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Episode 212

Bella

In this week’s episode I chat to Bella @isabellasofiacarlstrom about her journey to motherhood with her wife @moanahope. After choosing a sperm donor and attempting a few rounds of IUI, Bella started IVF and fell pregnant on her first attempt. She takes us through the elation, nausea and worry of her pregnancy, most of which she spent in Melbourne’s long winter lockdown. Baby Svea was born after a vaginal birth and while the postpartum period was relatively smooth for Bella, she grew concerned when she started bleeding heavily at six weeks. An ultrasound confirmed her OB’s suspicions; she had retained 5cm of placenta and needed to have it removed. Despite the shock of having to go into hospital and be separated from Svea, Bella has recovered well and is determined to share her story to encourage other new mums to listen intently to their postpartum body and speak up if something doesn’t feel right.

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Bella and Moana married in August of 2018 and a few months later started their journey with Monash IVF. The first part of the process involved choosing a sperm donor which is completely anonymous and a little like flicking through a list of resumes. “The most important thing for us was a healthy sperm donor.. We landed on one we were happy with and we haven’t looked back. Each sperm donor has the capacity to create ten families so as long as they haven’t gone over that limit we could use them. We’ve actually put them on hold till we’ve had all of our kids as we would love to have two more and we want them to have the same donor.”

They opted to try Intrauterine insemination (IUI) first which is the least invasive procedure and involves injecting sperm into the uterus. After two failed attempts they decided to start the IVF process which Bella found particularly challenging.

“I know some women breeze through IVF but I felt like I’d been hit by a bus and the idea that I was going to be injecting myself completely knocked me off my feet. It felt like the most intense PMS of my life. And the hormones are just the first part, then you go under general anaesthetic to retrieve the eggs. I got 12 eggs, only 5 were mature enough to fertilise and I ended up with 3 embryos.”

Bella recalls the morning the clinic called to congratulate her on her pregnancy; the shock and elation that was promptly replaced with nausea. Although she had morning sickness till 16 weeks and suffered from pelvic girdle pain, her pregnancy was relatively smooth. In the midst of lockdown she reached out to a psychologist who helped her navigate the unprecedented shock of prolonged lockdown and allowed her to grieve for the pregnancy lifestyle she thought she would have. Under the care of her OB at Cabrini Private Hospital, Bella sailed through the final trimester and enjoyed a few weeks out of lockdown before a stretch and sweep at 39weeks confirmed that she was fully effaced and 2cm dilated.

She cramped intermittently in the days following and woke at 3:30am on the Monday morning with stronger contractions. She lazed about in the morning, hopped in the bath a few hours later and spent time with Moana while her mother cooked.

“It was really gradual, a really slow build up of contractions which was really nice. I was lying on the bed and had my tens machine on and about 2:30pm I called the hospital and they said it sounded like I was in active labour so mum drove us in and while we waited at reception for all the Covid checks I was contracting in my old Indian cotton nightie, begging for them to hurry up.

“I waited till 4:30 to be checked and they told me I was 5cm. After that I got in the shower and I sat on the floor and just lost it; I felt like every bone in my body was breaking. I asked for an epidural and the midwife told me it would be twenty minutes which I was fine with but then five minutes later I was demanding it again.”

Belle’s behaviour was classic for transition yet she was so surprised when she was told she was 10cm. Her contractions were so intense and productive that she’d gone from five to ten centimetres within the hour.

“I was on my left hand side on the bed and I just bellowed: I need to push! It’s like your whole body convulses and switches into another gear. My OB wasn’t there but she came running in and I knew I just had to surrender and open my body up and let it all happen. Once Svea was crowning we could see that she was in her sack, Jackie caught her, passed her to Mo and Mo put her on my chest. It was the best feeling in the world and I couldn’t believe I’d got through it like I had…it was my dream birth.

She latched and fed for about an hour and we were just euphoric. I had a shower a few hours later and it hit me….just how insane it was. I think I started going in to shock and I told them I needed to get on the bed and my blood pressure was dropping rapidly and my OB couldn’t stabilise me…it got down to 69/37 and there was about 10 doctors in the room. I felt really nauseous and cold…they couldn’t figure it out because I wasn’t losing a lot of blood….I think I was just in shock because it had happened so fast.”

 

Topics Discussed

IVF, Retained placenta, Same sex marriage, Sperm donor

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by Active Truth. Active truth Mama Tights provided snug and secure support that was magic for those pregnancy aches and pains, especially around your back, hips and pelvis. They designed to exercise in but let’s face it, they were so comfortable they were perfect for everyday wear! They’re smoothing and squat-proof and provide physio-approved support with none of the ugly of medical-grade tights!

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