It’s taken me 12 months to write and publish our Birth Story. The last few weeks have been hugely emotional for me on so many levels. My baby has just turned 1 – talk about a pocketful of mixed emotions… the end of the baby years, a huge celebration of her teeny tiny life which has impacted so many. It’s been a nostalgic few weeks after such a long and challenging fertility journey. To celebrate this milestone I wanted to share our birth story with you.
Apologies for the delay in publishing this post, but after 5.5 years of fertility challenges, the build up during pregnancy and the epic birth of our baby girl, its taken some time to process this miracle and put pen to paper. Because there really are NO words to describe the journey we’ve been on, but I’ll give it my best shot.
I also felt a deep pull to retract from the online world and just be present with my baby girl. This has been the greatest gift of all.
For those of you that are still on your fertility journey and who may find this too painful to read right now, I get it – I was there for 5.5 years before we conceived our Sprout and sometimes pieces like this were just too much. But I did find reading the occasional birth story kept the dream alive and helped me to visualise what I knew in my heart to be true – that my baby was out there.
And for those women that are reading this and may have birthed their baby/babies in other ways (elective caesarean, emergency caesarean, induction, epi-dural, home birth, free birth), please know you are all incredible and I am a strong believer in women getting to choose how they birth (and I’m sorry if this choice has been ripped away from you). There is no one right way to birth. My story is just 1 story of so many – its not right or wrong, but its what we chose after researching and educating ourselves on natural birth.
Through the ups and downs of our fertility challenges we never gave up on our dream to grow our family.
After 10 unsuccessful rounds of IVF and years of seeing natural fertility specialists and healers, my sister Suz donated her eggs to us. We were blessed to conceive on our second donor transfer through Dr Gavin Sacks at IVF Australia. Creating our family didn’t look like we thought it would – we thought we’d conceive on our honeymoon and have 2 or 3 Sprouts by now.
But it did happen. In our babies very own time and way.
It happened and I wouldn’t change a single thing about how our baby girl came into the world (but that’s another post in the making). If you don’t know my story, here’s a little video of our fertility journey and pregnancy announcement.
This journey has taught me so much more about love and life – more than I ever dreamed possible.
When I first found out I was pregnant I called one of the best private OB’s in Sydney. I was thrilled to hear that as soon as I completed the forms and sent them back we were in, as I’d been told she was near impossible to get in to. Tick job done, we were in and on our way.
For the first 3 months of my pregnancy I was on steroids, clexane and progesterone for my elevated natural killer cells. I didn’t get traditional morning sickness, but the steroids made me gain a zillion pounds and suffer bouts of anxiety and sleeplessness, (I remember the only thing that made me feel slightly OK was jumping into the ocean. It was the middle of winter, but for a few seconds I felt normal again. My hubby was such a trooper also braving the freezing ocean for moral support.
This too will pass.
At 10 weeks I started to wean off the steroids (this was hideous and what I imagine coming down off some sort of hard drug would be like. I had a severe reaction where I vomited, had constant sweats and was literally flat on my back for about 10 days). However the steroids did their job, sustained my pregnancy and just like that I was into the second trimester. Once I was off the steroids, my moods, mental well-being and weight started to stablise and I finally felt like I was getting my pregnancy glow on.
My pregnancy was super smooth sailing once I hit the second trimester and I totally put this down to all the love, nurturing and care I’d poured into my body over the 5 years of my fertility journey with the support of some amazing professionals like my natural fertility specialist, naturopath, kinesiologist, acupuncturist, and my masseur and energy healer. Also the organic food, the plethora of supplements I’d consumed, my meditation practice and a mindful life – it was like the pieces of the jigsaw had finally come together. I was the healthiest and happiest person on the planet and floating through life. I was finally growing a little life inside of me – words cannot describe how amazing this felt.
It was during the second trimester that I started researching the sort of birth I wanted to have. We knew we wanted to birth our babe naturally and had discussed this with our OB. We’d also hired Nadine the Doula (the most amazing doula ever) who was an absolute godsend – a doula is a must in my eyes to help with preparing for birth and during the birthing process. We completed the She Births course – a treasure box in birth preparation and absolute MUST for anyone having a baby (and I promise the men will love it too). I enrolled in a 4 week online course, Rock Your Birth, which I found highly educational, and lastly I was extremely grateful to find Sarah Buckley and her gentle, safe, natural birth philosophy which advocates a plethora of benefits for bub and mum and this strongly resonated with me.
