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A story of the power of the mind

My first birth was a planned home birth, 40 hour labour resulting in a hospital transfer, almost emergency cesarian and my daughter being born via forceps. This resulted in a not so great postpartum for me, and I go into this more in detail on Isla’s Birth story here. Falling pregnant again just over a year later there was a mix of emotions but I knew it would be different this time.

When I fell pregnant I booked in to see a birth trauma councillor, who I spoke with about the birth. While it was so helpful to talk about Islas’s birth, little did I know that the counselling had only touched the sides and I was about to experience a labour of deep learning and healing.

On Saturday 9 July, 41 weeks and 5 days pregnant, I woke up to my waters leaking, I felt so prepared for this moment. I was so excited. All afternoon I was waiting for sunset and for Isla to go to bed as I knew I wouldn’t progress while she was awake. As we approached sunset things started to ramp up, but my contractions were still irregular. It had been about 8 hours now since my first contractions and those words ‘your second labour is so much quicker’ were playing on my mind, this wasn’t happening for me and part of me started to stress. As we approached midnight, Instead of trusting the process and my body, I started to question everything. Why did I decide for another homebirth? Am I putting myself and my baby in danger? Will we end up back at hospital with my baby in NICU?

The music was playing, the fairy lights glowing and the diffuser going…but I felt lost. I had formed a beautiful bond with my midwife and I wanted her there even though I knew it wasn’t quite time - I knew I wasn’t ok. When I was pregnant I had said to her ‘I just want to give birth and I’ll just want to be alone mostly’ which wasn’t the case at all. I needed her and Isaac’s support more than ever. I really needed her presence to feel safe, I know now this is because I hadn’t quite processed Isla’s birth.

At around 2am my midwife suggested Isaac and I have a lie down as things were slowing down, this broke me, I felt like I was failing. I started to cry. I said ‘I can’t do this, I need to go to hospital, I can’t believe this is happening again’ My midwife got me up and into the pool, which was prepared earlier, to calm me down. I was a mess, I just wanted my baby here safely and in that moment I felt like the hospital was the only place. I felt like my labour was going to go for days again and I would end up there anyway. My midwife said ‘Rochelle, everything is perfectly fine, you’re doing great. There’s no rush’ but I couldn’t calm down. So we spent the next 30 mins or so talking through Islas birth, as I was talking I realised how much I was still blaming myself. My midwife’s words ‘Rochelle, trust me, it wasn’t your fault how her birth ended, there was nothing more you could have done’ will stay with me forever. Something changed in me in that moment as I let go of any blame.

I looked at Isaac and said ‘I know I can do this’.

After this it was on. My head was clear and ready to birth my baby. I was so determined. And just like that everything intensified and contractions were getting closer together.

I could feel the mental shift, I wasn’t thinking anymore I was just birthing my baby.

The next 5 hours were some of the hardest of my life. I couldn’t use the pool as every time I would get in things would slow down so I was labouring in the lounge room on all fours breathing my baby down. I could feel it happening and I was so proud and determined. The last hours were tough as my waters hadn’t broken and Reggie was stuck behind them. My beautiful doula was here by this point and suggested I go to the shower to really bare down and break them, which after many hard pushes, worked. The relief from the pressure was insane and I ran (waddled) to the pool to birth Reggie before the next contraction. Getting into the pool at that moment was bliss. The relief of the waters breaking and feeling him descend down was the best feeling in the world. I was ‘pushing’ for around 40 mins while he was moving up and down shaping his head. It was so bizarre, I could feel him wriggling around in the birth canal getting into position. I also knew he was a ‘big’ baby so I wasn’t forcing anything, just letting him and my body do their thing (with the amazing coaching of my midwife).

After one final push he was here. I was in shock. I did it. I felt like such a warrior.

Feeling him be born into this world and holding him in my arms was the single most beautiful feeling in the world. 4.5kg of my beautiful baby boy ❤️

I hope that sharing this story helps someone else see that your previous birth does not define you and that if you want to, you can write a new story.

I can’t thank our midwife enough. She was just incredible and the most wonderful woman to have by my side.

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My beautiful midwife asked a couple of weeks ago if I was going to share my birth story for Reggie’s birth. She has taught many midwives over the years and said my story would help educate women and birth professionals on the power of the mind in labour and overcoming birth trauma/ fear.

As Reggies birth really was a healing birth for me I can’t start his story without sharing Isla’s birth story. I’ve been meaning to write her story but not been able to up until now, I guess for me, I needed Reggie’s birth to be able to process her birth and see it clearly.

