This is the third in a five-part series about loss and healing, shared by Shannon from Brisbane, AU. Yesterday, she shared about the grief and despair she felt during and after her third miscarriage. Today, she writes about the fears that arose during her next pregnancy, and her decision to pursue midwifery care. Check back tomorrow to hear the first part of her son Jasper’s birth story!
“Several months later, we conceived again, only to experience spotting at six weeks. I felt such dread that this pregnancy was to end just as the others had. My doctor sent me in for a scan, and the young sonographer had the task of telling us that there was a sac which looked the right size, but no sign of a foetus, let alone a heartbeat. I was devastated, and was not even remotely consoled by her suggestion that it could just be a little too early to see anything.
My regular doctor was not available to discuss this with us, so instead, an annoyingly optimistic doctor I’d never met before advised me to book in for a scan in a week and see if the sonographer was right. The next seven days passed slowly, and the ever-present spotting reminded me that the odds of this pregnancy being successful were slim.
I was convinced that this was going to be my fourth miscarriage. I felt sick with dread and tried to prepare myself for the inevitable, but couldn’t begin grieving since I felt so in limbo without a definitive scan. I tried to listen to my body, but all I could hear was fear and doubt. Jeremy remained positive since we had been told a number of times that spotting early on can be perfectly ok and continually assured me that he was confident this would all work out.
We made our way into the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit at the Brisbane Mater Hospital. I had visited this unit for two of my miscarriages, and as amazing as the nurses & doctors had been, I felt sick knowing that we were once again returning.
The sonographer began the scan, and within a matter of seconds uttered the words ‘there’s your baby’s heartbeat’. I looked at my husband and burst into tears. He kissed my forehead and in the nicest possible way said ”I told you so, I knew it would be ok.”
I was still so anxious that something would go wrong again. I didn’t trust my body, and I found it very hard to become excited and begin to connect with this baby. I had a page of positive affirmations I read aloud several times a day. I tried to stay busy and tried so hard to project positivity, as I knew this would be the best thing for our baby, and I knew that worrying was a pointless exercise – what will be will be. But it was challenging to align what I knew with how I felt.
I had several early scans to reassure myself that the baby was still alive and growing – this helped a lot to make it seem more real and as proof that there really was a baby growing inside me. When I got to 13 weeks, I was finally able to relax. I had gotten through the hardest part – my body had held on tight to this baby, and I now considered myself to have just as much chance of a successful pregnancy as anyone else. I allowed myself to start looking forward, to enjoy being pregnant.
We applied to participate in the ‘Midwifery Group Practice’, also at the Mater. This practice is a public hospital initiative and it is free to participate in it. Each expectant mother is allocated to a primary midwife, who is part of a team of four midwives. All appointments, except for one with an obstetrician at 16 weeks, are spent with this team, as well as with other mothers due around the same time. You are able to get to know the team, and discuss anything and everything to do with the birth, so that when it comes time to deliver your baby, you know the people who are helping you through, and they know your birth preferences.
The only real criteria for participating in this program are that your pregnancy is considered low-risk (which mine was since the spotting was so early on), and that you intend to have a non-medicated labour. Pain relief is of course available at the hospital, but the midwives want to work with you before and during your labour to ensure you are aware of ways to deal with the pain, remain active to help your labour progress and avoid as much intervention as possible.
We were allocated a midwife named Jo, and part way through she started to job-share with another lovely midwife called Karen. I spent my pregnancy researching active birthing techniques, reading numerous birth stories (I particularly enjoyed the ‘psychedelic’ stories in Ina May Gaskin’s ‘Spiritual Midwifery’, along with the empowering stories on Birth Without Fear). I talked through my many questions with my midwives, as well as lots of mothers I know, to get as much information as possible to help me feel prepared for the birth. To face it with positivity, not fear.”
Shannon is a Brisbane-based family photographer specializing in unique, natural portraits. Her work can be seen at langbecker.com.au.