FF 12: Felicity’s beautiful birth story

Newcastle infant chiropractor, Felicity Cook, shares her preparation and experience with bringing beautiful little Ivy into the world with Dorte Bladt.

Intro: Flourishing Families with Dorte Bladt, the Switched On Kids chiropractor and her passionate friends sharing the secret of inspiring wellness to help your families thrive.

Dorte Bladt: We’re going to do something really different today. We’ve got our own super mum, Felicity Cook, on the podcast today. Instead of asking your experience with work, we’re actually going to have a little bit of a chat about birth. Now, birth is a very personal experience – a good birth, a not so good birth, some are challenging – but I think many of us get scared… we sort of attract the bad stories. So we’re just here just to have a chat about a happy birth story.

Felicity Cook: Yeah. Exciting!

Dorte Bladt: Yes, so introduce us to the birth.

Felicity Cook: So little Ivy was born back in March. We did, we actually were quite lucky. We worked hard on it but we were lucky to have a nice, straightforward birth. So a nice positive birth story, so we’re lucky.

Dorte Bladt: That’s good. What were the things that – you obviously had a little bit of an idea of what you wanted. I think we all have an idea. What was your vision? What was it that you were looking to achieve?

Felicity Cook: Well, for me, I wanted to make sure that I had the best birth that could allow my child to have the best darn life. That was kind of my aim. So at the end of the day, if I had to make choices that meant that her safety was paramount then I would do that, but I wanted to also make sure I can have close to natural delivery as possible. So that was my ideal and so was Ivy’s, as you can hear. So really, I wanted it to be intervention-free, if possible, and work towards that.

Dorte Bladt: So that was your vision. What sort of action steps to take? What plans did you put in place to try to achieve that?

Felicity Cook: Well, I made sure that I had the best support I could. Initially, when it came out to it, I wanted to make sure I had the care providers that would support that vision and who understood that vision – so I did. I went and actually met with a couple of obstetricians and then I also met with the midwives and I came away from that feeling like the midwifery quality of care was intuitively what I needed to do for me and I felt amazingly supported in that. That was great and also then having the support team around me too, so knowing that my partner was on board and he was happy with that too. Then making choices towards the end that enabled that all were on board with that too, so antenatal education and books and those kinds of things that helped along with it.

Dorte Bladt: So what sort of antenatal team did you have?

Felicity Cook: Well, I had my amazing midwives, my primary midwife, and she was there pretty much throughout the whole care for me. So from when I booked in at 20 weeks with the hospital and with the birth centre. I had some really good antenatal that was privately arranged and then I also had my chiropractor. That was a big part for me for lots of reasons and I had that all the way through from basically prior to conception, so I thank you.  

Dorte Bladt: Anytime.

Felicity Cook: Towards the end, I also did some acupuncture as well, too. That was my support team.

Dorte Bladt: And when you were looking for support, what sort of support were you interested in?

Felicity Cook: I knew to have the birth that I wanted to have, I knew that I had to have the options of being active for as long as possible. So I wanted somebody who would support the idea of active birth if I needed it and also that could give me techniques and measures that could avoid intervention, so being able to move, being in the right headspace. So having the right mindset around that was really important and just people who are on board and understood the vision that I had.

Dorte Bladt: What is your understanding of an active birth?

Felicity Cook: There is the true active birth. For me, I just wanted to be able to move, if I could. I didn’t really want any restrictions if possible. So early stages of labour for me, I did go for a walk because I thought that that would be a nice way to either bring it or slow it down and a good way to tell that you’re in labour or you’re not. The night before I went into truly serious labour, I thought I might have been on the verge of it, so I went for a big long beach walk with my dogs and, yes, I could actually start off be like that, be as active as I could and then have that available to me throughout the labour – if I needed to be active, I could. If I wanted to walk around, I could. I didn’t have those restrictions.

Dorte Bladt: And that was because you were in a birthing centre, you feel? Or was it more your team that provided you with that?