My OB said she was more than happy for me to have a natural birth providing I had a final ultrasound at 30 weeks to check the position of my placenta. An early scan detected that my placenta was covering the birth canal. My 30-week ultrasound was perfect and I breathed a sigh of relief… until the 34 week check-up.
The 34 week check-up with our OB was the biggie, Pete and I went along armed with our birth preferences and a plethora of requests… things like…
- A spontaneous labour (no induction)
- no medical anaesthesia or analgesia
- physiological third stage and to take the placenta home to plant
- delayed cord clamping etc, etc – you can read our birth plan here
Our OB seemed a little uncomfortable with our birth plan and I remember her so clearly saying ‘You’re an educated women, make sure you are getting your research from the right sources’. I know my OB had our best interests at heart, but Pete and I felt really uncomfortable and quiet deflated as we left her office – we had done a ton of research to make informed decisions in the best interest of our family and this was all too much. I looked at Pete and said ‘I don’t think we are going to be getting the birth we want’ as I burst into tears.
I am the CEO of my body.
Once we got home I posted a comment about my experience on Natural Hospital Birthing (a wonderful facebook support group) and a girl in the group recommended I visit our local public hospital and contact the head OB to discuss our situation. Wondering how on earth I was going to get in contact with the head of the hospital I picked up the phone, dialed the hospital’s number, asked to speak to the OB I’d been recommended and just like that we were talking.
If you follow your intuition the universe has really got your back.
We had a chat and organised to meet up. Our meeting was like a breathe of fresh air. Yes I was considered ‘higher’ risk as I was over 40, had used donor eggs and never been pregnant, but the OB also said I was one of the healthiest pregnant women over 40 they’d seen (thank-you 5 year fertility journey for getting me into tip top shape) and that our birth plan was perfectly reasonable. They wanted to scan bub as I’d declined the gestational diabetes test. Even though we were limiting our scans during pregnancy (and I really felt like I’d already had too many), we agreed (we thought this was a small trade-off to ensure we could move forward with the birth we wanted).
My biggest lesson in all of this was that paying for private health care when having a baby doesn’t necessarily mean its better or you get what you want (in my opinion). For so many reasons, this was difficult for me to digest.
The next few weeks went along swimmingly – literally I was in the ocean everyday and it was summer (my fav time of year). I relished these last few weeks of pregnancy (that is apart from the lack of sleep and not being able to put my shoes on – hello swollen feet). I had no agenda for this time, just plenty of downtime, ocean swimming, time with my man, lunches with my sis, mum and girlfriends, meditation, connecting with my baby, catnaps in the day, massages (a must during pregnancy), acupuncture and following my pre-pregnancy plan from my fertility specialist. It felt like such a sacred and special time. It was the last time it was ever going to be Pete and me, and this realisation made me ever so grateful for the journey we’d been on, and the time we’d had with just the two of us…
I surrendered to Just BE.
I was totally swept up in this time with my man and the little being growing inside of me (we didn’t find out the gender, but I just knew she was a girl). Pete had been my rock through our fertility rollercoaster, so its indescribable what this sacred time was like.
From 35 weeks I had weekly appointments at the hospital with our midwife. We developed a trusting relationship with the midwife we had been given – she understood our and respected the birth we wanted. We were so blessed, it was like everything had fallen into place. A few people had voiced concern about us changing care at 34 weeks, but to stay somewhere where I knew in my heart was not right would have been disrespectful to Pete, to me and our bub. I struggled with this decision as I just couldn’t process how going from spending almost $9000 in the private system to nothing in the public system was a better outcome for us. I spent time meditating on this and my unborn bub clearly spoke to me, sending me a strong message that the only way forward was with our new doctor, midwife and doula in the public hospital. (Please note this is only MY personal experience and no disrespect intended to anyone who births privately).
Follow your intuition and it will lead you to your shining star.
At 39.5 weeks my doctor asked me to go for another scan as he was concerned about my amniotic fluid levels. The scan revealed my amniotic fluid was slightly lower than what they would medically like to see, and as a result my doctor suggested I go home and drink lots of water, get some rest and and come back 2 days later to be re-checked. My levels were much the same 2 days later and my doctor recommended induction at 40 weeks. After much research we opted against an induction and decided to continue with close daily monitoring of our baby.
