My body was designed to do this and my instincts would take over

By Zahra Sulliman

I spent my pregnancy planning to give birth to mine and Ibrahim’s baby naturally, with minimal or no medical interventions. Deep down, however, I didn’t actually believe that I would. I was certainly adamant to give it my best shot, but having never given birth before, I was completely open to the idea of having any (and all!) forms of pain relief available. Why? Because in my head, women weren’t really capable of tolerating that kind of pain. If they did, then they were some kind of superhuman. “I will have already carried her for 9 months, I don’t need to be a hero” I often told myself and others.

After my first GP visit to confirm my pregnancy and talk about next steps, it was proposed that I’d have my antenatal appointments at Ryde’s birthing unit and deliver at Royal North Shore Hospital. We didn’t think twice. We were invited to an initial ‘booking’ appointment at Ryde a couple of months later, which was the first time that the midwifery group practice model was explained to us.

The idea of being allocated one midwife who would take over my antenatal care, be there for the labour and delivery, and visit us at home after Bub was born sounded fantastic! The bit about there being no interventions – no medication, no epidural, no c-section – and also being home after 4 hours of delivery terrified me. I wasn’t sold, but after much deliberation I convinced myself to go ahead with it. I knew that if ever there were any concerns about mine or the baby’s health during the pregnancy or labour, the option to deliver at RNSH was always there. 

I was blessed with an easy pregnancy – I barely even had morning sickness! Ali was my midwife, and both baby and I were doing great at each visit. As well as getting to hear our baby’s heartbeat (which was always such a treat, especially when a tiny foot would kick the probe away!), Ali took her time to discuss various antenatal and postnatal topics. I slowly became more comfortable with the idea of a natural birth at Ryde. Ali’s message throughout our time together was simple: my body was designed to do this and my instincts would take over, both in regards to both labour and parenting. It was hard to realise at the time, but she was spot on!

A turning point for me was attending the ‘Meet the Midwives’ session when I was about 30 weeks pregnant. The midwives talked through and simulated what to expect when giving birth at Ryde. At least 4 or 5 midwives were present that evening too, all of whom were extremely warm, approachable and knowledgeable, and basically the kind of people you would trust with safely delivering your precious bundle! I went home that evening feeling so much more comfortable with our decision; I’d even go as far to say that I was looking forward to it.

My waters spontaneously broke at 37+4 weeks on Saturday 19th August at 8pm. Not expecting any of her women to deliver during this time, Ali was on leave. My call to her got diverted to Lorraine, who met us at the hospital within the hour. Lorraine took her time to monitor our baby’s health, and her observations indicated that contractions had started (although I couldn’t yet feel them). The plan was for us all to go home and rest until contractions were 2-3 minutes apart and I couldn’t speak through them, at which point I should call Lorraine. She also gave me a TENS machine to help in relieving the pain as I laboured at home.

The pain started as soon as we reached home (of course), and steadily increased. By 2am I was leaning over the coffee table with Ibrahim by my side, completely convinced that I couldn’t carry on without some sort of intervention. Although my contractions were still only 4 to 7 minutes apart, we called Lorraine. She stayed on the phone with me until I got another contraction, and after coaching me through it, we planned to meet at the birthing unit as soon as possible.

The thought of seeing Lorraine (who I’d only met for the first time a few hours ago – hormones!) got me through the next contractions until it was time to leave home. The birthing room was ready and ambient by the time we arrived, complete with dim lights, aromatic candles, relaxation music, and the birthing pool waiting to be filled. Another contraction came almost immediately, and Lorraine breathed deeply with me and rubbed my back. I distinctly remember exclaiming at this point ‘I think I need to push’, prompting Lorraine to check how dilated I was. Taking us all by surprise, she could see the baby’s head! She filled the pool with water (kept at 38 degrees throughout to mimic the temperature inside the womb), and I wasted no time getting in. The pain relief was instant and magical.

As two midwifes are present at every birth, Lorraine was shortly joined by our second midwife, Anna. I was in ‘active labour’ for the next 2 and a half hours, knelt in the pool with my arms hanging over the edge, and squeezing Ibrahim’s hands with each contraction. Lorraine and Anna were there the whole time, monitoring our baby with a water-proof probe to listen to the heartbeat, and using a mirror and torch to monitor how labour was progressing. Not once did they tell me to push; instead, they told me to listen to my body and push when I felt I needed to. Even when I felt defeated that the head was never coming out, they assured me that everything was going perfectly – and it did.

