The Birth of Eloise
*content warning - newborn resuscitation and hospital transfer *
40 + 2 weeks. I had been shopping in the morning to get some last minute things for our homebirth and was experiencing some mild cramping. I wasn't too bothered about them as I had
been having some cramping on and off for a week or so. I was very much in the 'I will be pregnant forever' mind at that time.
Once I got home, I decided to change into
some comfortable pants but while I was bending over to help my foot through, I felt and heard a pop and then a gush of liquid started to run down my leg. I sent Travis
and my midwife Jannie a message letting them know that I had either just peed myself or my waters had released.
Jannie instructed me to keep an eye on it
and let her know if the liquid doesn't stop.
Once I realised it was my waters I told
Travis to head home. By this stage it was roughly 2 - 2.30pm. I knew labour may not start straight away so I wasn't worried. By the time Travis got home around 3pm the surges had really started to come on. I
asked him to help me to bed so I could try and rest.
I was able to get a little bit of rest before the surges started to become really intense. I decided it was time for the TENS machine to try and ease that intensity a bit. I could only tolerate the TENS machine for an hour or so before it became an annoyance. Anything outside of the surges was too much extra sensation. I told Travis to message our midwife Jannie at this point.
I got into the shower to allow the hot water to ease some of the tightness in my back
and then sat at on my birth ball. This definitely helped. But it wasn't long after getting out of the shower that things really started to progress and sitting on the ball was causing me more pain than relief. I decided to lean over my ball and just lean into the surges.
Around 10pm (not sure what time it was exactly) I suddenly had the urge to bear down with my surges. Jannie came not long after this started. With every surge came the feeling to bear down and all I could do at the time was cry out and lean into them. I asked (probably demanded) that Travis and Jannie fill up the pool as I knew this would help me with the pressure and discomfort I was feeling. It took forever to fill the pool because we ran out if hot water. So Travis and Jannie were filling pots and kettles to get the water temp up to a comfortable temperature. I didn't know that at the time though, I was just riding rhe surges and (impatiently) waiting for the nod to get in the water.
Once the pool was full I got in and felt my body relax which gave me the ability to gather some fortitude and rest. My surges were so close together at this point and all I could do was vocalise loudly through the surges. I was just 100% focused on Eloise.
I tried bearing down while sitting up in the pool but I could feel she wasn't moving down in that position so I switched to leaning over the edge of the pool holding Travis's hand. Not long after this I was aware that Jo (our second midwife) was there and she was advising on other positions to try. They listened to Eloise regularly between position changes and her heart beat was perfect.
A short time later I was able to feel Eloise's head myself. This renewed my determination. I was almost there. With my next surge her head was born. A very short surge happened after this but it wasn't long enough to bear down with. Once the next surge started I pushed with everything in me and she was born at 1 1 :24pm on the 4th July.
Jannie and Jo handed her through my legs and I held her to my chest but I noticed she wasn't moving, crying or breathing.
We tried breathing on Eloise, rubbing her and talking to her but she didn't respond to this. She was just limp.
I was asked to get out of the pool and move
to the bed with Eloise. My adrenaline took over and I jumped from the pool and with help, was led to the bedroom.
Jannie and Jo began CPR on Eloise with oxygen and Travis rang the ambulance for support. After about 2 minutes of CPR Eloise had responded with a good heart rate, but she wasn't taking over breathing on her own. Within 10 minutes the ambulance had arrived and took over CPR. It was only then they cut the umbilical cord. I'm so glad I was able to stay connected to her throughout the resuscitation, knowing I was giving her the blood and oxygen she needed from the placenta. I had not yet birthed the placenta. The paramedic intubated her for transport to the hospital.
Everything happened so quickly and before I knew it Eloise was being put in an ambulance and I was getting into another.
While in the ambulance I was given syntocinon to assist with the placenta as I was no longer staying at home to birth it safely.
Once at the hospital I was taken upstairs
to get checked over by the midwives and OBs in birth suite, and Travis went with Eloise to ED.
Once in the birth suite my legs were thrown in stirrups and I birthed the placenta. Jannie then came into the room to support me.
The OB came into the room and I was told they were going to suture me as I had a second degree tear. They gave me a local anaesthetic and gas and began to stitch me up. Halfway through the stitches I could feel all the pain! I yelled out and the OB gave me more anaesthetic. I could still feel it though so I yelled at her again and she said "is it actually hurting or just a pulling sensation, just keep using the gas". I was very unhappy with this but did not have the capacity to argue at the time. I remember just crying to Jannie and wanting to see my baby.
After what felt like a lifetime, she had finished stitching me up and left the room and I remember instantly feeling relief.
I was asked to have a shower as they were ready for me to see Eloise. After my shower they took me to emergency where Eloise was being treated. Travis and Jo were there watching over her.
As soon as I saw my baby I broke down. Eloise was naked and had tubes coming from everywhere. She wasn't breathing on her own properly but was taking small breaths over the intubation. The NICU team from the Mater Mothers Hospital were on their way to transport her for better care. Once at the Mater, we found out that she had a small hypoxic brain injury to the centre of her brain. They kept her cool for 72 hours in order for the brain to heal itself. After this time we were finally able to hold her and offer her a breastfeed. She was fed through a tube for the duration of her time in hospital and also her first week at home while she took her time recovering and learning how to coordinate her suck. She was 4.1kg at birth and quickly surpassed her birth weight once she was breastfeeding. Throughout the time in hospital we did as much skin to skin, cuddles and touch as we could. We also played Parkway Drive to her in the NICU so she would feel comforted. She still falls asleep to this music now.
It was a very stressful, emotional beginning to our journey as a family, but Eloise is now a thriving happy baby and loves breastfeeding, and peanut butter toast. I am so incredibly thankful to our midwives, Jannie and Jo. They both were so calm and collected and knew exactly what to do without hesitation. I truly believe, if we were to have birthed in the hospital, the outcome would have been the same, if not worse. Throughout the duration of the resuscitation at home, we were still connected by the umbilical cord. I could see everything they were doing. I knew exactly when Eloise took her first assisted breath and I knew the work being done to her. They had all of the equipment and skills they needed in that moment, and they were able to transfer us when more medical care was needed.
I needed to call on my advocating skills so much from that point onward. Travis and I had to make lots of decisions around Eloise's care and although so much of the medical terminology was outside of our knowledge base, we had Jess and Jannie to help us make sense of what our options were and how to ask the questions to get the information we needed to make a choice. We were able to access additional support to help our breastfeeding journey, especially going home with a NG tube. And we were able to give our baby girl the best start to life with the circumstances we were given.
I wanted to share my story, because everyone always asks "what if something goes wrong" when you are planning a home birth. You can prepare, you can have a completely normal labour, and sometimes rarely your baby will need more help. Our private midwives were highly trained professionals and we had access to emergent medical care at the hospital when we needed it - that is what the hospital is for. After debriefing our birth notes we are confident that this was an unavoidable, unforeseeable outcome that, we feel, was handled as well as it could have been in any birth suite. We were held, respected, heard and supported throughout our journey right through to 6 weeks postpartum and our baby girl was home, safe and happy with us.
We are grateful to the knowledge, support and confidence Jess gave us through her classes on ongoing support afterwards. We were able to come to her with any questions and know we would get balanced resources to help us with our options. This was really helpful when sometimes the advice given by other professionals isn't evidence based (like a nurse saying she had never heard of breastmilk being used on a gunky eye).
Mama Terri and Dad Travis
Hypnobirthing Mother Moon Hypnobirthing
Midwives New Life Midwifery
Lactation Support Jayne Vidler