Safe Birth Ambassadors

Pregnancy and birth can be an anxious time for women, especially first time mothers. The National Association of Specialist Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (NASOG) has drawn together the stories of a number of mothers who want to share their experience of birth using the services of one of our members. We hope that these stories will help in the understanding of what our profession does, and the way we contribute to safe birthing practices.

Renee Porta
Mother of 2 from Cairns, Queensland

Alicia Pawelski
Mother of 3 from Yuna, Western Australia

Kim Watkins
Mother of one 6 year old, and twin 8 year olds
Safe Birth Insights Podcast – Kim Watkins

Emma McDonald
Mother of a 5 year old child, and an 8 month old baby

Renee Porta

Mother of 2 from Cairns, Queensland

Rene Porta

Renee Port and family

When we fell pregnant with our first child, Emma, we decided to see a private, female obstetrician in our area. A friend of mine was pregnant with twins and she highly recommended this doctor. From our very first visit we felt so comfortable with Natalie, our doctor and all her staff. They always went above and beyond to make us feel special and cared for. From visit to visit they remembered even the smallest details about us.

We had a great pregnancy experience. But at 36 ½ weeks pregnant, I came down with a terrible cold. I suffered from very high temperatures, headaches etc. It was no surprise when at 37 weeks I went into labour. Most of my 12 hour labour was pretty normal and I had an epidural after a few hours. But towards the end of labour, my temperature skyrocketed and the baby’s heart rate went up. Natalie our obstetrician took charge of the situation and the decision was made to have a vacuum delivery. Two pulls later and our beautiful baby girl, Emma was with us. The care that Natalie gave us before, during and after labour was amazing and we knew then that we would be using her for any other pregnancies that we were lucky enough to have.

A couple of years later I had a blood test because I was feeling unwell and it came back that I was pregnant. I had been spotting between periods and so my GP sent me for numerous blood tests over the next two weeks to check the hCG levels. She was concerned that it was an ectopic pregnancy. We had a scan during these two weeks at the x-ray clinic and they were unable to locate the fetus. The ultra sound technician thought that it may have been very early on in the pregnancy. A few days later the blood test hCG levels had dropped and my GP rang to tell me that she thought that I was miscarrying. I was devastated. The next day on my way into town I had a blinding pain in my stomach. To start with I thought that it was part of the miscarriage but the pain was too intense. I rang my GP and my husband to tell them about the pain and that I was going straight to my GP’s surgery. When I got there my GP rang Natalie, my obstetrician as she thought I had an ectopic pregnancy. I was taken to hospital by ambulance. Natalie took one look at me at the hospital and I was prepped for surgery. I had an ectopic pregnancy in my left tube that had exploded. I had lost the left tube and a lot of blood. It turned out I was between 8 and 9 weeks pregnant. Again, Natalie our obstetrician gave us excellent care but also support and reassurance during this very difficult time. One of my main concerns was that I would not be able to fall pregnant again and that Emma would be an only child. Natalie assured me that it was still possible to fall pregnant and that my chances were not halved as I initially thought.

About 3 months later I did a pregnancy test and I was pregnant again! Because of my previous ectopic pregnancy, we went straight to Natalie as soon as we found out to make sure that everything was where it was meant to be. This pregnancy was fairly smooth although I was very sick. We were expecting that I would go into labour early because my first child Emma was 3 weeks early. But this child had other ideas. At 40 weeks pregnant, with feet as big as balloons, I asked Natalie to induce me. She was going to be away for a few days the following week and I did not want anyone else to deliver my baby. She agreed. So we did a stretch and sweep to no avail. A few days later I was booked into the Private Hospital to be induced. They did an examination and decided that I was ready enough to just have my waters broken. About five hours later we welcomed our second beautiful daughter, Amy.

We feel blessed to have two truly amazing girls. One day we would like to think about a third. I know that we will go to our private obstetrician, Natalie for that pregnancy as well because I really appreciate the bonds that are formed during this precious time. I feel that Natalie and the midwives, who support her in her practice, know about each and every aspect of my pregnancy. We see the same midwife and Natalie every time we go and they are already aware of our experiences. They do each scan and so know my baby and what is happening. Every time we go back we feel as though we are going back to catch up with old friends.

When I comes down to it, every mum wants to feel special, cared for and as though they are providing the very best that they can for their unborn child. This is why we have chosen private care for our family.