Felicity Cook: I think the birth centre ideal is that you try and go as intervention-free as possible, generally, not that they explicitly say that but you don’t have the availabilities of things like pain relief or epidural so they want you to be as active as possible, so that was a big part of it. But also for me, I enjoy movement and I feel movement, and I figured if I could move well through the labour, I’d be able to move well afterwards and I wouldn’t be restricted in my recovery from that delivery either.

Dorte Bladt: Good. You were talking about the education that you had going through the pregnancy itself. What tools do you feel that was useful to learn, that was helpful for the birth process itself?

Felicity Cook: For me, the mental preparation that comes with that. So a lot of the meditations and the visualisations are really good. The breathing – because that actually gives you something to focus on, too. The program that I did, there was a big focus on different types of breath for different stages of labour and having a partner who could do that.

Dorte Bladt: So it was a two-people education. It wasn’t just this is what you need to do.

Felicity Cook:  Yes and that was important, too – having a partner who kind of had an idea of what was expected of him at the time. He knew a bit about what to suggest or where to be. So he knew all the breathing and the mindfulness exercises. He was also given some tools about acupressure points to release and we talked about different muscle releases he could do or ways he could help support my hips if I needed it. So he had stuff to do. I think as a male partner, I think sometimes boys like having things to do, so that’s great he had those tools.

Dorte Bladt: To make them active.

Felicity Cook: Yeah, so that was useful for me too because I knew that he didn’t need my direction. I didn’t have to think. I didn’t have to tell him. He knew what was expected of him and he could act accordingly.

Dorte Bladt: So this is basically some discussions that you had both as a couple but also with the antenatal educator?

Felicity Cook: Yeah. The antenatal education that I did – which was She Births – really did promote that.

Dorte Bladt: You mentioned that you were also doing your own… research may be a strong word, but you were reading some books.

Felicity Cook: Yeah, so I think there’s lots of information out there and I think that can also be a bit of a downfall sometimes, too. I’m very lucky having worked with pregnant women for a long time that I kind of knew what was out there and I had also heard my fair share of stories where things didn’t go very well, either. So I had looked at, in the past, the resources that women had told me about that were quite useful. I went, “okay, this is what I want to suggest to some women”. So then I looked at how that had helped women through the practice as well, too. The books I found particularly helpful were Juju Sundin’s Birth Skills because that’s a lot of movement-based stuff. So a really good way of pain management or pain distraction which you don’t need the whole… you can’t use the whole way through labour, because otherwise, you get too tired but it’s good for crucial times, so I really like that book.

I do really like Sarah Buckley’s Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering because it gives you the information that you need. Then the two other things that I had were Ina May Gaskin’s Spiritual Midwifery which is just a bunch of stories. Another, Guide to Childbirth, which is just a bunch of good birth stories. They’re not all positive like they’re not all perfect vaginal births. They’re all different types of births that’s really good… and then I had this one video that I watched that was actually the kind of ideal birth. So I just kept that and I watched that a couple of times towards the end. So that was the visualisation.

Dorte Bladt: I think just realising that I think we all have a plan. We go into birth time thinking this is what I want, this is what my plan is. I guess the important thing with this is that there’s no judgement when things go wrong. Things may change and we don’t have any control, but one thing is what happens, another thing is how we react to what happens – like what you’re talking about in that book – not all the stories were great but how did the people still end up with a baby.

Felicity Cook: Yeah, and the knowledge around that too. You can’t always control what happens on the day and things that I thought I would do in the birth suite, I didn’t do, but you can’t control it, you prepare for it, I guess. So you can inform yourself with those things and know the whole situation, like you know that epidurals do tend to lead to more interventions. That’s what the research tells us, anyway. It’s not everybody’s outcome but knowing that that for me was like, “okay, well, maybe I don’t want to be offered an epidural the moment I step into the birth suite”.  If I choose, I came on the way that’s likely to be the option then I’m less likely to have that intervention.

Dorte Bladt: Yeah. What was your experience once Ivy actually was born?

Felicity Cook: Immediately after? It’s amazing. You think, “wow, my body’s amazing!” It’s just done. Then it’s like “yes, yes, thank you! It’s over!” Because it is a long time there. But my recovery was quite good because I didn’t have the interventions that some people need or have. I had delivered placenta very easily and basically, I could just walk out of there. That’s what a lot of people were surprised at. I had her and then three hours later I’m walking out of there and going home.

