I had my fertility tested in 2012 because I was approaching 40 and knew I wanted a family. From that we discovered that there was no problem with my fertility and my egg health was actually that of a woman 4 years younger than me, which was good news! My partner was also tested and a problem was identified, and we were advised that we had about a 1% chance of falling pregnant naturally and we’d need to undergo IVF. So we prepared for the IVF and did all the paperwork, including police check.
Everything was ready for the IVF treatment to commence, but with my Dad’s 70th birthday coming up and Christmas just around the corner, we decided to delay the IVF treatment until January 2014.
Christmas came and my period didn’t, so I did a home pregnancy test on new years eve and found out that we we’re pregnant! I went to the doctor the same day, who sent me for blood tests and an ultrasound. Unfortunately the pregnancy hormone levels weren’t rising so my doctor informed me it was likely to be a non-viable pregnancy. Another ultrasound a week later confirmed this and I miscarried 2 weeks later. In February 2014 I started seeing Karen for preconception care and fertility enhancement. Karen is a practitioner of chinese medicine and acupuncture who specialises in womens health.
My partner and I went on a 3 week holiday in Europe in May 2014 and had a great time. When we got back I was quite jet-lagged, and when the jetlag continued into the second week and my boobs started aching, I got suspicious thinking there is more to this than just jetlag! I did a home pregnancy test which indicated that I was 3+ weeks pregnant. Again I went to see the doctor and this time the pregnancy was confirmed. Everything was good and we were wrapped! Me in particular because I wanted to have an Aquarian baby.
The GP referred me to my local maternity hospital. I had no desire to see a private obstetrician because my friends who had decided for private care had told me about the thousands of dollars that they were out of pocket. I was happy to go with the public health system the government provides.
I saw different midwives during pregnancy for my hospital appointments and the doctor twice. During my first pregnancy appointment I indicated to the midwife that I wanted a water birth. Everything went along beautifully throughout my pregnancy. All the tests I had to do returned normal and at the 20 week scan we could finally find out what sex the baby was – a girl!
We attended a hospital birthing class and had been shown the hospital facilities, including the bath for water birth.
We also attended an independent childbirth education Hypnobirthing class. The Hypnobirthing class was an amazing education and we learned so much, including the practice of using visualisations and nasal breathing techniques throughout labour. It was an immense amount of information that we were given and the knowledge empowered us to make our own decisions.
At my 39 week appointment with the midwife I was told that there had been a change in hospital policy and that women over age 42 need to wear constant monitoring upon admission. That meant that I was unable to have a water birth. I was shocked! How could they make such a big change to my birth plan at 39 weeks? I asked the midwife to please check with the doctor if there was any flexibility with that policy, as I was a perfectly healthy woman expecting a healthy baby. The midwife returned and informed me that there was absolutely no way an exemption can be made. I was so disappointed. To be honest, it felt so unjust, like age discrimination.
I came out from that appointment quite shocked and disempowered. I rang Karen straight away to get her opinion. I had an appointment with her the next day and she suggested 2 options to me: Option 1- organise a meeting with the director of obstetrics at the hospital. Option 2- have a water birth at home.
I liked the idea of having a homebirth and rang my partner. He sounded quite positive and agreed straight away. It just felt so right that I don’t know why we didn’t consider having a homebirth earlier! Interesting to note was that – with this decision made – all my anxiety around labour lifted like a weight off my shoulders, which made me realise my anxiety was around potential hospital intervention.
As I was already 39 weeks pregnant, we met with our midwife the following day. The transition of care was seamless and everything was explained to us by our midwife. Now it was just a matter of waiting for action to happen.
My waters broke at 5.20am and they gushed! I remembered having an earlier conversation with my midwife about what to do if my waters break. She told me to have something to eat and go back to bed and sleep. So I did that.
I started having contractions a few hours later. I was recording the contractions on my mobile phone app, which required to record the intensity of the contractions. I wasn’t sure what to enter because I didn’t know how strong it was going to get! We established that if I make a noise/moan during the contraction then it would be recorded as a very strong one. Otherwise if I just breathe though the contraction that means it was either mild or moderate.
I think I coped pretty well. I was trying to focus on the breathing and was wearing a TENS machine for a while in the early stage of labour. I had planned to have calm music playing and my partner reading me the affirmations from Hypnobirthing, but I was really sensitive to noise so I wore earplugs instead. I didn’t want any external “distractions” and focussed completely internal throughout labour. I even took the TENS machine off as it was too distracting for me rather than helpful.
I remember being in the bathroom and getting to the point where I couldn’t record my contractions in the app anymore because they were too intense, and a short time after this I vomited, which relieved the intensity for a bit. At 15.30 my partner rang our midwife and she suggested I enter the birth pool, which we had set up in the lounge room. I’m not sure why I didn’t think of doing that earlier!
I went into the birth pool, and remember the baby feeling quite buoyant in my tummy, which was a strange feeling after being used to the gravitational pull in the bathroom. It just didn’t feel right and the water wasn’t warm enough and I found it hard to relax. Perhaps I was thinking that labour would be a little less intense in the water, but that wasn’t the case. I gave it a good try and stayed in the pool for a couple of hours, but then decided to come back out after I vomited again. I remember grabbing my partners hand and telling him that I can’t do this anymore. He said “you can do it and you are doing it”. In my mind I was thinking ‘please let this be transition, as I haven’t got the energy to do this much longer!’. I felt like I needed to open my bowels and remembered the hypnobirthing instructor saying that this is a sign of the final stage of labour. At this point my partner called our midwife. It was 7pm.
I went to the toilet and just stayed having my contractions there. My midwife arrived soon after, together with Karen. I went from sitting on the toilet to resting on the swiss ball on all fours. I never knew that my partner, 2 midwives, Karen, me and a swiss ball could fit in our bathroom, but we all did!
Karen was sitting on the toilet applying acupressure to my lower back. My lower back and hips felt so exhausted that I was thinking ‘how the hell am I going to push a baby out?!’. I felt such relief when Karen was doing the acupressure. That was my saviour!
I remember feeling the baby’s head start to move down through my cervix. It was an incredible feeling and I was thinking ‘thank god this isn’t all for nothing. We are going somewhere and she is going to come out!’
I remember asking my midwife how much longer to go. Not long after that my midwife suggested I remove my earplugs as it was time to give birth. My midwife suggested to touch my baby’s head as it was starting to crown. I was gently breathing her head out. The birth of her head was a joyous moment because I felt getting the head out was the biggest hurdle. I was asking my midwife to quickly take a picture and this picture is now permanently engrained into my memory.
My midwife asked my partner to get ready to catch our baby, and at 21.12 Ella was born! My partner passed her through to me and I kept saying “She’s real!”.
Ella cried briefly and once I held her in my arms she stopped. She went to the boob very soon after birth and I had skin to skin contact with her for 1.5 hours!
The placenta came away naturally 10 minutes after birth. My midwife checked me and I did not tear, despite pushing out a 4.2kg baby! The perineal massage must have helped with that.
I always felt that once I got through labour and birth everything else will flow naturally, but breastfeeding was tricky! I didn’t realise how many intricacies there were to good attachment! I wanted to breastfeed and didn’t want to give up and supplement with formula. My midwife had suggested to use donor milk if supplementation were to be needed. Just knowing that there was another alternative to formula made me feel relieved. After 2 visits at breastfeeding drop in centres and some advice from a maternal health nurse, at 4 weeks I am finally pain-free and comfortable with breastfeeding! Now I can say that it was totally worth persevering.
I’m so glad that everything that’s happened with me throughout pregnancy and labour happened naturally, as I want to give our baby the best.