This podcast has been created to provide a platform for sharing rural Australian women’s birth stories. Rural women can be isolated from pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, birthing and postpartum care models available to women living in urban environments and city centres. I want to record and share stories from the many rural women who have birthed, to allow them to voice their experience and learn from them. I want rural women who are pregnant, planning to get pregnant or entering their postpartum period to feel supported and know that, although care may be via distance, there are options.
Rebecca Barry is a mum of two. She lives on a property in South Australia, close to the Victorian boarder.
Rebecca’s journey towards her first birth changed trajectory when she received high blood pressure results and was diagnosed with preeclampsia. She had to shift her plan and go into hospital earlier than expected. She underwent additional monitoring and had an extended prenatal hospital stay. She had to change hospitals, moving from her private unit and the care of her private obstetrician to a different hospital. Her known care providers were not able to transfer with her and so early in her third trimester, Rebecca was traversing an unknown care environment and needed to remain in hospital until she birthed. This was tumultuous, as she would receive varied blood pressure results and sometimes be rushed into Delivery Ward Birth Suite/ICU where then her blood pressure would stabilise. This would happen every time she had a high blood pressure reading, as they were thinking they would have to do an emergency delivery.
Her partner was darting back and fourth to be a support to her and present for bubs imminent arrival, whilst still managing life on the land. Her eldest was born prematurely via caesarean section and required some additional support after he was born.
During her second pregnancy, Rebecca developed a strong relationship with a trusted obstetrician who worked with the high risk unit. This gave her increased confidence and she felt well supported as she planned a VBAC. Rebecca’s VBAC didn’t go to plan and after labouring and trying different augmentations, her daughter was born via caesarean. Her daughter also had a stay in the nursery care unit due to infection.
Rebecca demonstrates resilience and strength as she shares what it is like to traverse unexpected pathways and birth far from home. Each stage of motherhood can present challenges and Rebecca shares openly about how she moved through the early birth and nursery stays through support and her own strength.
This is part 2 of Rhia’s story. Part one can be heard in episode 26, wherein Rhia shares her journey to conception and through prenatal care. Rhia is a mother, photographer, wife and powerhouse self advocate. We heard part of Rhia’s story in episode 17 when I interviewed Rhia’s wife Claire about her work as a rural homebirth midwife but first heard from Rhia herself in part 1 - episode 26. Rhia epitomised strength. She shared how she maintained her strength through an assisted conception journey and through meeting with the restrictions placed upon birthing people in institutionalised birthing structures. Rhia reminded us all in episode 26 that you can say no and you can interrogate why practitioners are recommending different care pathways.
Now on episode 27 we hear Rhia’s birth and postpartum story. She shares how she went into labour at home and that travelling in labour can impact progress. She shares how she found breastfeeding support within her rural context and overcame supply difficulties through sourcing breast milk donations. Rhia is a great source of advice for rural women, reminding us that although we’re isolated there are still ways and means to source the care and support we need.
Rhia lives in rural Victoria. She is partner and wife to Claire from ‘Your Birth Midwifery’ who was interviewed in episode 17 of the podcast. In this episode Rhia shares their journey to conception, navigating sperm donation and working with fertility support.
Rhia shares the emotional toll of trying to conceive and how friends and family can best support people working through conception difficulties by keeping the faith. She shares that the best thing was her mum always staying strong for her and that this active support helped to sustain her confidence in herself and her body.
Rhia steps us through her prenatal and birth preparation care and I found her story inspiring as we should always remember that we can ask and we can say no if a pathway or treatment doesn’t align with our vision, understanding or needs. We are intuitive beings for a reason.
This episode has been split into two parts in order to give space and time to each stage and aspect of Rhia’s story. In this interview she shared so deeply and personally. Thank you to Rhia for opening the pages to her story and for offering insight into what it is like to work through conception difficulties and differences via distance. I look forward to sharing her birth and postpartum stories with you in the following episode next week.
Rhia and Claire are an ace birth team.
I first heard their rural birthing and conception story through @mesmerisedmamas blog post
and have since discovered the amazing offerings they bring to rural Victorian women via their joined force as midwife @yourbirthmidwifery and birth photographer @rhi_mc_photography
You can also connect with Rhia on Facebook at Rhi MC Photography.
Raine is from a rural/remote property outside of Katherine in the Northern Territory. She has been on a long pre-conception journey, navigating the world of fertility treatments and IVF specialists for many years. She is now in the third trimester of her pregnancy, having relocated to birth, and is expecting to give birth any day/week now. In this interview she shares her heartaches and the mental load she carried on this journey. She goes into detail about treatments and the different tests she has had. Raine shares how she has transitioned practitioners moving from Darwin to the Gold Coast to Melbourne to have her and her partners fertility care needs met. She generously opens up about the array of different avenues she has been down, on this journey towards conception, and reminds us that transitioning care providers can open up new pathways. Raine really appreciated the services and expertise of her IVF specialist on the Gold Coast as they always explored new alternatives and looked into the many reasons for conception struggles. She offers advice for both people moving through their own fertility journey and the support people who walk alongside them.
This episode includes discussion of a variety of IVF treatments, embryo transfer, endometriosis, miscarriage and surrogacy. Raine’s rural perspective is invaluable and we hope that listening to her story helps other people.
Connect with Raine on Instagram @barren_old_cow
Online antenatal/birth/breastfeeding/postpartum classes discussed are by ‘B’ from @coreandfloorrestore . They can be viewed on her facebook page or website blog https://coreandfloor.com.au/blog/
Sarah is from Bowraville in NSW, on the mid north coast. She gave birth around three years ago. While she was ‘growing up’ Sarah hadn’t ever really considered how she would birth because she didn’t think she would have children. However, since becoming a mum Sarah is now thoroughly involved in the world of birth through her work as a birth photographer and the production of the first Nambucca Valley and surround ‘Pregnancy to Toddlerhood’ guide.
During her pregnancy Sarah checked into Macksville maternity at around 20 weeks gestation. This small hospital and their personable staff appealed to her. She journeyed through pregnancy by following her intuition. Books and courses weren’t what she was seeking at the time. She anticipated the possibility of transfer and so she had also checked into Coffs Harbour hospital as a precautionary measure because Macksville is a low-risk facility.
