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Meeting Duke

My story began four years ago.


I've always been very passionate about childbirth and believed I could deliver a baby naturally. This is what our bodies were once made for, wasn't it? If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you I am so passionate about this, it drives them crazy.


Four years ago, I had a home birth planned. My husband and I argued and defended ourselves against our friends and family for 9 whole months as they all thought we were crazy, and it wasn't safe. At 38 weeks pregnant with our surprise gender baby, we presented to the hospital with decreased fetal movements at 11pm. Doctors couldn't find any movement for 1.5 hours, and the baby's heart rate was dropping ever so slightly.


So, we were rushed down for an emergency c section.


No labour. No warning. No baby bag. No phones. We even had on our pyjamas! We literally thought they would check and send us home. Boy, were we wrong.


We had a baby girl delivered at 2:26am - and that was all we knew for four and a half hours. She was whisked away, and tests were performed. I was in recovery for 3 hours as my blood pressure wouldn't go down – as you could imagine!


No one could update me, and last I heard, she wasn't breathing.


Fast forward four and a half hours, and I was wheeled down to see her. She was all hooked up to machines, and I was informed that she had suffered a fetal maternal haemorrhage. This is a fetal death syndrome where babies bleed out either slowly or suddenly into the mother through the umbilical cord. She had no more than 12-24 hours of life left before her brain and organs were severely damaged or death.


I didn't hold her until she was 48 hours old. I didn't get the chance to breastfeed as a combination of a c-section, a sick baby, being sent home without her and the stress of an impending brain injury. I couldn't cope.


I allowed her to be bottle-fed. As a result, she vomited after every bottle for the first 12 months of her life. A combination of all the drugs at birth and the blood transfusion made her belly unhappy.


I'm pleased to say now though, she is an amazingly bright and smart 4-year-old girl with absolutely no medical issues as a result of her birth. I was left with a damaged birth story and a broken spirit; always feeling so disappointed and ripped off that I hadn't experienced a single ounce of childbirth. I was left with a horrible scar that I didn't heal well from and a sick baby for so long.


My husband and I fell pregnant a second time in October of 2018 and again, chose to keep the gender a surprise. I instantly sought out an experienced midwife to take me on as a caseload case which is a service our public hospital here in Penrith offered. They have incredibly experienced midwives working alongside doctors who take on four women per month, and it's almost the same as being a private patient. You have the same midwife and doctor your whole pregnancy, and they are there for your birth and after birth too whenever you need them.


My midwife was Leanne; a midwife so passionate about a VBAC as she too had one many years prior. She had full confidence in me that I could do it, providing our baby was healthy this time, and all tests remained negative for FMH (fetal maternal haemorrhage) and all other health issues.



My pregnancy was perfect, apart from your typical pregnancy side effects which are always fun, right? Then when I was 32 weeks pregnant, Leanne broke her arm! So I went back into the public system (insert crying face). This is where the wheels fell off for me. I was getting internal examinations and ultrasounds from 37 weeks. I kept being told by a different doctor every week that my cervix was 'unfavourable'.


I wasn't dilating, my cervix was long at 3cm, and baby's head was so high – even I could feel this. So they began talking me into a c-section, as an induction wasn't advised for someone with a previous caesarean. No drugs can be used, such as the induction tape or Pitocin to induce labour.


When I say they began talking me into a c-section, doctors kept telling me that the risks of a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) were that my uterus could rupture and baby could be born with cerebral palsy or severe birth defects. However, this risk was 1%. No doctor ever went down the route of telling me the chances of having a repeat c-section, which was just as high as the risks of a VBAC. Rupture of the bladder, rupture of the bowel, infection, baby has difficulty breathing.


At one appointment, I was stressed out so much that I was then admitted with high blood pressure and monitored for 4 hours, even though I told them I only had high blood pressure because the doctor was heartless and upset me.


So through all of this, every appointment for 4 weeks, I persevered and trusted myself, my body and my baby that we could do this together, and I refused the c-section. I also had the full support of my husband, my family and friends. 40 weeks came and went, and baby was still very high, and my cervix was unchanged. Doctors were giving me until 41+2 to go naturally, OR I could opt for a balloon induction or the Foley's catheter. I booked this in for the 21st of July at 40+5.

