My Surprise Twin Home Birth
By Brooke King
Hello, I’m Brooke King and I’m the mother of the controversial surprise twin home birth. It’s been months now I’ve been wanting to put this together, but as a mum of 3 boys, with only 20 months between them, (yep that was 3 boys under 2 years old!) things take a little longer to get around to than they used to.
Firstly, thank you again to the gorgeous women from around the world who took the time to privately message me with beautiful words of congratulation, support and girl power, it was so great to share our magic with you all and I hope this post will answer all of your questions about my pregnancy choices, the birth story and what has eventuated with my midwife Martina. And to the media for your calls, emails, text, facebook messages and voicemails…. sorry but my time has been spent where it is needed, raising my tribe!
What a 6 months it has been, the twins are such cruisy little babies and it really has been such a loving and magical time. Despite the ‘surprise’ it has allowed our family to grow not just in size but in stature as well. We have grown in strength, in love and in resilience and I am so deeply proud of each of us. The universe delivered us a big surprise and we have taken it in our stride, together, closer than ever. I am so grateful that these two little souls chose us and so grateful for the growth that lies ahead. I know it will challenge me along the way but I will grow as needed, be more, give more, love more and revel in all the challenges that present themselves for within them I know more of my own beauty will be released.
At 3 months gestation when I realised I was pregnant my husband and I decided we were not going to enter the “birthing system” the world has become so accustomed to. “Get pregnant, get your schedule, get told where to be on what day, at what time, who is going to touch you, poke you, scan you, and tell you if your baby is “normal”. We could have scanned for down syndrome and deformities like the system tells us to, but we wanted to keep our baby no matter what, it would be perfect, and exactly as it intended to be, and we would love it no matter what. I felt the baby wriggle, (regularly ) and I knew it was happy and safe in there. I didn’t question it and I didn’t over think it. If we knew there was two in there would we have done things differently, perhaps, but we didn’t know. The chance of identical twins is 0.45% so forgive us for not readily anticipating 2 babies! I just let my baby do its part and I concentrated on doing mine. Checking in on myself, how I felt physically, mentally and emotionally and taking the time to be centred and clear any negative energy I carried. We were connected, I knew the baby felt what I felt so I made it my duty to honour its space and make it as healthy, loving and protected as I could.
And this is our story.......
DID WE KNOW?
For those of you that are just wanting an answer to the golden question... let’s just cut to the chase... no, I did not know I was having twins, no Martina did not know I was having twins and no my obstetrician did not know I was having twins either. Hand on my heart, that’s the honest truth. We did not know! Yes, I met with an obstetrician while pregnant, and yes, he supported my home birth plans and wrote a referral for me to be in Martina’s care. Yes, he didn’t detected twins either…. hmmm so why is he not under fire like Martina?
So why didn’t we know there were twins? Well there is a few reasons for that…
UNKNOWN DUE DATE
Firstly my due date was always an estimate due date, I was still breastfeeding so I never got my period back from having my first baby so I actually didn’t even know I was pregnant until I was around 3 months. I didn’t even think it was possible without a period! I am a very happy pregnant woman, fit, healthy, active… the week the twins were born I was still carrying my 13kg toddler around and climbing up and down the ladders and slides at the park. I’ve never experienced morning sickness, or crazy emotions or swelling. I just feel like my normal happy self so being pregnant certainly doesn’t slow me down. Yes, I was a little bigger (see photo in gallery) than my first pregnancy but everyone always said, “yes well you are always bigger with your second” and my sister who is a tiny little human had a 4kg girl for her second baby so that was the running joke…. I was having a 4kg girl! Which turned out to be two 2kg boys. Same same?!
Next question…. why didn’t we have scans… well essentially scans are predominately looking for deformities and down syndrome etc and my husband and I had decided that even if our baby had any of those things we wouldn’t get an abortion and would want to keep the baby regardless so we didn’t feel the need to scan for them. I was fit, healthy, active and more than happy to continue on with my pregnancy and use scans if for some reason I was concerned that there was a problem and wanted to check in. Which clearly didn’t eventuate… my pregnancy was perfect. There are risks with getting them and risks without getting them and our informed decision was right for us.
