Get Real: Talking mental health & disability

Life, as I knew it, was over: Traumatic Birth Injury and Pelvic Organ Prolapse with Stephanie Thompson

June 19, 2023 The team at ermha365 and Stephanie Thompson Season 4 Episode 82
Get Real: Talking mental health & disability
Life, as I knew it, was over: Traumatic Birth Injury and Pelvic Organ Prolapse with Stephanie Thompson
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Imagine going through a traumatic childbirth injury, then finding out you have severe pelvic organ prolapse, an invisible and life-altering disability. How would you cope? Our guest for this episode is  Stephanie Thompson, a courageous mother, teacher, athlete, and advocate for women's pelvic health. Stephanie shares her harrowing journey, the impact on her physical and mental well-being, and how she's found healing through her platform, Brave Mumma.

Stephanie recounts her unexpected whirlwind of medical interventions during childbirth, which left her with little control over her own experience. We also explore the broader implications of pelvic organ prolapse on mental health, relationships, career, and motherhood.

Tune in to hear Stephanie's story and how she's turning her pain into purpose, empowering others to navigate their own journeys with pelvic organ prolapse.

Find out more about Stephanie at BRAVE MUMMA and buy her book The Day My Vagina Broke

If you have been affected by anything discussed in this episode you can contact:

  • 13 YARN on 13 92 76 (24/7 crisis support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples)
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14

Other helpful organisations that Stephanie recommends:

ermha365 provides mental health and disability support for people in Victoria and the Northern Territory. Find out more about our services at our website.

CREDITS
Produced, hosted and edited by Emily Webb, ermha365 Advocacy and External Communications Advisor with Karenza Louis-Smith, CEO ermha365.

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ermha365 acknowledges that our work in the community takes place on the Traditional Lands of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and therefore respectfully recognise their Elders, past and present, and the ongoing Custodianship of the Land and Water by all Members of these Communities.

We recognise people with lived experience who contribute to GET REAL podcast, and those who love, support and care for them. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution so that we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

Team at ermha365:

Get Real is recorded on the unceeded lands of the Bunurong and Wurundjeri peoples of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge and pay our respects to their elders, past and present. We also acknowledge that the first peoples of Australia are the first storytellers, the first artists and the first creators of culture, and we celebrate their enduring connections to country, knowledge and stories.

Team at Ermha365:

Welcome to Get Real talking mental health and disability brought to you by the team at Ermha 365.

Team at ermha365:

Join our hosts, emily Webb and Karenza Louis-Smith, as we have frank and fearless conversations with special guests about all things mental health and complexity.

Team at ermha365:

We recognise people with lived experience of mental ill health and disability, as well as their families and carers. We recognise their strength, courage and unique perspective as a vital contribution to this podcast so we can learn, grow and achieve better outcomes together.

Emily Webb:

Hey, it's Emily Webb here. Before we start, we do talk about some topics in this episode that may be distressing or confronting to some listeners, including traumatic childbirth, medical procedures and conditions and suicide, so please keep this in mind while listening or deciding to listen.

Stephanie Thompson:

My life as I knew it. I went into that labour and delivery ward and came out an entirely different person, And by that I mean my career of 20 years in education and leadership was gone, because it's really hard to be able to walk and stand at certain times of the day, depending on how it's feeling. The mental work that we do is every single day. Managing is, yes, the umbrella term I guess you could use for it, but surviving to thriving has really where I've come from in eight years.

Emily Webb:

Hello and welcome to Get Real. Our guest for this episode is Stephanie Thompson. Stephanie is a mum, teacher, athlete, author and advocate who has built a platform called Brave Mumma to talk about women's pelvic health, traumatic childbirth injury and living with chronic, invisible disability. In 2015, stephanie experienced traumatic childbirth injury and subsequent severe pelvic organ prolapse. The impacts on her physical and mental health have been profound and life-altering. She's sharing her experience, raising awareness and providing practical information so other women with prolapse can be informed, empowered and supported in their workplaces and daily lives. Stephanie has also written the Day My Vagina Broke, which is her private exploration into bravery and healing when the impacts of trauma are lifelong and permanent. Welcome, stephanie, thanks for joining us.

Stephanie Thompson:

Thank you so much for having me, emily. It's really a perfect time to be talking about this, because June is pelvic organ prolapse awareness month.

Emily Webb:

I didn't even know that, and it's just me. Today Karenza was going to join us, but as Karenza is also the CEO of Irma365, she's really busy a lot, but she's so to have missed this interview. Stephanie, i actually came across you because I'd had an idea for a while about an episode about incontinence and the mental health impacts of that, and I sort of went down a bit of a rabbit hole with research, because I know that incontinence is something that is not spoken about much. It is getting more spoken about now But the impacts on mental health obviously can be quite profound. So that's where I found something that you'd written for the incontinence foundation And I was just really fascinated by your story. So, stephanie, prior to giving birth to your daughter in 2015, what was life like for you? What were you doing?

Stephanie Thompson:

Life was great. I had the career. I loved my job in public education. I fell in love, i got married. I started a small business with my best friend, so we were drinking a lot of tea and selling a lot of tea, and overall life itself felt great.

Stephanie Thompson:

The only thing missing for me was having that little baby in my arms, and our journey to be even becoming pregnant was actually quite long in itself, because in my mid-20s I'd had treatment for cancer And so I think along the lines of I was told there could be some complications Trying to fall pregnant. I had an IVF specialist involved in the process And the day I remember the day distinctly when I told my husband I was pregnant. It was about four o'clock in the morning And I had this feeling in my gut. I was like I'm pregnant, i know I am, and so I did the test and I took it into him. I woke him up and I'm like look, we're going to be parents And it was just. The feeling was an elation that I've never experienced in my entire life and probably haven't since, because it took so long to fall pregnant. When it eventually happened, it was probably one of the best moments of my life, actually.

Emily Webb:

Then pregnancy you're going through everything. You think you're prepared for stuff. I mean, I spent lots of time on Google, shouldn't have, you know, making myself paranoid. I know, for me I had something happen that I didn't count on after birth, And you certainly had that experience too. So you know, the pregnancy went along fine, Did it, Stephanie?

Stephanie Thompson:

I was really lucky. I will put my hand up and say I was extremely blessed to have what would be considered a very standard, easy pregnancy. I really enjoyed it. I know there's a lot of moms that don't enjoy it for lots of different reasons, and it doesn't matter what they are. Everyone gets to, you know, kind of have their own thoughts on their own pregnancy.

Stephanie Thompson:

I did get diagnosed with gestational diabetes very early on, and so from that moment I think I was well supported in the fact that I had lots of nutrition education which you know for me wasn't overly surprising, being an athlete prior to it. But I still was able to manage the diabetes, the gestational diabetes, through diet and exercise, and so that for me it wasn't scary. I was like, okay, this is what it is. It actually saw it as a bit of a blessing, because you know how some people have those really sugary cravings during pregnancy. I knew I just couldn't, i just couldn't have them. So in my mindset I was like, well, if you want to be the healthiest you possibly can, you need to follow these guidelines And probably from that moment, looking back, i now would call myself the perfect patient.