Feeling a little stressed by all of this (the stats, the pressure, the hospital recommending one way when my body was telling me another), I booked myself in for a healing massage (I always find bodywork the best when I start to disconnect from myself). I chatted to a few of my closest peeps and one of my girlfriends suggested I go home and have a glass of red wine and a curry. Initially I wasn’t sure how I felt about drinking wine at this stage of my pregnancy, but I figured 1 glass of organic red wouldn’t do bub any harm. So after 9 months of not a drop (the longest I’d gone without a wine in 24 years) hubby and I found the nicest bottle and cracked it – I had 1 glass and Pete drank the rest of the bottle. I think it might have been the nicest glass of wine I’ve ever had…
Would you believe that I went into spontaneous labour the next afternoon (I swear it was that glass of red) on Friday 10 March about 4.30pm.
Hubby was out at an appointment and I started having a few twinges – the best way I can describe it is like mild waves inside my belly that lasted for about 10-15 seconds with a 15-minute break in-between. I’d heard all the stories about labour starting and stopping and was very comfortable at this stage. I spoke with my doula and she said to just ride it out and see what happened over the next little while.
Hubby and I laboured at home initially. Pete cooked a BBQ, I made a salad and we cracked another bottle of organic red wine. I had 1 more glass – if yesterdays glass had been the catalyst for my labour, I really wanted to make sure this was it!
I text my doula, sister and mum giving them an update about 7pm. My contractions were lasting about 30-45 seconds every 9-15 minutes. My doula said to get some rest so Pete and I laid down, but there was absolutely no way I could sleep – I think this was when I really knew WE WERE IN LABOUR… Pete and I setup our lounge room with the fitball and other bits and bobs that we’d learnt about from our She Births course. We worked through some deep contractions and I think it was then and there that I realised this was going to be the most challenging night of my life.
I called my sister to come round as we’d asked her to be at the birth with us. Pete mixed me up a herbal tea with honey to help with labour and I vomited it straight up. From this moment the only thing I could stomach for the entirety of my labour was water.
My sister arrived to our house at about 11pm and we sent Pete to bed to get some much needed rest. Suz and I hung out on the fitball and she helped me through some pretty full on contractions. Little did I know that bubs was posterior and I was not prepared for the way each contraction placed such pressure on my back. I thought I was going to feel each contraction in my belly, but for me it was just a really intense sensation in my lower back.
Nadine, our doula arrived to our house at 1am and she was a total godsend. As soon as she arrived to the house she started breathing with me through each contraction and this helped me unbelievably – just to have someone model how to breathe and then breathe with me changed the entire scope of my labour – I really don’t know how I would have got through it drug free without Nadine. I jumped into the shower. I wasn’t sure if I could make it to the shower, but once in the shower, I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it out. But I need not worry as my sis was there towel in hand ready to dry and hold me up. Out of the shower we woke Pete and went back downstairs to settle into a few more contractions. We then decided it was time to head to the hospital. Pete heated the bone broth I’d made for post labour and we packed the car. I remember feeling really comfortable as my sis drove us to the hospital. Pete and I were in the back and looking up at the sky I could see a full moon – I was so excited that our baby was going to be born on the full moon. We arrived at the hospital at about 3.15am and bumped into our midwife in the car park. As I had a contraction in the carpark I remember thinking ‘just get me to the birthing suite’.
Walking up to the birthing suite was surreal – it was so quiet with not a peep in sight (of course it was 3.30am in the morn). We settled into our birthing suite and the contractions came in waves thick and fast. I remember thinking how am I ever going to get through this?? I understand why people have drugs, no No NO… I can get through this, I know I can. I remember my doula saying…
Today you get to meet your baby.
I was blessed to have the most amazing team with Pete, my sis, my doula and midwife – they knew my wishes for a drug free birth and supported me every step of the way. I chose to have intermittent monitoring so I could freely move around the room. This caused a bit of noise with my low amniotic fluid as the hospitals preference was to have me hooked up to continuous monitoring, but I knew once I went down this route any movement would be limited and I wouldn’t be able to shower or use the birthing bath – this stuff was all really important to me and I felt comfortable with my baby being monitored every 15 mins. A doctor came into the room and asked me to sign a waiver to say I was choosing not to be continuously monitored. At this stage a huge contraction came and I had no idea what I was signing, but trusted that my people around me knew what I wanted and what was going on.
