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Nutritionist Shelley McKenzie had a home birth. This is what she wants you to know.

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 nutritionist Shelley McKenzie, who is 26 weeks pregnant and mum to one-year-old Van.

This post deals with miscarriage and might be triggering for some readers. 

Shelley and husband Danny were reeling after a miscarriage at 13 weeks when she fell pregnant with Van.

“I found the miscarriage traumatic... but becoming pregnant six weeks after the loss helped us to heal and find hope again,” Shelley says.

“Although I was overjoyed to be pregnant, I kept it hidden from friends and family because I was so worried about miscarriage." 

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“I waited until I was 24 weeks before posting a pregnancy photo online, knowing that my baby could survive earth-side by then.”

After an initial visit with her GP, Shelley realised she wanted to find a happy balance for her birth between western medicine and holistic practices.

“My mum is a palliative care nurse and I remember as a child having to occasionally accompany her to the hospital. I had always associated hospitals with death and dying and I just didn’t want that for my birth experience – I thought it might make me feel highly stressed. 

“I had a conversation with my husband and we opted for a midwife-lead home birth.”

The couple contacted a specialist group of midwives from Midwives & Mothers Australia (MAMA) who were on hand to support Shelley during pregnancy and helped to plan her water home birth.

“I did have a birth plan but I was also open to going to hospital if I needed to. I had to let go of some of my expectations but I was okay with that.”

On the day of her due date, Shelley went into labour. As her contractions started getting closer together, she called her mum and then the midwives who arrived to set up the birthing pool late in the afternoon.

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“We already had the candles going and our playlist on. At the time we lived in a small inner-city terrace and our neighbours saw the midwives arrive and knew what must be happening.

“My mum also turned up soon after and was buzzing around making everyone cups of tea. The house was busy and there wasn’t a lot of room to move, I remember crawling on the floor as this was the only position I felt okay to be in.

“It was also raining outside and I had to keep trekking out to our outdoor toilet with my trusty dog Kevin at my side - it was a bit comical looking back! 

“I would come in and sit in the pool when I needed a rest or use the TENS machine to help with the pain in my lower back.”

Image: Supplied.

Nutritionist Shelley couldn’t eat a thing during labour, but she did rely on some herbal teas and breath work to get her through.

“There were times when I felt exhausted and I remember repeatedly wanting to know the time and saying ‘I can’t do this anymore,' but one of the midwives really helped to bring me back into focus. Danny stayed by my side, patting my back as a calming influence the whole time.

“After 11 hours I felt like I really needed to do a poo and walked out to the toilet one last time. The midwives all cheered when I came back, knowing I was likely ready to push - and I was.

“An hour later at 12.30am Van was born in the birthing pool. Apparently, the neighbours heard the whole thing!”

Image: Supplied.

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Once out of the pool for a clean-up, Shelley and baby Van sat on the sofa for some skin-on-skin time. Forty minutes later she delivered the placenta into a bucket as husband Danny cut the cord.

“After going through the birth, delivering the placenta felt easy and it was out within a few pushes. I arranged for a Chinese herbalist to collect the placenta the next morning and I had it encapsulated and took it in pill form for six weeks after the birth.”

Shelley was taken to hospital once the placenta was safely out as she experienced a third-degree tear that needed stitches.

“The midwives can handle first and second-degree tears and unfortunately mine was somewhere between a second and third. I was sutured up pretty quickly then came straight home to have a cup of tea and more cuddles with Van!”

As many women are choosing home birth as an option right now due to COVID-related restrictions, Shelley has some words of advice.

“My home birth was a wonderful experience but it is important to be flexible with your birth plan. I know how easy it is to get attached to a desired end result, but you have to keep in mind that while you have a plan, so does your baby!

“I truly believe that whatever the outcome is for you, is the outcome you were supposed to have. Home birth or not - the most important thing is that you and your baby are both okay.”

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.

Read more from our My Birth Story series.

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