My name is Michelle Jackson and I am a Registered Midwife, Registered Nurse, Childbirth Educator and Infant Sleep Specialist. In the past 20 years, I have worked extensively in both private and public practice in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast. My experience includes all facets of pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting including sleeping and feeding difficulties. To ensure my practice and knowledge remains at the forefront of maternity care, I continue to work in one of the Gold Coast’s leading obstetric practices: maintaining a good working relationship with many of the Gold Coast’s Obstetricians and Paediatricians.
I am also a mother of 3 children, and as a mother and as a midwife I am passionate about supporting families – which is how Parents 2 B was founded. I often get asked if I had the perfect labours and the perfect babies especially being in my line of work. Let me share something personal.
I honestly think I was sent my pregnancies and my babies for a reason – they have made me who I am today. I remember when I was doing my midwifery training (over 18 years ago!), all the ‘older’ midwives would say that ‘you should be a mum before you are a midwife’. My response was an eye roll – What would they know?
For those who don’t know me …. here is a little about my birth story! Apologies in advance – it’s long. So my story goes a little like this:
What a ride it has been. What a learning curve … sometimes a very steep one!
For me personally motherhood hasn’t always been easy. Far from it. We have had many little hiccups just trying to get our little family with multiple miscarriages and infertility issues thrown in for good measure. If I’m being 100% honest, it’s been quite challenging at times but in the same breath it’s been absolutely beyond amazing and I have loved every minute!
When we found out we were pregnant with our first baby we were surprised, we were about 7 weeks before we knew. Being a midwife, you would think I would know (this will soon become a repeated line).
We weren’t even trying to fall pregnant at the time. A few months prior we had a miscarriage and had decided that maybe we weren’t quite ready for parenthood just yet. For weeks, I walked around feeling constantly nauseous. I was at work and remember it like it was yesterday. Out of nowhere that ‘nausea’ feeling quickly turned into a I am going to vomit feeling. Our staff toilet was right next to the nurses desk. Let’s just say when I came out everyone had that ‘so we are pregnant?’ look on their faces. Obviously, it’s the first thing that comes to mind working in a maternity unit.
That night the pregnancy was confirmed. After the initial shock we were excited.
Now back to the nausea. Well I soon came accustom to carrying an ice cream container on the passenger seat of the car and I knew exactly where I could stop my car when required to do the obvious. There were days when I just gave in and would spend the day lying on my bathroom floor with a pillow – too proud to contact my obstetrician and inform him of my whereabouts. I was a midwife – we don’t suffer this ‘morning sickness’!!!! Until the day delivered I vomited all day every day.
Typical midwife (there’s that statement again!) I was armed with a very descriptive and set in stone birth plan. There was to be no induction, forceps, epidural. I was going to present to the hospital fully dilated and come home after 4 hours. I planned to breastfeed for 12 months, maybe even longer. That was what I had planned and so that was what was going to happen. Let’s just say …. that birth plan was thrown out the window at 32 weeks when the pre-eclampsia card was played.
Thomas’ arrival was beyond unconventional to say the least. I was on bed rest, in and out of hospital for 4 weeks. Until at 36 weeks when too many boxes were ticked and an induction was scheduled.
After 2 lots of prostin, one at 6am and the other at 12 midday, all day we walked the hospital corridors. I was having contractions but didn’t think too much of it. It was around 6pm that my waters broke and well …. The rest was crazy, or maybe it was just me that went crazy! I told Greg to go sit in the corner of the room and leave me alone, I begged for the gas and yelled at the midwife (a girlfriend) and told her …… you can read between the lines. I even had pethidine and even though that was a definite NO on the beloved birth plan, I was that desperate so thought it was worth a go. For the record, it was useless! At one stage, I started packing my bags because I had had enough and just wanted to go home.
At 7pm I was transferred to the birth suites (they were full until then so I was labouring in the ward) and after what I can only describe as an out of body experience. I could see and hear myself moaning and god knows what else I was doing but was unable to do anything about it (another midwife learning curve). I was finally fully dilated. All this happened in 1 hour!
