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Keana’s Healing Waterbirth
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Just over four months prior to my daughter’s birth, our family survived an armed robbery in our home during which my husband, Pieter was shot twice, seriously and I was shot in my hand. Our 3-year-old son, Kael did not sustain any physical injury and I was 5 months pregnant with our daughter at the time. This is the story of my journey towards healing climaxed by the birth of our daughter, Keana on 11 June 2008.
I am woken up at 5am with my waters breaking. At first I wasn’t sure if it was amniotic fluid or my bladder emptying itself. As the fluid continued to flow I realised I had no control over it and it dawned on me that this is it, the day our daughter will be born. I woke Pieter up and told him what happened and he logged onto the Internet on his cell phone to do some quick research on how to be sure it was my waters that broke, as there were no contractions. We marvelled together at the power of technology although I wasn’t too happy when one search result returned information stating that once the amniotic fluid had ruptured, labour could last up to 48 hours. I was not keen on that idea and quickly stated the intention that I wanted to be home in time to watch Egoli at 18h30 with my baby in my arms! Shortly afterwards I felt slow, gentle waves moving through my belly. Each wave confirming that indeed, this was it, the day we had been waiting for.
Four weeks prior, I found myself sitting in my gynaecologist’s office crying my eyes out, on the verge of begging for a caesarean section. Mentally I felt totally unprepared for a natural delivery. The last four months were characterized by fear, fear for my husbands life, my life and the lives of our children, fear of going to sleep, fear of being attacked again and fear that complications may develop in our unborn baby, due to the high anxiety I was feeling. I felt anguished mentally and had worked hard at processing what had happened to us while at the same time doing my best to remain calm and keep my strength for the sake of our baby girl. I was afraid of going into physical pain associated with labour and afraid that I would not be able to get through it and that I would give up half way through. My doctor listened to me and gently reassured me that I was in good hands with Heather and Margo (as I knew I was) and that he would be on stand-by for me. He told me that something “else” kicks in when a woman naturally delivers a baby and that I had done this before, to trust myself and to keep to my original intention for a natural delivery. I am so grateful for the wisdom and insight he gave me on that day as it allowed for me to experience one of the best days of my life.
That day was today. I had planned to use movement to assist with pain management and started bouncing up and down on my birth ball at home. I lit the candle we had received especially for this day and plugged my earphones into my phone. With each contraction I bounced and disappeared into the music I had selected for today. One of the most poignant was the song, “Absence Of Fear” by Tori Amos. I cried as I listened to the words, each of them touching a place very deep inside of me…
“Inside my skin, there is this space
It twists and turns, it bleeds and aches
Inside my heart, there’s an empty room
It’s waiting for lightning, it’s waiting for you.
I am wanting, I am needing you here
Inside the absence of fear
Muscle and sinew, velvet and stone
This vessel is haunted it creaks and moans
My bones call to you, in a separate skin
Make myself translucent, to let you in
I am wanting, I am needing you here
Inside the absence of fear
There is this hunger, this restlessness inside of me
And it knows that you’re no stranger, you’re my gravity
Hands will adore you through, all darkness and
They’ll lay you out in the moonlight and re-invent your name.
I am wanting, I am needing you here
Inside the absence of fear.”
I had been carrying my daughter through the trauma and anxiety of the shooting and I knew that this song was for us. I was calling her to meet me in the absence of fear and to embrace this birth, her birth, with joy and delight. I felt a tremendous weight lift from me as I boldly bounced, cried and laughed my way into the journey ahead.
We drove to the Stork’s Nest and met with Heather at 11h00. She checked all our vitals and confirmed that we were 3cm dilated. Our friend Julie and her daughter, Jordan arrived to offer support and love for the road ahead. The room was filled with light and laughter and the innocence of a child already. The contractions were still gentle and I was easily able to move through them and with them and marvel at the beauty of my body, as it knew exactly what to do to bring my daughter to me. Slowly the frequency and intensity of the contractions increased. Our friends Angela and Garrick arrived to offer support and Angela immediately took on the task of rubbing my back, my bum, my calves and legs to keep the energy flowing. She counted with us, moved with us and supported us beautifully and completely. Garrick took on the task of photographer and took lovely photos of the labour process that I will cherish forever. Pieter gently guided me through each contraction, held my hands, rubbed my jaw, kissed me and held eye contact to keep me focussed. I needed his contact, and connection with me, his immense inner strength and his comforting love and support, he gave it as he has so many times in our lives together. I felt loved, safe and most of all unafraid in this beautiful room filled with light, love and laughter.
When it became more challenging for me to work with each contraction, I climbed into the warm welcoming water of the birthing bath. The contractions were steady and pain that had not registered before made itself known as my daughter moved further and further along the birth canal. For a moment I panicked, I had lost myself in the movement and music, in swaying and breathing and the physical exertion caught up with me. I felt tired for the first time and did not know how much longer I could go on. The contractions were like stormy waves and they continued to peak and break before swelling up again. Heather checked again and to my surprise and relief, she announced that I was 10cm dilated and that I was ready to begin pushing. I was amazed and happy that we were so far along.
Memories of coffee plungers and panting puppies came back to me, as I got ready to bear down. This was it, what we were all here for. It took a certain amount of strength to bear down and push. I realised that true commitment was required at this point of the journey to bring my daughter to me; I had to push through the pain to bring her down and ever closer to the outside light. I marvelled at the synchronicity of my own journey, how I have courageously pushed through mental and emotional pain to reach the light.
Pieter climbed into the bath with me and held me and supported me from behind. His strength flowed through me as he held me and for a moment I felt as if we were in the palms of God’s hands – safe, warm and surrounded by love and life. I could see and feel my daughter’s head as she moved down with each contraction. I longed to hold her and for the labour to be over. With the next push, her head crowned and we could all see her wispy black hair. I held her there and awaited the next contraction. It came, I gently panted and pushed, closed my eyes and felt the release of her body as she slid free of mine into the warm water.
I opened my eyes to find my beautiful baby girl, Keana in my arms. I gazed upon her filled with immense joy at finally being able to hold her so precious and prefect. I kissed her and held her and quietly whispered my thanks to her for being born into our family and for being here. I felt like her and I had been through so much already and that she had at times held me and carried me through some of the darkest moments of my life while I carried her and treasured and reassured her. I have been in love with her from the beginning and this love exploded within me as I reverently held this baby close to my heart. I silently prayed that our relationship would always reflect this closeness and this love and that she would always know that I am here for her, and will forever love her as completely as I do on this day.
I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and perfection of this birth. I did not specifically recall immense pain (with the exception of the last 10 minutes or so), I felt strong and in awe of what I had just accomplished. This birth has shown me so much about myself, so much about my mental and emotional capacity and how powerful and strong I am. Keana was born at 16h50 almost 12 hours after my waters had broken. In those twelve hours I let go of immense fear as I journeyed through pain and embraced the strength, power and love that I am. It was a journey of healing like no other I have experienced and I feel full and confident as I continue to stride through this blessed and beautiful life.
My deep thanks and gratitude to my magnificent husband Pieter, his love and compassion inspire me and uplift me. To my first loved son Kael, for his innocence and love. Thank you to my friends Julie, Angela and Garrick – you were each there when I needed you to be, in the way that I needed you. Your love and support is astounding. To Heather and Margo, thank you for creating such a beautiful space for moms to birth their babies and in many ways to birth themselves. It is a profound and blessed journey and I am honoured to have shared it with all of you.