Alicia Pawelski

Mother of 3. Yuna. Western Australia

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Pwelski family

With the pregnancy of our first child, Lily, I sought out a popular doctor in our nearest town. To be honest I was terrified of the entire birth scenario but being in the care of an experienced doctor quelled my fears. Two weeks before her due date my waters broke and forty hours later, I gave birth to a little girl via caesarean section. My infants head had been stuck crossways against my pelvis. After a memorable few hours with my baby, I awoke in the morning with staples along an alarmingly long wound. I had never seen the caesarean scar before and after a day I was encouraged on my feet and recovered well during the week. Three weeks later I had contracted a pelvic infection which was debilitating but was treated with antibiotics. My daughter and I developed a great bond.

A second pregnancy, I found myself in the care of an obstetrician who had recently made her home in my home town. With the experience of working in major hospitals, I felt confident with her advice and together we made the decision to have an elective caesarean at a private hospital. This was backed up with the fact my obstetrician was to deliver the baby herself, rather than being operated on by another doctor. Despite this, my recovery was slower with a bad case of mastitis; my obstetrician took over the care from nurses and was astute in diagnosing my infant son with two ailments, which went unseen by nurses. The weeks after proved tough with feeding problems after the infection and my baby accepted the bottle at seven weeks, we didn’t look back and both mother and baby were happier with the decision. With my doctor’s extensive experience I never felt pressured and was given unbiased advice on this matter and the baby and my well being was the important factor.

Ten months later, I was pregnant with my third child and was relieved to have the care of my obstetrician. I had made the choice for a third caesarean when choosing for an elective with the second. My doctor had relayed the increased hazards of injury with the each caesarean procedure and that a natural birth may disrupt the healing from the previous surgical cuts. This caesarean proved to be the best with a full recovery and no complications. Since the second birth my doctor had researched a way of looking after the scar for cosmetic reasons, it seems to have made a difference with my scarring. My obstetrician and I had discussed the problems previously and she had informed the nursing staff of my requests. With her encouragement and intensive care I was able to feed my newborn son efficiently. A uterine infection was found early and treated before I felt the effects of infection. At fourteen days old, my son was readmitted urgently when my obstetrician observed a respiratory virus, we found ourselves in her daily care along with an impressive paediatrician for ten days. By the end of this time, I felt I had made a lifelong friend with my baby’s doctor and we now have a great connection.

With three babies in four years I find the major difference was having a specialist doctor. The after care is something all mothers need particularly with caesarean and the infection that can arise with this. Through the care of my obstetrician I was able to relax throughout my pregnancy with advice on my overall wellbeing and thoughtfulness for my other children. I was never rushed from the clinic and felt thoroughly looked after with consideration and the feeling of being a special patient, which every mother needs.

Kim Watkins

Mother of 8 year old twin girls Cameron and Ripley, and their little sister Ziggy, aged 6, and husband Simon.

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Kim Watkins and family

At 20 weeks, we discovered our identical twins were mono amniotic mono chorionic, meaning they were swimming around in the same amniotic sack. Not floating safely in their own little sack. That discovery meant little to us at that moment, but we soon discovered mono mono babies like ours had a 50-50 chance of survival. They die suddenly from cord entanglement and twin to twin transfusion.

As luck would have it, our doctor was regarded as an “expert ” with these types of pregnancies, having had three similar in previous years. You can appreciate how rare it was. He advised a c-section between the 33rd and 34th week, because after 34 weeks, the mortality for these babies, skyrockets. Basically the longer they stayed in my womb, the higher the chance of losing them. Along the way, we had every possible medical intervention, and the outcome was two healthy babies. There was a CVS, prescribed drugs to lower my amniotic fluid level, endless heart traces, ultrasounds and steroid injections. At 33 weeks and three days my twin girls Cameron and Ripley were delivered into the world, weighing 1.64 and 1.65 kilos respectively. I kissed them both briefly before they were whisked off to intensive care where they remained for nearly six weeks, to fatten-up. That was a hard moment, but it was even harder a week later, when I left hospital with a car full of flowers and no babies. Still, I knew they were in the best care possible. During that time, they had light therapy for their jaundice and had brain ultrasounds to check for bleeding on the brain, associated with premature birth. They were given the all clear, aside from some reflux and we eventually brought them home, having just hit the two kilogram mark.

At every point in my pregnancy, my husband Simon and I were consulted, and informed and treated with so much care and concern. Ultimately the decisions were ours, but we leaned heavily on the doctors, and ultimately took their advice. While I understand my pregnancy certainly was not the standard text book case, I can’t imagine giving birth without experts on hand in case something went wrong.

