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Episode 286

Ashleigh

In this week’s episode I interview Ash who caught covid at 39 weeks. Her symptoms were mild and by the time she went into labour a week later, she was negative. Unfortunately, her partner, Tim, was positive and still had one more day in isolation. Ash takes us through her birthing day and details the moments she had to consciously surrender, accept the uncontrollable and turn inward to bring her baby into the world. Her sister-in-law stepped in as a loving and knowledgeable doula and Tim watched his son being born via facetime (from the hospital carpark). Ash describes the sense of panic and anxiety that washed over her in the early hours of the next day, a response to the intensity of her labour and birth. While her experience isn’t common, it is normal and I’m grateful Ash had the courage to share her story here.

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Ash’s pregnancy was unplanned and while she was shocked and upset at first, she soon felt elated. She admits she was anxious for most of the first trimester as she didn’t have any pregnancy symptoms which made her nervous.

“I was waiting to get to the 12 week point and I looked forward to every doctor’s appointment just to make sure everything was ok. We live in Jindabyne so I travelled 50 minutes to the local public hospital to see the obstetricians there.

“I did my own research and I had a friend who gave me a pile of books. I read everything I could get my hands on and I took so much advice from my two sister-in-laws, one of which recommended your podcast which I listened to every day.”

“I chose not to get vaccinated and at the time, my hospital had no policy surrounding mandatory vaccination. I felt really confident in my health and I just didn’t think covid would be an issue…it wasn’t on my radar. It was around Christmas that a lot of my friends started getting covid and I was about 37 weeks at the time and it was then that I started thinking that it actually could affect my birth. I started asking my obstetrician and the maternity ward what would happen if I got covid and there was never really a straight answer. There were so many variables and the rules were always changing so Tim and I decided to go into lockdown…Tim stopped working, we ordered our groceries online, I went out once to go to the OB and get the groceries and we spent one day outside with friends.

“At 39+2 I woke up and had aching legs and later that day I started to feel quite achy and at that point I thought it was a bit strange. I was feverish by the evening so I did a test and it was positive. I didn’t panic but I just took a few breaths and reminded myself I was only 39+2, it was my first baby, we’d be fine. I had a bad sleep that night, I was quite achy, but by the next day I was feeling a lot better. NSW Health advised that pregnant women should also do a PCR test so we did that and Tim was negative which was when I felt really stressed because if he had it when I was in labour, I knew there would be serious implications.”

Tim tested positive the following day which is when Ash started actively preparing to birth without him.

“I started meditating, I was looking up anything to do with the word surrender, I had to get into the headspace where I could accept that what would be, would be. I woke up on the last day of isolation with dull period pain and I went back to sleep and woke again to realise that the pain was coming and going. I was laying in bed quite relaxed and realised that even though the pain was mild, they were regular and five minutes apart. I ran a bath and burst into tears because I knew Tim wouldn’t be able to make it. I just went inwards, I reminded myself I’d done the preparation and I just had to accept that Tim wouldn’t be there. I was so excited to meet my baby but I was also sad about the reality of our situation.

“I woke Timmy up and told him I was in labour. I called Cooma Maternity and they had to figure out what was going to happen as they were on bypass that day and lots of birthing women were being sent to Canberra because of staff shortages. The midwife advised us to do a test; I was negative and Tim was positive. The midwife called us back and told us we’d be birthing in Canberra and at that stage, Tim wouldn’t be allowed in. We started getting organise and then we got another call to say we were going to Queanbeyan hospital.

“I sobbed my way to the hospital, I was blocking everything out and getting in the zone. We got to the hospital and I’d not really accepted that I would be leaving Tim. His sister, Abby, was with me and she took me up to the midwives and I settled into the room and told them I would be going back down to the car to labour with Tim. I got back to the car at 1:30 and I sat in the car park on a birth ball and worked through the contractions for an-hour-and-a-half and then it started to really intensify and I had a sudden urge to take my clothes off and be in my birth space. I kissed Tim goodbye and he stayed with his mum in the car.

“My birth plan was detailed, I didn’t want fetal monitoring and I didn’t want to be checked and the midwives respected that. I was in the zone, I didn’t talk, Abby knew exactly what to do and it was incredible…she will definitely be at my next birth. One affirmation that really resonated with me at that stage was: you don’t have to do labour, you just need to be in it. I went into a deep, relaxed state between contractions, it was quite amazing and I was really proud of myself. It got to about 5pm and they asked me if I wanted to have a vaginal examination. I was 10cm with bulging waters so I sat over the toilet and my waters broke.

“When I was pushing Abby got Timmy on facetime and he was just bawling his eyes out. I was so sad for him that he couldn’t be there, my heart was breaking for him. We didn’t know what we were having…I pushed and I pushed and I tried a lot of positions but Sage’s head was moving down very slowly. I pushed for two hours and I started to get really tired. The OB came in and suggested the ventouse so I got on my back and then his heart rate started to dip so then the OB told me I needed an episiotomy and forceps and Sage was born very soon after. I was in so much pain and so overwhelmed and then all of a sudden he was on my chest and everyone was crying, Tim was crying, then after about 30 seconds I announced that it was a boy. I had that rush of oxytocin and it was really nice.

“Sage was born at 9:30pm and Tim was allowed in at midnight. Sage and I had our golden hour and then it was time to get stitched up and I had terrible after pains so it wasn’t great….it took about 45 minutes. I’ll never forget waiting for Tim to come into the room…it was so beautiful.

“I had a panic attack shortly after I got into my room, I had an overwhelming feeling of wanting Sage to get away from me. Even when I had that feeling, I knew deep down that I wouldn’t harm him, but I knew I needed him away from me. I woke Tim up and told him something wasn’t right, I got the midwives to come in and I told them that I needed them to take Sage away. They said that it was fine, he was safe with them, they were really sweet and talked to me and told me it was completely normal. The minute he left the room I was so relieved and I asked Tim to come into my bed and cuddle me and I woke an hour later and I could completely rationalise the whole thing…all those feelings had gone. It had been a big week and a huge day and I needed someone to look after me. Early the next morning we went to get Sage and well…it was love.”

Episode Sponsor

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