Stephanie Thompson:

So whatever expert advice or doctors were saying to me I would follow to the T because I wanted to do it right. I wanted the pregnancy to be the best it could. I wanted the birth and labour and delivery to be the best it could. So, just like you, i spent a lot of time researching, reading lots of pregnancy books, a lot of Google. I didn't feel scared by it, though I actually wanted to be the most informed that I possibly could.

Emily Webb:

Because you were so fit as well. I imagine that you know that obviously is great for when you're having a baby. But you know, i remember the birth classes and stuff and they tell you certain things, but there's just stuff that you're just not prepared for is there And certainly that as we'll discuss. You know that happened to you and it happens to a lot of women and people don't talk about it. But how did the labour go?

Stephanie Thompson:

Agreed, i went to the hospital birthing classes. I also then sourced my own private birthing classes that were along the lines of really advocating for natural childbirth, or we love to call it vaginal childbirth. Right, because?

Stephanie Thompson:

I think, all journeys to parenthood are natural. It doesn't matter if it's a caesarean section of vaginal birth or even adoption or whatever it looks like, it's all natural to become a mum, right? So the thing was in the childbirth classes they only ever talked about one method and that was vaginal childbirth only. And it was kind of told and sold to me that it is the superior, like the best way, not just for you but mainly for the child. So your baby's best chance at life is to be birthed vaginally. It's more natural, it's pure, etc. Etc. So I really was leaning into that belief system.

Stephanie Thompson:

I remember, you know, i remember asking a question to the facilitator about caesarean section birth And it was really dismissed Oh you don't need to worry about that, you only need to worry about caesarean if it's an emergency. And then it was like full stop. But in my mind I remember saying well, what negates an emergency? How do you know it's going to be an emergency? Like what type of things will happen for it to lead to an emergency, you know? But the conversation stopped And I think for me that was the issue because, to answer your question about the labor and delivery, it was going all loving, beautiful candles, music, romance, natural, all the things that we were told up into a certain point And then it wasn't.

Stephanie Thompson:

But I felt like the education piece didn't go beyond what happens once that beautiful natural birth is no longer happening. So the shock, and, like you said, when people don't talk about it, that shock and dismay of like, well, what now? Where's the rest of the textbook here missing? And I don't know what to do. And so that fear obviously what we know now in childbirth is fear creates a whole lot of emotions and chemistry in your body that actually will probably stall labor even more. It's counterintuitive, right?

Emily Webb:

Yeah, exactly. I mean, you've sort of told, trust your body, but if you're not informed about what's happening, it can be a scary experience I had on my birth plan. I had my daughter in London my first daughter and I did national childbirth trust classes, which were great, and I had on my birth plan just gas and air. I can tell you about I don't know however many hours into the labor I was like, yeah, yeah, i need an epidural. And the midwife's like, oh, on your birth plan it's got gas and air. I said, yeah, nah, that's fine, let's just roll here. Yeah, it was definitely. I had an idea of how things would go And yeah, i had something traumatic happen after I had the baby. But this isn't about me, but I will share it after I've spoken to you, because it's good to talk to people about this stuff. So you're rolling along, labor's happening, how was it progressing? and you know what happened.

Stephanie Thompson:

In my mind I thought we were going great. At one point I do remember kind of sitting in the bath and giving my husband a little nudge with my elbow because he was sitting next to me and we had a giggle. We're like is this, it Is this labor? Oh, my god, we've got this. This is a cinch.

Stephanie Thompson:

I know a little bit of you know naivety, but also arrogance about me that I can do anything in this world because that's the person I've become. I'd beat cancer so I can do anything, you know. And remember just laughing to him and he's having a giggle. I'm like, yeah, we've got the Gatorade, we've got the lollip snakes, like we know what we're doing. And that's probably at the point that I remember that we were vividly. That's it. That's where it stops, because from what happened from that moment until she arrived is a blur.

Stephanie Thompson:

There's little pieces, i guess, that I do remember, but basically, in a nutshell, it went from calm birth, candles, music, bath giggling to feeding stirrups, five people in the room, the use of forceps, apesiodomies, vacuums, all of the things like this what they call the cascades, what they call the cascading of interventions were being brought in at a time when I felt the most scared in my life, but I kept getting told that everything was okay and my mind was going. But the picture doesn't match what you're saying, so I don't believe any of you. I now have lost trust in every single person in this room. It doesn't matter that I had continuity of care and I've known you for the nine months to the midwife. I don't believe you anymore because if you're telling me she's okay, why is everyone in here? Why is all of this happening very quickly right now? What's going on?

Stephanie Thompson:

And so just that lack of trust, fear. She was okay. There was some tearing of her scalp from vacuuming, so when she was put on my chair, her head was bleeding, but it was superficial, so she was okay. And they just said to me look, we just need to do some slight stitching. And that is just ridiculous to tell someone that There was three layers of internal, external, lots of stitching that had to be done. I actually refer to it now as a vaginal caesarean. They had to cut so much, so wide. Then, in the actual fact, i was like there was nothing natural about that, my God.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, and in that flurry of just trying to get the baby out, and they say things like, oh, we'll need to do this or that, i can recall afterwards, yeah, oh, we'll just have to stitch you up a little bit, it's a shock, isn't it? It's a shock what happens to your body, i think, after you've had a baby and things that can happen. And I have seen other women speak about the trauma of childbirth and I remember thinking, oh, yeah, but you just get over it. But the thing is you don't Like the thing is, before I actually experienced it myself or had heard from other women, it can be very traumatic. One of my friends had a very, very quick birth with one of her babies Like it was so fast, and she, yeah, it was very traumatic for her and most people would say, oh, you're lucky, but people don't understand.

Stephanie Thompson:

I think the trauma piece really is the picture that you had in your mind and your experience not even remotely matching, and also how you were supported in that process. So for me, being told that I was fine and she was fine and stop worrying, and the picture being different, that's where the trauma happened. I think for me, even afterwards, when I was told, oh, you did great, well done, i didn't feel that It was a massive disconnect and I think that's the trauma because for weeks following her birth, i was trying to talk to the midwives about what's going on down there with my stitching, something's gone wrong, and I keep again just dismissed oh, it's just a part of vaginal childbirth, you'll be fine, give it six weeks, give it six weeks. And so I think a lot of the trauma actually happened there. Because you're a new mom, right. All your energy, every single minute of your day, is only focused on your baby and the whole society.

