The Two Week Wait
10 Questions To Ask Your Care Provider
Pregnancy After Miscarriage: How Long to Wait Before Trying Again
Bleeding In Pregnancy
Birthing Your Placenta : Active Management versus Physiological Management
When To Stop Breastfeeding | Australian Birth Stories
5 Common Postpartum Experiences
In this week’s episode I chat to Oceane, a midwife and mother of three who so generously shares the beautiful, intricate details of her two homebirths. She also tells the story of her wife’s birth and the journey they have taken to become parents with donor sperm and IVF, the logic involved in deciding who will be pregnant and the joy of breastfeeding at the same time. Oceane’s story is inspiring, informative and heartwarming and the video of baby Emmeline’s arrival captures the euphoria of supported and trusted family-centred birth.
Image by Kate Kennedy Birth Photography
Oceane and Sarah had been together for four years when they started talking about having a baby. When they decided that they were ready, a friend of a friend offered to donate his sperm and they chose to go through an IVF clinic for insemination, first using IUI and then IVF. The process of sourcing the donor, meeting with IVF specialists and falling pregnant took over 18 months.
When it was time to choose who would carry the baby, Oceane admits that logic decided. “Sarah is five years older than me so age was definitely a factor and I was in my second year of midwifery at uni so practically it wasn’t a great time for me. I was adamant that I’d be next though, I’ve always been intrigued by pregnancy and birth.”
Sarah’s first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage but she fell on the next cycle and once she passed the 12 week mark, she relaxed into a smooth, low-risk pregnancy. She chose the midwifery model of care at her local birth centre and at 32 weeks opted to birth at home with midwifery support. It made sense to her, considering their house was closer to the hospital than the birth centre and she had everything she needed. It was a fortuitous decision as her labour was quick.
“I encouraged her to walk up and down the stairs at our local beach which are quite steep and later that day, we saw our midwife and she commented on the fact that Sarah looked a bit flush. We went to the movies that night and she had mild period pain. She woke around midnight with early labour and we both got up, she started making a cake and then she had a bloody show. Her labour went from being very mild to ramping up into full labour and it very quickly got to the point where I couldn’t leave her side when she was in a contraction. I called the midwife and Sarah started telling me that she could feel pressure on her cervix, like the head was there, and I thought that perhaps it was the amniotic sack pushing through. But then her waters broke and I reached for some towels and when I turned back the head was there. The midwife walked through the front door and I caught Dominique and we were just in awe and shock and crying and laughing.”
Sarah was in established labour for an hour and second stage lasted only two minutes. They had a slow and beautiful first few weeks and while Sarah experienced the common challenges with breastfeeding, she persisted and ended up feeding Dominique for 3.5 years.
Their family friend and sperm donor met Dominique a few days after the birth and he’s remained in contact for the past five years. While he isn’t a prenatal figure, Sarah and Oceane want the children to see him a few times a year and they honour and recognise his importance in their lives. It’s what they always envisioned when they thought of the ideal situation. “He’s got a lovely connection with the kids and we’ve never felt that any boundaries have been overstepped, it’s honestly what we’ve always dreamed of.”
When it came time to have their second baby, it was Oceane’s turn to be pregnant. She had graduated as a midwife and was working in the local hospital so was regularly attending births and full of excitement and anticipation for the journey herself. She has polycystic ovaries and during the first IVF cycle she was hyper-stimulated by the drugs and ended up in hospital with bleeding ovaries and fluid in her abdomen. They collected 40 eggs but none were mature enough. They changed the drugs and the amount used and on her third cycle she managed to get three viable embryos.
She fell pregnant with Gabrielle on the first cycle and much like Sarah, enjoyed a beautiful and low-risk pregnancy aside from nausea in the first trimester. Oceane had heard her mother’s positive and empowering homebirth stories during her childhood and adolescence so she had no fear about birth and was so happy to finally be pregnant and preparing for a family-centred homebirth.
