Each time I meet with a new couple that may want to work with me they want to know who I am. And I want them to know who I am. Not only a doula with ‘X’ amount of birth experience, or a HypnoBirthing practitioner with ‘x’ amount of classes under my belt. But who I REALLY am. But how to explain that to someone when I am so many things… a keen learner, a quiet observer, a deep thinker, a loyal friend, a spirited mother, a devoted wife, and a fierce birth keeper. I feel deeply passionate about women, helping them, inspiring them, growing them, serving them. I want each couple I meet to know this about me and understand WHY I feel this way. Right now I do this through my work as a HypnoBirthing practitioner, a birth doula and a postnatal doula and in the near future I will continue as a qualified perinatal counsellor. This work calls me loudly and clearly. It is part of who I am. So here I share my story, of how I came to find this path…
In 2007 I gave birth to my first child. Her birth set me on the course to where I am now. I remember the day that I found out I was pregnant like it was yesterday. It was our first ‘official’ month trying to conceive so my husband and I eagerly waited for the second line to appear on the stick, and it did. Easy as that! The rest of my pregnancy with her followed suit without complication. Morning sickness struck hard and fast but aside from that all was blissfully and ignorantly well. At 13 weeks we booked ourselves into private hospital under the care of a private obstetrician and together we attended every single appointment. We also attended the hospital antenatal classes, as well as the hospital physiotherapy antenatal classes, so felt fully prepared for what was to come. We obligingly did what we were told to do, doing tests and scans as directed. Everything was wonderful, and the plan from there on in was to ‘go with the flow’. Perfect!
The plan was to ‘go with the flow’. But who’s flow was I going with?
At 39 weeks and 4 days I spontaneously went into labour with mild contractions, and as directed we arrived at the hospital when my contractions were 5 minutes apart. From there we followed the line of pain relief options presented to us at the hospital classes – pethadine, more pethadine, then gas. My BP climbed so I was instructed that I was to have an epidural to lower it, in the best interests of my baby of course. Contractions then slowed down and I was able to sleep, only to be woken later by painful rolling contractions, so an epidural top up was administered. From there my body became exhausted and labour became disconnected, but in truth, the medications made my body non-responsive to its natural birthing instincts. My only option according to my obstetrician was an instrumental birth. A vacuum extraction of my baby from my body was attempted, but failed. The suction between my baby’s head and the vacuum broke and the force made my obstetrician fall backward to the ground. I could not feel what was happening, laying flat on my back I could not see what was happening. I could only hear, and that sound was terrifying. I thought that they had removed my baby and dropped her. I was soon told that they were not yet finished, and the next attempt would be a forceps delivery. My daughter was delivered earthside via forceps. She was quiet and whimpering. But she was born. I was tired, so very very tired. No attempt was made to encourage breastfeeding to begin, so we both slept instead.
A good, normal birth, right?
At least she was healthy, right?
For the next 2 years my mind failed to remember most of that experience. I couldn’t remember the birth of my daughter.
18 months after her birth we began trying to conceive our second child. We were in no way prepared for the journey we were about to embark on. We again fell pregnant in our first month, feeling truly ecstatic. Only to soon lose our baby, the devastation inconceivable. I had never felt true pain until that day, but we were to feel that loss time and time again over the next 3 years. Secondary infertility consumed our lives, and we faced the emotional and physical pain of IVF and multiple pregnancy losses. I still can’t put those years into words, so please forgive my shallow explanations and descriptions here. It seems to have left a blank space in my mind no matter how I try to recall it all. It’s like an emptiness, a loneliness, that I simply can not articulate.
It was at this point that began to develop a keen interest in photography. I was gifted my first DSLR by my husband, and off I went! I began doing photography sessions for family and friends, and soon after I launched my business as a photographer. I spent the first few years photographing families, children, engagements, everything! Soon my focus narrowed and I fell in love with photographing pregnancy and newborns, and slowly my business transformed into something that solely focused on that love. I changed the name of my business, redirected my marketing, and specialised solely in maternal photography, fine art portraiture of pregnancy and newborns. As our time of trying to conceive a baby lengthened, my work became challenging, but I tried hard to detach myself from the couples and babies I worked with though it didn’t work. I would speak with each couple at their maternity session about the plans they had for their birth, most opting to ‘go with the flow’, then I would speak with them again soon after at their newborn session and listen as they tried to comprehend the enormity of their birthing experience. Some positive, though most neutral at best. I listened, supported, then did my job as their photographer.
