Birth Story – Destiny & Patrick

The Birth of Aura

On Tuesday, 30th November at around 5pm, my surges started fairly regularly. I’d been feeling mild cramping sporadically for a few days, so I wasn’t certain that these were the real deal. They gradually became closer together and more intense, my husband spoke to Alison to let her know what was going on. I tried to contain my excitement. We were ready for a long haul, or for them to fizzle out just in case.

Alison had prepared us during our prenatal visits with optimal maternal positioning exercises, which were a beautiful bonding time as a couple. She had also put us onto a great obstetrician who honoured our wish for a natural water birth, so knew we were in good hands.

I took each surge as it came, going limp & releasing all tension, getting down on the floor & flopping up against the bed or the ball or standing and leaning into my husband’s arms. We had my affirmations on repeat in the background, candles lit & just enjoyed the coolness & stillness of the night. I felt so connected to my husband, so calm & at peace.

I could feel the difference between the surges I fought against and the surges I surrendered to. It wasn’t long before I found myself in the rhythm and learnt how to embrace each surge as they came. I got in and out of the bath and shower – I was feeling the surges a lot in my lower back so the warm water was amazing! Best shower I’ve ever had.

We wanted to stay home as long as we could, and I was so happy labouring at home that I didn’t notice how close we were already. Around 12:30am, I got out of the shower and realising my surges were around 1.5-2 minutes apart, we looked at each other and calmly decided it was time. We called Alison to let her know we were heading to the hospital.

I rode the waves in the car kneeling backwards and hanging on to the back seat. Around halfway there I felt my waters break with a distinct popping sensation & a small gush of water. I knew we were close. We arrived at the hospital around 1:30am. It was raining ever so gently, a soft mist of water washed over me & I remember whispering to myself “so good!”. It was so soothing & exactly what I needed.

Alison met us in emergency, where a midwife was also waiting with a wheelchair. It was a long trip from emergency to the birthing suite and I kept needing to stop and drop down on the ground or into my husband’s arms to meet the intensity of my very regular surges. In the lift, I felt baby drop further into the birth canal. I whispered aloud, “the baby is coming, the baby is coming”. Before I’d even gotten through the door of the birthing suite I dropped to my knees in a surge and felt my first involuntary push. My body was pushing baby out.

The midwife insisted on checking me & confirmed I was fully dilated. I hopped straight in the birth pool onto my knees & this is where it all happened. Lights dimmed, battery candles on & my affirmations playing right next to me, with my husband & Alison right by my side.

What happened next was the most intense, incredible & God-glorifying experience I’ve ever had. I could feel my body pushing baby down right to the brink & then releasing back up, this happened over a couple of surges (I think) & I knew it was to stretch my perineum. It was so intense, but I had no desire to fight it, I had to surrender & let my body do what it needed to do. The best way to describe the sensation is this – it felt like my birth canal was vomiting my baby out. You know how sometimes before you vomit, you dry retch, involuntarily, without anything actually coming out? This is exactly what it felt like for me. My body was pushing baby right to the brink, and then relaxing. This may have only happened a few times and then the next time baby’s head reached the bottom of the birth canal and this time stayed there. I could feel a small patch of baby’s head! Baby was crowning.

The whole time I used every fibre of my being to focus on breathing baby down, desperately praying over & over again & repeating the affirmations I could hear playing. One I remember was “I feel strength & confidence, I feel strength & confidence”. I was completely in the zone & went so far within, I don’t even know what was happening around me. All I know is I had completely & utterly surrendered to my body. I have never needed to trust so deeply & truly.

With the next surge I guided baby’s head out with my hand, feeling their soft hair & holding their head instinctively. I was holding my baby’s head! I remember saying “Hi baby! Hi baby!” I don’t think the obstetrician realised it was all happening as he reached down to see where we were at and was shocked to find my hand cradling my baby’s head. The obstetrician then guided me to give a gentle push and out slipped baby’s shoulders and body. Before I knew it I saw my baby for the first time and broke down into uncontrollable tears.

I cradled my baby and cried tears of pure joy, love and gratefulness. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. It was so much more out of this world & incredible than anything I had expected, visualised & prayed for. I had just been broken in two and put back together again, intensity I’d never felt before. I cry every time I think of this moment. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I knew I’d just accomplished something miraculous & out of this world. 

The obstetrician prompted me to check whether it was a boy or a girl, I lifted up their cord to find we had a beautiful baby girl. She was born at 2:18am December 1st, within an hour of arriving at hospital.

