Our journey to holding Herbie in our arms was not an easy one. It took years of wishing and hoping, dedication and commitment, and a huge emotional rollercoaster. Trying to conceive, especially when it takes a long time, is damn hard. It is mentally and physically draining, and it occupies every part of your life; it’s all you can think about. Maybe I should write a whole story on just that!!
Due to my medical history (PCOS and endometriosis), we did have support from my GP and fertility specialist for ovulation and hormone monitoring, along with alternative therapies with chiropractic and Chinese medicine, womb massage and dry herbs. We also did basically anything that could potentially help – exercises, yoga, seed cycling, supplements, meditation – you name it, we tried it. Our next step was down the path of IVF.
We did have heartbreak along the way with the loss of our sweet angel babe. Which is also a whole story in itself.
After years of dreaming, we were blessed with our darling boy Herbie!
On a Friday morning, I woke with that feeling of just knowing that there was a babe there. Obviously we had many many of those tests over the years and I always went in with hope but deep down I knew it wasn’t the month. But this one was different. My period wasn’t due until Monday and I had said I definitely would not test until at least then… but how could I wait?! As soon as those lines appeared I was crying, absolutely hopelessly in love with this little babe already.
Nick was at work and then out for dinner with mates, so I had a full day of waiting for him to come home to tell him the news! It was St Kilda vs Geelong that night – our teams head to head. A cute little Geelong onesie sat on the couch next to me when he came through the door, and lucky for him the Cats won that night!
Blood tests followed on Monday morning showing a beautiful high HCG which gave me some reassurance, which was reinforced two days later when it had more than doubled. I also saw an OB on the Wednesday given my medical history, but he was satisfied with the bloods taken (particularly, the high progesterone which had been a concern during my last pregnancy).
At five weeks, nausea set in. Goodness me, it should definitely be called “pregnancy sickness” because that nausea and eventual vomiting was not caring about the time of day! It lasted until 16 weeks with some particularly horrendous weeks where I spent 95% of my time in bed or vomiting.
At the time I was working at a bank, but luckily I was work from home given COVID was still a scary thing. Work from home was a saviour for me during the first trimester. I have no idea how I would have gone into work everyday otherwise, I could barely get up the energy to drive to the supermarket!
This weird period in time also meant we had numerous lockdowns. Another little blessing for us as we kept Herbie to ourselves for a few months, apart from telling our nearest and dearest – an essential support if we were to suffer heartbreak again. It also meant that I couldn’t hold photo sessions so I had a forced break which I actually really benefited from physically and mentally.
We had a scan at 6 weeks to confirm that the pregnancy was in the “right” place given concerns over an ectopic pregnancy. We didn’t expect to see very much but surprisingly a beautiful heartbeat was there! We opted for a 9 week scan as well because the 6 week heartbeat was a tincy bit slow – no need to worry, babe had grown faster than expected with a perfect heartbeat.
We chose to do the Harmony Test at 11 weeks, a choice we made given our previous losses and that we would like to be prepared to handle any medical needs that our little one may have. We found out the gender from this test. We thought we’d have some fun with it and out on Toongabbie Golf Course, Nick swung the club hitting the ball that exploded… we were so overjoyed to discover we were having a baby boy! We named him that day, Herbert Alan.
The 12 week scan came and Herbie was perfect! So we shared the news with the world!
Pregnancy then flew by in a whirlwind! I LOVED the second trimester – I felt energetic and so comfortable with my growing bump. Herbie always progressed smoothly with no concerns. He was a wriggle worm early on and I loved those kicks so much.
Pregnancy after loss is an anxious time though. It is always there, in the back of your mind. There is always concern at any little pain. Every time you go to the loo, you check – gosh I didn’t stop doing that for the entire 9 months. There are endless milestones that you are reaching towards, little weights off your shoulders each time – make it the first scan, then the Harmony Test, then the 12 week mark, the 20 week scan, pass viability, and so on.
Braxton Hicks started at 20 weeks and didn’t let up until the day he was born – not so fun! I also had really bad pelvic pain starting at 10 weeks that just got worse as the weeks went by. I found out around 25 weeks that I had gestational diabetes which I thankfully was able to manage easily with diet, but to any mama who has experienced this – I feel you! Pricking your finger several times a day, timing when, how much and what you eat, and worrying over how sleep or stress will affect your fasting levels… it all makes for so much added pressure during an already draining time.