Then came the next dilemma (aka yet another midwife learning curve) – Pushing! Let me tell you – there is a difference between ‘telling’ someone as their midwife to push like they are doing a poo verses ‘actually’ pushing. Pushing feels like you are doing a poo – true story – and that was NOT going to happen on my watch. I pushed for a good 1.5 hours, on the toilet (just in case) and nothing.
Because my blood pressure had risen again my obstetrician told me it was time for an epidural. I secretly welcomed his proposal. Can’t believe I just said that out loud. The epidural was inserted and I had an amazing warm sensation creep its way up my body and for the first time in hours I could breath. Heaven on a stick!
Then came the choice – forceps or a caesarean section. I left that decision to my obstetrician. He had seen me this far and could not have been more supportive towards trying to give me the birth I so desperately wanted.
Forceps it was and we finally met our 4.2kg 36 weeker! Thomas … with his flaming red hair!
Fast forward a few hours (details no one really needs to know). My greatest fear was that I would ‘fail’ at ‘birthing’ until I realised that a healthy baby at the end is all that matters.
Thomas ended up in NICU, ventilated, blood transfusion, fitting and suffered hypertension. His future was unknown for some time. It was touch and go there for a while. It was a very stressful time – beyond words!
Because I was staff, everyone was talking to me in medical terms. Terms I knew only days earlier as a trained professional, but it was like they were talking to me in a foreign language. A language I then had to translate to Greg. I became so lost in those first few weeks. I was a mum now. Not a midwife. This would be a reoccurring theme in the years to come. Once people know you are a midwife they think you know all things medical. Well, you don’t. You have your mum hat on and you learn and need support just like everyone else.
Fast forward and we were lucky and ecstatic to take this little fighter home just over a month later.
Breastfeeding is hard! Another ‘midwife’ lesson learnt. It is even harder to establish your supply when you go home leaving your baby in NICU (longest drive home ever without your baby), and expressing milk in the middle of the night without your baby. Then, when you finally get to actually feed your baby, the second guessing involved and the ‘is my baby attached well and is my baby getting enough’ is beyond words. Let’s not get into the guilt associated with deciding that you no longer want to breastfeed. I lasted 6 months and hated every minute of it. Yes. True story. A midwife who hated breastfeeding.
What followed were a few tough years. Severe reflux, multiple hospital admissions and multiple surgeries to his airways but looking at Thomas today all of this (well almost all) is forgotten.
Thomas is most caring, intelligent, honest and articulate son who amazes us every day. Thomas taught me the importance of entering labour with an open mind … and a healthy baby is what is most important – no matter how you birth.
After finally getting Thomas home, that steep learning curve got even steeper. I never realised how hard it was to take a baby home. I thought babies just slept and slept soundly. Did I get a wakeup call. Babies are not only noisy when they sleep but, lets be honest, they have a mind of their own. Why can’t they talk? Who knew that babies cry for no apparent reason and it’s bloody hard work trying to work them out.
Some days become just a blur, you accomplish absolutely nothing but sitting on the couch with an unsettled baby. Being in your PJ’s all day is absolutely OK. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, it can affect you, your life, your relationships.
Oh and lets not mention just how silly my ‘pre-children’ parenting ideas were (and trust me I had many). I wanted to ring every parent I had every taught antenatal classes to (and that was years’ worth so hundreds and hundreds) and apologies. I taught them the biggest load of shit known to man. I had NO IDEA! There is yet another midwife lesson. But wait there is more!
Then came our baby girl. FINALLY! After struggling to fall pregnant with secondary infertility and multiple miscarriages and embracing morning sickness (for another entire pregnancy) as a ‘good sign’. I was a lot wiser second time around and told my obstetrician. IV fluids became my best friend. Dehydration and tiredness seemed to trigger the nausea more. Pre-eclampsia made a comeback and I debated with myself for the entire pregnancy over my choice of an elective caesarean section. Yes, you read that right! I chose an elective caesarean section this time around.