MY BELIEF ON OUR MEDICAL SYSTEM
I am not against modern medicine, it’s a wonderful thing and I am grateful to have access to a world class medical system, but pregnancy and birthing to me is not a medical process, it’s a natural process that MAY, if necessary, need to be assisted by medical procedures. But unfortunately our confidence as birthing women is diminishing and it is becoming very hard to trust ourselves when we are constantly being told something or someone else knows, or can, do it better. We are looking for others to tell us the answers to things that actually we can find within. And I don’t believe this is by choice, I think it’s just a byproduct of the increased ability of modern technology, and just like our everyday life when our technology or gadgets can do something for us, we allow them to, without question, but just because these things can, doesn’t mean they should, it doesn’t mean our role as mothers should be any less valued or replaced.
I am a mother and my body was my baby's keeper, its safe haven and the one that gave it life. My body had grown my baby without technology telling it how, it knew, it birthed my baby without technology telling it how, it knew.... I trusted my body, I trusted myself, I trusted my instincts. If I needed help I would call upon it, and I would do so feeling safe and empowered that we have a world class medical system to support us, but otherwise, I would just embrace the process, let go and be the mother nature that I am. Birthing is not a medical procedure, it’s a natural procedure that MAY, if necessary, need to be assisted by medical procedures.
Our family uses all medical options and takes a 360 degree view on our health. Throughout pregnancy and since birth we have used a huge range of health care specialists, my private midwife, acupuncture, a gonstead chiropractor, naturopaths, homeopaths, osteopaths, Chinese herbs as well as a traditional GP, pediatrician, obstetrician and the hospital doctors. By using all of these advisers we always feel very empowered and confident to make the right informed decisions on our family’s health.
But in my opinion, unfortunately the standard pregnancy and birthing system isn’t creating such confidence and empowerment, it’s creating fear. We are told that we need to ‘do this test to check for this’…. and ‘ do that test to check for that’… making us constantly nervous that something is wrong, assuming that our bodies must be failing us. Now, rather than us telling our careers how our pregnancy is going, they are telling us how our pregnancy is going and if our babies are ‘right’ according to their measurements, averages and agenda. Each appointment is filled with anxiety about if things are going ok or not. With all the fear it’s hard to even enjoy being pregnant…. but I tell you what, I loved my pregnancy… it was mine; my baby wasn’t a part of the system; our pregnancy and birthing space was ours and we chose to accept and decline tests and scans as we saw fit for US. I was connected, empowered and so relaxed! I had beautiful prenatal care, I felt safe, informed and understood, I knew we would be respected in every way possible and that our safety was of upmost importance to Martina, so that meant I could focus on doing the birthing journey into this world together with my husband and unborn baby. Our homebirth allowed us to switch off from the world, go internal, and be as we needed, without fear, without time limits, without interference. Bliss!
HOME BIRTH AT 35 WEEKS
Next question…..Why did we birth at home at 35 weeks. Well essentially the answer to this is because I truly believed I was around 37/38 weeks and given my due date had always been an estimate it was easy to think we might be a few weeks off. In the last 3 weeks my fundal height started to measure ahead (38cm at birth) and I felt ready in every way for my baby to come earth side so we didn’t feel it was necessary to transfer to hospital when Martina discussed 35weeks being a usual hospital transfer. She respected our decision. We still don’t actually know how many weeks the twins were born at, maybe they were 37 weeks? We will never know.
WHY DID THEY GO TO HOSPITAL
Both babies were born in excellent condition with Apgar’s of 9 and neither of them required any form of resuscitation. Around 15 minutes after birth an ambulance was called to organise transfer of the twins as it appeared they were born prematurely and twin 2 needed to be checked for immature lungs. This was confirmed by the hospital when administered and they continued with his oxygen assistance as the midwives had done. He was on CPAP for 4 days and then both the boys were fit and healthy to be transferred to a low care hospital. Other than the CPAP assistance with twin 2 and some lights for jaundice on twin 1, neither of the boys required any treatment, antibiotics or medications and we were simply staying in hospital until they reached a higher birth weight.
