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Episode 329

Sophie – Nik’s story

Today’s episode is a little different in that my friend, Jodi, interviews me about my first pregnancy and birth. My pregnancy was really straightforward and I chose midwifery care in a birth centre. I had every intention of experiencing an intervention-free vaginal birth but in retrospect I can see that I didn’t do enough mental or physical preparation (hence why I created The Birth Class). I was in early labour when a midwife checked me and told me I was 4cm and I would have my baby that afternoon. I promptly went home to walk, stomp and get labour going. After many hours I was induced, I had an epidural and after two hours of pushing Nik was born with the assistance of forceps and shortly afterwards I had a postpartum hemorrhage. I talk at length about the trauma of those intense five minutes, the days afterward, my breastfeeding experience and my pelvic floor damage and recovery.

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I planned to conceive but I was actually living at home with Jono because we’d come back from living in London and we were doing post-grad studies. I was 32 and I was aware that it could take a long time to conceive but then I fell pregnant on our first try. I actually did a positive pregnancy test on the morning of my sister’s wedding.

I wasn’t listening to birth stories in the way that I did with my second birth. I knew that I wanted midwifery care and that birth centre care was limited and I think I just knew that from friends. I did a hospital tour and once I saw the birth centre I knew I definitely wanted to be there. I met five midwives throughout my pregnancy and I felt really well supported in that system.

In my first trimester I went through a phase of feeling worried because I wasn’t nauseous. I was working part-time in the city and I’d feel quite sick on the bus but overall I was really lucky, I didn’t have any significant sickness. I did prenatal pilates; I knew that I wanted to strengthen my body and I’ve always loved pilates so that was an easy decision. I also borrowed a TENS machine and I really enjoyed Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills book. I had also watched One Born Every Minute and I felt excited by the challenge of labour. My mum had relatively smooth and quick labours so I just hoped that I’d inherited that.

At that time you could have gas and air in the birth centre but if I wanted an epidural all I had to do was walk down the hall into the hospital’s birthing unit. I think my health background made me feel confident in hospitals and in the birth centre I felt like I could have the combination of a homely feel with the hospital medical support.

In the final weeks I was trying to relish it – I was big and Nik was 4.4kg. I felt like I was waiting to be hit by a bus; I was nervous and doubting and excited. I think I thought I’d go early like all first time mums do. I was swinging back and forth between thinking I’ve got this to really doubting my ability. On reflection I wasn’t prepared in the way that I would recommend. I also knew that if I went to 42 weeks I wouldn’t be able to birth in the birth centre.

I woke up one night feeling like I had mild period cramps. I’d had a bath and stretched my legs and I already had an appointment at 9am because I was past my due date. At my appointment the midwife told me I was 4cm and I was going to have a baby that afternoon and I was delighted and messaged everyone to tell them I was in labour. The midwife gave me a script for a sleeping tablet but it didn’t touch the sides – there was too much adrenaline running through me. I thought that the best thing was to be active so I walked up and down the dirt road counting contractions. It’s so funny to think about it now because I was so early on, I should have just gone about my day.

The midwife told me that I’d know when I’d want to go to the birth centre. It got to 6pm and I was thinking that the baby should have been born already; I had a strong contraction and i just decided it was time to go in. I agreed to be checked and I was disappointed to hear that I was only 5cm; that was a mental setback but I still felt like I was in control. I was in the bath and I was using sound and starting to find the contractions more challenging. My mum was sitting near me and I wanted her to put the facewasher on my face but I wasn’t very verbal and she didn’t understand. I was in the bath for hours, it was about 1am when they checked me again and I was still 5cm and at that point I lost it. I feel like I flicked a switch; I didn’t care what happened next. I was also GBS positive so I actually had the IV antibiotics three times because of my long labour.

It got to the stage where I wasn’t progressing so Jo suggested breaking my waters and I agreed to that. I wasn’t really aware of the shift that would create in labour and for me it made the intensity of the contractions go from 0-10. I wasn’t coping well at that point. I trusted Jo’s instincts and she said the next thing would be to induce me to try and progress the labour. My notes just say slow to progress. I waddled down the hallway into the hospital birthing unit and I knew the drip would increase the intensity of the contractions and at that point I just knew I wanted an epidural. It worked immediately but it was really dense; I couldn’t move at all. This was about 6am and because I was so relaxed and only 5cm, my mum went home, Jono had a sleep and I just rested.

I got to 10cm and then they wanted to give me another hour to let the baby move down. Of course I was on my back but I didn’t really care about being active. I pushed with all my might and after two hours they told me I couldn’t do it anymore because it’s not good for me or the baby. They gave me an episiotomy and used forceps to bring him down. He didn’t look when he was born, he was blue and floppy, and it was really hectic. My mum ran out of the room because she was so upset. They got him breathing quite quickly on the resus table; so it was just a hectic minute. I put the sheet over my head and I was just crying and thinking I didn’t want to be there. I really thought he had died in that brief moment. A midwife from the birth centre came to me and told me he was fine. I held him and I was crying but shortly after that, I’d had the injection to assist with birthing the placenta and I started feeling terrible. I thought I was dying; I felt all the blood rushing out of me; I felt like I was leaving my body. That’s when they noticed I was hemorrhaging and apparently blood was going all over the floor. It all happened really quickly; they dropped the bed and were massaging my stomach which was excruciating. I just remember thinking what on earth was all of that?

I was transferred into a shared room and that was really hard as well because I spent that first night alone without Jono. The next few days I was just in shock – I felt very connected with Nik – but I was depleted. I went home after two nights and I remember getting home and looking at his fontanel and it looked like it was going in and I knew he was dehydrated. I called the Australian Breastfeeding Association and I ended up debriefing my birth and she encouraged me to lie down in bed, do skin to skin and keep offering him the breast. I felt really contained by her. I ended up getting a nipple shield which really helped with his latch and I used it for the first month and then I ended up feeding for 15 months.

Topics Discussed

Postpartum Hemorrhage, Prolapse, Birth centre, GBS, Forceps, Epidural

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