We recently spoke to Anna, who enjoyed a two-night stay with her husband and gorgeous baby girl – in one of our postnatal rooms – after labouring and birthing at Waitākere Hospital.
Anna had gestational diabetes so was induced at 38 weeks. Orlagh was born at 5pm and they spent a night in hospital before moving to Helensville Birthing Centre.
This is the first of a two-part series where we talk with māmās.
How did you find out about Helensville Birthing Centre?
My midwife recommended it. I also know another mum – I was chatting to her after she had a baby about a year ago. She’d gone to Helensville and absolutely raved about the care the staff gave. She said it made her cry when she got food delivered to her room for the first time – to be looked after like that.
I thought, I want to go there!
My husband stayed the whole time, which was really precious. The teaching the staff gave us was for both of us. It was helpful that he was there to ask questions and practice things as well (like changing nappies and bathing Orlagh).
It must be great to have somebody who hasn’t just given birth to be able to ask the questions – because you might forget in the moment!
Yes, having him there to understand what I was going through and how he could best support me was really helpful.
How was your room?
It was so nice – it had everything we needed including wipes for Orlagh and extra pads for me. It had stuff I’d never have known I’d need. Our room had a sliding door out onto Charm’s Garden and so we could get some sun and fresh air when we needed.
And tell us about the food!
I was stoked because I’m vegetarian and wasn’t sure what to expect – it would have been fine for my husband to go to the local Countdown and get me something. But they gave me lots of options to choose from and decent portion sizes too. I remember thinking, “You guys have got me.”
Breastfeeding makes you hungry, so it was great to have ice cream for dessert as well. It just felt so nice to be looked after.
When I was pregnant, I had gestational diabetes so a diet that’s vegetarian and diabetic friendly is not a fun one to be on!
After I had Orlagh, I wasn’t diabetic anymore, so I was given the all-clear to have sugar and carbs again.
I’d been counting the days until I could go back to my normal diet, after I got gestational diabetes on week 28. I knew it was short term so I could deal with it. But I missed bread and sugar!
How was the early breastfeeding support at the Centre?
I had no idea as a first-time mum. All I knew was you had to put baby on your boob and that’s about it.
The midwives taught us different positions like side feeding and how to latch properly. I know a couple of friends who didn’t go to a birthing centre, and they were on the back foot in a lot of ways because they didn’t have that help.
When we got home, I felt confident HBC had given me the tools to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding takes practice and time getting to know your baby – to understand their cues and to know when to put them on a different breast. It’s definitely a skill that takes time to develop.
Did you get any resources from the Centre that you could take home – reminders of how to do things?
Yes, I have instructions on my fridge about storing breastmilk safely – how long it should be in the fridge or how long you can keep frozen milk and how to heat it up to the right temperature. It’s great to have that nearby. I read it all the time.
How did your stay at the Centre shape your first five weeks as a mum?
Mentally it can be a scary time. You enter this new world that you have no idea how to navigate and it’s the same for your partner.
Staying at the Centre helped me settle my feet on the ground and take a breath. I realised even though something is natural, it still requires figuring out – a lot of stuff you just don’t know. Staying at Helensville Birthing Centre means you have chance to figure out what you need to do and how to do it.
It’s tranquil there too. I imagine if you go straight back home from hospital and straight into it you have to worry about lots of other stuff – like doing the washing. But having that time was what we needed to start our parenting journey and now we feel we’ve got the tools we need.
It was nice to have time for the two of us (me and my husband) to take a breath and obviously for me to recover. How much I bled was quite a shock to me. So, it’s good to have some time to manage and recover from that as well.
Is there any advice you heard at the Centre that’s really stuck with you?
I remember Eartha – she was awesome. She was there to greet us on the first day and was there when we left as well – that was really special.
The other midwives answered our questions too – they taught us how to give baby a bath safely, how to hold her and check that it’s the right temperature.
During our stay, we were peppering the midwives with questions. They went out of their way to help us. They observed me when I was breastfeeding and offered guidance on my technique, such as “maybe turn that way” or “be a bit firmer in that way”.
They always made me feel comfortable and were very respectful.
We had to do the heel prick tests (a blood test which screens for rare but life-threatening metabolic disorders along with SCID: severe combined immune deficiency) there and they explained things the whole time.
Overall, it was a really nice way to start being a mum.
Would you recommend HBC to others?
A hundred percent! I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. The whole setup was so cool and for us to be able to access it for free – that’s so special.
To access it for free makes it fair on everyone. Everyone needs support. To be looked after, and to feel like the staff genuinely care.
I wondered if it was only first-time mums that stay at the Centre, but the staff said we have one lady who just had her fifth baby, and she comes out here to have a cup of tea and peace and quiet. And not to have to unload the dishwasher!
It doesn’t feel like a hospital either. The staff are in scrubs but they’re not in a rush and they will sit down and have a chat with you. There’s nothing clinical about it.
What was it like staying in Helensville specifically?
I loved it. It’s novel to not hear road noise. When you live in Auckland you get used to always hearing cars, so staying in Helensville and not having that was lovely. I think knowing we were in our own room and we didn’t have visits meant we had time for us.
The postnatal stay is such a short window which goes so quickly. You’re barely sleeping and Orlagh cluster fed on the first night at Helensville so to have visitors streaming through would not have worked. I appreciated the privacy and opportunity to focus on the three of us.
And there were lots of places my husband could go for food in Helensville. He tried the Turkish Café and the Indian and a bakery. And he could pop down to the supermarket to get me anything else I needed.
I think for him as well, it’s a special bonding time for the father.
What did you find most valuable about your stay?
I think the staff are the biggest asset. They are amazing. There are the tangible things that are helpful like ice pads and having meals and snacks. But the staff were by far the best part of the experience.
From the beginning, every single one of them was there for us.