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Episode 342

Casey

In episode 342 I talk to Casey about her three caesarean births. Casey’s story really highlights the importance of listening to your intuition, advocating for yourself and seeking continuity of care. In her first pregnancy, she entered the third trimester with migraines and persistent vomiting. After presenting to hospital for the second time, she was insistent on staying overnight before being discharged and she subsequently saved her baby’s life. Within hours Casey was given a general anaesthetic, birthed her baby via caesarean and was diagnosed with preeclampsia and Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelets Syndrome (HELLP) syndrome. It was a traumatic experience and it informed her next two pregnancies where she prioritised continuity of care, sought the guidance of high risk obstetricians and experienced positive caesarean births.

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“I was very excited to be a mum. We fell pretty quickly with our first and we were quite surprised but it all worked out beautifully in the end. I expected to have lots of care early on but it wasn’t till we got to the 12 week scan that I saw someone, which was bizarre. I knew who I wanted as a pregnancy photographer but I had no idea who was going to care for me during pregnancy or birth. Everyone we knew had gone through the public system and we followed their lead. I went through the midwifery practice where I saw a different midwife at each appointment. Now that I’ve had three children I found that fragmented care really hard because I was constantly having to explain my situation at every appointment.

“I was about 28 weeks and my tummy was really small so the midwife did the fundal height measurements and reassured me when she commented on how tall I was. I trusted that every pregnancy and body is different but at 30 weeks I started getting really sick; I had migraines, I was constantly vomiting and I knew something wasn’t quite right. I didn’t have a consistent midwife so whoever I saw just brushed it off.

“One night I was in bed and felt so awful and I really felt that I needed to go to hospital. I couldn’t even walk, I was so dehydrated, so they admitted me and put me on a drip. Again, I just trusted that they knew what was best. I fought through the sickness but I still felt that something wasn’t right and the migraines continued to be persistent. At my baby shower I had all my cousins put their hands on my tummy and we couldn’t feel Lily kicking which was bizarre because she usually kicked a lot. My feet swelled terribly that day and I knew lack of movement was a warning sign so the next morning I went to hospital because I was still vomiting and I still had migraines. They did the normal tests, she was moving around, and they wanted to send me home but I told them I wanted to stay. My husband went home and then at 11:30pm they called him to tell him I needed to have the baby as my blood pressure went from normal to 180/200. They had to give me a general anaesthetic and the next thing I remember is waking up in ICU. I was so grateful that I listened to my body and kept advocating for myself; it’s so important to listen to your body and trust those signs because as mothers, even when we’re pregnant, we still have that intuition that we really need to trust.

“I was diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes and Low Platelets Syndrome (HELLP). Looking back now, I had all the signs and yet no one was listening. A lot of people leave the hospital without their baby because of preeclampsia and HELLP and that could have been us. Lily was 1.5kg at 33 weeks gestation so she was very small. She was breathing on her own and only 40 grams off having to transfer to another hospital to be in NICU.

“I was in ICU for four days and I can’t even remember when I met Lily because I was on so many medications to stabilise me. The midwife brought Lily down from special care so I could see her but I didn’t hold her till she was three days old. The midwives helped me pump because I was so determined to breastfeed and they were really supportive of me doing that. I exclusively used expressed breastmilk for seven months and we saw so many specialists in that time to get her to breastfeed and she eventually did and fed till 18 months.

“Curtis and I are still processing what happened because it was such a traumatic experience. But honestly, our second and third pregnancies and births were very healing for us.

“We were very keen to have more babies but we were very hesitant. Being the planners that we are we did a lot of research around the likelihood of it happening to me again. We found a specialist obstetrician to discuss the safety of us having another baby and she suggested me having aspirin before I fell pregnant and then in my second pregnancy I saw the high risk unit at a city hospital and we also hired a private midwife who knew our history and advocated for us. She was incredible; she put so many of our worries at ease, she was supportive and encouraging and knew exactly what we wanted our care to look like.

“I was terrified of a VBAC and I really wanted one, but I was so nervous about it. Elliot was breech so they offered to do the ECV to spin him but I told them that I didn’t want any interventions but I just trusted that he would get into the right position when it was the best time for him. I booked in a planned caesarean at 39 weeks but if he spun and I went into spontaneous labour beforehand then I could go ahead with a VBAC. I liked having a plan for each scenario. He didn’t turn and I was sad that I didn’t get to have the VBAC but I loved experiencing a calm and relaxed caesarean birth. He came out crying, he was a screamer! He wasn’t without me for long at all and once he was on my chest once we got to the room, I didn’t let him go till the next day. It was so special to have that moment together in a private room because we never got that with Lily.

“In Audrey’s pregnancy, I was quite sick at the start but I saw my GP for shared care and then I’d see the midwifery team so I had an appointment every fortnight. My cousin was also studying to be a midwife so she was my student midwife at every appointment and she was at the birth as well which was so special. We were very at ease with another planned caesarean and at the end of the day we wanted to make sure we had continuity of care and to feel like we were being heard. Audrey was a big baby and I had such achy hips that I never had with the other two.

“As the pregnancy progressed, we’d had scans and it showed she was in the 99th percentile. My biggest fear was going into labour and the scar rupturing. I had it in my mind, I had this feeling that I couldn’t get past, and I knew I had it for a reason. I told the doctor that I was scared of going into labour and it rupturing. But they were willing to cater to my worries so they booked my caesarean for 38 weeks because I also felt that my dates were a bit earlier than my scan dates. They gave me a couple of steroid shots as she was early term and just as she was about to be born, the lining of my uterus was very very thin because they said if I had gone into labour it likely would have ruptured.

“Her birth was very beautiful and she fed well but it was very painful for the first few months. That said, she fed till she was over three and it was very hard to wean her.”

Topics Discussed

HELLP, General anaesthetic, Preeclampsia, Three caesarean births, Breech, Continuity of care, Private midwife

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by Hilary Walker Photography.

Hilary is my sister, you will have heard her interview on the podcast. She shares her first birth story in Episode 2 and then more recently we did an interview together in Episode 267 because I was present at her birth, so we had a fun chat about how that unfolded from my point of view and her point of view.

Hilary has photographed two of my births, one of them she didn’t make it to because it was too quick, and I treasure those pictures, she’s got an incredible eye for detail and really capturing the emotion.

She’s also done all the photography for my website and countless images that I share on Instagram. So if you want to see some of her work you can find it over at www.hilarywalker.com.au and you can also look through her Instagram account HERE.

If you want to get to know her a little bit better have a listen to either of our episodes as I know it’s really important to have a good rapport with your photographer.

Hilary has two children of her own and she’s spent countless hours with my three wild boys so she’s got a real knack for putting people at ease and knows how to talk to children and knows what’s it like to be pregnant and to birth.

She’s an incredible person and I’m sure you’re going to love having her in your birth space or in your home for family photography.

Don’t just have to take my word for it though – there’s some beautiful, beautiful feedback on her website.

Hilary is offering ABS listeners 10% off maternity and family sessions. If you’d like to make a booking this month – just tell her you found out through Australian Birth Stories and she’ll apply that discount for you.

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