10pm on Sunday evening the 21st of July I had the balloon catheter inserted. Contractions began immediately, and the pain was crappy. Imagine the most intense period pain ever.


At 3am I asked for some pain relief and was offered morphine, this made me cry like a little baby it was so painful, BUT I then slept for a few hours. I swear it was the most peaceful sleep. Like the calm before the storm! 10am Monday morning the balloon was removed and AMAZING! I was 4cm dilated!


My waters were broken by hand (ouch), and slow Pitocin drip commenced. I had 8cm of fluid surrounding the baby on all sides, so I think my waters gushed around 5 times. Baby had also pooped, so there was meconium in my waters which just made the midwives monitor the babies heart rate even closer.


By 11am, my contractions were irregular and very strong. By 1:30pm, I was in established labour with 4-5 contractions within 10 minutes. My eyes didn't open for that whole time, it genuinely felt like an out-of-body experience. It was so strong and powerful.



I was also vomiting constantly as the pain was just horrendous. I wasn't getting a break, and at this stage, I wasn't dilating anymore as my body wasn't able to relax between contractions. Never the less, this is exactly what I longed for, and I knew this the whole time.


I remember at points saying "I know I may not look or feel like I am enjoying this, but I appreciate this experience and what my body is doing" and I truly did.


At 3:30pm I was offered an epidural. It was more advised so my body could have a break. I agreed and then everything progressed. My husband and I then took this opportunity to have a rest as I was exhausted. I had a massive peanut pillow placed between my legs, and we rested. My cervix was checked at 5:30pm, and I was 6-7cm dilated, and the head was there! My cervix was rechecked at 6:30pm and was ready to go! Baby's head was the wrong way, though. He was facing sideways so we waited an hour to see if he/she would turn. 7:30pm came around, and I began pushing!


I was continually vomiting small amounts, and sometimes it was just gagging. Maybe from the gas, perhaps from the massive amounts of pressure to my head and body from pushing so bloody hard! I pushed for 1.5 hours, and finally, I had his head 1/4 out, just enough to see his thick head of hair and then...I needed to vomit again.



After three big heaves, my baby flew out and wasn't even caught (we were on a bed) everyone was shocked! IT WAS A BOY!!!


And he was handed to me straight away, skin to skin contact, cuddles, all the smells, all the blood, all the muck – he was adorable, and he was healthy! No one took him off me for 3 hours. We fed, we cuddled, and we slept.



All the while, I had a doctor come in and examine my vagina and tell me I had a 2nd-degree tear. He stiched me for 45 minutes, received a page, looked up to me and said "I've done the first half, I'll come back to finish the second half", "I'm sorry! WHAT??!!" After 1.5 hours of stitching, I had 65 stitches, and at the time, I had no idea what this meant because I couldn't have cared less. I got the birth I ever so longed for, and I was over the moon! No one could bring me down. This birth couldn't have been more different to my first, and I was so emotionally overwhelmed and relieved I kept yelling "I did it! I did it!" and my husband kept replying "you did, I'm so proud of you".


I now have experience birth from two very different ends. I have a c-section scar and a vaginal scar. I had birth without labour and birth with labour. I had an unhealthy baby and then a very healthy baby. I went home without a baby, and I went home with a baby.


Through all of the different opinions and VBAC counselling from a different doctor at every appointment. To doubting myself and wondering if I was being selfish, wanting a natural birth instead of just having a c-section when he was happy and healthy inside me. I now feel so happy I trusted my instincts and believed in myself.



Fast forward 8 weeks, and unfortunately, our breastfeeding journey ended for many reasons. From week two, it was incredibly trying. We enlisted the help from a lactation consultant, and after paying $500, we discovered I had very little supply. As I was absolutely unable to pump, my nipples were black, blue and bleeding from cracks. I was placed on Motilium to try and increase this, but it didn't seem to help.


I pushed through seven weeks of feeding ALL day and having a baby who was gaining 100g a week and sleeping for no longer than 20 minutes day and night. Telling myself yet again, this is supposed to be natural, and it couldn't be any further from that for me. It was so hard. I think a combination of constant pain I was in with my stitches and then my boobs, my body just couldn't relax.


I was immensely stressed and suffering from PND. I did my best, and again, I am proud of myself for trying so hard. I couldn't have tried any harder, and I know that.



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