Stephanie Thompson:

Pressure about enjoying motherhood like five years, come on. I tried for five years. So when I got there, the reality was well, you just should be grateful. Your baby is alive. Enjoy your baby, right? I think one of the community nurses even said to me oh, for goodness sake, just start enjoying your baby and stop worrying Going back. I wish someone would have said okay, what are you worried about, let's talk through that. Or I think I need to refer you to an expert who can help you talk through these things on your mind, rather than just saying get on with it, you know.

Emily Webb:

And when you were doing the classes and the prenatal classes, do you remember much being spoken about interventions like forcipes, vacuum apesiotomies? I can remember a little bit being spoken about that, but it was almost like, oh yeah, don't worry about that kind of thing.

Stephanie Thompson:

Agreed and in actual fact I will go even further by saying it was deliberately removed from my private child-worth education classes because their whole belief system was based on just breathing the baby down, visualizations, meditations, and that listen to your womanly instincts, you know, be that mum, let it roar, type thing. I think it's deliberately taken away because they say, oh, we don't want to scare women. I wish I could go back to that company and say I was bloody scared. anyway, you didn't actually take away any fear for me and in fact it did the opposite, because I didn't know what was coming, because I had no information about this. It was really scary. and then when you kind of learn that you're not alone and that other women are having this same experience, it really made me mad. I was like what If I was blindsided? and I'm a well educated woman who thought she knew everything and knew nothing? gosh, it's just not okay, it's not. it's same with epidural.

Stephanie Thompson:

We were encouraged to say no and in fact our birthing plans were prefilled by this company. We just signed them. I very naively, just signed it. I didn't write it, They gave it to me because I trusted it and I thought, well, yeah, of course you want that. Who doesn't want that beautiful birth? On that birthing plan it said no epidural, so they did all the stitching, all the apesia. I could feel everything.

Emily Webb:

Oh, no God.

Stephanie Thompson:

Zero pain relief, zero nothing no gas nothing, and they really preach that to women. You can do this, you can do this, and I know me saying this can actually probably evoke some emotions, in particular birthing style camps. I'm not doing it to annoy anyone, i'm just doing it to let you know it doesn't work for everyone.

Emily Webb:

No it doesn't.

Stephanie Thompson:

Yeah, and I do believe for those who it does as they say it does, that's amazing for them. I'm not against vaginal childbirth at all. I'm not in any birthing camp so I don't care how you birthing baby. As long as you're informed and you know everything risks and benefits for all birthing styles then you can make an informed decision. You can't make an informed decision with half of the information. This doesn't work.

Emily Webb:

No, you can't.

Stephanie Thompson:

I had no power. I had no choice. Looking back, it's very easy to say I would have preferred to have a caesarean section birth because of the recovery, because of what happened to me subsequently, which I'm sure we're going to talk about next. is that a caesarean birth, i know, would not have led to what happened to me? I mean, yes, there's other complications for caesarean birth, so I'm not dismissing that, but I never had a choice. There was no choice.

Emily Webb:

You said that it was a bit blurry between that moment in the bath and then suddenly you're in stirrups. Was your partner, was he sort of your proxy kind of consent or like were you aware of what they were asking you or telling you was happening?

Stephanie Thompson:

They weren't asking anything. There were no questions. This is what I mean about choice. My husband was there. He knew what the birthing plan said. When they said things like we just need to do this slight cut, meaning a pisiotomy, he didn't know what that meant. When they said, oh, we're just going to try and turn her, he didn't know that they were about to pull out a vacuum and failed a temp four times and pulled the scalp off her head. How could he know that? Because you know what.

Stephanie Thompson:

we invite birthing partners to the birthing suite but no one actually educates them on what to do. How do you advocate for your wife? He doesn't know. He does know benign background whatsoever. So he too, like me, was placed in an extremely vulnerable position where he had to trust them, even though his gut feeling was like something's off here. But to question authority is not something our generation has ever been encouraged to do. We give full faith and trust. like you, go to the dentist. The dentist tells you you need a feeling. You get the feeling. You don't question it right? So when your midwife tells you they need to do a slight cut to help the baby, you get the slight cut which in actual fact is not a slight cut for me, and so this is the issue We just don't allow people to make decisions because we're not giving them the information. It's like we're hiding it from them. It's ridiculous.

Emily Webb:

This conversation is so good to have because I mean, look, i had my kids. My kids are 17 and 13. And so it's a while ago, but I do remember. I still remember vividly the moments of the pregnancies and I had a retained placenta after I had my first daughter. So that was quite scary because I thought about everything that could go wrong except that and just had to go into theatre to get it removed manually, the placenta.

Emily Webb:

But at that time my husband stayed with a daughter and I had medical students in with me and one of the medical students came in, which was nice. He probably wanted to see that procedure. I said, whatever, i was still a bit off my head from. You know, like the epidural, i was able to be mobile for quite a bit of it. I don't know why that was different in the UK than in Australia, but I was able to move around, but they'd given me a bit of pain relief in that And just asking me to sign stuff. I'm on theatre bed. They're saying, oh, we've got to do this and this, but we just need to let you know that we might have to use this and this to remove it And there is a risk of damage.

Emily Webb:

I was like, okay, just had no idea. And looking back, and even my husband said you guys, god, that's, that's not right. It was, it was scary and they don't tell you about that. You have to have blood transfusions. I was so tired. But I, as you said, you're having your first baby. You don't know what's normal and what's not. So it's very unnerving and it's only, i guess, with hindsight. for me I think, wow, god, i had no idea. And for you, i mean you were trying to advocate, saying to your midwife there's something not happening like with you know the stitches, you obviously had some discomfort. So what was happening for you? Because when you had it's a severe, life changing physical injury from your childbirth, as well as the mental impact, because we're going to talk about that. So what was happening for you in the days and weeks after your daughter was born?

Stephanie Thompson:

Do you mind if I just touch on something that you just said. I really love that you just said that about consent, because it is a very hot topic. I know that there have been some specialists trying to advocate for consent with women, and then there's also been other advocacy groups who are dead against it. Because when do we have to consent to give birth? Okay, i get that. We have medicalized childbirth for lots of reasons. I don't have a political position either way.

Stephanie Thompson:

However, i think it just makes sense for a mum to have all of those forms signed during her pregnancy Because, like you said, you were there on the bed having to sign things. You are not in a mental, emotional or physical position to make a proper decision then, because all you are concerned about is your baby being alive. You are doing it under duress. I think it's more important that we have these conversations in the nine months whilst you are pregnant, even if it invokes fear, because, guess what? During your pregnancy? then you've got an opportunity to seek professional maybe a counsellor or some trauma support to work through that fear, to be able to then make the decision to sign the form Whilst you are calm and collected, not in the midst of labour, or, like you, who have just had a bloody baby, and they want you to sign something. I would never imagine in my wildest dreams that someone goes in for knee surgery and they wake them up to sign the form, to say, oh actually, we found this and we've got to do this.