When I fell pregnant with Isla, I listened to a podcast of a chef from the UK that I love, she had a bonus episode about her home birth. This is the first time I had really heard of home birth and definitely the first time I had heard of a doula (I remember googling it during the episode). This 30 minute podcast episode that I didn’t mean to listen to changed my life forever. I instantly applied for CMP, hired my beautiful doula and spent my pregnancy researching, fantasising and learning about natural birth and postpartum.  I was obsessed and over the moon I had discovered this path.

Fast forward to Thursday 17 September 2020 at around 6pm when I started having contractions. I couldn’t believe the day had finally come. I called my doula and she said to try and get some sleep as contractions were still quite far apart, but I couldn’t sleep, the discomfort was too much for me to relax. I laboured all night with no progression and by morning I was exhausted but determined. My doula came over and we tried all the things throughout the day but I still wasn’t progressing. My midwife came over at around 9pm that night (Friday 18th) and checked me, I was 2cm, but she did a stretch and sweep and I went to 5cm and my waters broke. She did mention at this point that babies head wasn’t in the most optimal position and was to the side, but not to worry.

From then It was on. Contractions got closer together and I really got into the zone, I laboured in the shower for a couple of hours then I was ready to move to the pool. I don’t know how long I was in the pool for but things really slowed down. I got out of the pool which was the worst feeling, not only physically but mentally feeling like i was failing. We tried all the different positions to help baby move but nothing was really working. My midwife asked if she could check me again and I was 7cm but not only was Isla’s head to the side, I also had a lip in my cervix (as islas head wasn’t opening it up).

Reaching the early hours of Saturday morning now I was starting to feel defeated and wanting pain relief, my amazing support team helped me through and I kept going, I knew I could keep going until she was ready to come out. But then both our heart rates got really high, they got me back in the pool to calm us down which worked for me but Isla’s was still too high. At 6am Sunday 19 September my midwife called it and we decided to transfer. The ambulance was called and my body started to push, but nothing was happening. This was the most surreal and hardest moment. Standing on my porch pushing while the sun rises on a busy road in Doubleview waiting for the ambulance all while I couldn’t feel a baby at all.

We arrived at the hospital and the staff were very concerned about Isla’s heart rate as it wasn’t fluctuating, just remaining high, so they prepped me for an emergency cesarian. I was 9cm so had to have the spinal block which went in at 8:40am, they wheeled me into surgery and the OB who was wonderful said ‘ I know how much you wanted a homebirth so I’m going to one more check and see if I can deliver this baby vaginally for you’ and I am forever grateful she did as Isla had moved her head and i was 10cm 🤯 due to the spinal block they delivered her via forceps but she was out within minutes at 9:20am Saturday 19 September 2020.

My birth with Isla didn’t go to plan but I was so informed and educated with a wonderful support team behind me, I felt in control the whole time. It was what happened immediately afterwards that shocked me and therefor led to birth trauma and postnatal depression.

She was taken away from me instantly. I think she was on my chest for 20 seconds as she had breathing difficulties. They took her to the side and then went to take her to NICU. One beautiful midwife bought her over to me so I could kiss her before she went 😭 I was so spaced out from all the drugs and no sleep I couldn’t really even comprehend what was happening. They took me to recovery and I slept.

3pm that afternoon, so 6 hours later I was able to go and see her. It was so surreal being wheeled up to her little incubator, all hooked up and just lying there. I remember my partner saying ‘look do you see her’ and I had no idea where she was. I was heartbroken. At this point I wasn’t allowed to hold her, just look at her. At 7pm they called me and said I could come and hold her, that moment was so beautiful staring her in the eyes and her looking right back at me know she was home again.

They wanted to keep her there so I went back up to the ward to sleep. They called me at 9pm and said I was free to pick her up. My partner had gone home by this point so one of the midwives wheeled me down and we went and got her. Having her in my room with me that night alone was so daunting. The main reason I wanted a homebirth was to be at home with my family but I was alone and still very much recovering.

We were in the hospital for 4 days with covid visiting hours, it wasn’t a great experience and the food was shocking. Getting home was when things started to look up but it took me 22 months to fully process Isla’s birth…. In labour with my second baby Reggie.

Professional photography by Ryan Thompson Design

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Lochia is the medical term for postpartum bleeding which may last for 6-8 weeks. This happens as the mother essentially has an open wound where the placenta has detached from her womb, and this wound needs to heal. This is why 40 days (or 6-8 weeks) is prescribed as the time to rest in many Eastern cultures. ⁠

I've spoken to a few women recently who were surprised about the amount of postpartum bleeding they had. I guess it's one of those subjects that isn't spoken about enough.⁠

Were you aware and prepared? Did you take any steps in replenishing and rebalancing your body after birth?⁠

❤️ If you have any concerns about the amount of blood you are losing postpartum please speak to your midwife or health professional ❤️⁠

Photo Credit: Ryan Thompson Design

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