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'My water birth was wonderful. It was the obstetrician who left me traumatised.'

Birth: there's nothing quite like it, and it's clear no two birth stories are the same. Which is why we're asking everyday women and some of our favourite celebrity mums to share theirs, in Mamamia's My Birth Story series.

This week we profile midwife Sarah Kennedy, mum to five-year-old daughter Jade and eight-week-old son Angus.

In the remote community of Timber Creek in the Northern Territory, Sarah and her husband Chris were thrilled to fall pregnant in February 2015.

Watch: Thoughts you never have while giving birth. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

“I had spent my whole life trying not to get pregnant, so after it took over seven months to happen, I was relieved,” Sarah says.

The longed-for pregnancy was pretty rough thanks to nine months of Hyperemesis Gravidarum.

“I was really sick, it was horrendous, so I just focused on the basics. After doing some research I became fascinated with the idea of having a water birth”. 

It nearly didn’t happen though, as Sarah discovered that her baby was in the breech position following a scan at 35 weeks.

“My obstetrician booked me in for a c-section but I was petrified; I didn't like the idea of major abdominal surgery.” 

Sarah’s doctor tried to manually move her baby and suggested she try Chinese medicine, headstands and yoga to turn her around. 

“Just 12 hours before my scheduled c-section at 39 weeks,I felt this new sensation of kicks high up in my abdomen and I realised she had turned. After getting it checked out, I cancelled the operation which was a huge relief." 

Another 16 days passed, meaning that Sarah then became a likely candidate for an induction. By this stage she had already checked into a motel in Katherine close to the hospital with husband Chris and her mum in tow. 

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“I was very keen to avoid all intervention where possible but of course I wanted my baby to be safe. Luckily for me, right before I was due in for the induction process, I began feeling some light cramping, and after a quick check ‘stretch and sweep’ at the hospital, they advised I go back to the motel to wait it out.”

Listen to Leigh Campbell's birth story. Post continues below.

With just the light cramping and period pain, Sarah thought she should probably go to bed and get some rest. At 1.30am she woke up realising she could no longer sleep as the pain had intensified. 

“It sounds a bit odd but I just took myself to the shower block at the motel and stayed there practicing my breathing exercises until the warm water literally ran out! I rang the hospital to tell them so they told me to come on in.”

Sarah sat in the warm hospital shower for four hours before moving into the birthing pool. 

“I had heard about this newly renovated birthing suite with a pool in Katherine’s maternity unit while I was pregnant, but I wasn’t sure it would be ready on time. At 6am I hopped in and went from only 4cm dilated after seven hours of labour to fully dilated after another 90 minutes! 

“By this stage I was using gas and air but it wasn’t doing much for the pain. The midwife asked me to get out of the pool as it wasn’t supposed to be used for birthing, just labouring, and I burst into tears, begging to stay in. 

“She checked with her manager and a few minutes later my big four-kilogram baby girl Jade shot out like a rocket - it was such a relief to have her out and hold her!”

The speed of baby Jade’s arrival left Sarah with second degree tearing that required immediate suturing. The obstetrician who came to carry out the procedure blamed the water birth.

“It was so sad because Jade’s birth was wonderful, but I was made to feel guilty about it afterwards. He also didn't listen to me when I screamed in pain as the local anaesthetic didn't work. I felt every stitch, and honestly, it left me traumatised. I struggled with his actions and lack of empathy for some time.”

As the years passed, Sarah realised she wanted to go into midwifery, so the couple juggled work and study schedules as well as caring for baby Jade. 

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“We ummed and ahhed about going back for baby number two, as life just sort of happened. Eventually we decided that if we weren’t pregnant by the time Jade was five, we were done. Thankfully we found out we were pregnant in January 2020!”

Another horrendous pregnancy followed, but this time Sarah opted to take the anti-nausea drugs.

“I was working as a trainee midwife and I would watch all these women in labour vomit and want to vomit with them - it was hard going!”

Sarah decided that she wanted a home birth, and COVID-19 restrictions helped make her decision even easier. 

“I was a little bit scared but I put my fear aside and applied for a home birth. I met my midwife Ailsa who was wonderful at regularly reassuring me and helping me to get over my trauma from the suturing incident, even when at 40 weeks I had a huge meltdown about the possibility of more tearing.”

The day before Sarah reached 41 weeks, she decided she desperately wanted the baby out so she could have her home birth. She went for a big beach walk and did a full grocery shop before noticing some mild spotting.

“I thought that maybe tonight was the night, so I went to bed early so I could get some rest. At 2am I woke up and felt mild contractions, so I began timing them before calling the relief midwife at around 3.30am as Ailsa unfortunately had a day off.”

Sarah also began using her TENS machine and had her hypno-birthing tracks playing while she paced, as her husband Chris set up the birthing pool. 

“By 4.15am the pain was bitey but the TENS machine was pretty great. At 4.30am I opened the door to see two midwives – Sara and my Ailsa had come along too as she said she didn’t want to miss it which was wonderful! I made them both a cup of tea and we all chatted in between my contractions.” 

At just after 5am, five-year-old Jade woke to a house full of people and mum in labour. 

“She was a bit anxious and was asking why I was making a weird noise. I told her it was because her baby brother or sister was coming and reassured her that mummy was fine! By this stage the pool was ready and while everyone else was having breakfast I climbed in and the water felt amazing - my whole body felt much lighter.”

“It wasn’t long before I turned to Chris and said that I really needed to poo! I knew that wasn’t it though; that the baby was coming. I was terrified but laughed as I said the clichéd phrase, ‘I don’t want to do it anymore’; thankfully Ailsa and her colleague Sara constantly reassured me that I was safe and okay.”

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Sarah was able to control her breathing and this time baby Angus came out more slowly - head first, then shoulders and body. 

“Angus squawked as soon as I pulled him out of the water and when I felt him, I knew we had a baby boy! He was another good-sized baby at 4.3 kilograms.” 

Jade and her brother Angus. Image: Supplied. While she needed suturing once again for the second-degree tearing, the experience this time with midwife Ailsa was much less traumatic.  

“I felt listened to and reassured, so while it was painful I knew I would be okay.”

The midwives stayed with the new family of four for a few hours before leaving them to it.  

“After that wonderful experience I wondered why I ever hesitated to choose a home birth. You hear so many horror stories but most of the time home and water births are amazing.  

“It was the best decision we ever made!” 

If you have an amazing birth story to share, let us know by emailing some details to: [email protected] and including 'My Birth Story' in the subject line.

Feature image: Supplied.