Emily Webb:

No, Yeah, it's actually pretty wild when I think back on it. I think I was kind of with it, enough to hear what they were saying, but I was still contracting because my placenta was still in there and I was just in so much discomfort. But I clearly remember the gynecologist surgeon I can't remember it was all, because it was all midwife led until things go wrong in the UK, like an afterwards. That's when they came in, because I don't know if this is all too much detail, but I think these conversations are good to have that the midwife was trying to massage my placenta out and it wasn't happening and I thought I'd wet myself but it was blood.

Emily Webb:

My husband said I'd gone grey. I had no idea what was going on. So they got me in and I just remember them saying look, we're going to try and obviously manually remove your placenta, but there is a chance that we may have to use instruments and there is a risk that you know the uterus will be damaged. And I just remember thinking shit, but what am I going to do? I'm like okay, and I signed it. The med student was next to me. He was actually really supportive. I was kind of grateful for him to be there because my husband had decided to stay with our baby and he had her on his chest. And yeah, looking back, my mum was a midwife for years and my husband's actually a nurse now. He wasn't then and I think back in gun. My god, so many things could have gone wrong.

Stephanie Thompson:

Yes, and I hope you don't edit that out, because I think for anyone who is engaged in this conversation probably just needs to hear, because your case is not a standalone, it's not isolated and it's actually very common, so common. So if we don't talk about it, the mental, emotional and physical impact for our future girls, we're going to repeat the same cycle. We're going to let this continue to happen to them because we didn't do something about it. By talking about it, because, my gosh, our grandmas didn't talk about their labour and delivery ever.

Emily Webb:

I'm glad I did actually mention it. I've told people in conversation but I've never really reflected much on the fact that, like I keep thinking I could have actually died. My mum came to London to spend time and I guess, knowing what she knows about midwifery and being that, she's like God. it's like really intense, very scary. My husband said it was actually for him as well. I couldn't see myself, obviously. he said it was actually terrifying and I never thought about that impact on him either.

Stephanie Thompson:

I don't think we do. We always forget about the birthing partner because we think, well, it didn't happen to them, but he saw that it actually did happen to him, maybe not obviously physically to his body, but having to see you go through that. And then all of a sudden you click your fingers. It's one week later and it's all roses and smiling and no one talks, no one debriefs, no one discusses and we sweep it under the carpet When you talk about it out loud like that. And even right now I'm thinking how is this still happening? Because your children are much older than mine, but it's still happening.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, and it will probably continue to happen, won't it? Because there's still a lot of, I think, mystique and expectation built up around childbirth and views that if you do it this way, it's wrong, If you do it this way it's right. There is also focus. yes, the ultimate goal is to have your baby come out healthy, but I think there's also needs to be emphasis on the mum as well, or the birthing person who is having the child.

Stephanie Thompson:

Well, without a healthy mum, you therefore then don't have a healthy baby, because mentally, in that early newborn phase, if mum's not okay, guess what Baby's not okay.

Emily Webb:

That's right. And what I pick up from with listening to, just from our conversation so far, is it's the instincts about something not being right And for you so let's say you're at home, the baby, and I think I read in one of the articles that you've written that you were standing in the shower and something was happening and you just knew there was something not right with your recovery, like how things were going.

Stephanie Thompson:

After vaginal childbirth this is the most ridiculous thing too. People don't kind of let you know that you bleed heavily afterwards.

Stephanie Thompson:

Oh yes, I mean for days and sometimes weeks, even for cesarean birth, you still bleed a lot, a lot of c-section. Mums get really shocked by that because they're like, well, i didn't have a vaginal birth, why am I bleeding from my vagina? This is ridiculous, and so even just little elements like that, that it's common and it's okay for your body to continue to bleed after birth for days and weeks. I remember visiting the toilet, changing your pads and things like that was really important, and I could just smell something. I'm like what is that smell? And then I realized holy heck, that's me. It smelled gross and I was infected. So because of where the episiotomy was and unless you just lay on your tummy all day, you're sitting on your bottom That whole area, naturally, obviously when you go to the toilet, isn't overly hygienic And even though I was washing it this is another thing, the element of confusion One midwife said have salt baths. The other midwife said do not have salt baths. That midwife said dry it with a hair dryer. The other midwife said do not dry it with a hair dryer. So you're trying really hard to do the right thing And in actual fact you don't know what is the right thing And I was keeping it as clean as I could. I was changing the pads every couple of hours and still got infected and then felt like I failed. I was like, oh my God, why am I infected?

Stephanie Thompson:

To learn later on that because of the amount of stitching, where it was positioned, et cetera, recovery was always going to be tough. And I just said to my midwife something's wrong. And so they checked the wound and they kept saying it's fine, it's fine. But it wasn't fine. It was coming apart, the stitches were coming apart. And I only discovered that because an off the cuff comment I got my husband to call quite late one night after the shower and I'm like something's wrong, i know it is.

Stephanie Thompson:

And then I could hear her on the phone through the door. She said tell Stephanie to stop worrying. She worries too much, she's fine. And I do remember yelling through the door I'm not f-ing fine really loud, because I needed her to know to stop telling me I'm okay. And then I think the response was something like well, if she's that worried, tell her to go to the doctor. And so we did. And the doctor sent me immediately to the hospital when he saw what was going on and just said that's really bad infected, it may need to be all done over again. Yeah, and that's probably the first sign that something also was wrong with prolapse as well, and so that was like the beginning of the next stage of trauma from childbirth.

Emily Webb:

My God, And how many days postpartum were you at this point, or weeks?

Stephanie Thompson:

It was in the first two weeks, i can't remember exactly. I'd have to. I'm pretty sure I wrote it down at some point, but it was only a couple of weeks. At this brand new baby, everyone was smiling and loving the baby And I was literally dying on the inside. I hated it. I was struggling, but I was putting on a brave face because I thought that's what I had to do.

Emily Webb:

That's right. You do, don't you? Because you're worried people will think, oh, she's depressed or she's not coping, or and you just want to be able to show people that you can do this. And there's the next trauma of, you know, going to the doctor, the hospital. So when you spoke about people just dismissing it, that really, really got to me, and just for listeners, an apesia odomy.

Stephanie Thompson:

What is an apesia odomy if people don't know, oh, yeah, sure, and it's quite funny that you say that, because you know, even on our government websites, when you look up childbirth, things like meconium and all of those type of big, big language words are there. But apesia odomy is missing from one of our states in particular. It's just not there. Wow, but it's a very common practice They do.

