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Today Zoë Foster Blake shares with us her two pregnancies and births of her son Sonny and daughter Rudy. Zoë openly details all the uncomfortable and confronting parts of her pregnancy and early parenting experiences, including having osteitis pubis (a fractured and inflamed pubis), gestational diabetes and nine excruciating bouts of mastitis. I know you’re going to love hearing Zoë’s birth stories.
When Zoë and her husband, Hamish, decided to start trying for a family, Zoë read everything she could about ovulation and fertility and subsequently found herself immersed in the world of tracking apps and fertility forums.
“I wasn’t on birth control so I had to switch my mindset and not be scared of ovulation but instead welcome and embrace it. Before long I was tracking psychotically and I really got into the lingo of ovulation and fertility. For the first time in my life, I actually understood what ovulation is and I was shocked that it was literally about maths – there was a time-frame, a number, that you call fall pregnant in a month and finding that was the key. I’d been told by a few friends that acupuncture and Chinese herbs would help so I saw a fantastic Melbourne doctor who I highly recommend, Dr Alice Gao – she was a fertility wizard. She gave me the herbs and the acupuncture and my mum was putting me on homoeopathy and I was going by the lunar cycles and then a friend just told me to have sex every second day. After about six months we fell pregnant.”
Zoë had recently moved to Melbourne from Sydney and admits that her early pregnancy coincided with a particularly lonely time in her life made worse by persistent nausea. She navigated her first trimester with google and subsequently found her obstetrician at her local private hospital. As her nausea subsided, she found herself hobbling through the second trimester with increasingly bad lower back and pelvic pain. Unfortunately a few treatments from physiotherapists made it worse and by the start of her third trimester she was in chronic pain and unable to walk without crutches.
“I had increasing pain around my groin and lower back and a lot of people thought it was Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD) but despite a few treatments and exercises, it was getting worse. I had actually fractured my pubis, I was on crutches, I was puffy and swollen and generally having a really tough time. I presumed it would be fixed after birth but I was six weeks postpartum and still couldn’t walk. A friend of a friend recommended an osteopath who diagnosed me with osteitis pubis which is inflammation of the pubic bone. She fixed me! She offered me treatment and relief as well as support and long-term aid and along with a very strict pilates regime I managed to avoid the same issue in my second pregnancy.”
On top of her acute physical pain and limitations, Zoë was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. She admits that her diagnosis was confronting but it actually helped her re-establish healthy eating habits and for someone that gets hangry, she found that eating every three hours helped balance her moods.
Zoë shares, “I wasn’t married to any form of birth, I just wanted a healthy and positive birth experience. In our birth classes the doula’s partner gave Hamish some really good advice: you’re captain of energy, you need to keep the energy right in the room, you need to protect her space, whatever she says, goes – you’re there as support.”
“You just never know who you’re going to be in labour and I definitely surprised myself. I had a stretch and sweep one afternoon and then I went straight to my acupuncturist who told me I would go into labour that night. Hamish fell asleep and I was in bed timing my contractions. We went to the hospital about 2am in the morning.”
“I was put on morphine because I was shivering, probably because of the adrenal response, and I really regret that because it just made me vomit and I was foggy and I had a hangover for days afterwards. I was in labour all night and I remember the panic of wondering where the anaesthetist was in case I missed my window of opportunity. I had an epidural and fell asleep and then when I was ready to push I could feel the contractions and it was relatively short. Sonny was born and I was crying and then I was a shell, I hadn’t slept, I had stitches and all the weird things started happening. I thought I’d go to sleep after that and then I realised, and I say this with embarrassment, but I just didn’t realise that a new baby would need to be fed every two hours. We had a midwife who was a bit mean and she was yelling at us because the room was cold and she told us we should have brought a blanket for Sonny. I was crying and she was trying to show me how to breastfeed and of course, that didn’t go well.”
Zoë developed mastitis two weeks postpartum; the first of nine rounds of mastitis throughout her breastfeeding journey.
“What I’ve learned is that if you feel like you’re coming down with the flu and you’ve got a newborn, it’s probably mastitis and it’s best to get onto it quickly. I was a bit of a pro on how to treat it by the end; I was feeding on all fours, I knew when to take the nurofen, and I knew how to use the heat packs.”
When Zoë conceived her daughter, Rudy, she was on edge waiting for her pubic pain to develop but it never did (she credits disciplined pilates band work and regular osteopath treatments). After a much smoother pregnancy, Zoë experienced false labour for a week before Rudy arrived swiftly at the hospital.
“Rudy came out smiling and I didn’t feel drugged and weird and there was nothing to shock me. I did forget how to bear down and I forgot how to breastfeed but I had a lovely couple of midwives who reminded me how to latch a newborn and I ended up breastfeeding for a year.”
Osteitis pubis, Gestational Diabetes (GD), Breastfeeding challenges
If you’d like to learn more about Zoë’s gorgeous new children’s book Scaredy Bath you can find it over at Go-To along with all her other incredible products such as her children’s bath and body care products Gro-To. While you’re there you can pick something nice up for yourself from her women’s range Go-To.
A guide to inspire pregnant women to prepare for their breastfeeding journey.
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