Trigger Warning: This birth story contains details of postpartum haemorrhage and prolapse
Lexi was young and fit when she became pregnant with her first child and was excited about becoming a mum.
"I was young, fit and healthy," Lexi, 23, said. "I loved my body. I exercised every day and my sex life was amazing.
"My partner and I were so excited for our little girl and I had so many things planned after her birth. I never once thought I'd have issues during, let alone after labour."
The impact of the birth on her body, turned her life upside down.
"No more gym, no more squatting to clean or pick things up, no more walking longer than a couple hundred metres. No more sex," she wrote in a blog post.
"I couldn't even poo without holding my vagina for support. It all hurt too much, it all felt as though something was about to fall out. My relationship was going downhill, I was depressed and felt so alone."
Her post-birth experience followed a traumatic birth, which was very long and scary.
"Speaking of my birth brings back a lot of pain and emotions for me, but it's important to me to share this with other woman who may be feeling alone," she said. "I was laying on my left side in the worst pain I can describe and although so much is a blur, I have such a vivid memory of begging them to cut her out because I couldn't take it anymore."
"I had lost a lot of blood so unfortunately didn't get to hold my baby like I had imagined.
"I am still so very fortunate and grateful to have been able to deliver a beautiful baby girl."
But when her baby was three-weeks old, Lexi haemorrhaged and passed out while feeding her.
"I soaked a maternity pad, undies, pants and through to the mattress in a couple of minutes. I was sent to hospital in an ambulance, and sent home the next day being told it was a 'bad period' and given an ultrasound form 'in case I wanted to have a scan for peace of mind' after I told them how could it possibly be a period?" she said.
"I was in a lot of pain and experiencing a lot of pressure but being my first baby, I didn't know any different. Two days later, I haemorrhaged again, and the hospital took me seriously and discovered retained products and sent me in for surgery."
Five weeks after surgery and Lexi still had immense pain and spoke to three doctors and two gynaecologists and was given no answers as to what was wrong with her.
"I was essentially excused and told, and I quote, 'you can't expect to feel or look the same after having a baby'," she said.
"I was furious and so upset, I knew something wasn't right. I began to accept that this is how life was now.
This coming week #birthtrauma may be triggering for some women&partners. As we post things that you are affected by please know we see you and hear you. Go gently. Some may need to disconnect this week from social media. That is fine. Some may finally feel heard&recognised. 🙏🏽💗 pic.twitter.com/JdI2AjeG12— Hannah Dahlen AM (@hannahdahlen) September 6, 2020
"I researched as much as I could and reached out to multiple support groups and I had come to my own conclusion that I had a prolapse, based on other people's stories and research."
At six-months postpartum she went to a physiotherapist who specialises in women's pelvic floor post-birth.
"It was there she told me I had a pelvic organ prolapse (cystocele to be exact)," Lexi said.
"I can't begin to explain the weight that was lifted off my shoulders.
"She helped me with the correct pelvic floor exercises to help and we had regular appointments to ensure I was on track."
She told her what she could and couldn't do in terms of exercise and activities, and now Lexi can jog, do lunges, go on long walks, and she's even having sex again.
"Things are still progressing, and my future pregnancies are at a high risk of prolapsing, so I'm unfortunately not allowed to fall pregnant for at least another year to avoid unnecessary issues and am yet to decide whether I'll have an elected C-section for our next baby," she said.
"But I cannot explain how much I have improved mentally after having some closure and some hope after noticing improvements."
Lexi shared her story to help other women who might be searching for answers just like her and to also help highlight Birth Trauma Awareness week (6-12 September).
With one in three Australian women experiencing a traumatic birth, the Australasian Birth Trauma Association said research suggested that 10-20 per cent of first-time mothers (between 15,000 and 30,000 women in Australia each year) could suffer major irreversible physical birth trauma.
And more needed to be done to help them.
They're calling on families to help stop the stigma and, like Lexi, share their stories using the hashtag #starttheconversation. And help fight for better postnatal care so that nobody has to suffer in silence.
Something Lexi definitely supports.
"Things still aren't perfect, and some days still get me down, but if there is a woman reading this who has gone through something similar, you are not alone and it's not your fault," she said.
Birth Trauma Awareness week is the 6 - 12th September #starttheconversation.