Prepare for a positive birth with The Birth Class

Episode 472

Sarah Davidson – miscarriage, ovulation induction, gestational diabetes, footling breech, planned caesarean

In today’s episode, Sarah takes us through her fertility experience as an adoptee which prompted her to do a series of tests early in her journey. After a missed miscarriage, she embarked on ovulation induction but then spontaneously conceived while on an overseas holiday. She opted for private obstetric care alongside support from a doula and at 37 weeks, when baby Teddy remained in a footling breech position, she booked a planned caesarean. But, Teddy had other plans and Sarah’s waters broke in dramatic fashion while standing outside the hospital. His surprise early arrival allowed them to stay in an uninterrupted bubble for five days and Sarah takes us right through her initial postpartum including her caesarean recovery and breastfeeding. A joyful episode brimming with considered advice and unbridled truths, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.

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“We’ve got quite an interesting fertility journey in that I was adopted from South Korea when I was five months old. My husband’s mother was also adopted so we have less of a family medical picture than most people. I started trying at the end of 2022 and went straight ahead and did a lot of tests that most people wait 6-12 months to do, just so we could get a picture of our fertility but there were no red flags there. We conceived within three months which was really exciting. We had a few scans and we never actually had a heartbeat; we were gently let down in stages. It was still devastating but perhaps not as intense as it had been if we’d had confirmation of that heartbeat in the first place.

“It was so raw as it was happening but I didn’t know what I would share if I wanted to share. I kept it quiet till months and months later because it took me much longer than I thought to know how to articulate it. The distraction of work and being treated as normal was a really great distraction but all the while I still had symptoms; for a month I knew the pregnancy wasn’t continuing but I still had the sore boobs and nausea. At week 8 it was confirmed as a non-viable pregnancy and I was given the option to wait or have a D+C and I would usually choose the natural route but I couldn’t handle carrying it any longer. I couldn’t get an appointment for almost two weeks so I just went to emergency and I had the surgery the next day.
We got the foetus and placenta tested and it was comforting to know that something went wrong at the point of fertilisation; the math didn’t math. That was really helpful to take the – what did I do wrong? – away.

“The opportunity came up to share my miscarriage story because I realised that so many people share their miscarriage experience once they’re pregnant again. I thought it was a real opportunity to share while I don’t have the guarantee that I can conceive and carry a pregnancy. It was enormously cathartic to do it but then we ended up conceiving on the weekend that the article came up.

“After my miscarriage my cycles went from 50-60 days to 30 after the miscarriage; it was like a reset. We did two cycles of ovulation induction to make sure we were trying in the right window but we stopped in the third cycle because we were overseas and that’s when we conceived.

“It was a big milestone to get past where we got to last time and every week after that was a bonus. It was a strange mix of emotions – bliss, excitement, disbelief and anxiety. I was very paranoid in the first trimester and cancelled a long haul flight; I didn’t want to leave my routine and home bubble. We chose not to tell anyone till much later so I’ve never felt more like I was living two lives. We waited until 18 weeks to share the news.

“At 24 weeks I developed sciatica and I could hardly walk but then he moved off that spot and the pain disappeared till 32 weeks and stayed till birth. Sarah from Nurtured Birth was sent to me from the universe – we were connected in so many ways and she offered me so many treatments that saved my body and mind in the second and third trimester.

“In the third trimester my obstetrician noted that Teddy was in the same position in each scan; his head was up and his feet were down. At 35 weeks I started doing spinning babies to encourage him to turn but by 37 weeks he still hadn’t turned. We discussed an ECV to physically turn him but his feet were really wedged into my pelvis and a vaginal footling breech birth wasn’t possible so a planned caesarean was suggested as the best option. I definitely had a moment of disappointment, knowing I wouldn’t be able to experience natural labour; I couldn’t explain why but I just felt disappointed that I wouldn’t get to experience it and do it; I was up for the challenge. My obstetrician was amazing and she reiterated that you want your baby to be born safely and Teddy had chosen the right position for him – and his head was quite big – so we booked for 39 weeks.

“I took a few days to get used to the plan and I really let go and trusted I was in safe hands. Sarah was my doula informing the process and my osteo was also a midwife at Cabrini so I had lots of support. At 38 weeks I had an appointment to talk through the process and Nick dropped me at the front door because I was having trouble walking and then I ended up running after him because my waters broke and it was like the movies – it went everywhere. We called my OB to tell her and she told us to go straight to the birth suite and I never went home. I started having contractions but unfortunately I’d just eaten so they decided I could wait for 5-6 hours. I was extremely shocked but I had time to get my head around it. But also, I got the best of both worlds; I felt contractions, Teddy felt the massage of contractions, I knew he’d chosen his birth date and once the contractions were becoming a bit spicy, I went to the theatre.

“Nick sped home to get all our stuff and then we went in. What was most shocking is that once they started the surgery, he’d be out in 10 minutes. I was worried because he just did one little cry and I got goosebumps…they pulled him out and put him on my chest but he wasn’t breathing very well so they took him to the resus table and they put a little oxygen mask on him and five minutes after that he came back to me for skin to skin. Nick had Teddy while I was in recovery and when I got back to the room, Nick had become a dad.

“Teddy is my first blood relative and from now till five months, is what my mum missed out on when she adopted me. People tell me Teddy looks so much like me and it’s so beautiful to have my features reflected back at me.

“The whole postpartum experience has made me feel like I need to apologise to every parent I’ve ever known because how I supported them was so useless – why didn’t I arrive at people’s homes with food?! We had a lactation consultant visit us in pregnancy and she introduced us to the whole landscape of breastfeeding which was amazing because I presumed you put the baby on the breast and it worked or it didn’t. Either you can or you can’t. One of the things that helped me and Nick not be too clingy to certain outcomes or too judgemental of others or ourselves is that with adoption, you have accepted the most different pathway to parenthood and we had to be formula fed so I haven’t been to wedded to making something work to the expense of our physical or mental health. I think you can set yourself up really well for breastfeeding and postpartum – you can be informed and I didn’t realise that even if you can breastfeed, it still hurts. Your nipples have to get used to it – it’s an adjustment period that is hell! The pain! And that was with all the education behind us, a good latch, and daily visits with lactation consultants in hospital and my nipples were still cracked and bleeding. I’m so glad that bit is done but no one prepares you for how much it hurts. I turned a corner one day and I understood what people meant when they said you just need to get past that initial pain and discomfort. Of course there’s a limit for how far you should push and I know there’s a stigma around formula and some very old-school views that are pushed on you by some lactation consultants and women are made to feel incredibly bad if they need to supplement. I’ve been president of the itty bitty titty committee my entire life. I’ve never had boobs so I had no faith they could perform but it’s got nothing to do with size, or with you doing anything…but my milk came in really easily even after a c-section. I know women who have pushed themselves beyond to try and make it work because of the stigma attached with formula but at the same time, don’t give up too early because it’s painful no matter what.

“We created a six week bubble after birth where nothing was booked or scheduled. Teddy arrived early so we didn’t tell anyone other than close family that he’d arrived until the 5th day and by then we were heading home. I didn’t feel like I could have visitors for a while so it’s only now, four weeks postpartum, that we’re having a visitor every few days. All our friends have brought home cooked food, some of them have emptied the dishwasher and they haven’t stayed for too long because they know that the postpartum social battery is low.”

Topics Discussed

Footling breech, gestational diabetes, Miscarriage, One baby, Ovulation induction, Planned caesarean, Private obstetrician

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