Dorte Bladt: Did you have that whole experience of the baby crawling up your tummy, the skin-to-skin and all that that a lot of midwives are talking about as a really good bonding time?

Felicity Cook: Yeah, we did. We had delayed cord clamping, so it meant we just basically could stay where we were for a little while and have lots of skin-to-skin. So the moment that she – that first hour, she was pretty much on me, which is what we wanted. We made sure we left all that vernix on there for as long as we could. Then for that little time where I just had to go and have a shower and sort of…

Dorte Bladt: …Make yourself decent.

Felicity Cook: Yeah! Then our option was then our second best option, which was have skin-to-skin with her dad. So she wasn’t really off us at all for the next 48 hours. She was on us the whole time as much as she could be.

Dorte Bladt: Excellent and how do you feel that this experience of having such a beautiful birth and really positive experience – how does that place you for coming back into practice which you have done for the last four weeks you’ve been back?

Felicity Cook: It gets me more and more excited to work with pregnancy. I’ve always been excited about working with pregnant women, but I’m getting more excited because I’ve obviously got a little bit more knowledge about it too, and if there’s anything that I can bring my experience to help other women have that experience, then that’s exciting too because I think a lot of women don’t realise they have choices, or what choices are available to them. Obviously, I knew that I had choices and I have done a lot of research about what those choices are in our area, too, so I have lots of knowledge around it. I’m happy to share that, but also for the health of our kids at the end of the day. If we can facilitate a nice experience then it means you bond so much better, you recover so much better.  I mean, physically, in our job, if I hadn’t had the birth experience that I had, I don’t think I would be back at work this early. So there’s all of those kinds of things.  The bonding happens and how you can get back into your everyday life, too.

Dorte Bladt: Now, you mentioned – you were talking about the videos that you watched for visualisation and the meditations. Are there specific meditations that you can do for birth?

Felicity Cook: There are, there definitely are and I didn’t actually – I listened to them in the early stages and then I just had a track of mine, so there’s music playing in the end that I could just focus on because I knew that I had to focus on, I had to get something else to clear the chatter in my head. I listened to those meditations too many times so I could actually almost tell what they were – I needed a distraction. I just needed to focus on something that wasn’t that. So, I feel sorry for anybody else in that birth suite with me because that played – the same track played – for the three hours I was in there, pretty much. Luckily, it wasn’t a drawn-out labour where I was there for hours and hours. They probably would have gone crazy. But for me, it was literally just an app with my phone as music in the background and then the visualisations and the meditations from the program that I did with She Births.

Dorte Bladt: Okay, so it wasn’t something that you necessarily found on the internet that people could download.

Felicity Cook: There are plenty out there. She Births just gave them to us, so we had them available to us and they’re quite good. They’re great. I mean, She Births is a really well-thought-out program. So it’s them and you can do that, but the one, the mindfulness track that I had was literally from Mindspace. It was an app that I just downloaded and just decided halfway through that I just needed that track.

Dorte Bladt: And you had for a moment because I thought you were also working with a doula for a while?

Felicity Cook: Yes, I did. We had that support because all three of us had the support of a doula.

Dorte Bladt: What is a doula?

Felicity Cook: So a doula is a birth assistant or a birth companion. There are lots, actually, that say that they have doulas who come into delivery and are actively there. There are doulas who just do prenatal, doulas who just do postnatal stuff too. So we had one who had done a little bit of our pre-birthing with us and she was going to be there with us on the day, but we called her and told her that things were happening and then we just kind of got so in the moment that we didn’t end up having to call her back. So we called her after Ivy was already here. She came when I was in the birth suite afterwards, which the benefit for us was knowing we had a backup if we needed her.

Dorte Bladt: So a doula’s job would be to guard the hospital, to be helpful or to actually do the massages themselves?

