Shannon and I spent four years, multiple ultrasounds, 1 laparoscopy, 3 miscarriages, 3 IVF egg collections, 2 IVF embryo transfers and a whole heap of money trying to conceive. So when we found out we were pregnant naturally in January 2019, we were understandably surprised, excited and nervous. Nervous because I was so afraid of having another miscarriage. We were due to do an IVF transfer in February, of an embryo which had been genetically tested for chromosomal abnormalities, minimising the risk of miscarriage. Trying to conceive really took a toll on our relationship. Shannon was always more positive than me and even though he encouraged me every step of the way; I felt drained, bitter, repeatedly discouraged, inadequate and angry. Shannon remained positive and able to express happiness to those pregnant friends and family around us. It was so difficult for me to understand how he could possibly be happy for them and I was angry that he didn’t feel the same way as I did. I did not like who I was being at this time and so it is hard for me to look back. However, somehow we came through the other side and are a much stronger couple for what we have been through. As I reflect, I realise that I wouldn’t change a thing, as I love who we’ve become and appreciate everything we have and the friends and family who supported us, so much more than I think I would have, had it been a smooth road to parenthood. All of that being said; I am very grateful and feel so blessed to be able to say that I birthed my beautiful baby girl my way and began parenthood on an absolute high. Don’t get me wrong, it was still hard work, but I felt so empowered and so proud of myself that nothing seemed impossible anymore.

I’m not sure if we ‘chose’ to prepare for our birth using hypnobirthing, or if it was more of an expectation that we would, due to our very close friend being a qualified hypnobirthing educator. However it came about, we will be forever grateful to Erin for spending many hours ensuring we were prepared with an assortment of techniques, positions, meditations, visualisations, affirmations and a wealth of knowledge in regards to what to expect before, during and after labour. Throughout the sessions, I realised that it really was important to me to be able to do things my way and that this was going to be the key to feeling happy, satisfied and empowered after the birth of my baby. My preference was to have a drug-free, undisturbed, vaginal birth, however we noted in our birthing plan that if the need arose we would be open to discussion around medical intervention but only if there was a valid medical reason. Fortunately our midwife was extremely respectful of our decisions and managed to help me through the labour without so much as some stern encouragement, an icey pole and regular sips of coconut water.

Labour, as I first noticed it began at just before midnight on a Sunday night. I had been lying restlessly on the couch before I finally went to bed, where again I was unable to get comfortable. I was up and down to the toilet a couple of times and after returning to bed, I felt a ‘pop’ down below. I went to the toilet, again, and when I wiped, there was blood on the paper. Straight away my body went into action mode. I went back into our bedroom to let Shannon know that it was happening. I was exhausted after a busy weekend and remember thinking “this is not ideal”. Our plan involved staying at home as long as possible. Shannon was also tired after the weekend, and was trying to convince me to get into bed and try to get some sleep as “this is only the beginning”. I couldn’t possibly lie down, let alone sleep; I was having proper intense contractions! I said “Ring Erin! Tell her I’m in labour and it’s very intense. Find out if this is what’s supposed to happen!” Erin reassured me that it sounded like everything was going just fine and then left us to it. She later told me that she knew Shannon had it all under control. It took a little while to get used to the feeling of the contractions and how best to manage them. Much to my surprise, I did not find Shannon touching me to be helpful. I had thought that light touch massage, rebozo techniques and acupressure points would play a large role in our labour however; it was music, affirmations, meditations, Shannon’s voice and presence which were most therapeutic. Shannon was amazing, carrying out all the tasks on his to-do list that I had written up for him and remaining calm throughout. He lit the candles, hung our affirmation posters around the room, played my chosen music and remained by my side but not touching me! He offered suggestions of different techniques I could try to manage each wave. At one point I got in the shower, only to realise that it was not comfortable as our shower is so small and cramped, I couldn’t kneel or bend, so it was back in to the lounge, kitchen, toilet, wherever I could lean over something and stretch my legs during a wave. I would rise up on my tippy toes until the wave had almost passed. I visualised a hill and me riding to the top of it and then riding down the other side. I visualised my uterus’s long muscles contracting and pushing my baby towards the birth canal. We spent 5 hours at home before attending the birthing centre at the hospital. When it was time to leave home, (when I demanded that I now required a midwife), Shannon slowly packed the affirmation posters, our music device and hospital bag in to the car. Then he packed the couple of bags of food that I had prepared in case we had time for a picnic……what was I thinking?!   I yelled at him to ask what was taking him so long and he said he was completing all the tasks on his to-do list that I had made him. I said “forget the to-do list! Get me in the car!” He also later told me he was trying to keep me at home longer. The final job on Shannon’s “at home” to-do list was to “blow out the candles”. So with the candles blown out, we made the short trip to the hospital birthing centre.

