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Episode 188

Carla Brion

In this week’s episode I chat to Carla, a Doctor of Chinese Medicine and the co-founder of @thegoldenmonth, a traditional postnatal care service for modern mothers. Carla works closely with women at all stages of their fertility journey so when she discovered she was pregnant, she knew a lot about the highs and lows of pregnancy. However, nothing could prepare her for the debilitating reflux, the lack of sleep and a labour that progressed slowly and painfully over three long days. Carla is open and honest about the relief of an emergency cesarean, the despair and regret that arose weeks afterward and the grief of miscarriage, an experience she couldn’t imagine until she was in the midst of it.

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Carla and her partner Louis had only been together for six months when she discovered that she was pregnant. The previous year she had surgery for endometriosis and was told that she had clubbed fallopian tubes which would make falling pregnant naturally near impossible. She pushed for an early dating scan as ectopic pregnancy is a risk factor of clubbed tubes but thankfully, all was ok and she began to relax after the 12 week mark.

When her nausea had passed it was replaced with debilitating reflux. She tried every natural, pharmaceutical and prescription medicine available and nothing worked so she slept sitting up most nights and suffered exhaustion as a result. She was under the care of the Midwifery Group Practice at her local hospital and did hypnobirthing and hypnosis to work through prior fears and actively prepare for the water birth that she envisioned.

Being an acupuncturist herself, she knows how powerful the treatment can be for pre-conception and throughout pregnancy so she scheduled fortnightly sessions that worked to ease her discomfort and prepare her for labour.

“In the first trimester we treat the implantation, encouraging the womb to lift, hold and secure the baby and supporting the mother, keeping her calm. The second trimester is about maintenance, relieving aches and pains, fatigue and  insomnia and then moving towards the end of the third trimester we start preparing for labour and birth by working on birth preparation points to soften the cervix and downward points to help baby move through.”

The week leading up to Carla’s due date was busy with a house move and after a few nights of niggling pains that petered out in the morning, she woke at 40+6 weeks to distinct period pain that persisted throughout the day. By lunchtime it shifted; period pain became contractions and she started timing them. By evening they were 3-4 minutes apart and at 8pm her sister came over to offer support and take photos. By the early hours of the next morning her contractions weren’t showing any signs of consistency so a midwife came to visit her at home and was frank after she did an internal: you’re doing really well, your fully effaced and the cervix is nice and soft, and you’re 1cm.

Carla felt deflated and defeated at that stage so she took the midwife’s advice and went to bed. She woke the next day and laboured but again, there was no efficiency or regularity to her contractions. Her midwife visited mid-morning and confirmed that Carla was still 1cm.

By 7pm that night her contractions had slowed again. “I felt that something wasn’t quite right, I could feel it in my bones and I desperately needed to sleep otherwise I wasn’t going to have anything left to birth my baby.”

She went to the hospital but the ward was full so she settled into the assessment unit and the midwife placed the monitor on her.

“Baby’s heart rate was quite flat, it wasn’t doing the highs and lows that it should. I was dehydrated so they hooked me up to IV fluids and then I started shaking quite badly and the midwife couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat so she slammed the red button and the room was flooded with doctors. They eventually found the heartbeat but decided to closely monitor and as soon as I had another contraction it fell so they decided it was best I had an emergency cesarean. I was so happy and relieved that I was about to meet my baby and in that moment I had absolutely no fear.

“Within 30 seconds she was out and screaming and she was fine but she was covered in meconium so they had to put tubes down her throat and up her nose to clear her out. When I finally held her she looked at me with really big black eyes, she’s such an old soul.”

Carla passed out in theatre and again in recovery, a culmination of exhaustion and dehydration. Despite her immediate experience post-op, she recovered incredibly well. It was weeks afterward, during a debrief session with her hypnobirth practitioner, that she reflected on her birth experience and experienced despair and regret.

“I was given the space to really think about it and consider how I felt and it kind of hit me. I delved into it a year later because I didn’t want to carry it, the grief and worry, into my next pregnancy or birth.”

Carla fell pregnant in late 2019 yet within a few weeks of doing a positive test she started having dreams that she was losing the baby. A dating scan confirmed that there was no heartbeat and over the following week she was required to have another scan before the hospital would admit her for a D+C.

“I just never knew how hard it would be and you can’t imagine it till you’ve been through it. The minute you find out you’re pregnant you imagine your whole life with this baby and then it’s taken away from you and you have to reset.

“Research shows that after a D+C you’re more fertile in the six months afterward so I had my third period and that next month I started having dreams that I was pregnant.”

Carla is delighted to be 12 weeks pregnant and she’s booked in with the VBAC queen of Adelaide in the private system. A supportive team is an absolute priority for her so she has her business partner as a doula and she’s hired a private midwife that will nurture and guide her throughout her pregnancy, labour and postpartum.

The Golden Month continues to thrive. It started as a postnatal care business, offering in-home care including acupuncture and massage as well as the delivery of cooked meals to the door. Care bundles followed suit and can be posted around Australia. They include nourishing teas, bath sitz, womb balm and dried foods like congee. The food delivery service is available in Adelaide as well as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.

Topics Discussed

Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Clubbed fallopian tubes, Hypnobirth, MGP, Reflux, D+C, Miscarriage, Emergency caesarean, Endometriosis

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