In today’s special episode for International Women’s Day, I chat to Australian actress Claire Holt. Claire lives in LA with her husband, Andrew and their baby boy, James.
After spending close to 15 years on birth control, it took Claire’s body six months to establish a regular period once she went off the pill. On her second cycle, much to her shock and delight, she conceived.
At her 10week scan she discovered that she’d experience a missed miscarriage (a miscarriage with no symptoms) and she admits that the experience was incredibly traumatic.
"I don’t know how to describe it; it was such an overwhelming sense of loss and it was so much more significant than I had ever realised. I knew that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage but…It almost diminishes the weight of it because it’s so common…I just didn’t realise how quickly you become attached to the baby,” she says.
Claire had a D+C and talks about the importance of grieving and healing. She wasn’t ready to fall pregnant straight away so she took a few months to get her body and mind back before she decided to try again.
James was conceived 5 months later and whilst Claire was elated, she was also fraught with anxiety. “I took pregnancy tests everyday, I got a blood test and was desperate for an early ultrasound. Each time I had a scan I was so panicked that I’d see a baby without a heartbeat. I was anxious until the moment he was in my arms.”
Claire experienced a relatively smooth pregnancy although she showed early and James measured big, hence she was overwhelmed by the comments from people remarking on her size. Never perturbed, she continued to see her OBGYB and doula, who both guided her through her anxieties and fears.
She scheduled an induction at 39weeks to fit with her OBGYN’s schedule and to give herself the best opportunity to have a natural birth (considering James’ size). After experiencing a week of false labour, she had a stretch and sweep and lost her mucus plug mere hours later. Induction began at midnight that night and by 5am the next morning her cervix had softened so her OB decided to insert a foley balloon to soften and open the cervix which Claire admits was the most excruciating pain she has ever experienced.
By 8am her OB decided to break her waters which intensified the contractions and whilst Claire was adamant that she wanted a drug-free labour, by noon she conceded that she couldn’t do it anymore. She opted for a walking epidural that really took the edge off her contractions but still allowed her to stay mobile. Unfortunately after three to four hours she hadn’t progressed so she was given pitocin which helped get her to 10cm.
“The pushing process was this really amazing, primal feeling. I had a room full of amazing women - nurses, my doula, my OB…and to be surrounded by these women who were guiding me to bring this baby earthside, was magical.”
Claire only pushed for 10minutes but James had shoulder dystocia so the OB used his hand to manoeuvre his shoulder and he was born shortly afterward. Claire only had one small tear which she credits to her OB’s use of oil and massage during delivery.
After a few nights in hospital, Claire headed home confused thanks to conflicting messages from the midwives about breastfeeding. So began a challenging experience that included a tongue tie, allergies and limited supply due to stress.
Claire’s postpartum experience was overwhelming and anxiety-ridden. “I was so terrified that James would suffocate in the night…I had this crazy, awful image that someone in her my was going to stop breathing. I thought I was going to drop him or hurt him and I’d obsessively check the monitor if I wasn’t in the same room,” she says. She attributes her anxiety to the confluence of sleep deprivation and the almighty experience of bringing a baby into the world.
Being open and honest about her feelings early on was a catalyst for change. She had weekly appointments with her therapist, she opted to give up breastfeeding and when James started sleeping through at four months old, she recognised a significant shift in her mental health.
James is about to celebrate his first birthday and Claire is adamant that all mothers should do what’s best for them as well as what’s best for the baby.
Topics include: miscarriage, missed miscarriage, birth control, natural birth, OBGYN, foley balloon, induction, walking epidural, natural birth, shoulder dystocia, postpartum anxiety.