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Episode 372

Catherine

In this episode, Catherine shares her two very different birth experiences. Her first baby didn’t engage and at 41+4, she opted for an induction. After a long labour and an epidural, she wasn’t progressing and felt it best to have a caesarean. While her postpartum was beautiful, she navigated feelings of failure and a significant lack of self-confidence. Following two devastating missed miscarriages, Catherine conceived again and opted for private midwifery care. Informed, prepared and surrounded by a supportive and protective birth team, she experienced an empowering Homebirth After Caesarean (HBAC).

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“We went on a five week road trip to WA and I came home pregnant. My GP referred me to the Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) programme at my local hospital in Geelong. It’s getting harder and harder to get in and I only found out I was accepted at 20 weeks and I think they do that so they give more women the opportunity to get it as obviously a lot can happen in the first half of pregnancy. I was allocated my own midwife and I also met her backup midwife but neither of them were at my birth.

“At the end of my pregnancy my baby wasn’t engaged so I focussed on spinning babies and optimal maternal positioning…but he was still high at 40 weeks. My backup midwife at my 41 week appointment suggested a stretch and sweep because I was feeling the pressure of induction but at that stage my cervix was long and closed and she couldn’t do the stretch and sweep. I’d been measuring three weeks ahead the whole time so I was a bit fearful about his size and alongside that I was confident with my dates. I was supported to go to 43 weeks but I opted for an induction at 42 weeks. As I was preparing I was really grieving for the birth that I may not have and I found a lot of comfort in stories on the podcast about induction and caesarean birth.

“The induction started when I was 11 days overdue. I went in at night and had the cervidil applied and they said I could sleep and they would check me in the morning. I didn’t sleep well that night because I was so anxious. The next morning Drew came back in and the midwives told me that my cervix was still unfavourable. I had to wait around all day and that night they used the prostaglandin gel. In the morning they told me his head had dropped one-fifth and they broke my waters and put the drip in. Within three hours I was in active labour. I was so excited; it had been such a long journey and I was just grateful to be so close to meeting my baby.

“I went inward and couldn’t talk during contractions. After four hours of active labour my midwife checked me and I was 3 cm which was disheartening but I just kept going. After another four hours I was still 3 cm and it just got so much harder, I was really struggling and I didn’t think I could do it. I started taking it contraction by contraction and vocalising really helped. By 9pm I really felt like I needed an epidural and I remember sitting in bed in shock and just so sad –  the reality was so different to what I’d envisioned. I was shaking and exhausted and I just didn’t know what was going to happen. When they checked me again I was 2cm; I’d gone backwards.

“In the end I thought I needed a caesarean. It was my decision but it wasn’t one I wanted to make. I didn’t have another option; he was posterior, his head wasn’t engaged and I’d laboured for so long. There was never any concern for Wilbur so it was a relaxed joruney down to the theatre. I was so scared, I was vomiting and shaking from the drugs and adrenaline and I asked Drew to stare into my eyes and hold my gaze. I was in fight or flight and my pupils went so big that Drew fainted. It was so full on.

“Wilbur was born and they gave him to Drew because my arms were jelly and I didn’t feel comfortable holding him. They were really encouraging me to have him on my chest and I was just really relieved to finally have him. We stayed together in recovery and he latched really well. I discharged myself after one night and went home to have one-on-one care with Drew’s mum who is a midwife. I know my birth wasn’t as I had planned but my postpartum was really beautiful. In the first few weeks I was so happy but the feeling of failure, that my body had let me down, sunk in and it affected my self-confidence. Those issues were only restored following Percy’s birth.

“Wilbur wAsn’t a good sleeper and I was so sleep deprived. My period came back at 13 months postpartum and then I didn’t have another one for eight weeks. I just thought my body was out of whack but then it didn’t come at all so I did a pregnancy test and it was positive. I went to the GP and got a referral for the NIPT and I went along thinking everything would be fine. I knew how common miscarriage was but I never thought it would happen to me. She told me to come back the next week because I wasn’t sure of my dates so at the next scan it was confirmed that there wasn’t a heartbeat. I opted to let the pregnancy pass naturally but I had to wait another week and that waiting was really hard. I took time off work and I wanted to kickstart the bleeding so I was surfing and gardening. It started and I was using a mooncup so I could see how much blood there was. It was also during the early days of covid so I wanted to avoid the hospital. One night the cramps started and I underestimated the pain of miscarriage; it felt like one big contraction. I just lay there, cried and copped it and it was so painful. I bled for six weeks following that.

