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OUR UNEXPECTED BIRTH STORY

by jenellewitty@gmail.com
Baby nursery with giraffe and Jenelle Witty from Inspiring Wit with her baby girl

How we happen to have had an unexpected home breech birth over the phone to emergency services!

Jenelle Witty with her baby girl

OUR UNEXPECTED BIRTH STORY

It’s finally time to share our birth story with our beautiful little baby girl! She was born on the 16th of December 2022, and her name is Navy. In those twelve weeks, our world has changed, she is so wonderful! I feel like my heart grew so much bigger, I have learned so much, felt challenged but with so much reward. Up until now, I haven’t had a chance to share our birth story, but Mario and I filmed a Q & A video for my YouTube channel. That video is live now, so please feel free to check it out too. It includes what little footage we had from my labour and covers a bunch of questions asked over Instagram.

Navy came out feet first, she was breech. Apparently, less than 3% of babies are born breech feet first. Only 0.7% of mothers who had a baby in the breech position had a non-instrumental vaginal birth, compared with 10.4% of mothers who had a caesarean section.

And we were alone. 

And I had no pain relief. 

We called 000 when my water broke with the meconium, then she was out within 5 mins.

PRE-LABOUR

At 8 pm I lost part of the mucus plug (the rest was at 2:20 am). I felt pre-labour contractions (or surges) around 10:30 pm, then went to sleep to try and get as much rest as possible. Around midnight, I woke up to pee and noticed them feeling a little stronger but went back to sleep. At 2:10 am I woke up to strong surges and moved to an all-fours position. I then tried lying back on my side in-between but couldn’t comfortably stay there when the next one came. All-fours felt more comfortable.

I woke Mario to let him know they were more intense so he didn’t get a shock wake up call later on. He decided to get up and we tried all sorts of different labour positions, like being over the ball and so on. We switched on my labour playlist of calm music tracks and hypnobirthing tracks. It helped, along with low lighting, to set the calm mood. 

ACTIVE LABOUR

We called our midwife around 4:40 am to let her know we were in labour and where the contractions were at. I was already feeling pain in my lower back and on one side of my groin, which was super painful, making it hard to talk between contractions, too. Basically, there wasn’t any relief in between those surges.

Mario had been recording my contractions and said they were between 3 and 8 minutes apart, so our midwife said to stay home longer. I remember thinking I was already further along than I wanted to be at home and felt I was ready to go into the birth centre, so this was a little disappointing to hear. But I couldn’t articulate it too well and when I did speak to her, Mario said I downplayed the pain. Classic Jenelle. Mario was thinking he may have not have recorded every contraction as it was hard to tell when I was having them. Essentially, as I was hypnobirthing, I was silent, taking slow breaths to get through the whole time. 

By around 4:30 am they guessed I’d have been at least 4cm dilated so they counted the active labour from 4:30 am.

black and white baby feet

I USED THE TENS MACHINE WRONG

So I did have the TENS machine on my back but we later saw that I had it set to about a level 5 or 6. I could feel tingling but it wasn’t doing much, though I would press and hold the boost button during a contraction to give myself something to hold on to. (Really should have unpacked my wooden combs!) I didn’t know how far the TENS machine levels went up to, not having tried it before, so I assumed it went to 10. I figured I should leave myself somewhere to go to with pain relief from it, so kept it low. Turns out it goes up to 80!! Haha so effectively sitting at 5, it wasn’t doing anything. Lesson learned.

THE FINAL STAGES OF LABOUR

The part between 5 am and 7:30 am was the worst. Navy must have had her feet pinching on a nerve in my groin and I had really bad back pain, so even between the contractions, there wasn’t any relief. I just kept repeating my mantra to myself

“My body won’t give me more pain than I can handle and my body and my baby know what to do.”

We went into the shower for ten minutes to see if that helped with pain relief but kept it short so as to not stall the labour. Mario had to help hold me up because I was doubled over from about 3:30 am onwards.

