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Episode 367


In this episode I chat to Mel Wilson who shares her two birth experiences alongside her challenging postpartum periods. Her first birth was an emergency caesarean under general anaesthetic which left her with lots of unanswered questions. She talks in detail about the lack of connection she experienced with her firstborn and the subsequent dismay and guilt she carried throughout postpartum. She opted for a planned caesarean with her second baby despite being persistently encouraged to attempt a VBAC. When her baby was five months old her marriage broke down and she shares the overwhelm and silver linings of being a working single mother with two little ones.

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They put Isobel on my chest and I wondered where the instant love was. I remember thinking that this could be anyone’s baby; I had no connection.

“I was 34 when we started talking about having a baby. We started not being careful and within two months I was pregnant with Isobel. I decided to go through the public hospital and I had a great GP who was a women’s health specialist. The only issue I had in my pregnancy was back pain and because it was my first baby I just thought it was normal but I later found out that she was posterior.

“I went in with an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mentality. The hospital birth class encouraged me to create a birth plan but I naively thought I would lean on the expertise of the professionals and not do much preparation. In hindsight, and I think this is common in second pregnancies, I realised that I did have more say about what I wanted but I didn’t realise that at the time.

“I went into spontaneous labour the day after my due date. It was 4am in the morning and I was sitting on the toilet and it was like a bucket of water had emptied out of me. Then it was game on. We went straight into the hospital and they noticed that her heart rate was a bit erratic so they did some tests and then they were confident to send me home. I went home and walked and went back to hospital and they sent me home again and then I did more walking along the streets of Newtown and then went back to the birthing suite. Labour was like I had someone constantly jumping up and down on my back and that’s when I discovered what posterior was.

“They ended up giving me syntocinon to speed labour up and I just couldn’t get comfortable; I was in the shower and on the ball…the only position that gave me some relief was child’s pose that I’d done in all my pregnancy yoga classes. I eventually got to 10 cm and started to push and then everything started to go wrong because her head wasn’t in a good position and I could just see on everyone’s face that it wasn’t going well. It felt like an episode of Grey’s Anatomy and I did wonder if I was going to die.

“They kicked my husband out and they ran me down to the theatre for an emergency caesarean. I just remember them yelling at each other and then they gave me a general anaesthetic and I went under. I woke up in recovery and the anaesthetist asked me if I felt anything because they didn’t have time to check before they started the caesarean. Isobel went into NICU and my mum was the first one to go in and see her.

“I felt like I’d been hit by a truck. But then they put Isobel on my chest and I wondered where the instant love was. I remember thinking that this could be anyone’s baby; I had no connection. I remember seeing a video of the birth crawl in birthing classes so I tried it and she snuffled around and then latched on and it helped…but I get it when women say that they don’t feel a connection when they meet their baby. I really struggled with postpartum and looking back, I’m pretty sure I had postnatal depression. I remember thinking: women have babies every day, it can’t be that hard? I went to the birthing classes in the hospital and you do all your preparation and once you’ve had your baby they just send you home and I just couldn’t make sense of that.

“In the end I flew to Victoria with my mum and spent four weeks in their little country town. My dad would get up with me in the middle of the night and once I’d finished feeding he’d take her and change and settle her and send me back to bed. That was a total game changer because it gave me a supported head start and that’s when I started to connect; it was a slow burn love. It was never an explosive love connection and I think that whole experience was the beginning of quite a challenging first year.

“I fell pregnant with my second and in my early scans they noticed I had a short cervix so I used pessaries and they mentioned that I may need a cervical stitch which sounded odd. I was encouraged to have a VBAC but I was disconcerted that I didn’t know what went wrong the first time. They were quite consistent about a VBAC but I had great comfort in a planned caesarean. There was part of me that felt ripped off that I’d gone through labour and didn’t get that vaginal birth experience.

“My second birth was strange but much more peaceful. When Magnus was passed to me I got that rush and in all the photos I’m just sobbing. I was just overwhelmed with joy and relief and it ended up being a really lovely experience. Interestingly my breastfeeding experience was very different and a lot harder but we got there in the end.

“My husband and I were struggling in the pregnancy and we were even arguing before I went into theatre. We separated when Magnus was five months old and I was in a situation where I was in Sydney with two kids and a mortgage and overwhelming financial pressure which was made worse when I went back to work and had them both in childcare.

“It’s taken a good seven years of work and acceptance and counselling to get to where I am now. I remember that first night when he left and I remember thinking: I don’t know how to bath both of them? My mum just told me that I’d find my way and it would get easier and easier. You make it work but it was hugely overwhelming in the beginning. I look back now and think that them being so young was what saved me because they needed me to do everything. I think we’re all in a pretty good place now.”

If you’d like to check Mel’s amazing podcast The Juggling Act you can find it over on Apple podcasts HERE. Mel together with her co-host Jules Robinson cover the latest opinions, challenges, expert advice, celebrity interviews, real-life stories plus much more for busy parents. It’s a supportive, informative and totally relatable podcast that aims to offer insight and advice for mums and dads to help them navigate their professional and parenting lives, plus the mess in between.


Topics Discussed

single motherhood, identity crisis, Planned caesarean, Postpartum depression (PPD), General anaesthetic, Two Babies, Emergency caesarean

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