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Episode 365

Alethea

In today’s episode I chat to Alethea about her first pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. Armed with knowledge from the podcast and The Birth Class, she experienced an empowering and positive birth with the support of midwives and a student doula. Despite her birth experience, she admits that the whirlwind of postpartum has been incredibly challenging. Her physical recovery from an episiotomy and bruised coccyx has been hard and resulted in a readmission to the hospital. While there, a midwife encouraged her to reach out to PANDA and her GP for a mental health plan and she has since been diagnosed with postnatal depression.

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In today’s episode I chat to Alethea about her first pregnancy, birth and postpartum experience. Armed with knowledge from the podcast and The Birth Class, she experienced an empowering and positive birth with the support of midwives and a student doula. Despite her birth experience, she admits that the whirlwind of postpartum has been incredibly challenging. Her physical recovery from an episiotomy and bruised coccyx has been hard and resulted in a readmission to the hospital. While there, a midwife encouraged her to reach out to PANDA and her GP for a mental health plan and she has since been diagnosed with postnatal depression.

“Tim and I have been together for almost 12 years; we’ve lived in America and Hong Kong and done a lot of travelling. I went off the pill in November and fell pregnant in February. I didn’t know what to do next, the world of pregnancy and babies was all new to me. I messaged friends and they pointed me in the right direction. I decided to do shared care with a GP who was linked to the Royal Women’s hospital. Most of my appointments were with the GP and I had about four appointments with midwives at the hospital which was great.

“By week five I was hit with nausea and all my senses were heightened. I couldn’t stand any cooking smells. I’m not sure how I did it but I still worked and I shared my news with my colleagues so I had their support.

“I did The Birth Class after one of my friends connected me with Australian Birth Stories and it was amazing; like a whole new world had opened up to me. It was awesome, it helped me realise what my body was capable of and I don’t think I would have thought of having a physiological birth before I’d listened to the course and the podcast. I was really hooked on the information in Rhea Demspey’s episode and was inspired by that. I connected with a student doula through a website that was advertised by the Royal Women’s and I paid a fee that went towards the doula’s chosen charity. I knew that we needed that extra support to advocate for me, especially emotionally.

“I did spinning babies to turn him because at 34 weeks he was transverse. And it worked, he turned into a head down position. I was having a lot of hip pain and lightening crotch towards the end of pregnancy so my doula offered to give me a massage with pressure points to induce labour and the next morning I woke up at 6am with contractions. Within the first thirty minutes the contraction app was telling me to go to hospital but it just felt like period pain so I sat on the toilet and that’s when I lost my mucous plug. Within an hour I was in the bathroom in full labour, using all the sounds that I learnt in The Birth Class. We called the midwives and they wanted to hear a contraction and when they did they encouraged me to go into hospital and my doula planned to meet me there.

“By the time I got to the hospital they brought me a wheelchair and wheeled me up to the birthing suite. I just knew it was game time; I was focusing on queen oxytocin and letting my body be in the zone. I was labouring for about thirty minutes before they checked me and I was 5 cm. I was staying really active and then the midwives encouraged me to use hot water for pain relief. I got in the bath and I was holding onto Tim the whole time while Kerry, my doula, encouraged me. I felt so much pressure; I could feel him moving down. It was a surreal experience. I had my eyes closed the entire time but I could hear and feel everything but I just wanted to focus. I kept saying to myself: the only way is forward. 

“I didn’t really experience transition; I just told them I could feel pressure and that’s when the midwives told me I was fully dilated. I felt like I needed to do a really big poo. My waters broke in the bath but it was only the hind waters and they were also monitoring me with the doppler and my baby’s heart rate was good. They put a mirror underneath to check the position of the baby and they asked me if I wanted to look but in the moment I just couldn’t; I just closed my eyes and focussed on each contraction. He was still in the amniotic sac as he was moving down so he’d come down and then go back up again. The midwives just sat back and watched me and only intervened when they checked his heart rate. They just let me do my thing.

“After I was pushing for two hours they encouraged me to move to the bed so I lay on my back. At that point I just trusted what they were doing because the baby was getting a bit distressed and the midwives thought I may need an episiotomy to assist him to come through. They broke my waters and they just gushed everywhere and sprayed all over the midwives. They encouraged me to push, hold and then push again but he still wasn’t coming so they gave me an episiotomy and then he was born soon after. They asked if I was ok with a managed third stage and soon after the injection I birthed the placenta.

“He was gorgeous, he did the breast crawl and latched straight away. I had gas and air while the obstetrician was stitching me up. The whole birth experience was so euphoric; I just kept saying: I can’t believe I just did that! The midwives told me afterwards that it was a really special experience and they were really proud of me. I stayed in that room for a while and then I moved to a shared room on the postnatal ward. I was discharged after 24 hours even though my coccyx and perineum were really sore.

“My recovery has been really rough. Initially the episiotomy caused a lot of issues. On the third midwife visit (which was day 5), my milk hadn’t come in yet and Kian lost 14% of his birth weight. My pain was also very high – 9/10 – and so she looked and told me the stitches had loosened and there was a gap in the incision so she recommended I be readmitted. The paediatrician admitted Kian based on his weight loss so they put him on a feeding schedule and by that time my milk was in so we were supplementing him with formula. Unfortunately they decided not to readmit me because my incision wasn’t infected but I got to stay with him. I then spent six hours in emergency waiting to be readmitted because my pain was so bad and they gave me really strong medication which I now know were opioids which made me feel really hazy. I was really emotional and I didn’t want to go home; I felt like I needed proper care so I requested to stay for one more night and they agreed and gave me extra help with Kian.

“Postpartum was a whirlwind for me. The stitches healed but I couldn’t sit down – I still can’t sit down – so I went to my GP and she referred me for an x-ray. The physio has treated me for a fractured coccyx with massage and dry needling. When you can’t sit down it’s so hard to breastfeed and allow my pelvic floor to heal. I’ve been told it can take up to 12 weeks to heal.

“When I was in the hospital one of the midwives flagged that I might have postnatal depression. She referred me to PANDA and from there I connected with my GP so she did the review and I was scoring really high for PND. I’m on a mental health plan and my psychologist has been walking me through pregnancy so I’m seeing her and have regular sessions with her. My doula also encouraged me to reflect on my birth and the wonder of it before I experienced all the speed bumps in postpartum.”

Topics Discussed

bruised coccyx, Episiotomy, One vaginal birth, PND, Shared care, The Birth Class

Episode Sponsor

Today’s episode is brought to you by my new book The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth.

‘I wish someone had told me!’ – it’s a phrase uttered by countless women after they give birth for the first time.

The Complete Australian Guide to Pregnancy and Birth draws on the expertise of dozens of doctors, midwives and other health specialists to offer the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about pregnancy, labour, birth and early postpartum in Australia.

For a limited time, you can receive a free audio episode on Breathing in Labour when you pre-order the book.

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