pregnancy

After giving birth, Karleigh felt like she was peeing. Then the midwife hit the emergency alarm.

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 police officer Karleigh Finlayson-Browne, mum to four-year-old Cooper and nine-month-old Kiarah.

Karleigh’s first pregnancy was extremely challenging from the very start.  

“At six weeks I began to feel unwell and was vomiting up to 10 times each day,” Karleigh said.

Watch: Things pregnant people never say. Post continues below.


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“I was diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) and was initially given a low dose of anti-nausea medication but it had no effect. I was prescribed a drug usually reserved for cancer patients, but I could barely keep anything down.”

Karleigh was put on light desk duties so she could keep working. A few weeks before baby Cooper was due, she went into hospital for a check-up.

“I was dehydrated as it was a really hot summer and while hooked up to an IV drip, I asked if I could have a scan to see how big he was. 

“I knew we had a history of big babies in the family and they not only discovered that he was a good size thanks to the scan, but that I had already lost half of my amniotic fluid!

“I stayed overnight for monitoring with my husband Darren and then I was induced the next morning at 11am.”

As the labour progressed, Karleigh requested pain relief and was given a shot of morphine but told it was too late for an epidural.

“At around 7pm I began pushing and Cooper was finally born at 9.48pm that night. I was exhausted but exhilarated as Darren cut the cord and placed him on my chest.

“Cooper had a haematoma on his head from being stuck against my pelvis and I had third degree tearing and required stitching.”

Only a few minutes later, Karleigh told her midwife she felt strangely like she was peeing.

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“It was a weird sensation, and as soon as the midwife had a look she reached for the emergency alarm. Fifteen people suddenly rushed into the room and someone was pressing on my tummy as I was wheeled out of the room. I could see Darren holding our tiny new baby asking what was going on.”

Karleigh lost three litres of blood and was placed under general anaesthetic while they inserted a special balloon and gauze to stop the bleeding. 

At 4am she returned to the ward where Darren and Cooper were anxiously waiting.

Image: Supplied.

“I was hooked up to antibiotics and fluids, and I received four litres of blood via the transfusion. Looking back, it was incredibly traumatic, but it was only later that I got upset recounting the story - I nearly died!

“I had to stay in the birthing suite for a couple of days before being moved onto the ward. The nurses were initially concerned that breastfeeding would be affected by Cooper’s traumatic start at life, but thankfully it was okay.”

Not long after Cooper’s birth, the family moved from Brisbane to Bundaberg and Karleigh returned to full-time work as a police officer.

In 2019 Karleigh discovered she was pregnant for a second time and this time the Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) was even worse. 

“I was so sick and dehydrated that I had to go into hospital to be hooked up to a saline drip.

“Just when I thought my pregnancy couldn’t get much worse, at 20 weeks my obstetrician discovered I had anti-Kell antibodies caused by the blood transfusion that saved my life. The antibodies could cause anaemia in the baby and even death. It was incredibly stressful.”

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Karleigh had to have regular scans to check the flow of blood in her unborn daughter’s brain, to determine whether or not she was anaemic. Thankfully she was not, but husband Darren still had to be tested for the gene.

“Unfortunately, as Darren had the gene there was a 50 per cent chance that Kiarah would have it too. I had a blood test and it was a huge relief to discover she didn’t, as she would have needed a blood transfusion in utero.”

After a plain sailing couple of weeks, poor Karleigh came down with food poisoning the night before her induction on 22 December 2019.

“I was admitted earlier than planned and given a room to myself. I was induced with the gel on my cervix at about 5pm and then later given the drip. I asked for an epidural early this time! 

Image: Supplied.

“Our daughter Kiarah was born healthy and well at 11.10am on 23 December - a textbook birth. I had minimal tearing and we got to go home on Christmas day, which felt like a very special present after such a difficult pregnancy!”

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.

Read more birth stories:

Feature image: Supplied.

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