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Episode 208

Elise Cook

In this week’s episode I chat to @elisecook about womanhood, pregnancy and the dichotomy of birth; the immense pain and immeasurable love. She tells a beautiful story of listening to her intuition and consciously choosing to conceive, letting go of her fear and placing her energy in trust. She spent most of her pregnancy in the quiet of covid lockdown but as she journeyed closer to her due date doctors started to show concerns about her baby’s growth in utero and she was diagnosed with IUGR. Elise kindly shares all the intimate details of her positive induction birth and the joy and challenge of the days and weeks that followed. In my opinion, it’s a must-listen.

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Elise and her husband Dom spent two years travelling Australia in their combi before they returned to their home of Mclaren Vale in South Australia. They built and opened a cellar door – @downtherabbithole – and after the chaos of their first six months in business, Elise took some time to settle into herself and reshuffle her priorities. They had been married close to eight years at this stage and while Dom had always wanted a baby, Elise never felt ready.

“When we were on our two year sabbatical I started listening to health, wellness and spirituality podcasts and birth came up a lot. I started listening to your podcast and I listened to women talk about birth in a way I’d never heard before…it changed my perspective entirely. After the intensity of the business opening I gave myself permission to chill and come back into myself and I got an overwhelming feeling that I was ready to have a baby. I told Dom and we started trying straight away.”

Elise talks at length about her cycle and the fact that when she lived in the van, under starry skies and in nature, she always menstruated on the full moon. When she decided to have a baby her body changed sync and rather serendipitously, she conceived near the new moon and got to announce her pregnancy to Dom on their wedding anniversary (you can watch the video of this beautiful moment, here).

Feeling elated but a little confused by their care options, they hired a private midwife to explain it all to them and regardless of the fact that they had private health cover, they opted for midwifery continuity of care in their local birth centre.

They were in Bali when coronavirus broke out and after a traumatic flight back home they went into quarantine and then lockdown. It was a blissful few months of quiet for them both as they reflected on everything that had happened over the past few years and looked forward to bringing their baby girl into the world.

While Elise had a smooth second trimester, she suffered pregnancy insomnia in her third and at 34 weeks had to get a scan because her measurements showed her baby hadn’t grown. So began a schedule of regular scans and an onslaught of fear with doctors so concerned about her baby’s growth that they thought she would have to be delivered early via cesarean.

While she had envisioned a water birth in the birth centre and knew that may not come to fruition, she continued to stay positive and used her hypnobirthing techniques to prepare for what was to come. “I knew that birth would be painful but I also knew that it would be a transformative period of immense suffering and immense love.”

As she edged closer to full term she chose to work with the doctors and agreed to be induced. She also did everything she could to help the process by having multiple acupuncture treatments, making love and celebrating her impending motherhood with a blessingway. Dom and her went camping to sleep under the moon and harness its energy and then they went into hospital, preparing to be taken to the labour ward.

“When we got there we were feeling a bit emotional as Dom couldn’t stay overnight in the labour ward as there was only single beds. But our midwife came straight up to us and told us that the labour ward was full and we could stay in the birth centre and because it had a queen bed, Dom could stay too.” It really set the mood for Elise’s induction and that night the midwives applied cervadil to her cervix and she settled till morning.

“The midwives came in at 6:30am to check on me and I was 1cm. They told me not to get too excited as that could go on for days. But shortly afterward I started having quite intense contractions and I couldn’t talk, I was in another world, there was no break between them and I was scared because the midwife had told me I was in pre-labour. When they came in to check me again at 8:30am I was 8cm and they had to call another midwife in to be with me for the birth.”

After her mum encouraged her to get off the toilet and onto the bed, Elise’s body started spontaneously pushing. She was leaning  over a beanbag on the bed and she asked Dom to change the music from soft, meditative tunes to something more upbeat.

“The first song that came on was “I am woman” and the lyrics of that song were perfect for birth. Pippa crowned and then she was born to “This Little Light of Mine.” Once my body started pushing the pain changed and once I could feel her coming, once I knew it was happening, I went into planet happy…despite the fact that she ripped me wide open.”

“I was bleeding heavily from tearing and I went away to be stitched. The two midwives who were doing it talked throughout the entire thing and didn’t seem to know what they were doing. It was so painful and traumatic and it took a whole hour. The next day, just before we were leaving, the doctor checked my stitches and told me that they had done a terrible job and I would need to be restitched. I got myself into such a panic, it was truly awful.”

Despite Elise’s challenges, the pediatric doctors gave Pippa the all-clear and they went home and settled into a beautiful rhythm. Elise had expressed colostrum in her final weeks of pregnancy and on Pippa’s first two nights, Dom fed her colostrum while Elise slept through. She honestly believes it set her up so well for those first few weeks.

Unfortunately, at Pippa’s four week check with the community nurse, Elise and Dom were given the fright of their lives. The nurse was concerned about the width of Pippa’s fontanel and told Elise that she needed to pack a bag and go to the ED immediately.

“The nurse was right to send us to emergency but she really did scare us. I hadn’t processed what it would be like in ED and we were put in a paediatric room with a child with whooping cough and one with gastro. It was such a learning curve for us, to be more autonomous and speak up for our kids. We saw so many different doctors over the two days and they just went to the worst case scenario over and over again, I was waiting for the worst news of my life. We finally got an ultrasound and the specialist told us everything was normal, we had nothing to worry about – apparently IUGR is a common cause of a wide fontanel and she’d come into my pelvis early at 30weeks which only exacerbated it.”

Despite the fear and upheaval, Elise and Dom have settled into life as a family on their farm, with the chickens, sheep, alpacas and their beloved cat. “ We’ve found our groove, although the groove keeps changing so we’re just going with it.”

Topics Discussed

IUGR, Positive induction experience, Birth centre, Midwifery care

Episode Sponsor

You can enjoy $20 off Discovering Motherhood) and $20 off The Birth Class by adding the code Elise at checkout.

If you’d like to learn how to antenatally express you can grab my Breastfeeding Guide here.

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