The Two Week Wait
10 Questions To Ask Your Care Provider
Your Pregnancy Care Options
Common Symptoms in Early Pregnancy
Six things you may not know about the hours after a caesarean birth
What is Informed Choice?
How to Plan for Postpartum
A Quick Guide to Breastfeeding
In this week’s episode, I chat to Ebony, a mother of four under four who is vision impaired with less than five per cent vision. Undeterred by her disability, she is an avid researcher and has created practical methods for making things as easy as possible in the home. She talks at length about her mental health issues, the decision to accept a disability support worker and the challenges of her condition as a mother. Her fraternal twin pregnancy was her easiest and she used hypnobirthing, meditation and affirmations to prepare for a successful vaginal birth.
TW: Ebony discusses childhood abuse throughout this episode.
Ebony was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) when she was two, a condition that has progressively worsened over time, particularly with the hormonal fluctuations of puberty and pregnancy. She has accumulated associated eye issues since her diagnosis and regularly consults with her GP and ophthalmologist. In 2017 she welcomed Holly, a black labrador guide dog and she has impacted her life in an incredibly positive way.
Ebony and her partner met and fell pregnant soon after. She’d always wanted to be a mum so even though it happened quickly, Ebony felt like it was the right decision. Her GP at the time wasn’t supportive of her pregnancy and suggested a termination which left her feeling incredibly sad and defeated. Unfortunately, her pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
“The complexities of the experience I had during that pregnancy and navigating the loss of the pregnancy led to periods of depression and low mood. I found myself a new GP who was supportive of my desire to have children and I saw my psychologist regularly. It took three months to conceive my daughter after the miscarriage and I chose to have shared care with my GP. I started feeling sick at 5 weeks and I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) when I was admitted to hospital for IV fluids. I was severely sick up until 20 weeks and then I started to gradually improve.”
Ebony’s care wasn’t different because of her disability but the midwives did ensure she would have a private room after birth and her partner was allowed to stay with her. From 20 weeks her pregnancy was really straightforward and she set up the home so she knew where everything was for her baby. An avid meditator, Ebony meditated regularly during pregnancy and embraced hypnobirth techniques she found online as well as regular yoga practice.
She was in early labour for days and by the time she reached active labour, she was exhausted. She went to the hospital when her contractions were consistent but she was only 3cm and by midday the next day she was 6cm. She eventually opted for an epidural which allowed her to sleep before it was time to push. After 90 minutes of pushing she agreed to a vacuum-assisted birth which also involved an episiotomy.
“She cried straight away and was on my chest and really well. I only stayed in hospital for 24 hours but in hindsight I should have stayed longer because I was so sleep deprived. I planned to breastfeed her but it was only once my milk came in that I realised I had flat nipples so I used nipple shields the entire time which were great. I really enjoyed feeding my daughter and because we were co-sleeping it was very easy. I fell pregnant with my son when she was six months old; there’s now 15 months between them.
“I had some challenges with my mental health in postpartum, especially PTSD from childhood trauma, so I shared my experience with my midwife and she encouraged me to be consistent and diligent with my psychologist. When I was 20 weeks pregnant with my son I felt more balanced. I researched my way through what pregnancy and motherhood would be like for me with a disability and worked out the best way forward with me.
“My blood pressure was high at my 38 week appointment and I was in and out of hospital for the next week. Six days afterwards I was quite headachy and I felt like my vision was playing up so the hospital admitted me straight away. Induction started by breaking my waters and then they hooked me up to the syntocinon drip. I responded really well to the synto and my body knew what was happening. I enjoyed being induced. I limited my support team to my partner and my parents and I laboured for six hours before I birthed him.”
Ebony talks about the challenges of her disability and caring for two children, as well as her choice to swallow her pride and accept valued help from a disability support worker. She was on the mini pill and had an inkling that she may be pregnant when she did a pregnancy test.
“My son was only 19 months at the time and by five weeks I was sick. At my dating scan the sonographer told me there were two babies and two heartbeats and while I had an inkling I was incredibly shocked. As soon as you find out you’re pregnant with twins you’re inundated with information but fraternal twins are definitely not as high risk as identical. I started seeing my midwife earlier on and at my 12 week scan I found out that the twins were girls.
“It was a very different thought process trying to prepare for twins and I joined support groups for twins and multiples. But after I’d had my first baby I was confident; I’m always open to new ideas but they often come from people who don’t have a disability so trying to work them into my lifestyle is a bit different but generally, it works.
My twin pregnancy was my cruisiest and easiest pregnancy. It wasn’t without its physical challenges but my mental health was strong and I practised a lot of hypnobirthing, visualisations and affirmations. Baby A was breech for a long time so I started looking for information on breech vaginal birth that I found in your podcast. Thankfully she turned at the last minute and I was induced at 37 weeks. The midwife struggled to break my waters and once they were broken they started the syntocin drip and the epidural straight away. I took eight hours to dilate but it was really relaxing. I went from meditating and hypnobirth to joking and laughing. I was lying on my side on the peanut pillow so I was really comfortable. I had a lot of breakthrough labour which I enjoyed because I could feel the pressure, I liked knowing what my body was doing. They were born so easily and I didn’t tear, I was absolutely euphoric. It was an overwhelming and beautiful experience to have all the staff so happy for us.”
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