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Episode 402

Hannah – Homebirth with 5.1kg baby

In today’s episode Hannah - an endorsed midwife and IBCLC specialising in postpartum care - shares her incredibly positive story of birthing her 5.1kg baby at home (with an intact perineum to boot!). Hannah expected her conception journey to take time as she has endometriosis and PCOS but she actually conceived unexpectedly, much to her surprise and delight. She knew she wanted a homebirth but she was also aware that a homebirth through the public system had strict policies and as a tall woman, she presumed she would have a big baby which could become a hurdle. With this in mind she opted for private midwifery care and the support of a doula. If you’re after an uplifting story to inspire you, this is it.

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“I’m a planner but Archie was a bit of a surprise. I’ve got endometriosis and PCOS so I was aware that it could potentially take a while. Alex and I decided that we’d start trying in about a year but it happened much sooner. I felt very grateful but it was still a shock, even though I look back now and can see that it was perfect.

“I’ve had two laparoscopies and had the endo excised and my PCOS was only diagnosed a few months before we conceived. I was well informed about endo but the PCOS was new. I was diagnosed with endo when I was 18; I had rough periods from the start and thankfully I had a really good GP who referred me to a gynaecologist and she recommended surgery and that was within two years of symptoms appearing. I also had bowel symptoms – IBS cross-over – and heavy periods which are sometimes linked with endo, but sometimes not. The main symptom was pain in my cycle. I’ve had adult acne for the past ten years, I have long cycles and they could see polycystic ovaries on ultrasound and so together that led to my PCOS diagnosis.

“I knew straight away what I wanted for my birth. I knew I wanted a homebirth, I was very comfortable with that choice even though I knew I would also feel comfortable birthing in the hospital if need be. We have some amazing midwives here in SA and I chose Nikita from Embrace Midwifery; I’d known her for years as a colleague and was delighted to have her. I contacted her immediately because midwifery-led care was always going to be the path I chose.

“I had nausea from seven to about 14 weeks and the fatigue was intense; I’d never been so tired before, even when I was doing back-to-back night shifts. It makes sense because your body is growing a whole new human and a placenta. We have great MGP programmes here but they have very tight policies regarding homebirth; I’m very tall and presumed I would have a big baby and that I would probably be over 100kg at full term, which would make it difficult for me to have a homebirth in the public system.

“We watched a lot of my hypnobirth course together, we watched BirthTime and had lots of conversations and I really felt that Alex was across things before the birth. Our doula also did a two-hour prep lesson with us, focussing on how Alex could physically support me with hip squeezes and massage. I also hired a birth photographer because I knew I wanted the memories captured. I really wanted to normalise birth, it’s so important as a birth educator, but I also knew I wanted them as keepsakes.

“As an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) I knew I had a few possible challenges ahead on my breastfeeding journey; PCOS is one of them and I also had gestational diabetes, and I know that can affect milk supply. I did antenatal expressing from 36 weeks so I had quite a stash once I had him. It was so exciting to be experiencing all of the things; the morphology scan, perineal massage, antenatal expressing. Seeing my body produce colostrum was magical.

“I didn’t feel big and I didn’t look big so there wasn’t much of a concern. I managed GD with diet so it wasn’t a hurdle. I didn’t have persistent fear; I had a lot of trust, I had a good knowledge base and lots of support so I just felt ready for it to happen. I started to lose my mucus plug at 39 weeks and had braxton hicks. I wanted to give my body the time to go into labour. I was aware I’d never have this time again so I had facials and massage and it was really lovely. A week after I started losing the mucus plug everything just stopped and I was concerned that he was high and posterior so I got those little mindset wobbles. I had a session with my midwife and doula and they were really encouraging and reminded me it was normal and I had time. I was back on track then.

“The day I went into labour I was back in a good headspace. I listened to one of your podcast episodes, I went for a walk and did some curb walking. I had a nap in the afternoon and noticed some tightenings and then when I got up I noticed a bit of a pink tinge in my mucus plug. We ordered thai for dinner and I was a bit twitchy and then after we’d eaten that’s when the contractions really started.

“They were distinct contractions so Alex started setting up the birth space. I called the midwife to tell her that things were starting but when I was talking to her I realised I’d had three contractions in ten minutes. I was so excited that labour had started because it meant I wouldn’t need an induction.

I got in the shower at that stage and the doula and birth photographer were notified that I was in labour. The contractions increased in intensity quite quickly; I felt like I couldn’t focus or do anything between them. I was feeling lots of pressure – it wasn’t an urge to push – but it was more pressure than I expected. I felt like as a midwife, I would want to know if my patient was feeling this way.

“Alex was very hands-on as a birth partner and we really felt like we needed someone else there. When my doula arrived – about 10pm – I was so relieved because I felt like I could switch off my midwife brain. I was using my affirmations when I was in the shower but I reminded myself that even though it was intense, I knew I had ages to go. I did check myself and I hadn’t had any stretch and sweeps prior but I’d felt my cervix before and it was closed then – at 39 weeks – so when I did an internal I couldn’t feel much cervix at all. It validated how I was feeling.

“The hose was filling up the pool but the hot water had run out so it was just pumping cold water in. I couldn’t get in for ages because it wasn’t warm enough but they were all so good at protecting my headspace. My doula was in the bedroom with me and she was on her phone and I presumed she was telling the others I had ages to go; this is what your brain does. In actual fact, she was telling Nikita to get here as soon as possible. I was transitioning then; I was making noise, shaking, I was feeling pressure.

“The midwife and photographer arrived about 11pm, I had the TENS machine on, I was squeezing a comb, I had a heat pack and Alex was doing hip squeezes. Eventually the pool was ready just after midnight and I actually didn’t love it at first, I think because I’d just pulled the TENS off. Within a few contractions I found a position that worked for me, hanging over the side of the pool. Shortly after that they could start to see the membranes emerging and I remember Nikita telling me they could see them and that’s when it clicked that I was in full labour.

“I was pushing for about an hour-and-a-half but a lot of contractions I was just breathing through them; it felt very instinctual. It was intense but it also felt very natural, my body was just doing it. I could feel Archie moving down and Nikita told me when she could see his head.

“The membranes only broke about 30 seconds before he was born. I could feel pressure and stretching and then I felt a ‘pop’ and I thought I’d torn but then someone told me it was my waters. And then his head was out and I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly what I’d dreamt off my whole life and it was happening! As soon as I saw his face under the water I picked him up and it was just the best.

“He looked chunky and squishy as newborns do. He was crying and nice and pink and seeing the cord lying on my belly was just so surreal. Someone mentioned that he was big and then I looked at his feet and they were big and his legs were very long. He weighed 5.1kg so yes, he was big but he was also in proportion.

“I was in the pool for 45 minutes and after I stood up I found the cramps really painful and the placenta wasn’t coming so I ended up sitting on the toilet and it came out then. It was almost 900g so perhaps that’s why the cramps were so intense because they stopped as soon as the placenta was out. I got back on the bed so they could check me for tears and it did feel sore and stingy down there but my perineum was intact; I just had a small tear near my urethra and that didn’t require any tears. I’d never cared for any mum who’d had a baby that big so I was in total disbelief. I knew the research around big babies so that really helped because I wasn’t fearful.”

You can connect with Hannah here

Topics Discussed

5kg baby, Doula, intact perineum, positive homebirth, Private midwife, Water Birth

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