Part 3: Harper

Sonny’s surprise week home was a few weeks before we were having his 25th birthday party at our house. On the day of his party, I remember thinking that my last 2 periods had been exactly 28 days apart and here I was, day 35. I didn’t, couldn’t, believe I was pregnant again. I said to a friend that night, as I surreptitiously drank champagne, that this might be my last one for a while as I thought I might be pregnant. I took a test the next day, at the beginning of Sonny’s 4 weeks at home and waited. I couldn’t be pregnant. I had just got promoted, the boys were doing so well, we were doing so well as a family, finally feeling OK with some of the decisions we had made. When those 2 lines appeared, I looked at Sonny and we stared back at each other filled with dread. I actually cried. I understand this might be confronting, especially for those who struggled to get pregnant, but it just felt like in that moment that I had just gotten my life back, despite it being a lot of stress, despite it being hard, it felt like I was doing something for me again. I wasn’t ready to give that up for a 3rd time in as many years. We had always thought we would have 3 kids, but maybe over the span of 7 years, not 2.5.

We confirmed with our doctor that yes, another babe was on their way. I was really nervous about telling my family, and Sonny’s grandmothers. I didn’t want the pressure of having to have a girl. I didn’t want Sonny to feel obliged to re-settle his boundaries after finally being a place where we weren’t visibly hurting any more. I didn’t want anyone to see how scared I was about how my life feeling like it was being taken away from me, that I was becoming everything I had worked explicitly hard not to become: a woman whose sole purpose was procreation. I also didn’t want this baby to be an excuse for anything or an inadvertent white flag for the conflicts we were dealing with.

Early on, I had this undeniable feeling that I was going to have a daughter. Her name came to us with ease, and I think on some level I felt ready to have my own mother-daughter relationship. When we did, infact, find out that she was Harper, it was challenging to process people’s relief on our behalf. I really do believe our kids choose us, and come when they’re ready, not when we are, and would have been happy no matter the gender of our 3rd and final child. I was also really, really happy and excited to be having a daughter, so I could be the mother I wished I’d had.

My pregnancy with Harper was definitely my most challenging. I was quite unwell up until about 5 months, on top of dealing with the 9 month sleep regression in Lucas and then Sonny switching to a 4 week on/1 week off leading up to her birth. In conjunction with the physical aspects, our relationships were growing more strained. It became harder to maintain our boundaries, because we were struggling with the prospect of having to move into a bigger house, while pregnant, with a baby and toddler, in the week-at-a-time Sonny was home. The pressure on my family was growing, as we had now gone almost 10 months without speaking to my mother and sister-in-law.

What I did feel, however, was more empowered in the decisions I made during this pregnancy, and feeling more confident to have a voice and set clear intentions for Harper’s birth. By this stage, the midwives at the antenatal clinic at Joondalup knew me pretty well, and at my 20 week visit, I expressed that it was my implicit intention to have a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) with Harper. As I had eluded to in previous blogs, I am forever grateful to have birthed 3 times in a public hospital. At the time, in 2015, the recommended wait time between a c-section and VBAC was 18 months, and Harper’s due date was 17 months from Lucas’s birthday. The advantage is, a natural birth is a hell of a lot cheaper and quicker. I also had the advantage of having had a successful, uncomplicated natural birth previously and I was only 26. The midwives made sure that when it came time for me to see an OB at 32 weeks that I was placed with ones who were very pro natural-as-possible birthing. I was consistently at good weights, with normal blood pressure and measuring right on track and was assured that as long as I continued in this way, there was no reason I wouldn’t be able to attempt a VBAC.

Then my due date came and went.

I was a week overdue, feeling very pregnant and starting to get nervous about the possibility of another c-section. I went in at 41 weeks for what would be my final appointment. The midwives looked at me as I walked in and clearly sensed my feelings. As I walked up to check myself in, one said, “Polly is on today. We are putting you in with her, she will look after you”. In the hospital system, it is unlikely that any pregnancy will progress later than 42 weeks (and look, that’s probably changed since I had my kids) and even less likely when you are already pushing the ‘allowed’ boundaries. I was preparing for the worst and started to feel that feeling that had been becoming more frequent: like I was only able to take half a breath, a fog around my eyes and a bit like the word was falling away from me, anxiety.

Dr. Polly is responsible for taking that feeling away. She explained that she really wanted me to have the best outcome possible, and that she wanted to be as supportive of my choices as she could. She suggested a stretch and sweep, and to come back in later that afternoon to be checked in for a balloon induction to bring on labour. The risk of a traditional induction with people who had previously had uterine surgery, she explained, was uterine rupture. That the use of prostaglandin gel increases the contractions of the uterus, and that this could sometimes be contraindicated. Dr. Polly told me we were going to not use the gel, and rely on the body’s innate wisdom to do what it needed to do. I went home with Sonny, and we made arrangements for the boys for the next day, as the induction would likely last overnight and I would head into the birth suite the following morning.

The doctor who would be doing my induction was a charming Indian-english doctor by the name of Winston. As I was laying in the birth suite ready to have a balloon inserted (and yes, it is exactly as it sounds) Winston walked in. He had a look at my file and proceeded to say, “Well, I didn’t realise we were inducing super-mum this evening” and I instantly felt like I was going to be fine. As he checked me out, he found that the stretch and sweep of that morning had worked! I was 1cm dilated already. What happened next, was in all my birthing experiences, the most understanding I had witnessed. Winston said, “You’re 1cm, and already a mum of 2. So how about instead of rushing you we give you an uninterrupted night’s sleep. If your body decides the sooner the better we will deal with that then, no need to rush” and with the balloon in, I headed back to my unoccupied room and waited to meet my daughter.

The next morning, I got up to go to the toilet and as I sat down I heard a distinct ‘plop’. The balloon had fallen out, meaning it had done its job and opened up my cervix. Sonny arrived at around 8am, with the OB and midwives due to do their rounds at around 10. I had a shower, ate some breakfast and started to feel little hints at the contractions that were to come. When it was our turn to head over to the birth suite, I was led into a wheelchair while Sonny wheeled me around with a robust Scottish midwife and her student.

I got up onto the bed, ready to be checked and told it wouldn’t be long. “3cms dilated, hen” the Scot announced. I smiled. Unlike my first birth, I knew that I wasn’t going to take long to get to the magical 10cms and ready to push. I said to the women that I go from 1cm to 10cm real quick, and my last births were done and dusted in a few hours. The experienced midwife did not look impressed at this announcement, and the student looked stunned. At this point, my waters hadn’t broken and both midwives thought that might get things moving along a bit faster. She donned the sewing needle glove, ready to just poke a hole in the membranes so I could feel that familiar leak, but hopefully this time at least prepared for it.

Let me tell you: this was more painful than any aspect of any of my 3 births. Apparently my cervix was sitting quite far back and angled towards my sacrum, and holy mother of all things sacred it felt like her whole arm had gone past my vagina and was sitting somewhere around my belly button. Graphic scenes, I know, but this is truly how it felt. I had my head turned towards Sonny, who’s hand was being squeezed tighter than the tears escaping my clenched eyes and tried not to tense every muscle in my body to protect me. The lovely student midwife was on my other side patting my head with a cold cloth and telling me I would be ok. Honestly, that midwifery team was to this day, absolutely brilliant. After retracting what was surely the entirety of her upper limb from my vaginal canal, she said “Right pet, sorry abou’ tha’. Let’s see about an epidural, yes?”