Sarah went into labour at just over 41 weeks; however, due to augmentation she was transferred from Macksville to Coffs Habour in an ambulance. Her labour was long but she went with the flow.
After Sarah’s birth experience she recognised how important it is for women to be informed about the different options available to them in this rural area and so with the support of a friend and a local group she developed and distributed ‘From Pregnancy to Toddlerhood’. This booklet was formed to help women find the information they need to know and to allow them to feel confident in their birth and parenting choices. It is a comprehensive and easy to use guide to early pregnancy, the perinatal period and beyond, that connects women to providers in this region. And thankfully Sarah has gathered all this information and put it into one easy to use guide. You can download a copy and find out about her birth photography services on her website:
Courtney is from Kangaroo Island in South Australia. She lives on a property about 30 minutes from her local hospital. When she fell pregnant she already knew about the great birthing facilities available on Kangaroo Island through her family and so this made her care choices easy.
Courtney had a fairly uneventful pregnancy up until the 2019 fires hit. She was due to give birth that summer and this natural disaster increased her stress levels in this last month of pregnancy. Thanks to the community spirit on the Island, Courtney always felt cared for. A local midwife even made a house visit when Courtney was in town, having evacuated to her sisters. Together they did some checks on Courtney and baby and this community access and support alleviated her stress during evac. Her son Hudson was born 8 days late. Courtney went into natural labour in the middle of the night. Her husband was her birth support person and with the local midwife and obstetrician present Courtney gave birth to her son Hudson in the same room her husband had been born in.
Her post partum was well supported by community health visits; however, when Courtney was ready to venture out - Co-vid19 hit and socialising was not possible. Courtney has had an eventful experience but taken it all in her stride. She shares the power of community and making connections and the support that can be ignited for pregnant and post partum women in rural communities.
Kat lives on her family’s rural property ‘Derry Downs’ in Queensland, with her husband and their daughter Charlotte. Both Kat and her husband work for local area health whilst also managing stock on their land.
The closest town to their property is Roma, which has a birthing facility; however, when Kat first fell pregnant she elected to birth on the Sunshine Coast at Burderim.
Burderim had a home like aesthetic (with a double bed!) and allowed partners to stay too. This appealed to Kat and she really appreciated this continuity of support as her husband was present continuously throughout their hospital stay.
In preparation for birth, Kat read JuJu Sundin’s ‘Birth Skills’ and accessed prenatal yoga classes (after relocating, participating independently and as a couple). This combination of reading, research and practical classes gave Kat strategies she could actively apply during labour and birth.
Kat went into labour, naturally, late at night. She didn’t transfer to hospital until the following morning. After a while her labour had not progressed and she was offered the choice to intervene or pursue c-section. Kat and her husband decided to move to unplanned c-section. She was moved to theatre and it wasn’t long before they discovered they had a daughter.
Kat shares her positive experience with unplanned c-section and how the strategies she’d learnt through her study of ‘Yoga for Birth’ can be used for any birth. Kat has a really positive mindset and calm approach, and as she is expecting her second child, she intends to reactivate her choices and pursue ‘Yoga for Birth’ again because she believes that the best way to approach the uncertainty of birth is through cultivating a sense of calm.
Larissa Petfield is mum to 3 girls in rural Queensland. She lives on a cattle station. Her home ‘Attica Station’ is located about 120km out of Augathella and it’s 30kms to hop over to her neighbours.
Larissa grew up in Kingaroy. When she first fell pregnant, knowing 36 week relocation was necessary to access birthing facilities, Larissa chose to birth in Kingaroy with a known GP/Ob. Relocating to her parents house meant that she had prior knowledge of the hospital staff and this helped her to feel supported. She went into labour shortly after relocation, in her 38th week of pregnancy. She laboured during the day, through intense back pains, before discovering her daughter was presenting posterior and breeched. She was in highly active labour when she and her team decided to redirect and she birthed her daughter via unplanned emergency c-section. Her postpartum was well supported by a group of powerhouse playgroup mums in Augathella and Larissa readily drove the hour and a half for this connection and support.
Larissa felt very supported by the staff present at her first daughter’s birth and so when she fell pregnant again she reactivated her care plan. She was planning a VBAC but changed plans after having a reaction during the induction. Her first and second daughter were born close together, after fertility consultation in Toowoomba; however, they waited a little longer before trying for number 3.
Larissa’s youngest daughter is a survivor. During Larissa’s 20 week scan her daughter was diagnosed with serious heart defects. Young Annie presented with:
1. Pulmonary valve stenosis
2. Hypoplastic right ventricle
3. a large ASD
5. Bilateral Superior Vena Cavae with LSVC draining to coronary sinus
So for Larissa’s third pregnancy she required specialist care via Brisbane’s Mater Mothers.
Larissa and her husband have been faced with a challenging journey through gestation and early childhood monitoring and surgery. At times they felt highly supported but there were times when medical support people laid judgement and conversations around late term termination were difficult for them to endure.
Larissa birthed her third daughter via planned c-section at Mater Mother’s and now at four years old she is their families little miracle.
Larissa has traversed back through this emotional experience in hopes that others, who are faced with similar circumstances and isolated from medical assistance, know help is accessible.
Lindsay Hollingsworth lives in Yass in NSW. Yass, like other rural towns that are in “close” proximity to larger city or regional centres, lost its maternity ward long before Lindsay’s births. It is a “boarder” town approximately an hour from Canberra. Crossing the boarder offered equitable travel times but increased access to other facilities, like the birthing centres and continuity of care models. Although, since Lindsay’s children were born, accessing these services has become strictly contingent upon siting your Canberra address.
Lindsay’s first birth was at Calvary hospital, with a private obstetrician. She completed the calmbirth course and found these strategies useful on her drive from Yass to Canberra. She went into labour in the evening but was in for a long night and powerhouse day before she would meet her baby. She trusted her body; however, came up against a lot of intervention pressure and so for her second pregnancy Lindsay sought the support of continuity of care through the Canberra birth centre.