‘I THINK I FEEL THE URGE TO PUSH’

At 7:30 am Mario called our midwife back, I was thinking it must have to be close now, because it had intensified so much. Of course, I had no way to judge, given it was my first birth experience. I think all the way through I kept thinking it must get worse, or what if this is nothing and it is much worse?! Those thoughts kept me calmer just in case.

While they were on the phone with our midwife I felt myself say “I think I feel the urge to push” which I hadn’t even thought of before. Our Midwife said to come in asap, which she said would take her 30 minutes. Then I heard Mario say it looked like it would take us an hour in the morning traffic. My heart sank, I knew it would be hard in the car at all but I couldn’t even fathom being in there for an hour or sitting in traffic in this much pain.

Nevertheless, I made my way to our bedroom from the guest room (where I’d been leaning over the lower bedframe), thinking I should try to pee if I was going to be in a car that long. I could not even sit to pee. So I walked back out of our ensuite and got two steps out towards our bed when my water broke in an explosion, with meconium. 

baby hand

AFTER MY WATER BROKE

Hunching over the bed I managed to call out “Mario where are you?” as he was coming back inside from putting my bags into the car. He rushed in and instinctively got down behind me where I was squatting over the side of the bed and went to catch some of the water coming out. Then I heard him say he could see something white sticking out. He described a white line that could be the umbilical cord and called our midwife back. She got him to call emergency services on the other phone and stayed on the line. They dispatched an ambulance, so I knew they were on the way. I could hear the panic in our midwife’s voice but I was determined to stay as calm as I could.

Mario said he could see it was her toes, at which point we heard the concern in the emergency service officer’s voice. He began to talk Mario through, warning that this would be difficult and to stay as calm as possible. I was feeling the urge to push or bear down, so I was doing so while listening quietly to the officer advising us and Mario describing what he was seeing. I just stayed quiet listening and breathing using the techniques we had learned during our hypnobirthing course. (I’ll leave the details to our hypnobirthing class below. If you are in Perth I highly recommend doing it before giving birth).

HOW WE HANDLED DELIVERING A BREECH BIRTH BY OURSELVES

Next, her foot came out, then after a pause her other foot, which was a huge relief. Given her head wasn’t coming out first, being the largest part of the body, there is a chance that the head, or the head and arms, may not follow easily, once the body is born. Essentially, Mario had to take a hands-off approach and let gravity do its thing, as she descended through the birth passage. A delay in her descent inside may be an indication that the birth process could also be delayed, which is riskier.

I could feel more of her body moving down. At one point I could feel her legs moving outside, then she came out more and I could feel her feet touch the floor! They got me to squat up higher since I was squatting too low. Her body came out quickly after that, her hips, then her stomach but Mario could not see her arms, as they were up by her head. That was one of the longest parts.

Next her arms popped out with the umbilical cord at the same time. It was wrapped underneath her arm so Mario moved that out of the way as it was holding her up. Her body quickly flipped from the side so the face was facing Mario. I paused the pushing and held her in that spot. She was out up to her nose. Mario could see through the stretched skin to see the rest of her face. I asked if it was okay to keep bearing down and after that, her head popped out along with the placenta. 

THE SCARIEST PART OF THE WHOLE BIRTH EXPERIENCE

When she came out she was all blue and floppy, slippery and covered in stuff. Mario had gotten her by the time I turned around and got down with him to the floor. We were then just rubbing on her chest to try and get her to come too. It was the scariest moment, seeing her like that. It felt like such a long time. I knew I’d felt her moving earlier and she’d been so active in the womb. So I was just trying to think of that and not panic. I was kept saying “it’s okay Navy” and then she let out a cry and we knew she was okay.

We heard a voice at the front door which was still open and the ambulance officers came in. Mario directed them into the room and the guy rushed in and rubbed her with a towel. There was no need to delay cord clamping because it was already white. Navy was covered in meconium etc so there just wasn’t a chance to preserve the vernix. At that point, I wasn’t as worried about that! 