I laid in the tub, cradling my baby until her cord stopped pulsing. We had our first breastfeed right there. Daddy cut the cord & had some skin-to-skin with our new baby while I gently & easily birthed the placenta. It was right there and ready to come out. I got out of the tub, had a rinse & got into our bed to experience the golden hour – the most amazing few hours of skin-to-skin time with our little miracle. No tearing, just a tiny graze and a whole lot of heavenly glory. Choosing to have Alison by our side was one of the best decisions we made for our birth journey! Alison is an incredibly warm, loving, caring woman & I cannot recommend her beautiful services highly enough. She was there every step of the way to support my husband & I, to empower us, encourage us & help us navigate the path which ultimately led to our dream birth as first-time parents. After baby was born, Alison nurtured me with weeks’ worth of amazing healing meals & completely showered us in love & care. Wow, what an amazing experience it has been. I truly wish every mother could have Alison by their side!

If you would like to chat about what it means to have the support of a doula for your pregnancy, birth or postpartum period, give me a call on 0422 258 771, or:

lotus birth

What is a Lotus Birth?

In Australia it has been traditional for the cord of newborn babies to be cut and clamped immediately at birth, separating the baby from the placenta.  But in recent years the Lotus Birth has been gaining popularity.

A Lotus Birth means that rather than cutting the umbilical cord at delivery, the placenta remains attached to the baby after delivery until it separates naturally, usually anywhere from 3 to 10 days after birth.

 

What are the Benefits of a Lotus Birth

Whilst there have not been sufficient studies to say definitively what the benefits of a Lotus Birth are, there is plenty of positive anecdotal evidence.  It has been observed by parents that:

  • Babies who experienced Lotus Birth are calmer and more peaceful than those who did not. This is thought to be because of the slower transition from womb to world.
  • Since the cord is not cut the mother and baby stay connected for longer once baby is delivered, which provides very special bonding time.
  • The blood and nutrients remaining in the placenta at delivery continue to transfer to the baby, which increases their blood volume and is thought to improve baby’s immune system.

 

What Happens with the Placenta?

Once the placenta has been delivered and the cord has stopped pulsing there are a few important steps to follow:

  1. The placenta should be checked to ensure it is whole, then washed carefully in warm water to remove any external debris like blood, then left to drain in a colander or sieve.
  2. Once the placenta is dry – this may take up to 24 hours – gently pat it with a clean towel to ensure all moisture is removed.
  3. You may then wish to cover the placenta in salt or herbs like rosemary, lavender and lemon myrtle, wrap it in clean muslin and put it in a bag.
  4. The cord can be left bare, or wrapped in cotton, muslin or silk.
  5. It is important that you don’t put tension on the umbilical cord, as within a short time it will dry out and become brittle and may tear or snap. Many parents like to swaddle the placenta with the baby to ensure the cord is not put under any strain.
  6. The wrappings should be changed daily, and fresh salt or herbs applied

 

A Few Pro Tips
  • Baby can be bathed as normal, but take care not to get the placenta wet.
  • Be careful of the placenta when handling and feeding baby. Swaddling the placenta with baby can help with this.
  • Don’t keep the placenta in a plastic bag or tub as it needs to dry out, so cottons and muslins are recommended
  • Some people say there is a ‘musty’ smell about the placenta. The use of herbs and salt will help alleviate this.
  • Beautiful herbs and placenta bags and kits can be bought from Blissful Herbs or you can make up your own.
  • Dress baby in clothes that won’t interfere with the cord – anything lose that buttons up the front, leaving the buttons open around the umbilical cord site
  • Most Doula’s are experienced with the care and management of the placenta in a Lotus Birth, so if you would like to have one, but feel nervous, you might like to consider making a doula part of your postnatal team.
  • When the placenta naturally falls away from the baby you might like to bury the placenta in its bag somewhere special, along with a plant or tree.

 

Are There Any Risks?

If the placenta is handled properly there is very little risk.  However, once the placenta has been delivered and the blood stops circulating it is essentially dead tissue, and there can be risk of infection.  The risk of infection at the umbilical site is present whether in a normal ‘clamp and cut’ or a lotus birth, so washing your hands and keeping the site clean and dry is essential.

Things to look out for include:

  • Swelling or redness at the sight of the umbilical cord
  • High temperature
  • Poor sleeping and/or feeding in baby

If you notice any of these symptoms you should notify your health practitioner immediately.

 

A Word About Delayed Cord Clamping

If a Lotus Birth doesn’t sound like something you would like to try, you might consider Delayed Cord Clamping.  This simply means, rather than cutting and clamping the umbilical cord immediately you wait until the cord has stopped pulsing.  This generally takes no more than a few minutes.