Lindsay’s first birth led her to anticipate that her second birth would also be long. It was not. Throughout her pregnancy Lindsay had jumped different hurdles as she faced low PAPP-A, going over her “estimate-date” and being an older birthing woman; however, she was her ultimate advocate and just over 42 weeks gestation she went into natural labour. Lindsay had intended to labour at home but this time things moved quickly. Driving along the highway Lindsay told her husband he needed to pull over. They diverted, taking place in a somewhat sheltered roadside stop, and here (with A.C.T ambulance in attendance) her daughter was born.
Lindsay’s own births have shown her the innate power of women and in being informed. She now works with other women as a doula and HypnoBirthing trainer through her business New Beginnings Birth.
Lindsay and others are advocating for ‘Barton Babies’ to be a thing of the past and for the reactivation of the Yass maternity service. They’ve successfully seen an outreach midwife instated but this is for antenatal and postpartum care, and does not solve the issue of ‘birth before arrival’.
Asha is a mum of 4 from Braidwood, NSW. Having grown up in Braidwood Asha had strong community connections and so in her first pregnancy when it came time to chose her care she followed the local birthing pattern through Queanbeyan hospital. Asha shares that, at the time, she didn’t know there were other options.
Asha went into labour on a ‘busy’ day and so upon their arrival they were informed that the hospital was ‘full’. When Asha was told she would need to turn around, and drive another hour to Goulburn, she felt let down. Luckily someone noticed that she was “too far along” and so instead they accommodated her. However, being on the cusp of transfer to another facility did not make Asha feel the support she’d needed. So for her next births she looked elsewhere.
At Moruya, Asha was made to feel like her care providers trusted her body and her instincts. She was even encouraged to leave hospital site, after check in, to walk by the water to allow herself space, to get out in the fresh air and inspire further contractions. Her needs were a priority and they worked with her.
Asha’s journey to birth was different each time. She’s relocated (to be closer to Moruya hospital), driven down the Clyde mountain in labour and for her most recent birth she laboured through ambulance transfer. She describes how her most recent birth was a posterior delivery. She shares that this was the most challenging experience of her life.
Asha is an artist and photographer and mother. Her life is surrounded by the joys, imaginings, energies and rhythms of her children. Together we spoke in her backyard, enjoying the sunshine, sounds of spring and playful antics of our two toddlers (who join in our chats). Before falling pregnant, I vividly remember seeing Asha around the community and I remember wondering how she so beautifully balanced her own endeavours with mum life. It’s a pleasure to have now had the opportunity to listen to Asha share her birth stories. Her motherhood, partnership and children are the threads that she is weaving into her most beautiful and fulfilling life, of love and loving, each day as a family.
Leah Kershaw lives in the coastal town of Bodalla. She is a mum of four boys and has baby number 5 on the way.
Leah has birthed in Moruya and Queanbeyan hospitals and for her final pregnancy she is planning a home birth, enlisting the services of a known midwife through The Nest of Moruya.
She’d met her partner in Mount Isa, Queensland, but moved home in her first pregnancy to the south coast of NSW in order to be near her mum to birth. Her partner continued to work up north but travelled back down for the birth of their first son. Travel was a factor for Leah’s first three births, but she wasn’t the one travelling the 1000s of kms, instead this trek was her partners as he continued to work flyinflyout in rural Queensland. Women who also have flyinflyout partners will understand the significance of this in early motherhood and so after some discussion and family negotiation Leah and her family relocated. They moved before birth number four, to the Queanbeyan area, as her partner found a local job.
Leah shares her previous positive birthing experiences. Every birth was different. She shares her experience using different birthing positions, of induction, preterm birth (membrane rupture) and water birth. Leah appreciates the care and facilities at both Queanbeyan and Moruya hospital, but also expresses an innate desire within herself to seek something different for her upcoming fifth birth.
Thanks to Instagram, Leah has connected with doulas and embraced this birth as an opportunity to rebirth herself. She has worked directly, over zoom, with birth mentor and doula @ripsnorter to delve inside herself and discover her wants and needs for both her pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Leah shares how she didn’t do this same work prior to her other births and that birth more so ‘happened’ to her. She feels strongly about activating space for herself this time. She knows this commitment to self and deep inner work is honouring her rite of passage. She is both opening into, and planning to honour and close, this birthing stage of her life (through things like ‘closing the bones’).
Claire is a home birthing midwife living in Benalla in Victoria. She trained in the hospital system and has worked in MGP (Midwifery Group Practice) but has now found her bliss, stepping out of institutionalised systems in order to directly cater for women’s needs as a home birthing midwife.
In this interview Claire shares what she has witnessed as a rural midwife. She articulates how her alternate care pathway can help resolve issues for rural women; for example, rather than labouring women needing to traverse the distance to the hospital, Claire takes up this drive - sometimes driving up to two hours to support a birthing woman. This strikes a chord, as travel and distance (and the potential to birth before arrival) are fear inducing factors. The notion of travelling two hours and the risk of birthing on a lonely highway, as trucks pass at 100kms per hour, is a vision that often causes rural pregnant women angst. Claire, as a rural independent midwife, is offering an alternative to this and this (in addition to the benefits and personalised care home birth allows) has made Claire a sought after practitioner.
So, understanding the opportunity provided by home birth midwives, Claire and I broke down some of the stigmas around home birthing. In our conversation we broke down and answered the ‘what if’ questions and defined things like the home birth kit and ‘transfer pathways’.
Claire’s business, ‘Your Birth Midwifery’, has filled a need for the rural women of Benalla and surrounds. Offering choice to rural birthing women. If you would like to connect with Claire and explore rural birthing at home with an endorsed midwife get in touch:
Shannon Crocker is a mum of 3, living on the land in rural Queensland. She and her family live about half an hour from Roma in Muckadilla. Shannon has both birthed in the local, rural maternity unit using GP shared care and at Mater Mothers in Brisbane.
