pregnancy

My Birth Story: Before delivering her first son, Jo Zammit made a "gut wrenching decision".

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. 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. 

My pregnancy was pretty good, other than daily vomiting for the nine months, a blood clot scare and dealing with the loss of my mum. That, and the ‘normal’ pregnancy symptoms. 

The blood clot scare happened at around 35 weeks. I was having major chest pain and shortness of breath.

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Because mum had just died a few months before of a blood clot going to her heart, causing a heart attack – pulmonary embolism (she was only 62), the doctors were concerned when my blood tests came back indicating that my D-dimer results were present of lots of inappropriate clots. 

I had to have a CT scan, which is not recommended in pregnancy - mainly for me but also for baby. But they said I could be just like my mum, and at any moment could drop dead if it was a clot.

The radiographer said you can have up to four of these particular scans in your life without them affecting you (due to the amount of radiation caused). But because of my chronic illness over the years, at that point I'd already had four. 

Risk to baby down the track was that it MAY cause leukaemia - highly unlikely, but there is a tiny risk. But if I did have this clot, neither of us would survive. 

Crash course in motherhood right there. We had to make a gut wrenching decision, and all I wanted to do was ask mum what she thought.

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I didn’t care about me, I only cared about the health of my baby. We did the scan. They only have a millisecond to capture the iodine solution going through the heart valves. They missed it. My heart sank. My blood was pumping so quickly, they missed it. 

Then we had to make the awful decision, do we do it again? We had already tried, I was up to my 5th CT scan now, but if we didn’t we would be back at square one.

We did it the second time and found out there was no clot after all. I think they were only really concerned because mum had just passed away from it. 

The pain started to ease around 38 weeks when my son Hunter started to drop. Up until then, I hadn’t thought too much about the labour. A good friend of mine told me the less you know, the less you have to worry about. Plus, I knew that so many people had birth plans and it never went to plan. I thought surely something wasn’t going to go to plan, so I wanted to be flexible and follow the lead of my obstetrician. 

Around 35 weeks, we had just finished all our birthing classes and learnt all about the different pain relief options. 

I think I'm the only person who has never YouTubed 'giving birth' or watched One Born Every Minute. I was completely clueless. But then my friend showed me her video of giving birth, and I started to think about my plan. I told my obstetrician I wanted the epidural.

I’ve had a few spinal blocks in the past so it didn’t worry me. My only other request was I wanted to have a vaginal birth, as long as it was healthy for myself and my baby, and that the baby be put on me straight away so I could breastfeed. 

Leading up to the birth I wasn’t concerned about the pain or contractions – I was just so scared about tearing. My friend had a grade three tear (from front to back); I nearly passed out when I heard this.

A week before Hunter came, around 38 weeks, I got ‘the show’. I hadn't experienced Braxton Hicks during the whole pregnancy and other than ‘the show’, nothing else other than him dropping. 

He decided to get the party started at 4.10am on a Monday. I was 39 weeks and two days.

Labour begins.

My husband left for work at 4am. Around 4.10am I woke up with really bad lower back pain that moved to the front. 

I got up, went to the toilet and had diarrhoea. Pretty much straight after this, I had really strong period-like pain that lasted a few seconds. Right then I thought yep, it's starting. I rang my husband and said I was having a shower and not to stress, but I think I'm having contractions. 

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A red light camera and speeding fine later, my husband was home within five minutes. He was so excited.

My dad was staying with us, and he heard me scream in pain from the shower. I said to him, 'Just get your phone and start timing'. The contractions started 15 minutes apart for the first hour. 

There was no pain, then all of a sudden a very strong and intense period-like pain. It feels like someone is doing a Chinese burn on your abdominals, just twisting tighter and tighter.

After my shower, I did my hair and makeup, made the bed and paced the house. At this stage it was 5:10am so only an hour had passed. We called the birthing suite and said I was 15 minutes apart, and they said to call back when I was five minutes apart (my advice? Don’t wait, just go). 

Then it started to get INTENSE. I went from 15 minutes to five minutes straight.away. We got in the car. It took us eight minutes to get to the hospital. When we arrived, the contractions had dropped to three minutes apart. The midwife checked me and I was already six centimetres dilated. Shitttt!!!

I wanted that epidural and I told them; I wasn’t taking any chances. A midwife got me into the bed, took my blood pressure and then she got the other midwife in – never a good sign. 

She turned to me and said blood tests were needed as my blood pressure was too low, so I wouldn't be able to have the epidural until we got the results. What?!

The midwife kept saying to prepare to not get one, because if the results indicate low platelet counts then you can’t have it. F*ckkkk!