Felicity Cook: Yeah. It’s really what you choose it to be. For us, it was having that third person, so that if Cameron became fatigued and needed to step out, he could, and I was okay with that as long as I had somebody familiar with me. I think mentally I understand that you’re sitting on the sidelines for however many hours and you don’t know how long it’s going to be. It can be quite tiring, so if he needed a moment to step out and even to have some food then I wouldn’t be completely on my own – which I wouldn’t have been because I had those midwives there who were very supportive and familiar to me – I didn’t actually need the doula in the end, we didn’t because we had this team of really supportive people with us already.  

Dorte Bladt: So you went through Belmont. They have a set amount of midwives that you get introduced to and it will be one of them? Or how does the team work from the midwife perspective?

Felicity Cook: Well, for me, I was really lucky in that I had the complete continuity of care that every visit for me was done by the same midwife, except for my booking appointment. I got to meet… because they’re such a great little community out there, I did get to meet other ones along the way, even just those of us waiting for an appointment they would come in and have a chat. Then the backup midwife – who we didn’t actually meet until that day – she was great. She was amazing. You knew that they all talked and they are all on a similar page. Sometimes they just drop in when you’re there for an appointment and say “hi”, so you knew that that would possibly be somebody you’d meet. So there’s only a certain number of people who are going to be there.

Dorte Bladt: Do you know how many people are… I think is it one man? Mainly women in the team?

Felicity Cook: Yeah. I think it’s grown a little bit. They’re a great option, I found. A great, great option so it’s nice that they’re growing – but I think there’s maybe 10 or 12 that are rotating.

Dorte Bladt: So if you show up, would you potentially be exposed to all 10 or are they in smaller groups? So you’d say it’s one of these three that you will be with?

Felicity Cook: I think it’s more like that. We had a rough idea that the backup was going to be one of two people, depending on which rotation, which week you went into labour. We were lucky. They were great. Then I met the two others on my prenatal appointment.

Dorte Bladt: So you had met them, all of them there.

Felicity Cook: Yeah. Met enough to know that I was comfortable with whoever it was.

Dorte Bladt: That’s good. Any advice that you have for mums that might be listening to our little podcast?

Felicity Cook: Trust your intuition. I knew that when I had looked to other care providers that they just weren’t right for me. I’d actually been initially told that I probably wouldn’t meet the criteria for Belmont, but I just decided to call them anyway because I knew that’s how I wanted to go. So trust your intuition. Trust what feels right, because that turned out beautifully. Inform yourself and actually feel comfortable with that because sometimes I think women feel a bit disempowered, or they feel like they don’t have… they just have to follow all the instructions that they’re given, but you don’t necessarily have to. The care providers are great. Lots are giving advice from a very experienced and informed place, but there are usually more alternatives out there than you realise.  

Dorte Bladt: Yeah and sometimes all the advice, like you said, you try to follow it all and you end up getting totally confused, which is probably not the best place to come from when you’re going through such a life-changing experience.  

Felicity Cook:  Yeah, because I think… this is not my saying but one of another chiropractor that we know very well, has said that sometimes in pregnancy it’s almost like you have to prove that you’re not sick or you’re not unhealthy. I found that very true. So you have to then trust your body and go, “you know, I’m strong and I can do this. I’m meaning to do this.” If that’s what works for you, choose the team that’s going to support that.

Dorte Bladt: That sounds great. One thing I was confused up here, but I just remember you talking about strength and the amount of physical work you also did. One thing was walking, but you actually did a fair bit of strength work through your pregnancy as well to prepare you… well, probably to stay fit but also to prepare yourself for the birth.

Felicity Cook: Yeah. Definitely not doing as much now time-wise, but I was still going to the gym and still doing weights and things even to the day. So I had her on a Sunday morning and I went to the gym on Friday morning.

Dorte Bladt: Were you guided by someone?

Felicity Cook: Yes.  Definitely by somebody who’s very skilled. Towards the end, it was all one-to-one because, earlier in the pregnancy, I had been dealing with some issues, too, with just being uncomfortable. A lot of women do get back pain in pregnancy. I didn’t think I would and I didn’t. I got pelvic pain instead and so I had to deal with that. I wanted to make sure I was as strong as I could be for the delivery but also my recovery, and so I would have that mobility. So I made sure I could do that for as long as I could. I was going to the gym as often as I could, doing Pilates to make sure my pelvic floor was happy. So doing all the prep work that I could do physically so I could be as mobile as I could but also recover as well as I could too.  

