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Pregnancy stories: Rhiannon's journey from Maiden to Motherhood.

Updated: Apr 6

Tell us about your Mum’s experience and how it differed from yours (if you feel relevant to your story).

Mum’s experiences of birth were entirely different from both of mine. Mum went to 42 weeks with me. Her labour was induced, she was given nitrous oxide (gas + air) and a shot of Pethidine for pain relief and temazepam to help her ‘relax’ and then her birth was assisted via vacuum extraction and an episiotomy. She recalls feeling completely “out of it” and now admits that it was a very traumatic experience for her.

My sister was born almost 4 years later. Mum told me that the large gap between us was mostly because she didn’t feel ready to go through it all again. Fortunately, her experience the second time around was “much quicker”, however, she was still advised to have an induction of labour, this time at 41+3.

Much of my maternal extended family of women have gestated beyond 41 weeks. My Nanna gave birth to all four of her children at 42, 41, 43, and 42 weeks (this was in the 1960/’70s).

So, all of this played on my mind during my journey, I was sure I would be pregnant forever and I was TERRIFIED I would need induction of labour at 41+3 just like my Mum did back in the ’90s.

Share some insights into your preconception journey (if it plays a significant role in your story). How did it shape your path to motherhood?

I began my preconception journey roughly 6 months before I planned to start trying to get pregnant. Firstly, my Husband and I sought a GP to have some preconception bloods, just to check our levels, and hormones to give us a good baseline to start.

We both commenced our preconception/ pregnancy multivitamins around 3-4 cycles before we started trying and I began having monthly/ cyclical acupuncture with a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner to ensure my body was ready and my womb was warm and welcoming.

We stayed as healthy as we could and ate well, and after about 4 months of tracking and trying I found out I was pregnant (easily one of the best moments of my life).

What model of care did you choose, and why? Explore what factors influenced your decision.

I chose to employ an Endorsed Privately Practicing Midwife (PPM) for a continuity of care model with the intent to birth at home. With a family history of prolonged pregnancies and my Mum’s inductions playing on my mind, I figured that this model of care would best help me achieve my goal of a completely physiological and unmedicated vaginal birth at home. Being a midwife myself, I knew the evidence behind homebirth, I knew it was safe in a low-risk pregnancy (such as mine) and I knew it would allow me options, choices, and supports that may not have been available to me in other maternity care models.

Tell us your birth story! (Include as much detail as you like! How it went, how you felt, what was your experience etc.)

Most of my pregnancy was smooth sailing, aside from the usual pregnancy discomforts. Our surprise gender baby kept us waiting (unsurprisingly) until 40+6 when my waters broke at home. I was bouncing away on my fitball at 2 pm and suddenly copious amounts of fluid was everywhere. It was not at all what I was expecting, I had no other signs of labour and I had convinced myself I would just start contracting in the middle of the night - so I was initially a little panicked.

After an hour or so and a big emotional release, I felt excited at the prospect that I would be birthing our baby over the weekend. I tried my best to stay calm and carried on with my normal activities. My Husband got home from work, we had dinner, watched a movie, and went to bed. Still nothing at this point... I was hoping that I would just wake up at 3 am in labour, but to my disappointment, I didn’t. I slept terribly because I was overthinking everything, particularly about needing an induction for a prolonged rupture of membranes at the 24-hour mark, even though there was no ‘cut-off’ for me as I was home birthing with a PPM. My midwife brain just would not stop, and I just kept thinking I was going to get an infection if I left it too long, which is just so false.

I needed a lot of reassurance from my midwife that everything was still normal and that it was ok to stay at home longer (because I wanted to). I tried everything to get the contractions going, expressing with my pump/ by hand, curb walking around the block, spinning babies, miles circuit, and hip circles on my fitball. In the end, I just needed a big loud, cathartic cry about all my fears to my midwife, Husband, and Mum.

Interestingly, I started contracting within half an hour of that emotional release. By 2 pm the following day (41 weeks) I was having irregular but intense contractions that just continued to increase in strength. I can’t remember much from 3.30-4 pm onwards but I would say that’s when I truly established in labour. I did have a pinkish fluid loss with some bloody mucous show around this time and I remember thinking I was probably somewhere between 4-8cm dilated (midwife brain).

