Confidently prepare for a positive birth experience – Join The Birth Class

Episode 238

Tess Struber

In this week’s episode, I chat to Tess @tessandluke who rang her local birth centre when she was six weeks pregnant to make sure she got in (hot tip for those of you hoping for continuity of care with midwives!). Like many first time mums, Tess was convinced she would go into labour early. No matter how many natural induction techniques she tried, nothing worked and she was left feeling defeated and unsure. She was booked to be induced at 41+6 but she woke that day with mild cramps and by 11am she was labouring in the bath at the birth centre. Tess takes us step by step through her labour, her long second stage and her mental and physical challenges. Despite everything, it was a strong and focussed mindset that guided her to a wonderful birth.

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Image by Woven Light Birth

Tess went off the pill in late 2019 and fell pregnant in June 2020. She admits that she didn’t love being pregnant; her’s was not a gorgeous and glamorous instagram pregnancy.

“I had nausea for the first two trimesters, I had migraines and nose bleeds and pregnancy acne. I had everything. And anxiety kicked in for me; I was scared because I wasn’t too sure, I knew life was going to change but still there was fear of the unknown. I just really had to take good care of myself; some days I rested and other days I made sure I got out for fresh air and sunshine.”

Tess had heard exemplary reviews of the local midwife program at the birth centre in Cairns and she knew it was difficult to get in. She took it upon herself to call when she was six weeks pregnant and she was lucky enough to get in.

“The one-on-one midwifery care really eased my anxiety which was both a relief and a comfort. Research helped, too. I did online antenatal classes through the hospital, I also had a girlfriend who talked me through my fears, what I could expect and she gave me lots of coping mechanisms. I wasn’t opposed to pain relief at all but I wanted to know all of my options. I also listened to your podcast and I read a lot…I really loved Rhea Dempsey’s book Birth with Confidence (Rhea is featured in The Birth Class and discusses the powerful role of hormones in labour).

“I was booked in for an induction at 41+6 but I woke up that morning with a bit of cramping. I went back to sleep and woke up an hour later and told Luke that I thought it may be labour. It wasn’t too bad but it was starting to take my breath away.  I remember thinking: if this isn’t labour then I don’t know how I’m going to cope. My midwife popped in at 9am and checked me; I was 2cm and in labour and I cancelled my induction.

“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and how I was going to cope. At 10:30 we drove into the birth centre and I had the tens machine on in the car…it was the worst car trip of my life. The gas was set up when we got into the birth centre but I didn’t like it; it made me feel strangely claustrophobic. I wasn’t checked again because it hadn’t been that long since Belinda did the internal at home and I assumed I hadn’t progressed that much. I was cautious of being checked too often because if I wasn’t progressing I was wary of how that would make me feel mentally. The bath made me feel lighter and took away the pressure on my back. Belinda offered to check me at 1pm and I was 7-8cm.

“I had an agreement with my midwife before my labour; if I had a really long labour and I asked for an epidural, I wanted her to give it to me. But if my Iabour was going quickly and I asked for it, I just wanted her to support me so I could continue labouring without it.

“I got back in the bath and I kept saying I don’t think I can do it but Luke kept encouraging me. I got out at 3pm and I was fully dilated but my waters hadn’t broken…I was on my knees on the bed but my body was uncontrollably shaking. Nothing wasn’t really happening and my waters still hadn’t broken so my midwife suggested breaking my waters but she made me aware that if there was meconium in the waters I would have to move over to the birth suite and be monitored by the obstetricians but I was really comfortable in my safe space in the birth centre. I pushed for another hour and went from the bed to the toilet. By 5pm I requested she break my waters and they were clear; the relief was enormous.

“I felt a release and I knew what I was trying to push. For all that time I was pushing nothing; like I was pushing up a hard wall. When my waters had broken I could feel the change, like I was actually making progress. I knew that if I started panicking or worrying the adrenaline would kick in and the pain would get worse. I’d just snap out of it and get my head back in the game.

“I was standing over the toilet and I was pushing so hard. I was roaring my baby out which was pretty incredible but I could feel her getting lower and lower. Belinda told Luke to look and he saw the top of Cleo’s head. My next contraction I pushed so hard and her head was born with her hand up beside her face and then she turned I could feel her kicking me which was weird. My body did that last push for me and she was out. My midwife was standing behind me and caught her and passed her through my legs to Luke. When we were both there in that zone it was so raw and emotional and amazing…it was really quite beautiful.

“I walked from the bathroom to the bed and I was holding her…Luke and my midwife were holding onto me. We did delayed cord clamping and skin on skin and 45minutes after birth my midwife told me it was time to birth the placenta. My body could not push any more. I was a bit shaken up because I hadn’t researched what happens after you give birth. You spend all this time thinking of all the things that can happen during birth but that is where I stopped….I didn’t think about what was going to happen after. But it’s so important to do that. There was a lot of blood – I didn’t know if it was normal – and then I was over the birthing stool holding onto the bed and it was just such a shock…but then my midwife tugged a bit and the placenta came out and she took it away to have a good look at it.

“I couldn’t think of anything worse than not having Luke with me so four hours after I gave birth we were in the car going home. I learnt to breastfeed with the nipple shield and I’m still using it; love it! My hormones really ramped up in the second week and I was so emotional but I’m just taking it day by day.

“Mostly I just wish I had researched what happens after birth and then what the first few weeks look like. Birth really is the easy bit…the newborn stage is crazy but it’s epic.”



Topics Discussed

Birth centre, Breastfeeding, MGP, Nipple shield, Spontaneous labour, Vaginal birth

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