In today’s episode I chat to Jessica Smith - @jessicasmith27 - about her third birth with baby Idris. Jessica is a former Paralympic swimmer, motivational speaker, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant and author. You can listen to her talk about her first two vaginal births on episode 33 of the podcast.
Jessica and her husband moved to Dubai with their children Ayla (3) and Reza (1) in January 2019. Not long after settling into their new home, Jessica woke up one morning and was craving foods she hadn’t eaten in a long time and she knew, in that very moment, that she was pregnant. She hadn’t had a period in 16months as she was still breastfeeding Reza so the discovery came as a huge surprise. She was also in a new country and had to navigate the maternity system with very little information or guidance. After discussing the option to travel back to Australia to birth or temporarily visit Glasgow in the UK (her husband’s hometown), Jessica decided to stay in Dubai and seek the advice of the expat community.
She soon discovered Dubai’s world class health care system and enlisted the care of a pro-natural German obstetrician who supported her wishes for a water birth. She felt safe and reassured throughout her entire pregnancy and birth experience and she was treated with the utmost care while she rode the intensity of hyperemesis during her first 18weeks.
When reflecting on her second birth with Reza, Jessica admits that she was shocked and delighted by the fact that her body did all the hard work on its own. It was a quick labour and after getting stuck in traffic, she arrived at hospital only half-an-hour before giving birth. She was refused an epidural simply because she was too far along. Despite the intensity of the pain, she felt so empowered in that moment and hoped for the opportunity to do it again with the knowledge and skills of hypnobirthing behind her.
During her pregnancy with Idris, she hired a doula and did an online hypnobirthing class, both choices that led to what she describes as her best birth experience. “Having a doula was the best decision I’ve ever made. I just needed that level of reassurance that sometimes your partner might not be able to give you….she had that little bit of calm that made all the difference,” says Jessica.
Despite the oppressive heat in Dubai, Jessica had a relatively straightforward third trimester and yet she found herself getting impatient at 38weeks, willing for labour to start. “I tried everything to get labour going and nothing was working. I was getting annoyed at myself and then I had a moment when I thought Enough, Jess! This isn’t just about me, it’s about my baby.”
Jessica’s mum arrived on her due date and two days later she woke with mild period cramps and knew that labour had begun. She went about her day as normal - school drop-offs and pick-ups - and by the afternoon her mum took the kids out and she settled in to watch some comedy and get the oxytocin going.
After her rushed second birth, she was keen to get to the hospital early and settle into her birth space with her doula and photographer close by. She got to the hospital at 8:30pm and although in retrospect she wishes she had declined the offer for an internal, she went ahead and was told she was 5-7cms and would be labouring for the next few hours.
“I lost trust in myself when the doctor said I was 5-7cm but then again, having my doula there, she reframed it and suggested I just use it as information and then refocus on my body and what it was doing, how I was feeling and what sensations I was experiencing.”
As soon as Jessica got in the bath her surges intensified and she started to doubt her ability to birth. “I was screaming, there was so much pressure, and then the next thing my doula reminded me that I could just allow my body to do the pushing, because that’s what we’re designed to do; the baby and our body works together. I was trying really hard to focus on feeling the baby moving through the pain and to then add a little pressure from my body to push. It was amazing when he crowned because that’s when the pain shifted, I was then trying slowly and calmly to birth him without having to push too much. I just trusted the process and he was there, I scooped him out of the water and up onto my chest.”
It was just a wonderful, wonderful experience….it’s so painful but also incredibly profound and beautiful. It’s the birth of a mother, a new mother. It’s a new surge of responsibility and emotion and love and respect. I’ll be forever grateful for the experience. I was so proud….I felt like superwoman,” says Jessica
As a final thought, Jessica shares some wise words on birth: “It doesn’t matter how a baby is born, it’s a blessing and that woman is a mother regardless. There are not better experiences, there are simply different experiences.”