My husband, Alby, and I were on our honeymoon in Sri Lanka when we decided we would try for a baby. Things happened a lot quicker than we expected, and I fell pregnant on our second go shortly after we arrived home. We felt so lucky.
I signed up to the Midwifery Group Practice program initially. I was hoping to build a strong relationship with my midwife and receive lots of one-on-one support, but because of COVID, I had only met my midwife once, and all antenatal classes were cancelled. It was approaching the 30-week mark of my cruisy pregnancy, and I was beginning to get very overwhelmed as I had received little to no support and had no idea what I was doing, what to expect, and what to even do with a baby, to be honest. I started looking at other options, and that's when I decided to dip into my superannuation and switch over to a home birth through the Birth Centre. Immediately I received an overwhelming amount of support and guidance.
I felt confident in myself and my body and was super excited for the weeks to come. I spent the last few weeks of pregnancy in total bliss and did a lot of 'cafe-hopping' aka quality testing all of Launceston's croissants and hot chocolates. I had my 40-week check at the Birth Centre on Friday 21st August, the day before my due date. I mentioned to my midwife, Emma, that I had terrible itching all over my body. She checked my blood pressure which was quite high, so I was sent across the road to the hospital to have my liver function tested due to suspected Obstetric Cholestasis, a rare liver disorder in pregnancy.
I left the hospital, got takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant and went home. I was halfway through my meal when the Obstetrician from the hospital called and told me to come in right away, with my bags ready to brith my babe. I was petrified. I had planned a gentle water birth at home. Birthing at the hospital terrified me.
When I arrived at the hospital, the Obstetrician filled me in. My liver function was off and platelets extremely low, indicating preeclampsia/HEELP syndrome. I was to be induced at 6 am the following morning. I asked them to be frank with me. The medical team told me that I would be heavily monitored from bed, so a shower and bath for pain relief was out of the question. I was told I wasn't able to have an epidural because my platelets were so low and that if I were to have an emergency cesarean, I would most likely be under general and wouldn't be able to meet babe straight away. They gave me a sleeping tablet to help me sleep as you can imagine, I was terrified. I didn't sleep much. They were in every two hours checking my ob's. Emma stayed in contact during the night and arranged with the hospital to be my support person alongside Alby.
6 am arrived. Penny, the hospital midwife, checked me to insert the tape and upon inspection, I was 4cm dilated and fully effaced, without knowing. She skipped the tape and broke my waters at 9 am. About 5 minutes later, my body went into spontaneous labour, and I was having painful contractions. Meanwhile, Alby was dropping the dog off to the boarding kennel. I was by myself contracting hard and freaking out just a bit. Because I immediately starting contracting hard and fast, Penny agreed to give me an hour before hooking me up to the Pitocin drip. If I continued to progress nicely, I could skip it entirely.
An hour passed and things were really moving along so to my delight they didn't bother with including me and let my body do its own thing. Emma arrived with her Mary Poppins bag full of lotions, sprays and sooo many snacks. I begged Penny to let me have a bath. They weren't too keen as it was harder to monitor baby when I was in the tub, and because I was high risk, I needed to be monitored sufficiently.
Things were going smoothly, and I was eventually allowed to hop in the bath. Emma set up the bathroom with a salt lamp, put my playlist on, dimmed the lights and made sure the room was calm and free from distractions. My labour slowed down when I hopped in, I enjoyed the little break and re-energised. Emma had made me lentil soup, and I drank lots of coconut water.
I felt like a big baby laying in the bath with my eyes closed being spoon-fed. Things started to really intensify at around 2 pm. I moved to the toilet for a short time, which felt natural. I was in a lot of pain which scared me because I was aware I had only been in active labour for about 4 hours and was really scared it would go on forever, and I wasn't sure how I would cope.
I had to keep myself in check and focus on my breathing, not the clock on the wall in front of me (they should get rid of those bloody things!). I kept my eyes closed, breathed through each contraction and kept my jaw loose as I had heard this helps keep the pelvic floor relaxed. At about 2:30, I could feel my body convulsing.
Alby hopped in the bath with me, and at 3 pm I started pushing. I had a hard time actively pushing, but with a few change in positions, I began to feel the burning everyone told me about.
This was the most painful part for me. I was so scared I delayed pushing for a few moments and calmed myself down. Emma, Alby, Penny and the student midwife cheered me on as I slowly pushed Maggies head out. I put my hand down and touched her head which was full of hair. I guess the old wives tale was accurate for me. I had terrible heartburn in the 3rd trimester.
I gently pushed out the rest of her body, pulled her up and out of the water and onto my chest as I leant back into Alby's body for support.
Little Maggie, who we thought was a boy, took a while to take her first breath so without warning an alarm went off, they quickly cut her cord and whisked her away into another room. The student midwife had pulled the plug in the bath and all of a sudden I was alone with Alby in an empty bathtub shaking uncontrollably.
I had no idea what was going on. A short time later the student midwife returned to the room, gave me a towel to put between my legs and I waddled naked and shamelessly down the hall to the birthing suite where they gave Maggie some air. She was perfectly fine.
It wasn't long before I got to have skin to skin and a feed. I had a hard time delivering the placenta, so I was given an injection, and with a bit of encouragement from the midwife, it slipped out about 90 minutes after I gave birth. My midwife checked me for tears, and to my surprise, I came out unscathed. High five to perineal massage and birthing in the water!
I had a shower, a cuddle with the three of us, and then I settled in for my first night alone with my baby girl in the postnatal ward. I was equally overwhelmed with fear and excitement. Maggie had a big feed, so I was very excited for her to have her 'hibernation sleep' so we could both catch up on some sleep. By this stage, I hadn't slept in two days, and the adrenaline had worn off. It didn't exactly work that way. Both Maggie and I had to have our Ob's checked every hour for the first night, so there wasn't a lot of sleeping happening, but that was okay.
I spent five days in the hospital to manage my high blood pressure and HELLP syndrome. I was at increased risk of having a postpartum hemorrhage or stroke due to my low platelets and very high blood pressure, which was eventually controlled with hypertension medication.
I was initially not keen to spend any longer in hospital, but I'm so glad I did. I had a lot of support from the midwives who helped me establish my breastfeeding and connect me with services I would have otherwise not known about.
Also, the complimentary curried egg sandwiches were THE BEST. Winning!
Despite not being what we had planned for, it was the most spectacular day. I felt so supported by the hospital who tried to accomodate my birth as much as possible, which resulted in me having a calm, undisturbed drug and intervention-free birth.
As much as I would have loved a home birth, I'm so glad things turned out the way they did.