Stephanie Thompson:

They cut from the opening of the vagina, generally in a diagonal direction. It just allows the baby to have more space, but you think of it like it's your perineum, so they think, oh well, we'll just cut between here, and then they minimalize it. But in actual fact they cut through layers of tissue, they cut through nerves, so your clitoris nerves are all damaged. You know, lots of things can happen during that process, and so it's not just a slight cut where you just think it's like a skin cut. It can be huge. Here's my disclaimer I'm not a medical professional. I only discovered this after, when we were looking through my hospital files for a legal matter, and so I don't know this stuff and we were never taught this stuff. I've only learned in retrospect.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, look, i'm the same. I will say I have no medical experience except what I've gone through personally and see, even then I would have to look up again and read about really what the perineum is. You go to hospital, you have to have the stitches redone Like what have they discovered? Because really there was, oh there was, very serious things happening in your body.

Stephanie Thompson:

So the process was I met with an obstetrician who said we've got options, and he was amazing. I'll tell you. He was amazing. He educated me and explained what was likely happened. He wasn't obviously there in the birth, but he said we've got options.

Stephanie Thompson:

You can either, a go and have this repaired surgically, which means you go under anesthetic, which means you know you're not with your baby, breastfeeding could be interrupted, et cetera, et cetera. Or, b, we could try you on two different courses of antibiotics to try and get this infection under control. I'll get you to lay down as much as you can and you know, like managing it that way. First, and he gave it like, i think, maybe five days, three to five days, he said. If you don't see any improvement in three to five days, we'll have to go back to option A. But it's up to you, it's your decision. What would you like to do?

Stephanie Thompson:

And so obviously we talked about it at length. For me, i got to ask questions like well, what would antibiotics do to the baby? Because is it going to go through the breast milk? And you know, we really nutted it out, to the point where I could look at my husband and say, well, what do you think? this is what I think, and then we decided to go with the antibiotics road, into which, after probably pretty much spot on on day six or seven, it did start to heal And it did start to close up by itself, and I didn't have to go back in for another surgery. Thankfully at the time, though, the talk about pelvic organ prolapse wasn't really on the cards, just the fact that there is something going on there, And so it just took a lot longer to kind of get to that point. Yeah, so I was happy with that outcome of a really shitty situation.

Emily Webb:

Also, who knows really much about your pelvic floor or your pelvic muscles? really, as women, we do need to know about it.

Stephanie Thompson:

Oh, but we don't.

Emily Webb:

No.

Stephanie Thompson:

Emily, i can tell you so many times, and so many women don't even know that their vagina is not their vulva, and the vulva is on the outside and the vagina is just the long tube on the inside, because we've been taught our entire lives that our anatomy is that you just call a male anatomy a penis and a vagina.

Emily Webb:

There's so many things that are shrouded in mystery, i think for women's health. But yeah, i never thought about my pelvic floor until I had a baby and probably don't even really understand it now. So when did it become apparent that you, physically, there was something that had happened that was really going to be quite life altering for you?

Stephanie Thompson:

Here's an interesting fact for you, Emily. Now that I'm eight years down the road, I also have learned, because I knew nothing about my pelvic floor as an athlete, that training twice a day, six days a week, probably led to some pelvic floor dysfunction before I was even pregnant. So I know back, way back when you said, oh, you know, you were super fit and healthy going into pregnancy, it must have been great. I now know that women who do run, train you know, ballerinas, trampolinas, horse riders all have a very tight pelvic floor, which in childbirth is the worst thing that you can have because the baby can't move and it makes it really hard. So these are the elements of education that we are also missing. To think, oh gosh, if only I had known how to relax my pelvic floor, not just do the kiggles and the exercises, I wonder if the outcome would have been different. To answer your question on when did I know something was really wrong, it was when I was trying to walk around the house and I just felt like I was carrying a bowling ball in my vagina, Like I was trying to hold it in, but it was actually at the opening, like at the bottom of your vaginal canal. At the opening, I felt like I could feel something coming out Like a tampon. You know, like sometimes when you have a tampon and it gets too full and it starts to slide down, it felt like that. And I think that was one of the conversations too where obviously sleep deprivation as a new mom makes you think some crazy shit. But I thought, oh my God, there's another baby's head. Because when I eventually had the courage to look, it was round, it was pink, it looked like a baby's head, it was very big. I was like what is that? And then, obviously, when you realize it can't be because you're not having twins, that it could be something else. And then the word prolapse was kind of thrown around. I was like, okay, what are prolapse? What's a prolapse? How do I fix it? And then I was like I'm done, Not knowing the extent of the damage and what my pelvic organ prolapse looked like.

Stephanie Thompson:

For me I didn't get to discover that until, I want to say, one to two years down the track, when I went through multiple physiotherapists, GPs, obstetricians, gynecologists, pelvic floor specialist clinics, until I eventually landed in the hands of a professor who studies this, who did extensive testing and measuring for about two hours and then gave me the news that my pelvic organ prolapse on the. It's what they call I'm going to say a really big word here levator ani-evulsion. So it's the muscle in your pelvic floor, It's like the hammock that holds your blood out your uterus in your bowel. That was torn off the bone, So on the left hand side it was fully torn off.

Stephanie Thompson:

Sorry, the right hand side was fully torn off and the left was partially torn, most likely due to the use of the forceps in birth, because when they put the metal forceps in, they just do whatever it takes, And so if you've got things in the way of these metal tools, they put them in to protect the baby's head. So therefore, everything in the mum just gets pushed out of the way and torn and damaged. And so to realise that that had happened I think that was probably one of those you know now in the coffin I was like, oh man, I just wish I had a caesarean. That wouldn't have happened then. Do you know what I mean?

Emily Webb:

Absolutely, because it's like you go through all this. you know labour, like I know friends of mine, family members. they've gone through hours and hours of labour, nothing's happening. Then they have a caesarean and that they've said themselves oh God, i wish I knew, because it's like you're so exhausted and then you're having a caesarean And if you know like, then subsequently I've known people who've gone in for elective caesars. they know they can prepare better mentally for it 100%.

Stephanie Thompson:

And yes, there are complications that happen with caesarean section as well. But, like, you have to sign those consent forms prior, so you know, you know all the risks before. And so, having that information that my pelvic floor was that damaged, then being referred on to potentially having surgery to repair it, the caveat was that I had to have finished my family entirely, and so my husband and I. It was a no brainer like, oh God, we're one and done, this was bad enough as it was. And then we had this moment of hmm, but what about our little girl? What if she ever wanted a sibling? We never considered her because she was so little. And then lots of discussion was had. I think it was around about October, and I said if we're not pregnant again by December, that's it, We'll call it, i'll have the surgery, mummy will be fixed. And I think I was pregnant by the November.

Stephanie Thompson:

I was very shocked because it took five years the first time and two months the second time. And then we knew, okay, well, let's have another baby. That kind of opened a can of worms of oh God, can I even carry a baby to full term with a prolapse? How the hell do you birth a baby with prolapse, i was like right, i'm having a caesarean this time I'm electing for a caesarean I found myself an obstetrician. As it turns out and this is a whole nother story in itself, i'm not going to go into too much detail that I was able to birth vaginally a second time without causing more damage to my prolapse, because it was actually a bit of a godsend that all the damage was done.

