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Episode 293

Sara

TW: Family violence, domestic violence Pregnancy is one of the highest risk times for family violence and in today’s episode, Sara bravely shares her experience. After years of physical, emotional and verbal abuse, Sara got an intervention order and was under an alias in hospital when she birthed her first son. She then navigated years of court orders and visitations while receiving support from a family violence psychologist. Sara always knew she wanted a sibling for her son but she wasn’t ready to be in another relationship so she accepted donor sperm and conceived via home insemination. At her twelve week scan she was speechless when she discovered she was pregnant with twins.  If Sara’s story triggers concerns for yourself or your children, please contact 1800RESPECT- 1800 737 732 (24 hours, 7 days a week)

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“To be able to tell the story of my eldest son, I need to tell the story of his dad. I met him eight years ago through a friend. He was the life of the party, in a respectful job and everything felt right with him. He was very complimentary at the beginning of the relationship, he love-bombed me and I was caught up in it but after a couple of months there were a few red flags that I ignored. The first was that he was very unkind about his ex-partners and one of them actually reached out to warn me. The next red flag was that he was at my house and I went to work and instead of leaving soon after he went through my belongings and read my old diaries and turned on an old phone to read old text messages.

“Things got a lot worse, he started isolating me from friends and family, he berated me about what I wore and what I said and who I spent time with. It wasn’t physical at that stage, just emotional and verbal abuse. This happened over two-and-a-half years and I never told anybody although friends and family had an idea that something was off. We went on a nine-week road trip and the abuse escalated and became physical and at that point I knew I had to get out. As soon as we got home I told him I couldn’t do it anymore and I moved into a place by myself. I got professional help and reconnected with family and friends and I was feeling so much relief. But he still had a hold over me and he harassed and stalked me for eighteen-months after.

“One of the times that I saw him, which I thought was going to be the last time I saw him, he got really emotional and apologised for everything and that night my oldest son was conceived. I drove him home the next day and thought thank goodness I’m never going to see him again. Little did I know. I flew to Morocco for a holiday two days later and I felt off the whole time. After two weeks I went to London for a friend’s wedding and thought I’d better buy a pregnancy test. I don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked in my life. I was very honest and open to him from the beginning and he was supportive but I now realise he was doing that because he thought he had control over me again.

“I had an instant connection with my child, we have an unbreakable bond, so an abortion never crossed my mind. My ex-partner was emotionally abusive for the first six months of my pregnancy and didn’t want anyone to know that it was his. But then he told his family and from that moment it got so hard. I was assigned a social worker through the hospital and she ensured I was placed under an alias in the hospital system to protect myself and my child. She also put me in touch with the legal services so I could ask questions about the legalities of him being the father.

“Pregnancy is one of the highest risk times for someone experiencing family violence. I have worked in this space for years and even I couldn’t identify that it was happening to me. I can completely understand why lots of women leave and go back or feel trapped or blame themselves. They’ve been gaslit so badly that they think it’s all their own fault. I just couldn’t believe it was me. At the time what I felt like I needed was protection and the community lawyer asked why I didn’t have an intervention order. I made excuses but she wouldn’t listen and she walked me down to the police station and encouraged me to make a statement. The intervention order was put in place when I was 38 weeks pregnant and when they were taking my statement, I was in labour.

“My mum and sister supported me during labour and birth, and all the women I was supportive by, from the community lawyer to the social workers, were women. I didn’t do any birth classes, the only preparation I did was listen to your podcast. I couldn’t do anything in person because I was in fear of people asking about my circumstances.

“I had a textbook birth. I was in early labour when I was on the phone to the police getting the intervention order. I went into the hospital early and the midwives sent me home to rest. The next day I had on and off contractions and I was mostly by myself but at 5pm my waters broke and then the pain was excruciating. I quickly called mum and I was at the point where I felt like I wanted to push so I called the ambulance. And as soon as I got into the labour ward I asked for the epidural and I asked for it so many times that the midwives were laughing but I was fully dilated and they were so supportive and encouraging. I birthed him quickly and quite easily. When he was put on my chest I didn’t feel anything so my sister held him for the first half an hour but when I went to my room I just fell in love with him and we’ve been inseparable ever since.”

A week after Sara was discharged she was served with court orders and has navigated co-parenting in various guises ever since. She knew that she wanted her son to have a sibling but she didn’t feel ready to be in another relationship so she sought donor sperm through a Facebook group and she conceived at home within the first month. She had a legal agreement written up and admits the whole process was so positive.

“I didn’t feel pregnant at all and then I started feeling a bit queasy and the test lit up straight away. My hormone levels were through the roof and my GP told me that’s often the sign of a multiple pregnancy. I didn’t have a dating scan because I knew the date I conceived so I found out it was twins at my 12 week scan.

“I really loved the public system and because my first birth was so straightforward I felt confident to go public. The covid experience was quite full on with twins because I was considered high risk. I saw obstetricians and I really missed my midwife experience, the time they take with you and the care they give. My twins were DCDA twins – two eggs, two sacs and two placentas – one boy and one girl.”

Sara’s pregnancy was straightforward until the third trimester when she developed PUPPS which prompts severe itching all over the body although Sara had it mostly on her back, belly and legs. She requested an appointment with a midwife at 35 weeks so she could understand her options and she decided that she wanted to avoid an induction. A week later she went into labour spontaneously which began with vomiting and diarrhea. After sleeping overnight she got up and her waters broke. She had an epidural but as she suspected her labour was very quick.

“I had an amazing connection with the female obstetrician and she really encouraged me to give birth vaginally. I started pushing and my son was born quite quickly
but he was flat so they whisked him off to give him oxygen and sugars and they took him straight to the special care nursery. My daughter was breech and she was born footling breech and she was ok after oxygen and I held her for a while before they took her to special care. Two weeks after birth I had to go back to hospital to have surgery for retained placenta. My midwife encouraged me to have a scan to check for retained placenta and I’m so glad I had it because I had no symptoms and I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

Topics Discussed

DCDA Twins, PAPPS, Footling breech, Retained placenta, Family violence, Two Vaginal Births, Donor sperm, Epidural

Episode Sponsor

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