Shannon’s first birth was at the Roma hospital. She worked with local midwives and a GP throughout her pregnancy. Shannon had prepared for birth/labour through reading, enjoying both Kaz Cooke’s ‘Up the Duff’ and JuJu Sundin & Sarah Murdoch’s ‘Birth Skills’. These books both proved useful. Shannon appreciated Cooke’s sharing of her own birth that didn’t go to plan and found the pain management strategies from ‘Birth Skills’ really accessible, as during this birth Shannon experienced extended transition due to complications. Shannon had a leak in her hind waters and was advised that induction, at 40+5 weeks, could prevent this risk of infection. Shannon was induced, but felt her body wasn’t yet ready to birth. She did reach 10 cm dilation, after around 10 hours, but due to a cervical lip and the position of her son pushing was not progressing. This meant that they needed to call in a fly in obstetric specialist from Mount Isa, upon his arrival and through the use of forceps Shannon’s son was born.
This first birth experience and extended time in transition made Shannon feel very far away from the extra help that can sometimes be needed in emergency situations and so for her second and third pregnancies she sought care through Mater Mothers in Brisbane with a private obstetrician. This ob. supported Shannon through sharing prenatal care appointments with a local GP. Shannon also continued to connect with local services through attending midwifery appointments at Roma hospital – so her care pattern had three branches. Shannon’s second and third births were via caesarean section, they cultivated a sense of calm and were healing experiences.
In this interview as Shannon shares her story she describes the differences between her births, she delves into postpartum and offers solid advice on how rural women can gain further support through associations like Uniting Care (Rural and Remote Support).
Shannon still lives in rural Queensland on the family farm and she also runs a small business.
You can connect with Shannon via Instagram:
Bec Fagan is a mother, registered midwife and birth support practitioner, Calmbirth educator and qualified acuneedlist (acupuncture by a midwife) from Lismore in NSW. She and her family moved to the Northern Rivers region of NSW for a tree change, seeking a different rhythm of life. Prior to moving rurally, Bec had worked in a tertiary hospital and had supported numerous women through prenatal care and labour. Now Bec works with women both privately and in a hospital setting. She is with women through the many stages of motherhood; preconception, pregnancy, birth preparation into postpartum, the fourth trimester and beyond. Her Lismore based business ‘Empowering Birth Journeys’ is a pre and post birth wellness centre that offers additional care. Working privately, independent of the hospital system, allows Bec to move at a different pace and broaden the scope of her birth support offerings/relationships through her personalised continuity of care model. In her work she is with women. She meets their needs, circumstances and experiences, and works with them to make them (and their partners) feel seen and heard.
Bec’s description of birth doesn’t sound like the ‘rural birth’ many of us have come to accept/expect. She highlights that although rural care models can be framed by limitation that it doesn’t close the door to possibility. She instead shines light on the possibilities and dismantles the limitations.
In this interview Bec lists the multitude of birthing, prenatal and postpartum care options available in Lismore. She explains how her business helps rural women make conscious choices through education and support. She shares, regardless of whether she is working with women/couples through birth preparation or birth debrief, that the discussions/strategies she works through are ultimately enabling individuals. She reminds us that ‘anything is possible’, and everyone can have a positive birth experience, when we take the time to look inside ourselves and adopt wellness strategies, like calmbirth (because it is a strategy for all births, reducing fear and anxiety on any birth path).
Taryn is a mother of three, living in remote Queensland. She has travelled thousands of kms to birth and no one birth was the same. Induction, epidural, venthouse extraction, natural, shoulder dystocia, 4th degree tear, caesarean.
Taryn fell pregnant whilst living on a remote cattle station in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Living remotely the closest ‘quick access’ medical facility was 65 kms away, in a clinic, in Croydon. Although 65 kms sounds accessible flooding was an issue and it was not a fulltime facility. This facility was fly in, fly out and a doctor was only available once a fortnight. During Taryn’s first pregnancy, on the advice of friends in the medical field, she sought care with a private obstetrician in Brisbane at Mater Mothers. This obstetrician had experience working with rural women and so the advice Taryn received was relevant and showed consideration of her circumstances. For Taryn to reach Brisbane she needed to travel 2500 kms from home. This drive took days, requiring numerous overnight stops, and so Taryn only saw her care providers at the beginning and the end of her pregnancy. It is an official/legislated requirement that remote birthing women relocate prior to birth. They are required to leave home during the ‘possible birthing window’ and so Taryn relocated 6 weeks prior to her due date and began the process of waiting for her scheduled induction. She shares that although the drive was long and hard, being late in her third trimester, that it was not as difficult as the trip home. On the return trip travelling with a newly born infant, who was learning to feed, was difficult.
After this first, positive birth experience, Taryn felt like a birth expert and so for her second pregnancy she chose to birth closer to home at a small, public hospital. This time Taryn would relocate to her parent’s house, only 1000 kms away in Proserpine. Both her grandfather and her father had been born in this small, rural maternity unit and so going in she felt good about this change of plan. Again, Taryn relocated. Arriving in town 6 weeks prior to her due date allowed Taryn to begin care with her hospital and rather than working with an obstetric specialist in this system she experienced midwife led care. Taryn went into labour naturally. Everything seemed to be going well but when things reached the pointy end and her son was crowning, his head would move in and out. A new doctor diagnosed that her baby was stuck (shoulder dystocia) and with hands on assistance her baby was born, although Taryn sustained a high order injury and needed to be transferred to Mackay.
Having experienced two very different births, and dealing with some trauma around her second birth, when Taryn found out she was pregnant for a third time she sought an elective caesarean. She found the remote post-partum healing from a caesarean a lot easier than her birth related injury from her son’s birth.
Every one of Taryn’s birth experiences was different. She is a strong, independent and resilient person who took her remote care circumstances in her stride – but she also shares that having one good friend, who understands and who can listen to/hear you, makes all the difference in remote pregnancy, postpartum and motherhood.
Kyah gave birth to Sammy at the Alice Springs hospital. Kyah received care from this hospital during her birth but not throughout her pregnancy, as Sammy was an unexpected pregnancy. Kyah experienced what felt like intense period cramps and told her mum that she needed her to take her to the hospital. Upon arrival at the hospital, Kyah was admitted and informed that she was in labour. This was unexpected and at the time it was a shock. Whilst coming to terms with being in labour, she heard her daughters heart beat over the monitor, for the first time. Her labour wasn’t long and around 4am Kyah saw her daughter Sammy for the first time. In this interview Kyah shares how she hasn’t always been open about her unexpected pregnancy and birth, but she hopes that through sharing her story she can break the stigma and encourage other women to openly share their stories too.
