Real Birth Journey: Harrison Joseph

Birth. It is the most incredible, indescribable, unpredictable and miraculous occurrence. Bringing life into the world is an experience that is personal and precious beyond belief. Each delivery is different to the next, and yet I feel that despite the varying differences it is something so special it can actually bring us altogether. I’m pulling together a range of real birth stories to share in the hope of expanding our knowledge and expectations of birth, and to dwell in the wonder that is the gift of life, in the countless forms it may arrive in!

Name & age at birth:
Grace, 27 years old  

Due date:
17th November 2019  

Cravings during pregnancy:
Ice cream and cherry ripes. 

Worst symptom/s:
I really enjoyed being pregnant but really struggled with round ligament pain and back pain. I am a registered nurse and work in theatre and so standing on my feet for long periods of time (sometimes 10-12 hours) was so hard. I could never get comfortable and every time I got up or down, I would have so much pain, towards the end even walking became difficult.  

Biggest concern about birth was:
How painful it was going to be and scared of something going ‘wrong’.

Ideal birth plan was:
Natural birth with no drugs or medical interventions (unless necessary). I also did a hypnobirthing course which was amazing.  

Hours in labour:
I was in labour for 21 hours total. Early labour lasted about 12 hours, active labour was 7 hours and transition phase and pushing was 2 hours.  

How we went from wombmate to roommate:  
I’ll begin with a bit of a backstory – my bubba was always measuring ‘big’ on all my scans and was estimated to be 9 pounds at term. My OB was concerned that I would have difficulty giving birth as I am quite small framed so a C-section and induction was discussed. At 31 weeks I had reduced fetal movement so went in to get checked. Bub was fine but they discovered he had an irregular heartbeat. This brought on weekly visits to the hospital for CTG monitoring to make sure bub was okay.

We went down to Hobart to see a fetal cardiologist who diagnosed bub with Premature Atrial Contractions (his heart was prematurely discharging an impulse to the atrium causing an extra beat or an ‘arrythmia’). The doctor said we would continue to monitor him weekly but said it was common and that in most cases it stops before the baby is born.  Because of the estimated size of bub and the heart arrythmia, a C-section or induction was becoming more likely. I obviously wanted bub to be safe, but also wanted to give birth naturally. I had an appointment scheduled at 37 weeks to arrange the birth plan and make a decision.  

The night before my appointment on the 28th October at 36 + 6 weeks I started having Braxton Hicks at about 8pm (nothing unusual for me as I had them almost daily). However, they began to feel painful which isn’t typical for BH. So I tried to relax, took a Panadol and had a bath. A few more hours passed and the pain wasn’t letting up and I started timing them just in case. They were coming every 7-10 minutes so I wasn’t worried. I continued to relax at home and time them, as they started to become more painful and more regular. I called the midwife who asked us to come in due to bubs irregular heart they wanted to make sure he was okay.

We arrived and they told me I was in early labour. They did a check and I was 1cm dilated so the doctor asked if I wanted a stretch and sweep to keep things going, which I agreed to. We then decided to go home and continue to labour at home. At about 4am I had my ‘bloody show’ and things started becoming more painful. We ended up going back to hospital at about 6am and I was now 2cm. We stayed at the hospital as they wanted to monitor bubs heart. I moved to the birth suite at about 12 noon and we ‘set up’ the space. We put LED candles around, dimmed the lights and played music – these were all hypnobirthing techniques to keep my mind as calm as possible. I used the birthing ball to labour on and was walking around in between contractions.

Things began to get very painful and I was asked to be checked again at 3pm – I was only 4cm. I started to get discouraged as it was really painful and I still had a long time to go.  I tried the gas at this stage and hated it so didn’t use it again. It made me feel nauseous and lightheaded.  I decided to get in the shower to use the hot water as pain relief which really helped but this is where things started to speed up. As soon as I got out of the shower at about 4pm the contractions were so much more intense. I sat on the bed and my water broke, I then felt like I needed to wee and I soon as I did, I felt an intense urge to push.

My husband called the midwife in and she checked me and said I was fully dilated! I started to panic, the pain was so bad and I felt so out of control. The midwife helped me through this and I started to feel excited that my baby was almost here. I pushed for about an hour and he came out crying! It was such a relief. I was in total shock when they placed him on my chest, I could not believe he was finally here. The feeling of meeting him was indescribable and was the best moment of my life. I was so proud of myself for giving birth the way I wanted to, even when I felt like giving up. I had two small stitches and minimal blood loss initially.  