THE POST BIRTH PART AND HOW FOUR STRANGERS WATCHED ME SHOWER OFF BLOOD

Overall the whole birth part went so fast, it was over in five minutes. The ambulance officers got me up onto the bed, and gave Navy to me to hold onto my chest. She made her way to the breast and began to breastfeed. After checking us out, I got up to shower in the ensuite. All four ambulance officers watched as I scrubbed the blood off of my legs. (Two ambulances arrived within six minutes of our placing the call). Mario came in to help me, he had been looking for towels. In the meantime, the officers had just grabbed anything to help. There was blood everywhere on the carpet/ edge of the linen bed frame.

They wrapped up the placenta to take to the Birth Centre. I put on my robe and walked down the stairs and up into the ambulance. It was so warm inside, they gave Navy to me, took a quick photo with Mario before we left. Mario had called his mum to come over while I was showering and help clean up the carpet etc. 

THE CLEAN UP AND AMBULANCE RIDE

Luckily Mario’s mum and sister came over to our house right after the ambulances left. They spent all day and night cleaning. I was glad not to have to walk into that mess. They took a few goes to get it all out but now you can’t see anything! 

The ambulance ride was a long . They kept it very warm for Navy, I was roasting. I felt a lot more blood coming out, but the officer was really nice and helped me with the latch. Navy began breastfeeding towards the end of the journey. She was still feeding when they wheeled us in through the front door of the Birth centre on the gurney. From there they transferred me over to the bed. We stayed at the Birth Centre until 4:30 pm that day doing checks on both of us. I had a shower, went to the bathroom and our midwife helped push out more blood. 

Our birth story with Navy,

HOW OUR POST BIRTH CHECKS WENT

I had one stitch but it was only a first degree so even then they weren’t sure I needed it. I ate breakfast and later lunch while Navy had her hearing test (she passed). Eventually she got to see the paediatrician. As she was breech, there are a few things we have to watch for. Such as hip displacement and her feet being turned inwards. We have been doing positional talipes exercises to help with her feet and it’s now a lot better.

They could tell that she had been in a good position but must have turned to be breech in the last week. It was so hard to know. She had been in a good engaged position early on, so maybe it was around then that she turned. If I had gotten into the Birth Centre earlier and they found out she was breech, they would have rushed me up to the hospital. There they would have performed an emergency Caesarean. So, given I wanted a natural drug free birth, I got what I was after. Definitely not what I had imagined, but still. Maybe next time I’ll be able to try birthing in a birth pool for a water birth.

We were given the all-clear to head home by 3 pm and ended up home by 5 pm. It was so weird to leave with this tiny little baby! I spent the whole car ride next to her trying to watch she was breathing and all okay. 

Navy weighed 3.065 kilos, so she was very small. 

AT HOME VISITS FROM OUR MIDWIFE

The following day our midwife came and we did a little more tests. We also worked on establishing a latch and trying to bring in my milk more. I’d tried so hard in the prior weeks to express colostrum but hadn’t had any luck. It came in slowly and Navy was feeding. A lot of this day was just spent in bed with Navy. It stung when I went to pee after the stitch. Good times. So I used Ural and Nurofen to help reduce swelling and neutralise the urine. I ended up doing this for a few days. We had midwives visit every day for six days to check both of us. 

Mario and Navy

SOME OF THE THINGS I HAD ON HAND TO HELP WITH BIRTH & DURING PREPERATION

< CLICK THE IMAGE ICONS TO SHOP >

HYPNOBIRTHING AUSTRALIA & THE GENTLE BIRTH METHOD

During my pregnancy I read Gentle Birth Method by Dr Marie Gowri Motha and Hypnobirthing The Mongan Method by Marie F. Mongan. From each, I took what felt right for me onboard and throughout my pregnancy followed some of the month by month practices. Around 35 weeks onward, we took the classes offered by the Family Birth Centre and a Hypnobirthing Australia course. The hypnobirthing course was invaluable. Mario and I got so much out of the course. We took the course in person in Perth with Renee from The Birth Space. She was awesome.