Stephanie Thompson:

Baby came out fine. He was much smaller than my first. Then it was straight back to the surgeon. All right, let's fix it. During pre-operational testing it was discovered that my damage was so extensive that surgery would most likely fail within two years and there was about a 93% chance of failure. And I was like whoa, i'm not that risk averse. I know I can do anything, blah blah. But having a hysterectomy, going through all of that with two children under two, with a 90% plus chance of failure, no thanks. I don't think anyone would actually put their hand up for that.

Emily Webb:

By the way, So it's really been, since, i mean, you're a fierce advocate for educating women and I applaud you for that, because I just don't think there's enough spoken about because people will go ooh, you know, i don't want to think about that. So no surgery. it's a case for you of managing and finding ways how to live with this severe prolapse, because it's not just the prolapse. There are all these other impacts on your mobility, your life, your mental health, which is one of the things we'll talk about, and people can find out more about this by accessing your resources and reading your book, which I've bought The Day My Vagina Broke, which I think the title is amazing. Thank, you.

Emily Webb:

So it's been a journey and it's an ongoing journey, because you live with disability now, don't you?

Stephanie Thompson:

Every day, and so I really love the term that someone else has coined and her first name's just gone out of my mind but she calls it a dynamic disability. So whilst you can't see, like I don't have a leg amputated, 24 seven, the muscles were amputated from the bone and it's an internal thing that no one can see. It is invisible. I can see and feel it, obviously, but there are elements of the day where it's not as prevalent as others And I'll give you an example. So when you lay down at nighttime and you are horizontal, your body gives you a really good chance to rest and to reset. We call it, and if you think about gravity, all the organs kind of slide back and sit where they're meant to. As you sit up out of bed in the morning and go about your day, gravity works against you and the organs the bladder, the uterus starts sliding down the vaginal canal because they can no longer sit in that hammock where there's no support, and to the opening and out. When that happens, the misconception is that prolapse is not painful. I'm going to call BS on that, because I'm in a lot of pain every day in the afternoon if I don't rest Now. Rest means full leg up in the air style rest. It's not sit down for a quick cup of tea Now. As a parent that's really difficult and in fact impossible a lot of the time. So then we have to find other ways. So while surgery is off the table, it doesn't mean I did nothing. I will tell you, emily, i have left no stone unturned when it comes to looking for ways to feel better, to strengthen every bit of pelvic floor core muscle I have in my body left to support the lack of muscle on that side. The mental work that we do is every single day. Managing is, yes, the umbrella term I guess you could use for it, but surviving to thriving has really where I've come from in eight years, more so in the last 12 months in particular. So whilst my physical symptoms have not changed, that by the afternoon I still need to sit and rest mentally. How I think about prolapse is very different now, and I do want to add this in because I think it's important.

Stephanie Thompson:

Not everyone who has prolapse will have the same experiences as me. Mine is very at that end of the spectrum. So if you've gone through labour and delivery and you've been diagnosed with a prolapse, that may be stage one or two. There's a good chance you can reverse that And there's a good chance that your life can continue exactly how it was.

Stephanie Thompson:

But for those of us who were at stage three and four, who have major impacts on our daily life, there's a lot of work and we call it a journey because, my God, it's two steps forward, ten steps back. It's discovering this and looking overseas for that, and reading this and trialling that and doing this. I live and breathe it every day, because the alternative is there isn't one. If I don't continue to try and live the most fulfilling, positive life I can, then the alternative is you're depressed and in a really bad place. I tell you now, some women don't survive pelvic organ prolapse, and not because it's painful and not because it's physical, but because they can't live on this earth with it. They feel like there is no choice but to suicide.

Emily Webb:

That is extremely powerful and you know what? I hadn't even thought about that Just recognising that pain and discomfort and physical disability, injury, does have an impact on our mental health. And also there's the things that we don't talk about or we don't hear about, and I know for me how I found you, as I mentioned at the start, was I really was keen on doing something around incontinence and mental health. For people who experience incontinence. There is, i don't know, embarrassment, there's a lack of shame, and I was really having a good read through the Incontinence Foundation materials where I found your story and that's where I thought, wow, this is incredible.

Emily Webb:

And what are the impacts of your invisible and also I really think the term dynamic disabilities is fascinating with the way it's not the same every day. You could be okay one day, not okay the next. What are some of the other impacts of this severe pelvic prolapse that aren't talked about and I can imagine in my mind there's issues of incontinence. There would be impacts on your sex life, your relationships. What are some of the things that just make it extremely serious? As you said, the mental health impacts are extreme.

Stephanie Thompson:

I love that you asked that question, emily, because the Continence Foundation are really shining a light on what it's like. That incontinence is not an old ladies problem. It's not like light bladder leakage where we have a little giggle. It's life altering, impactful stuff and I probably really shared some things in that article with the Continence Foundation that I haven't really shared within our brave mumma space in particular. And yes, you have all the impacts like leakage. So urinary leakage and fecal leakage. Yes, your sex life is never the same, but overall I like to encapsulate it by saying my life as I knew it.

Stephanie Thompson:

I went into that labour and delivery ward and came out an entirely different person, and by that I mean my career of 20 years in education and leadership was gone, because it's really hard to be able to walk and stand at certain times of the day, depending on how it's feeling. It's really hard to empty your bow properly. A lot of women with prolapse suffer from bow, either constipation or leakage. It's not like it's one one day and one the next. It just changes depending on so many other elements of your prolapse and body. So there are many times I could be stuck on the toilet for an hour just trying to empty my bladder and bow. You can't do that in an education space. It's just not possible. It stops you, it disables you from being able to do the tasks that your employer expects you to do, even though mentally I'm all still here. I've got so much value to offer. But I cannot do that because of the physical limitations.

Stephanie Thompson:

And I did try, like I said, no stone unturned, tried multiple ways in multiple different spaces, with adjustments, and they just when I say they just didn't work, it sounds like I gave up. I'm telling you I did blood, sweat and tears. We changed our whole family dynamic and structure to attempt to get me back to my career, including my husband leaving his career to stay at home with children So I could potentially just be at work and not have to pick up babies and carry them around and do all the things that I was feeling like I was failing to do as a mum. We went, we went all out, we went to all lengths, we spent through all of our savings. So we both worked a couple of days a week Like we really tried to make it work And when it didn't, i fell into a hole. I had a breakdown because I felt like oh my God, i fail as a mum, i'm failing my career, i'm failing as a wife, i'm failing to keep my bladder and my bowel in control. Like what the fuck? Who am I?

