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Episode 269

Ash London

In today’s episode I have the loveliest chat with @ash_london who speaks really openly as a first time mum about her fears and anxieties in pregnancy and postpartum. Ash had to go off anxiety medication when she conceived and she was expecting her symptoms to exacerbate with pregnancy hormones but the opposite was true; she enjoyed a very calm and instinctual pregnancy. She practised yoga and meditation to settle her mind and read all she could about birth which allowed her to focus on the wonder of the experience instead of getting caught up in the fear of the unknown. Open, honest and laugh out loud funny, Ash’s story will make your day (and will no doubt encourage you to plan for postpartum support, too!). 

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“My approach to birth changed dramatically when I actually fell pregnant. Years ago if you had asked me what kind of birth I’d wanted, I would have said the most painless, least messy option.

A lot of my anxiety has been related to bad things happening to me, to me being sick and I always thought that pregnancy would exacerbate that. I had to come off my medication before I fell pregnant so I always thought that pregnancy would be really shitty and I’d be anxious the whole time and really stressed out and need monitoring. But it was quite the opposite. As soon as I fell pregnant I had no anxiety, I felt completely at peace about this baby; once I heard the heartbeat. And then my approach to birth really changed, I had a lot more faith in my body.

I always knew that I would have a private obstetrician and I chose mine based on a recommendation from my cousin. My obstetrician was a mix of no fuss and also, very thorough. She was the best person I could have hoped for because she only gave me the information I needed and everytime I left an appointment I just felt really calm and settled and well looked after.”

Ash knows the importance of managing her mental health and yoga and meditation were non-negotiables throughout her pregnancy. Covid interrupted her yoga classes but she continued to practice through lockdown and it became a beautiful opportunity for her to connect with her body and her baby. She felt best in her second trimester and admits that when it’s time to have another baby, she’ll reflect on the energy and happiness of her second trimester to get through the nauseous days of the first.

By the third trimester she was big and uncomfortable and she spent a lot of time on all fours trying to get Buddy to move from the breech position he was so comfortable in.

“I wasn’t comfortable, I couldn’t sleep and he was breech so I was doing lots of spinning babies and spending time on all fours and in inversions. I combated anxiety with research; I loved Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth and Juju Sundin’s book – they made me so excited for natural birth. As I learnt about birth I had this profound belief in my body and I was in wonder of what women can do and it not only helped with the birth but with pregnancy, especially in the late stages when I was uncomfortable and sore and everything was changing, it changed my headspace to me more focused on the wonder of it my experience instead of the unknown. I got to the point where I felt quite empowered which surprised me because I’m really about comfort and medicalising everything. But as soon as I got into the headspace of natural birth it became apparent that I needed a caesarean so I dived into research on caesarean births.

At 37 weeks Ash’s platelets were low and her blood pressure was high. Her obstetrician  encouraged her not to worry but reiterated the importance of staying aware and being mindful of headaches or high blood pressure. That evening Ash’s blood pressure was higher so she went into hospital for monitoring.

“I was so calm and I think it’s because I knew he was 37 weeks and that my symptoms may be signs of preeclampsia but it was ok because I was going to be monitored and I knew I’d be looked after. After spending a night in hospital they sent me home and told me that I could choose between an induction or a caesarean birth. I just didn’t want an induction, I just didn’t feel like it was the right choice for me. I called my friend who had just had a caesarean because I wanted to hear about her experience and she told me everything that I needed to hear. I phoned the hospital and I told them I wanted a caesarean so Adrian and I went in for the night and we spent the next day sitting and waiting to meet Buddy.

“I was so at peace, it was the weirdest thing. It was the opposite birth to what I thought I would have but as soon as I saw him I felt so silly for ever worrying about the type of birth I experienced. My life had started and I didn’t care how he came into the world.

“That feeling of being wheeled through the hospital and knowing your life is about to change is crazy. It was just completely surreal; Adrian walking next to me and us giggling. It was peaceful and joyful, it was beautiful. We got wheeled in and my OB was there in her scrubs and we were all talking about our favourite thing in the world – Italy – and the holidays we’d love to take and telling stories about travelling. Adrian watched the whole thing and Buddy was born and I burst into tears. He came out completely perfect and after all the stress and anxiety and fear, never really trusting my body, always thinking that something was going to go wrong, my baby came into the world and he was just perfect.

“I went into recovery and he went straight on the boob which was insane, he knew exactly what to do, just crawled to it and he hasn’t left the boob since. I’d hired a lactation consultant a few hours before birth and she taught me about antenatal expressing and she talked about what those first few days of breastfeeding would look like.

“We left the hospital early because he was feeding well and put on weight so we went home feeling really confident and then oh boy, that first night at home we had no idea what we were doing. I was getting night sweats, I had no idea what clothes to put him in, he hated the snoo (he now loves the snoo), I wanted to buzz the midwives so they could make everything ok again. Two weeks after he was born – on his estimated due date – it was like he woke up and everything changed. It’s been really hard but really incredible. It’s harder than I thought it would be and more incredible than I thought it would be. I called my mum and said: I need you. And she just said: I’m on my way.”

Ash shares so much about her postpartum experience, especially the physical pang of anxiety in the evening when she anticipates the unknown of the night. It’s such a common experience and yet it’s not often discussed. Her tools for dealing with postpartum anxiety?

“When I feel anxious, I just tell someone – Adrian, my best friend or my lactation consultant. The nights are fine – they’re hard but they’re not catastrophic. But anxiety has no rhyme or reason. For now, my anxiety is certainly manageable and it’s so good having my mum here. I just didn’t realise how important support is in those first few weeks after birth. It’s everything.”

Topics Discussed

Planned caesarean, One birth, Anxiety, Preeclampsia, Postpartum, Breastfeeding

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