Our precious daughter, Aliyah, swam her way into the world at 5:49am on Sunday 20th August, eyes wide open. Having just calmly explained what would happen next, Lorraine caught our little girl and passed her through my legs and onto my chest for an unbelievable first cuddle. Aliyah and I spent the next few moments staring into each others’ eyes, with Ibrahim right by our side. Time had stopped, and the midwives let us climb out of the pool when we were ready. We were very much happy to bring Aliyah home by 11am, and for the next 3 weeks (including that very afternoon), the Ryde midwives came home to guide us through everything from feeding, sleep, bathing, and recovery for mum.

Labour and delivery frightened me, to the point that I refused to think about it until it happened. In hindsight, it never got as bad as I thought it would. It’s been almost 15 weeks now, and whenever Saturday evening rolls around, I can’t help but re-live the entire thing in my head. I would honestly do it again in a heartbeat, and can only thank the amazing midwives at Ryde for allowing me a beautiful experience of birth that I couldn’t possibly forget – for all of right reasons. 

It was so convenient to be so close

By Michelle Erofeyeff

My first contact with Ryde Maternity was in late 2002 when I was 31 weeks pregnant with my first child. I had been overseas until that point. I live around the corner and it was so convenient to be so close. I never considered going to a private doctor or hospital. My first beautiful son, Luke was born in January 2003 with great support from a number of midwives. I had very limited contact with doctors and really appreciated the care of the midwives.

After my really positive experience, I heard rumours that the Maternity ward at Ryde might close. I then wrote to John Watkins, our local member, to make sure that it didn’t. That letter led to my being asked to be involved as a consumer representative during the process to change Ryde Maternity to the Ryde Midwifery Group Practice (ie. without doctors and only for “low-risk” women).

After having been part of the process to establish the new, unique service I soon tested it for myself with my second pregnancy. It was great to have Anne Keely as my midwife throughout the pregnancy, in the middle of the night during my labour, for the delivery of by beautiful second son Jonah (4.6kg!) in November 2004 and the relationship has continued since then. My husband Greg and son Luke were also able to build a trusting relationship with Anne throughout the time.

I am now pregnant with my third child and did not even consider going anywhere else to have the baby. Of course, I have Anne as my midwife again (one of the many great midwives at Ryde) which is great! I am still involved as a consumer representative for women at Ryde.

I am very comfortable with Ryde Maternity and recommend it to everyone I can.

My care and the care of my baby were at the forefront of Lorraine’s mind

By Felicity McCann

My birth story begins at 30wks gestation. Having just moved house meant I had to find an alternate place to give birth to my son than originally planned. I was beginning to panic until after researching some potential options I stumbled across Ryde Hospitals Midwifery Group Practice. Conveniently it was located within a 10min drive from my home. I made contact with the midwives as soon as possible eager to get my antenatal care underway again. My partner Luke, our 3 daughters and I met with our midwife Lorraine who I was pleasantly surprised to discover would be my midwife throughout the rest of my pregnancy. She was so welcoming and reassuring especially to my partner who wasn’t keen on having a water birth, something I had wanted to experience with all my pregnancies but had never had the opportunity to birthing my 3 daughters at a regular hospital.

We saw Lorraine nearly every week and she soon came to feel like one of our family, she adored our kids as they adored her. She was extremely thorough in my care, re-ordering date scans and other tests that she felt the hospital I was going to for care prior to Ryde were not as accurate as she liked.

My pregnancy went smoothly and without a hitch and I reached the end of my pregnancy, healthy and assured that my care and the care of my baby were at the forefront of Lorraine’s mind when it came time to deliver. I woke one day and quickly realised labour was coming, I phoned Lorraine in a bit of a panic but she reassured me everything was going to be ok and asked me to come in to make sure everything was going ok and that I was actually in labour. Within 15 minutes of arriving at the hospital Lorraine told me my son was well on his way.

After a fairly short labour and being coached by Lorraine I gave one almighty push and our son, Cooper William Matthews was born weighing in a healthy 10 pounds 9 ounces just after 12pm. Lorraine lovingly nicknamed our son “bruiser”.

I was home before 5pm that same evening with my partner, girls and their new baby brother. The days after birth Lorraine visited frequently checking on my postnatal health and my newborn son’s health and she was available by phone any time I required her.

I would recommend Ryde Midwifery Group to all first time and experienced mums to be, as their care, love and attention to the health of you and your unborn child are what gives them the passion to do the remarkable things they do! I would most likely never have been able to experience a water birth if it wasn’t for Lorraine and the Ryde Midwifery team.

Photo: our midwife Lorraine holding Cooper ‘Bruiser’

I had set my mind on a natural birth

By Uli Wagner

Long before becoming pregnant I had set my mind on a natural birth. I always wanted to have one midwife to look after me during pregnancy, birth and the first weeks with our new baby. Having only arrived in Sydney a few months beforehand, I faced a big challenge finding exactly this model of care. By chance, I heard about Ryde and when my husband Arne and I went there we felt warmly welcomed straight away.

