2020 Daddy Doula Nick. Story told by Cassie

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daddy doula Cassie story

Nominee for Daddy Doula Award 2020

My husband, Nick

Why do you feel this Daddy Doula deserves the award?

A 4th-degree tear was not something we anticipated. From the moment we left the hospital, Nick was at my side, and I’ve never felt safer and supported in my life. He applied for extended carers leave at work and was able to take 13 weeks off to care for me and Finn. I was told that in order to have the best possible chance of healing well that I needed to have a minimum of 6 weeks of bed rest and not lift anything, not even Finn. I couldn’t sit upright for weeks. This meant that every time Finn needed to be fed, Nick had to pick him up and put him on me, day and night. He slept on a mattress on the floor next to us and literally had to get up to put Finn on me when he needed feeding throughout the night. It also meant that I could only breastfeed lying down, and that was a challenge in its own right. When I struggled with breastfeeding, Nick was straight on the phone to Australian Breastfeeding Association to get advice and got out the Robyn Thompson videos for us to watch (even though I was well and truly over it and close to giving up). I’m now 10 months into breastfeeding and have Nick’s support and encouragement to thank for that.daddy doula Cassie story
We made the decision early in the pregnancy to use cloth nappies (I’m sure you know how many nappies newborns go through). So Nick changed and washed every single dirty nappy for the first 6 weeks! On top of all of this, he cooked me breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for weeks on end and always made sure I had snacks, my water bottle and a big jug of herbal nursing tea next to me at all times. He cooked the most healing foods – oats, eggs, bone broth, fish, oysters, liver pate, hearty stews. Honestly, I’ve never felt more nourished or well-fed in my life. He also organised for his sister, who is a Physio in Ireland, to do a gentle exercise plan for my arms and legs to help with my strength whilst on bed rest. He filtered visitors and kindly turned a lot of friends away in those first few weeks, something that I didn’t have the energy to do and that I appreciated so much.

Nick made sure that I was always comfortable and that Finn and I had everything we needed. He had all of my supplements and medications ready throughout the day, made sure all of my appointments were booked and then drove me everywhere. When I suspected that I had an infection, he advocated for my health even when the OB turned me away (twice). Right on 6 weeks postpartum, just when bed rest was up, I had to have emergency surgery for a vaginal fistula and abscess that had formed underneath infected sutures. I got cut open again, the infected tissue was removed and then I was both internally and externally stitched. Although I healed a lot faster and had the stitches removed 2 weeks later, this time around was much more painful. It was debilitating on some days.

I know how hard it was on Nick. Those early weeks were incredibly difficult and he did not make a single complaint. At a time that usually tests relationships, I feel like ours only strengthened. Finn and I are so lucky to have his love and support. I could go on, and I’m sure I have not mentioned everything here, but hopefully, this is enough because Nick absolutely deserves to win Daddy Doula!

Describe your birth experience in 3 words:

Home, Intense, Tear.

How did you prepare for birth?

She Births®, meditation, pilates, yoga, birthing books, epi-no perineal stretching, colostrum expressing

How did you bring your baby into the world?

Natural home birth

Who supported you throughout the birth?

My husband, friend and midwives

What was the most challenging part of the birth?

My baby turned posterior and was asynclitic which made labour very long and slow to dilate but with almost continuous contractions. I then sustained a 4th-degree tear.

What most helped you through the birth experience?

My husband standing behind me and squeezing my hips as hard as he could during every contraction

Was there anything that surprised you on the day?

The gender and sustaining a 4th-degree tear

Anything else you would like to tell us about your experience?

My recovery was very lengthy. I didn’t even know that tears went as far as a 4th degree! The first thing I did when I got home was google it (of course). This is the first thing I read and unfortunately the only type of experiences I could find “Painful sex. Fecal incontinence. Birth trauma. PPD. Misdiagnoses. Prolapse. Not being able to control flatulence. Shame and embarrassment. Emergency surgeries. Feeling unheard. Having to consider a temporary or permanent colostomy bag. Not being able to insert a tampon. 6 years to get a proper diagnosis. Feeling alone. Anxiety. Agoraphobia. PTSD. Fear. Pain, and more pain.”

As you’ll read in the next section, it was incredibly difficult but at the same time, I feel so fortunate to have had the level of care that I did. Not only from Nick, who seriously (seriously) deserves this award but the home visits from the midwives and nurses, to the emergency surgery that I had to get at 6 weeks post-birth, to the women’s health physio appointments and colorectal ultrasound screening 3 months post-birth. I have none of the above (minus the emergency surgery) and physically I have healed really well.

Oh also something really random, but I found out that during labour all of the neighbour’s cows lined up along our fence line and stayed there until Finn was born. I love that they were supporting me too!