I was going easy on myself this time. Would I like an epidural? You fucking bet. Why go through yet another posterior labour with intense pain if I didn’t need to? Especially after the onslaught my vagina had already taken that day. The needle didn’t seem so scary without the whole- body contractions I’d had with Lucas. It went in, and I lay back down, ready to while away the hours left before completing my family. About 20 minutes later, I felt contractions in my back. The student midwife looked at me, perplexed. “You’re feeling that?” she said. “Yes, but it’s ok, I’m comfortable, still” I replied. I didn’t really know I wasn’t supposed to feel anything at all. She called in The Scot, who called in the anaesthetist, who told me it hadn’t ‘taken’ and would need to be removed. Back to a drug free birth, I bemused.

By this stage it was around midday and with the prospect of no epidural, The Scot thought it would be good to check my progress again. 7cms, she announced surprised, with a hint of being impressed. The 4 of us then began to guess when Harper would be arriving. My guess was 1245pm and at the latest by 1pm. Sonny thought similar and the midwives looked at us like, wouldn’t that be nice but not bloody likely. As the minutes ticked over, the intensity and frequency of my contractions built like the crescendo at the 3rd stanza in Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter: deep, dark and consuming. I went very quiet, laying on my left side and gripping Sonny’s hand like I was trying to remove it. I felt that familiar sensation of my body beginning to push. This birth was going to be on my terms. I wasn’t going to move positions, I simply held my leg up and got ready. I felt this deep sense of connection as I began the birthing process with Harper. I had such confidence and faith in my body, in myself and in my support system, that I just knew I would be able to do this. It took about 10 minutes to get her out. No tears, no complications, no drugs with an official birth time of 1254pm weighing it at 4.005kgs.

The minute they placed her on my chest I knew she had been around before. Harper had and has this sense of knowing that told me her soul and mine had been together in lives past, and there was and still is an inherent sisterhood in our relationship. Did I know this girl would change and challenge me in many ways? I think so. I knew, then and there, our family was complete. That with the addition of what already felt like a powerhouse woman, Sonny and I had welcomed the children we were supposed to have in this life. It was just the 3 of us there in the hospital, feeling calm, centered and ready to start our journey as a family of 5.

The transition to a family of 5 was relatively seamless, what made things challenging was the 4 week on/1 week off roster that we now had to work around. This was compounded by the singular support we were receiving and the comprehension that I was officially done being pregnant. I was finally having to confront my new body, and decide how and why I was going to care for it. I felt different about myself since having a daughter and wanted the way I treated and looked at my body to reflect a healthy mindset. I already wanted a relationship with my daughter to be vastly different from the one I had with my own mother, and as a consequence of that started to unpack and unravel my own learned beliefs, behaviours and instincts that had been perpetually influencing me unconsciously.

It felt like, finally I was finished the birthing part, and could consciously start figuring out the mothering part. This might seem like a redundant statement, given Seb was 2.5 and Lucas 1.5 when Harper was born, but up until that moment everything had been on autopilot, unconscious, and finally I had room to breathe knowing that I wouldn’t be having any more children. The work was really about to begin, as I examined my relationships with my own mother and mother-in-law to figure out what kind of parent I wanted to be, and what kind of example I wanted to set for my sons and my daughter. It wasn’t until Harper was around 8 months old that things had settled enough for a reconciliation between Sonny and his mum, and inadvertently myself and our family. Nothing fixed overnight, and is still a work in progress but we both started to acutely understand how our own mental headspaces impacted our ability to parent, and given some of what his mum had gone through, attempted to lead with compassion first. It meant we had to let a lot go, in order to move forward and forgive each other: a process that required time and effort, ongoing, on both parts. I didn’t know that when Harper was born, when I started to examine the mother-daughter relationship that it would be such an eye-opening process. Not that one is better or worse, but I personally felt it was very different getting to know my sons, compared to my daughter. Perhaps it was more to do with the relationship dynamics I had experienced as a daughter and daughter-in-law, as opposed to not having a lived experience to go on from mother-to-son, but I found myself becoming more aware of what was, and wasn’t ok and I guess nothing had prepared me to open the wounds I had just learned to live with. No one had told me that becoming a parent was so much more than opening another part of yourself to be something, or someone different; no one had told me it involved opening up your whole self, especially the parts that had hurt you, the stories that had broken you, or even understanding it would lead you to examine every part of your own relationship with your parents and in-laws in a way you were never given permission to before.

Now, more than 10 years since finding out I was going to be a mama, I am still learning. I am still peeling back layers and asking questions of myself, for myself. What I have realised, over many years of getting it wrong, of making decisions based on a fear-mindset, of being emotionally reactive, of figuring out my triggers is that the learning and questioning and figuring it out never stops. Sometimes, I get it right. Sometimes, I marvel at myself in how I was able to get through the last 10 years of parenting with a FIFO husband, studying full time, dealing with the childhood trauma I had learned to live with, and be able to do the same for my husband, while not completely fucking my kids up. What I know to be true, is the moment I decide I know it all, I’ve failed. The moment I stop allowing myself to get it wrong, and say sorry: I’ve failed. What I know to be the best thing I can do with and for my not-so-tiny humans, is show I am human. To let them see it’s OK to make mistakes, to cry, to fight and make up, to get it wrong and figure it out, to set boundaries and expectations and see them through. What I want for my children to see is a mother who is flawed, a woman who is still trying, and a person who will never give up. I want them to know we are all just doing our best and that when we know better we do better. I was someone who grew up not understanding or comprehending that parents were more than who they showed up as when they were Mum and Dad, and I think that rings true for a lot of us. We protect the people we love by only showing them what we want them to see, instead of the whole picture. The reality is, the beauty in life, in parenting, in mothering, lies in the contrast. That in our learning and unlearning we are going to fuck up sometimes, and that’s ok.

What I understand now, is that you don’t change when you become a mother: you allow your true self to come out in all its glory. We don’t go back to who we were before; not in looks, not in anything. We start a phase of our lives that is truly beautiful. It is only now that I fully understand that for me, becoming a mother was the gateway to being the best version of myself. What I’ve been able to achieve professionally, emotionally and personally is only possible because of the 3 people that chose me to be their mum. And even on my hard days, I will forever be grateful for that.


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Part 2: Lucas

My pregnancy with Lucas was almost exactly the same as Seb, which given they had the same due date wasn’t surprising. The hardest thing was how much my relationships started changing now that I was a parent; both friends and family. This was something I didn’t read about or hear about in chats with some of the other mothers I knew – that motherhood came with competitiveness, comparison and a cascade of changes I was not prepared for. With some nuance that has come with maturity and time, I of course, was changing as well. Circumstances, small comments, inferences that I once brushed off, I was no longer willing to do. Those things became less about me, and more about my son and future son at that point, and what I was and wasn’t willing to let be ok.

