Prepare for a positive birth with The Birth Class

Episode 468

Gen – infertility, miscarriage, IVF, hyperstimulation, vacuum-assisted birth, episiotomy

Gen shares every aspect of her fertility, pregnancy and birth experience in this honest and hilarious episode. She tried to conceive for two years and experienced a devastating miscarriage before deciding to start IVF with her husband, Michael. Gen is a type-A personality and admits she loved the structure of fertility treatment. She opted for private obstetric care alongside support from a psychologist who helped her navigate the anxiety of her first trimester and the inherent challenges of a pregnancy after infertility and loss. Gen refers to her birth preference list as a ‘choose your own adventure’ but nothing could have prepared her for the intensity of an induction and a failed epidural. She admits that while her labour was incredibly challenging, her birth was very positive but even so, it took her days to feel any love for her newborn.

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“I feel like I’ve spent most of my life since my teens on the pill. I was 31 when Michael and I got married and I also have endometriosis and have had multiple surgeries since I was 14. We started trying in 2020 and it was kinda fun; we were working from home, I did ovulation tests and we’d have a quickie during lunch breaks. The first six months were fine but when I wasn’t pregnant after a year, I went to a fertility clinic to do some tests. The results showed that everything was fine, they had no concerns at all.

“I’m an A-type personality who likes solutions; I like to-do lists and tasks so not really getting any answers was a bit frustrating. They did suggest a tube flush and timed ovulation via blood tests. By eighteen months nothing had happened, I had friends who were pregnant and I was going to baby showers and I was upset every month when I got my period.

“We were in a lockdown when I did a positive pregnancy test. We were just so happy but seven weeks in I woke up and felt really off, I knew something was wrong. I had an unrelated GP appointment that day and I was having pain during that appointment so my doctor suggested I go to the local hospital. I have a lot of anxiety around being a burden on the medical system which is something I had to work through with my psychologist when I started IVF.

“I went to the hospital and I got into the elevator and I felt a sudden gush and knew I was miscarrying. Initially they saw me straight away and offered to check me and then send me home to rest but because of so many reasons, the hours ticked by and I started to have increasing pain. Now that I’ve had a baby, I know I was having contractions. I got to the point where I was pacing around the room, squatting on the floor, vomiting and not able to talk. They put me on a fentanyl drip and that helped with the pain.

“I was back at work a few days later and my obstetrician made an appointment for me to discuss and process my miscarriage. Because of covid I couldn’t continue with the ovulation testing through the fertility clinic and so many people around me offered reassurance and while it was well-meaning, it wasn’t always well-received. We tired for another six months with no luck.

“We decided to do IVF after two years of trying and the fertility specialist agreed it was the best path. It was such a blow to my ego; it didn’t feel fair. I’m so grateful that for us, IVF was a really positive and straightforward process. Our specialist didn’t see the point in starting with IUI so we went straight into a full cycle. I was hyperstimulated in that first cycle so the day before my egg collection I was hot, sweaty, bloated and crying. Those hormones are no joke – I felt absolutely terrible. I couldn’t even sit in the chair of the waiting room because I had so much pressure in my uterus. They stopped at 30 eggs and I took a few days to recover from that.

“The next month they did a frozen transfer and it was pretty good. I enjoyed the structure of the IVF process; it was nice to have some control. Nine days later I did a pregnancy test presuming it hadn’t worked because I was a bit crampy but it was positive. We’d bought a house that week as well – it was a huge week for us.

“I couldn’t stop checking if I was bleeding for the first 12 weeks. Every twinge made me feel sick. I got psychological support throughout the whole pregnancy because I didn’t feel like I could accept or embrace the pregnancy till 20 weeks. At 11 weeks I started getting reflux and I would vomit acid multiple times a day. It was also so bad for my pelvic floor and I lost a significant amount of weight, too. I was really concerned for the health of my baby because I literally lived off bread and fruit + veggie juice. I couldn’t really eat anything because the acid just kept coming up but thankfully the OB put me on a medication that worked. It eased around week 38.

“For the last couple of weeks I was feeling really good physically and emotionally. I felt beautiful, I loved how my body was changing and then when I hit 40 weeks that’s when the induction talk started. I spiralled then and felt like a failure because my body could go into labour itself. Induction was a real trigger for me and I really didn’t want to do it. I had three induction massages, I had acupuncture, I was eating dates and drinking tea; I was probably trying so hard to induce myself that it had the opposite effect.

“I got induced at 41+2 which was the 19th of December. It started with the balloon catheter which was like an aggressive pap smear. And then she put the water in the balloon to stretch the cervix and everything went black. My body just shut down and then I woke up dry retching. I was in a large amount of pain and told them there was no way I could keep in it so she halved the water that was in there and it gave me a little bit of relief but it was still incredibly painful.

“I was in pain for most of the night and the next morning they hooked me up to the syntocinon drip. Within two hours I was vomiting on every surface and they checked me soon after and I was 7 centimetres already. By lunchtime I had a huge amount of pressure in my bum and the midwives encouraged me to push with every urge but then my obstetrician told me not to push – I was only 8 cm and my baby was posterior. I wanted an epidural and I got one but it didn’t work. I felt like I’d jumped out of a plane and the parachute hadn’t worked. I had so many birth preferences depending on what happened but I never anticipated a failed epidural.

“I was panicking, I was on my back, in pain and my obstetrician came down with another anaesthetist to do another epidural. It was about 7pm at this stage and I wasn’t in a good place. I felt like everything I’d prepared for had gone; I wished I had a mental backup for that situation. The midwife was amazing and hugged me as they put the epidural in. I just wanted it to be over. It worked on one side and it was almost worse because all the pain was concentrated in my lower right back and butt cheek. They ended up giving me a shot and everything went numb. They put the syntocinon back on to get me to 10cm. That was my labour experience and then I moved into my birth. And I loved my birth.

“Forty-five minutes the baby was right there, ready to be born. I had space, music and I was feeling good. But then the mood changed because Robbie’s heartrate changed. They looked at me and said they needed to get the baby out now and do an instrumental birth and I explained that I’d written my preferences for a vacuum-delivery in my birth plan. My OB asked my consent to do an episiotomy and explained that we were going to work together to birth my baby; she pulled and I pushed.

“Michael announced that we’d had a boy and baby Robbie came straight to my chest and the overwhelming feeling I had was ‘get him off me’. I just felt rejection, to be honest. It’s like I was snapped into reality and I was in shock. All the birth videos you watch, every mother is crying and happy and holding their baby and clutching it like it’s the most beautiful, precious moment of their life and I didn’t feel that at all, I really felt quite numb to the situation, like a rejection. On day three I took a selfie of me holding Robbie and that’s when I felt okay, I knew I loved him then. I just needed a bit of time to process my labour and birth; my body just needed a moment.”

You can connect with Gen and find out more about her podcast here.

Topics Discussed

Epidural, Episiotomy, hyperstimulation, Induction, Infertility, IVF, Miscarriage, Private obstetrician, vacuum-assisted birth

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