Story by Rachael
We have been really keen to share our birth story with you, Karen, and the Calmbirth community.
As I touched on with you during our Calmbirth weekend, I had been told that I had servere cholestasis the day before Calmbirth with my bile acids increasing to 140 from 18 the week before. I had been informed that I would likely need to be induced at 35 weeks which ended up being the case.
I hope our story helps other women who experience cholestasis as I found it be a bit of a lonely diagnosis as it is one of those strange pregnancy induced conditions that aren’t really spoken of and there are only a few well established resources, research or guidelines out there.
Although we only really had a week from attending Calmbirth to the induction, we practiced every day and used as much from the learnings as we could to prepare and it really helped us.
Tom and I hadn’t really done a lot of preparing for the labour and birth of Grace prior to attending Calmbirth as we felt we didn’t really know where to start and wanted to make sure we were starting our preparation with evidence-based information which we knew we would receive from Calmbirth.
I knew I wanted to aim for a natural vaginal birth. We did not write a birth plan or set our expectations in stone as we know things don’t always go according to plan and, in our case,- it was different to what we had imagined it to be. However, Calmbirth assisted with ensuring we both felt we had the tools and ability to get through any scenario.
All of the Calmbirth learnings were helpful. The main elements that helped us prepare were understanding the stages of labour, the pathophysiology of labour, including contractions and the importance of having them and how to manage them with breathing techniques and to rest in-between. We also found the information about how to make sure the labour and birth environment remained positive and safe throughout really helpful and we were lucky enough to create a calm environment using fairy lights, photos of our loved ones and music.
Tom was well equipped to support me with the Breathing techniques, mentally and emotionally. He was also well informed to advocate for me when I needed him to.
Above all, the course supported us both to feel in control and educated so we did feel safe and had the ability to make informed decisions and ask questions throughout.
My care was with the Midwife Group Practice Program- it was exceptional.
The baby and I were tracking well. I had a healthy pregnancy up until 32 weeks when I started to become extremely itchy all over but particularly on the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands. I told my midwife at a routine appointment and was sent for bloods immediately as my midwife was concerned. As suspected, my bile acids were raised which indicated a mild Cholestasis. I went for repeat bloods the following week and they had returned at a servere level. We were then told that the pregnancy was very high risk with the main concern being still birth. We were informed that I would need to be induced at 35 weeks.
I found this extremely difficult to accept and also terrifying that my body went from being this safe and nourishing place for my baby to it being unsafe. I felt guilt and sadness about giving up the pregnancy even though I knew it was what was best for our baby. I was also feeling a bit disappointed and frightened about having an induction. It was a very emotional time for us. I was riddled with anxiety and worry in the lead up to the induction having to closely watch our baby’s movements and daily CTG monitoring. We had an amazing team of midwives and doctors explain all of our options, the risks of all scenarios and the induction process. We felt we were in safe hands and well informed by all who were involved.
We attended Calmbirth the day after we found out the diagnosis and found the weekend really reassuring and helped us to rapidly prepare for the Labor and birth. We felt so grateful for being able to attend!
In the week leading up, Tom and I spent lots of time practicing the Calmbirth Breathing techniques, spent time resting together and working through the emotional roller-coaster of waiting for the induction date to come.
By the time I was at the end of 34 weeks, I had surrendered to the situation and accepted all scenarios that may occur to get our baby out safely. I really believe the Calmbirth course helped both of us be at peace with situation.
I was admitted and had a balloon catheter insertion to start to open my cervix on the Sunday night before I was 35 weeks. In the morning, the balloon catheter was removed and I was told there had been no progress and my cervix was not favorable for a vaginal birth. I had a doctor speak with me about what this meant and the likelihood of a caesarian that day. I then had my admitting consultant come and say that we should try the cervidil in one last attempt to get things going as he still felt a vaginal birth was a possibility.
That evening at 6 pm, my waters broke and we were on. My midwife took me down to the birth suite, we set up the suite with dim lighting and fairy lights, photos and put music on. It was a really special few moments for Tom and I. I was having pretty managable contractions at the start and used breathing to help me through. But as things weren’t progressing they started the Syntocin infusion at 4am.
The next four hours were intense but having Tom there to remind me of the power of the breath, feeding me water and making sure I felt supported and safe we got there. By 8.34 am, our little girl Grace was born with no other interventions. We had skin to skin time and the most magical time looking into her eyes for those first few moments.
I think the biggest lesson is surrender.
This was discussed at Calmbirth so I have to give credit to CB being where surrendering was first highlighted to me.
Everything about pregnancy, labour and birth – it’s your body in control and your mind and heart need to adjust to whatever your body throws at you. And trust – trust in the body you have to do what it needs to get your baby into the world even if sometimes you feel it’s let you down.
And trust. Trust in the person who is supporting you to be on the same page and support you through the journey. Trust in model of care you have chosen. And trust in your body and mind. Feeling safe and well supported is key. Without that, I would have found my experience really difficult.
Calmbirth helped us remain focused on the most important thing- making sure I was empowered to use my body in all its strength and forms to get Grace safely into our arms.
Tom found the Calmbirth learnings essential to prepare for the labour and birth and also, the lead up to the induction.
Tom supported me emotionally, physically and mentally. He helped me use the Breathing techniques when I was feeling anxious and overwhelmed before the induction.
During the labour and birth, he talked me through every single contraction, reminded me to rest, drink water and ensure that I was safe and comfortable throughout.
We found the Calmbirth breathing techniques, Calmbirth affirmations and the Calmbirth philosophy all helpful tools – I wasn’t afraid because Tom and I knew what we had to do as a team.
We both can’t recommend the Camlbirth course more highly.