After 3 years of pain we turned inward toward each other, and my husband and I reached the excrutiating decision to stop trying to grow our family. We ceased all fertility treatments. We even ‘celebrated’ this decision with a professional photography session, gifted to us by a friend, to permanently capture our life as we moved forward as a family of three. It was hard, really hard, but we felt we had no choice but to move on.
Within a few months, I was pregnant.
The ignorant bliss I had felt throughout my first pregnancy was no where to be found. This pregnancy was riddled with anxiety, fear and many many tears. It was a complete rollercoaster of emotions. I had lost 4 pregnancies by that point so the fear I had of losing this baby, my son, was consuming.
Going through the motions of this pregnancy triggered memories from my daughter’s birth, and it was then that I first knew in my heart that her birth wasn’t right.
I remembered feeling completely lost and out of control.
I remembered feeling that my body wasn’t mine. Why was I given an epidural for my blood pressure? Why was I automatically given a top-up epidural? Was that the reason my baby was born so quiet? Is that why she didn’t feed? Was an instrumental birth truly my only option? Would I have been able to birth my baby without forceps if I wasn’t so medicated? I had so many questions. All that I knew for sure was that my daughter’s birth was stolen from me, and I needed my next birthing experience to be different. I had to go elsewhere to birth my son.
The fear of losing another baby, together with the devastation at realising that my first birth was taken away from me, inspired great change. Those feelings shadowed me every single day through anxiety but I was determined to turn them around. I researched my options for care givers and found an obstetrician that I felt at home with. I chose a care facility that welcomed my wants for this birth. I asked a my best friend, one of the strongest women I knew, to advocate for my wishes and attend our birth as our additional support person. I expanded my so-called ‘knowledge’ of birthing by reading quality birthing books, attending independent antenatal birth classes, speaking to those that had achieved the birth I desired, and researching all of my birthing options. It was crucial to me and my husband that we were fully informed this time. How my body worked, how labour and birth worked, how hospitals worked, my rights, my options, everything.
This birth was going to go with MY flow, no one else’s, and for that information was KEY.
In truth, my anxiety got the better of me as my birthing time drew near, and at 40 weeks + 1 day I requested an induction to begin my labour. In my mind at the time my baby was safer in my arms than inside my womb. I felt comfortable and confident that this was the right choice for me. So on the morning of the induction my husband drove us to the hospital where we set up our room with music and food, and promptly stuck our A3 sized printout of our birth plan centre-stage on the wall and our ‘please knock before you enter’ sign on the door. Every midwife was asked to read our plans before attending to us. Our support person acted as a buffer between my husband and I and the medical staff, ensuring that we had space and privacy to review any requests to intervene in my labour. I was induced, and my labour progressed as it should have the first time. I birthed my son 9 hours later, directly into my own waiting hands. My first thought, which I remember so vividly, was “I did it”. The experience of a positive birth left me feeling healed. I was on Cloud 9 for weeks and I am still in awe of the magic of that day. My parenting in those early months reflected the birth of my son. I found it to be a calmer, more gentle experience. Everything was as it should be.
Two years later, my husband and I made the tough decision to again pursue fertility treatment to further expand our family after unsuccessfully trying naturally for 9 months. Shortly after our initial appointment with the specialist we discovered that we were again pregnant. We were in utter disbelief! This pregnancy journey instantly felt worlds apart to my first two as I knew that my body was meant to birth again. I was prepared for what was to come, and I knew I could achieve the birth I desired yet again. My pregnancy was mostly uneventful, bar the usual aches and pains that accompany growing a new life. But as my due date neared my anxiety reared again. Some beautiful friends of mine gathered to gift me a Fear Release hypnosis session with an amazing Hypnotherapist. This felt like a turning point for me and once again I took back my reigns to steer the course of my birth.
