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Episode 336

Emma

If there’s one word to describe this episode with Emma, it’s joyful. She takes us through her three pregnancies and births in between nomadic living in a bus and on a sailing boat. Her first two births were really smooth but in her third pregnancy a fibroid was discovered on an early ultrasound and it created persistent issues around where she would birth because she was at risk of postpartum haemorrhage. She talks at length about navigating uncertainty in her third pregnancy and then giving birth on the worst night of the Northern Rivers floods. Emma had three physiological births and was really well informed about her options. Consider this a very inspiring episode!

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“Cedar was a surprise but a good surprise. I was 23 and all I knew about birth was that it was hospital related but thankfully Guy’s friends had birthed through the Byron Birthing Program so he encouraged me to go with that route. It’s a low-risk, all-natural birthing unit but you have to call them straight away to get in. I went through that program for all three births and I was so lucky to have the same midwife; she’s my guardian angel.

“Every pregnancy scan I’ve had I’ve wondered if it’s a twin because I’m a fraternal twin. I did Calmbirth during my first pregnancy and I loved it; it was so good for Guy and I to be on the same page with labour, birth and how I would feel throughout it all.

“I remember my midwife had so much faith in me and reassured me that I was going to be fine. I don’t remember feeling pressured about my dates or pressured to have a stretch and sweep at all. I was 40+8 when I went into labour with Cedar. I woke up and lost my mucous plug; it was a watery, mucousy discharge. Contractions didn’t start till about 8 o’clock that night. I planned to labour at home for as long as possible. By 3am I was shaking during and between contractions and I knew it was time to go in. In the car the contractions just mellowed which was really nice.

“I got straight in the bath because the contractions were really close together but in hindsight I probably got in a bit too early because I was in there for four hours. The midwives encouraged me to get out and use the birthing stool but I didn’t want to move; I was well and truly in labour land. I remember falling asleep between contractions but when it was time to push I don’t remember having the fetal ejection reflex. He was stuck and the midwives encouraged me to get out of the bath to use gravity to help him come down.

“I don’t even remember the pushing stage being painful. I stayed in the bath for five minutes after Cedar was born and then they helped me out of the bath and hobbled over to the room with the bed which is where I birthed the placenta. I was crying, I was so happy and he was so cute. He was born at 7am and we went home at 5pm. The midwives came to see me in the days following which was great. I fed him till 18 months and I fell pregnant that same month.

“Unfortunately I miscarried and I did that at home. I called my midwife and told her I was spotting and she was straight up honest with me and said you’re probably miscarrying. It was early – I was only about 6 weeks – it was like a horrible period. I wouldn’t look in the toilet because I didn’t want to see anything.

“I fell pregnant again soon after and I was anxious but it was all good. We travelled in a bus for most of Autumn’s pregnancy and then returned to Byron to birth her. I had recurrent thrush with her and my third pregnancy which was so annoying; it’s not much of a worry unless you have it when you’re birthing. I was taking probiotics and trying to stay on top of it.

“I woke up on my due date and I thought I’d lost my mucous plug but it was actually my waters that just dripped all day. In hindsight I should have let my midwife know but for some reason I didn’t. My good friend was pregnant at the same time and her waters broke on the same day as me and she ended up birthing three hours before I did. The birthing program had moved to Byron and all the rooms were lovely and new. Autumn’s labour was super mellow – I drove to Woolworths and that’s when I realised that labour had started. I drove home, put a slow cook on, cleaned and kept busy and then the contractions were coming about four minutes apart but they weren’t painful at all. My mother in law came over to look after Cedar and I was just waiting for the contractions to get more painful but they never did.

“I decided to go to the birth centre just because Cedar was being looked after. The drive was about 25 minutes – Guy and I were chatting and laughing – and then literally the next second I had a contraction where I felt like I was going to poo. I told Guy and he sped down the highway. I was having these contractions where she was coming – the fetal ejection reflex was in full force. During the contractions I was holding onto the car handle and squeezing her in and tensing my body – doing all the things you shouldn’t be doing because I refused to have a baby in the car. We got to the birth centre and I ran to the front door and I said to the midwife: the baby is there! She ripped my clothes off so I could jump in the bath and I put my hand in between my legs and her head was there and I just let go. I breathed out and didn’t even push, Autumn just came out. My midwives were laughing because I was just saying: what the hell just happened?!

“We got to the hospital at 7pm and she was born at 7:03pm. I felt so liberated after it. We called my mother in law and she just could not believe that I’d already given birth.