OUR HOSPITAL NIGHTMARE
But that was where things all went very downhill and despite arriving fit and healthy at the second hospital, a potentially life threatening situation occurred for both twins that was caused purely by human error.
On arrival the nursery was clearly busy and our nurse took the twins out of their travel beds and placed them into their cots. She was then called off to an emergency C section and she left before connecting either of the twins up to any monitors. I was then in the nursery with 1 nurse to 9 babies (and it was this nurses first day). While I was with the twins I noticed that one of them was taking short breaths and then not breathing for a VERY long period of time, I quickly rushed over and shook him which caused him to take a big deep breath, but then he did it again. I then looked over and noticed his brother was doing the exact same thing. I knew something was very wrong and yelled out to the nurse to please hook them up to monitors. She managed to find two monitors which were an older style so when she connected them and the alarms kept going off over and over, she kept silencing them saying she’s not sure how to set them up properly and the alarming must be wrong. They were not wrong! I knew something was very wrong as I was continually needing to shake the twins to remind them to breath, so when the lady who ran the midwifery/nursery department happened to walk in, I quickly called her over. She agreed with me that something was wrong and she stood there shaking one of the boys while I shook the other. It was only after I started racking my brains as to what could be wrong that I saw the cot temperature and told her that it was 5 degrees higher than they were in at the last hospital. She agreed they were far too hot for the twins and we were then opening all the doors to the cots and fanning the twins to try and cool them down. This was terrifying for us and a major setback for the boys. I had to stop their 3 hourly breastfeeding completely and could only tube feed them minimal amounts of breast milk every hour over the next few days until they began to breath normally again. This recovery took around 5 days, and hours of fearfully watching their oxygen saturation monitors constantly going off, just hoping they would get better. I was beside myself and didn’t leave their side.
And that wasn’t the only major mistake that was made…we were also told that both boys had a staph infection and needed to be treated, but with no physical signs what so ever of an infection I asked for the blood test to be run again before we started the treatment. Within the hour the test result was back and it was realised that the doctor taking the first blood tests had somehow contaminated both samples...even though they were taken 3 hours apart. The twins did not have an infection at all.
Anyhow this is not me trying to say that hospitals are bad and unsafe, this is me sharing my experience and being a realist. The reality is that despite the staff’s best interests, they are only human, and they too make very big mistakes. So, no matter where you are, (even within a hospital) you need to take responsibility for your baby…. ask questions, pay attention and make sure you get every little process explained to you in detail. Ultimately, it’s you who has to live with any consequences. Don’t be told what is being done to your baby, make decisions with your doctor about what’s best for them. Your baby is your responsibility and you need to take ownership of being informed and knowing what is going on at all times. If you don’t feel confident then ask more questions, ask more people, more doctors, more nurses, alternative health professionals until you feel comfortable you have found the right answers you need. What if we do that? What if we don’t? What if we wait? What are the alternatives? What are the risks? What is the likelihood of these risks eventuating? I was not a popular mother in the hospitals, but I was a knowledgeable and informed one, and because of that our babies could not be healthier! 6 months old, exclusively breastfed and not so much as a sniffle in sight. If we had just gone along with all the 'routine procedures' the twins would have been through, steroids, 3 doses of antibiotics and surfactant. When necessary these drugs can be life saving but when unnecessary they come at a huge cost to a babies long-term health and in our case, none of them were necessary. We researched and only did the things that were relevant and necessary for our babies… not hospital routines.
THE BIRTH STORY
Next question…. how the hell did it all happen?
