The Baby I never thought I’d have, the Sunroof she came out of, and the Minority I didn’t know I was part of… | Guest Writer Kym Woolcott
On a Thursday afternoon in March, 2015, I vividly recall sitting next to my mum at a hairdressing appointment, and telling her I would do a pregnancy test the next day because I felt different. My boyfriend, Matt, and I, had been together for 18 months, and had been trying for a baby since August, 2014, after an all clear from our doctor following a diagnosis of ovarian cysts years earlier.
I received my diagnosis at the age of 21. I was told that there was a cyst blocking the eggs travelling down one of my fallopian tubes, which was sure to make conception difficult when I was ready to try. So I had been taking oral contraception to keep the symptoms at bay, with no true hope that I would ever become a mother. Between the time I received my diagnosis, and met and fell in love with Matt, I had moved homes and changed doctors. My new doctor was fabulous. She was so supportive and sent me for testing when I requested a follow up. I was so overjoyed when the results came back with no sign of cysts!
I was always hopeful. I kept a stock of home pregnancy tests on hand, and tracked my menstrual cycle, which turned out to be 35 days, not the typical 28. When I was later than usual for my menstrual bleed, I had a feeling something exciting was happening. As soon as I took a home pregnancy test and saw those two blue lines appear, I was shocked. I ran straight into Matt’s open arms and cried happy tears! We told our parents, who were overjoyed, especially Matt’s parents as it was their first grandchild. The news came not long after Matt’s Nan, Sally, sadly passed away on 26th February.
The Most Wanted Baby
We visited our GP, who confirmed the pregnancy and referred us for our dating ultrasound. I hadn’t had any morning sickness, though was feeling very tired. We scheduled our scan, and when we saw an empty sac on the screen our hearts dropped. The sonographer didn’t give us any information, but told us to return to our doctor. On our way to the doctor’s appointment, I was so nervous about what she was going to say, and ended up experiencing my first bout of morning sickness. We were so relieved to be told it was just too early for our growing embryo to be seen with an ultrasound, but I was definitely pregnant. We rescheduled our ultrasound for a few weeks later, when I was 7 weeks and 5 days along, and we got to see our little jelly bean for the first time. It was incredible!
The following weeks felt slow, but looking back now they went much too fast. I suffered from pretty painful round ligament pain, which not only caused me to head to hospital, but also made me physically ill. Luckily, it never lasted more than a couple of weeks at a time. Matt and I opted not to have the 12 week scan, so our next scan was the 19 week anatomy scan. I had booked in on the Tuesday, when I was exactly 19 weeks, but our little bubba was bouncing so much that the sonographer couldn’t get a clear picture of its heart. I had to reschedule not once, but twice more that week in the hope of a clearer reading, the final date happening to fall on Matt’s 25th birthday. He received a sweet birthday present when we found out we were expecting a little girl, and that she was perfectly healthy.
Our pregnancy continued smoothly, and we were excited to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time at 28 weeks. Everything was going well, and when I reached my due date, I was booked in for an induction for nine days later.
Then It Was Time
“9 months preparing to love for a lifetime.” – Unknown
The night before my induction, I booked into hospital. Matt and I had only spent a handful of nights apart during our two year relationship, so I was even more terrified at the thought of my induction starting overnight without him. I had no reason to be worried though; other than a couple of Braxton Hicks contractions, I made no progress, even after being administered two doses of Prostaglandin.
At 6.30am the next morning, I was led from my bed on the maternity ward to a labour and delivery room. I was hooked up to the Syntocinon (synthetic Oxytocin) drip around 7.30am, and by 8.30am I experienced my first, artificial contraction. My mum, Nikki, arrived around 9am, and Matt arrived by 10am. I was experiencing a contraction every two and a half minutes, and I was dismissing all offers of pain relief as I wanted to see if I could do it without them.