Charlotte entered the world with a lot less fuss than her brother.
At 37 weeks and weighing in at 4kg on Anzac Day. The caesarean section came with just as many surprises at my vaginal delivery. It was so clinical and controlled. A caesarean was what I thought I wanted but I still second guessed my decision right up until they pulled her out. Charlotte did spend the first 24 hours in special care nursery requiring oxygen…. But hey, after her brother, that was nothing. Just a little hiccup!
Despite taking bottles, a dummy and formula to the hospital with no intention of breastfeeding Charlotte, I decided to give breastfeeding one go and absolutely loved it. Who would have thought.
It was so much easier second time around. But Charlotte too kept us on our toes with her “failure to thrive” label and reflux thrown in for good measure. For the record: A baby who doesn’t put on weight causes so much stress and anxiety. I learnt that a feed is a feed and sometimes breastfeeding isn’t enough and that is OK!
Charlotte is now our little gypsy. Full of confidence, kindness, determination and love for life. I wish I had her amazing ability to accept things as they are and move forward.
We then welcomed our last baby into Team Jackson, Patrick, after yet another miscarriage. And yes, I vomited all day everyday with number 3 too!
Although horrible morning sickness, in some weird way reassured me that my hormones were doing what they were supposed to. I struggled through this pregnancy. Having another 2-little people already at home, vomiting and working 3 days a week took its toll. It was exhausting!
I went to my obstetrician and asked for a vaginal birth after caesarean (VBAC). Why? Because I was a midwife and despite of everything I thought I had to prove to myself I could birth. After a 1-hour consultation discussing everything VBAC (and maybe loads of tears in the car afterwards) it was decided that a caesarean section would be best. Greg and I had decided that Patrick would be our last baby so at the caesarean I would also have a tubal ligation (Greg thought that was a brilliant idea – wonder why!?!!).
Heading to the hospital that day was very emotional. In one breath, I was excited to meet our newest addition and sad that this would be our last.
As for his name – well I have a confession to make. Greg wasn’t keen on Patrick so I ‘may’ have told Thomas his soon to be little brothers name was Patrick one day whilst Greg was at work and it was cemented. Oops!
Patrick was born calm, at 38 weeks and tiny (for me) – 3.9kg!!.
We had learnt from previous experience, visitors were kept to a bare minimum. I knew that my hospital stay was really the only one on one time I would have with Patrick so we made sure we enjoyed every minute of it. Despite his reflux (yes it struck again), Patrick is our quiet little achiever who thrives on friends, encouragement, hockey, laughter and hugs. Did I mention hugs? Patrick has taught me the art of letting go, quiet time and that it is ok that everything isn’t always perfect.
Becoming a parent has opened my eyes to so much. People can be so judgmental. There is so much unsolicited advice and opinions out there – from complete strangers, other parents and even your closest friends (with and without children) on the ‘should(s)’ and ‘shouldn’t(s)’. Everyone is different and we have all individuals and sometimes hold very diverse parenting beliefs and styles.
Being a mum has also made me appreciate the little things, yes like taking a long hot shower, going to the toilet without an audience or that false alarm life threatening scream down the hallway; how magical having a hot cuppa or meal in those early weeks (focus on the word hot) can be. I have an entirely new-found respect for my parents and have fallen in love again and again with my husband as we have walked – often blind folded and lost, through this parenting journey together (let’s not kid ourselves here … there have been times he has been lucky to be alive!).
My kids have seen me at my best … and at my worst (and let me tell you that can be scary!). Every day I still question myself as a mum. Have I done ok? Every day I fight with myself over the guilt of being (and wanting to be) a working mother. I question everything from discipline, schooling, time spent with them, my expectations …. right through to if they are getting enough vegetables and if toasted sandwiches are an acceptable dinner? I see a little bit of myself and Greg in each of them. I am proud of us and for the little people who have grown into these amazing adults