The benefit to delayed cord clamping is the placental blood which is in the cord at time of birth continues to flow into your baby, helping to increase their blood supply and all the nutrients supplied by the placenta.

 

If you would like to learn more about Lotus Births, or have a chat about having a Doula on your birthing team can help, please give me a call on 0422 258 771, or contact me:

Natascha and Jono

Birth Story – VBACs[i] are achievable

A note from Alison:

Both Natascha’s babies were born posterior, which is an example of how a baby and mother work together as a team.  There is no ‘ideal’ position, as all women and babies are different.  Techniques like Optimal Maternal Positioning are aimed at aligning the pelvis and making space for baby, as well as posture and general comfort. Rather than encouraging baby into a particular position, they encourage alignment, so baby can move into the birth position best suited to their mum’s individual pelvis.  Posterior is simply a variation of physiology.  Most important in this story is how differently Natascha felt about her birth experiences, and the impact on her emotional well-being during and after the birth.

Natascha’s Story

Our first pregnancy was beautiful and mostly trouble free after some early bleeding. I approached it with an ignorance is bliss attitude. Millions of women had birthed before me, so there was no reason I couldn’t as well. We did the hospital antenatal classes but that was the extent of my preparation. I was never particularly worried or scared about the pain of labour and was determined to have a natural, drug free water birth.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Although labour started spontaneously, it did not progress and after hours of labouring I was only 3cm dilated and the baby was tachycardic.  As time wore on it was clear my dream birth was not going to happen, and eventually I consented to a caesarian.

I was devastated, scared and felt like I had not been heard in my concerns.

When the baby was delivered she was immediately taken away to be cleaned while they stitched me up.  Recovery was awful. I was in worlds of pain, and unable to move or pick up Elouise. I felt emotional, traumatised, and unable to bond with my girl for the first few weeks of her life. I felt robbed and like a failure.

Not educating myself or preparing myself mentally for what may go wrong was my downfall. I blamed myself and I struggled to come to terms with the way Elouise was born for a long time.  Afterwards, I did lots of reading and research, to educate myself on my choices, options and the effects of interventions on childbirth. I knew if I ever fell pregnant again that I wanted to try for a VBAC, which meant doing everything in my power to prepare my mind and body, but it took more than a year before I was ready to try for another baby.

Our second pregnancy was very similar to the first.  I had early bleeding again, but it stopped after a few weeks and the pregnancy progressed beautifully.

We decided to hire a doula to help support us through the birth and met with Alison a few weeks before Christmas.  From the moment we met her, we knew she was the right fit.

We discussed Elouise’s birth and my wish to have a VBAC. Emily, the midwife, and Alison were extremely supportive and said there was no reason why I shouldn’t try, but I would have to have discuss the risks with an OB.

The OB was arrogant and apathetic. However, he did provide a lightbulb moment.  I asked if he had any thoughts about our failure to progress with Elouise. He suggested it could have been her positioning.  At that point it came flooding back to me that Ella was posterior. The midwife had mentioned it, and told us about spinning babies, but that was it. No one told me how important the positioning was to the outcome of the labour. Only that posterior would be more painful.

Suddenly it all made sense.  I finally had an explanation for what had gone wrong.  I could stop blaming myself for the failure. He agreed we could go ahead with VBAC plans, but we would have another appointment further down the track to assess baby’s size and position and confirm whether we could go ahead.

Alison came to our home twice, loaded with information.  On the first visit she showed us the Spinning Babies/ Optimal Maternal Positioning exercises and I could feel the difference it made to my growing body. She also had a Yoga programme for me to do, which also helped. I also saw a woman’s health physio for internal pelvic muscle release, a physio for glute and shoulder release and had acupuncture from 38 weeks.  I kept up with the gym to stay as strong as possible.

Alison gave us her Motherhood Bible, which is full of everything you could think of about pregnancy and postpartum, and a fantastic workbook to develop and fine tune our birth plan. It was invaluable knowledge about what can happen in a hospital situation.

We did a Calm Birth Course, watched the Birth Time documentary and I had a session with a birth trauma counsellor who Alison referred us too.  We listened to hypnobirthing and calm birth relaxation tracks, and I listened to VBAC birth stories Australia every minute I could.  I also joined VBAC Support Groups on Facebook.

Alison suggested we create a birth playlist and a vision board with affirmations and pictures of my husband and Elouise. The affirmations were fantastic.  I heard a VBAC story from Amberley@maternalinstincts that made me laugh and put a positive vision of taking my daughter swimming in my head – my vagina is a waterslide.  I repeated this daily and envisioned my baby being born. I also repeated an affirmation Alison sent me, FEAR- feeling excited and ready.  Elouise and I would talk to the baby and she would say, ‘down, down, down, and out baby’.