Sometime during the morning, the midwives changed shifts, and in walked the breath of fresh air that was Anna. Without her by my side that day, I’m positive my experience would have been very different. Matt had a nap around 1.30pm. Bless him. Watching your missus in labour is hard work!
Doctor Hannah arrived around 4pm to check my progress, as did my student midwife Stacey. At this time I had been labouring for 7.5 hours, every two and a half minutes. I was told I wasn’t progressing, and that it may be due to a narrow pelvis, so they were taking me to theatre for an emergency c-section. Surgery terrified me. I had undergone a number of surgeries as a young child. The thought of a c-section birth never occurred to me, not once. No-one in my family had undergone a c-section, other than my mother in law. Luckily, she and I had spoken about her three, very different, births, so I was somewhat prepared.
My Birth Story
I was unable to read the consent form through my tears. I remember without realizing I was crying until someone snapped me out of it and read the form to me. I think it was my sister, but my memory is a little foggy.
I had a catheter inserted (which either was completely painless or I was too side tracked to feel), and I was wheeled to theatre. I recall giggling my head off at Matt, who had worn thongs to the hospital that morning, and paired with his scrubs he looked hilarious. Then, it was time for me to go into theatre and receive my spinal tap, without Matt by my side. But Anna and Stacey were. I was still contracting even though they had disconnected the drip, so staying still with my back arched correctly was hard. I was crying (still? Or did I start again?), and I recall Anna wiping the tears away and holding my hand. That lady was a Godsend.
Before I knew it, I was laying down with Matt by my side, numb from the chest down. I said to Matt that I felt famous with all those people around, not to mention Anna running back and forth between the bottom end and the top, taking photos of our baby girl being born, while always being there to reassure me everything was okay. On the 26th November, at 6:22pm, our 7 pound 9 ounce daughter, Heather Nicole, was born. Her birth came exactly nine months after her great-Nans passing. She was perfect. I remember my very lovely anaesthetist calming my nerves by saying I can now tell everyone my baby had come out the sun roof.
My Breastfeeding Journey
Our breastfeeding journey began very fast, with her latching immediately after being placed on my chest. I was so relieved. I knew how common it was for people to experience breastfeeding issues following a c-section. It was painful, like I expected. I was still numb from surgery, but I could feel my breasts. Heather fed beautifully, and we ended up sharing my bed that night, as I couldn’t get up to get her when she cried. It was the best start to our journey together, not only as mother and daughter, but as nurser and nursling, and as bed-sharers.
My milk came in on day three while I was still in hospital recovering. It was painless; unlike I was warned it would be. During one of our nights in hospital, Heather wouldn’t settle. I kept trying to put her back in her cot when she fell asleep, but she kept waking up. I later learned there was a good reason for that, but the nurse on duty asked if she could give her formula to help, which I accepted, but was later relieved to find out they never needed. On day four, the Monday, we were discharged from hospital. Our breastfeeding journey was going really well, though I was yet to feel or sense a letdown, or any of the other sensations I’d heard so much about.
I had purchased a breast pump while I was pregnant, at the suggestion of others, so I was excited to go home and pump a bottle so Matt could feed Heather. I sterilised all the parts and set it up, and got comfortable and prepared to pump. I connected the pump to my breast and ensured it had a good seal, and turned the pump on. Everything seemed to be working right, I had followed advice from others about pumping, but after an hour, I hadn’t pumped a drop. I gave my nipple a gentle squeeze, and a couple of small drops appeared a few seconds later. Most other parents I had spoken to said they squirted like taps from day one, so why wasn’t I the same? I started questioning my supply, and wondering if I was starving Heather.
The next day, we returned to the hospital for our day five check-up. Heather was born at 3230g, and had dropped down to 10% less than her birth weight, and hadn’t gained much back, so I was concerned, even though the nurses didn’t seem to be. They told me not to worry, and that a nurse would be visiting our home on day ten for another check-up, so I was starting to feel a little more confident.