The most transformational experience of my life.
Labour was THE MOST amazing and also THE MOST physically and mentally challenging thing I’ve ever done. I’ve run half marathons, competed in Olympic distance triathlons and swam 2kms in the ocean and nothing comes close to the immense physical or mental strength that I required for labour. I’d created my birthing mantra’s which were like a guiding star…
Our baby’s birth transforms the soul of our new family.
I feel safe and calm. I feel strong. Birth is joyous.
They believed they could, so they did.
To be a star you must shine your own light.
It is said that women in labour leave their bodies… they travel to the stars to collect the souls of their babies, and return to this world together.
We birth our baby with waves, each one bringing us closer to the shore.
The knowledge of how to birth is deep within me.
Our baby created in love will be birthed in love.
The drawings from my nieces and mantra’s were a magical energy that helped me along the way.
Bub was posterior and pressing on my spine so every contraction was full on, but I was determined to push through and give my baby the natural birth we wanted (this was so important to us after 6 years of IVF and a plethora of IVF drugs). Plus I’d read all of Sarah Buckley and Ina May Gaskin’s books on the benefits of a natural labour for both bub and me. We almost got there, but at the end I needed a little medical intervention. I was trying to push bub out for what seemed like hours…
- At 8am I was 9cm dilated
- At 9am the top of bubs head was visible
- Head on view at 10.30am, but bubs descent was slow and fetal heart rate was hard to find
I think my pushing was compromised from bubs sitting on my spine and the pain in my back and my exhaustion at this point. I remember my doula saying ‘You’re about to meet your baby love’. This helped me so much to keep on going as did gazing into Pete’s eyes and the way he squeezed my hips and hands. And my sister being there every step of the way – these were the things that got me through.
I pushed and pushed until I couldn’t push anymore – her head would peak out and then slide back in. My doctor came in and was a little concerned as they couldn’t get a fetal heart rate (I think this was because bub was so low in my pelvis – I wasn’t concerned – I just had an inner knowing all was ok). But because of this and bubs sitting on my peri and not advancing my doctor wanted to do an episiotomy (epi) and get our bub out. My midwife did the tiniest epi and out she came 2 pushes later (note to self, next time I’ll use the epi-no I bought).
SHE’S HERE! Floods of emotions, tears, overwhelm, so much love as my little girl came swimming out, caught by my sis and placed straight onto my tummy.
Watching Suz catch our baby (the gift she helped us create) took my breath away.
Pete’s not great with anything medical (he did so well for the entire labour), so he wasn’t quiet sure if he’d be able to cut he cord, but he did it! Pete cut the cord once it had stopped pulsating and started going white. This was a special moment to witness.
I was completely starstruck by this little person who had just rocked into our world.
Finally after 6 years almost to the day that we started on our path to parenthood, she was here and she was perfect in her own special time and way.
Pete, Suz, my doula, midwife and me were all in tears – never before had I witnessed such a miracle. 6 years of dreaming, hoping, longing, believing and knowing we would get out baby all came down to this very moment!
This was what I had wished for my entire life and in that moment when my baby girl was placed in my arms everything was perfect. She was perfect.
Our little treasure was here and we were smitten. I looked at Pete and said ‘Indigo Vera’ and he nodded with a big grin from ear to ear. Indigo was the girls name we’d had in safe keeping for 6 years and Vera, meaning ‘faith’ is my mum and great grans middle name. There were hugs and kisses all round. Kisses with my Pete – we’d done it – finally we had our Sprout. Hugs and kisses with my sister Suz – so much love and gratitude for the gift that she had given us. From the bottom of my heart I’m in awe of what Suz did for us. She is my angel, who made our dream come true! There are no words for this LOVE!
Unfortunately, reality kicked back in and I had a managed 3rd stage labour (I wanted to birth my placenta naturally, but it wasn’t to be). I was losing blood and there was a concern about me hemorrhaging. Even though having syntocin injected to birth my placenta wasn’t in my plan, I saw the look of concern on my hubby and sisters face and made the call to surrender to the advice we’d been given. I was happy Indigo was out drug free and I knew my body could cope with detoxing from the syntocin.