Well it was my husband and I’s first date night where both of us would be away from our toddler, we booked an overnight stay at crown casino and a gold class movie to see ‘A star is born’. We spent the day lounging around the pool drinking mocktails and then planned to treat ourselves to dinner at Nobu but after walking though the amazing smells at the food court we decided on a multi cuisine degustation in the food court. We had plates of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Italian and totally pigged out. For some reason I ate two tubs of chilli paste... perhaps helping an early baby eviction, whoops. We then went to the movies. On the walk there I was feeling really heavy and found myself slowing down because I was uncomfortable. Once seated at the movies I noticed some random tightening feelings, not painful at all, just like a muscle tensing then relaxing. I thought that was a bit strange and decided I would time them to see if they were increasing in occurrence and intensity. After a few more I text Martina and told her what I was experiencing but told her not to worry about it unless I contacted her again. As I continued timing them they did start to increase so once I knew it was the real thing, right in the middle of the beautiful song 'Shallow' I lent over to my husband and said “I’m in labour, I’m having contractions, we are going have a baby tonight”. His eyes shot out of his head and he almost choked on his mouthful of popcorn. Half out of his seat, in the direction of the exit, he was like “WHAT! oh my god, what do we do?????!!!!!” I smiled and whispered “just watch the movie”. I knew it was just early labour so I was in no rush, and for the remainder of the movie we just kept looking at each other and smiling with anticipation and excitement, dreaming longingly of holding our new baby. After the movie we went back to the hotel room and slept for a few hours but at 2am we decided it was time to check out. The girl in reception wouldn’t even replace our prepaid breakfast voucher that I had left in the room, despite knowing why we were leaving at 2am and watching me go through contractions at her desk. My frustration at her was a clear sign I was truly in labor and my husband kept putting his hand on my back saying “it’s OK babe, I’ll take you out for breakfast” I was adamant it was the principal of it! I mean really crown casino, are you serious!! I’m clearly still fuming about it lol.
We met Martina at home, set up the birth pool and felt the baby's head engaged. The second twin still totally incognito. I needed to clear my birthing sanctuary so we sent Martina home with the promise I would call when it was time. I spent 2 hours alone preparing myself emotionally and connecting with my birth visions and inner strength that I knew I would need. I focused on visualisations of birthing my baby and getting my breathing and mind in order with some hypnobirthing techniques. After I felt emotionally and spiritually ready, I knew I needed to get the physical aspect in order and that meant sleep. I decided to have a hot shower and get into bed. When I was in the shower willing labour to stop so I could sleep before the task ahead, it did just that…. totally and utterly stopped. It was perfect, I got into bed and slept for a solid few hours.
When I woke up I played with my toddler in bed for a while then got up around 7.15am. Once I stood up and started moving the contractions started again and I got that familiar ‘I need to go to the toilet’ feeling where your body flushes itself out. When I was there my waters exploded and I knew it was game on. At 7.20 I called my mother in law to come and mind our son and then Martina, she left straight away given my first labor was super quick with only 45 minutes from 3cm to delivery. As I dressed and prepared a bag for our son the contractions grew stronger and stronger. I rocked my hips back and forth while bending over his bed and my vocalising and breathing grew louder and heavier. By 7.40 the biggest contraction hit me and I fell to my knees at the top of the stair case knowing I couldn’t make it down to the birth pool. The next contraction was just as big and ended in the familiar involuntary pushing that I knew meant I was just minutes off meeting our little one. I remember thinking “hmmm on the carpet at the top of the stairs isn’t ideal”. My husband who had been yelling out to me periodically in between my whaling contractions heard the familiar pushing sound and ran to my side. He was juggling checking in on me and our 20-month-old toddler who wanted his breakfast. I told him we were close and he needed to run our bath in the ensuite because I couldn’t make it down stairs. Once it was filling, he helped me walk into the room, undress and get in. I composed myself, and in all my glorious birthing pain, right at the point when I didn’t know how I could go on, I reminded myself, ‘yes labor is hard, yes it hurts, and yes I can do it’. I reassured myself of my strength and called upon my feminine warrior to get me through, then I knew, “I’ve got this”. The next 4/5 contractions were excruciating and exhilarating all at the same time, I vocalised with long “ahhhhhhhhhhs” and breathed deeply through them and allowed my body to push, I didn’t assist, I just let it do it at its own pace. And then with an almighty contraction out came my baby boy (now known as Ari), into the bath and I scooped him up and held him on my chest, kissing him and saying “we did it, we did it” over and over. He let out his first cries and then settled into my arms. Within a few minutes Nathan, our son and the two midwives were at my side smiling, congratulating me and checking him over. Amongst my dreamy state I did think “gee he’s small, he must be preterm?” But just continued doting over him between more hugely painful contractions. After a few of them I just knew the baby birthing feeling, I looked at the midwives and said "there is another baby coming", one of them responded lovingly “it’s just the placenta darling there’s no bones in there” but I knew... with the next contraction I had the urge to push so I leaned forward still cradling my little boy and pushed. Out came our little identical twin (Bodhi)... the midwife scooped him up from the water and placed him into my arms with his brother. Martina grabbed her phone and snapped the precious photo of our first seconds together, which you have no doubt seen. We were all literally mind blow! I was so happy, so in awe of them and the “what has just happened” laughs that my husband and I shared as we smiled lovingly at each other I will never forget. I can’t even describe it, we were all just smiling and laughing in disbelief. I had always said I wanted twins so for me it was literally a dream come true! Especially when Nathan had said that after this baby our family was done, and I was adamant I wanted to have a third. So right after they were both born and we were hugging in disbelief he looked at me and said “you always get what you want” I just laughed and said “good manifester huh”.
