Kylie has one hell of a story to tell – her journey to becoming a mum took 20 years! And after all that time, her precious bub didn’t really want to cooperate and had other ideas for her birth! It certainly wasn’t an easy journey for Kylie, but meeting her beautiful baby girl was worth the wait!
My birthing story began when I was 20, naïve and optimistic. I had a 5 year plan to find the man of my dreams at 21, date for a few years, get engaged, marry by 25 and plan a family before my 30s. Two 5 year plans later I was yet to find ‘the one’ and on a successful career path instead. It was at this point I started to feel the pressure from friends, parents, colleagues and medical professionals to ‘get a move on’ if I wanted children. One more 5 year plan and many more unsuccessful relationships later, I was getting tired of being told to ‘freeze my eggs’ every time I went to the GP, so I made the decision to look for a sperm donor and conceive on my own. It took me 3 years to ensure my finances, my health and my support network were in place before making the best decision of my life and signing up with an IVF agency.
I prepped myself physically, mentally and emotionally for 12 months. I was open with my friends and colleagues, (even the boyfriend I had at the time) about my intentions and was amazed at the overwhelming support and encouragement I received from those around me. I was expecting some level of scorn or backlash that just never came. My mother had the hardest time dealing with the situation, not because she disapproved, but as a traditionalist, she couldn’t understand why it would be so difficult for someone like myself to find a partner and start a family the ‘normal’ way. Over time she came to understand my situation and in talking to her own social group found acceptance that in today’s world, this is potentially the new norm for a lot of people in my generation.
Becoming my biggest supporters, my mother and father came with me when I made the trip to Melbourne for the insemination of the sperm that I had chosen. The donor I selected from the provided list of potentials was from a healthy family of mixed Australian/European descent with an existing family of 5 children of his own (the last conceived through IVF). It was strange seeing all the couples, full of hope and emotion in the waiting room, whilst my mother and I sat giggling at the thought that some of the men came out with big smiles because they’d been there for their ‘donation’ that particular day!
10 days later, I was due to have dinner with two of my besties. I wanted to pee on a stick before I went so I had time to process the emotions I would be going through before seeing anyone else, given I had less than 10% chance of conceiving. But, when I tried, I was so nervous I couldn’t pee. I put the lid back on the stick and threw it in to my handbag to use later. At my friend’s house, I went to take my phone out of my handbag and by chance glanced at the stick. There were two faint lines! I looked up, my friend saw my face and when I pulled out the stick and realisation hit, she started crying and we all started talking together in shock and cautioned excitement. I hadn’t even peed! Surely one rogue drop couldn’t give a true result, so there was a half hour of excruciating anticipation as I raced to skull water, grab another stick and do it again. The reactions from my family when I sent them a photo text of two sticks with no explanation were priceless.
I realised I was exceptionally lucky that day, conceiving my beautiful baby girl with no hormone therapy or intervention, just a quick squirt and an hour at home upside down in a chair (just in case). It was very special (and a little bit weird) to have my parents with me the day I conceived their granddaughter and changed all of our lives.
My pregnancy was unexceptional. I was tracking to plan, feeling well and enjoying the positive energy that being pregnant created for me, and those around me. My parents continued to support me, joining me for preparation with a positive birthing coach. I was hoping to labour as naturally as possible, believing this would create the special connection with my little girl that would set the foundation for our future relationship. Given my age (40), mild hypothyroidism and the fact that I had conceived with intervention, I was considered a high risk and therefore it was suggested I have appointments with specialists and/or obstetricians rather than midwives. Being uncomfortable with this, I requested midwife involvement and agreed on a compromise of alternating appointments. This created a difficult situation for me in that I never saw the same person twice and often received such conflicting direction that it was difficult for me to know what to take on and what to dismiss. For this reason, when I was told at 36 weeks that I should book in for an induction because my baby was not engaging and was unlikely to deliver naturally, I rebelled. Contributing to the situation was the manner in which this direction was delivered… leaving me feeling bullied and treated as a checklist of risk factors on a page, rather than the healthy, dedicated and informed person that I am.