The first warning sign of things to come, retrospectively, was the responses we got from people when we announced we were having another baby. I had always been the friend who didn’t aspire to be a wife and mother, and therefore was undeserving of not only one, but two babies before I was about to become a wife. I didn’t anticipate that jealousy from people. I had always managed to be happy for my friends, even when their decisions in life left me feeling afraid for or protective of them. So having to justify that, yes, I wanted this, and yes, I was happy, was extremely exhausting. Let me circle back a little bit here.

When we decided to have a family, and I fell pregnant with Seb, the response from my own mother was, “oh well, never mind” like it was a bad thing. I understand now, that the circumstances surrounding her own first pregnancy, where it wasn’t a choice, played into that narrative as well. A woman who had raised her daughter to be a strong, independent woman, raised to know that she had the capabilities to achieve anything and everything she wanted, a daughter that didn’t need to have any aspirations of having a husband and a family, how could that daughter possibly be happy about becoming a mother at 24? This signalled a very big change in the dynamics of the mother-daughter relationship. What I wasn’t thinking about, at that time, was the fact that I was the only female on the entirety of my mothers side of the family, who was starting a family by choice and not by chance. That I was choosing to have a family with someone I loved and someone I was committed to, and didn’t need my mothers help in making choices and raising a family. Wrapped up in those feelings, from my perspective, was a sense of loss on my mothers part, that somehow she had raised a daughter who didn’t need her.

The response from my mother-in-law was in stark contrast. She immediately stopped smoking, assessed her relationship priorities, making work arrangements and of course stocking up on all the baby things. She was a woman who’s worth lay in the people her own children had become and were becoming, and was validated by parenting. Sonny’s parents had split up when he was quite young, and throughout our relationship I had always had a good relationship with both my mother and sister-in-law. It almost felt like she was preparing as much as we were, for the new member of our family. The excitement and help that was offered to us was without any thought of hindrance and with a lot of sacrifice. When we announced we were having another baby and as Seb started to grow, that attitude and perhaps how we responded to it, really changed.

I found myself in a constant state of conflict. Our 2nd baby was already being talked about as an accident, or as a girl, and that anything that existed outside of these thoughts was of little consequence. I wasn’t prepared to have all the decisions we were making not only questioned, but actively ignored. What they don’t tell you about motherhood is how much your decisions will be seen as a reflection of the choices your own parents made about you, and that perhaps any deviation from that is interpreted, yet again, as the implication that your own mother didn’t do a good enough job. The reality is, that we live a time where 2 incomes are needed just to get through life. That women do have more options and choices than that of our mothers, that when we know better, we do better. That making different choices than that of our parents is such a multi-faceted concept that is nothing to do with the shortcomings of our own parents, but rather a reflection of the complexities that comprise raising children in this day and age.

With this in mind, we made the decision to take an opportunity presented to Sonny to start working fly-in/fly-out. I was 4 months pregnant, with a 6 month old, about to be alone for 4 weeks at a time, with ever straining familial relationships.

I was a hot fucking mess.

It seemed like, no matter what happened, every choice we made, or every outcome we both could and couldn’t control was seen as a bad one by our mothers in particular. I guess, with this in mind,I should have been prepared for the reaction to the news that we were having another boy. Resounding congratulations and excitement, there was not. Instead it was, “oh well, you’ll have to try for a 3rd” and “Oh I’ll return the clothes I bought”. It was a struggle, it felt unfair and like our not even earth-side little man was already a dissapointment.

We, of course, did not feel this way. Sonny was super excited for 2 boys and for Seb to have a brother. I was relieved, I’d been raising a boy and felt like, among the chaos, I kind of knew what to do. Which made the prospect of 2 kids under 1 a little easier to wrangle with. What I wasn’t (again) prepared for, was that at our next hospital visit at 32 weeks was to be told it was looking likely I would need to have a c-section, due to Lucas’s shoulders measuring potentially wider than his head, which could lead to dangerous birth complications. I want to say, at this point, I still felt like a first time mum. I was navigating being pregnant with a baby, my body hadn’t gone back to a ‘pre-baby’ weight or appearance before being pregnant again and I had not, at that point, fully processed my birthing experience enough to know that I was entitled to a choice, or even other opinions. I didn’t trust myself to know what was, and wasn’t right for me yet. So we prepared, we made sure that we would make Sonny’s new 4week on/4 week off roster tie into Lucas’s approximate birth date, and attempted to bury a lot of our feelings about what was happening in our families, because we were going to need help.

3 days before I was booked in to have a c-section, I went into spontaneous labour. It was a friday night, after dinner, and while we were watching footy Sonny noticed that my back pain complaints were getting more frequent and stopping our conversation. We had been told if I went into spontaneous labour before our pre-booked Tuesday appointment, regardless of how far apart my contractions were or whether my waters had broken to go in, to give us as much time as possible to perform the c-section safely. When we got to the hospital, my contractions had exponentially increased to the point I was having involuntary muscular convulsions, sweating profusely and felt extremely nauseous. It was all very different from my first labour.

Once we arrived, after almost 2 months of preparing for this major surgery, I got checked and was already 7cms dilated. The OB on at the time was there on call from King Edward Memorial. I knew and recognised the midwives, but hadn’t seen this man at any of my prenatal appointments. He proceeded to say, “you’ve had a big baby before, you should probably just try for a natural”. The midwifes’ name was Lauren, and I will never forget the way she explicitly told this man he didn’t know me, and clearly had not read my file, and told him to leave the room. She had seen the look on my face, of complete shock between ever increasing painful contractions, could see the disbelief and betrayal after coming to terms with and accepting how Lucas would be born, and did something about it. That all the work we had done to be comfortable and prepared and OK with what was about to happen, couldn’t possibly be for nothing.

She told us not to worry, that we had done the right thing and that everything we had planned for was going ahead and we would be going down to the operating theatre soon. There was some very well masked panic in her voice, because after 8cms of dilation, it became unadvised to perform a c-section. In yet another prime example of true compassion, the anaesthetist was frigging phenomenal. He had the soothing voice of an experienced Iranian doctor, and instantly made me feel a lot better about the giant needle that was about to enter my spinal cord. I was nervous: my contractions literally made my whole body shake and even though I was nowhere close to becoming a chiropractor, I still understood that damage to the spinal cord was less than ideal. I held onto that pillow, bent over, with razor sharp concentration telling my body not to move, and I swear to Yeezy that man worked faster than Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics.

What no one tells you is that an epidural is different to a spinal block, and that in emergent situations the latter is preferred as it is less likely to fail. What they don’t tell you is it can travel. I lost movement up to my arms and got really itchy lips, and when Lauren handed us Lucas for the first time, Sonny had to hold him to my relieved, tear soaked face to meet him in person outside of me.

The whole procedure went absolutely fine. Coming out of the anaesthetic did not. Sonny took Lucas while they detached me from the screens, and oxygen and everything else, removing the catheter and got ready for me to get me over to the maternity ward. The aftercare nurses asked me to sit up, and I couldn’t. They asked me to squeeze their hands, and I couldn’t. As I began to say I felt weird, I threw up all over myself and peed the bed. The anaesthetic was not wearing off as they usually expected, and I was not in a good way. There wasn’t much they could do at that point but sit with me, help me sit up a little with each new wave of sickness, and pop what can only be described as a wee pad underneath me until I could start moving. That process lasted around 4 hours. By the time I got over to the maternity ward it had been 5 hours since Lucas was born, just shy of 4am. I was exhausted and about to hold and feed my son for the first time, feeling like I had nothing left in me.