“Once the bleeding stopped we started trying for a baby. It took three months to conceive and we went in for a dating scan at eight weeks; it was with the same sonographer in the same room and I just started sobbing. Again, she told me she couldn’t find a heartbeat and she asked if she could do an internal. Again we waited another week and then it was confirmed that it was another missed miscarriage. I was devastated; it really took an emotional toll. I wanted a D+C because I couldn’t go through it at home again. It went really smoothly and that was the best decision for us.

“I couldn’t make sense of it and it contributed to my lack of confidence in my body. A friend put me onto a fertility specialist who was also a naturopath and she was a powerhouse. I also started looking into my cycle and microbiome and it was quite expensive but it was worth it. During that time I was tracking my basal body temperature and looking at vaginal mucous and it was looking like I was ovulating on day 20 of a 28-day cycle. Acupuncture worked to shift my ovulation to earlier in my cycle and we fell on that next cycle.

“I was so excited but I quickly started feeling fearful. I went to see a psychologist at that point to discuss my anxiety and work through Wilbur’s birth, too. My hospital experience was good but I didn’t want to advocate and fight for myself throughout my pregnancy, especially if I was going to go overdue with a big baby. I opted to go to The Birth House in Geelong, a few blocks from the hospital. You pay a private midwifery fee – about $5000 – and then you need to also rent the house for a night for an additional cost.

“I had a phone call from Lisa, my incredible midwife, when I was 17 weeks. She told me that The Birth House had been sold and would be closing in December and I was due in April. She was happy to continue supporting me but I needed to be closer to the hospital because I’d had a bleed in my caesarean and my home was too far from the hospital. We started looking for an airbnb and we found one that we booked for a month. I felt like no matter where I birthed, it was going to be healing because I had Lisa by my side and she was incredible and I felt so calm in her presence.

“I had a doula who was incredibly supportive, especially  when I went overdue and started doubting. At 11 days over I went into hospital for monitoring and I had a chat with the obstetrician and he confirmed that my baby’s head was still high and he said I would have a caesarean and I should stay in the hospital because my risk of stillbirth increases each day. I just started sobbing and it totally derailed me. I told him that I’d wait till 42 weeks and then I just went home and cried for hours. I felt like I’d lost my way. I’d done everything to get the baby in the right position and I felt like I really needed to just leave it. That night I started feeling some pains so I called Lisa and she advised me to do some spinning babies techniques during contractions to get the baby’s head to engage. The contractions really intensified then so mum came over to look after Wilbur and we made our way to the airbnb.

“Drew was sleeping on the couch and I was on the ball and had the TENS on. I remember falling asleep in between contractions and by early morning I was doubting myself and told Drew that I may have to go to hospital soon. It was a crisis of confidence. My doula arrived at 8am and got me in the shower and she did rebozo, moving me around a bit. My midwife arrived at 1pm and by 6pm she encouraged me to get in the birth pool which was such a relief. I ended up having the water injections and they offered instant relief from the back pain of a posterior baby and it gave me a second wind.

“The back-up midwife arrived at 9pm and it was around that time that I asked to go to the hospital for a caesarean. I was really doubting myself and felt like I couldn’t go on. But then, an hour later, I felt the urge to bear down and I put my fingers inside me and could feel his head. The pressure was massive because his waters hadn’t broken. I was terrified of tearing but I just took it really slowly and followed the midwives’ lead. Once his head was born there was a long time between contractions and then the sac burst into the water and he was just floating peacefully underwater. Lisa encouraged me to pick him up and put him on my chest. I was in shock and feeling so high, I was so ecstatic. The cord was short so it was hard to keep him out of the water so I got out of the water and I got on the couch and fed baby Percy. We were all chatting…it was such an amazing experience. I stayed there for an hour and fed Percy and then Lisa encouraged me to sit on the toilet and the placenta came out.

“We snuggled into bed together and it was such a stark contrast to the hospital. We headed home the next day and Lisa came over that afternoon. The care was so beautiful and she spent an hour with me…it was incredible and a really nice postpartum phase.

“The homebirth was so important for me; my midwife and doula really protected me. If I had laboured that long in hospital, I wouldn’t have had the birth I wanted…the one that left me feeling so empowered and confident.”

Topics Discussed

Acupuncture, Emergency caesarean, Epidural, HBAC, Induction, Missed miscarriage, Postpartum, Private midwife, Two Babies, VBAC

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