Our midwife Leonie Hewitt saw us regularly from then on and spent a lot of time during the routine checkups with us, answering questions and discussing decisions. When I was about 30 weeks pregnant, strong and painful Braxton Hicks Contractions started. At first, I was very worried. Having Leonie’s phone number and being able to ring any time gave me enough confidence not to panic though. After initial checkups, Leonie encouraged me to continue walking and doing Yoga. Only in hindsight, I realised just how helpful this advice had been.

When I was 40 weeks pregnant I still did not feel ready for giving birth. Because of my long cycles, I never took the calculated due date seriously. But at my next visit to Ryde, when I was one week overdue, Leonie had bad news for us. The baby’s head was still high and this was seen as a risk factor and a reason to go to Royal North Shore Hospital instead of birthing at Ryde. Either my panicking or Leonie’s investigation initiated the birth that same evening. To our relief, it looked as if our baby’s head had come down when we arrived at Ryde Hospital.

The contractions became very intense within a relatively short time and my body started to push soon after. The pain was incredibly intense and close to being unbearable. None of the pain relieving methods like a hot bath and gas seemed to work for me. And worst of all there were no pain-free times between contractions. Somehow I got through it with Arne holding and comforting me. When Leonie investigated me again I was 6 cm dilated and our baby’s head swam up again. But at the same time, my waters broke and the birth sped up. Only when Leonie pushed an anterior lip back the head finally came down. During the pushing phase which lasted for two hours, I needed all the strength I had. Without all the exercise I could never have done it.

Alba Marie arrived eight and a half hours after we went to hospital with a cone head, but healthy. She was 50 centimetres long, chubby 3.73 kgs and had a head circumference of 36 centimetres. I will never forget the overwhelming feelings holding our little daughter in my arms for the first time and being able to look after her directly afterwards. Even if the birth was quite different from what I had imagined, I always felt safe. It never even occurred to me to ask for an epidural. Arne’s support and not to have strangers around were very important to me as I felt very vulnerable and at times, out of control.

For two and a half weeks after Alba’s birth, Leonie came to our home, listened to our problems and gave advice. These visits gave both of us a huge boost in confidence for looking after our daughter.

I Delivered My Baby at 5pm and was Home by 10pm

By Amy O’Donnell

My first pregnancy and birth was fairly “normal” as pregnancies and births go I suppose. I think what was extraordinary about it was that this does not seem to be common these days. I was lucky in that my pregnancy with Oscar was low risk, so I could choose exactly how I wanted to birth with no restrictions. A good friend of mine who is also a midwife (although he is male… so is he a mid-husband?? With a nursing background this is something I should know!) let me know of all the options I had and said that the Ryde Midwives offer a really good service and has an exceptional reputation. I, like most people planning for a pregnancy, made sure I had the right health insurance so I had the option to go private – because if we are paying for something, it should be better than something we get for free right???

Well, upon meeting the midwives and learning more about the service, I learned that this was not always the case.

My midwife was amazing in her knowledge about the pros and cons of birthing in either public, private or through the Midwifery group practice, which is adjoined to Ryde Hospital. She was very supportive and did not want me to make a decision there and then, wanting me to have a think about all my options. However, after speaking with Jane it seemed a no brainier that I would birth with the Ryde Midwives. Here are some reasons why:

  • I could see the midwife at my convenience – which was usually after work. She was flexible with my appointments and I could reschedule if needed
  • There is always someone on call throughout the pregnancy
  • I would get to know and trust my midwife very much before the birth and I was lucky enough to have her all the way through the birth
  • After the birth, she (or another midwife) was on call if I had any issues
  • A midwife came to my place the morning after, the day after that and each day for the rest of the week to ensure I was healing and that baby was ok
  • I would have had out of pocket expenses for an obstetrician even with insurance (which I did not need)

However, the biggest selling point for me was the outcomes that the Ryde midwives had on their stats board. It is proven to have the best outcomes for women with low-risk pregnancies and their babies. This means, yes I know you are thinking it – less tearing! More skin to skin time with baby (that first hour is so important), less interventions, and the list goes on.

Wednesday May 20, 2015 was the expected due date of little Oscar. That night I played trivia at Three Weeds pub in Rozelle, thinking it would be one of my last nights out before babies…. I was wrong. The weekend came and nothing. The following Wednesday came and still nothing… I was getting desperate at this point. I was doing acupuncture, primrose oil, walking, my husband making me jump up and down, riding over speed bumps……. and I had my first stretch and sweep. By that Friday 29th still nothing after more acupuncture, that tea you are supposed to drink and more jumping. Finally, on the Saturday evening/Sunday morning after another stretch and sweep I started in early pre-labour where my contractions were like period pain and not close together. I still went shopping and left the house. By the Sunday evening they were full on and the sleep was a few minutes here and a few minutes there. Monday Morning I had had enough and went into the birth centre.