Shannon drove up to the entrance of the hospital and we got out of the car. Inside the sliding doors, I grabbed on to a wheelchair and proceeded to have my next contraction…..much to Shannon’s embarrassment I think? He said “What are you doing?!”   There were people in the emergency waiting area looking at me. I didn’t care. I think I might have given them, as well as Shannon, a “what do you think I’m doing?” kind of look.

We were welcomed into the birthing suite by a lovely midwife who then helped me get set up in the shower. This was part of our plan – for me to get straight in the shower and Shan would set the room up (hang affirmations, turn music on, get the diffuser going) then go and park the car. I proceeded to spend the next five and a half hours in the shower. Fortunately, I could hear the music and see the affirmations from the shower so Shannon hadn’t completely wasted his time. Shannon patiently sat hosing me down with the shower head. At one point he was squirting me in the face with the water and I coughed and spluttered for him to stop. The midwife had to ask him to take the water off my head! It appears he had fallen asleep for a few seconds! Believe it or not, I actually fell asleep at one point too! I fell asleep leaning over the fit ball and woke up as I was falling off it. Shannon caught me with his sore wrist – did I mention he’d had surgery on his wrist only a week or two prior to our baby being born? Not surprisingly, his wrist pain increased for the next few days.

Our midwife did an amazing job of keeping the medical staff informed of my progress but away from me. For this I am immensely grateful. I would have hated nothing more than a vaginal examination during my labour. My midwife checked my baby’s heartbeat regularly with the Doppler. I complained that I was tired and I didn’t want to do this anymore. I whinged and whined but at no point do I think I would have accepted the offer of drugs or a caesarean……it was just my way of coping. At 7am I asked Shannon to phone my sister to ask her to come in as I wanted her there for the birth. Once she arrived, Shannon was able to escape for a coffee much to my dismay, “Where is he going?!” My sister managed to calm me down by reading me my chosen meditations. It worked a treat. I felt calm and in control again. At 10:36am I gave birth to my baby girl on all fours on the squishy mat in the shower. During the crowning, I screamed out “Does it have hair?!” To which my midwife replied “Yes, I think it does”. I was born with a full head of hair and was excited for my baby to have this feature too. And no I didn’t have severe reflux throughout my pregnancy, I barely had any at all. During the birthing part of labour I felt the urge to push but remembered that my body would do this part without too much of my help. It was such an intense feeling having the baby’s head sit at the vaginal entrance. I couldn’t bare the feeling and despite my midwife instructing me not to push, I definitely pushed and screamed my baby out into the world. It was amazing. I had done it. It was hard, it was a bit messy, it was beautiful and I sustained a 3rd degree tear. The fact that I tore did not take away from how happy I was and how proud and amazing I felt. I always knew that there was the possibility that not every detail would go to plan but the fact that everything else had gone so smoothly just made me so happy. I remember thinking that I hadn’t been like those ladies on the hypnobirthing videos we watched during our sessions with Erin. But someone, either Shannon or my sister had captured a video of me going through a contraction and when I watched it days later, I was blown away by how strong I looked.

The first few days seemed relatively easy – I was still on a high, my baby was sleeping and I had lots of colostrum. The midwives were very supportive with establishing breastfeeding and expressing colostrum. My nipples didn’t start getting too sore until we went home from hospital. One of them was so sore and cracked that it was bleeding. I really wanted to breastfeed but I was finding it really painful and I was trying to avoid feeding Farrah because I dreaded putting her on the boob. I had a breast pump but felt like I shouldn’t use it. After chatting to one of my visiting midwives, I decided it would be worth resting my nipples for a good 24hrs to allow them to heal a little. In this time I expressed and Shannon gave Farrah the breast milk from a bottle. Fortunately she took the bottle well. Breastfeeding most of the time and expressing when I needed to, worked really well for us in this time, while my breasts and nipples got used to their new job. After around 4 or 5 weeks I felt completely comfortable with breastfeeding and started to relax and enjoy it.

Now 9 weeks into our parenting journey and Farrah’s life, she is feeding well, and sleeping well. She’s a happy, relaxed baby and we can’t thank Erin and the Birthing Instincts team enough for helping us to achieve the birth we wanted and giving Farrah a smooth start to life.

-Rebecca Pascoe