WHAT IS HYPNOBIRTHING?

Essentially Hypnobirthing gives you a set of tools to practice in the lead up to your birth and during labour and birth to remain calm, mindful and confident. It outlays all of the interventions you might be offered and gives you a lot of information on what everything means. In turn, this allows you to decide what is the right path for you before and during birth.

Knowledge is power.

I’d say that before doing the course I was super afraid of giving birth but after I was looking forward to it. Literally, I couldn’t wait to know how it felt and be able to tell my story on the flip side. At the end of the day, complications come up and no two births are the same. You can do the course and still wish to go down the path of interventions if you feel comfortable, you will understand them more. On top of this, you are then armed with calming tools to get through whatever the birth experience throws at you. We were obviously so so grateful for this knowledge! If you had told me I would give birth in my bedroom and it would just be Mario and I, I’d not have believed you. Let alone that our baby would be breech!

HOW HYPNOBIRTHING HELPED US

Without going into every detail, as I think if you are interested, it is better to let the course practitioners explain the techniques, I used a number of Hypnobirthing methods during the labour. Mantras, meditation, calm music from my playlist, positions, breathing techniques… this was all vital. Because I was Hypnobirthing, I was also silent through my labour, while I concentrated on breathing. This was probably misleading to know where I was at on a pain scale. To be honest, I wasn’t too sure myself.

I certainly didn’t look anything like they do in the movies! There was no screaming or panic, I was as calm as I could be, which I feel made a huge difference to how Navy came out. As I practised the meditation during pregnancy too, I feel as though this has been evident in Navy’s calm manner. A number of people have made this observation too, that (unless she is over hungry or tired), she’s very chilled.

Another thing that the course gave us was empowering Mario to be an active part of the labour. Plus in the end, an active part of the birth. If you watch our YouTube birth story video, he goes into a bit about what he got out of the course as the partner. He obviously never expected to be delivering our baby! The course gives them tasks to do should they wish to be active in assisting with the labour. He was prepared going in on what to expect, then he was able to speak for me and advocate for me. I was so grateful that Mario was so part of it all and had gotten so much confidence from the course too. It is so good for the partners. Overall, it really empowered us both going into the birth.

HOW WE ENDED UP IN EMERGENCY

On day three when a midwife visiting weighed Navy the scales she used weren’t calibrated so they thought Navy had lost 19.7% of her birth weight. We had to go to the hospital emergency right away. It turned out when weighed correctly she had lost 10% and we were kept in the NICU. It was bright, noisy and horrible. They were down staff and didn’t have much time for us, prioritising the babies who were born at the hospital. They were telling us they had to admit Navy and I couldn’t stay, only visit during visiting hours.

It was so stressful. Navy was crying more than she had ever done. I was crying, she wouldn’t latch, so she was losing this vital time to breastfeed which she needed most. We were so upset. There was just no way that I could leave her. No way that I had gone through all that we had done, only to agree to leave her for a night or more in a nursery where from what I could see they were down on staff members and kept shoving pacifiers into newborns to keep them quiet while machines beeped over and over. They gave us a big bottle of formula and made me give that to her, which she eventually took. They ran tests on her, including taking blood. It was all just awful for Navy and for us, who were already tired and scared at this point. 

Jenelle Witty with her baby girl

WHY WE WERE ALLOWED TO TAKE NAVY HOME

The experience in the emergency ward was awful. It made me realise how lucky we had been not to have been there during the birth. Our friend and midwife who also works at the hospital had been helping us already with at-home visits. We called her on the way to emergency to ask what she thought they would do. While we were there, she kept checking in and to be honest, getting madder and madder. She ended up coming down to the hospital to see what she could do to help us. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t allow her to come into emergency with us. Instead she advocated for us speaking to the head nurse and created a very intense feeding plan for us to follow.