I chose to have a student midwife which was one of the best decisions I made. She was incredible! She already worked in nursing on the ward which was helpful and was so supportive. I have midwife friends and clients so I know how difficult it can be to find mamas to follow when studying, so it seemed only to easy for me to help them. But I also chose this because I wanted consistency which you do not really get in our area – this consistency was vital for me especially during later pregnancy! It was also COVID so Nick wasn’t allowed in to appointments, until quite late in pregnancy (we chose a private ultrasound clinic who allowed him in always).
Nick was incredible throughout pregnancy, always being thoughtful and supportive. He would go out of his way to make me comfortable, even bringing me breakfast in bed every morning (so helpful during morning sickness!).
At our private 4D scan, we discovered Herbie was breech. This was at 30 weeks so we definitely had time on our side for him to turn, but I had this weird gut feeling that we needed him to turn quick (the gut was right!). Queue the obsessive spinning babies exercise for the next two weeks before our 32 week scan! Spinning babies is amazing, I recommend it to any mama with a breech babe on board. It worked for us and at our next scan Herbie was right side up!
Around the same time, I did a blood test to check iron which was low. In the few weeks that followed, I took tablets then liquid iron, retested a couple times, and eventually it was picked up that there was a major problem. I was diagnosed with Gestational Thrombocytopenia.
Very basic medical lesson here – forgive me if you’re a doctor/nurse reading this! Your platelets are vital in helping your blood clot. Usually they sit above 150. Under 150 means you have thrombocytopenia. Under 100 is severe. Under 75 is very concerning for epidurals, spinals etc. and how the OB put it to me – you don’t want to go under 50. Some really scary things canhappen – not necessarily that they will, but it’s a higher chance of things like spontaneous internal bleeding.
Mine was discovered under 100. The way it was told to me was scary. It happened to be the one time my student midwife wasn’t in an appointment and Nick still wasn’t allowed in – he was after this because it was so serious! Finding out alone was horrible. They started with “We will do everything to get you to hopefully 36 weeks…” Sh*t! I thought.
From here, we spent the next few weeks in appointments and tests. I won’t bore you with the schedule and types of tests. I was put on steroids that didn’t help my platelets, did mess around my sugar levels and did make me feel yuck. It should have helped Herbie’s lungs develop though.
Herbie was fine through this but there was a slight concern that the thrombocytopenia wasn’t gestational (meaning pregnancy only) but we wouldn’t know that for weeks after birth. If it wasn’t gestational, it could be hereditary and that could affect Herbie so we had to take precautions to not do anything that could cause bleeding.
Any interventions like forceps, ventouse, an episiotomy were out of the question. If my platelets were below 75 at the time of labour, the anaesthetists were not willing to do an epidural or a spinal if I need a caesarean, due to the risk of bleeding around the site and complications like paralysis. So that meant a caesarean would only be under a general anaesthetic – but they would only do that as an absolute last resort due to bleeding risk.
My OB was great and respected that I had entered pregnancy wishing for an intervention free birth and he was all for that where it was safe. I was closely monitored with the hope of going into labour naturally around 40 weeks.
However, at 37 weeks I had a massive infusion that took two days in hospital, which we did on the Monday and Wednesday so I could have a break on Tuesday. This was a last ditch effort to bump up those platelets that were around 60 at the time. Strangely it didn’t help, it went backwards. On the Wednesday I had an ultrasound before the second infusion just to check Herbie was okay following the first infusion. They had concerns over his “small” size – I wasn’t convinced! This was the first hospital scan, the others were private but it was new years and she wasn’t open for this scan. He had always measured on track around 30th percentile, but suddenly dropped to 9thon this scan only 10 days after the last. It didn’t seem right that they thought he would only be 5 pound.
Given my low platelets, we had booked an induction for 39 weeks. But a ward OB came by as I was having the second infusion and they were concerned with babes size but also my platelets not responding to the first infusion. So together we settled on a Saturday induction, 38+2. I also opted for a vaginal examine then and was pleasantly surprised to be 3cm dilated. This gave me some comfort that babe wasn’t going to be far away if we didn’t intervene. I had been having period like pain for two weeks and the CTG through the daily monitoring had picked up large chunks of time of having somewhat regular surges, but they always petered out.
