Baby Caleb born on 18 October 2015, weighing 2.69kg.
Place of Birth: Home-birth
Before falling pregnant I was always the ‘give me drugs’ person who promised to have an epidural when I gave birth one day. Why experience intense pain when you can numb it right? That was until I fell pregnant with our first child whilst living in Malaysia. Only then did I really start doing some real research into natural and intervention-free birthing. I had never heard of a doula and was not sure what the role of a midwife was as I figured everyone just used a gynae. What I discovered that women with low-risk pregnancies only needed a midwife, I became set on this option as I had enjoyed an incredible, comfortable pregnancy. I read the positive birthing stories on Angela’s website ( she came highly recommended) and decided then and there that I wanted a water birth. I love bathing, am quite a water baby and find warm water very relaxing so this made sense plus I’d discovered that with each intervention ( e.g epidural, forceps etc.) there were cascading consequences for myself and my baby. So I’m became set on having a drug free birth with a midwife and started reading the hypnobirthing book. Once I read the stories of women who were able to relax and nap during birth it seemed insane not to try. I was never a ‘home birth’ type of person, but coming back into South Africa with no medical aid meant unaffordable costs at a hospital.
Two weeks into our antenatal classes at The Birth Hub with Angela and three doulas, we decided to have a doula, Charlene, with us during our home birth. Unlike a medically trained midwife who is your primary caregiver, a doula is there to provide emotional and often physical support to you and your husband during birth. Luckily I asked Charlene to be my doula on Thursday, as my contractions started a day later. Walking on an icy Muizenberg beach at 38 weeks, I started to feel menstrual-like cramps and aching in my abdomen and lower back which was strange as it had been a long time since I had felt period pain. My husband started to panic as he had read that this could mean the onset of early labour.
I calmly messaged Charlene and Angela and asked what this meant. Charlene mentioned that this could excitedly be the start of labour! We were in shock. We were staying with my parents who were away for the weekend and there were still so many baby goodies that we had to buy. Angela advised me to eat, rest and sleep.
With contractions that ranged from 10 to sometimes 5 minutes apart, sleeping was easier said than done. I slept and woke and tried to go to the toilet often to ease the strange sensation of contractions or surges. At that stage I didn’t realise that the increasing lower back pain was actually back labour which would make things a lot more challenging for me later on.
In the morning, Angela said we should pop by to her place to pick up the pool and come for a check up and have our first official meeting with Charlene. Up until then we were still in denial. But upon examining me, Angela confirmed that labour had in fact begun and that my cervix was started to thin and prepare for labour. “ Birth could happen anytime from midnight tonight”, Angela said and that sent Vaughan and I into a mild shock. Tonight? But we still didn’t feel ready and my contractions were starting to become more and more intense but never got closer together.
Another night of hardly sleeping, this time with unbearable back contractions that felt like hot ash up my behind. The front contractions, I could handle, the back- not so much. After a rough night, I messaged Angela in the morning saying that I could not do another 24 hours like this and that I needed help and tips on coping. Both nights I had fallen asleep to the Relax Into Birth hypnobirthing cds and used visualisations which I had luckily just learnt. But Sunday morning, I didn’t think I could continue this way. Angela popped in for a checkup and luckily I had already dilated to 4cm, which meant that a weekend of contractions were not for nothing. We realised that my back labour was being caused by the position of my son’s head. He was in the right position for birth but had his head back against my pelvis. She was able to push his head slightly away so that it provided momentary relief. I was physically and emotionally spent, but Angela encouraged me to see it through and not transfer to my backup hospital Mowbray as they seldom gave epidurals anyway. “I’m very proud of you for your fortitude”, seemed like all the encouragement I needed to continue.
Later that Sunday afternoon when the intensity of my contractions worsened but never quickened to shorter than 5 minutes apart, Angela returned to break my waters and speed things along. She cautioned us that if the water was not clear it would mean that I’d have to go to hospital. But thank God it was all clear. Things really sped up then and Charlene arrived and started helping Vaughan to set up the room for the birthing. Preparing the candles to be lit, filling the birthing pool with 37 degree water and doing hip/butt squeezes on me to provide some relief with each contraction, Charlene was absolutely amazing and much-needed support. Curtains were drawn and the family were told we would see them after the birth. It seemed like an age until the pool was ready and I was able to leave the bed ( sitting on ball was much too uncomfortable) and jump in the warm water. Once I was in and my active labour began it all went fairly quickly. On all fours, I held onto my husband for support while lifesaver Charlene continued to give me butt squeezes with every contraction and Angela assured me that I was doing a great job.
The best and most intense part of it all was when I got to feel Caleb’s little hairy head crowning. The second last surge brought his head out and Angela encouraged me to wait until the next surge to push again. In the meantime she told me that I would feel him wriggling to get his shoulders out and sure enough I felt it. What a magical feeling! The last surge brought his body out into the water and into Angela’s arms. What pure joy and relief! I was able to hold him to my chest immediately, thereafter Vaughan could cut the cord and I delivered the placenta easily. No hospital, no separation from my baby just out the water and onto a bed where I was shown how to breastfeed. I cannot thank my midwives ( Midwife Ciska joined at the end to assist) and doula enough for this special experience. Straight afterwards we walked into the lounge with our baby boy to family waiting with champagne and singing Praise songs to the sounds of a guitar! What a moment! I feel truly blessed to have birthed my boy in the way I wished- in warm water at home with no pain meds.