Emily’s Story

Tell us 5 things about yourself.

I am married to Lloyd and we started dating in high school. We have a beautiful little boy Felix, he will be 2 at the end of Jan. I’m an Early Childhood and Primary teacher and I absolutely love the early years of life. When I started my degree at uni I didn’t even know what “Early Childhood” encompassed but now I love it more than anything and even now finding it to be one of my life’s greatest passions.I used to think I’d be a florist if I couldn’t be a teacher but now I’d want to run my own preschool with happy children who could play all day, my teacher friends as co-workers and maybe with a florist/coffee shop next door! If I had to choose one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life it would be Mexican for sure.

What was your pregnancy like with Felix?

I was so excited about being pregnant and having a baby. It had been my biggest dream in life to have a baby so I was really looking forward to it! I was very lucky in that I didn’t really get much morning sickness at all. I did however get really tired, I put it down to teaching Kindy full time, Lloyd put it down to pregnancy but as I found out later in my pregnancy I was severely anaemic and needed to have an iron infusion at 32 weeks.

Felix was due at the beginning of Feb, so being a school teacher meant I was able to finish school at the end of the year, 31 weeks pregnant and had all of summer to prepare and rest before our little baby arrived. By the end I was very fed up and hot and swollen and ready and looking forward to birth.

I was on caseload and my midwife is one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met. Her care for me throughout my pregnancy brought so much peace to my ‘first time mum’ anxieties and she instilled so much confidence in me for the birth process. Being under her care was a blessing and I was able to trust her so much and feel so calm heading into birth.

Tell us about how your labour began.

It was Australia Day weekend, it was scorching hot summer day, we went to the city big walk, probably not the kind of walk you should do at 39 weeks pregnant

I made a joke of saying “if I go into labour today we will know the reason why”!

We got home and napped straight away. I went to sleep feeling some period pain and woke up with it still about 40 mins later. My husband tried to reassure me that what was to be expected so close to birth. Then much to my surprise, I got up to go to the bathroom and my waters broke. And thus began the next 38 hours of labour.

Shortly after, we called my midwife and made our way into the hospital, she wanted to do an initial check and see how everything was going. I was so excited she was working and that I could see her but soon realised that after working all weekend she had worked to her limit and was therefore unlikely going to make it to my birth. Being a part of the midwife group practice meant if my midwife wasn’t on, another midwife in the team would be.

We left later in the night and my contractions were starting ever so lightly. We got home and went to bed and thankfully I was able to get some sleep. I think things slowed down a bit in the night but picked back up on our way back to hospital the next morning for monitoring.

We met with another midwife first thing in the morning, as my waters had broken, they needed to monitor bub just to see if everything was okay. Things were progressing well and after a few happy tears at the realisation that our baby was coming and reassuring words from the midwife we went home, and I laboured all day until it was too much.

So back to the hospital we went and this time I was admitted.

After a VE, I was told I was 5cm and could stay in the birth unit. (very thankful as the alternative was up to the maternity ward and for Lloyd to go home and come back later when I was further along!)After this time, labour really started to kick off. We moved into a room with a bath and I hopped straight in as I had envisioned a water birth as my dream birth plan. Sadly, my midwife was not on and after another shift change between midwives, I was under the care of another midwife whom I didn’t know so well and didn’t really have a relationship with. I was given IV antibiotics because my water had been broken for a while and although this was kind of limiting, I was determined to not let it stop me moving during labour as knew how helpful moving around during labour was for a successful birth.

It was a quiet night in the birth unit as I recall. The midwife looking after me would pop in every so often to see how I was going and then would leave without saying much at all. My mum (who came once we had settled into our room) and Lloyd were so great in supporting me. I tried to put into practice all the calm birth strategies I’d be going over in my head and even though I was hooked up to antibiotics, I tried to stay on my feet as much as possible and move around but I just remember saying “I just want (my midwife)”. It was so sad she wasn’t there.

I felt like I was coping really well. My head was in a good place and I wasn’t feeling the need for any drugs. I had put into my birth preferences for little to no intervention where possible and to not offer me pain relief unless I really asked for it. I wasn’t at that point yet. It was painful but I just really wanted to give birth as naturally as I could. I really felt as though I “rode the waves” of the contractions (a reference to calm birth practices) as they came and went. I was feeling really confident in my body and in my head space. I got to a point where I felt like things were starting to get pretty intense. I thought I was ready to start pushing and looking back now feels like maybe I called that a bit early because this is when everything went downhill.

