Candi, 36, has had two very different pregnancies, and births – including encountering postnatal anxiety and sleep deprivation with her first baby. Despite initially not wanting to have another baby, Candi fell pregnant again twice, only to sadly miscarry both times. Happily, she and her husband were blessed with their rainbow baby in 2018.

I had two very different pregnancies and very different births. My husband and I fell pregnant the second month of trying and we were very excited. I was hit with morning sickness that started at 4am each morning but was gone by 10am each day. I also had crippling migraines up until 20 weeks. Everything else went very smoothly until week 28 when I was diagnosed with low iron and was put on iron supplements. My doctor was very concerned about my weight gain as well, by 39 weeks pregnant I had put on 22 kilos which is more than recommended. I went to my obstetrician appointment at 39 weeks pregnant and my blood pressure had suddenly jumped up and my feet had become really swollen. My doctor booked me in for an induction that night, I was told to go home get some sleep and meet her at the hospital at 6pm. I was excited about the prospect of meeting my baby however very nervous about the unknown.

The induction took a lot longer than we expected. The gel was put in at night and I was told to try and get some sleep. All through the night I had some cramping but nothing too uncomfortable. The next morning I was checked and had only progressed 1 cm. More gel was placed in and we waited. Throughout the day I experienced more cramping but nothing really uncomfortable. By 6 pm I hadn’t made much more progress again so I had a Pitocin added to a drip in my arm. I was starting to get quite tired as it had been 24 hours so far and I was only 2cms. Once the Pitocin was added however my labour started to progress a lot faster and the contractions really came on hard and fast. I was given the gas at first to try and relieve the pressure of the contractions however the pain was too much and I asked for an epidural. The anaesthesiologist arrived and I was asked to sit on the side of the bed as still as possible as the needle was placed into my spine. I remember the anaesthesiologist explained all of the risks of the epidural to me, and I agreed, in all honesty he could have told me that I would never walk again and I still would have agreed just to make the pain stop. The relief of the epidural was immediate and I was suddenly very tired. The midwives were amazing and added warm blankets on and around me as I started to get the shakes from the cold/epidural. This was 10.30pm, I had been in active labour for four hours. I drifted in and out of sleep for the next three hours as my contractions continued. Midwives would come in and out checking how far I was dilated and then I would drift back to sleep, I just remember being so very tired. My doctor came in a 2am and checked me, then told me it was time to push. I couldn’t feel anything below my stomach. My feet were placed into stirrups, the bed was lifted slightly. The doctor was in position, midwives either side telling me when to breathe and when to push. It takes a lot longer than what you see in the movies, lots of pushing and breathing. I was so very tired. As the baby’s head came out, I heard my doctor say that the cord was around its neck, at the same time the heart rate started to slow down showing that the baby was tired. I remember thinking how calm my doctor was in this moment, she said ‘I’m just going to make some more room for the baby.’ She performed an episiotomy, and the next moment she was pulling him out and raising him onto my chest. Even though I had been pregnant for 9 months and in the hospital for almost two days, my first thought as I looked down at a screaming baby was ‘wow, where did this baby come from?’ It was a boy, we had a baby boy! He was taken away, weighed, measured and wrapped up before being bought back to us all snug and quiet. It was 5am before we were back on the ward and my husband and I were so tired and just wanted to sleep. Because my son is the first grandchild on both sides, both of our parents arrived excited at the hospital as soon as visiting hours opened which was only three hours after we arrived back on the ward. I was exhausted, and one of my regrets about this day is accepting visitors straight away instead of resting for a bit longer. The first day in hospital was a blur of excited visitors, lots of photos being taken and being so very tired. Once my son woke up from his newborn sleepiness he didn’t seem to want to go back to sleep ever. It felt like he was always crying, midwives were coming in constantly and telling us different things, I was a new mum getting overwhelmed, exhausted, sore from the stitches and it was all taking its toll. By the time my milk came in I was an emotional mess. I was trying to breast feed a baby for the first time and it wasn’t working, it hurt every time he attached and my nipples were soon cracked and bleeding. By day four I started crying and couldn’t stop. They were going to discharge me and I just couldn’t stop crying. 

Candi after the birth of her son

The first week at home was hell. My son cried and cried, I was in so much pain from the stitches, it hurt to sit or stand or walk. Breastfeeding was so hard, he wouldn’t attach properly. When he was a week old I had mastitis on both sides. I found a family health unit close to my house that was open the next day so off we went to see them. The health nurse confirmed that I had mastitis and also looked at my son and told me that she believed he had a tongue tie. We had an answer as to why he wouldn’t attach properly and why he was always screaming with hunger. The health nurse gave us a number of a doctor who could fix the tongue tie, I rang them immediately. The receptionist told me there was a week’s wait to get an appointment, I started to cry on the phone and the receptionist asked, ‘is it affecting your sons feeding’ I told her yes and I had mastitis. I will be forever grateful for this receptionist saying she would fit us in on Monday, (this was on a Friday) I only had to get through the weekend. My husband went out and bought me a breast pump and I had endless showers over that weekend massaging and trying to empty the breasts. Every time that my son attached, my toes would curl with the pain, I would grit my teeth and think just make it to Monday and it will be better. Monday came and we went off to the doctor who fixed his tongue tie straight away and he could now attach properly. By two weeks old we were successfully breastfeeding and the mastitis was gone. I was still exhausted, and easily teary. The first six months were a blur of feeding, changing and visitors. He woke every 2 hours around the clock. I was very teary and didn’t feel like myself but put that down to being exhausted. In hindsight I should have added formula to his feeding so that my husband could have taken some of the feeds so I could have slept. I was just in too much exhausted brain fog to see any light. I developed postnatal anxiety, hating to leave the house and becoming very nervous hours before having to go anywhere. I knew I wasn’t my usual confident self but felt so stuck and trapped. I went to the doctor who dismissed my concerns as just being sleep deprived. I wish I got help sooner as I feel like I missed out on enjoying those early months with my son. When I went back to work, my son 14 months old, I had a complete mental breakdown. I wanted to quit my job and just lie in bed all day, I felt so crippled by sadness and anxiety. As a family we went away for a mini break and I started to feel like myself again.