The 30 minutes was, let’s just say, intense. (Saying that, I am writing this a few years later and I honestly can't even remember the pain. Mum always said that was the case.)

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But that 30 minutes honestly felt like 10 hours. My obstetrician came in to say hi, and said he would be back soon. He reassured me I was doing great; he had such a calm presence. But I remember saying to my husband, 'if I can’t get the epidural they have to give me a caesarean. I can’t cope with the pain.' 

The midwife walked in and checked me - I was eight centimetres dilated and contractions were 30 seconds apart. At this stage I had only been labouring for about two-and-a-half hours.

The results were in – I could have the epidural! It didn’t take long and the anaesthetist was in. I wanted to jump out of the bed and tackle her with a huge hug.

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She said it would take about 15 minutes to administer, and when I got a contraction to tell her, as she would have to stop. You have to stay really still, and because my contractions were already 30 seconds apart and so intense, she said it could take a bit longer. 

I turned on the side of the bed, my husband stood in front of me, bent over and put my head into his chest, and he put his arms around me. I closed my eyes and just counted. I don’t think I felt one contraction as I was so in the zone; that epidural was going in.

I felt the effects of the epidural pretty much straight away. I was on Cloud 9. I was so happy and excited to meet our baby boy. At that point it was about 7.30am.

The epidural slowed my labour right down. I remember texting my friends and Snapchatting them. I read over all my friends and family's predictions on the baby’s weight, length... I was just laying in bed watching TV like I was at home. 

At about midday I was nine centimetres dilated. My obstetrician came in and said to start practicing pushing. Meanwhile, he had to go to another hospital and deliver another baby.

So I practised my first push, and the midwife said, "Your baby has a lot of hair". 

"Um, what? How do you know that?"

"Your baby’s head is crowning."

With that, she said no more pushing - we had to wait for the obstetrician. 

Just before he came in, my husband and I took a selfie, our last photo of just the two of us. Then we put our heads together and prayed that our baby would be safe and healthy. It was possibly one of the most beautiful moments in my entire life. 

The last selfie! Image: Supplied. 

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In came our jolly obstetrician. 

"Hey gorgeous, wow, bub has a lot of hair. You are doing perfectly". 

He lifted my leg up to his shoulder and I said, "are you sure?" 

He said, "yep, this is how it's done". 

The midwives said to push when you have a contraction. I couldn't feel anything, so they had to check manually and tell me when to push.

They offered me a mirror to look, and if hubby wanted to look, but we both declined. The first push he was half out, one more and he was out. Possibly the most magical part of my whole labour was this very moment. 

As I pushed, and closed my eyes, I saw the image of a figure eight (the infinity symbol) and then my beautiful mum’s face. She was right there in front of me. 

Throughout my whole pregnancy, I never felt her presence. Everyone kept saying you will feel her when she is around, but I never could. But that moment Hunter came Earthside, I felt my mum. I felt like she came with him. 

Words can’t describe the feeling of complete happiness in that moment. Then my OB pressed on my stomach and said, "now the placenta is coming out". 

Then my baby boy used his lungs for the very first time, and that cry made me feel so happy.

We collected Hunter’s core blood - a nurse stepped in quickly and took the sample she needed while the doctor placed my perfect little boy on me. 

Image: Supplied. 

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On Monday 18 April 2016 at 2:40pm, Hunter Francis John Zammit was born. A tiny 2.9kg and 48cm. I laboured for 10.5 hours and only had one tiny tear.

Post Party.

For the next two hours, Hunter was on my chest feeding. He fed like a champion. I remember changing breasts as the midwife came in and she said this must be my second baby - I was a natural. I think that gave me the confidence in the beginning that we would be ok. 

All I had to do was follow my instincts and we would be ok. I fell instantly in love with my darling boy. 

Afterwards, I took my time. My husband showered me (I couldn’t feel my legs for about two hours due to the epidural). 

I put my makeup on and we left the birthing suite as a family of three. Surprisingly, I was fine when our family visited Hunter, because the whole time, I felt Mum was in the room. I just had to hold my little boy and she was with us. 

I stayed in hospital for four days. Hunter was thriving and I was recovering really well. 

My labour experience was peaceful, happy, even euphoric. A few hours after giving birth to Hunter, I said to my husband, "let’s go again!"

This article originally appeared on Story and Co and has been republished with permission.

Jo Zammit is the founder of Story and Co, an online parenting destination, and the author of My Happy Book. For more from Jo, you can find her website here or follow her on Instagram.

Feature Image: Instagram / @storyandco


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