“When Autumn was five months old we bought a sailing boat and we spent a year renovating it and then we sailed up the east coast and stayed in The Whitsundays for eight months. We fell pregnant with Bindi while we were there. She was a big surprise and my period was only two days late but I knew. I wanted to have her back in Byron so that prompted us to sail back. I called the birth centre and Chris called me the next day and we just laughed together.

“I actually fell pregnant a year earlier – just before we were about to set sail – but it wasn’t time for either of us. I had a termination and could never do it again, to be honest. It was around Christmas time and I called my GP – I have a great GP – and I spoke to her and she referred me to a different doctor who prescribed the medication. Once I saw that doctor I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do because miscarrying at home with two children was just going to be too hard. I then called the clinic but they were shut for three weeks over Christmas and it was such a traumatic time, just waiting. My body was changing really quickly – I was growing and changing and knowing it was going to end. It was not an easy decision at all and power to anyone who decides to do it. It’s a really hard decision to make.

“When I fell pregnant with Bindi I knew she wasn’t going anywhere. When I was in The Whitsundays I booked a dating scan because I was concerned about twins, there wasn’t twins but they found a 4cm fibroid on my uterus. The doctor up there said that it could be fine or it might be a problem but I knew from an early stage that it needed to be monitored. I told my midwife straight away and she did highlight that it may be an issue once I got home because the birth centre is for low risk pregnancies.

“It was measured again at my 13-week scan and it was only 1cm away from my cervix which meant it could grow over the cervix opening. It was hard not knowing if it would grow, whether I would have a vaginal birth or c-section, plus we couldn’t get into our rental house till two days after my due date. Bindi was born in the midst of the floods in Byron; it was pretty crazy.

“At the 20 week scan the fibroid had grown but it had moved away from my cervix. I’d had an appointment with the head obstetrician at Byron and he said if it grew over 10cm I would have to be transferred to the Tweed Heads hospital program. I was holding my breath for the 36 week scan and the doctor measured it and it wouldn’t fit on the triangular bit of the ultrasound and I knew it was big. I just started sobbing and he was really supportive of me because he wanted me to birth at Byron and he knew how quickly my second birth was. The concern with the fibroid was that I was at higher risk of postpartum haemorrhage and that’s why they were worried.

“I was happy to go to Byron, go in early labour to have the cannula in and have a managed third stage. A few weeks later, on my 30th birthday, I had a meeting with the head obstetrician at Tweed and she was cautious and told me that I’d need to give birth at Tweed. I was devastated, I just wanted to birth where I knew, so from then on I was birthing at Tweed and it was scary because it was so far away. The obstetrician offered to book me in and told me I wouldn’t be induced, that she’d just break my waters, and I got so shitty then because breaking my waters is a form of induction!

“Then the rain started. We were living on the boat till I was 39 weeks and my midwife was coming onto the boat for my appointments. We moved into our house two days after my due date. There was so much uncertainty in this pregnancy – my fibroid, covid, not having a house, not knowing where I was going to birth.

“I woke up on the 28th March and I was still pregnant and it was still raining and my Byron midwife called me to tell me I could birth at Byron because the highway was closed. I put the kids to bed that night and I texted my midwife to tell her I was going to bed. I felt heavy at that stage but I was fine. I woke at 1:30am to a contraction and I downloaded an app, started timing them and called my midwife because she needed to drive from Mullumbimby. I also had to have a doctor at the birth centre and I still needed the cannula and an active third stage.
“I woke the kids up and the contractions were four minutes apart but they weren’t really painful. We drove to the hospital car park, my girlfriend arrived to look after the kids, my midwife arrived, I waddled through emergency and I got to the birth unit and just didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t in the zone, I just couldn’t be bothered labouring.

“I went to the toilet to do a poo – which wasn’t a poo – and then I came out and I was squatting next to the bed when Chris was trying to put the cannula in my hand. As she walked away I had one really big contraction and my waters broke and I noticed poo on my pad and I didn’t know if it was mine or the baby’s. They got me in the bath and I birthed Bindi and brought her up. It was fast and I just wasn’t expecting it to be that fast again. I was so relieved because it had been such a build up.

“I lifted my leg out of the water so I could have the syntocinon injection and stayed in the water for a bit longer and then I got out and delivered the placenta in bed. There was no extreme blood loss or postpartum haemorrhage…I knew I wouldn’t haemorrhage. I was feeding Bindi a lot and the midwives massaged my uterus so I stayed for about four hours and then we went and picked up the kids and drove home.”

Topics Discussed

Birth centre, fetal ejection reflex, Midwife, Termination, Three vaginal births, uterine fibroid

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