· By Tiny Hearts Education
I always wanted kids young and knew that once I had found the right person, it wouldn't be long before we would start a family. I met my now-husband Kieran in 2016 and knew that he was the one. However, two years into my relationship with Kieran, I started experiencing extreme pain during intercourse. It happened overnight and with no apparent cause or reason. It was diagnosed as vulvodynia by a gynaecologist, and I was handed a tube of local anaesthetic to put on so that I could 'endure' sex. This was a blanket solution and barely helped, so I sought advice from many more GPs, gynaecologists and dermatologists - all of who gave different 'probable causes' but no real advice on how to fix it.
About a year on, a GP discovered that I actually had several vulval ulcers around my labia region and extremely thin skin, which was tearing during any insertion. A biopsy came back negative for any serious disease/infection/cancer, which I was so grateful for but also tricky in that there was no real reason why I was getting them.
I was then recommended to go to a pelvic floor physio to help release my pelvic floor as it was over engaging due to the pain.
After 12 months of regular sessions, I was able to actively manage the pain during sex, and this coincided with my approaching wedding. My husband and I started actively trying for a bub on our honeymoon. Three weeks later, I took a pregnancy test, and we were blessed that it was positive!
We were so lucky to have no issues with our fertility and to fall pregnant first try, but the journey to being able to try and conceive bub was long, emotional, painful, teary and challenging. We live in country NSW with limited birthing options.
I went under a shared care plan with the local obstetrician in town and the midwives of a nearby hospital. Our hospital in town is often understaffed, and doctors are often away, so I opted to birth in a larger hospital an hour away.
I suffered from pretty bad vomiting until around 20 weeks and nausea until the third trimester. I had a scary fall at 28 weeks where I slipped and fell - it really scared me and made me realise just how precious my bub was! I had lots of other usual pregnancy symptoms, but it was the most special time of my life carrying and growing this cheeky bub that slept all day and kicked all night long.
Due to my vulval ulcers, the obstetrician had advised me that it would be highly likely I would need an episiotomy, so I continued with regular pelvic floor physio to help keep my pelvic floor strong and prepare for birth. Bub measured ahead for the entire pregnancy, and at my 36-week growth scan, they were estimated to be 91st percentile for length, head circ and weight.
On my due date, the 13th of August, I went for a routine app, and the obstetrician realised that bub was not engaged and deemed that bub was in an unstable lie - which meant that if bub engaged on their own, their head could clamp down on their own umbilical cord. For this reason and bub's estimated weight, I was scheduled to be induced five days later. Bub was also posterior, and I was advised this could mean a slower and more painful labour.
We were in statewide NSW lockdown when I was induced. I had cervadil inserted at 4 pm on the 18th of August and waited for something to happen. Around two hours after the cervadil, I started experiencing painful cramping and back pain. I waited a little while and called a midwife to check and see if I was beginning to dilate. I was naive at the time, thinking I must be a few centimetres, but after checking, I had not dilated at all. They deemed the pains to be cervical irritabilities that mimic labour pains but don't serve any purpose. I stayed up all night as the pains got worse and worse. I used the shower as my main source of pain relief and comfort.
By morning, around 7 am - they checked again, and I was still not dilated. I felt so deflated - the pains were coming every 3-4 minutes, yet I wasn't in any labour yet. The plan was to go until 4 pm that day (the 19th) and then have a balloon catheter inserted. I didn't know if I could last that long. I was tired and frustrated that nothing had happened, even with a balloon catheter; it could still be hours later and last another day.
Around 11 am a beautiful midwife named Lee spoke to me about electing to have a caesar if that's what I felt I needed but that it was entirely up to me. I thought I'd wait a little longer and see what would happen. After about 10 minutes of Lee leaving the room, I felt a huge pushdown and a rush of water. Lee came back to check my dilation, and I was 4-5cm!
I don't know if my brain and body clicked into gear after discussing options, as I really wanted to have a natural birth. I was then in active labour, but the pains were the same intensity as before and coming every 3 minutes. They started prepping me for the birth suite, but when they put the foetal heart rate monitor back on, bub was experiencing late decelerations. A bunch of obstetricians were called in, and they advised me that I needed an emergency caesar to ensure bubs safety, and I agreed.
What came next felt like a blur - it was a rush of people dressing me in long stockings and a hospital gown, signing of papers and my husband getting ready to accompany us. As I was getting wheeled into the theatre, the anaesthetist noticed on my file that I have a blood condition called Von Willebrands (my blood is missing a certain clotting factor). A group of anaesthetists decided that for my safety, I needed to have the caesar under general anaesthetic. I was heartbroken but by this point also exhausted, still experiencing regular contractions and so ready to meet bub.
Kieran, my husband, wasn't allowed in during the GA and saying goodbye to him was extremely emotional - when we next saw each other we would be parents. Lee, the beautiful midwife, accompanied me to theatre. She took Kieran's phone and promised me that she would film the birth and special moments after that I would miss. She held my hand the entire time, and I cannot thank her enough for the level of care she gave us both.
I had specifically asked that bub not be fed if possible so that I could latch them, that Kieran hold them until I was well enough to come up and that the sex remains a secret until Kieran could tell me.
I was put under at 3:12 pm on the 19th, and at 3:14 pm, our beautiful baby girl Violet Clara Hardy entered the world. She was 3740gms (8p 4oz) and 52cms long.
Violet came out having difficulty breathing at first but this soon resolved. She was sent to the special care nursery with Kieran to wait for me. I woke up around 5 pm, and after a little while in recovery, I was wheeled up to the nursery to meet our baby.
Kieran looked at me and said, "She's been waiting to meet you," and I started bawling, seeing the two of them together and hearing that we had had a beautiful baby girl. Meeting Violet is the single greatest moment of my entire life - that moment is indescribable; so full of emotion, happiness, awe and magic, and I cry every time I think about it.
Once I held her, she latched immediately, and the three of us snuggled up until we got the all-clear to leave the nursery and go back to our own room.
Her birth was not what I expected, and at times I feel sad and disheartened that I missed out on special moments, but I am forever grateful that she arrived safely and that we had special people like midwife Lee who filmed everything for me.
I'm so thankful for all the doctors, midwives, nurses, anaesthetists and the paediatrician for helping us that day and helping us to bring our baby into the world.
I was terrified of birth, labour and of having a caesar, but now that I've gone through it, I'm truly in awe of women and what our bodies can do.
I'm still struggling with my ulcers but hoping that we find a cause or solution for them soon! I'm hoping for a successful VBAC with the next bub, but until then, I'm soaking up every special moment with my little girl.