Stephanie Thompson:

What do I do now? Like, where do I fit in this world? now? I don't. I don't fit in with my girlfriends who have had babies in mothers group and they're all going for jogs in their prams. No, i'm stuck in a pr I felt like a prisoner in my house because I couldn't get up the driveway with my pram, i couldn't go anywhere, and so the impacts on that to a person's psyche are intense.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, it's. These are the things we. I guess people are talking about it a bit more, but I just, i'm just appreciating this conversation so much. You know you were a primary school principal educator, a teacher of many, many, many years experience, and teaching is a physical job And I think I I read that. You know you, some of the accommodations were that you could be in a classroom near a bathroom, which is really important. These are the things we don't think about for people within continents or other issues like that You need when you need to go, you need to go Like and it's, it's a dignity thing, it's a psychological thing and it's a physical thing, and also the financial impacts of disability.

Emily Webb:

This is you know because you know you have done everything you can. you have to give up what you were used to And it's almost unimaginable that you even live that life. And I think the the piece about the financial cost as well to disability is huge.

Stephanie Thompson:

Like, even though I say the word vagina and mine is broken and I'm out there and I'll share everything, there's still elements of life that we we don't delve into because we're never asked. So I'm so glad that you had brought that up because, yes, my husband and I are very 50, 50 equal people. We came into our relationship on six figure careers. We were both professionals, we both loved our you know athleticism. There was so much going for us as an equal couple.

Stephanie Thompson:

When that was all taken away from me all because I became a mum, it unbalanced the scales in my marriage, not from him, but for me. I didn't feel like I was contributing in any sense. So I couldn't be there to lift babies and I was just sitting there. I felt like useless, not having a career and earning that money really mucked around with my psyche. And I want people to know like I haven't earned superannuation for eight years because I'm not employed And yes, i do all this beautiful stuff with brave mama that I love, but it's a passion project. It doesn't pay wages, it doesn't pay salary, it doesn't pay superannuation. So when it comes to retirement I think to myself holy heck, if we ever get divorced. I'm stuffed. He's super has continued to grow and mine hasn't, and I know that there's lots of legalities about equal share, but the thoughts and the feelings around that have been really hard, coming from a very independent woman to feeling now very dependent on her husband.

Emily Webb:

And let's talk about brave mama, because it's a really powerful platform. You have resources, you have opportunities for women to share and you've written the books, your memoir, so to speak, and also a really practical guide about tips for women about pelvic organ prolapse, and you've also got a podcast called the low down with brave mama. How did brave mama evolve and where's it going? What's it up to at the moment? What's an incredible resource for people.

Stephanie Thompson:

Thank you, i'm very proud of it. I actually feel like I am just an advocate of a massive group of women I mean, if we're talking, one in two women experience some level of prolapse within their lifetime. That's 50% of our female population right now who are feeling alone and isolated and unseen and unheard, and that's not okay. For me, really, coming from a strong public education background, advocacy is a huge part of what I used to do And I now have been able to transfer that to here, because actually, the birth story of brave mama goes a little bit like this I was struggling.

Stephanie Thompson:

Two kids under two husband had to travel away to work to make money. I had a breakdown, literally on the kitchen floor. One morning I decided I was scrolling on my phone and I saw someone who was on a retreat in Bali. I was like I need to go there. I don't even know what you're doing, i don't even know where that is, but I have to be there. Literally two days later I had landed in Bali. I'd started an author's retreat. I never even wanted to write a bloody book, i just had to escape. I had to escape my life. And I did that The first night, where now you know, my coach was saying you have to write the book.

Stephanie Thompson:

I'm like, oh well, i don't want to tell anyone, i just want to write it all down, get it all out of my head so I can move forward in my life. I did that and I just cried the entire time. I think I cried for four days, really realizing the impact of what had just happened to us. I got home and I shared it with my husband. He's like you have to publish this. I'm like, oh no, i can't say I can't do that. He's like but if you don't, nothing is going to change for our girl and that would be such a disservice to her. So that's where it all really came about, the whole brave thing. I was petrified, but to be brave is to be petrified and do it anyway. The mama part is my great, is my grandmother, and I was like well, if I'm going to be brave, i'm going to be a brave mama and just do it.

Stephanie Thompson:

So I published the book and put it out there, told the world that I had a broken vagina, told everyone, like my husband's friends. They all kind of knew then that something was wrong and something was different And what I thought was going to be like a negative backlash ended up turning into a whole lot of love because people finally understood why we were the way we were. Like we didn't even know that we were acting and behaving differently because we knew no better. But then people were more compassionate and would say well, why didn't you tell us? And we would say, before the book, we didn't have the words to describe what happened to us. We didn't even know. And so the book was the catalyst to finding the words to explain to people what happened in our birth journey, what happened afterwards with prolapse and what a prolapse was.

Stephanie Thompson:

The book, for me, was just okay, we'll put it out there in the atmosphere to educate girls better, so that they don't have to be like we did, like we didn't have to be blindsided. So then it started these whole lot of questions and conversations that I was like cool, this could be something else. And so the podcast was really born from the book, because people wanted to continue to talk about it. The book is one thing It's not just my story, it's a story of hope, yes. But then when you realize you're not the only one, you're like okay, we've got to do more. We need to do more. We need to have more conversations, and so that's. The podcast was only ever meant to be one season. Just put it out there and then we leave it, and then we've just finished season three, because we really realized that we can't stop talking about it.

Stephanie Thompson:

Emily, i can't stop talking until I know my daughter goes to school and is allowed to talk about her vulva and vagina and pelvic floor at the right age, at the right time, in the right room, with the right support from a teacher. Because, as you would know, with teenagers, they often don't want to talk to their parents. It's too uncomfortable, and we're trying now, even with their now house, to make it not to do and not shameful, so they will feel comfortable. But maybe she won't. Maybe she will need to be able to talk to her teacher and ask those questions. So until we get to that point, ravenma won't stop, because I think we're global now. We've got women around the world who are now talking about their prolapse and even just you know what? just recently I got a message from someone from the US saying thank you so much for your pain scale idea, because now I can tell my partner, when I'm a number seven, that I have to go home and we don't have to have the awkward conversation because now they get it. It's communication.

Emily Webb:

You know, husband, because obviously the partner comes on the journey as well And I imagine there would be a lot of mental health impacts on the partner who doesn't really understand how to support their partner. They may feel upset, frustrated, all those things.

Stephanie Thompson:

All the things, all of the above, that's like a big D. All of the above, all of the things that I feel. He feels He may not vocalise it as much, but together and this is where I'm eternally grateful to have found him in my journey is that together we're navigating this, And so the courage I had to have to tell him that day that I pooed myself was full on. Like even thinking about it now makes me teary. I had to get to the point where I was quite tipsy to be able to share it with him, because I didn't know how he would react.

Stephanie Thompson:

As amazing as he is, as willing to come on this journey as he is, i still thought what if this is a massive turn off for him? and then he doesn't, he feels like he doesn't want to be with me, and then he feels trapped because I can't do this on my own, et cetera. And he just hugged me. He didn't actually say anything And that was enough, because he didn't go into, you know, masculine fix it mode, like it's okay, we'll fix it. He just hugged me and just let me cry because he didn't know what to say.

