Confidently prepare for a positive birth experience – Join The Birth Class
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The Two Week Wait
Prenatal versus Postnatal Supplements. What’s the Difference?
Why are prenatal vitamins so important in pregnancy?
How to Prepare for a Positive Induction
Postpartum Essentials to Aid Your Recovery
In today’s episode, I chat to comedian Celia Pacquola about her pregnancy and birth experience. Motherhood was never a top priority for Celia but when she met her partner, it only took a few months for them to conceive. She chose continuity of care with a private obstetrician, used hypnotism to recover from her phobia of needles and opted for an induction at 39 weeks. She’s frank about the challenges of breastfeeding, the stigma of formula feeding and her postpartum anxiety which was exacerbated by everything she didn’t know about motherhood.
“Motherhood is very off-brand for me. It’s always been a career for me and the lifestyle is hard; I’m touring and it’s just not common to see female comedians with kids. I chose to really commit to my career and I was in a relationship with someone who had kids and that worked for me. That relationship ended and I was 37 at that stage. I actually met my partner online in Melbourne lockdown and had a relationship without actually meeting for three months. When we finally met in person I was pregnant two months later.
“I was working a lot while I was pregnant. The worst part was the first trimester when I was feeling terrible but couldn’t tell anyone yet. I was writing ‘Love Me’ during pregnancy and I was back on set when I was two months postpartum. I went to an obstetrician – Dr Stephen Cole- who was recommended by my gynaecologist and I liked the idea of consistency of care. I also have a phobia of needles and I needed someone who understood me.
“I felt hungover for the entire first trimester; nauseous all the time but not to the point of throwing up. My first pregnancy sign was that I couldn’t stand coffee; it made me feel so sick. I was also tired in a way that I never had been before. I got the apps and just followed week by week but in terms of a plan for the birth, I just wanted the least traumatic option for all involved. I was worried about needing an epidural for a caesarean and I was worried about tearing. I didn’t start talking about my needle phobias later in pregnancy but throughout pregnancy I saw a hypnotist to work through it and used EDMR to process the trauma and fear. I had to have an iron infusion so it was a combined attack to make me comfortable and calm.
“I have a history of depression and anxiety so I stayed on my pregnancy-safe medication. I also had pelvic girdle pain and couldn’t walk and it affected my mental health; I’m used to doing Hiit classes and not being able to move and walk was really hard.
“My OB wanted to induce me at 39 weeks but I hoped I’d go into labour spontaneously. I thought I would have a caesarean but I also wanted to experience a contraction. It started with a stretch and sweep but that didn’t work so a few days later we went in to start the induction process. They put the gel on my cervix and I didn’t sleep very well and then the next morning they started the syntocinon drip. I loved the TENS machine but the gas did nothing and I thought it was pointless. By 11am I’d had enough of contractions; it was hurting and I was vomiting and they were coming very fast. I asked for the epidural and it was the best decision I’ve made in my life.
“I could see the contractions on the screen but then they slowed down. My midwife, Charlotte, asked if I felt the urge to push and I did and then my waters broke and went everywhere. I waited for my obstetrician to come in and he was happy for me to wait a while to see if she moved down more and then when I started pushing I only pushed for 20 minutes and she came straight to my chest. I was very delighted and I was also so hungry.
“I wanted to give breastfeeding a go but she wasn’t getting enough in the hospital. When I wanted to give her formula in the hospital, I was questioned about my decision and had to sign a waiver and I remember thinking: ‘why aren’t we saying: of course this baby needs formula’. I understand why there’s a push to encourage breastfeeding but I feel it would be so much more successful if there was an understanding of being open to both rather than one way or another. When I was discharged I was feeding for an hour at a time and then pumping and then I was feeding again. Eleanor lost more weight than she should of and we were told to pump more.
“I thought she was getting enough because she was feeding and falling asleep. But then I was told that sometimes they wear themselves out from trying to get the milk and they fall asleep because they’re so tired. It completely broke my heart that she was going to sleep exhausted and hungry. It got to the point where my partner was like: ‘you go and have a nap and I’ll give her a bottle of formula; it’s fine’. I ended up breastfeeding for a lot longer than I thought I would and mixed fed. Towards the end I was exclusively pumping because it took away the fear I had from not getting enough; if I pumped I could see it. I had feelings of being a failure and not providing and it was a shock to me.
“I had real anxiety that anything could hurt her. I experienced real panic as I was scared of stuff that I didn’t know I needed to know. In the hospital they swaddled her in a blanket so I did that when I got home and then someone told me you can’t use blankets at all because it’s not safe. I was in constant terror that I was doing something that everyone knew was dangerous but I didn’t know. I had her sleeping with her arms out from early on because I was terrified of anything happening to her. I coped with those extra measures and erred on the side of caution.
“I had intrusive thoughts; visualising dropping her, tripping over with her in my arms. I read that your brain changes in pregnancy to be four times more alert to potential threats; I was already an anxious person and then I was dialled up to twelve. And empathy; now I just feel terrible if anyone is going through a hard time. Every step of the way I was anxious; I found the first six months very hard. I didn’t have the huge love connection and I only know that because it was months later that I felt that deep, unwavering love. I dreaded the night coming every day. In the morning I was thrilled but by afternoon I would get more and more distraught about the night.”
Anxiety, Breastfeeding, Formula, hypnotherapy, Induction, needle phobia, Pelvic girdle pain, Private obstetrician
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