I was incredibly excited for labour to begin. I felt centred and calm when contractions began at 6 pm on Wednesday 30th October. I messaged our midwife (Ty) to let her know there was some movement then we had dinner as usual and went to bed to get some rest. At 12:30 I woke to the contractions as was unable to get back to sleep. I didn’t want to wake Nick so I put Netflix on and tried to distract myself for as long as I could. At about 3:30 am I woke him up as I felt I needed some support. We came downstairs and had toast and coffee together and began to time the contractions. I messaged Ty at about 5 am. Contractions were a bit less than a minute long and nearing 3 within 10 minutes and she said she would be over at 8:30 or 9. Pool nick
We hadn’t set the birth pool up yet so Nick got to work putting it together (he’d already done a practice run so knew what to do). My friend Rachel arrived at around 8:30 and we walked around our garden, relaxed and sat by the pool for a while. By 9:30 the contractions were getting longer and more intense. Ty was running late and didn’t arrive until about 10 am. I got into the birth pool when the contractions intensified and spent a while in there. At about 1 pm I agreed that Ty should take a look and see how I was tracking. She discovered that my baby had turned posterior which is why my lower back pain was so intense. She told me I was 6cm and remember feeling relieved that I was more than halfway dilated! Karly, the student midwife, was at another birth so was running late. I agreed that Ty could give me the water injections on her own, which she warned me was not ideal as they usually do them at once. It hurt, but not as much as I thought. That gave me some relief and I got back into the pool and dozed a little between contractions.
Karly arrived at about 3 pm and she was incredible. I remember her holding my hands and wiping my face with a cold washcloth and she was like a breath of fresh air. The contractions were on top of each other at this stage and at about 4 pm they took another look and I was 7cm. I felt disappointed that I’d only dilated 1cm in 3 hours and was pretty exhausted at this point. I had to get out of the pool as I just couldn’t handle the water or the heat. Nick encouraged me to walk around and he did the hip shake/rebozo. He tried his best to get me to do an inversion but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. At 7 pm Ty checked again and I was at 8cm. Although the baby’s heart rate was good and never appeared stressed, she felt that my waters would need to be broken to help labour progress as it had been 24hr since contractions began. Due to the risk of meconium, she felt it would be safer if I was taken to Tweed Hospital. I agreed as I had full trust in Ty and her experience.

At around 8 pm when she was on the phone to the hospital to arrange my transfer my waters broke! I was on my hands and knees and It was like a bomb went off. The relief was almost instantaneous. Ty rushed in and saw that it was clear. She asked if I’d prefer to stay at home as it might progress faster and I was more than happy to stay. She cancelled my admission and the ambulance, much to the disdain of the OB. I remember hearing parts of the conversation/argument and at that moment felt grateful to have someone advocating for my right to keep labouring at home. They warned that I would have to come up if the baby didn’t come within 2 hours.

I continued to breathe through the contractions and was most comfortable on my hands and knees. Before I knew it, it was almost midnight. Daini, another midwife, arrived just as Ty had checked me and suggested that I do get transferred to Tweed. I remember standing up and walking out to our bathroom on the deck and leaning over the bath while Nick continued squeezing my hips. It was the first time that I thought to myself that I couldn’t do it. We hugged and I cried and told Nick I was too tired, that I couldn’t go on. He supported me and helped me back inside. Ty asked Daini to have a look to see what she thought. I got onto my hands and knees again and Daini yelled that she could see the head. The atmosphere instantly lifted and the energy in the room totally changed. I remember thinking that it was going to be over soon and smiling. I stayed on all fours as that felt the most comfortable. Ty was holding my hands and giving me words of support, whilst Nick, Daini and Karly were watching on (Rachel was filming). I remember feeling his head slowly stretch me open during the contraction then slide back inside a little and thinking that was perfect. I knew it was the best way to minimise tearing and made sure I took it slow. All of a sudden a massive contraction came, bigger than anything I could control and his head pushed out. I heard the midwives tell me to slow down, a little panic in their voices, but his shoulders quickly followed and Finn was officially born on our kitchen floor at 1:07 am Friday 1st November.

Just-born nick

It was incredible. Ty handed him to me and told me to blow on his face and it was like magic. The moment my breath blew over his face he came to life and started screaming. The placenta didn’t take long to come out and we then laid down and let Finn do the breast crawl while the midwives assessed me. Unfortunately, I sustained what they suspected was a 4th-degree tear. I didn’t care. I was absolutely elated and over the moon that he was finally here. Being such a significant tear they had to arrange for me to go to Tweed after all. Nick went for a quick power nap as he knew he’d have to drive and follow the ambulance. At about 4 am the ambulance arrived and the two female paramedics were so wonderful. They waited while I showered (our water tank ran out mid-shower so I didn’t really get to clean myself). Rachel packed up our things and I walked with Finn out to the ambulance. We laid in the back, skin on skin for the 30-minute drive and had a lovely conversation with the paramedic. Nick arrived as we got there and the OB did an assessment (the same one that was on the phone to Ty earlier in the night). I don’t think she was particularly happy to be woken up. I went in for surgery at about 6am. The anaesthetist assistant used to be a midwife and she sat next to me, holding my hand and chatting to them whist they stitched me up. I realised I forgot the colostrum that I had been expressing for weeks and freezing (in case of an emergency) so she raced off and came back and expressed both of my boobs whilst surgery was happening. I’m so grateful to her. She took it to the room for Nick to give to Finn whilst I was in there.
I’ll never forget getting wheeled back into the room and seeing Nick sitting there, Finn asleep next to him. I was beaming from ear to ear and he was an absolute wreck. Judging by the look on his face, I thought something must have happened to Finn. He was just worried about me and tried and obviously incredibly emotional too. I remember laughing and tell him how great it was that he was finally here and to this day he tells me that I must have been high on morphine. I like to think it was all of the hormones, so I’m sticking with that!