Meeting Amelia Alina
My husband and I had gone on a whirlwind six-week vacation to Europe in 2017 and upon returning to Melbourne decided to try for a baby early 2018. Early 2018 came around, and we agreed to officially start, to our surprise we fell pregnant straight away. However, unfortunately, that pregnancy ended up in a missed miscarriage where I was required to have a surgical procedure to terminate the unviable pregnancy. This was a very emotionally difficult time for us, but we were determined to have a baby, so tried again once I got the all-clear from the doctors.
Again, we fell pregnant straight away! This time I was very apprehensive at the start, I couldn't believe it was possible to get pregnant so quickly after a miscarriage. I remember doing the pregnancy test because my period was over a week late, which was very unusual for me. I thought maybe it had something to do with the procedure and never once thought it was because I could possibly be pregnant. Once I saw the two lines come up on the test, I told my husband, and we both didn't believe it and decided it might be a false positive. I even called my mum to tell her but then convinced her that it's more likely a false positive because it couldn't possibly be. I went to my GP with the pregnancy test and asked if it was possible that I could actually be pregnant? After a positive blood test and the wave of morning sickness that hit me as I walked out of the doctor's clinic; I believed it was possible! The dating scan showed I was seven weeks and two days pregnant, and we were able to hear a heartbeat. That made everything feel real because, in my previous pregnancy, there was never a heartbeat.
The next few weeks of my pregnancy was full of nausea and vomiting, I had what I call 'all day sickness'. It would start in the morning and go on all day, I don't actually recall it stopping unless I took my anti-nausea medications. I wasn't able to feel anxious or happy about this pregnancy because all my thoughts were clouded with nausea. I only started telling people outside of the immediate family about my pregnancy after 15 weeks. I still don't know if that's because I couldn't enjoy my pregnancy from the sickness or because I was so nervous I would miscarry again. At 16 weeks, we had a mini gender reveal party at home to share the news with family and subsequently find out what we were having. I bought a powder canon online, we shot it outside on a cold August day, and then I saw pink! 'It's a girl!' I always wanted a girl.
Eventually, the vomiting stopped, and I was able to enjoy being pregnant, I started thinking about my birth. I met with my public hospital midwife after being accepted into the caseload program. During our first appointment, we discussed birthing options, and I was interested in pursuing a home birth - if medically possible. Soon, all our appointments led towards a home birth. I passed all the hurdles the hospital set, such as low-risk scans, lived within 30 minutes of a hospital and no gestational diabetes. I also met with an obstetrician that gave me the all clear to birth at home, this was around 34 weeks gestation. My parents were never on board with the plan. They were worried that if something went wrong, I'd be home and not in hospital; my home was 25 minutes away, so it wasn't really close by. My husband, however, was on board. I shared all the research with him, and even though he was apprehensive, he wanted to respect my choices as the mother and the one to give birth. I admire him so much for that!
My husband and I attended a calm birthing class in prep for a natural birth. As I wasn't able to access medical pain relief at home, I wanted to be well prepared to use other alternatives such as breathing, massage, movement and relaxation. I read books such as Birth Skills by Juju Sundin and researched how aromatherapy can help increase oxytocin and decrease Adrenalin in labour. At 36 weeks, the birth pool, drugs and oxygen got delivered to our home, and that made everything real. Before this, it was just a discussion of a home birth, but now it was actually going to happen. I had bags packed for baby and myself not because I thought I might end up in hospital but because I wanted things to be in the same spot. I printed my affirmations, put my essential oils in a pouch and had my playlist saved. I felt ready!
On the morning of 19th January, I began having very mild contractions that felt like period pain. It was on and off but never lasted very long and was irregular, coming every half an hour then every hour and 10 minutes. I couldn't really pinpoint whether it was labour or not so I called my midwife and she told me that it sounded like pre-labour which could go on for days so to take the time to relax and take it easy. I used my hired TENS machine and went to bed for the last solo nap ever! Haha
That evening my father in law was having a dinner party for his birthday, which I decided to go to because I just wanted to stop getting excited about labour that wasn't happening. I had a few contractions there alone in the bathroom as I didn't want to share what was happening because I was told it could be days.
The next morning I woke up feeling great, no contractions overnight, and I felt well-rested. I sat down to have breakfast as usual and realised that the baby wasn't moving the way she usually did. It was very weak and required me to concentrate really hard before I could feel something. My husband and I went into the hospital to get monitored and being a Sunday, we didn't have to wait long. The monitoring showed everything was fine with baby, the nurse even exclaimed 'wow your baby is so active and happy' which surprised me because I couldn't feel much at all! This discrepancy between what I felt and what the monitor showed prompted the midwife to get in an obstetrician. While waiting, my husband and I discussed what we were going to eat for lunch, we certainly didn't think the baby was going to arrive that day.
The obstetrician said I would have to induced because that was the safest option for me being 39 weeks pregnant. There was no other way of determining whether or not the baby was safe. I agreed, despite being disappointed about not having a home birth because I wanted what was best for baby and I. It felt like everything I spent months planning for was all over in a second but I was determined to have a natural induction if that's even a thing! On examination, the midwife noted I was already 4cm dilated, so I was allowed to have my waters broken to try and see if my body went into labour naturally. If I didn't go into active labour within two hours, I would have oxytocin drip started.