During labour Kyah was supported by her mum, who inspired her to draw upon her strength and supported her through early breastfeeding. Kyah stayed in hospital for a few days, receiving support from the staff. After discharge Kyah and Sammy moved in with Kyah’s mum and sister.
Kyah realised that on this new life journey into motherhood she needed some space and applied to the mother and baby home in Alice Springs to receive accommodation and support. In this interview Kyah shares how this space helps support pregnant women and mothers of infants in Alice Springs and how this organisation also helped Kyah and Sammy find their own home together.
Kyah and Sammy now live in their own place in the centre of Alice Springs. Kyah celebrates their life together via Instagram, sharing frequent updates about Sammy’s life through photos, stories and posts. The world’s their oyster and it all started with Kyah’s rural birth. Kyah shared that Sammy has taught her so much about herself and motherhood and that she is excited for what’s ahead.
You can connect with Kyah and Sammy on instagram
Catherine Bell lives rurally in Bombay near Braidwood NSW. She is the Birth Cartographer and author of the must have guide ‘The Birth Map.
In this interview Catherine shares how her journey as a rural birthing woman inspired ‘The Birth Map’. She shares how ‘The Birth Map’ can support rural women through the maternity care landscape as we navigate distance and other rural-centric “limitations”. She talks about how the ‘Fast Birth Pathway’ section of ‘The Birth Map’ and how that can support rural women explore the potential of ‘birth before arrival’. Catherine shares her own rural birth stories and highlights that with a bit of forward thinking and through asking care providers the right questions, she and her partner felt supported and not afraid, even when faced with their own ‘birth before arrival’ experience.
Overall Catherine’s interview and her book ‘The Birth Map’ remind women that they don’t need to feel stuck. There are options. Rural women are reminded that although they experience a lot of factors that are different to other women, this book can help them. At any distance, at any level of risk and regardless of your financial situation you can map your birth and as rural women we can better navigate our birthing landscape when we have a map.
You can purchase ‘The Birth Map’ via Catherine’s website:
This book will take you through stages of support for pregnancy and postpartum as it facilitates communication and informed decision making.
You can connect with Catherine via Instagram:
And you can hear her birth stories in more detail via the Circle of Birth podcast. In Part 3 of this three part interview Catherine shares her rural birth experience:
Melissa Arnott is a mum of three living in Broome. She has personally had beautiful birth experiences and she has found the possibilities in rural birthing. Broome is a town in Western Australia with a strong feminine energy. The birthing community is an empowered community and Melissa contributes to that through her birth work as a doula. She works with women individually and collectively. Her classes are called “Womb Wisdom”. In these classes she works with birthing women to help them remember their power. However, she has doulaed women through experiences outside of birth too working with terminally ill people as they prepare for death. In which ever capacity, when working with women, she is wholly present and guides them to connect to their innate power, passion, sensuality and vitality through every stage of their lives. As a birth doula Melissa has worked with women during as a part of fertility/preconception, pregnancy, pregnancy loss and still birth. She has worked in hospital and home birthing contexts and knows how to create space for women, transforming medicalised environments into spaces for birthing bliss.
Melissa’s doula work began in 2002; however, although she didn’t know it at the time, Melissa doulaed herself through her first birth and postpartum experiences. Doula work is an innate part of Melissa. From the age of 22, when she first moved to Broome and heard the birthing on country stories from local Indigenous elders Melissa knew that there was a world of possibility available during birth and she has tapped into that personally and as a doula. She was guided towards this practice. She listened to life’s call and answered.
Her experiences in this rural community and in birth enabled her to cultivate a deep, powerful and personal connection to herself and her feminine power. In this episode she shares the power of pregnancy, birth and motherhood and how it unlocked the potential within her.
Melissa can offer doula support, pregnancy and couples’ classes and fourth trimester and postpartum support. She also has skills in belly dancing and yoga which further enable her to open spaces for womb wisdom and to enable women to flourish.
Connect with Melissa via:
Instagram: melissa_arnott_broome and womb_wisdom_doula
Allie Hill lives on a property about 45 minutes out of St George in rural Queensland with her husband and 18-month-old son. Although she lives a fair way out of town she is not isolated. She has fond friendships with other local mothers, who live on land close to her property, allowing her to connect, feel supported and share her experiences as a mum.
When Allie first became pregnant she booked in to the St George hospital via a GP Shared Care and also joined the Maternity Group Practice (MGP) program. This allowed for Allie to receive in town care and, as she already lived a distance out of town, the midwifery team were really flexible and fit Allie’s appointments in when she was already in town.
The community of St George is incredibly fortunate as there is a local maternity facility that is available for low risk birthing women. Being a long-term member of this rural community meant that Allie’s care providers were known to her, which is a small-town benefit but can also provide some difficulties. It can be difficult when you disagree with your provider as you can all to easily feel as though you might cause offense if you go against recommendations or assert a different perspective.
Allie used the local resources and also travelled long distances for parts of her prenatal care journey. She received acupuncture in Toowoomba (4 hours away) and took part in Hypnobirthing classes online. Allie did feel the absence of additional maternity care resources in her local community but found these resources to be valuable and appreciated the accessibility provided online.
During Allie’s third trimester she had an eventful experience. While she was preparing for her baby shower luncheon she showed signs of preterm labour and so at 33 weeks pregnant Allie was flown by the Royal Flying Doctor Service to Toowoomba for specialist obstetric support. Allie’s suspected preterm labour did not eventuate but it did activate increased intervention as there was a fear that her baby was big. They were concerned that this could cause potential labour complications if she went over her due date. Allie was induced and this was a difficult change of plan which made Allie feel stuck. Her body did not respond well to syntocin and after a number of hours experiencing painful and exhausting contractions, without a break, she went in for an emergency caesarean. This experience was difficult and it was only recently that she debriefed and explored her birth experience with her mum, who works as a midwife and supported Allie’s birth. Allie really values the care available locally but also hopes to have a VBAC for when she does fall pregnant again. Therefore, in the future, Allie will seek private maternity care in Toowoomba, requiring relocation and ‘sitting in’ in the latter half of her third trimester.