I thought I was tough. However the sounds that came from me were, when I think about them now, cringe worthy! But normal (I hope). I thought I would be one of these women that did not struggle with the pain, but alas, I am no different.

I was fortunate enough to have a water birth, which is a proven pain reliever during labour. I went back and forth from the shower to the bath as required and sipped on sparkling apple juice (my choice of drink). I did try gas to see if that would ease the pain, but vomited on it instead. The main thing that got me through was being able to squeeze the life out of my husband’s hands and I kept telling myself that tomorrow is another day and it will all be ok.

Once he came out, the midwife who was accompanying my midwife (they always have 2 during labour – one for mum and one for bub) said I had a shocked look on my face when holding my son for the first time. It was surreal to have this little person in my hands and I was terrified of dropping him. I had a good hour of skin to skin time with my son and he tried to feed himself (which is what they usually do). We took photos and had something to eat while the midwives were measuring and ensuring he and I were ok – only after the hour was over, there was certainly no rush.

I delivered at 5pm and was home by 10pm. We all slept that night and Oscar was eerily quiet, but I suspect he was tired as well. The midwife came in the morning and checked Oscar was well and feeding OK. We didn’t wash him for about a week as I heard that the covering is good for them.

I did a little Q&A for the birth unit a couple of weeks after to people who were thinking of birthing at Ryde. I really feel it’s important to give back in any way I can to this unbelievable service that does not cost a cent.

I am expecting my second in two months. I feel extra lucky to have the same midwife, Jane, again as she is amazing.

The picture is with my midwife, Jane, little Oscar and me with a bruise between my eyebrows from the acupuncture the day after his birth.

My Ryde Midwife never left my side

By Aiyana Schwarz

My pregnancy and birth wasn’t all smooth sailing – I was upset when I heard I had gestational diabetes. Going through Ryde Midwifery Group Practice I had hoped to give birth at Ryde hospital, but with gestational diabetes we’d need to drive further to Royal North Shore Hospital. My midwife, Leonie, was very supportive throughout the pregnancy and my husband and I attended the Ryde Midwifery pregnancy classes and felt better prepared for the unknowns of birth.

Two weeks before my due date I had a check-up with Leonie who explained the procedures for being induced (you can’t go overdue with gestational diabetes). The following day contractions started and my husband was ready with the contractions app. My vomiting and irregular contractions continued throughout the night with my mum by my side too. Then as morning arrived I suddenly felt the urge to start pushing. We called Leonie, who said to take an ambulance to the hospital. As my husband talked to the ambulance over the phone, he did a great job staying calm while they asked him to prepare for birth with lots of towels and sterile scissors (only later he told me he was freaking out!). I was carried to the ambulance and driven in peak hour traffic, trying not to push, arriving stressed and anxious to RNSH, greeted by unfamiliar faces offering me a drip.

Soon afterwards I spotted Leonie walking through the door and my body sighed in relief. She completely understood me and worked her magic. The nausea stopped, allowing me to stomach a drink of water, which meant I no longer needed a drip. Next I tried lying in the water-bath – it was so soothing and wanted to stay forever, but after a stressful trip to the hospital my labour had slowed and we had limited time to get the baby out before needing to go under the knife. So my midwife suggested a position on the bed. It worked and soon after I pushed our crying, gorgeous boy into the world.

I’m so glad I could have a natural birth, without the need for drugs and truly couldn’t have done it without my wonderful midwife. I was then wheeled downstairs to a shared room where the RNSH staff were helpful and on-call throughout the night if I needed it. I was exhausted! Thankfully my baby slept six hours straight even through the many times my roommate’s baby cried during the night. I was then ready to go home the following day.

Birth is unpredictable and occasionally obstetrics are needed. I believe having an expert midwife from Ryde by my side significantly reduced the need to go under the knife. Leonie was there supporting me through the ups and downs and one of the most special days of my life, Jett’s birth.

In the weeks following birth, Leonie made home visits to check-up on Jett and offer advice on breastfeeding, bathing and any questions I had. Furthermore, Ryde midwives continued their support by being able to chat at “WOW mums group” which is where I’ve also made some good friends.

Pregnancy, birth and parenthood have proven to be the biggest challenges in our lives and definitely the most rewarding experience. I’m now expecting my second baby and know Ryde Midwifery is the perfect place for me. We are so grateful to Ryde Midwifery Group Practice and they totally deserve the recent number one ranking in Sydney as the best public hospital to give birth in!