Lucas, was and is a special human. Even in those first few hours, I knew he was sent to us for a reason. He had this overwhelming feeling of having lived many lives before this one, and looked at everyone with his dark brown eyes like he was seeing directly into their soul. He was an absolute joy as a baby. If it had been any other soul in those first few days, I’m not sure I would have been alright. He gave me the confidence to have healthy boundaries in those first few days, and somehow just let me know that I was OK, he was OK and we were OK. If I had known what we would go through as a family in the first 2 years of his life, his demeanor would have made a lot more sense to me, and now it still makes me feel so emotional that this tiny human was my saviour.

With my allergic reaction to the anaesthetic, post-major surgery, with a 1 year old and my previous experience, I made the decision to split feed from birth; formula at night and breastfeed during the day. It came with some condescending looks in the hospital but made me feel a lot better about the prospect of recovery, a new baby, and doing it solo at times. Our transition in those first few weeks from a family of 3 to 4, with all of us at home together was filled with a lot of ease. We didn’t push ourselves, we didn’t try to have it all together. We just were, and that was fine. It also allowed us the help we needed in those first few weeks post recovery and once Sonny went back to work because Lucas could be fed by anyone. Lucas, to this day remains our best eater.

When Sonny left for work, for 4 weeks, I was nervous. I had offers of help, but was anxious about the growing tensions between myself and my mother-in-law, and how they would impact me and my now 2 sons. My apprehensions were founded. Each offer of help, at least felt like, it was with condition, or a burden, or just not genuine. It felt like a way for me to be shown, passive-aggressively, that I was not capable of mothering 2 sons, that I couldn’t possibly handle doing anything on my own, I really wasn’t going to be able to through those 4 weeks, while recovering from major surgery, and that it was my fault Sonny now worked away. It’s a specific kind of pain, when you’re made to feel like a complete failure by the women in your life who are supposed to support you the most. That after 2 healthy pregnancies, 2 safe births, maintaining a strong relationship throughout, that people could see you as a failure.

Tensions were at an all time high, particularly with my mother-in-law, who essentially was trying to mother Seb at this point. Our requests, our values, our decisions were not being acknowledged at all. It started to extend from just being towards me, and my decisions as a parent, to Sonny as well and to our individual characters and relationship as a couple. I can reflect now, and understand my role in that time. That at 25, I didn’t communicate as well as I do now. There were a lot more factors at play such as childhood trauma, our own experiences as daughters, our own mother issues, and our own family circumstances and expectations that made our relationship almost untenable at that point. Nothing in my life had prepared me for the fact that my in-laws might hate me one day. I had also always been close with my sister-in-law, and it made me really sad that our relationship was changing as a consequence of this. Sonny also hadn’t been prepared to feel isolated, questioned or even made to feel like a bad father. After living most of his life as the golden child in his family who couldn’t put a foot wrong. It was a lot to deal with 2 months out from our wedding.

I was very focussed on my body at that point. I am a curvy woman. I hadn’t planned to have 3 months after being pregnant for 18 of the last 20 to essentially get wedding-ready and in hindsight, thank goodness I had that as a focus. It was heartbreaking to see Lucas treated so differently, in our eyes, to how Seb was; ‘he’s just another boy’ is almost how it felt. ‘He doesn’t need x, y, z because Seb has it already’ was the general rhetoric I perceived. Don’t get me wrong, he was obviously loved, but just not with the same enthusiasm or intensity as Seb had been. Whether I felt this way because of everything else that was going on, or because it was actually happening, I don’t know. So, being able to have a focus on my goals before our wedding allowed me to compartmentalise the situation, to focus on what I could control at that point. Sonny was not so lucky. He had been stuck in the middle, practically his whole life between his parents, and now was in the middle of his mother and sister and me. A week before our wedding, things reached a breaking point and essentially my relationship with my mother and sister-in-law felt beyond repair. It’s really hard for me to look back on my wedding day, and feel happy. My new ‘official’ family didn’t speak to me on my wedding day. We didn’t get pictures together, and the one time I was alone with my mother-in-law (the only time I went to the bathroom) I was ignored. Don’t get me wrong, I am not innocent in this breakdown. I can look back now, and understand and own the mistakes I made, acknowledge the growth period that I was about to go through, and the complex feelings that must come when you watch your children do something you couldn’t. It was still a really shit thing to have to go through, for all of us.

I made the decision to just be done with my relationship with them at that point. With a FIFO husband, 2 young sons and the prospect of returning to work within a few months I was at my threshold. Something I also consciously decided was that I didn’t want my feelings to affect the relationships my sons would have with their Nan. What I wasn’t ready for, was for Sonny to decide enough was enough, and he and we needed some physical and mental space from what was happening; our requests were being ignored, we were being lied to, and it was starting to impact our mental health. Our conversations were complex deep dives into doing what was best for him and us at that time, which eventuated in Sonny making the decision to ask for space and take a break from interactions with his mum. He did this by writing a letter as confrontation was not his strongest point. In wanting to be fully transparent, he explained, also in writing, his decision to his sister in the hope they could maintain their newly developing relationship as adults.

The first few months of wanting a boundary were like an emotional war of attrition. This often became heated, nasty and just painful. Eventually Sonny got the space he wanted, at the price of his relationship with his sister also being affected. It was a really hard time in our lives, for many reasons. I had gone back to work full time and began navigating being a full time mother and full time employee on my own for half the year, and now with only my family as a support system. Had I brought this on? Was it my fault this relationship breakdown had happened? Should we have had kids in the first place? If we hadn’t, things might be different. I grieved the loss of the relationships I had once held so dearly. I grieved for my husband, who was putting everyone and everything before himself. I grieved for my sons, who were missing out on forming bonds with their Nan and Aunty. I felt a constant guilt: for working, for having 2 kids so close together, for having a FIFO life, for potentially all the bad shit that seemed to be happening being my fault.

One particularly bad day, I was just finishing my 3rd period since having Lucas. I had finished work late, was late to daycare pickup and then stuck in horrendous traffic all the way home. Sonny and I had a standing 615pm skype date while the boys ate dinner, and as I was running through the door, getting the boys into their highchairs, heating up pasta for them and getting my computer ready, while sending Sonny desperate texts of, “just give me 2 mins, so sorry!” there was a knock at my door. I stubbed my toe, quietly saying, “fuck” between saying, “ it’s ok boys, Dad’s going to be on the screen in just a sec” and opened the door to Sonny standing there, 2 weeks early, home for the week. I burst into tears as I fell into his arms, and the enormity of my feelings didn’t feel so heavy any more. My rock, my best friend, the love of my life was there in the exact moment that I needed him more than ever, and it honestly just made me feel that everything was going to be ok.

Lucas was 8 months old, Seb on his way from 18months to 2 years old and my husband must have just known that we really needed each other at that point. We were still at a standstill with communication with his family and I was about to fall pregnant for the 3rd time in 2 years.


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You can follow Ash on instagram via the link below!

What is love? Baby don’t hurt me. A reflection into the complexities that impact our birthing experiences 10 years on

Part one: Seb

I’m Ash, I am (recently) 34, a Doctor of Chiropractic, and have been a mama for coming up to 10 years now to 3 children.