Kate Thomson is a registered Chinese medicine practitioner and midwife currently living in Perth, Western Australia. During Kate’s midwifery training in Darwin she did two rural and remote placements in Katherine in the Northern Territory. During her studies Kate developed an interest in the unique set of circumstances surrounding rural health and different process and procedures rural health practitioners have to manage. With this interest in mind when the opportunity to experience rural midwifery was offered, as a part of her degree, she readily accepted.
In this podcast episode Kate shares what the remote side of rural birthing can look like. The town hospital, in Katherine, has a multitude of resources for a rural facility but also employs resources like video conferencing to seek advice and additional assistance from people like the neonatal support team located in the urban/city hospital. Additionally, Kate shared that this small hospital not only services women living locally/in the immediate surrounds but also Indigenous women from small communities (hours away) and women living on large stock properties. These women would travel hundreds of kilometres and it was commonplace from 36 weeks to “sit down” (permanently relocating to a local residence or a hostel associated with the hospital) to await your babies’ arrival. She shared the lonely side to this remote access form of rural birthing, as women who relocate are often having to travel without family or support persons due to a lack of funding.
Kate described the long yards travelled by women for prenatal care and appointments, and the limitations in regards to remote postpartum care options. She shared her knowledge of women using remote/digital access, which has particularly taken off during this time of covid/social distancing, to access antenatal classes, mother’s groups and postpartum support.
Having grown up in south west Sydney, Kate learnt a lot through her rural midwifery practicums. She discovered that there are a lot of things women living in urban communities can take for granted and that women living in rural/remote communities have several limitations. However, Kate also celebrated the possibilities of rural birthing. She recognised the beauty of community and small midwifery groups, allowing for knowledge and personalised care.
Kate is now working in a small hospital in Perth and loving that this small practice allows for that sense of community to still be a part of her work today. She continues to support women and uses her skills as a Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Midwife to holistically offer pregnant, birthing and postpartum women support through her business The Mama’s Alchemist.
Hot tips and resources suggested by Kate in this podcast include:
Postpartum podcast “Tales from the Fourth Trimester” with Namoi Chrisoulakis
Postpartum book “The First Forty Days” by Heng Ou
Digital/Remote Access Pregnancy and Postpartum Mother’s Support Groups: “Mama Connect” Accessible via Instagram @bear.your.birth and @jessie.juggles.three (Bright Birth Co.)
And Booked via Eventbrite
Caity Atkinson lives in Yallingup in Western Australia with her husband and two daughters, Grace and Sage. She moved to the Margaret River for a change of scenery and met her husband, as they both worked in the wine industry. Caity’s first pregnancy was a surprise but as she was living in Margaret River and low risk she was able to locally access GP /midwife shared care as fortunately this town has a maternity facility.
Caity shared that during her first pregnancy her knowledge of birth options and different care patterns was not broad. When she found out she was pregnant, Caity luckily knew a woman who had received maternity care locally and followed suit. Prenatally things went well with the run of the mill check ups all being accessible through this small, local hospital. However, when Caity’s waters broke she was pulled in a few different directions and experienced what many would call the ‘care lottery’.
The Margaret River maternity facility has one birthing suite and had another induction booked in the following day at 9am. This led to a lottery as different midwives had different opinions on what should happen now that Caity’s waters had broken. The first midwife Caity spoke to when she called in instructed her that she better come in today, at 4pm, for induction so they could “get her over with” before tomorrow’s induction. This did not feel comfortable for Caity but being a first-time birthing woman, she was tentative and uncertain about how to assert her feeling about this induction being unnecessary. Caity shared with her partner that it didn’t feel right and so, when they returned to the hospital around 4pm, she told him to leave the bags in the car. The wheel span and lo and behold now that there was another midwife on duty they received different advice. She told them there was no need for induction and it was okay to go home and wait, which felt like a relief. Caity went into active labour naturally later that night, at home and birthed her daughter without needing to be induced. This experience stuck with Caity – the fact that she’d narrowly missed what was now quite evidently an unnecessary intervention for the sake of a schedule.
This experience imprinted upon Caity. Also, in between birthing her first daughter and her second she had started a midwifery degree and discovered the ‘Gold Standard of Care’ (working with a known midwife). Caity knew from her experience and her studies that this is what she wanted. Again, quite fortunately there are two home birthing midwives accessible from the Margaret River Region and so Caity received personalised and in home (occasionally even outdoors/at the beach) care from a known midwife (@loraleemamamidwife). This care experience and the birth of her second daughter was quite different. She was honoured by her midwives and able to birth within her home, with a beautiful sense of calm and peace. This experience has formed the foundation of what Caity hopes to offer to women as she enters the field of midwifery herself.
Caity also runs prenatal yoga and her offerings can be accessed via www.cjyoga.com.au and you can keep up to date with her life on the land in Yallingup WA on Instagram @gunyulgupfarm
Alecia Staines was born rurally. She continued to grow up in rural Queensland and so she always had a keen interest in ensuring equity in maternity service delivery. She grew up on ‘wheat country’ in a rural community called The Gums on the Darling Downs. Birthing options were available locally but not on Christmas Day so when Alecia’s mother went into labour she was shipped off in an ambulance, 2 hours away, during labour to birth Alecia in the city hospital. Whilst personally being born outside of her rural town was the path Alecia trod upon her own entrance into the world she saw a different side of birth when growing up. In her rural community and environment, she was exposed to a localised maternity care as the ‘norm’ with in town access to midwife led care and GP obstetric back-up model.
Alecia’s first birth was a rural birth. She was living in Goondiwindi in rural Queensland. This birthing experience was positive. Here she encountered the potential and possibilities of a community maternity practice. Alecia could walk from her rural home to her maternity appointments. She paints quite a different and beautifully calm image of ease. When I compare this to the other stories there is a stark contrast. I’m saddened that the connectedness, localised care model and standard of care seen in Alecia’s first birth seems inaccessible to rural women living in communities with closed ‘historic’ maternity facilities and I’m not the only one.