I was going between the shower, toilet, fitball, and all fours on the little labour nest that I had set up in my dining room next to the birth pool. My best friend and fellow midwife came over around 4.30 pm for some extra support. I asked her if she thought I looked in enough pain to start using the TENS machine. I was in complete denial the whole time about how rapidly I was progressing (another midwife brain thing). She said I “definitely” was and kindly put it on for me. Turns out I probably left it too late to try it because I found that it made the contractions a lot more agonising. Within about 2 minutes of putting it on, I had her take it off again. At this point, she told my Husband that it was probably time to get the midwife to start making her way over.

My midwife didn’t arrive until around 5:30 pm as she got stuck in traffic on the freeway, but I didn’t even notice because I was well and truly in ‘labour land’ by that point. She listened to the baby, took my observations and all was looking good. She set up all her equipment and then just sat quietly, letting me labour undisturbed, listening in to babe every 30 minutes. By around 6 pm things were feeling different, the contractions were SO intense and there was a lot of pressure in my hips and coccyx area. I asked to get into the pool at this point because I was starting to get desperate for some relief.  In hindsight, I was probably transitional.

I asked for an examination because I was begging to get in the pool but was worried that I was still early in the peace as it hadn’t been long since it all got serious. My midwife obliged as she thought it would help me switch my ‘midwife brain’ off. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to know the findings, but she looked at me with a big smile and said, “You’re fully, get in the pool.” I was 10cm dilated at 6.42 pm! I couldn’t believe it, but I also could - because the contractions and pelvic pressure were fierce. It was thrilling to be assumed by such immense power. In those fleeting moments, I felt so strong.

I finally got in the pool which was the most amazing relief EVER. My contractions spaced out in the second stage of labour which concerned me, but my midwife reminded me to trust physiology - I needed a rest. I got the urge to push about 30-40 minutes after I got in the pool.  I started pushing on all fours and felt inside my vagina and could feel a furry head of hair… I was shocked as I was sure I was getting a bald baby.  I pushed and pushed for what felt like an eternity (it was only 20-30 mins) but I couldn’t feel any movement, nothing was changing, and I started losing control. I couldn’t urinate and my bladder felt uncomfortable so I decided to get out of the pool and see if gravity could assist on the toilet.

Sitting on the toilet fully dilated was my version of hell. The pain and pressure with gravity felt unbearable and my contractions had returned with a vengeance, one on top of the other. I felt like I needed to lie down for a break, so I left the toilet and returned to my floor nest where I lay side lying for another 30 minutes pushing as I felt the urge. I pushed until I could feel a head nearer and then I made my way back to the pool. I did not have a lot left in the tank at this stage, pushing was so much more exhausting than I had anticipated. Another 45 ish minutes of hard work, position changes and a very sore clitoris (the ring of fire is real, but the clitoral pain was far worse for me), my baby’s head was born.

Those moments between worlds are some of my most treasured memories, the pain, the power, the unravelling, the unknowing, the love, the fear, all of it, just magic. My midwife said, “Reach down, you’ve got your baby” and I screamed back “No, I don’t.” I did have my baby; I just couldn't quite believe it. Onto my chest, relief! Sheer relief and awe… I just gave birth to a human, OUR HUMAN, and they’re perfect. At 8.49 pm on the 4th of December, under a new moon, I became a Mum to a beautiful darling daughter, our surprise GIRL.

I decided to have oxytocin for an active third stage (placental birth) because the thought of sitting there in that pool with a placenta inside of me for an hour or more was like torture after the pushing. I just wanted it out and I wanted it done (I have since wondered whether I should have just waited for a physiological third stage, but I still don’t regret my decision). I had a very small blood loss of about 50 mls in total.

I had a labial graze and a very small first-degree tear - no suturing was required, yay. Being able to hold my perineum in the pool and guide her head out during birth worked wonders. I felt I had so much control and could feel when I needed to stop pushing to let everything stretch.

We had our first breastfeed, my Husband had a beer and we all just sat in awe of our girl for the golden hours. My Mum and Sister made us dinner, we ate, I showered, and the midwife tidied up. Just after midnight, we were tucked up into bed as if nothing even happened. But the best thing in the world just happened.

What did you find most helpful/essential during the different phases of motherhood? Antenatal, morning sickness, birth, postpartum, breastfeeding, etc.?

Antenatal – Meditation, journaling, self-care, focusing on readying my mind/body/spirit for this transformation.