Monitoring continued Thursday and Friday. I got a call at 7pm Friday night advising my bloods that day were showing very low platelets and ordinarily this would cause me to go into hospital but given we were 12 hours away from induction, they were happy for me to have a good sleep at home instead – our last before baby came!
labour + birth
7am on a summers morning, filled with anticipation and excitement, we arrived at the hospital ready to meet our babe. We set up our room to the vibe we wanted – chill music playing, positive affirmation cards on the walls, the blinds drawn and a salt lamp glowing, the diffuser on with beautiful relaxing oils and we wrote our babies name on the board.
I had a blood test – shocking results that thankfully I wasn’t privy to until the next day! They put the CTG on to monitor Herbie and the midwives respected my desire to be free and mobile as much as possible so I had the wireless one.
They “attempted” to break my waters at 8am but it was just a trickle. At 10am they hooked me up to the drip and the morning flew by. Nick and I were happily chatting, pausing at surges to breath intently. I loved the birth ball in all the different positions. I even enjoyed some morning tea and lunch.
At midday they tried my waters again, it was a massive gush! And we were on. From there it was thick and fast. My recollection is hazy now. What feels like mere minutes for me in one position, was actually hours. My body was working hard and that resulted in vomiting – not fun. I spent most of my time on my feet or knees and by around 4pm they were getting exhausted. The midwife suggested I rested on the bed for a few moments – something I never wanted but being so tired I thought “yep just a minute”. I then remember thinking “gosh I want to get up” but I couldn’t voice it.
Throughout the day my student midwife was there, a great support and protector of my birth intentions! Nick was absolutely incredible – I can’t even express how amazing he was. He knew what I needed before I needed it. He was an advocate especially when I couldn’t express myself. I couldn’t have done it without him.
During the third trimester we did private hypnobirthing classes with the Positive Birth Place. Courtney was fantastic, coming to our home every week for four weeks and guiding us through our birth preparation. Nick learnt so much around birth and interventions, and as a couple we were given the space to express ourselves and basically get on the same page so we were a team and he had my back. Courtney also taught us so many techniques for managing pain.
Pain – gosh! Induction is no joke and for me, those surges were really fast, one on top of the other with very little break. I also had a lot of back pain so used different positions and heat packs to help. I hired a TENS machine from Stacey at Be Empowered Birth Classes, which I put on at 8am and it did not come off until Herbie was in my arms. I honestly couldn’t imagine giving birth without it – it was a godsend. That’s the only pain relief I had throughout.
At some time between 4.30-5pm, an OB came in and performed a VE. I never wanted a VE and had expressed this in my birth intentions. At this point in time, I could tell these surges weren’t allowing for a break and the pressure was building. I was tired, exhausted and really wanted to just be at home with my baby. I was barely in that room. On reflection I was in transition. I was not in a place to make a decision. And the OB did not present the VE in plain English terms to me nor listened when my student midwife tried to pull her up. My midwife was out of the room at the time getting a second midwife because she knew what my body was doing; if she was there she would have stopped her. I did not want to know how far along I was so I have no idea what she concluded.
At 5pm I was bearing down. I flipped over on the bed on to my knees, head leaning over the back. Somewhere I never imagined birthing but I was too tired to get off the bed at this stage. It took 50 minutes to birth Herbie. It felt like so long to me, but also so fast. I had gotten vocal at this point and did say “I want to go home” a lot – meaning I wanted to fast forward to the moment I was home with baby; not thinking I was going to pack up and go home right then haha. Bearing down was exhausting, I was a hot mess! I went with my body’s urges to bear down and utilised the breathing techniques from hypnobirthing.
Nick was meant to catch Herbie, but as his head finally emerged my student midwife noticed his cord was wrapped around his neck three times. The CTG never ever indicated an issue thankfully. Our student midwife caught Herbie and along with the midwives were quick to untangle our boy and give him a good rub to get him crying.
He was passed through my legs and on to my chest – the greatest moment as I held him for the first time.
Our Herbie was born at
5.50pm on January 8th.
the hours + days following
I always intended for a physiological third stage but the thrombocytopenia was a concern so I consented to the injection and the placenta was birthed at 6.05pm. A barrage of medications and infusions then started as everyone was on high alert for a postpartum haemorrhage. Thankfully I never had any significant bleeding.
I did have a second degree tear that the OB came in to stitch up. Oh those needles, I can still feel that pain! As I had been vomiting throughout labour and even after birth, I didn’t want to have the gas. I did have a local but I don’t think it did much.