Alecia has been a maternity advocate for 9 years. Alecia’s passion for local services developed from a young age and as it gestated over time it grew into this vibrant passion for equity and local access to quality care for rural women. Alecia’s own experiences sparked something as she was directly exposed to quality care and she was further spurred as she heard of the inequities in other communities and the removal/closure of maternal health centres servicing small communities due to numbers. From a very early age Alecia was acutely aware of the contradiction between systematic birth and birth in nature. Seeing animals’ birth unassisted did not fit with the ‘obstetric specialist’ definition of care model availability that people are sold.
Her experiences have supported her high standard for rural care birthing models and through her strength and ability as a generator/advocator Alecia has made her standard known. She united and connected with other like-minded women through the ‘Maternity Consumer Network’. She ignited passionate, research-based debate and cultivated positive relationships with boards, politicians, journalists and care providers to see that the “Bush Baby Crisis” gained attention and traction. The “Baby Bush Crisis” movement did not happen overnight but through positive and persistent data and anecdotal journalism the stories and needs of pre and postnatal women were heard and the health minister made a commitment to pilot four rural maternal health services and not make further closures of rural birthing facilities.
In this interview you will hear how empowering a local maternity service can be and why “it makes no sense at all that having no service at all is safer”. Alecia also provides sage and actionable advice to women in rural centres and invites them to make contact with the Maternity Consumer Network.
Alecia now has 5 kids and juggles advocacy with child birth education (hypnobirthing), pre and postnatal yoga and has a keen interest in ongoing learning.
If you would like to advocate for maternity care and services in your own community there is guidance available through the maternity consumer network.
Myfanwy Bryant lives in Mudgee in NSW. She grew up between the worlds of regional and rural access, living south of Sydney in Nowra. After studying Myfanwy continued to live in Sydney and so many of the birth experiences she had heard and been exposed to were from the perspective of metro access women. When Myfanwy became pregnant she was already living and working as an occupational therapist in Mudgee in NSW. Having not heard many stories of rural women birthing she quickly had many of her previous maternity care expectations subverted as she explored her care options. In Mudgee pregnancy care is available at their public hospital in town or can be accessed out of area in larger rural cities like Dubbo. Mudgee hospital is serviced by GP obstetricians and so (not wanting to leave Mudgee for pregnancy and birth care, and being a public health worker herself) Myfanwy began GP shared care for the duration of her pregnancy.
Myfanwy had a lovely pregnancy and experienced quality care. She found the collegial knowledge she had, having worked with the people caring for her really comforting. She also discovered that being a health care worker gave her the confidence and a strong foundation to advocate for her needs. She felt heard, supported and respected by her GP obstetrician and was able to discuss her concerns and express her desires openly. Myfanwy waited for the onset of natural labour but at 41 weeks, 2 days gestation she opted for induction as she has had personal experience with neonatal death when her sister died and was acutely aware of the potential risks associated with late term/overdue birthing.
Myfanwy was induced through breaking of her waters and the syntocin drip; however, after several hours of labouring and not increasing in dilation she accepted the doctor’s offer of c-section and it was not long at all before her daughter Lucy was lying on her chest. Myfanwy did experience a post-partum haemorrhage and Lucy spent the first little while with her Dad instead but this did not minimise how elated she felt. Myfanwy was overwhelmed with a sense of love and achievement and was ecstatic to finally meet her daughter Lucy. There were some additional postpartum recovery challenges post c-section but Myfanwy and Lucy were well supported by helpful visitors and the proactive Mudgee MatCH nurse team who started a mother’s group and prompted the creation of supportive local connection with other mothers of young children.
Thank you to Myfanwy for sharing her birth story and highlighting how much can be made available locally with a dedicated rural maternity facility and quality rural care professionals.
Simone Stuart lives in Majors Creek near Braidwood in NSW. She is from ‘old stock’ and has a family history that goes back generations in this historical town. She is mother to six children (Leilani, Ariana, Sophia, Ava, Lucas and Hudson) and has had four births. Her first birth, the birth of her third daughter Sophia was not a rural birth. At this time Simone was living in Darwin, as was her sister Holly. She gave birth at the public hospital in Darwin and experienced midwife led care, as is common place there. Sophia’s birth was long and difficult and led Simone to believe that her subsequent births were likely to also be long labours. This was far from the truth. During the third trimester of Simone’s second pregnancy, with her fourth daughter Ava, Simone left the Northern Territory and moved home to Majors Creek in NSW, to create a home near family for her own growing household. Simone transferred from the close proximity urban based care model to a distance care model of GP shared care. Majors Creek is a small rural village close to the NSW / A.C.T boarder. Simone had anticipated using the facilities of the larger ‘Canberra Hospital’ but found that the atmosphere and regimented ‘take a ticket’ care systems weren’t offering what she desired. So approximately 4 weeks off her the due date of her second birth Simone transferred care to Queanbeyan hospital. Ava wasn’t planning on waiting or on slowly entering the world and so at 39 weeks gestation Simone was transferred from Braidwood’s small country hospital facility to Queanbeyan hospital with approximately 45 minutes to spare before Ava was born. Ava’s birth was a quick birth, as was her brother, Lucas’s birth who followed a few years after – proving that births have their own rhythm. Simone’s last birth, the birth of her sixth child Hudson, was exciting too. Hudson was born at 35 weeks gestation. Simone went into labour at home but once her and her partner were on the road they realised they needed fuel and so her partner dropped her off at Braidwood hospital to be assessed. Braidwood hospital doesn’t have an active maternity ward anymore but as with many rural and remote emergency units, this hospital does have the capacity to assist a birthing woman. Simone had the doctor on duty, 2 nurses, the on-duty paramedic, an offduty paramedic who was called in all present as she was assessed. Additional support was called in from both another paramedic team and the neonatal support unit drove into Braidwood for transfer as Hudson was premature. Simone has had a variety of different birthing experiences and her knowledge from these experiences is really powerful. I am grateful to Simone for sharing her stories and helping to inform others of the support that can be made available by both paramedics and rural emergency departments if needed. I hope you enjoy listening to her stories.