My babies were too precious to run the risk of anything other than a highly monitored hospital birth and I am extremely grateful to the staff and doctors at the hospital. Without the help of a marvellous, and talented medical team, I have no doubt the outcome would have been so much different. Now that my twins are eight, the memories of that stressful time have not faded. They are as real and raw as if they happened yesterday. Every day, I am thankful for medical intervention. Without it, my babies may not have made it.

It often puzzles me when I hear women lamenting the fact that their birth plan didn’t go the way they had hoped. Surely a safe and healthy birth is ultimately what every woman aims for. I don’t believe women should get hung up on whether a baby is born vaginally or via a c-section if mother and baby are healthy.

Babies are too precious to run risks. That’s why we consulted the same trusted team of doctors and nurses when I fell pregnant again; a year after the twins were born. They gave me the same CVS at 13 weeks, to check for any birth defects and Ziggy was delivered by c-section. When Ziggy arrived healthy and happy I kept asking if she needed to go to intensive care to be checked-over, such was my trust in that team.

I am so thankful to doctors for delivering my three healthy babies. Things can and do go wrong during pregnancy and birth, that’s why I chose private obstetric care and a hospital with backup for baby. Why risk anything else?

Emma Macdonald

Mother to Thomas, 5, and Imogen, 8 months.

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Emma Mcdonald and Imogen

Floating blissfully along in the second – and visible – trimester of my first pregnancy five years ago, I quickly became aware that expecting a child brings with it a surplus of personal choices and just as many questions from family, friends and even complete strangers.

Was I going to take a year off work? Would I breastfeed? Did I want more children? Was I going to choose a public or private hospital to give birth?

While I envisaged a natural birth with minimal intervention, I knew I wanted a private hospital so I could chose my own obstetrician, stay for a few days and recover in a single room, get to know my baby with the reassurance of nurses nearby, and receive help with breastfeeding if I needed it.

But the unexpected onset of gestational diabetes brought new complications. While many women with the condition have routine birthing experiences, the rapidly increasing size of my baby and the amount of fluid I was carrying brought with it some added risks.

My obstetrician monitored me closely, and as the calendar crept forward and my belly ballooned to ridiculous proportions, we began to discuss options.

For his part, my obstetrician was completely neutral on whether to attempt a vaginal birth or have a caesarian section. Both had risks, both had benefits. It actually would have been easier had he recommended one course of action over the other. But it had to be my choice.

I knew my baby was going to be big, and my most constant fear was to attempt a traumatic and ultimately futile labour and end up having an emergency c-section – in my mind the worst of both worlds.

Equally, I know that for other women, not making the attempt to give birth vaginally would be the more negative outcome. To each, her own, but I was opting on the side of caution.

My divine son arrived in the world at 3.8 kilos, two weeks ahead of schedule via a routine and relatively pain-free caesarian in a brightly-lit operating theatre full of medical professionals. For me it was perfect.

While some might think I added to the growing proportion of Australian women opting for an ‘over-medicalisation’ of birth – a pejorative term most often used by politicians trying to balance their health budgets – my husband and I are grateful beyond words that I had every option, and every backup available during my delivery.

Tragically, I have friends for whom this was not the case.

As a journalist, I am also aware of the shocking levels of maternal mortality in developing countries, where women have no access to hospitals, medicine, midwives or even clean floors on which to give birth. As a result, one woman dies each minute giving birth somewhere in the world.

With my second pregnancy – and a new round of questions to answer – I was more decisive. I did not have gestational diabetes, but I knew I was going to have another c-section, and it had little to do with the slightly increased risk in attempting a VBAC.

It was because I felt it was the best choice for me and my baby and because I had had such a positive experience the first time around. I must admit to weathering the odd raised eyebrow from women who believed I was missing out on the joy and empowerment of a natural birth.

But for me, empowerment comes from choice, and joy comes from the perfect baby girl I now hold in my arms.

BIO

Emma Macdonald is a political journalist for The Canberra Times, based in the federal Parliamentary Press Gallery where she writes on a range of issues including education, social and womens’ affairs.

Over her 17-year career, Emma has won numerous awards including two Walkley Awards, the John Douglas Pringle British Prize for Journalism and a Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Fellowship.

She has delivered political commentary and current affairs analysis across radio and television.

Emma is currently on maternity leave following the birth of her second child. Both her children were delivered by elective Caesarean sections and Emma is keen to advocate affordable maternity services and choice in birthing options for all women.

Read an interview with Emma by the Australian Women’s Weekly