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Episode 265

Emma Isaacs

In today’s episode, I chat to Emma @emmaisaacs for the second time (you can hear all about her first five births in episode 73). Today she shares the story of her home birth in LA when the pandemic was at its peak and the Black Lives Matter protests could be heard from her house. She made the decision to live stream the final hours of her labour on Instagram in the hope that it would shift the perception of birth for her viewers. She didn’t know it at the time, but 60,000 people tuned in, sent heartfelt messages of love and awe, and watched her give birth to her baby boy, Louis. 

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“I love being pregnant, I love having babies and I love the chaos of a big family. I guess we left it up to fate. My husband and I spoke about it but we didn’t have a plan…and I definitely didn’t feel done after my fifth baby,” says Emma.

She fell pregnant four months after a miscarriage. It was her fifth miscarriage and she admits that it never gets easier; there is always significant sadness and disappointment.

“I went to get a scan and the sonographer was fairly dismissive and he just told me it wasn’t viable and the baby hadn’t grown past nine weeks. That kind of care, care without any hint of compassion, just wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The miscarriage didn’t pass so I had to take tablets at home to complete it. That experience definitely told us that we wanted a sixth baby. We had told the children as well and they were so excited so being told that the baby hadn’t made it was really hard.

“Louis was born in June 2020 and we were a few months into lockdown. All up our schools and shops were closed for 13 months.  I met my midwife before the pandemic so we had built a relationship and a rapport. But it was odd having her in the home with a mask and gloves.

The other critical event of that time was the Black Lives Matter protests and we were under a curfew as a result; we couldn’t leave the house after 8:30pm and there were police helicopters overhead and huge crowds protesting because we live quite close to the LA mayor. It was a very unusual time and such a contrast to the new little baby we had welcomed into our lives.

I was feeling really unsettled by everything that was happening. I knew I was having a little boy and it struck me that I would never have to prepare him to face the challenge of being black in America. I was shaken by my privilege…to know that he would never have to modify his behaviour because of his skin colour. I felt it very deeply and very keenly. I was in deep questioning about that and it fuelled a whole new level of mandates in my business, we now how a diversity inclusion board and 25 percent of our speakers are black women. Racism is so deeply set and it’s such a complex issue to unpack and that was at the forefront of my mind leading up to the birth.”

Emma considered live streaming her fifth birth but too many people talked her out of it. This time around, she felt like it was a good idea and she was really confident in her decisions. Fear is such a prominent part of the birth culture in both Australia and America and while her expectations weren’t huge, she believed that by sharing her gentle birth experience she could inform and inspire other women and, ultimately, help shift the narrative.

“We had two midwives and a birth photographer at the birth as well as my mum, our nanny and one of my closest friends. The kids were coming and going the whole time, the dog was wandering around the birth pool, it was lovely. I chose to live stream my birth because I wanted to show people that it can be a beautiful and gentle, albeit challenging process. We set up a tripod in the corner of the room and we were only recording for the final two hours of labour. To be honest, I wasn’t thinking about anything but birthing my baby and no one was telling me about who was watching the live stream; no one mentioned it. I found out afterwards that about 60,000 people tuned in. I was so struck by the beauty, intimacy and support of these people and the messages of love they sent through. A lot of people wrote to me to tell me that it was healing to watch it, that they’d never seen birth like that, that it was a profound opportunity to witness joy. If it helped some people then that’s a beautiful result of a lovely night.

“I was getting cramps and contractions leading up to his birth. I always go overdue and he was 10 days past his due date. All the kids went to bed and I felt like things were shifting so I got in the bath. I like to do the start of labour by myself, so I can get my head in the game. I woke my mum and husband at 1am and we got the music going, the candles lit and contractions were about 6-7 minutes apart. I called my Australian midwife and doula on facetime and they were so excited for me. My midwives and photographer arrived at 2am and by then all the kids were out of bed, too.

“I got into the birthing pool at 3am and that’s when it really slowed down. I was there for an hour and I said to my husband: nothing is happening. We’d all but agreed that I should get out and I was just about to when I had a big, strong contraction. I asked the midwife what I should do and she reassured me that the contractions were progressing, they were productive and I was doing really well. The hardest part was the stalling and I was just exhausted. I asked for a change in the birth playlist; upbeat music changed the mood of the room and really energised me. I spent another hour in the birth pool and my husband was holding me up by the armpits and I was leaning back. It felt really good. Louis’ head came out and then went back in and that’s when the midwife looked at me and moved my leg out and she discovered that he was in the sac. I did one or two more big pushes and he was born en caul and it completely took us by surprise because our fifth baby was born en caul too. It was a big relief and he was gorgeous and I was just exhausted. All I wanted was to get into bed.

My midwife gave me the syntocinon injection to help the placenta as my midwife was a little concerned with my blood loss. The sun was rising and I walked up the two flights of stairs to my bed. I spent the day with the kids and fed Louis on the couch and it was a really sacred and beautiful time. I really feel that he will be our last baby and I’ve had moments of very consciously soaking it all, all the little milestones.”

Topics Discussed

Six vaginal births, En caul, Covid, Miscarriage, Home birth

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If you want to find out more about Emma’s new book: The New Hustle you can get your copy HERE

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by my Live Masterclass on What to do if your Baby or Toddler Chokes. On Thursday the 14th at 10 am I’ll be joined by Edwina from Birth Beat. Edwina is a Midwife and Emergency nurse and mother of two. You would have heard me speak about how much I love Edwina’s online Baby and Child First aid course before and now you have the chance to learn from her for FREE in this live class. Tell all your mum friend’s and partners, grandparents and carers. This is such an essential skill to have. You can sign up to join the Master class HERE can’t wait to see you there. Quick reminder if you cant make the 10am time we will send you a replay for you to watch in your own time.

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