Anna’s story

Anna lives in Melbourne, Australia, and has recently given birth to a baby girl. Here, Anna shares her experiences of her birth and the early months of motherhood.

I was always very excited about the labour and really looking forward to the experience.  When I fell pregnant, I had already made a career change and had left my highly stressful corporate role to return to school for a career change.  So during that time, I would get kinesiology balances weekly and I had a really relaxed paced life, and I only worked in short term contract roles so I was able to work days that I wanted, so it really was quite stress free.

I was also looking forward to the labour as women’s bodies are made to have babies, so I wanted to experience what we are capable of.  I also read the hypnobirthing book and listened to the cd during this time to help prepare.

The week before my labour, I started to get some back pain every couple of nights.  It felt like period pain, but it would go away when I moved to a more comfortable position.  The night before my labour began, I had a small show and knew it could happen within a few days.  That night, I went to bed at midnight.  Again, I started getting that back ache, but when I moved to a more comfortable position, it didn’t go away.  This day was what my due date was.

I tried to get more comfortable, but nothing really helped.  My husband stayed in bed as I wasn’t sure if this was really labour, or just pre-pains.  I called the hospital and was advised to just take some panadol and get some rest as it could have gone on for days! I ended up in the lounge room with my fit ball and listening the hynobirthing cd.  I found only rocking helped with the back pain.  The contractions were varying from the start.  I would get my first, and then the second would come 5 minutes later, than the next two at 1 minute apart, then they’d go back to 3 minutes, then five, then it would rest for another 10 minutes.  Then the cycle would start again.  I still wasn’t sure whether this was true labour.  So I stayed in the lounge room while my husband got a good night’s rest!  I called the hospital again at 6 am, and again was told this could go for a while.  And as I could make sense (ie, not screaming down the phone line) was told it probably wasn’t labour as I didn’t sound like I was in it, and I could come in to get checked out but to be prepared to be told to go home!  I then paged my obstetrician, who told me to come into her office at 9.30am to check me out.  My husband was up at that time and made me some tea with toast and butter.  I then got him to back rubbing duties quick smart!  At this time I also downloaded an iphone app to keep track of my contractions.

I was worried how I would be in the car as the only thing that helped was hot water bottle, and my husband rubbing my back when the contractions came.  I found focusing on them and ‘riding through’ the buildup of the contraction helped, as I found it quite a relief once the ‘peak’ hit, and they then slowed back down.  But the car ride went surprisingly well.

Luckily my obstetrician was there waiting for me. I showed her my contractions history (I must say she was quite impressed with the iphone app!) and checked me out.  I was 6 cm dilated so she told me to go straight to the hospital.  I was quite relieved as the thought of being sent home was devastating!  Though that was when it started to hit home, and I remember vomiting in the toilet as I started to get a little shaky.

We drove to the hospital and I remember walking to the lifts.  Someone kindly asked if I wanted a wheel chair, and I was like, no way I need to keep moving!  The poor guy in the lift wished us luck when we arrived on our floor.

I was taken to our birthing suite and a midwife assigned.  When they took my blood pressure, it must have been up so they wanted to monitor me.  This meant I wasn’t able to move around, which was very disappointing as I wanted to be active to move things along.  I had some gas which I found useful to focus on with the contractions, rather than using it as pain relief – I felt it didn’t do anything in any case.

My obstetrician came around 12, checked me again and I was then 9 cm dilated.  She then broke my waters as they didn’t do so before.  She predicted birth in the hour, but as I had to stay on the bed, it took longer.  After lots of begging to get up, the midwife let me, and that got things moving.  At 2.07pm, Miss C was born!

I think I was in shock when I first held my baby in my arms.  I couldn’t believe something so perfectly formed could have been growing in my belly that whole time!  And then slowly I got used to her.  I was able to keep her with me from that first moment, and saw how she was able to slowly search for my breast to breastfeed.  I was very lucky to keep her with me for well over an hour until we were settled.  It was amazing.

During my labour, I learnt to focus on your intuition! During those first few hours alone, it was a little scary as I didn’t know what was happening, how far along I was, etc.  But I just focused on being in tune with my body and trying to stay calm.

Motherhood is very rewarding, but in a different way.  Not in a work way, in more a subtle, inner sense of accomplishment.  Watching the baby you are looking after grow happy and healthy is a wonderful thing.