My motherhood journey began in a way that I think most people don’t expect, or experience – with an abortion. I was 23 years old, recently engaged and promoted in my job, opening a new store and seemingly living my best life. It was August 2009, 3 weeks into a new store set-up when I began waking up feeling tired, and generally really fatigued. I figured I probably had low iron, because my own mother had suffered with this through her life. I went to my GP, who did a standard of pre-blood test, tests (who knows if this is a thing) and low and behold I was pregnant. To say I was shocked was an understatement. I had been obsessively on the pill since I was 17, and had always been rigid with it. I mean, yeah, I was having a healthy amount of sex with my then-fiance and so wasn’t using other forms of protection. But the pill was always marketed as the best form of birth control, right? I was also extremely stressed and overworked, and somehow wound up pregnant.

Sonny and I went through a roller-coaster of emotions. We both felt like we were starting our adult-lives, excelling in our jobs at the time, enjoying the next phase of our relationship: how could we possibly be ready for a baby? As people who also had and have a lot of trust in the universe, we thought Ok, maybe this has happened for a reason, and decided to go ahead with the pregnancy. That feeling lasted about a week, we told our families and tried to prepare ourselves for what was to come and got ready for a dating scan. We struggled, we kept trying to convince ourselves this was the right thing to do. The dating scan came and I was already 10 weeks. What the actual fuck? Things got really real at that point, and it became apparent very quickly that we were absolutely not ready to be parents. Not physically, emotionally, or mentally ready at all. To this day, I am so grateful to my GP at GP on Beaufort. She supported our decisions throughout this experience, speaking to both of us, and advising of services, places and helplines both during and afterwards. Having that termination was instrumental in making me the parent I am now. Of course, it was hard, physically and emotionally, no one grows up wanting to have an abortion. I was also a woman who didn’t want to grow up not making choices that firstly made sure I was connected and empowered. And at that time, having a baby was not the right choice for me. Even though making that decision was the right one, it was still a really hard thing to go through.

No one wants to go through having an abortion, regardless of the reason. It was still something we got upset over, that we grieved, that we needed support with.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, I think it’s important to remove the stigma around termination. People who seek this aren’t only or always women who have suffered abuse, or trauma, or had addiction issues and really no one needs a reason or excuse beyond “I’m not ready” when it comes to having a termination.

What this event did do for Sonny and I was make us think, “Well, OK, the universe clearly has plans for us. So what do we really want to do? What do we want to achieve or experience before we choose to start a family?”. It really became a catalyst for us to start living our lives to the fullest capacity as we could as a couple.

We moved over east and focussed on our careers and each other. That year is a story for another time, however around our 3 year anniversary I remember having a moment. We had just gotten home from dinner, were sitting on our gifted-couch and just talking about how much we loved each other, how much we had already gone through and achieved together. I remember thinking our love was just too big now to be contained in the 2 of us. As I was thinking this, Sonny said to me, “I think we should start trying to start our family”. In that moment, something so serendipitous happened that I just knew we were on the right path. I came off the pill and we started trying. What I was not expecting, was that I’d come off the pill, not get a period and get pregnant straight away. Did the universe care that we had already paid for a holiday to Europe the following May, when I would be 7 months pregnant? Nope. Did it care that we were planning to always have a family near our families and that we were planning on returning to Melbourne after that trip? Also no. We put it out there that we were ready, and bang, there we were. All of a sudden our 2 year plan became an 8 month plan and we had to get our butts into gear.

My first pregnancy was pretty cruisy. I had always had a focus on health and made sure I kept that up with eating well and moving well. It was then I also had my first experience with a chiropractor. I had always suffered with migraines and could no longer take the only medication that had worked for me in the past, and on the recommendation of Sonny sought out a chiropractor for the first time. This got rid of my headaches, but also educated me on birth intervention and understanding optimal body positioning for birth. I will forever be grateful to Dr. Peter Warrener for taking such great care of me.

After our holiday and moving back to Perth, I started my maternal health visits with midwives at Joondalup hospital. As our pregnancy journey started a lot sooner than we planned, we hadn’t had hospital cover long enough to be covered and so went into the public system. In hindsight, what a goddamn blessing that was. I was 3 days overdue when I felt what was my first contraction. For me, everything was in my back which I later discovered was due to the posterior positioning of Seb – meaning spine to spine contact, as opposed to spine to belly. I went in and got checked and was 1cm dilated, and told to go home and chill until the pain was more frequent or my water broke. It was a long day; I bounced on an exercise ball, ate lots of high-fat foods to keep my energy sustained and started to feel excited, the level of anticipation was high, especially with Sonny and I being the first on both sides of our families to have a baby. We tried to take everything easy and not put too much pressure on ourselves, and went to bed at a normal time. At about 02:30am, I woke up to pee and as I sat up thought, “fuck, I’ve accidentally wee’d on myself” then, there was the instant realisation that my waters had broken and the movies were 100% wrong in it being like a gush, and absolutely felt like I’d just started a slow leak.

Being a type A personality, I made myself some jam on toast for an instant energy boost for the car ride to the hospital, fully expecting to be 8 or 9cms on arrival. As soon as I was fully awake, those labour pains were coming hard and fast. When we got to the hospital around 03:30am I was shocked to hear that I was still only 1cm dilated, and in for a long night. I’d always had a pretty high pain tolerance, but immediately asked for a c-section because little old 24 year-old me thought there was no way I could last another 9 hours. The midwives said give it a little bit and they’ll come and check on me to see about pain relief.

What I still find so problematic, I guess, is the inference that as a first time mother/birther that you can not possibly understand what your body is feeling. The next couple of hours, Sonny and I became very insular and focussed. All of my pain remained in my back and required almost constant pressure. As I sat on that exercise ball, the OB that came in once decided I needed to progress because my waters had broken and gave me a syntocin drip to increase the frequency (and severity; thanks) of my contractions to get me to progress faster. A cannula was placed on the top of my right hand, and I continued to bounce on that ball.

I remember getting up to pee, and on the way out of the bathroom seeing blood all over my hand – my cannula tube had got stuck on the door handle and been ripped out of my hand. I yelled, “There’s blood all over me!” To which a midwife replied, “Oh that’s ok, it’s all part of the birth process” without even looking, and assuming it was coming from my vagina and not my hand. Next thing I was being guided back to the bed and to my birthing ball, my hand bandaged up and another cannula being inserted at the most awkward angle on my forearm. I was upset, I was scared, and now had 2 puncture wounds followed by the feeling of pushing from my pelvis to the ball beneath me.

When I voiced this, around 07:15am I was met “Oh sweetie, it’s still a bit early for that, but let’s get you onto the bed and check and see what pain relief we can give you” as a response. What happened in the next 22 minutes is a bit of a blur. No sooner had I opened my legs for the midwife to check my progress, was there a yell of “GET A DOCTOR IN HERE, HE’S CROWNING” my legs were lifted into stirrups and Sonny by my side in a bit of a mild panic to begin birthing our first son. I had gone from 1cm to 10cm in around 4 hours which “just didn’t happen” and when I had told the midwife I was ready to push, I was told I couldn’t possibly be ready. It took 3 pushes for Seb to be born. He arrived earth side at 07:37 am, around 4 hours after we had arrived, without any pain relief or complications.