Once the placenta was birthed we looked and touched it. I was in awe of this amazing organ that had been my baby’s lifeline for the last 9 months. It’s pretty phenomenal. We’d decided to take it home and plant it under a strawberry bush – return it to Mother Nature as a symbol of our immense gratitude for our baby girl. By planting our placenta with the strawberry bush, we felt that our Indigo would always feel grounded and connected to the sweetness of the earth – and this in turn would help her find her way in the world.
Next I had to be stitched up. Just 1 teeny-tiny stitch as I watched Pete and Indi have special skin-to-skin time… heart-explosion. My man and our baby! I had dreamed of this moment for a very long time. Pete’s cheeky grin says it all (I hope Indi inherits this).
And then my sister and Indi had a cuddle – wow the special connection they had would bond them forever… I just loved watching them meet for the first time.
I sipped on my bone broth and chewed on my magnesiums tablets (the contractions in my uterus were going crazy). As soon as my stitching was finished my little girl was put on my tummy… I looked into her eyes, spellbound by her beauty. Time stood still and then slowly she started to squirm and squiggle her way up my tummy to my left breast, latching on and sucking away. She’d done the breast crawl.
This is nature at its best.
No forcing her onto the breast. Given the chance my little girl instinctively knew exactly what to do and how to do it. This was just one of the many benefits of doing She Births and having a doula. I’d watched a video and been educated on this but wow no one can prepare you for the miracle that is the breast crawl. What clever little intuitive bubs are birthed into this world.
Pete and and I then spent time watching our little Indigo feed as Suz went and made a few calls to share our news. The next hour was spent feeding and skin-to-skin as our doula and midwife got everything in order – the room was so calm, I was in a peaceful-bliss, exhausted yet ecstatic state.
After some snuggles with Indi and Pete, she was checked over and then I needed a shower to freshen up. Pete stayed with Indi and my doula and sis helped me to shower – and by gosh was it one of the best showers I’ve ever had.
Mum and dad were bursting to see their little grandaughter and it was such a joy to watch them meet. There’s something quiet magical about the way my relationship has evolved with my mum and dad since having Indigo and looking back this was such a poignant moment – its really made me appreciate all they’ve done for me. Post birth mum was just the best – shopping, cooking, washing, ironing and cuddles with Indigo so we could shower or a walk together. I’ve had some of my friends ask if my mum would adopt them – she really is that amazing! Thank-you mum.
The next 2 days in hospital were phenomenal. We had lots of visits from family on both sides. The grandparents, aunties and uncles and cousins were so excited to meet our little Indigo girl.
Pete’s mum and dad drove 10 hours to Sydney to meet Indigo – which was just so special. They visited the hospital with 3 of our nieces.
My mum baked a yummy passionfruit cake and we all sang happy birthday to Indi. There was so much love and joy in the air.
Thank-you to my sister Suz for giving us the greatest gift of all. You are amazing and a true inspiration. I’m in awe of your inner and outer beauty. I just love watching the beautiful bond that grows between you and Indi. She is truly blessed to have you give her the gift of life (another mummy to guide her on her way). Thank-you for making our dreams to grow our family come true. Words cannot describe how touched we are by your kind and generous heart. You are so special to us and we love you so much.
Thank-you to my beautiful husband. Words cannot describe how much I love you. Your support, sensitivity, love and care during my pregnancy and birth supported and lifted me up. Even in the face of your own anxieties of hospitals and all things to do with birth, you rose above this and were there for Indi and I every step of the way. We are truly blessed to be sharing our lives with you. Moment, by moment, together we are living the greatest gift!
It takes a Village to raise a child. These are some (there are many more) of the people in our Village and pics of Indi’s precious months so far.
And on a final note I’m in awe of all the women who have ever birthed and wishing all the gorgeous mama’s to be a truly transformational birth – it is so worth it.
If you are still on your journey to parenthood, I’m thinking of you. Hang in there and keep on listening to the whispers of the universe to guide you on your way. I never in a million years imagined that we would have to go down the path of egg donation, but honestly its been my greatest blessing. Is there a greater gift of love than being gifted a life? Whether your baby is naturally conceived, IUI, IVF, egg or sperm donation, fostered or adopted it all matter – and I absolutely promise that it does not make one ounce of difference when you are holding them in your arms and gazing into their dreamy eyes. LOVE IS LOVE.
If you are struggling to have a baby and feeling zapped by your fertility journey, would you like some support? Do you need a little fertile inspiration to get you back on track. Find out more here or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org