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Episode 214

Blair

In this week’s episode I interview Blair who tells the story of her traumatic first birth where a quick forceps delivery left her with significant internal damage and incontinence issues. “I felt like birth happened to me, I didn’t contribute at all,” she says. Her introduction to motherhood was challenging as she dealt with an infected hematoma, had difficulty bonding with her baby and navigated the sudden onset of postnatal anxiety. She fell pregnant unexpectedly the following year and actively prepared for an intervention-free birth which was quick, joyous and wonderfully healing, both physically and emotionally. Briar admits that she sought out stories of women who had experienced a redemptive second birth after a challenging first and now she’s delighted to be sharing her own.

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lair met Andy when they were both 36. They fell in love instantly and knew that they wanted to have a family but after trying without luck for six months, they sought advice from their GP. Tests revealed that Andy had abnormal sperm and Briar remembers walking out of the doctor’s surgery thinking that they would never have kids. They decided to consult with their local publicly-funded IVF clinic and shortly after began their first round of Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) where they injected the most healthy looking sperm straight into the egg.

“I had to do the full gamut of stimulated drugs and then they retrieved five eggs. We went straight to ICSI and we got five fertilised eggs and three survived over the week. A week later they popped the first embryo in and we were lucky, we got pregnant! I got accepted into the Cosmos program at the Royal Women’s where you are allocated your own midwife and you get the opportunity to meet the other four midwives who will take care of you if for whatever reason your midwife can’t.”

Pelvic girdle pain began at 16 weeks but she ignored it till it became almost unbearable at 20 weeks. She immediately saw a physio who told her that everything she was doing – long walks, pilates, one-legged activities (like putting on shoes while standing up) – was making it worse and if she kept going, she would end up in a wheelchair. Briar took it very easy for the remainder of her pregnancy and kept the pain at bay until it significantly increased at 38weeks. Around her due date her midwife mentioned the possibility of an induction and at 41+6 Briar happily arrived at hospital at 5pm and was hooked up to a syntocin drip.

“I had my clary sage and birthing affirmation cards and as soon as the syntocin drip went in the contractions started immediately and they were really strong and they felt compulsive…and I can only say that now that I know what contractions feel like when labour starts naturally. I had mum and Andy there and I think things just spiralled. I got quite frightened and asked Jess, my midwife, to turn the syntocin down but of course that can’t happen. They were one on top of another and I remember wondering why I wasn’t getting any breaks. I couldn’t talk but I kept looking at Jess pleading her to help me. I requested an epidural and it was a massive relief. We had a sleep and by 11pm I was 8cm.

“Between then and 4am I kept getting woken up because Freddy’s heart rate was dropping. The OB kept coming in telling me I’d need a cesarean if I didn’t dilate soon. Freddy’s presentation was awkward, his cheek had fallen onto his shoulder and he was presenting forehead first. Before I knew it my legs were in stirrups and they told me they’d need to use forceps because of his position. I had an episiotomy and they pulled him out quite quickly, they got him out quite quickly, they didn’t ask me to push, they ripped him out.

“I didn’t have any reaction to him at all. I just asked Andy to take him. I felt like birth happened to me, I didn’t contribute to that birth at all. I had a second degree tear and an internal tear and the OB told me I would have a hematoma as well and in the days following I thought that the pain I was experiencing was just normal.”

Blair was discharged from hospital but once she was home it became increasingly difficult to sit and stand and she was spending all her time trying to get comfortable instead of bonding with Freddy or establishing a breastfeeding rhythm. She returned to hospital a few days later and they confirmed that her hematoma was infected and she would need strong antibiotics to kick it. As well as the pain of having stitches and an infection, Blair realised that the delivery had left her with incontinence issues. She immediately sought help from a women’s physio who acknowledged that there was a lot of damage but there were exercises she could do to strengthen her pelvic floor and core.

“I wore incontinence pads for a long time after birth…I couldn’t even really find my pelvic floor, I didn’t even know how to locate it let alone engage it. I then experienced postnatal anxiety which came as a shock and was really confronting. I worried about Freddy’s breathing and his temperature and I wondered if we would get hit by a car if we went out for a walk.”

Freddy was born in May 2019 and Blair found out she was pregnant with Wren at the start of April 2020. “I never got my period back and I remember feeling a bit off and I took a pregnancy test and I was actually 10 weeks along; I had an initial flutter of excitement and then just the dread of having to give birth again….so soon after giving birth to Freddy. It was a happy, panicky moment.”

She may have had all the right clothes and essential oils for Freddy’s birth but this time around,  Blair was determined to focus on her mental preparation. She admits that she did consider a cesarean as she knew how much damage had already been done to her pelvic floor and vagina but she switched her mindset and instead focused on conscious birth preparation, she hired a doula (who never even made the birth) and unpacked a lot of her grief and trauma about Freddy’s birth before actively preparing for Wren’s. She kept her pelvic girdle pain at bay by being very conscious of the way she moved (placing a pillow between her legs while she slept really helped).

“In the two weeks before Wren’s birth I had an enormous amount of mucousy discharge and the night before I had a bloody show. That day I’d had an appointment with my midwife and she said I was fully effaced and 3cm and that baby was in a wonderful position so I went home absolutely buoyed. On my due date we took Freddy to day care then went out for brunch and I swam in the ocean and as soon as I got back to the car I felt the pop of my waters breaking. WE got home, dealt with Freddy at witching hour and I got in the shower as the contractions were growing in intensity quite quickly. When they were two minutes apart Jess encouraged us to come in and on the way to the hospital I did start feeling the urge to push. It took us a while to get to the labour ward because of covid protocols but once I got there I got down on all fours and Wren’s head was born after a few contractions. That feeling of stretching and opening felt pretty awesome. We had another surprise and it took me a good few minutes once I’d scooped her up to notice that she was a girl. We were so elated and that feeling of: I did it! It was 1 hour and 15minutes from when my waters broke to birth.”

Blair says that her pelvic floor recovery has been so much better this time around and while she had a second degree and internal tear, she could find and lift her pelvic floor from day two and has since strengthened it with the help of her physio and the @coreandfloorrestore online program.

Topics Discussed

ICSI, Pelvic girdle pain, Incontinence, Two births, Induction, Forceps, IVF, Epidural

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