Labour started almost instantaneously after my waters broke and it was quite intense. I remember my husband started a contraction timer on my phone, and every contraction was lasting longer and getting closer, no two were the same. I stripped down and went into the shower as a distraction, I had two shower heads run extremely hot water on my back and neck. I used the shower chair for support and was crouching on all fours during contractions. I banged on the tiles, made farm animal noises and yelled. It felt like an out of body experience. My mind couldn't recognise what was happening, but my body had taken control, and I just had to take a back seat and respect what it was doing. In between contractions, I sipped on coconut water, chatted with my husband and Mum, went through my affirmations and relaxed. It was so bizarre. I thought how can my body be in such unbelievable agony one minute and be my normal self next?
For the next two or so hours, I remained in the hot shower, until I found it really hard to get into a position during a contraction. I remember changing from standing to sitting, to crouching, to squatting all in under a minute. I yelled out asking for pain relief, but my midwife declined (that was part of my birth plan to decline unless I ask three times) so I continued doing what I was doing. It was getting more and more unbearable as the contractions continued. I eventually got out of the shower, I was exhausted. I just wanted to go to sleep for an hour and then start again, but unfortunately, birth doesn't work that way, my body had a plan, and I just had to follow it. I used a bit of gas to take the edge off, which helped a little. Three contractions passed with me standing on the side of the bed, leaning over and sucking on the gas. Then I felt this strong, overwhelming feeling to push. I wasn't ready for it, I had barely been in labour, surely I wasn't ready to push the baby out. I couldn't help but push, during the whole pushing phase I couldn't believe what was happening. I asked the midwife a few times on whether I was to stop the urge or follow my body, and she reassured me to follow my body. I gave birth to Amelia standing while leaning on the side of the bed, clenching my husband's hand, it took half an hour to push her out. My waters were broken at 3:45pm, and Amelia was born at 7:30pm.
The birth was everything I wanted and could hope for, I remember feeling so much love and joy when I finally met my little girl. It was and still is one of my greatest achievements in life and probably always will be. I couldn't wait to have skin to skin, delayed cord clamping and breastfeed. I hopped onto the bed holding Amelia, and I couldn't stop staring at her. At this point, I wanted a natural delivery of my placenta but wasn't opposed to active management if the midwife deemed necessary. I had a second-degree tear from pushing so the midwife was organising for me to get stitched while I lay there doing skin to skin waiting for my placenta to be delivered. I remember thinking wow, it's done, she's here and I had a beautiful labour and birth. I imagined us lying in bed for the next few hours while my husband and Mum called our family with the good news. It was bliss.
My placenta was delivered naturally about 20 minutes after Amelia was born. It didn't hurt and came out effortlessly, I thought 'that's it, I'm done!' As my placenta was delivered, the midwife put a small amount of pressure on my abdomen to feel my uterus contract, this pressure resulted in a haemorrhage. It felt like someone had turned on a hose inside me and blood was gushing like water. The midwife yelled for help, and I knew that things were dire when a bunch of nurses and doctors came in, and the blood wasn't stopping. It was pouring onto the floor off the bed, I started losing consciousness. My husband, who was in the toilet during this time had no idea what was happening so was shocked when he came out and saw the blood and people surrounding me. He was instructed to take off his shirt and take the baby for skin to skin while I was being prepped to have emergency surgery. My placenta was intact, so no one could figure out why I was still bleeding. They weighed my sheets, and it was 1.7kg, therefore, equating to a 1.7lt blood loss, not accounting for the blood on the floor of the room.
I remember being rushed into an operating room and being put to sleep, I missed my baby already but knew she was safe with her dad. I consented for a hysterectomy if required, it was a split-second decision where I silently mourned for my future babies, knowing I needed to stay alive for the one I just had. Luckily, I didn't have to have a hysterectomy, and all they needed was to pack my uterus and cervix with gauze to tamponade the bleeding. I lost a further 500mls in theatre resulting in a total 2.2lt blood loss of what they could account for, no one will ever know what was on the floor.
I woke up in recovery and saw my husband and baby. This was the beginning of a difficult postpartum journey. I had multiple blood transfusions and a few days in the hospital. My breast milk took days to come in, and my daughter lost a lot of weight due to this. I was emotional because I was in the hospital and because my birth was so traumatic and I never prepared for that. No one told me that this was a possibility. What would've happened if I had had a home birth? I didn't even want to think about that.
It took a long time for me to remember my entire labour and birth. It was hard to remember because it evoked a lot of emotion in myself and my husband. We never spoke about it for a long time. I developed postnatal anxiety because of the traumatic birth and needed psychological help, which I would recommend to any Mum struggling with their mental health. I am proud of myself, my husband, my Mum and Amelia for that day.
Would I do it again? If it gave me Amelia, I would do it daily. We are four months postpartum, and I am gifted with a beautiful baby girl who is growing and healthy. I am thankful that she was safe that day, she never suffered from my bleed except for waiting for my breastmilk to arrive. Would I have another baby? Probably! I will be more receptive to expect the unexpected because that's life.