Alison also gave us a beautiful raspberry leaf tea that I drank everyday from 32 weeks, I expressed colostrum daily from 36 weeks and ate all the dates!

At the next midwife and OB appointment, we went through the birth plan we had made with help from Alison. A water birth was not an option because of hospital policy and I would have to have continuous monitoring and a canula. The OB was very dismissive.  He didn’t introduce himself, slouched in his chair and was very blasé.  When Emily told him giving syntocinin was not done in VBAC mothers in this hospital, and he said our chances of success were very slim, which shattered my confidence and left us feeling very disheartened.

After the appointment, I called Alison and we discussed it at length. Her calm support gave me confidence to stay on my VBAC journey.

My labour started with what I thought were back-to-back Braxton Hicks but by the following afternoon I knew it was on. Contractions were now coming hard and fast, along with intense pain in the bottom.  I couldn’t sit down just before or during each one.  I felt a strong urge to poo and went around 5 or 6 times due to pressure in my behind.

I tried to get comfortable, with a shower, TENS machine and yoga ball but nothing seemed to help.  The only comfortable position was standing leaning over the bench.

About 10pm Jono called the midwife who told us to stay home a while longer.  I wasn’t feeling movement from the baby so was starting to get anxious, so we left for the hospital around 10:30pm.  We called Alison on the way and she said she’d meet us there.

When we arrived at the hospital I was put on monitors and had a VE. I wanted to know what we were in for, given Elouise’s labour went for 3 days. I was so happy to hear I was already 5cm!  With the knowledge I now had, and the support of my husband and Alison I was able to stay calm and focused from the first contraction which really helped.

The baby’s heartrate seemed to be dropping with each contraction and the monitor kept falling off. On a big contraction my mucous plug came out, then my waters broke spontaneously with a gush. I was in so much pain until Jonathan put my vision boards in front of me, and I felt I could focus again.

I wanted an active labour but because the monitor kept falling off, I had to say in bed because they were quite concerned about baby’s heartrate. I was so proud of my husband as he was remembering everything Alison had told us in her visits and used the B.R.A.I.N acronym. He was asking all the questions, what if we just wait? what else can we do? We wanted as little interference as possible, but we were scared for our baby’s health so agreed to foetal scalp clip, which meant I could be mobile. They were finally able to get a good reading & baby’s heartrate was still dipping.

I got in the shower and Alison kept the hot water going on my back, I had an enormous amount of pain and pressure pushing down into my bottom with each contraction.  At this point I was screaming for epidural, but Jonathan, Alison and the midwives knew that I really didn’t want one, so they talked me into having the gas instead.

I didn’t want the gas after my bad experience with my last labour, but Alison suggested I just try it on low, increase as needed, and stop at any time, which ended up being the best thing for me. Jono and Alison worked well together as a team, Jono was so amazing, telling me how much love he had for me and keeping me inspired, even though I yelled at them. Alison kept up with comfort measures which really helped.

The midwife, Eliza, suggested doing a VE. My confidence was down again, and I felt at this point that we were going to end up in another emergency caesarean.

I couldn’t bear to get on the bed, so got down on a mat on the floor.  The VE showed I was 10cm with a slight lip, but Eliza wanted a second opinion from the OB.  By the time the doctor came the lip was gone and they were happy for me to push.  I was elated!

I stayed on all fours to push but not much happened. They moved me to side lying, which was more effective, but the baby was not coming down. Baby’s heart rate was still dropping with contractions and the midwife was concerned so I was put on the bed with my legs in the stirrups.

The doctor was concerned about the baby’s heart rate and wanted to get the baby out quickly.  I needed a little help so they did a small episiotomy and then a little tug with the vacuum. When the baby’s head crowned the doctor looked surprised as she announced it was a posterior baby!

She manipulated the baby to turn around and with one more push, baby’s body was out. Everyone was so excited and one of the midwives announced it was a boy!

He was placed straight onto my chest and we were able to have delayed cord camping until it stopped pulsating, which Jono and I were able to feel, and skin to skin contact. The midwives took a beautiful placenta photo.

Being able to enjoy that skin to skin for so long was really magical.  Alison really supported me through getting stitched up, whilst Jono held the baby.

I got straight into the shower with Alison’s help. It was such a good feeling to be able to get up and walk straight away, which I couldn’t do after my first delivery. Alison made sure we were breastfeeding and settled as a family before she left.

