couldn’t have a face-to-face with my midwife and I was really worried that if I needed to transfer to hospital what that would look like during covid. I knew it was going to be my last birth and I wanted it to be as beautiful and transformative as Anouk’s birth but hopefully less stressful. At 34 weeks my husband said we need to get out of here as he wasn’t confident in the health system anymore. It was such a big decision for us but we literally made our decision, booked our flights for the following night and went into voluntary isolation for two weeks when we arrived.”

The went straight to their family home in Bowral and Jody connected with the local hospital and booked in with the midwives. In her final few weeks of pregnancy she experienced a lot of pre-labour and felt very ready to give birth. At 40 weeks +4 she was chatting to a friend on the phone when she noticed that she had to stop talking to concentrate on breathing. She returned home and left Ross, Anouk and her mother-in-law in the garden while she laboured by herself in the bedroom.

“My plan was to labour at home, roll down the hill to the hospital, have the baby and come straight back home. The contractions were really short but they were sharp and they were quite close together. I just needed to internalise, I needed to stay focussed and allow myself to relax into it a bit more. I had this vision that I would manage my breathing and I used the Om breathing technique, listed to some affirmations and focussed on staying positive. I just kept saying to myself: this is amazing, this is amazing. And I believe it, I really felt like it was amazing.”

She encouraged Ross to get prepared and pack the car and after having a bath she sat on the toilet in the hope of lengthening the contractions. However, soon after the pain shifted and she started to experience a bearing down sensation that was really intense.

“I called out for Ross and told him I felt like I needed to push. I couldn’t do the om breathing anymore and I was making really primal sounds and I was calling out for him, telling him we have got to go, the contractions were coming so fast and it had shifted, I had started to push, I wanted to push. We got to the hospital and the midwife met me with a wheelchair and everything happened so fast. I got into the birthing suite, lent over the bed and Ross pulled my pants down and I had a huge contraction and his head came out. I felt this intense sensation of calm…I didn’t feel any pain or fear, I just relaxed and the next contraction came and I breathed him out, it was effortless, Ross caught him and brought him up.”

It’s not lost on Jody that she got the exact birth she envisioned. The morning after she had Rowan, she returned to their family home in Bowral where they’ll ride out the pandemic before returning to LA next year.


Topics Discussed

Meconium in waters, Midwifery care, Visualisation, Affirmation, Miscarriage, Natural birth, NICU

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by The Australian Breastfeeding Association. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has been providing support for over 50 years to thousands of mums, their families and health professionals. ABA’s mum2mum app is an exciting addition to their many support services including local group meetings, the National Breastfeeding Helpline, LiveChat and ABA’s interactive breastfeeding education classes that are currently online for families to access in the comfort of their own homes.

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