When Heather was ten days old, we received a visit from our Child Health Nurse, Alison. She was fantastic. She weighed Heather, and recorded that she had gained weight and was now well and truly above her birth weight. She told me that slower gains after birth are common with breastfed babies, and it’s nothing to worry about. She also reassured me that inability to pump is not an indication of low supply. That was like music to my ears. But she couldn’t tell me why I wasn’t experiencing a letdown or why my journey was otherwise painless.
Finding My Community
“Your GREATNESS is not what you have. But what you have to GIVE.”
Fast forward to August, 2016, when Heather was a little over six months old. We were going well with our breastfeeding journey, and I had found fantastic support from Facebook groups, especially Mandurah Breastfeeding Mamas, which shared a wealth of knowledge and never ending reassurance. I had been informed of an upcoming event in our local area, The Big Latch On, where breastfeeding parents all around the world gather to latch and feed at the same time in the hope of not only raising breastfeeding awareness, but attempt to beat the world record for most people breastfeeding around the world at the same time. I was so excited to be a part of something like this, so I confirmed my attendance and prepared myself mentally.
The morning of the event was a life changing one for me, for so many reasons. I have always suffered from various mental health issues, but one that has been harder to get a hold of is my anxiety, which sky rocketed after giving birth, and that morning it was really giving me hell. But, I drove down to the location of the event, parked my car, got Heather out, and slowly walked towards the entrance. I stopped. My feet wouldn’t take me through the entrance into the room filled with breastfeeding parents and their supporters.
Then, I saw Ashleigh, with her beautiful baby twins and her toddler son, appearing to be fighting the same inner battle I was. I stepped out of my very small comfort zone and approached her, asking if she’d need some help with getting her babies inside. She looked at me, with so much hope and gratitude, and accepted my offer. We walked in together, with my anxiety melting away, all thanks to her (and I am very happy to report she and I have remained close friends since this day. So much of my life today is thanks to Ash).
Inside the event, I met an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I can’t remember her name, but after one quick chat with her, my breastfeeding experience has never been the same. I mentioned all the things that seemed to be so different for me compared to others I’d spoken to – the inability to pump, lack of engorgement, no let downs, no pain, no leaking, never feeling full or knowing if my breasts are even holding milk – and she told me that one in five breastfeeding parents are exactly like me! That means that out in the world, 20% of people with the ability to produce breast milk have experiences very similar to mine. I WAS NOT ALONE ANYMORE. I WAS ONE IN FIVE.
Eighteen months later, I am still to meet another breastfeeding parent who is part of the one in five, though it hasn’t stopped me from telling people about my experience and reassuring them that everyone’s journey is completely different.
Look How Far We Have Come
Heather has just turned two. We are still breastfeeding, with no apparent end in sight. I aim to let her naturally wean when she is ready. We have also bed-shared for every night of her life, which has been beneficial to us all. I was appointed as one of the admins of Mandurah Breastfeeding Mamas over a year ago, and co-hosted the 2017 Big Latch On in Mandurah alongside the other admins and members. I also launched my own business, Kym’s Boobie Kookies – Fed With Love, in June, 2017, that produces foods that assist breastfeeding parents in boosting their breast milk supply, as well as products aimed at pregnant people or those with low iron, protein or fibre, and offers continuous breastfeeding support to those who need and want it, with a welcoming support group for breastfeeding parents and advocates.
If you’re due to give birth soon, and the thought of a c-section never occurred to you, I urge you to read up, even just a little, on the procedure and what you may be in for. And if you plan to breastfeed and want to give yourself the best chance, join support groups, lean on other breastfeeding parents, call the Australian Breastfeeding Association (on 1800 MUM2MUM or 1800686268), don’t buy a breast pump, dummies or bottles (until and if you actually need them – I didn’t), and most of all, trust yourself. Having faith in your body to do what it is designed to do (even if your birth didn’t go to plan) is by far the most vital part to any breastfeeding journey. You can do this!
Much love xo