We did it! I achieved my VBAC, in less than 12 hours from the first contraction. Although there were a few hiccups, it was an immensely healing and empowering experience to know that it wasn’t my body that failed, it was a lack of knowledge, support, and education.  I can’t tell you how much difference being this support made to my experience of Childbirth.

If you would like information on how to have a successful VBAC, or just want to chat about education and support for your pregnancy and birth, please give me a call on 0422 258 771 or contact me:

 

[i] A VBAC is a Vaginal Birth After Caesarian

dad's hand with baby hand

7 things Dads need to do to prepare for Childbirth

Having a baby is a team sport. You may feel from time to time that it is a solo effort, but research suggests that the more supportive dad is, the better the health outcomes form mum and bub. High levels of paternal involvement can even lead to improved cognitive and social development. So although mum is undoubtedly the star of the team, don’t underestimate your importance as a dad. From pregnancy, through labour, birth and postpartum, your partner and baby will need as much of your emotional, physical and practical support as you can give.

1. Get educated

The most important thing you can do for yourself, your partner and your new baby is to be educated. Don’t leave it to her to work out whether she wants a home or hospital birth, or to understand her options in pain relief. Research it. Figure out the pros and cons. Find out how labour works. Have an opinion. But be prepared to listen. And when I say get educated, I mean not just for birth, but for pregnancy and the postpartum period too.

2. Be prepared

When your partner is in labour is not the time to work out the best way to the hospital, or to discover your phone is flat So channel your inner boy scout and ensure you are prepared in every way. This might include:
– Helping your partner pack her bag in advance and ensuring you have a change of clothes and toothbrush in there too. And don’t forget the phone charger!
– Research the best route to the hospital or birth centre and do a dry run. You don’t want to find out there are roadworks, or a new no left turn sign while your partner is having a contraction
– Put the car seat in the car so that you are ready to bring your bundle of joy home. And while you’re at it, make sure the cot and change table are fully assembled and ready to go!

3. Be supportive

Offer both physical and emotional support, appropriate to the stage of labour – see Get Educated! Some practical things you can do:
– Prior to labour learn massage and acupressure techniques to provide relief. Practice them beforehand and learn which your partner prefers
– Make sure you understand the different stages of labour so you can coach mum appropriately
– Physically support your partner as she walks, showers or changes position
– Cool compresses, ice chips and heat pads can all make a big difference to comfort in labour. Make sure you have them available.
– Provide gentle cheering and encouragement when her spirit or energy is flagging

4. Be patient

Sometimes labour is a sprint, other times it is a marathon. Be prepared for the long haul. Take something to entertain you and your partner – music, an audio book, anything that will while away the time if things are moving slowly. And always remember it is much harder for the labouring mum than for you, so if you are tired or your back is aching – tell someone who is not trying to give birth to a human!

5. Be flexible

You and your partner will have agreed a birth plan, but you know what they say about plans. So be flexible and if the woman who said she wanted a natural birth suddenly demands an epidural – go with it. Always remember who it is that is labouring. Something else to remember here is that the labouring mum is under a lot of stress – don’t hold anything she may say against her.

6. Be an Advocate

There may be times during labour when your partner is not able to advocate for herself. This is where you need to step in and make sure her wishes are heard and, as much as possible, honoured. This applies to both the medical staff and, often, family members. If your partner doesn’t want family in the room, it is your job to keep them out. No matter how determined your mother is!

7. Be Grateful

Your partner has given you the greatest gift anyone can receive, so make sure you take the time to let her know how much you appreciate and admire her strength and courage. In both words and deeds. This is a time when a woman often doubts herself and feels vulnerable. Telling her how you feel is important, but showing her, by being extra thoughtful in the days and months after baby is born, can make the adjustment from woman to mum and couple to family that much more joyous or you all.

Help is at Hand

This might all seem like a lot. Luckily, you are not on your own. A good doula can provide you with all the tools, advice and support you need to be there for your partner through late pregnancy, labour, birth and the first months of parenthood, and to help you through the challenges of becoming a dad too.

If you are expecting or planning a baby and would like to find out about the ways having a doula as part of your team can help you, please give me a call on 0422 258 771 or contact me:

The Difference a Doula Makes

Recently I sat down with Hills District Naturopath Genevieve Mlotkowski to talk about her two very different birth experiences.  I hope you enjoy hearing Genevieve’s perspective on the benefits of having a doula.

If you would like to chat with me about having me as part of your birthing team, or about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum in general, give me a call on 0422 258 771 or contact me: