A beautiful birth coupled with anxiety
After being on contraception since I was 15, it felt so weird but exciting to be able to track my cycles and start trying for a baby. Two months before I had my mirena removed, I started my pre-conception supplements.
After taking the first of many tests, I went through an "Oh shit, we are having a baby" moment.
I had pretty horrific nausea for 18 weeks, when it finally stopped it was as if a switch had been turned off. Honestly, I'm surprised that I didn't grow a little potato chip as that's what I lived off for the first few months. It was incredibly hard to keep the secret that I was pregnant at work, as they're a bunch of midwives who can see morning sickness from a mile away.
I had a very low-risk, straight forward pregnancy, however around the 34-36 week mark my anxiety increased significantly. I had an incredibly wonderful midwife, who is also a dear friend of mine. I think this made it easier to open up about how I was feeling and perhaps in a different situation, I may not have spoken up. Most of my anxieties were around having an unexpected outcome, and not coming home with my baby. It's really hard going through pregnancy as a midwife, as I feel like I was constantly looking for signs that something wasn't right. We considered a Maternal Mental Health referral, however I felt I could manage with other strategies for the time being.
At 35 weeks, I started all of my pre-labour prep. I walked 5km each day to keep active. I took 5W and EPO (Oral and PV), drank the raspberry leaf tea, diffused the labour and birth oils/clary sage. I worked through hypnobirthing techniques, which although I didn't use in labour, I found incredibly helpful during this anxious time. I also started expressing, and had over 200mL by the time my daughter was born!
At 39+3 days, I felt super tired so skipped out on my walk that day as I just wanted to sleep. I went to bed having the usual braxton hicks however had a feeling that they weren't going away that night. Hubby followed me into bed about 10pm, and he went straight to sleep. I couldn't get comfortable and by 1030pm, the tightening's were starting to feel a little crampy and my waters broke - all through the bed. I am sure I could hear them, and hubby woke up to 'What the F... was that'. Thankfully I had the foresight to put one of the baby's mattress protectors under the sheet the week before!
From the moment my waters broke, they were rolling 5 in 10 minutes and I couldn't even focus enough to use any of the hypnobirthing techniques I had been practicing. I tried the swiss ball, tried rocking/swaying and nothing worked. I honestly felt as though I wasn't going to cope well with labour. By midnight, I felt like I needed to call my midwife, despite only being in labour 1.5 hours. I genuinely thought I was going in way too early, but couldn't manage at home any longer. I couldn't even talk on the phone as I was getting less than a minute between contractions.
We slowly got ready and made our way into the birthing unit - the most uncomfortable 20 minute drive I have ever experienced. About a month prior when we did a birthing unit visit, I had told my hubby to make sure he parked on the far side of the car park. If I could walk from the car to the birthing unit easily, then it was going to be way too early and we would have to go home. This had been a joke, but he remembered! He parked the far side, and I had to labour and slowly walk over to the birthing unit. I'm sure this took 15 minutes to get inside. I remember saying to my midwife that if I was less than 5cm dilated, then we would be transferring to the hospital for an epidural, although I was not planning to get one unless really needed.
I think it was just after 1am that we arrived. My midwife did an internal examination and I was 7cm. This was honestly so much more uncomfortable than I thought it would be. We tried to call the birth photographer, however she missed the call, and I needed my hubby to be with me rather than trying to reach her. As devastated as I am that we didn't get birth photos, I feel like I had a really protected and intimate birth space.
I was lucky enough to only have some minor labial grazes that needed a few sutures, but no perineal or vaginal tears. The 3 of us just lay together for a few hours, soaking in every second. I couldn't sleep, as I was in complete awe and just wanted to watch my baby.
We stayed at the birthing unit just one night, as our feeding was going well and I wanted to just be at home.
The crying started on the drive home, and honestly lasted for about 6 weeks. I thought the anxiety would have stopped when she was here, but I was anxious about everything. I cried most of the day, and didn't want to get out of bed. I adored my baby and my hubby, but I couldn't be around other people. If we had visitors, I wouldn't be able to stop crying for hours. It was honestly awful. I feel like my fresh baby newborn time really got clouded with my mental health battle and that it really was just survival mode for me. Eventually I agreed to see the GP, and I ended up needing medication for about 6 months, which at the time I felt so embarrassed about. I look back now, and I realise that postpartum anxiety and depression really can affect anyone. It can come out of nowhere, and doesn't need anything to trigger it. I only wish I had asked for medical help earlier than I did. Those first 6 weeks are such a blur, and I am sad about that. The darkness slowly lifted, and I started to enjoy my new life with this beautiful baby in my arms.
My daughter, however, absolutely thrived! She gained about 100g in the first week, and then approximately 400g weekly from there. I had a huge amount of milk, and over the course of 10 months, I donated over 30 litres of breastmilk for other babies in need. I helped to feed 6 other babies (some just a couple of feeds worth, and some litres). This was so soul-warming for me. We are still breastfeeding 18 months later, and she is showing no signs of stopping.
Honestly time just flies by, but I look back and can't even remember what we did with our time before she joined us! A baby is such a blessing, and they bring so much happiness and joy with them. Everything is just so innocent, pure and wholesome.Dani Kelly