Unfortunately my health took a turn at 37 weeks with the sudden onset of symptoms of severe Pre-eclampsia. At a regular appointment at my obstetrician’s rooms I was immediately admitted into hospital, and after discussions with my obstetrician I agreed to be induced. At 37 weeks and 4 days I was induced, and what followed can be described as nothing short of sublime. Again my birth was mine to own. My baby boy was birthed into my arms a few short hours later. The months that followed were again peaceful and fulfilling. I was a mother to three beautiful souls, everything was perfect.
After taking a six months off from my photography work for maternity leave I returned to my studio and continued working with pregnant women, their partners, and soon their new babies. But something had changed in me and I wasn’t sure what or why. My passion for my work was fizzling, my creative spark was struggling to ignite, and I was losing interest in growing my business. My birthing journeys were playing heavily on my mind at each photography session I did. Somehow the two were connecting, my own birthing journeys together with those of the women I was was meeting in my studio.
I soon decided it was time to get some help with my conflicting feelings toward my business. I sought the help of a Life Coach (Liz Smith from The Connected Life – amazing, amazing woman) who I had hoped would help me find some career direction. I made an appointment for an initial consultation, buzzing at the thought of possibly moving on from photography toward something new. The evening came and I drove out to our meeting space, and I sat in front Liz trying hard to answer her questions, but I was silenced by the feeling of fog settling in my brain. It quietened my thoughts and brought a hazy feeling over me so I struggled to recall a few details and clarify some of my thoughts. Liz noticed it too. After about 30 minutes of speaking with Liz I was surprised when she called our session to an end. She gently told me that she didn’t feel she could help me any further as she suspected that I had signs of Post Natal Depression. I was completely and utterly gobsmacked! I had no idea what she was talking about… I wasn’t sad, or down, nor was I constantly crying or overwhelmed. She asked me to go home and speak with my husband, and seek the help of someone who works with PND. I soon left, and drove home feeling confused and a little lost.
When I arrived home that night my husband was waiting for me on the sofa. I walked into the room and we sat in the dark, and I told him what Liz had said to me, absolutely sure that he would say the idea was as crazy as I thought. But he didn’t say that. He listened, then he agreed. We talked and talked into the night. The next day I phoned the Hypnotherapist I had worked with during my pregnancy, as she was also a Counsellor who’s focus was women. I booked myself in to see her the following week. I won’t go too much into the details of what happened with my counselling, but I will say the Liz was right.
I walked into my counsellor’s room and in that moment that I spoke to her, it felt that for the first time in a very vey long time, I could exhale.
My PND stemmed back from my first birth 7 years earlier, I just wasn’t aware of it. Looking back on it though it seems as clear as day… how could I have not recognised the signs? How could I assume that what happened with my first birth was not going to have an impact on my future? It changed everything for me, and heavily impacted my life. I saw my counsellor regularly for the next 12 months, and I can truly say that she not only changed my life, she saved it.
And while seeing her I was able to piece together the pieces of my career. Everything to that point had led me to wanting to work with women in a way that would let them too exhale. My birth trauma, my healing births, seeing women in my photography studio walking into birth unprepared, seeing them soon after battling feelings similar to mine of loss of control, experiencing first hand the importance of independent birth education, my devastating pregnancy losses, my fertility issues, my undiagnosed post-natal depression…
It has all led me here.
To working with women to provide them the support that I KNOW they need, throughout their perinatal journey, whatever path that may take. It wasn’t long after finding my feet again that I was certified as a Birth and Postnatal Doula, and HypnoBirthing Practioner here in Perth. I am also studying at university to achieve a Bachelor of Counselling. I strongly believe that through this work I can make a life-changing and life-saving difference to the women I meet.
So when I said at the beginning of this post that my work is part of who I am, I meant it 100%. My work IS me. I bring myself and my experiences to every couple I work with, whole-heartedly and completely with honesty and authenticity.
If you choose me to support you in your experience of birth, you will have all of me.
HypnoBirthing Courses Perth, birth doula and postnatal doula.