Morning sickness – Fortunately my pregnancy sickness was short-lived, lasting from 6 to 13 weeks. I got through it by listening to what my body was telling me. I stayed as hydrated as possible, rested, and surrendered. I did succumb to those guilty pleasure foods more often than I would like to admit but HOT CHIPS ARE LIFE.

Birth – For me, preparation was the key to my success. I did a lot of work to prepare my body for labour and birth – here’s a list:

- Practiced ‘Spinning Babies’ techniques each day from 30-32 weeks to aid in optimal fetal positioning and engagement.

- Ate 3-6 Medjool dates/ day from 32 weeks for cervical ripening.

- Perineal massage daily from 34 weeks.

- Daily walks from 34-36 weeks. A more vigorous pace and curb walking from 37 to aid descent and engagement.

- Weekly Acupuncture with a TCM practitioner from 36 weeks.

- Hand expressing colostrum/ nipple stimulation at least twice a day from 37 weeks.

- Swimming in a hydro pool or at the beach each day from 38 weeks (this was mainly for relief of my pelvic girdle pain but I believe it assisted with fetal positioning).

- Sex every few days from about 38 weeks (that was a lot of effort…)

- Reflexology for labour priming with a clinical reflexologist at 40+ weeks.

And finally… the hardest but probably the most important part

- Surrendered to the process. Trusted my body and my baby.

Breastfeeding – I didn’t do much preparation because I thought that being a midwife and having the knowledge that I have would be enough to make breastfeeding a breeze. I was wrong on this, but I have now learned that sometimes you just need to ‘grow through the journey’.

Postpartum – Support, support, and more support. In all forms. They say it takes a village to raise a child. More like an army… I had a beautiful circle of close friends and family who were there like a warm hug whenever I needed it. They cooked for us, dropped meals and care packages at our door, popped over to help us tidy the house, do the washing, or stack the dishwasher. Just very kind and helpful things, for which I will be eternally grateful. Since the early days, I have learned that outsourcing your ‘village’ is a much more reliable and sustainable way to keep the food/ childcare/ cleaning coming. These days I have a cleaner once a fortnight, my kids go to daycare 1-2 days a week and get a fortnightly fresh fruit and veg box delivered to my door. Small things, yes, but they take a load off and allow me to be a more conscious, present, and loving Mum.

Reflect on the challenges you faced, be it during the antenatal period, postpartum, breastfeeding, or birth itself.

My greatest challenge was one that I didn’t see coming. I always thought that labour and birth would take the prize for ‘most challenging’ and, sure it was hard work, but to my surprise, it was our breastfeeding journey.

The first few days were filled with the usual suspects, tender nipples, sore, hot, and lumpy breasts, breast milk EVERYWHERE. After about two weeks our journey hadn’t gotten any easier. My nipples remained tender and sore, cracked, blistered, and bleeding even. The pain was agonising and persistent. My breasts were full, so FULL and engorged, my letdown reflex was fast, and my daughter just couldn’t handle it which made for a very fussy and upset baby.

At around 3 weeks old I noticed oral thrush inside my baby’s mouth. I thought that I caught it early and expected treatment to work quickly, however, it had already spread to my breasts and nipples and therefore was a constant game of passing the infection back and forth.

It was Christmas day and I remember sitting on the couch sobbing hysterically with my boobs out thinking “I can’t continue breastfeeding.” This thought utterly devastated me as I longed to be able to breastfeed my baby. The BEST thing I ever did was seek professional help and advice from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), despite it being a hard pill to swallow as a midwife, I had to remind myself that I deserved the same support as any other first-time Mum.

So, to break it down; my daughter had a mild tongue tie and a high palate which was causing a shallow attachment that led to the ongoing nipple trauma. This ongoing nipple trauma/ open nipple wounds led to a fungal infection (thrush) which first presented in my baby’s mouth but originated in my nipples, I just didn’t notice until it had already spread. I had an oversupply of breast milk which contributed to an overactive letdown reflex. This caused a constantly moist environment and the heat from the 40-degree summer days further influenced the growth of thrush. It was a concoction of breastfeeding complications that created a perfect storm.

Despite all of this I ended up breastfeeding my daughter until she was 22 months old. It took a lot of perseverance, determination, and pain to get through it, but we did it and I am PROUD!

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