After everything that I went through the first time I was pretty adamant that I was not having any more children. When my son was 2 we went to my parents’ house for Christmas and I watched him playing with his toys by himself. He was still the only the grandchild. I remembered my own Christmases playing with my cousins and brother and felt deeply sorry for my son that he wouldn’t have that. My husband always wanted a second so didn’t take too much convincing. We started trying that December, and by February I was pregnant again, however by March I miscarried, it was very early but unexpected. I was quite naïve, we had fallen pregnant so easy with my son, now I had a miscarriage. At the same time, my friend invited us to Bali for her 40th birthday in October that same year. My husband I decided that would be a great idea, a holiday as a couple to reconnect and put the miscarriage behind us. Once we got home we started to try again, I was pregnant in November, but by at an ultrasound, the tiny jellybean on the screen had no heartbeat. We were stunned, how could this have happened again? I miscarried the jellybean on the 22nd December; there is no good time to have a miscarriage, but Christmas really sucks. I wanted to crawl into bed and watch meaningless Netflix and shut off the rest of the world. But we had a three year old and family who all wanted to share Christmas with us. In January I went back to my obstetrician, and after extensive tests and scans I was diagnosed with unexplained secondary infertility. I was frustrated as to why they couldn’t give us an answer and also felt like I had somehow jinxed it because I had said for years I don’t want a second baby. My obstetrician was great, she put a plan in place with different steps. The first step was to go and have a hycosy test, an ultrasound where saline solution is flushed through my fallopian tubes to release any blockages. It was as unpleasant as it sounds.

Two weeks later I was pregnant and the obstetrician prescribed me progesterone to try and maintain the pregnancy. I was sick straight away, from morning to night I was vomiting and also had migraines, hot sweats and I was so irritable. I was also very nervous that I would miscarry. I really struggled to connect with the pregnancy as I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I would tell myself if there is a heartbeat at 12 weeks I’ll let myself get excited. We made it to 12 weeks and I felt like I could exhale for the first time in months. I still didn’t get excited about the pregnancy, told myself I would at the 20 week scan. We went to the 20 week scan and there was still a heartbeat. We breathed a sigh of relief and I allowed myself to become excited about being pregnant. We didn’t find out the sex of the baby but wanted to keep it a surprise. At the 20 week scan it was picked up that the placenta was low lying and covering the top of the cervix. I was told that 9 times out of 10 the placenta moved out of the way and another scan was booked for 30 weeks to check on it. I went off to my 30 weeks scan and it was revealed that the placenta was still low lying and I natural birth would be unlikely. The thought of having a c-section frightened me beyond words, I had heard so many horror stories over the years and everyone talked about the pain of the recovery. I talked to my doctor who was so supportive and I decided that I would have a planned c-section. By 35 weeks I had a date booked in and the countdown was on.

 

The date arrived, my son was sent off to his grandparents place and my husband and I went off to the hospital at 5am. I was dressed in a hospital gown, wrapped in a dressing gown and taken down to the operating theatre. I was so nervous and trying not to cry. All I could think was ‘I don’t want a c-section, I don’t want this.’ I was ok until I walked into the operating theatre. I couldn’t keep it together any longer and started to have a massive panic attack. It wasn’t until my doctor came in and spoke to me, reassuring me that it would be ok and I would have my baby in my arms in 15 minutes that I felt ok. The anaesthesiologist was behind me and pushed my head up suddenly and said ‘look, there is your baby’. I looked up saw the baby, and thought “it looks like my son!” then looked down and said, “but it’s a girl!” I couldn’t believe it was a girl. She was bought over to me all wrapped up and I was able to hold her. We had told our parents this time please don’t come until the afternoon so we would have the morning to sleep and bond with our baby. This was the best decision that we made after our experience with the first baby. We spent the morning just holding her, sleeping and bonding as a family before our parents came in with our son. I fell in love with my daughter so quickly, I didn’t want to put her down. Feeding was much easier this time around too and it was such a relief. The first time that I stood up, the pain was immense and took my breath away. Walking was slow and painful but each day got better. I was so surprised at how quick the recovery was; by the time I was discharged 5 days later I was walking, still slowly but as long as I kept up my pain meds I was ok. We named her Bridgette and from the start she was a great sleeper and eater, which meant that I could sleep and recover. My husband took six weeks off and took the role of looking after our son while I recovered and fed Bridgette. I have loved being a mum the second time, I am enjoying each day with my two children, and love watching Bridgette grow and develop. She is just a joy.

 

The best thing about pregnancy for me was feeling the baby kick and move around! The worst part is the constant sickness, having colds and not being able to take anything for it. The exhaustion was hard, in a perfect world I wouldn’t have been working full time. Some advice I would give to mums-to-be and new mums is – I wish there was more emphasis on the mother after birth, the family health nurses visit to check on the babies but no one checks up on mums and how they are coping. Joining a local ‘due in’ group at my local health clinic was a big help after my first, I am still friends with some of the mums almost 5 years later.

Candi with her nerborn daughter

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