By Jade Glen
When Pauli Mitchell and her husband Ben fell pregnant with Ginger, their third child, there was no question in their minds: they would be hiring a private midwife.
With two prior emergency caesareans, Pauli knew her third birth would be a planned caesarean in hospital.
She also knew that she wanted the support of a private midwife, after engaging the services of a midwife for her second birth, an attempted HBAC (Home Birth after Caesarean).
“For my first birth I didn’t have one and in hindsight I would recommend every woman, if they can afford it, to have a private midwife,” Pauli said.
“I found going through hospital you feel more like a number than a person … but it’s a beautiful experience to share with someone.”
The birth story of baby Ginger really begins with the birth of her eldest sister, Honey, in 2010.
“Basically I developed pre-eclampsia in labour. After 20 hours of labour, they did a test and the baby was stressed, then the meconium came, and then it was straight to theatre. The epidural hadn’t taken and they were cutting me open and I could feel it, so they had to put me under a general anaesthetic. Because of the general my husband wasn’t allowed in the room with me. It was a Code Blue, and the baby wasn’t breathing when she was born,” Pauli said.
Honey was in Intensive Care for only a short period of time, but the chaotic and stressful events of her birth were distressing for Pauli and Ben, compounded by the hospital saying it had lost its notes of the birth.
“I think there was definitely undiagnosed postnatal depression – I wasn’t right for a long time. I was going over the what-ifs, and what could have been. There were a lot of emotions tied up with that birth. I was wondering whether to fight it (the hospital, for disclosure of full records) but I just didn’t have the energy to do that.”
When Honey was eight months old, Pauli fell pregnant again.
Knowing she wanted to avoid a hospital environment, Pauli engaged a private midwife and planned for a vaginal birth at home. But when the time came, something didn’t feel right.
“My scar had adhered to my bladder. In labour my pain was horrific and I just knew something wasn’t right.”
Together with her midwife, Pauli made the decision to go to her back-up hospital, Box Hill.
Despite the late change of plans, Pauli felt positive about the birth of her second daughter, Cherry.
“Having that caesar and being awake was sort of a healing process for me. It was healing knowing the pain I felt the first time was real, it was sort of confirmation that OK, this is what it is supposed to be like.
“My midwife was my advocate in hospital. I think sometimes in hospital you don’t know what you can say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ too. The midwives help you make educated decisions and to feel confident in those decisions.”
After Cherry was born, the family relocated from Warrandyte to Healesville. When Pauli fell pregnant again, she began the search for a local midwife.
“I had two girlfriends in town that had been to see Yarra Valley Midwives; they came with good referrals so we contacted them. The minute I met Robyn that was it, I was like ‘yep, we will be coming here’.”
Pauli said the midwives fully supported her decision to have a planned caesarean.
“I was probably thinking at one stage I could try a VBAC but I’m 40 now, and I thought I’m just going to play it straight and not take anything to chance.”
Because of her history, Pauli had antenatal appointments with Yarra Valley Midwives and Box Hill hospital.
“The girls went and got to use the Doppler and have a go at finding the baby’s heartbeat. I don’t think you get that sort of thing in a hospital clinic. It’s just a different environment.
“I would often come home from hospital (appointments) quite angry and emotional; then a few days later I would see Robyn and it would put my mind back at ease.”
Pauli and Robyn discussed the options for her upcoming birth and developed a birth plan.
On Wednesday 19 April, Pauli and Ben left their home at 5.30am to head to hospital for the planned birth of Ginger. Unfortunately they were told prior that only one support person could be present in the operating theatre, so Robyn could not accompany them.
During the long wait before her turn in theatre Pauli heard a Code Blue called, which was an unwelcome reminder of her first birth. But this experience would be entirely different.
Pauli, a former Shiatsu practitioner, requested tai chi music be played during the birth.
She also requested a caesarean lotus birth – a rare request, but one that was fulfilled by the hospital medical team.
A lotus birth is the practice of leaving the umbilical cord uncut after childbirth so that the baby is left attached to the placenta.
“Apparently they (caesarean lotus births) don’t happen very often,” Pauli said.
“The placenta was only attached for four to five hours in the end – we just wanted to make sure it had stopped pulsing.”
Pauli stayed in hospital two nights before returning home, and was rapt with the post-birth support provided by Yarra Valley Midwives.
“They were amazing. They were here the day after I got home, the next day, and the day after that. Once I was up to it I went to see them.
“I’ve had text messages and things with Robyn; I think that’s just something that’s always going to be there.”
Pauli said she would recommend private midwives to any woman, no matter what birth she was planning.
“You’ve got someone who knows the system and knows about women – I think it’s something the hospital system needs to get back to, treating women like people. They (women) are doing the most amazing thing, making people.
“It really reinforces what a special time this is, and what this journey is all about.
“Both Robyn and Lisa love babies and that shows in everything they do. It’s a real calling to be a private midwife I think.”