"We tried the sex and we tried the chillies." Kelly McCarren's birth story.

Pregnancy was a hard slog for Kelly McCarren

She experienced hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of nausea and vomiting for 16 weeks. She also had sciatica and heartburn. Plus, amid Sydney's second lockdown, emotions were running high.

With all this in mind, Kelly didn't go into her birth with any set expectations. She was a midwife's dream - no laminated birth plan in sight. 

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She wasn't scared about giving birth, although she told Mia Freedman on Mamamia's No Filter podcast that in retrospect she was a "silly billy" as birthing was "horrendous". 

But what made Kelly's birthing experience memorably challenging was what happened in the lead-up. Because a few hours before going into labour, she received a text from a friend who she had fallen out with. 

"It was one of the most devastating parts," Kelly said.

"I had experienced a couple of cervical sweeps for a few days but nothing was moving. They were worried about the size of the baby because he was measuring huge - he wasn't in the end. They had booked me in for an induction," Kelly said.

The You Beauty podcast host tried everything possible to get things moving. 

"I tried the sex, I tried the chillies, I tried absolutely everything. I was enormous, and it was very uncomfortable, especially during the middle of summer."

After trying all these things to induce labour, Kelly received the text in question. When Kelly saw her friend's name pop up on her phone, she immediately felt emotional. 

"I got so excited and thought, 'Oh my god she's messaged me, she probably knows I'm about to have the baby and she wants to chat.' I had just been trying to give her space. But it was just a flurry of quite horrific abuse. And this is from someone I loved. It just set me off," Kelly said.


Listen to Kelly McCarren on No Filter. Post continues after audio.

"[My husband] Luke had been so angry through this whole saga because it wasn't the first time she had sent me abusive messages, and he was like, 'This is not okay, you need to block her because you can't be receiving this sort of negativity while you're pregnant'."

Kelly's mental health had not been great throughout her pregnancy. She had experienced a few panic attacks that had led her to the hospital, and her stress levels were high. 

"I told Luke I was fine, because I just needed to be by myself and cry. I got myself so worked up that I went into labour. Maybe it wasn't related, but there was no movement and then I was so stressed and upset that I gave myself diarrhea. And after a few hours, I knew it didn't feel like poo pains anymore."

When Kelly got to hospital, the pain was increasing. She was vomiting from the pain, her contractions were less than two minutes apart, and she was doubled over screaming.

"I was mooing like a cow. I'm usually quiet on scary amusement rides and during sex, so I just imagined I'd do labour quietly. Oh, no."

The midwife saw that Kelly was only one to two centimetres dilated, which left Kelly shocked given the pain she was experiencing. 

"I've never felt anything like it. I was lying on my side and had one arm and leg in the air and I was vibrating, making guttural sounds. They kept putting off the epidural, and they couldn't give me gas because I was vomiting."

At the 60 seconds mark between contractions, Kelly got her epidural. She was now at the eight-hour point of labour.


"I got my sense of humour back, I was making jokes and I was myself again," she shared on No Filter.

But her baby's heart rate kept dropping, and the midwives wanted to get him out as soon as they could. So they suggested an emergency c-section, and away they went. 

"They raced me in, put the spinal block in and suited Luke up. By this point his heart rate was okay, so they said I could do a vaginal birth if I wanted to in a few hours, but I wanted him out!" she shared.

"I should have realised that something was a little bit wrong when they pulled him out and didn't put him on my chest. They held him above the curtain, and then they just took him. 

"Before they put the curtain back up, what I saw was honestly something out of a horror movie - thick red blood sprayed. I was shaking because I had so many drugs in my system and the adrenaline was going."

During the birth, Kelly lost a lot of blood and had a septic scare. While she was in recovery for the next six hours, their son Lenny was doing well. 

Thankfully, once Kelly's pain relief was under control, things began to start looking up.

"I loved acute care. I was bedridden, but the nurses and midwives took such amazing care of me. They would take the baby at night so I could sleep - I was so spoilt! I had a great time in hospital, considering."


Those first few days were a whirlwind for Kelly, as she slowly fell more and more in love with her son as she got to know him.

"When I first saw him, I thought, 'Oh gosh you're covered in gunk and very pink'. You love them but you fall in love with them slowly."

But as Kelly noted on No Filter, you may love them, but that doesn't mean you like them all the time. 

"He screams. Lenny was so difficult early on that I just didn't know what I had done to stuff him up so much, because he was such a miserable baby. I knew something was wrong because he screamed around nine to 10 hours a day. He also didn't sleep. I was turning into a shell of a human."

Lenny was diagnosed with cow's milk protein intolerance and severe gastro-oesophageal reflux disease, so getting the diagnosis has helped pin down the reason for Lenny's crying.

"It's been the hardest job I've ever had and to be honest I don't really like it most of the time, but my goodness do I love this teeny sleep thief."

Listen to the bonus episode of No Filter where Mia Freedman and Kelly McCarren talk about why Kelly decided to get a nose and boob job, and her honest experience since. Exclusive to Mamamia subscribers, listen here.

Feature Image: Instagram @kelly_mccarren.

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