After feeling like I was getting ready to push, the midwife came in and did an examination, she said she was going to get the doctors and come back. Then in came two doctors and a midwife (I’d met the doctors earlier when they came it to check Felix’s position as he was semi posterior but had by this point turned), at this point I asked for gas as one of the doctors did an exam and I felt a some relief from the gas. I waited for the doctors to be finished so I could have my baby, then she told me that Felix’s head was in a funny angle and the only way was going to come out was with a caesarean!

Hearing those words was something I never imagined for my birth. I wasn’t someone who was going to have a caesarean. It just felt like a tonne of bricks falling down and cutting off everything good I spent the last few hours of labour working towards. I was so ready and excited to have my baby naturally to hear that was no longer an option anymore, just like that really broke me. I burst into tears as I was so devastated that it was going to end this way.

I really didn’t want to have a caesarean but after the tears, I do remember feeling a moment of relief when I realised all this would soon be over. I was so exhausted by this stage so when all hope was over (of a natural birth) I was just so keen to meet my baby. It wasn’t a “rush to the theatres, emergency, this is life threatening” situation, so they took their time to prepare the theatre and take me down. It was such a surreal moment, I went from being so confident and having absolute determination to give birth to my baby myself, to surrendering my control and trusting medical professionals to bring my baby into the world while I laid on a table not being able to do a thing. I went from being absolutely in peak contractions one second, to getting a spinal tap then moments later feeling nothing. What was supposed to be (in my head) a natural and beautiful moment quickly turned to a clinical and controlled operation. I had to fight for my right to hold my baby after he was born and ask the room full of strangers, who have now seen more of the inside of me than I ever will, to not tell me the gender of my baby until Lloyd and I got to see for ourselves.

How did Felix’s birth impact you?

I think it’s just something that is always in the back of my mind, I know there’s nothing I could have done differently but I have such sadness around my birth experience and the way things transpired. I think more than anything I feel let down and disappointed that I wasn’t given a choice or didn’t have someone there advocating for me and my choices during the moment the doctors said I would end up having a caesarean. I think in the end the grief of not delivering my baby naturally is there but more than that is sadness I feel in having my choice unexpectedly taken from me. I was able to debrief my birth briefly with the doctors and a little bit more with my midwife but feel as though I still have so many unanswered thoughts and questions. I plan to find someone with whom I can have an in depth debrief with as I feel that will really help with the healing journey.

It has taught me that our birth experiences as women are just another thing that can unify us as sisters, as we share the triumphs and the challenges of our own stories they become intertwined with those who share with us theirs. As painful or traumatic or exhilarating as your own story is, there will always be someone who can understand what you’ve been through. Even though we know in our head how blessed we are to be holding our baby in the end, our hearts can still grieve the moments when our expectations weren’t met, when our ideals went out the window and when we felt like our choices were taken away from us. I think what I have learned and what I’m still learning is that it’s okay to feel pain around these moments. I am also reminded that God did not design childbirth to be a painful and traumatic experience. Unfortunately, though, we live in a broken world and because of this we will never experience a perfect birth experience this side of heaven.

What is some advice you would give expecting mums to be around birth plans and making sure they are heard in labour and delivery?

As I mentioned above, Lloyd and I did a calm birth course together. We both really found it so helpful in both educating us in the physiological and the physical aspects of births. It taught Lloyd a whole lot about how to support and be there for me during the birth and labour and had a lot of practical tips for him as well as helping me create a peaceful and relaxed head space for birth. I would recommend looking into it if you are interested as we found it invaluable.

I always thought birth plans were silly – “go to hospital, have a baby” was my idea before attending Calm Birth. Since doing the course and having my own experience, I now absolutely see the utter importance in having your preferences/wishes for your birth clearly communicated for yourself, your support person and your care providers to clearly know what you want. I also think understanding your rights in birth is SO important to a positive birth experience. You are so vulnerable when in the throes of labour, you don’t want to be fighting for yourself. A birth plan and positive birth partners helps those around advocate for you. Have someone you trust who will be your advocate and help you make informed decisions!