I remember thinking, wow, my body just did that really all on its own. It knew when he was ready, it knew to start pushing, I knew to start, and even though I had never done it before, my body still knew exactly what to do, and that information was so much more powerful that what any midwife, nurse or doctor could have told me at the time. It is only upon reflection that I can see how this experience completely ignored the innate wisdom of the birthing body. The idea that any person birthing needs to fit a particular mould, however common certain experiences are, allows for no duality. There is no allowance for a first time mother to also know when she is ready to birth. There is no room for someone to progress differently from expected. There is, in the hospital system, in this experience of mine, no room for empowerment and encouragement to flow in symbiosis between mother and midwife.

That experience made me want to feel more in control of my voice and be assertive in any future birthing experiences I may have. However, I still left the hospital 2 days later, feeling like I’d ultimately had the birth result I wanted, no intervention with a safe and healthy arrival of my baby boy. What I wasn’t prepared for, perhaps, was just how having this little tiny human, this little person who was the physical representation of the love Sonny and I had for each other, somehow made us love each other more. Love each other so much, in fact, that when Seb was just 9 weeks old, I found out I was pregnant again.

So, there was no “return to pre-baby body” goal. While my body, my mind, my soul was still re-working its new normal, a whole other human was already on their way. I remember going back on the mini pill when Seb was around 4 weeks old. I had gotten pregnant quickly with him and wanted to be careful. A big part of this was that I really didn’t enjoy breastfeeding, which was said to be a ‘natural contraception’. Seb was just shy of 4 kgs at birth, and seemingly wanted nothing more than to eat. Within a few weeks, I was barely sleeping, always feeding and felt like I was a big gaping shell of my former self.

Something I realise now, is that the feeding debate is rooted in patriarchy, in misogyny, and is yet another way society makes mothers feel like they aren’t good enough. I was really fortunate, I didn’t suffer with mastitis or struggle with supply or even the action of feeding. Seb was growing, pooping and sleeping really well, he was doing everything a baby was ‘supposed’ to do. And yet I still felt like I was failing. I didn’t feel at peace or like I could leave him for even 5 minutes to shower for fear that he would be hungry. I began to dread every time he cried, knowing it would be an hour at least of breastfeeding, before a very small reprieve and then back to it. For me, I also just did not enjoy it. I didn’t feel like it made me more connected to Seb, I didn’t feel comfortable. Nothing about it made me feel more or less like the mother I wanted to be.

A friend at the time said to me when she came to visit that she absolutely hated breastfeeding and chose to bottle feed. Honestly, I can not express the sheer relief in hearing someone voice how I was feeling. All the books, blogs and pamphlets I had been inhaling up to that point reiterated how important breastfeeding was not only nutritionally, but for bonding, for immunity, for economics, for every reason known to man. Not once did any of them say fed is best. Not once did they say, “look, formula is there for a reason”. Not once did any of them take into account how the mother felt, or what her needs were, or anything about alternative feeding options being anything other than a last resort. So hearing someone say, “hey, why don’t you try split feeding and see if it helps how you feel” was like an endless weight being lifted off my shoulders. So, we tried. Seb continued to be comfortable, happy, easy going, and I started to feel those things, too.

The relief I felt in feeling a bit more like myself was immense. I remember thinking, as long as I took care of me, that Seb would be fine. If I was at my best, Sonny and I could be at our best. That a happy mum meant a happy baby. It’s something I still remind myself of now. Another unknowing outcome of this was seeing Sonny feed Seb, and see them share that time and create their own special bond. I had always planned on going back to work once my maternity leave was up, and so knowing that anyone could comfortably feed Seb, without any issues or associated guilt on my part only affirmed the decision we had made.It was also a heck of a lot easier, especially once I started my second trimester, with a 5 month old in tow.


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You can follow Ash on instagram via the link below!

Granny Knickers

It’s been a minute! I haven’t posted or shared anything for a couple of weeks. My mental health hasn’t been the greatest and I was feeling like this whole thing was a bit stupid and there was no point; despite hearing some really lovely things from my friends and even people I didn’t know with how some of the content has resonated with them so far. I feel like I have been trapped IN A GLASS CASE OF EMOTION and I am ready to just put that behind me and keep going. I started this blog because I want to normalise mental health and normalise people NOT feeling the need to bounce back after having a baby despite their body changing. So I am going to just jump right in.

At the end of my pregnancy I went to Kmart for a last minute comfort shop before the baby arrived. I intended to buy some large cheap loungewear but I stumbled upon a 5 pack of big granny knickers in a size larger than I was. I thought I had better buy them just in case I had an emergency caesarian. Kmart is actually the best and I got the loungewear and the knickers for under $30. Once I washed them all, I was very sneaky about hiding the knickers in my birth bag in case anyone saw them and judged me for having huge high waisted knickers. I DIGRESS, it was a few days into me being in hospital and the last thing on my mind was laundry and getting my husband to do trips home to sort out my situation, so I was left with these big granny knickers. I reluctantly put them on and they fit perfectly around my still puffy and very squishy post partum belly and they were so comfortable and just loose enough to hold my super jumbo maternity pads. I went through the 5 pack very quickly and then suddenly, laundry was at the top of my list of “things for my husband to sort when he got home”. I needed that underwear because no other underwear came close to making my birth region feel like it was being coddled. These knickers made my nether regions feel like they finally had a voice and were seen for the first time, like when you first see a therapist or when you meet a person that just gets you. Why hadn’t I ever thought of getting these sweet delights before? To top it all off, my ass looked great in them and I proceeded to wear only the knickers around the house when I finally got home, because they were super comfy and with a breast-feeding baby, my breasts were hot, saggy commotitties. As all the fluid in my body started escaping through all of my pores, my once short and fluid filled legs disappeared and my real legs were showing again and with the granny knickers in full swing, it made me feel like my legs went on forever! The knickers were my staple and I frequently entered the lounge room to show my husband how good my butt looked and made sure I pointed my toes when showing off my legs!

Once I had settled into motherhood and started wearing clothing, I would pair my granny knickers with my maternity workout leggings from active truth, which are the greatest workout tights known to man. I absolutely do not use these for any form of exercise, but I can only assume they are good to exercise in too. When the taxman gave me some pennies end of financial year last year, I thought I would treat myself to a new wardrobe for my new body. I thought I would just get a few things because this new body was only temporary and breast feeding was going to make me slim at any moment. I went to the shops and faced the change rooms; along with trying to avoid looking at myself for too long, I found myself shocked that I had gone up 2 sizes. I made an agreement with myself that I would not buy anything more than 2 sizes up, so with stores not being consistent with their sizing, I got a pair of mum jeans a size too small because there was no way in hell I was accepting my ass had grown 3 sizes. So I now had a brand new outfit for my new temporary mum body and it absolutely did not fit me. I felt really low. I had just given birth and my concern was my weight and trying to look put together as a new mum. Truth be told, I don’t have it together most days, I am last in line for being put together in the mornings in my home and my hair hasn’t left a bun since they started my induction. I went to my parents house in my really tight jeans and complained to my mum about how stupid I felt about caring about my weight, but at the same time not wanting to go shopping again because I wasn’t ready to face the change rooms again. She went inside and when she came back, she had a bag full of t-shirts for me that she had grabbed from her wardrobe. She told me I could keep these shirts and she would go and buy me more so that I wouldn’t have to face the change rooms again. I am forever grateful for my mother. The t-shirts fit perfectly too by the way and are actually made for people with boobs!