Emma Munnings is from Mongarlowe near Braidwood NSW. She is a mother to five children’ Lily, Louis, Gus, Marlo and Theodore. I met Emma through teaching at the local school and we quickly became fast friends. Emma has supported me in numerous ways throughout my time in Braidwood and a year ago she attended my son’s birth, to support my husband Lloyd and myself. I was not the first woman Emma supported during labour, she was also present at the birth of another dear friend’s son and her sister-in-law’s daughter’s birth. Emma is a giving woman and as she shares her story with us she gifts her experiences both as a birthing woman and a birth support person; not every one of these births was a ‘rural birth’ but discussing the variety of Emma’s experiences gave us the opportunity to contrast the availability of prenatal and postpartum care in urban centres compared with rural townships.
In my opinion Emma is an unofficial ‘birth expert’, she has given birth in a multitude of different ways and not one of her 5 births had a similar run or rhythm. Emma’s first born, her daughter Lily, was born in Melbourne CBD at the Royal Women’s Hospital Birth Centre and after this first experience Emma intended to use the birth centre again for her second birth but due to a late-term, large-scale bleed, Emma’s plans shifted quickly and she gave birth to her first son Louis via caesarean. Her second son Gus was born via VBAC and his birth was blissful under the guidance of a highly experienced midwife at the Canberra Hospital Birth Centre. Her third son, Marlo, was also born via caesarean; however, this was a planned caesarean as he was born early (at 36 weeks) and at a low birth weight. With her fifth and last birth came Theodore. During his birth Emma, her husband Nick and their growing family were living on a rural property in Mongarlowe. Again, Theodore’s birth moved at a slightly different rhythm again as Emma’s waters were broken by the obstetrician on duty in order to induce labour. This was Emma’s first rural birth; however, with the close proximity between Braidwood and Canberra (and as she had family living close to the birth centre) Emma didn’t have to do a last-minute dash. She began labouring in Braidwood but travelled to her brother’s home while she waited to go into hospital.
Emma’s stories are broad and highlight how every birth is different. Some of the themes in this podcast may be confronting for women dealing with birth trauma and I wish to highlight that the themes of emergency caesarean, preterm birth and induction are discussed.
It was thoroughly enjoyable to chat to Emma. Together we celebrated my son, Shanley’s birth (as we come up to the one year anniversary of his birth) and got to reflect again on her own birth stories and how much support she has offered to other women, giving of her own energies to be with women as they birth their first children and begin their journey into motherhood.
Dorothy Cross lives in Charleys Forest, a little over 20 minutes out of Braidwood NSW. I met Dorothy when my son was about a month old at Playgroup. We were really fortunate, as parents of young children, that someone took the initiative to organise this weekly group and give us all the opportunity to come together for chats and a play. Dorothy has also been regularly involved in the local parkrun at the Braidwood Showground and was instrumental in encouraging me to get out and about again, once those postpartum aches subsided. Dorothy is mum to three children, two born prior to moving to her rural property at Charleys Forest and then Bastien (her youngest) who was born in 2018. Bastien’s birth was a quick one. Dorothy went into labour as Anamae got off the school bus. Bastien was born a short while later at Queanbeyan hospital around quarter to 7 and Dorothy was driving her family home by 9.30pm. Living rurally makes you no stranger to travel but Dorothy definitely took the travel and distance in her stride, as she travelled to the maternity ward and back home in a single evening. Dorothy shares how, as a member of the Queanbeyan hospital’s ‘Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Service’ program, she was offered in home appointments with her midwife before and after Bastien’s birth. She believes that it would be phenomenal if in the future this community practice could become available to all rural birthing women and that minimising travel for pregnant women during that tight maternity check-up schedule could be achieved. I hope you enjoy listening to Dorothy’s rural birth story. I had a lot of fun talking to her. Dorothy is fantastic to chat to and I just felt like we bounced so easily as we shared in what it was like to be pregnant, birth and experience the postpartum period as rural women.
Rosie Rick lives in Majors Creek, a rural village, near Braidwood in NSW. I met Rose through our shared passion for theatre, as we collectively supported young people in Braidwood to devise performances for a local festival in 2017, but I truly got to know Rose when we met again through motherhood and shared in the first year of raising our children.
I was really lucky in my postpartum period to be with Rose, as she activated opportunities for women in town to gather together for yoga, women’s circles and would always welcome myself and others to be a part of her and Sunny’s days. Rose created the community and resources we wish were available. She was offering alternatives to the limited care options available in the postpartum period for rural women.
I hope you enjoy listening to Rose’s story. She weaves ideas together beautifully like a tapestry. During her postpartum period Rose gave expression to this new stage of life and her journey into matrescence through journaling. She studied and explored the teachings of doulas and used online communities to connect with women and their wisdoms across this distance divide.
Rose is now a Doula and Mentor. You can work with Rose through preconception, pregnancy and motherhood. She can offer support through exploring birth options and planning, and birth debriefing and postpartum.
You can connect with Rose via Instagram (@_rosierick_) and her website, where Rose shares wholeheartedly as she expresses her daily journey through motherhood with Sunny and herself:
“My mission is for all mothers to remember our innate medicine, and regard it as the most valuable resource on the planet. Through personal one-on-one coaching, I work with women from pre-conception through to postpartum to assist in the profound spiritual transition that is the birth of the mother.
How do you want to feel when you are in service of others? Do you give of yourself until empty? Does the assumption that you have an endless ability to be accommodating to the needs of others, make you rebel against it in destructive and addictive behaviours? Do you feel trapped?
I want you to feel EMPOWERED in your giving, in your love, and to learn how to give only when it feels good, not just because its ‘expected of you’, but because you love doing it.
Your love is your medicine.
I believe the birth of a mother is the birth of the healer. The healer the we all need. And how do we rise as the women the planet needs now? We have to know our own medicine, to own our own story, and to value our huge contribution. I am here to be a guide on this journey.
I work with women who are interested in using the rite of passage that is motherhood to remember her medicine, and her innate power. “
An introduction to the 'Rural Births' podcast and me. In this podcast I share some parts of my story as a rural birthing woman from the birth of my first child. I explain why I believe it's important to share stories of rural birth and the culture of learning and support I hope to further cultivate for rural birthers who are hoping to become pregnant, are pregnant or in their postpartum period.