Stephanie Thompson:

But the actions were enough. And just to have that level of support. I've done a lot of work personally. You know breath work, meditation, counselling, psychology, all of the things mental health, hospital stays And I think when he sees me working really hard at myself, he is proud and wants to be part of that. So I know that a lot of women who don't have that and are not blessed to have that would have an extra layer of discourse. That would make this even harder for them And, my God, i really feel for them.

Emily Webb:

This is why we do this, because I can Right, Yeah, And because there's so many gosh, I'm thinking there's so many threads of conversation, No one deal podcast has gone to three seasons And you did mention previously that the mental health impacts and the despondency and the trauma of a pelvic organ prolapse and birth trauma can be so profound that some women do not survive it And I imagine that you have heard through your community of that happening And I can imagine there is marriage breakdowns, other things. I mean how severe is the mental health impact and the trauma of this? You know we've heard what you've said about your experience, but from women that you interact with Too many.

Stephanie Thompson:

I've seen too many women lose their lives. In fact, like, even if it's just one, it's too many to me, but we have had women just fall off the radar and we can only assume, because we're talking to people in India, we're talking to people in the US, we're talking to people in Canada, bali, all over right And because we're not, you know, like an expert organization or a professional counseling services, we can only do the best we can do. And when you see the common thread of people saying I can't live like this anymore, and then you reach out and you start those conversations, et cetera. I had to do a mental health first aid course because I was like I can't, i'm just a mum, how can I take this on? Because I wear it and I keep it close to my chest, because I don't stop thinking about that woman who says I can't live like this anymore. And then you try and reach out to them and then there's nothing And there's no way of contacting them because you don't know their families and friends. We have this private online support group, but you don't know anything past their profile picture and name. And then, when that person disappears, you're only left wondering like where is she? What has happened to her? What is trauma repeating on cycle? It's too much, honestly, for one person to go through that and try and carry. It is too much. And that's when I got my own psychological support again to talk through that. I even said to my counselor how do you cope with all this? Like, who helps you? And she explained there's a big chain of command. She has someone who she debriefs with and then that person has someone they debrief with. You always need a good supportive network who you can rely on.

Stephanie Thompson:

But yes, it's not a joyful place to be. It hasn't been. But now I've turned a corner for myself. I'm now talking about that more than anything. So those who are ready to hear it and to start that part of their journey, they're very welcome. And for some women who have either just been diagnosed or just had their baby and they're still navigating what is this prolapse thing? it might not be the right space for them Because I remember being early diagnosed and thinking, looking at other women going well, why are you so happy You've got prolapse? Are you kidding? Why isn't your life sucky? My life sucks, and like there's that journey word again. It takes time and work and energy.

Emily Webb:

Yeah, What are the things that are helping you most with your mental health, and you've mentioned that you've gone into hospital for some mental health care. You've done a lot of things, but what's currently working for you right now?

Stephanie Thompson:

Multiple times I put my hand up and admit that I went into a psychiatric parenting centre. It was actually. I didn't realise it was at the time and thought, oh my God, what is wrong with these? people are all very sick. What's like I'm in the wrong place, mum, and I think she knew I was actually in the right place, i just didn't even know it. And so once you come through the other side of that, i mean this was years ago, i think my son was only so I'm going to say seven weeks old, so now he's five. So this is what I mean. It's the time. Time it gives you a lot of energy.

Stephanie Thompson:

And for me right now, there was paradigm shift, a huge paradigm shift. One when I wrote the book, so that was like a big release. The second one was when we started the podcast and I realised that by not only me being allowed to talk about it, but giving other people voice to talk about it was a huge thing. And then the third thing was just recently, in December, like as recently as December. I'm talking in my journey, taking myself out of my current location and going to the other side of the world and being different and thinking different. My mindset has different. So now I wake up, i daily journal, i meditate. I don't drink alcohol, i have seen all the physiotherapists under the sun, but I found the thing that helps me, which is reforma pilates. That helps my body, mind and spirit. I connect with people that I love And that's what I do. It's not too complicated, other than that. I know it sounds very simplified, but it can be that easy.

Emily Webb:

Once you've come through the other side, i will say Yeah, And that you know there's a lot of work that goes into what is now to you or to other people go. Oh, that sounds okay. There's a lot of work And also there's that acknowledgement that you know there may be times where you need to access more help. I mean, mental health is a. It's an up and down thing, just as living with your invisible, dynamic disability. It's not going to be the same each time And I guess for people who are listening and we will have lots of links in the show notes, So make sure you read those. What, besides, obviously your brave mum, are the podcast and your resources that you've compiled. What are some of the other places that people can go for assistance? support, You've mentioned the continents foundation.

Stephanie Thompson:

Yes, i would definitely say the continents foundation is a wonderful resource. I know when you go there you may see an older generation, not kind of new mums, but they're working on that. They've got new brochures and things coming out. The second one there's there's multiple birth trauma associations. So there's one here in Australia, there's one in the UK where you can log on and look at information there. So the mental health support, the Gidget Foundation Australia, is getting so much better at being able to support the Australian mums in that, you know, newborn phase. But for prolapse specific, there are a number of online support groups in Facebook. The one that comes to mind for me is it's called APOPs, it's A-P-O-P-S. It's Sherry Palm who, to me, is a shining light in this space. She's been doing this for years and years before me. We've teamed up, she's come on the show and every day she bangs the drum so that our future girls will have access to better education, better support and hopefully, better prevention when it comes to prolapse, because it is preventable.

Emily Webb:

Well, stephanie, this has been an absolutely incredible conversation, and I didn't expect to share as much as I did with you about my own experience, and it was actually really amazing because, yeah, there's just this sort of oh well, you know, the baby was fine, i was okay, let's just move on. But you know, sometimes these things, you reflect on them and think, wow, that was pretty, pretty major, and it's always good to share this information. So a massive thank you for being a guest.

Stephanie Thompson:

You're very welcome. Thank you for sharing. I love that you were able to feel comfortable to open up in this conversation because you're going to help so many other women feel less alone.

Team at Ermha365:

If you've been affected by anything discussed in this podcast, you can phone Lifeline on 131114 or go to lifelineorgau. You've been listening to Get Real Talking Mental Health and Disability, brought to you by the team at Irma365. Get Real is produced and presented by Emily Webb, with Karenza Louis Smith and special guests. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next time.

Childbirth Trauma and Lack of Trust
Limited Options in Childbirth
Childbirth Communication Trauma
Pelvic Health Education for Women
Living With Pelvic Organ Prolapse
Surviving and Thriving With Prolapse
Impact of Incontinence and Disabilities
Mental Health and Support for Prolapse