About an hour after birth I had a shower and we made our way to our room I sat on the bed and started to feel strange. I sat down to do a wee, as I stood up and heard a huge gush. I knew something was wrong as the midwife pressed the emergency button I don’t remember much as I lost consciousness at this stage. I do remember lots of people in the room, I felt like I was actually going to die I was so terrified. The night was a blur, I was very out of it and didn’t even get to hold our baby all night as I couldn’t get up. The next morning, I got up for a wee again and the same thing happened, more people rushed in and more medication was given. This happened for two days. I was a mess I was too scared to move or stand in fear of bleeding.

I was fasting for surgery as they thought I had retained placenta, but an ultrasound ruled this out. Basically, they said my uterus was ‘lazy’ after being in labour for so long it decided it didn’t want to contract back down to normal size and that’s what was causing all the bleeding. After 3 days it started to settle. I lost 1.5 litres, had an iron infusion and spent 6 days in hospital. I still feel traumatised by the whole thing. My milk took 7 days to come in due to blood loss and I felt so sad I missed out on the first few days with our baby as I was so weak and out of it from blood loss. Once we got home, I felt so much more relaxed and safer and even though it was scary, I would do it 100 times over to have my baby.

Most vivid memory during labour:
The overwhelming urge to push and to have no control over it. Your body knows exactly what to do and I did not expect it at all. I remember feeling such relief when working with my body to push.  

Most amusing/interesting moment during labour/birth:
To be naked in front of so many people haha.. When it came time to push, I just did not care at all! 

During labour/birth, I definitely did not expect: 
How much water actually comes out when you water breaks. It was not a little trickle for me it was huge and I had no idea it was going to be like that! 

A myth/misconception I believed prior that I now don’t is:
That breastfeeding is super easy. I knew nothing about positions, correct latch etc. It took a while to establish breastfeeding, I felt awkward at first and couldn’t get the latch right. I had help from a lactation consultant in hospital which was a lifesaver.

Baby’s name, birth weight and date:
Harrison Joseph Maloney, 3154 grams, 29th October 2019 at 19:48

Baby’s name was almost:
It was always Harrison and Harry for short. I have always loved that name. 

Time spent in hospital post birth:
6 days. I am so glad my husband Connor was able to stay with me; I don’t know what I would have done without him. He was amazing when I couldn’t get out of bed the first few days because of the bleeding, he would bring Harry to me every time he cried and changed all his nappies.

Best tip/trick you received for those early days:
Sleep when the baby sleeps! Everyone says it but it’s true, especially the first few weeks when bub is breastfeeding so often. Every bit of sleep helps.   

Top 3 lifesaving items for a newborn:
Bonds zip up onesies, Love to Dream swaddles and a bouncer seat.  
And for mum – Lanolin nipple cream, hydrogel breast discs and bamboo nursing pads (disposable were so itchy for me)

If you could go back and speak with your pregnant self, what would you say?  
Try not to stress so much, I had anxiety over almost everything during pregnancy. I was constantly worried about bub and wondering if he was okay and analysing all his movements etc.  
I also would say to enjoy the time with your husband as just the two of you. 

If you could speak with yourself during labour, what would you say? 
I think I would just say to not panic and that so many women have done this and to trust your body as it knows exactly what to do (mainly during the transition as this was the only time I felt scared and out of control)

If you could speak with yourself on day 3 of having a newborn, what would you say?
Be kind to yourself, you have just been through so much and don’t expect to know how to do everything straight away, it all comes naturally in time.

Any words for first time mums-to-be nervous about their own upcoming birth? 
Try not to overthink it, go in with an open mind and just go with it. Don’t panic and let your body do what it needs to do. If you have a birth plan then advocate for what you want and don’t feel pushed into doing anything you are not comfortable with, but also listening to the professionals if things aren’t going to plan. Getting bub into the world safely is the main priority, and ensuring mum is okay too. Think of the end result and how magical it will be to finally meet your little one. 

Any further notes you’d like to include:
A little follow up on bubs arrhythmia: his heart was a regular rhythm while I was in labour, so they weren’t concerned. When he was born, he had an ECG and an Echocardiogram which showed a slight arrhythmia. The doctors weren’t concerned and scheduled a follow up test in one month, this came back all normal and he has now been discharged by the cardiologists! Yay!

If you have a birth story you’d like to share, then please get in touch and let’s start the conversation and continue celebrating this incredible life changing event!

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