I am sure this is true for most natural births. Nothing goes according to your much revised birth plan. In saying that I would like to begin this story by stating that I am so thankful that everything worked out the way that it did, and that if we are blessed with another baby I would choose this route again with these special people in a heartbeat!

Ever since I can remember birthing a baby was one of the things in life I was the most scared of. Horror stories of unbearable pain that tormented whoever was telling the story for what must have been 36 hours at least. Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to something like that?

The visit to the doctor to quickly confirm via a blood test your sneaky suspicion forces you to think of the end game. No, not the miracle baby cooing in your arms… but the HOW this baby will enter the world. That’s it. No turning back.

I immediately started researching (talking to other moms). People are really willing to discuss this major event in their lives, which is wonderful! I remember two of my friends telling me about their water births with midwives, these were the only stories of natural birth that weren’t infused with panic and lights and a million people checking on you with no regard for personal space or preferences.

My husband and I attended an information session at the birth house early on in my pregnancy. I was struck by the balance between professionalism and genuine warmth of the staff. They are extremely knowledgeable in all related topics regarding birth. I got the sense that I would find here someone to guide me on a journey rather than being slotted in at a convenient time on a preselected date. Their affiliation with Femina was wonderful as it meant I could have my baby without the stress of travelling to hospital if “something went wrong” and a natural birth was for some reason too dangerous, I would simply travel the 15 odd meters down the corridor to the maternity ward!

We met Christine after we concluded the 12 and 16 weeks check-up with the gynaecologist at Femina. I really enjoyed the holistic approach that included the physical and emotional wellbeing of everyone involved. The personal relationship was exactly what I was looking for in this very personal journey.

We attended Hypno-birthing classes at the birth house which really assisted in terms of relaxation techniques and understanding the birth process. I was delighted to find out that there were alternatives when a baby hasn’t turned or were positioned wrongly and that that didn’t automatically mean that I would have to go for a C-section.

I suffered from high blood pressure towards the end of my pregnancy and Christine monitored me very closely and sent me for tests to make sure we were both still healthy. I had to have my blood pressure measured daily and report back. At 39 weeks we met at Femina to see if we could induce birth naturally with a cervical sweep as my blood pressure was still a concern. She measured the baby’s vitals and was very happy with her condition and that she wasn’t in distress.

But my baby was very happy and snug. I really wanted a natural birth, but understood that if we approached the 42 weeks mark we would have to look at the alternative of an induction. During the last few visits our midwife, Christine asked Sr. Heather for her opinion and input on the pregnancy and viability for a natural birth, something I really appreciated. It made me feel part of the family, rather than just a patient. We also decided to engage the services of a Doula at this time. I loved the calm and reassuring energies of both Marthie and Christine and felt that we could really do this together. We discussed and agreed on my birth plan. I really wanted a water birth because of the tranquillity and pain numbing I’ve come to associate with it. So we had special candles, about 12 hours of yoga music, yoga balls, visualisation aids and a whole meal plan ready and packed.

At 40w4d I noticed the first bloody show at 11h in the morning. I went about my day, not too fussed as I was convinced there was at least another week to go. During the afternoon I started having contractions, feeling very similar if not as intense as Braxton Hicks. I phoned my husband and he came home immediately. I spoke to the Doula, Marthie, who had a conference in Cape Town that day and we joked that the baby must just hold on for another day. We made dinner and I felt that the contractions were coming at regular intervals all of a sudden. I phoned Christine and she advised a bath as this was probably just a false alarm, but to keep monitoring. I got into a nice warm bath and listened to the relaxing hypno-birthing scripts. At around 22h30 my husband came in and counted with me. The contractions were 3 minutes apart and getting a lot more intense very fast!

After a bit of deliberating I asked if we could go to the hospital as I didn’t know how much more intense the contractions were going to get and I didn’t want to travel in more pain than I already was. I tried my best to relax, but the fear of what was probably happening made quite a dent in my resolve to stay calm! My husband phoned Christine and arranged to meet her at the hospital. On the way there he asked if I wanted to stop for some snacks, the look I gave him must have sufficed as an answer, because we just drove straight there.

At 00h29 arriving at the hospital was a very big relief, as I was convinced I could already feel the baby’s head. My husband dashed for a wheelchair and we raced to the midwife unit taking the turns on two wheels like something out of a movie. We were there first and he helped me out of my clothes and onto the bed. All of a sudden everything was very quiet as I laid there, in the slight darkness, I looked down and I could see her head en caul. My husband rushed back with a nurse in tow. She asked me to push once, pricked the amniotic sac and the baby came rushing out…a perfect little red haired girl.

Moments later Christine was there. Just as surprised as us by the very expedient birth that took all of 16 minutes since we arrived at the hospital. She took over from the nurse and helped with the placenta and check-up of us both. She had to give me some stitches as well as a couple of injections for bleeding. After a while I got up and took a shower there in the room. She didn’t leave me for a second and I really appreciated her presence, especially since I fainted right after the shower. She administered a drip and discussed with me the possibility of being admitted to hospital for observation as I was still bleeding. My husband helped her with measuring and weighing our baby girl, allowing me to rest for a while. When everything was settled the three of us could sleep while Christine tackled the mountain of paperwork.

I ended up staying for observation for the morning and we we’re able to go home at around 14h in the afternoon. Christine came to see us at our home several times to see how we were doing and to show us some of the basics of bathing and breastfeeding. About 10 days after the birth I was admitted to hospital with mastitis, the antibiotics and medication ended up in my milk supply diminishing drastically. Thankfully Christine coached me in getting the supply going again and I managed despite physical difficulties to breastfeed my daughter for 15 months.

I also attended some of the support classes at the birth house and I really felt comforted by the practical, sympathetic and caring way that all the new mothers were treated. Having lived this experience I am no longer scared of the birthing process, I just have a very healthy respect for my body and thankful for the people who helped me through it.