Even though I was so tired and starving (I hadn’t eaten since late morning), I was head over heels in love with our boy. We had a wonderful few hours with Herbie snuggled on me. He latched for his first feed and we discovered a tongue tie. Around 8.30pm we weighed him in at 3.10kgs, checked him over and dressed him. Nick had his first cuddle. Oh gosh, I had dreamt of that moment for years and I fell in love with Nick all over again watching him grow in his role as a dad.
The midwife helped me up to shower. I honestly questioned if I would ever be able to walk again as my legs felt like jelly! Spoiler: I was back to relative normalcy very quickly.
We settled in our room around 10pm. We told our parents the news and Nick headed home, due to covid restrictions not being able to stay. Herbie and I were on our own at just a few hours old.
As I had gestational diabetes, Herbie’s sugars had to be monitored which they do with a heel prick blood test every four hours for the first 24 hours. He passed every one thank goodness.
We also wanted to check his platelet levels, so we did another heel prick blood test on Sunday but baby blood tests are finnicky. The results came back alarmingly low but before panicking and heading to Monash, we did a blood test from a vein in his hand. The poor babe had bandaids everywhere!
Nick and I were still obviously panicking as you would expect, so when the results came back with a high platelet count we were over come with relief!
I found it hard being in hospital – a mixture of surviving the nights without Nick there, not having visitors, not having fresh air, and having a revolving door of paediatricians, OBs, midwives, hearing checks, surveys, catering, cleaning, never ending!
My platelets were also monitored with a slight increase a few days following birth. At 6 weeks they were at 140 and 4 months around 158. So they concluded it was gestational and something that was likely to occur with subsequent pregnancies.
Herbie’s tongue tie turned out to be quite severe, but we didn’t know this for a bit. Every feed was excruciating, my nipples were shredded and trying to get him to latch properly was near impossible. This, coupled with my PCOS, meant my milk was delayed in coming in (until day 6!). So the lactation consultant put me on to pumping and three hourly feeds (which we did from day dot due to the diabetes). He took an hour to feed, then another hour to pump, then I would spend my last hour trying to eat, pee, deal with the doctors, shower and hopefully get a tad bit of sleep, before it was feed time again. I was exhausted and barely got any sleep in hospital; I found it was much better once we were settled at home.
I knew the tongue tie was impeding our feeding success. I reached out to those I knew for a laser treatment but the time of year was against us - it was new years and I couldn't get an appointment for six weeks, I knew there was no way we could persevere for that long. So we made the tough choice to cut it at hospital but had to wait until we were satisfied with his platelets before causing a bleed. It was done Monday afternoon and I noticed the immediate improvement.
Jaundice then developed that afternoon, right as we were about to go home! He was quickly put on to a blue mat in our room with an intention of 24 hours but turned into 36 hours. The blue mat did make it difficult to feed, change, settle, snuggle. The next step would have been special care and given my milk hadn’t come in and we needed to flush the jaundice out, we opted for formula top ups. We had already used all my colostrum supplies in the first 24 hours whilst stabilising his sugars.
By Wednesday afternoon his jaundice had improved significantly so the paediatrician was happy to discharge him. We were finally going home!! I was on cloud 9 leaving the hospital with Herbie.
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The first night was tough. It was so lovely to be home, to shower in my own shower, to snuggle in my own bed, to have Nick there. But Herbie was used to formula by this point and my milk still hadn’t arrived so he was a crying mess by 8pm and I sent Nick out for a tin of formula to calm him. It was only the bottle of formula he had, which at that point in time of struggling so hard with breastfeeding I wouldn’t have believed.
The DOM nurse came to our house the next morning. She was wonderful and reassuring. She took Herbie’s heel prick blood test to check his jaundice levels and was convinced my milk would arrive before she returned the next morning, and she was right! Gosh did it come in fast! She also gave me a nipple shield due to the damage I had already, it was fantastic. From there, our feeding journey has been amazing. I absolutely love feeding him and we are still going strong at 13 months.
The jaundice resolved within a week and we were blessed to have no health concerns from there.
The fourth trimester was a beautiful time for us. I love my role as a mama to Herbie. Nick was home quite a bit which was incredible! He is just as competent as I in caring for him and they have developed the most incredible bond. After so much heartache to bring him into our family, my heart is now overjoyed!
CAPTURED BY LISA HAYMAN PHOTOS