Although both babies were clearly breathing and alert the midwives could see that Bodhi was working harder with his breathing. They administer oxygen and told us they wanted to transfer us to hospital because they wanted to have him checked for immature lungs as he might require ongoing oxygen assistance. While we waited for the ambulance to arrive my husband and I did skin on skin with the boys and just laid on our bed in complete love and disbelief. How precious those first moments were. Once the ambulance officers had checked the twins and agreed on the transfer, I got myself dressed and walked down the stairs, outside and into the ambulance. No rips, tears or any sign that I had just given birth, let alone birthed twins. Nature at its finest!
So as you can see it really was a wonderful, empowering and magical event for everyone involved and it’s so sad that something so beautiful, has been tarnished by what has happened to Martina. The complaint that was made is one person’s view and AHPRA not once contacted me or my husband for our account on the events or to confirm that any of the information in the complaint was true. Since we were the apparent ‘victims’ in this situation you would have thought it would be paramount for AHPRA to get our account on the pregnancy and birth process before defaming and suspending a midwife based on allegations. It’s also incredibly frustrating that AHPRA didn’t find it necessary to speak to us, but did find it necessary to speak to the media and release comments from the complaint letter as facts. These statements were completely untrue and it feels negligent that AHPRA would be communicating with the media before completing its investigation. Martina’s entire livelihood was at stake and false allegations and statements were being published by the board that are meant to be neutral and thorough in their investigation, to me this feels unjust. Yes, there are facts around my birth that go outside of the regular guidelines…. but they are guidelines, and actually each of them has a very logical answer as to why they occurred. And regardless of the logical answers these were mine and my husbands decisions…. not Martina’s…. ours… all Martina did was support our informed logic and reasoning as any good care provider would. Another alarming fact is the time frame of these types of investigations. AHPRA can instantly suspend someone’s licence (before fact finding) and then take as long as they wish to investigate. It has been 6 months already and no movement on the investigation, and Martina still cannot work. I know other practitioners that have been investigated by AHPRA for over 2 years… and then simply been told, “you’re OK to practice now”. AHPRA then offers no compensation for, the income lost, the money spent defending themselves or the defamation that occurred around their suspension. This just cannot be right. We must fix this process and something needs to be in place to protect the livelihood of the practitioners and see that all suspensions and investigations happen in a thorough and timely manner. Peoples lives are being ruined by the AHPRA processes. Martina lost her income, her home, her business, her staff and her ability to work, yet has been proven guilty of nothing, this is not OK and sadly her situation is not unique.
WE SEEM TO BE MISSING THE POINT
In my opinion everyone is really missing the point. This isn’t even about my birth and how it happened, it’s about birthing choices and what’s unfolding here is that our right to have the birth of our choice is being taken away in both the home and hospital. If we don’t stand up now soon there will be no need to even debate what’s right and wrong, or what we do and don’t want, we will just be told this is how and where you will birth your baby. Isn’t that scary? It is to me. And it’s not just home births that are being reined in, now we are seeing hospitals refuse for women to birth naturally if their baby is breech. So that could be you, a perfectly planned natural hospital birth, but if your baby decides to go feet first then you have no choice but to have a C section. Some hospitals are not even allowing cameras at births anymore, so that wonderful, magical moment, probably the most incredible moment of your life cannot be captured on camera for you to treasure forever. What?!