Dorte Bladt: What did you do with regards to… we’ve talked physical and we’ve talked emotional. We might as well talk about the chemical side as well. What did you do to prepare your body nutritionally?

Felicity Cook: Yes. Pregnancy is hard in that sometimes you can have the best intentions and that will get out the window. Be careful, you can’t. A little bit intuitively – like I love coffee and I do love the smell of it, love making it, and my body just went “you can’t have this”. I still haven’t had any so it’s been a long time without coffee. So it’s about listening to that a little bit too, but also then pushing through some of the days where all you feel like is just eating pasta. Making sure you get vegetables and those kinds of things. So plenty of the good stuff, plenty of the green stuff, and plenty of balance in that too. So making sure that you… for me, I did like sugar. That was probably my stimulant of choice when I was tired. I just tried to make it as healthy as possible. So dates and nut butters and those kinds of things.

Dorte Bladt: And did you take any particular supplements?

Felicity Cook: I did. I took a very carefully-selected antenatal multivitamin throughout for a couple of reasons. You’re tired in the beginning, particularly you don’t always feel like having the green smoothie even though we made it and it’s there. And you go…

Dorte Bladt: Yuck.

Felicity Cook: Exactly. So that made sure I was really well-balanced. Then towards the end, I did need to also then supplement with some iron. But again, I didn’t want the average iron because I know that can be hard for the body to absorb, so I went to the compounding chemist instead talked to them about what the best options were.

Dorte Bladt: So again, you used your support people.

Felicity Cook: Yes.  

Dorte Bladt: Because reading whatever magazine we tend to have lying around doesn’t necessarily give us the best advice for something like that.  It might be more a question of who has paid for the ad.

Felicity Cook: So true. Actually, that’s very true. Also because they can just be a bit of a scattergun approach. You may not actually need all that.

Dorte Bladt: One last question. My brain is just…. Seriously, talking about scatter: the abdominal separation. Did you have any issues with where the two sides of the stomach muscles are pulling apart? Did you have any issues with that?

Felicity Cook: I did. Every woman has a little of it and that’s just how functional it is and how strong you are with it. But for me, I had a hernia when I was younger as a child and I had surgery with that so that actually popped up about halfway through my pregnancy – like literally popped up.

Dorte Bladt: Great. Welcome home.

Felicity Cook: Yes. So I had to deal with the diastasis a little, bit but could still be functional. That’s the thing. It didn’t stop because I had these issues. I was just dealing with it and working around it in the best possible way.

Dorte Bladt: Right. Just tell me a little bit about now Ivy is five months old, almost. She’s been here for a long time. So what are you actually doing now to take care of your body?

Felicity Cook: Well, yes. I’m not back where I would like to be or where I thought I would be by this stage. I haven’t been back to the gym yet but I’m going to go and so I’ve been more gentle than I thought I would. My body had different needs then, feeding, sitting, breastfeeding can be hard work actually. I did say I prefer to give birth any day than feeding initially.

Dorte Bladt: Are you serious?

Felicity Cook: Because it’s hard work. It’s hard work on your body and I think a lot of mums – a lot of attention goes into bub at that time, but I needed attention. My body needed attention too. So I saw the chiropractor and I also went and saw a therapist to make sure everything is recovering from my lower body, who was good. Getting posture happy. I’m working on those things. So I had a bit of attention that time too. You needed it to make it a successful journey there. And then Pilates, yoga. Initially, I was really keen to get back into exercise really quickly and then I kind of slid off a little bit, and then now back into working at it again. So back to the gym – next week I’m going.

Dorte Bladt: Yay. Excellent. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It’s a beautiful story. I look forward to hearing lots of good feedback.

Felicity Cook:  Thanks, Dorte.

Dorte Bladt: Thank you.

Outro: The opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Family Chiropractic or the host.