The next 6 weeks were very challenging for me. I had chosen to let my pregnancy progress to term (up to 42 weeks) without induction. I had very supportive midwives and my birth coach encouraging me to choose the path that I felt was right for me and my baby. I also had a number of specialists in my ear telling me that I was risking the imminent death of my baby by continuing on the path I had chosen (yes, they used those exact words). My situation was made particularly more sensitive given that my nephew was stillborn when my sister was full-term in her pregnancy, having shown no signs of risk prior to his sudden death. Every time I met with a specialist, they challenged me on my decision, making me have the same conversation with 2-3 levels of management at each session. I was brought to tears a number of times – was I killing my baby with my own stubbornness? How could I possibly know what was right for my baby when no one could ever be certain of the risks or the progress of my pregnancy, particularly when they were providing direction based on 15 minute conversations and a few facts and figures from my medical history. Making things even harder was the division this created in my support team. My Dad was right behind me in sticking to my guns and doing what I thought was right, yet I could see that the fear my mother had – going through such a terrible emotional time of loss again was always at the forefront of her mind, making her easily convinced by the specialist’s advice to proceed on the side of caution.
Ultimately, my pregnancy progressed to 41 weeks at which point I was being monitored every second day and having weekly progress appointments. At this stage, I was feeling well and confident that my baby was also well despite the paranoia that was instilled in me through all the conversations I had about risks and what to look out for. For this reason, when I hadn’t felt my baby move for a while, I erred on the side of caution and went in for monitoring. This was a catalyst for yet another set of conversations with specialists to come in for an induction. Whilst the monitoring showed that everything was fine (I was probably just too active/distracted on that day to have noticed the movements), I reluctantly made the decision to proceed with an induction.
A few days later, I was in with my parents taking the first step of induction (Cervidil). The specialists outlined the process that I would be taken through and what to expect at each step. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about all the stories I’d heard from other mothers about the intensity of the pain and increase in the need for intervention that often occurred with induction, so I was somewhat relieved when the contractions started a few hours later and my labour was progressing comfortably on its own without further intervention. Maybe this was all going to work out as planned after all…
My waters were broken the next morning and after the first 6 hours of manageable contractions, labour became intense… steam train intense. I was doing the breathing, focusing on visualising the baby descending in between sips of water, severe contractions and mustering the energy just to keep going. After 14 hours I was fully dilated, yet my babe’s head was nowhere to be seen. At this point I caved from the exhaustion when told I probably had another 3 hours of labour to go and opted for an epidural to give me an hour’s break before the final charge. When I was told it was time to push, I felt a massive relief that was enough to renew my energy. I pushed with all the gym training, mental training and midwife guidance that I could muster. Then I pushed some more. I pushed my heart out until the allowable time limits had been reached.
I was so determined to have this baby that it was a massive disappointment when the obstetrician came in for an examination to tell me my baby just wasn’t cooperating and was not going to come out on her own. Whilst a forceps delivery was not out of the question, it was thought that it was highly unlikely she was positioned to safely deliver this way and therefore too risky. Even in this situation, I was given conflicting advice from the obstetricians on hand. Boiling it down, a caesarean was the likely next step and I was to be taken to theatre.
I was too tired to really appreciate the emotion of having to concede that I was out of choices in my delivery and this was the only option. Not that a caesarean is a terrible thing, it’s just not what I had pictured or what I wanted for my baby’s entry to the world. I was gutted. I was also cried out. I had plenty of time to contemplate what was about to happen and come to terms with it whilst waiting for the theatre to become available.
My operation was not a pleasant experience by any stretch. Under the medication, I was convulsing (like constant severe shivering) from the chest up, arms, chin, everything. I also vomited and my anaesthetist wasn’t nearby so my poor Dad had to call out for help as I vomited on to my shoulder and in my hair because all I could do was turn my head to the side to stop from choking. This, combined with the dividing blanket being right up to my chin meant when my gorgeous girl was finally out, the best that could be done was to place her wrapped on my chest with my Dad holding her there because I was still shaking and unable to use my arms. My baby was so close to my head that my eyes hurt to try and focus on her. Even with all of that, it was still amazing to have my puffy little babe out in the world with her little tongue poking out and her tiny little sounds audible for the first time. It wasn’t until the medication started to wear off and I was left alone with my baby in my room for a few hours where I could put her to my breast that I really felt the magic of the moment and began to appreciate what an amazing thing had just taken place.
Kylie's first sight of beautiful baby Elena
In hindsight, the messaging from that first obstetrician was absolutely correct and whilst at no point was my baby in distress or my physical health at risk, I have spent much time considering my mental health over those few weeks. I had a lot of stress worrying whether I was doing the right thing when I could have just opted for a caesarean up front, knowing exactly when I was going to deliver. This would have meant I could have stayed at work a little longer, avoided 12 hours of ‘hard labour’ and saved my parents the stress of watching me in pain for that long, knowing there was little they could do but hold my water cup for me. I am comfortable with the choices I made, I did everything I could to help my baby make her own way into the world, and regardless of how that came to be, she is here and we are both healthy and well, together. If I had another baby, would I do things differently? Probably. But looking back this time, I wouldn’t change a thing.
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