Oceane continued working in the birthing suite throughout her pregnancy and there were a few moments when she found her work and personal life difficult to navigate, especially when traumatic situations arose. However, she finished on a high, attending a wonderful birth where the mother delivered in the shower and she went on maternity leave full of positivity for her own imminent experience.
“My mum went to 42 weeks with all her babies and I just felt like I would do the same. I was comfortable and happy and I had no inkling that baby was coming so when I felt a pop while sitting at a cafe at 37 weeks I was in complete denial, even when I had to keep changing pads because they were filling with fluid.”
She soon shifted her perspective and focussed on establishing labour so she wouldn’t have to be induced and have a hospital birth. She went to the birth centre and had a stretch and sweep and on the drive home, mild contractions were coming every two minutes. Early labour continued throughout the afternoon and evening and when Dominique was fast asleep that night early labour contractions became more frequent. By 11pm she was vomiting and couldn’t keep water down so they called the midwife who administered maxalon.
“Both midwives were there by 1am and they were really encouraging me to take sips of water between contractions to hydrate. I went between the pool and the shower and when they told me I was 4cm I was really discouraged. The midwives were in the background, just letting me do my thing and when one of them came in to comment on my grunting I just told her that I needed to do a poo. But of course, there was a baby descending and I started pushing soon after.
It was so satisfying to be doing something and I had the euphoria of knowing that I was on the home stretch and that I was having the birth that I always wanted.”
As a midwife giving birth for the first time, Oceane wholeheartedly understood why her colleagues always told labouring women that second stage was the satisfying bit; pushing and knowing you were so close really was amazing.
“I grew up with a really positive story of birth and then seeing birth at work every day, I had that innate knowledge that women can do this, yes we had a high intervention rate but I’d witnessed so many beautiful, natural births, so I just had this confidence that it can happen and I held that positivity deep within me, even in the most challenging moments, reminding myself that I was doing the most extraordinary thing in the world.”
“I had plenty of milk and once the sore nipples and hormonal shifts were over, I really enjoyed breastfeeding. The lovely thing about having a female partner who had done it first is that she was so understanding and compassionate, and when she went to work she’d make sure there were snacks all cut up and a lunch was ready to be heated with one hand, she’d make me a turmeric latte and eggs on toast every morning, I was just so overwhelmed by her care and love.”
Gabrelle was almost 2 when Oceane and Sarah started talking about a third baby. Sarah had exciting projects happening at work so the timing wasn’t ideal for her and if she did have the next bay, Oceane said they’d have to have four children as she was certain she wanted to experience pregnancy and birth again. A few weeks after their conversation Oceane’s period returned and she called the IVF clinic to make an appointment.
“I had a frozen embryo ready to go and the transfer went smoothly but I was really anxious waiting for the pregnancy blood test, probably because it was my last embryo. It was a smooth, easy pregnancy although I vomited a lot more in the first trimester.
“It was a really strange feeling to be waiting for labour to start after being so shocked the first time. At 38 weeks + 1, woke in the middle of the night feeling uncomfortable and crampy so I made a cup of tea and by 4 in the morning they were coming every few minutes and they were strong
“At 4 in the morning they were coming every few minutes and they were strong, I called the midwife and by 5 in the morning I was in the birth pool. I was definitely in full blown labour by then, I loved being in the water, interestingly I found that last bit of labour harder, I’d seen second births happen so quickly at work but I found it really overwhelming, I did a self examination and realised I was 8cm so I knew then that the overwhelm was transition.”
Everyone gave her the space she needed and were so supportive and grounding. Emmeline was born at 6:20am and shortly afterward, Dominique and Gabrielle joined their mums and announced that the baby was a girl.
“It was, once again, absolutely euphoric!” says Oceane.
Photography by Kate Kennedy Birth Photography
Donor breast milk, Same sex couple, Donor sperm, IVF, Hyper-stimulated ovaries, Home birth, Two mums
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