This isn’t about what might happen, it’s about what is happening, statistics are the proof, natural births are declining and interventions and C sections are on the rise. So regardless if you are a home or hospital birther we are all being affected, and we are all being squeezed into a one size fits all box.
As a society we cannot allow this to continue. Birthing is a deeply intimate experience, it’s a time where we are pushed to out limits and beyond and all our inhibitions are gone, we are raw and we are vulnerable like never before. This moment cannot truly be experienced with one size fits all care. Each mother needs to be free to be brave and be more instinctual than ever before. She needs space and freedom in her birthing sanctuary so she can go internal without disturbance to find her inner warrior. She need to be as courageous as she has ever been, but now the courage is not just needed to birth her baby, but, right in the middle of labour, it’s needed to fight for her rights as well.
My first son was a hospital birth and I had to fight not to be induced three times. Every time the midwives would enter the room my contractions would completely stop and the staff were getting increasingly frustrated at me when I was saying I thought it was all progressing nicely (which it was when they weren’t there). Finally, at 10.30am when I was measuring 3cm my midwife told me that my time was up and she would be back at 11am to induce me, I felt devastated but didn’t want to lose hope of the natural birth I had visualised for myself. I had read about releasing oxytocin to induce labor so my husband and I took our tops off and did skin to skin hugging and kissing. Within minutes my contractions went from nothing to overriding and in under 20 minutes I was pushing. My husband went out to the midwives to tell them the baby was coming but they didn’t believe him and slowly waltzed in 5 minutes later. Our baby boy was born at 11.17am, naturally, all while my midwife was off on her break. From 3cm to delivery in just 45 minutes, it is incredible what the body can do when it needs to. But this pushy hospital birthing mentality isn’t uncommon, now women are having to fight for the natural birth that they deserve because interventions and caesarean are being pushed on them..
Birthing mothers need humans supporting and protecting them not policies. There is nothing more human than the baby's moment of birth and nothing more transformational for a woman, yet statistics are showing that increasingly these moments are leading to trauma. Trauma for the mother and trauma for the baby.
Your birthing environment will leave an imprint on you and your baby that will last a lifetime. Their entry into the world and those initial moments experienced are a corner stone for how they view the world. They need to feel safe, connected, protected, nurtured and loved, and in order for the mother to give this, she needs to feel this herself. The effect of women experiencing birth trauma doesn’t stop in the delivery room, and the flow on effect can so often severely impact the mother baby bond, establishing breastfeeding and also include anxiety, depression, family or marital breakdowns, and emotional detachment from the baby and herself. 33 percent of women in Australia are said to experience symptoms of trauma from their child birth.
This is where private midwives such as Martina are getting it right. They are hearing, feeling, and connecting to mothers and their needs and it’s so wrong to be reprimanded for doing this. Technically, by APRAH’s book and by their policies these carers might be stepping outside of the 'system' but at least what they are stepping in to is the mothers world, and focusing on giving each individual exactly what they specifically need. Not what a book or policy says they need. In APRAHs eyes Martina may be in the wrong, but the truth is she is not. What she is doing is right, it’s human and it’s so necessary. She is with mothers, listening, understanding, empathising and creating magical births for both the mothers and their babies.
I’m no one special, before becoming a mother I was just your everyday wife and business woman but it doesn’t take a genius to see the negative birthing epidemic that as a society we are choosing to accept as OK. But the truth is, it is not OK, and change is in order. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, in fact we just need to go back to basics. Put the humanness back into the birthing environment and give the mother and caregivers the respect they deserve to treat each individual birth with the unique care it requires. We need to empower our midwives, doctors and nurses to give individualised patient centered care, not tighten in on them with more policies, procedures and consequences.
We have to come up with a better way to incorporate the human back into the birthing process along side with the advancing technology. One should not be replacing the other. They need to work hand in hand together and complement each other. We need to collaborate here and discuss and debate openly about the changes that are necessary for mothers and their care providers to be safe on all levels, not just medically, but safe emotionally, physically and spiritually. It can’t just be medical professionals writing all the policies, this is only one element of a safe birth. Mothers need to be heard!