A few years ago I saw one of my family members mention that they needed to lose the baby weight on social media and I was shocked! How could anyone’s focus after a baby be on their weight? How is that even something that comes to your head after building a human? Once I fell pregnant myself, I started to realise how prevalent it actually is.

I remember being pregnant and worrying about how rapidly my weight was going up, but I was frequently told that breast-feeding would make me lose weight. There was such an emphasis on the fact that breast-feeding made you lose weight and it really clouded my judgment. I haven’t shifted weight since breastfeeding and it has taken me a while to come to terms with and that is okay.

I recently went to a first birthday party and saw mums with newborns walking in and I couldn’t help but compare the fact that I did not look as small as them and I had a much older baby. Some days I feel like I need to keep a pram close by so anyone that judged me, would notice I had recently had a baby and therefore not judge me as hard. I did not want to share that, because I want it to seem like I have beaten the system and no longer care, but this whole process is not linear and no two days are the same. I also have days where I don’t care because my priorities have shifted focus and I only care about my daughter and I have days where I think I look better in a bigger body. Each day is different and I have found that noticing when you feel good about yourself helps, but also to not be so hard on yourself when you do feel like you need to surround yourself with baby paraphernalia just so people correlate your weight or disheveled exterior to a baby.

I have learned that you absolutely do not need to LOVE your body, but accepting it, although challenging, is just so much bloody easier. I no longer look at my bigger body as being temporary. Even before pregnancy, I was in a temporary body. I was always going to do some health kick to drop kilos and aimed for a specific weight, but even if I got to my goal weight, that then became my temporary body as I strived to lower myself even further. It has taken time and work to finally get into this headspace and I have found the best thing I ever did was unfollow accounts on social media that encourage weight loss or perfection. For some really good insights into the diet industry and just how bloody cooked it all is, I have a “follow” highlight on my instagram if you would like to have a gander; and in the meantime, go get yourself a pair of giant underwear!  


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You can also read this post on the mamamia! website via the link below.

Pregnancy, ADHD, BRCA1 and a double mastectomy

So Jaimee! Where are you in your motherhood journey so far?

I am 23 and a half weeks pregnant at the moment, with my first baby!

Congratulations mumma! And how do you feel in general?

At the moment, the last few weeks I have been feeling really good and I think it has been since about 20 weeks. I feel a little more connected to the pregnancy; there’s been a lot more kicking and movement. I think my body is starting to look more pregnant, which is better than just feeling bloated and tired. I think I am at a really good point with it mentally and physically and I have a lot more energy too.

So first trimester then, was that a bit crap? or were you not feeling mentally okay?

The first trimester, I mean for me, compared to a lot of people I hear about, mine was incredible; I mean I didn’t have any morning sickness at all. I was exhausted, really exhausted. I would go to bed at about 3pm and cry at lunchtime most days because I was just shattered. So I was very, very tired and emotional. I would cry everyday, which definitely was not normal for me, but I didn’t have any weird food cravings or aversions, I just felt like I was on this rollercoaster, but I was completely and utterly exhausted. I thought this was all going to end after first trimester, but it just went on up until like 20 weeks.

Yeah! It’s like that and you hear people say “oh yeah just wait until the first trimester finishes and then you will great again” but you don’t and then you just get a bit hard on yourself, because you know you’re well and truly into your second trimester and you think “why am I still feeling so shit?” I am glad that you are feeling better though.

Yeah! Well I mean when I was officially in the second trimester, like you were saying, I Just kept thinking that everything was going to get better, so then I got thinking “oh okay, maybe there is something wrong here” and I started googling perinatal depression and stuff like that, because I was thinking clearly I am meant to be in the incredible second trimester, where you feel better than ever and everything is back to normal, except you’re still pregnant. So it definitely made me doubt that process. And now I am just dreading 4 weeks from now where I am in the third trimester and then it is all going to collapse again.

I think every pregnancy is SO different and there are so many people that are so quick to say “just you wait” and “don’t you worry, it get’s worse” or “it get’s better” and it is so easy to buy into the idea of perfection, because you have 10 women that you respect, telling you it’s all sunshine and rainbows from this point, but you have one friend that is like “well it actually wasn’t too crash hot for me either”. For now though, just enjoy it while it is good, because you never know, you could have a fantastic third trimester!

I mean hopefully, that would help with Uni!

So right now you are studying?

Yes I am in my uni holiday’s still, so when I found out I was pregnant; it was in the last few weeks of the semester and going into exams. I have been on holidays since November and I go back at the start of March in 2-3 weeks.

You are wonder woman, I have no idea how you can study and be in early pregnancy at the same time!

In some ways I think it is a lot easier. There is flexibility and I can stay at home in my pajamas and there are more flexible hours. The biggest thing for me with all of this is the thought of not being on my ADHD medication and studying and that is terrifying because I don’t want to fail going into my fourth year of study doing my honours year. It is part time though, so it will take me 2 years.

It could also be good for your career as a psychologist, having gone through the rough emotions through pregnancy; you can come from a better place of understanding in practice.

Well yeah, there is this quote and it is what smart people say and that is that any struggle or anything that is difficult is like 100% good for your life. That is obviously not a direct quote from a book actually that was quite terrible.

That’s fantastic; I’m putting it in the blog.

So how long have you known about your ADHD? Did you know there was something wrong for you to feel like you had ADHD?

I think I got diagnosed 2 years ago. I didn’t really know. ADHD is very rarely diagnosed in women and especially adult women. I’m a combination of inattentive and hyperactive. I didn’t think there was anything wrong because I think you only know the brain that you have and the only reason I found out was because one of my best friends got diagnosed and I related so much to what she was thinking and I also read a book about it and it all just made sense. So I started going through the process. I had just gone through a bunch of surgeries so I went to my GP and I had to them twice to be referred to a psychiatrist and clinical psychologist to finally be diagnosed. It is a very stigmatised diagnosis, so the process was tedious. So I had to take medication and see ADHD coaches and see my ADD clinical psychologist and psychiatrist and then I was medicated for a couple of years, so that with the therapy has just been incredible. I was able to live the way that I had always been trying to live, but just couldn’t figure it out and I didn’t know why. And now I am pregnant and no longer on my medication.

So how do you feel now not being on your medication?

Well it has been a horrible experience, because the pregnancy was unplanned, so there was no part of me that was putting in place structure and I didn’t have any plans to be like “oh I’m going to get pregnant and then get off my medication” and I have all these things in place. It was all a surprise and currently there is no evidence to show that the medication harms the baby, but it’s more of a risk versus reward scenario. Obviously in a best-case scenario, it is good to be off the medication. I think me coming off my medication has contributed to my rollercoaster of emotions, I was also moving house and things were all up in the air, so everything just felt really unstable. So I decided I should probably go back on my medication, because I think the risk is outweighing any sort of benefit I am getting from not being on my medication. I am all for happy mum, happy baby. I have had a total shit fight with my psychiatrist since trying to get back on my meds and now she is no longer treating me. Every one on my medical team is behind me, like my GP and clinical psych, but my psychiatrist is very conservative and will not prescribe it to me. So it has been a very long process of me trying to justify why I think I should be on my medication and trying to fight to look after myself in pregnancy, but there is so much pressure still. I was surprised, but also not surprised because it seems like she is taking on a very old school approach, especially from a mum herself. I think it is a good thing, because I know there are psychiatrists out there in Perth that put the mothers mental health first and understand that prescribing these medications have a benefit for the mother, but obviously if you can avoid giving it, then avoid it. So I can move on now from that relationship with her.