After hours had passed, we could hear the nurse on the phone to her managers repeating what our friend had argued and finally, they agreed to let us go home. We had daily midwife visits and access to them 24 hours to call for help, on top of our friend offering to help us. Not to mention another midwife friend who lived minutes from us who has also offered help anytime. Honestly, for a breastfeeding-friendly hospital that is attached to the Family Birth Centre, it was ridiculous the way we were treated.

THE TIP I LEARNED IN EMERGENCY

Friends have said they had awful experiences in emergency too and had learned to ask for more than one opinion. I just hate the idea that they were not going to let me stay with my baby, despite living so far away and after they admitted there was at least one bed for someone. Though they were short on beds and in general it sounds like are not at all equipt to handle the number of babies needing care.

BREASTFEEDING

Looking back now those first weeks feel like a bit of a blur. We followed the intense breastfeeding plan, which was tiring but it worked. They adjusted the plan each week and Navy gained the weight back within about nine days. Breastfeeding is such a huge part of my life now. We found the help from the Breastfeeding Centre to be invaluable, both from phone calls and one on one visits. They helped us ensure the best latch and feeding schedule.

Navy fed and slept through most of those first few weeks. We could not wait to check her weight each time and felt so much relief when it had gone up. Even being able to pump bigger amounts to give her the occasional bottle felt like a victory. She is still 90% directly breastfed but I express once or twice a day. This way she can be bottle fed by Mario once overnight or if she is fussy on the breast. It also allows me the chance to step away if I need to pop out to the shops or something. I did this at four weeks for two hours and it was hard for me to be away that long!

In another post about my post-partum experience, I can go into more detail about the breastfeeding journey. If that is of interest to anyone. Would that be of interest? Please do let me know below. We did a lot of research, but my best advice is to see a lactation consultant. That help is invaluable.

THE FIRST WEEKS WITH NAVY

It was so nice to have Mario home with us. He returned to work three or four weeks later. We took our first walk around the block a week after she was born. It was so nice! But we kept it to ten minutes. Later walks became more tricky as it was peak summer and averaging 38 degrees each day, sometimes up to 43. Mario’s family came to visit, we went to his parent’s house for Christmas, which was nice but SOOOO hot. Navy did really well. She slept most of the time through those first weeks, waking up to feed or change. She was just so tiny!!

Navy got heat rash and baby acne, and much later cradle cap. I love that she loved the bath, car rides and doesn’t mind loud noises. When she started to repeat sounds, I think I developed an addiction to trying to get her to copy us! It’s so cute. She’s just adorable. So happy and so chilled, we feel so lucky. I’m really looking forward to her meeting my family. They are now able to come to our state, as the border controls have lifted, so my parents are soon visiting. We have been so grateful to our friends and Mario’s family for their help.

Navy didn’t have her vaccinations until week 8, so up until week 9, we only went out to the appointments, or visits to see Mario’s family. It was still too hot for walks, so we only took a few over those months. I was soooo happy to be able to get out after those two months. Even if we are still treading lightly given the Covid cases here and an influx after the border opened.

THANK YOU FOR READING!

It all sounds like a trick, I think, reading this back, that things have gone so well, considering. A trick to make you want to make more babies soon. hehe It’s working but it didn’t have to, as I had planned to try for a sibling pretty closely together. It will be interesting to look back over this post in years to come and see how things have changed and panned out. If you have read this far, thank you so much for your support and for sticking with me. It’s been quite cathartic to share my story and I am glad I finally got around to sharing! Navy is pure joy for us, I’m so happy to share her story and strength with you. I couldn’t be prouder of Mario or myself, to be honest. We both kept our cool, and calmly birthed Navy.

Navy Jeanette Recchia | Born at 7:55am 16/12/21

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