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Episode 226

Sonia

In this week’s episode I chat to Sonia who discovered she was pregnant at the very start of the pandemic. She spent the following eight months immersed in birth documentaries and positive birth stories, intent on creating a birth space where she could be supported by her partner and her closest friends as she laboured. She speaks softly and with heart about her home water birth, the way she roared her daughter into the world and the bliss-filled days that followed. It’s so important to hear stories like Sonia’s and to remind ourselves that with mindful preparation and a supportive caregiver, birth can be a joyous and powerful experience.

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“The birth videos that I really connected with had a lot of women in them; I felt really drawn to female energy and in labour I was so soothed by the conversations of my friends as I breathed through my surges.” Having her friends present in her labour was always a priority for Sonia who spent most of her pregnancy in Melbourne’s strict lockdown.

As an artist who uses oil paints, she had to give up painting early in her pregnancy for the safety of her baby. Instead of mulling over it, she deep dived in the birth world, starting with the American documentary, The Business of Being Born. This led her to the work of midwife Ina May Gaskin and informed her decision to practise hypnobirthing. All three resources shared the same message: the female body was made for birth. She fell into the catchment area for Sunshine Hospital’s home birthing program so she began preparing for her home birth and started thinking about how she wanted to be supported, knowing that she could do anything that was required of her to bring her baby into the world.

Most of her prenatal appointments were done over the phone and when she was able to attend the hospital, her husband had to wait in the car while she facetime him into the conversation. Late in her second trimester, an ultrasound showed that her baby was on the 11th percentile for growth.

“In order to have a home birth under the hospital guidelines, my baby would need to be above the 10th percentile. They wanted to check her measurements more regularly for me to be signed off by the obstetrician. At the time I was really upset and my midwife understood my concern but she also agreed with me when I explained that I’m tiny – I’m 5ft1! The reason behind the policy is that babies born under 3kg sometimes have a harder time and need to be near neonatal support. By the end of the pregnancy, she was measuring on the 18th percentile but I admit, I did shop around for a private midwife during that time when my public homebirth seemed uncertain.”

Melbourne went into hard lockdown during Sonia’s third trimester. “Now that I look back on it I don’t know how I remained so positive but I knew that being positive, and refusing to let fear into my mindset, was essential. All the research I had done proved that surrounding yourself with positive birth stories was crucial…I didn’t want to let anything get me down.”

Lockdown lifted in her 39th week and she enjoyed a few nights of socialising with friends before she came down with a cold. Two days later she started experiencing surges at 8:30am. They steadily grew more intense throughout the day and by 4pm her two friends, Wendy and Jess, arrived at her apartment to support her.

“I remember any time another surge was coming and I didn’t feel prepared, I would just say: another one is coming everyone and they’d say: it’s fine, you can do it and then I’d be like ok, I can do it, and I would take a deep breath and I could hear them having a conversation and it really soothed me.

“I had a birth wall that had a bunch of beautiful imagery on there that made me smile, I had affirmations, images of waves, the quote “more often than not, women need encouragement, not drugs”. I wanted to be able to associate better adjectives rather than pain to how my body was starting to open, seeing all those videos and understanding what the muscles were doing helped me better understand the surges, it helped me cope.

“Everything I was feeling was a natural process so that definitely gave me confidence in knowing that I could do it. How can there be 8billion people on this planet if birth was that difficult or scary?

“The midwife came over about 5:30 and she could tell I was close to birthing. I had requested in my birth plan that I didn’t want to be checked for dilation but as soon as she arrived I asked her to check me and she said: No Sonia, I don’t think you need to be checked, you’ve got this. I’m so glad she passed the responsibility back to me.”

“As soon as I got into the pool my waters broke. It’s such a nice feeling when your waters break. I found the contractions a lot more intense than pushing; I don’t know if that’s because when I was contracting I lay down on the bed and I didn’t feel good at all and then I tried bouncing on the ball and I still didn’t feel good; I spent most of the surges upright and moving my hips or squatting with someone applying pressure to my sacrum and pelvis. I used the shower, the hot water on my back and when I got in the pool, Wendy was pouring cold water slowly down my back, Jess was feeding me strawberries and mangoes, Cam was holding me up from behind, the midwife was pushing on my pelvis and I just remember thinking I’m so glad everyone is here.

“I really started to make a lot of noise towards the end and the doors to our balcony were open and I got a bit self-conscious of the neighbours hearing me but Cam said: let them hear, roar it out, it’s totally fine. By the time I’d birthed Ilya, and all the neighbours could hear her cry, there was a huge round of applause. It was so nice. Both Wendy and Jess peered their heads over the balcony and announced that it was a girl. And everybody clapped again. It was so interesting that I’d been so self-conscious of other people hearing but for them it was a really amazing experience.”

Sonia birthed the placenta naturally and then had her second-degree tear stitched up. Her midwife and friends helped her into bed where she spent the following days as friends came bearing food and gentle conversation. That said, she found the first two weeks of breastfeeding particularly difficult. “It was so much harder than labour! I did so much research on birth that I kind of forgot about post-birth.”

Topics Discussed

Covid pregnancy, Postpartum doula, Tail of spence, Water Birth, Home birth

Connect

Sonia has kindly shared notes and links to the resources she found particularly inspiring throughout her pregnancy:

Watch the business of being born here

Documentary Film on Ina Mays “the farm”

Ina Mays Guide to Childbirth

Katherine Graves episode on Russel brands Under the Skin podcast

Sonia really hopes all Australian Mums can have access to publicly funded home births! you can learn more Here

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by Mère botanicals. Mère botanicals is a range of natural products designed to support new mothers to prepare for labour and reduce some of the discomforts present in labour and birth.  Lovingly developed by Mother and Naturopath Kate Murray. Kate has used her knowledge and access to high-quality herbal medicine to create this beautifully formulated range which includes products such as a hydrating Perineal massage oil, Raspberry leaf tea and a divine smelling stretch mark cream.

The range also includes birth support products such as clary sage rollers and a Labour aid drink to help support nutrition and hydration during labour. For postpartum, Mère has the ever-popular healing Peri spray and postpartum bath salts. Every product is created with a conscious effort to support your body, your baby and the environment. These Naturopathic formulated botanicals are hand-blended using certified organic ingredients when possible and are free from any parabens, sulphates and petroleum, artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and are delivered in eco-friendly packaging.  To see the full range head over to www.merebotanicals.com.au Mère is kindly offering 15% off your order with the code ABS15

In the image above you can see Sonia enjoying her Mama Goodness food delivery lovingly being serves by Jess. You can enjoy 10% off your Melbourne meal delivery with the code ABS head over to Mama Goodness You can listen to Jess’s birth story here

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