Coming to the realization that I couldn’t “do it all” has been the biggest challenge so far.  I was used to juggling many tasks at once and very well, but once I had a baby, this couldn’t happen anymore.  I was very lucky with having support from my wonderful mother and mother in law in addition to my husband.  I actually returned to study after 3 months for two days a week, and would work on those 2 days a week during the school holidays.  This was okay until Miss C was 5 months old.  That’s when she became a lot more active, and wasn’t happy staying in the bouncer at times while mummy studied/worked.  This was when I realized that Miss C was my top priority and did I really want to have to stress about work deadlines when she was up? I had to do a mental shift to revolve all my other things around her, rather than fit her into my ‘old’ schedule.  Once I came to terms with that, things then fell into place.  It’s hard making that change and coming to that realization that there needs to be one, but it does all work out.  It’s just different to what it was like before!
My baby sleeps like a baby when she’s in a deep sleep!

I found following Miss C really helped.  I did read some baby sleep books and was familiar with sleep cycles. That’s all I really took from them.  By following her, I found she set her own routine and that worked well for us.  She started to sleep through at nine months, but when she woke previously, I was lucky that I usually only had to just give her the dummy and she would normally go back to sleep, so I didn’t have to do a lot each time she woke up.  But there were many times that she did need a little rock.  Other times she was happy to be left playing and she slowly just drifted back off.  Though (she’s a late teether!) the last few nights we have been having to deal with a few screams and lots of rocking!

As  I used to be a sleepaholic before baby I’m not sure how I cope with the lack of sleep!  Sometimes I would sleep when she would nap, or get a sleep in when darling husband would do the first feed.  Even 10 minutes would be enough at times.  But I really should go to bed a lot earlier, so even if I do get broken sleep, there’s at least been 6-7 hours of rest.

My suggestion to others is don’t worry about anything else other than you and the baby.  I remember hearing the following: as long as you feed the baby, feed yourself, do one household task (such as doing 1 load of washing, or emptying the dishwasher, simple stuff) and have dinner ready, you’re having a good day.  So I always used this as my basis.  I also tried to make sure the first thing I did after her first feed was change my clothes, eat breakfast and get dinner started, so at least I had the whole day if I needed to finish that and rest, rather than wait until the afternoon when chaos would inevitably ensue!

I had a very low milk supply so I had to introduce formula from day 5 after every feed.  I was lucky this was identified just before I left the hospital as I would feed all night, and she only had a few wet nappies, and no dirty ones so she was dehydrated.  I persisted with breastfeeding and expressing between feeds, etc, but after 6 weeks I had to stop as it just didn’t increase, regardless of taking domperidone from the obstetrician or visiting a naturopath.

Miss C took to both very well, though I was more disappointed that I wasn’t able to increase my milk supply and took me around 3 months to get over the guilt.  But she is happy and healthy, and that is the main thing.

I started to introduce solid food at 4.5 months.  I wasn’t planning on it, but Miss C doesn’t drink a whole lot of milk and she was ready for it.  She loves her food though!

Lots of organic vegetables and fruit are on the menu.  Now she is nine months I’ve started to give her tastes of our meals when we are out and about.

Miss C was very strong from the beginning!  She did pretty well and tummy time and rolled from front to back at 5 weeks.  She started crawling at 6 months, so she’s been very active from the start.

Re-organising the house seems to be an on-going project.  It’s funny how from one day to the next they suddenly notice something that was there before but only now is when they go for it!  I thought our bedroom was safe for a while, but now she’s noticed the bedside table so is starting to pull things off it.  So we’ll need to do something about the lamp and the phone soon!

I haven’t found things changed too much with my other relationships.  It’s probably taken a while for my husband and I to get back into a ‘couple’ relationship mentality.  This can be hard when you’re lacking sleep and the only thing you want is sleep!  But she is usually in bed between 7-7.30 so we get couple time most nights.  We also have a very strong family around us, and Miss C has cousins that are similar in age so it’s been great.

There seemed to be a baby boom when Miss C was born.  So we have a family community of little babies that she socializes with, along with different friends who have babies, some old high school friends and mothers group.

Pearls of Wisdom
· Follow your baby – she will tell you what you need to do.
· Read the books for ideas and suggestions, not as a be all and end all.
· Get sleep when baby sleeps.
· Try and focus on having a stress free pregnancy.  Read up or watch videos on meditation, yoga and breathing techniques.
· Read a hypnobirthing book – even if you don’t follow it, it has some great information.
· Enjoy the experience, the time just flies!
· Get connected with people/community/support groups, particularly if you don’t have strong family support around you.  Start before baby comes if possible so you have good support.  Check out Australian Breastfeeding Association, website forums, etc.
· You can still have your sense of ‘old life’, but changes are to be expected.  This isn’t all bad.  You just learn to fit your ‘old life’ around your baby, rather than try and fit baby into it – it’s a lot easier this way!
Anna, Melbourne, Australia


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