In my early 20’s I was diagnosed with a uterine abnormality called a septum. I had only been with my partner (now husband) for a couple of years, and we hadn’t really even discussed kids. It was a real shock, I had always wanted to be a mum, that was how I envisioned my future. I know lots of women see careers and travel in their life plan, but for me, it was to be a mum.

Under the care of my wonderful GP, I was referred to a specialist in these kinds of abnormalities, where she undertook a number of scans and eventually a hysteroscopy to understand the severity of my septum. The result being it was a full septum – dividing my entire uterus in half. Pregnancy outcomes for this were really hit and miss. The literature says there is an increased rate of miscarriage, malpresentation and early delivery. But no doctor could assure me any of these would or wouldn’t happen. The advice was try and see.

So, my husband and I talked, we both wanted a family, albeit a little sooner than we had planned but decided to just ‘see what happens’ for all we knew, it was going to take us years. This was the January 2018.

By July, I had returned a positive test – I was elated, nervous, shocked. Our specialist was taking regular blood tests to check the pregnancy hormones were rising, they were, but slowly. We finally had a scan at 6 weeks and bub was measuring a little behind, so we were told to return for a follow up 2 weeks later. This was such an anxious wait, and unfortunately on the follow up scan we saw that our baby had stopped growing not long after the initial appointment and I had suffered a missed miscarriage. I scheduled a D+C with my specialist for the following week and the wait for this procedure was agonising. I was absolutely devastated by our loss, but also so badly wanted to have this ‘baby’ out of me so I could stop feeling pregnant and begin to heal.

The procedure and recovery were smooth, we took an overseas holiday as a distraction and decided to just keep on doing what we were doing, and if another baby happens then great, and if not just yet, great too.

By the December that same year we found out we were pregnant with our rainbow baby. The strongest pregnant line I had seen on the test and all the initial scans were so positive. This time it felt different too, it felt like we were going to have a baby at the end of this.

During my pregnancy, I saw a wonderful private OB who works out of our local private hospital. He monitored me and bub a lot more closely as it was considered high risk, with extra ultrasounds to pick up any signs of IUGR or cervix shortening etc.

It was a smooth pregnancy, albeit the relentless morning sickness that lasted the entire time (I did find this reassuring though). I was still very anxious given our loss, so I was very focused on keeping bub healthy and in for as long as possible. 

At our 34-week scan, I was measuring 2 weeks ahead, but my cervix still nice and closed and bub engages (or almost) so things were looking really positive for me to make it to term/close too and hopefully a natural birth.

I had hoped for a vaginal delivery but that was all really – I didn’t read into it too much, I didn’t care if I needed pain medication or not, I just wanted a healthy baby.

At 34+6 on the way to a family lunch, I was getting out of the car and felt a trickle, I said to my partner I must have wet myself, but sure enough it kept coming, as did the cramps so we rang the hospital and they suggested we come in – it sounded like my waters had broken.

We arrived at the hospital, I was in a panic and indeed, it was my waters. We saw the OB on call, and he gave me the first of 2 steroid shots for baby’s lungs and some medicated see if he could stop the contractions. As well as antibiotics.

Fortunately, they were able to stop/slow my labour. I was still having some mild pains, but they weren’t what I would call ‘productive’ contractions. The decision was made to keep me in hospital on monitoring and on antibiotics until at least 36 weeks where I would be induced. The hospital wait was mind numbing and uncomfortable but with every day I knew it could mean 1 less day bub spends in special care (if at all).

Our Dr cleared me to go home for 2 nights just before the induction day (because I was going to delivery at some stage anyway), I repacked my bags and got organised and at 7am on the Monday we arrived back to the hospital for induction.

I had heard stories of inductions being horrendous, ending in emergency c-sections and other complications so I had absolutely no expectations for this labour. I had pre-booked an epidural as I knew I was going to be confined to bed/wires for monitoring and just did not want to feel the pain while stuck in bed.

We got settled into the birth suit, which is where we met our AMAZING midwife, Kim. Kim was a private hospital midwife but ran her delivery room like you hear those natural birthing clinics do.

She explained the anaesthetist for my epi was held up in surgery so we could start labour without it and just see how we go. I agreed to try and off we went.

The ob. came in at 9am, checked me, I was already 3cm YAY and broke the rest of my waters (turns out I had only the hind waters break to begin with). They hooked me up to the hormones and things started moving. I asked the OB when to expect the baby (silly question) and he said late in the afternoon would be his guess. So, we settled in for a long day.

Kim, the midwife fussed about dimming the room, putting on a clary sage burner and giving me the most empowering mantras about being a super woman and that I could do this naturally if I wanted to. She really made it the most amazing birth environment, I didn’t know I needed this, but she did, and I will be forever grateful.

By around 11.30am, I was squatted down beside the bed, using only the gas to help me breathe thru the contractions. I kept imagining my hips opening and just letting this baby out. My husband was so amazing, he held me, encouraged me and was never far away with anything I needed. 

It was at this point where I had said to Kim, I needed to sit on the toilet. She obliged, along with all the monitors and drip. I sat there and laboured for about 30 minutes in absolute agony saying I couldn’t do this anymore… Kim decided to check me and as she was checking asked me to give a push. She then raced out of the room, rang our OB to come back VERY quickly and helped me up onto the bed. Little did I know I had transitioned and was already 10cm.

It was 12pm and I had begun pushing, which I really struggled with to be honest, I found it very hard to push in the right spot and get the hang of it. However, it was nice to be using my contractions for something!

I pushed for what felt like an eternity. As he was crowning, the Dr kept asking me to push harder as bub kept going in and out. I honestly couldn’t push any harder and bub was stuck with the cord around his neck, so an episiotomy was made and 2 big pushes later he was out. At 1.10pm – Elijah our son! In complete and utter shock, I was just waiting for that cry which felt like forever. He was initially taken and checked over by the paediatrician who gave him to ok to come back to me and have skin on skin/feed which we did for the next few hours.

He took to my breast straight away, and we lay there in awe, fed and cuddled as they repaired my episiotomy. By mid-afternoon I was ready for that amazing post-birth shower and to move to our room in the hospital where we would stay for a week.

Due to Eli being a little early, his blood sugars were checked every 2 hrs, as well as respiration and I was feeding every 2-3 hours. This was exhausting but we were both just so thankful he was ok I think we ran off adrenaline for weeks! We had prepared for him to spend some time in special care, but due to his size for gestation being a strong 2.93kg and feeding well he was able to stay with us the entire time.

We were finally discharged home; elated, and exhausted. My recovery was uncomplicated, and Eli continued to grow and thrive.

At about a month PP Eli became quite colicky and unsettled and I really struggled for months with a lack of sleep which significant effected my mental health. But as they say, these seasons don’t last forever and eventually I got some help where we attended a live-in sleep school when Eli was 7 months and that changed our lives. It gave me the confidence I needed as a mum and some structure so I could rely on others to support me and Eli when we needed it.

Becoming a mother, has been the hardest thing I have ever done. It has changed my marriage in ways I cannot describe good and bad, I see my husband in such a new light, he is the gentlest, most patient and kind dad and I could not have got through any of this without him and the support of both of our families.

I cannot wait to go on this adventure again when we decide to plan for another baby.

Madeleine Howiit @madd_gibson