baby

'I thought I would die from a heart attack.' Rachel Watts on her traumatic birth experience.

Rachel Watts was absent from her fellow Yummy Mummies friend Lorinska Merrington’s baby shower, for one very good reason: she was giving birth to her own baby.

As we saw on the show in season one, Watts called in to wish her friend a wonderful time… but behind the scenes, at the hospital, all is not what it seemed.

“I was in the middle of a traumatic birth experience, though I didn’t really realise it at the time,” the reality star and content creator told Mamamia.

It’s a story which the mum of Harvey, three-and-half, and Harry, almost one, has been reluctant to share until now.

“Leading up to Harry’s birth brought back so many memories, I knew I eventually had to talk about what had happened with Harvey. Up to that point, I had just got on with things, and tried to put the memories away,” Watts says.

“Also, I didn’t think I had anything to say because in the end, I got a healthy baby. It wasn’t until I spoke to Cope, a pregnancy and birth organisation, that I learned that it shouldn’t stop me from speaking about my personal trauma.”

Harvey is the first child of Watts and husband Jayson, and the couple tried the best they could to prepare for his birth.

“We took a birthing class, and I read about calm birthing. I also learned a bit about c-sections – so when an emergency one was put on me, at least I felt like I might know a little about what was going to happen.”

But Watts says she didn’t anticipated what did happen.

Watch the video to see Watts speak about the C-section. Post continues below.

 

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“Harvey turned posterior at about 15 hours of labour.

“The pain was so intense. I thought my heart was about to give out and I would die from a heart attack. Then I requested an epidural.”

Watts explains that because Harvey’s heartbeat continued to fluctuate, the obstetrician – whom she’d never met, because her own doctor was on leave – became concerned, and ordered an immediate Caesarean section delivery.

“She didn’t talk to me or Jayson,” Watts recalls.

“She just screamed orders. It was terrifying.”

But Watts explains that it’s her memory of events after the birth that traumatised her the most.

“First, in recovery, you’re all alone. It’s so isolating. I didn’t have my baby, I didn’t know where Jayson was. I was so confused. I kept asking, where’s my baby, where’s my husband.

“They kept telling Jayson I was coming to my room soon – but it was actually two hours later. Harvey was with Jayson, hungry, crying.

“To know that… he should have been with me. Those two hours when he should have been with his mum… I should have been there for him, and I wasn’t.”

Watts feels that in general, communication when she was in recovery was poor – and it got worse.

“Within 24 hours, my c-section wound burst open. There was blood everywhere, it was like a massacre.

“They started stitching me up right there, in bed, and I could feel the stitches. And Jayson was sleeping in a cot bed next to me, exhausted, and they didn’t even wake him up.

“He only woke up because I woke him up.”

The next night, the wound opened again, and again, it was re-stitched.

Finally, the following morning, a fresh obstetrician ordered an operation to fix the wound properly.

Somewhere in between all of this, Rachel called her friend Lorinska to wish her well for her baby shower.

“I barely remember it,” Watts shares, with a laugh. “I was as high as a kite!”

In total, Watts spent eight nights in hospital. Afterwards, she just got on with being a new mum – until she began to prepare for her second baby.

“I started thinking back – that was one of the most traumatic experiences I had to endure.

“In the end, I dealt with three obstetricians. I just wanted someone to know what they were doing.”

 

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Determined not to repeat the chaos of her first birth, Watts, while planning not to have a plan, did indeed have a plan.

“Yes, there was a new plan of ‘no plan’, so I didn’t have those same expectations of things going one way as I did with Harvey.

“But I also changed a few things. I chose an elective C-section, for one. I even brought the date forward a little because I was so scared I’d go into labour and there might be another emergency.”

The other thing Watts did was birth through the public healthcare system; not the private system, as she’d done previously.

“The experience was amazing,” Watts shares.

“From day one to having Harry, I felt so much more looked after.”

Watts also changed the probiotic she was taking during her pregnancy, and she says it made a huge difference to how she felt leading up to the birth.

“I used a brand that made me feel sick when I was pregnant with Harvey, but I tried them because I knew probiotics are so good for baby and mum.

“But the next time around, a friend suggested the Life-Space Probiotics’ Pregnancy and Breastfeeding range. I used the breastfeeding and pregnancy one, which they now offer separately.

“It was amazing. Even having a toddler, I had more energy than with Harvey.

“Now we all take what’s best for us from the Life-Space range, even Jayson. The kids are on the powders for their age, and it’s just so easy. Whatever I can do to ensure the immune system of my kids is as strong as it can be, that makes me happy.

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“And I know for sure that I haven’t been as sick as much.”

Looking after herself has become more important than ever to Watts, who wants to offer the best version of herself to her family – for their sake and hers.

 

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It’s another reason why she decided to speak out about her birth experience.

“I thought there must be other women who are feeling alone; thinking they have healthy babies, and are very grateful, but what they went through to get them was traumatic.

“I know what it feels like to think, ‘Is that normal? Is that right what they did?’ I know that confusion, and the thoughts going round and round. And that sharing helps so much.”

Which is why Watts posted an excerpt of her chat with Cope.org this week.

“The response in 24 hours has been amazing,” Watts reveals.

“A lot of women have reached out, from mums sharing their stories, to nurses saying they’re going to be more mindful in that post-op period now.

“That’s what I wanted to do; to speak out on behalf of all the women who’ve silently suffered because they think their experience isn’t important enough, and to hopefully open people’s minds.”

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