That’s so awful! Like you said, it is so old school to not put the mothers mental health first. I mean, if you don’t look after the mum when the baby is happily thriving inside her, how is she going to cope when the baby is outside of the womb and you need to 100% care for this being and keep it alive. I’m really sorry you had to go through all of that.

well it is all part of the experience I guess and she came at it from a point of me not wanting to feel guilty once the baby was born and she was more than happy to check me over after the baby was born to see if I had postnatal depression. It was just a very old school view of “you’ll be fine, deal with it and I’ll see you after when you have depression” basically. So I thought “okay cool, I will just put all the stress on my unborn baby and probably have issues that lead to the end of my relationship and be totally unstable, because that’s a great way to bring a baby into this world”

Now you said earlier about previous surgeries, did you want to touch base on that? What were your previous surgeries?

Yeah, so about 3 and a half years ago I found out that I carried the BRCA1 mutation gene, which is also known as the Angelina Jolie gene. The BRCA1 gene gives me a higher risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. So for me that meant I had a 70-80% risk of getting breast cancer and 45% risk of getting ovarian cancer and that varies from family to family depending on their history, depending on the age of people who have had the cancer. So that’s my personal risk that I found out. It is a 50/50 chance of the BRCA1 gene being hereditary.

And how does genetics look for you in terms of cancer?

So in my family, we don’t know much outside of our immediate family, but my aunty [mum’s sister] got diagnosed with breast cancer at 28 and died at 31. My mum got diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 52 and has gone on a lot of trial drugs and four years later is still going. There’s a lot of other cancer in my family, but we aren’t sure if that is because of the lifestyle and they weren’t able to get tested because it was so long ago. My Opa died of lung cancer at 56 and he was a heavy smoker and my uncle died of bowel or colon cancer at 56.

Considering you have the BRCA1 gene, what did that mean for you in terms of treatment?

So there’s a lot of different choices out there and there are a lot of different decisions that people make. So a lot of people decide not to even get the test in the first place. Basically with my situation they told me I had a 50/50 percent chance of having the gene and I could either monitor that and have mammograms or ultrasounds every 6 months, but basically monitoring at an earlier age than most woman would get scans to try and catch in early or the option was to have a risk reducing mastectomy, which is what I chose. So that’s where they remove all of your breast tissue and it doesn’t mean 100% that you won’t get breast cancer, but for me it was a thing I had to so I didn’t have to get a tonne of x-rays and ultrasounds and tests and the anxiety in the lead up to get scans every 6 months. I was 26 at the time, but considering my aunty was 28 when she first got diagnosed with breast cancer, it was within the recommended time period to undergo the surgery. For my ovaries, the advice is to have a double oophorectomy (ovary removal) after I turn 35, which is a much less extreme version of having a full hysterectomy.

Are you going to go ahead with that?

Ah yes? It’s definitely something I will have to consider closer to the time, but in general and there are no other options available that I would prefer. For me, the oophorectomy holds a much bigger weight than the mastectomy. The mastectomy side effects are basically physical, unless you get reconstructive surgery or get implants, which is what I did, but I am very numb and I am unable to breastfeed. With an oophorectomy, you go into early menopause at 35, so for me it has a much bigger impact on my overall body health. Its actually a far bigger decision I have to make, but at this stage, if there is no other option than to do it at 35, then that’s obviously the route I will take.

Well lucky you’re currently pregnant so you don’t need to worry about starting a family.

Yeah! It is actually good for that and starting a family is a really good way to extend the process. So the best guess currently as to when ovarian cancer develops, is based on your ovulation, so the less you ovulate, the less chance there is of developing ovarian cancer, so if you’re on the pill or pregnant, so I’m not actually ovulating for 9 months, so that actually is very good at extending the likelihood that I will get ovarian cancer.

So you have had the mastectomy, so like you said, you can’t breast feed. I know you have already probably heard people say things already, because there is a stigma around not breastfeeding and there is such an emphasis on “breast is best” when actually “fed is best”. How do you feel about not being able to breastfeed?

Its been really interesting because it was something a few years when I had my mastectomy that I was an outcome. I mean I was very sure in the fact that I wasn’t sure if I wanted kids and Id rather have this surgery and not breast feed than have kids and get breast cancer, you even hear of some people getting breast cancer while they’re pregnant. It wasn’t something I had really given much thought about at the time. Getting pregnant, it definitely, especially in the first few months, was something that affected me a lot more. Partly because I was worried about the connection and the bond I would have with the baby that you get from breastfeeding and partly because of nutrition. I definitely agree and I know science agrees 100% that breast milk is the most incredible thing that adapts and changes, like if your baby is sick, your breast milk changes, which is incredible and you could never manufacture anything as good as break milk, so in a perfect world, that would be incredible. I think that was just a process of wanting the option to do that. In my logical brain I am very aware that some people choose to not breast feed and a lot of people cant breastfeed even if they haven’t had a mastectomy and we live in a country that has very good regulations for making formula and it’s great and all the babies that drink formula are absolutely and completely fine and there’s no part of me that thinks that my baby is going to be malnourished and I know also that just because I’m not breast feeding, absolutely does not mean I wont be able to bond with my baby. You know I have also spoken to a lot of women who have started breastfeeding and didn’t like it and found themselves justifying themselves, just like I had to with y medication, on something that should just be a choice, so in a way I think, maybe I would have been one of those mums that didn’t like it or couldn’t breast feed and then I would be trying to justify myself. So for me I don’t think I am worried, because in a lot of ways, I am lucky and it could be easier for me and you know if someone does come up to me and ask why I’m not breastfeeding, I can just tell them I have had a double mastectomy. In reality though, I don’t need an excuse to not breastfeed my child. It’s absolutely no ones business. And in terms of connection, it’s absurd to think I won’t feel a bond, I mean the baby is literally growing in my belly.

Now how are you feeling towards birth?

I don’t know if this is my ADHD, but I am so excited for birth! We are using a birth suite, which is set up like a home birth and we took hypnobirthing classes last night, so I am very excited, even though I haven’t given birth before and don’t know what I am in for. It’s just all about setting up my environment and being as relaxed as we can and it is about the partner too.

Yes! Bring on birth! Which of course there are a lot of people out there that are anxious to give birth and think, “how the hell is this thing going to come out of me?”

I know, I just think about how amazing women are and how amazing their bodies are and I just can’t wait to be one of those women as well and I mean whatever happens in the meantime I can’t control but I am focusing on my mindset and relationship and going in with my partner.

Well I think you have this in the bag, you’re so strong and you have gone through so much, even in just the last 3 and half years so you have already proved how strong you can be and this just seems like a little blip in the grand scheme of things.