Nov 22, 2019
In today’s episode, I interview Hannah Polites. Hannah is a midwife who worked in the hospital system for five years before she fell pregnant with her daughter, Avaliah. She speaks candidly about the pressure and the privilege of being a midwife giving birth and admits that during her first birth, she was acutely aware of the birth process and yet somewhat unprepared for the emotional and mental challenges.
“I felt like I knew everything about the physiological birth process and what to expect but I didn’t know how I was going to personally handle it. I also knew that you can have all of these plans and it can all change so quickly,” she says.
After 24hours of niggling, unproductive contractions following her waters breaking, Hannah and her husband Garth, a Paediatric Registrar, went to the hospital to check on the baby. Instead of being induced she opted for expected management yet it took three days of period pain cramps and acupuncture treatment to kick start labour. “I was over analysing everything because I’m a midwife and I was acting transitional so when I got to the hospital to discover I was 2cm I just lost it.” She agreed that it was best to have an epidural so she could relax but unfortunately her baby’s heart rate plummeted then spiked and it was decided that an emergency cesarean was required. Thankfully she could feel the deep pressure of the contractions despite the epidural and she asked her midwife to assess her. She was 10cm so the Obstetrician agreed to do a vacuum delivery. “I said: No, I don’t give you permission to give me an episiotomy and my midwife advocated for me. I was ok with tearing but unless absolutely necessary I didn't want an episiotomy,” she says. Hannah admits that coming so close to receiving an episiotomy - a birth injury - and then not tearing was a major part of her story. “That was huge for me and it took me a long time to get past it. I became scared of the birth process because it was an emergency situation in the end. Ultimately I felt so much pressure that as a midwife, I should have coped better.” She admits that she started questioning her personal and professional ability.
This guilt plagued Hannah when she fell pregnant with her second baby and she had terrible nightmares from the outset. She sought the help of a one-on-one hypnobirthing practitioner Shari Lyon from Belly 2 Birth, who helped her and Garth move through the birth trauma and actively prepare for her second birth.
“The first class was really about identifying my fears and how they made us feel and after that we debriefing and started building a tool kit of skills to take with us into birth. It was amazing how connected Garth and I were during Arlo’s pregnancy; we were doing regular meditations, breathing techniques and listening to tracks together. We opened up and talked about our issues...hypnobirthing helped us establish a very strong birth partnership.”
Within three weeks of starting her hypnobirthing practice, Hannah started to get excited about giving birth and embraced her pregnancy despite nausea, low blood pressure, bleeding and early labour symptoms. She went into Arlo’s birth with a positive mindset and a skillset that literally carried her through the entire labour and to an ecstatic delivery.