Dear James,

Your birth was the easiest birth for me, and you have been such a sweetheart for these first six days of your life. I hope it is not because you’re jaundiced! I’m trying to wake you up and make you nurse when you’re actually content to sleep.

This is your birth story from my perspective:

Wednesday, March 22nd, I had my 38 week check up with the midwife, and Esti (midwife standing in for mine) said baby is very low and she doesn’t know if I will make it until the due date (April 4th). Right afterwards I had a reflexology session with Marthie. She was my doula during Anna Kate’s birth, but she stopped her doula services for personal reasons.

After I got off the bed from the reflexology session I felt some cramping all over and when I made my appointment for the following week, I told the receptionist that I don’t know if I will make it. 🙂 I went downtown to the Department of Labour building (scary and gross!) and felt like labor was beginning. I picked up Louis from school and when we got home I noticed more signs that labor was beginning. I told everyone that labor has started because when I noticed the same things with LL I had him 24 hours later. I thought you would be born the 23rd while Louis and AK were at school, but things did not progress. I would have contractions regularly, but not intense, or intense but not regular or patterned. Everyone was so worried I was going into labor, and I was wondering why I was not. I had packed my toiletries Thursday morning, and had to unpack some of them Thursday night.

Luckily I was very tired Wednesday and Thursday night so I was in no mood to speed up labor, but rather wanted to enjoy some rest. However, both nights I was awakened by painful contractions. I did manage some naps, but at 11:20 on Thursday night after sleeping for about 2 hours, I was awakened by a painful contraction. I timed them until 12:30 or 1, and they were regular, but not all were intense. I remember one contraction at 12:06 I wrote “Holy Cow” next to the note on my phone.

I was breathing through the intense contractions and I sent a what’s app to my midwife, Heather, and doula, Lillian, to let them know I think things are progressing. I took a bath to slow things down, which it did until I got out of the bath. As soon as I got out, I had regular contractions but not intense.   I tried lying down and had a painful, intense, long contraction immediately. I notified the midwife and doula that I would try to be at the hospital by 4 am. I had woken Louis (husband) up around 1:30-2 to tell him I wanted to take a bath but there was no hot water. He helped me with that, and then when things slowed down a little he went back to sleep. So I had told him we need to go and then I told him we didn’t. I went back and forth thinking I’m in labor and not knowing for sure, since I had thought I was in labor two days before but nothing. Then around 3-3:30 I told him we need to go, but he was a little quiet and dragged his feet. At 3:45 I started to get anxious with him – we needed to go! Finally just after 4 am, we left and he stopped at the first red light. In the middle of the contraction, I yelled “Run it!” So we yielded at every red light on the way to the hospital. I had 3 contractions in the car during the 25 minute drive. That is really not close enough together to what I was used to for the transition phase. I had another contraction getting out of the car, and another trying to walk to the midwife unit, and 3 in a row before the midwife was able to check me.

The monitoring showed my contractions to be intense and your heart rate to be healthy. I was 8 cm dilated! I was so glad that most of the labor was behind me already. It had not been that bad – just some bleeding and contractions. Lillian had the bath ready and was asking what would I like her to do. She had ice water for me, and was applying counter pressure. She stepped out to warm my wheat bag, and Heather came in and held my hip joints applying pressure which helped so much. After I had several, painful contractions and was tired, I got into the warm bath. Ahhhhhhh. Louis took my picture and sent it to the family. Candles surrounded me, and your ultrasound photo of your hand waving at me was on the wall where I could see. I kept thinking, “Hello, James, you are about to meet your mama and pappa.”

Then the contractions started again. They were painful and long, but I had nice breaks between. Lillian rubbed my face and ensured my neck was supported with towels, applied pressure to the my head when I wanted to tilt it, and most importantly helped me remember to breath. She promotes J -Breathing envisioning each breath with each contraction bringing baby closer.

At some point someone brought Louis his second cup of coffee and a rusk, and I had a contraction right then. I said, “Don’t eat that now!” When the contraction was over, I told him he could eat it. This was because I wanted his hand on my shoulder during every contraction. For some reason it relaxed me just as it did with Anna Kate.

Heather said James will be here soon. She encouraged me to relax and open the pelvis and told me it was time to push during the contractions if I was ready. Louis kept his hand on my shoulder and held my left hand. Lillian held my right hand and knew when a contraction was coming by my signal of raising my pinkie. At the end of every contraction I smiled because I was so excited that you were about to come. My baby, my last baby. I thought I would be sad to stop being pregnant with my last one, but the joy of you coming completely overwhelmed any of those feelings. Your hand waving at me helped me get through your labor.

Contrary to Anna Kate’s birth where it was intensely painful for the last 3-4 hours with 2 second breaks in between contractions, the end of yours had bigger breaks in between. Maybe 10-15 seconds. I think this was because Lillian had encouraged me to work trough any fears beforehand. I was calmer. The contractions with Anna Kate seemed to want my body to throw her out. The midwife has a couple of techniques to help prevent tearing, and she coached me through pushing both of you. With Anna Kate I had to hold back and it felt like I was swimming upstream in a reservoir where the dam wall had been opened – almost impossible. With you I had to mentally push with the contractions, and I couldn’t believe that it was time to push. My water broke when I started pushing. Heather told me when to stop pushing and when to start, and this helped me physically. Your head came out and Pappa was a little freaked out that you had to stay like that under the water and wait on the rest of the body. Also, your one hand came out next to your head, sort of like Superman. Little Louis had done the same! In the most wonderful moment, the best feeling of relief and excitement, I delivered the rest of your body and they handed you to me. 6:29 am on Friday, March 24th.

I said, “Hey! Scream if you want! Hey, my baby, you’re so cute!” (You didn’t scream right away so I was a little afraid, but then you did as soon as I said that.) We were skin to skin, and they put a warm towel over you. They left you with me for at least 30 minutes. You were slow to latch for nursing but you finally did and did a good job! You fed for a loooong time. Oupa Lukas and Ouma Marie called and asked how much you weighed, and I didn’t know yet because they were waiting on you to finish nursing.

At last they did your measurements: 3.5 kg, 54 cm long. Your apgar score was 9/10 initially then 10/10 5 minutes later.

Then Pappa held you while Lillian got me tea and helped me to a shower. Pappa said, “Oh, you’re a little fighter!” because you seemed feisty the first time he held you.

The hospital brought Pappa and I breakfast, and Ouma arrived. We all went up to my room, and your sweet newborn wrinkles and cuddles have been such a joy ever since.

You are named after my grandfathers, James Barron Caulfield of Water Valley, MS, and James Puryear Wiman of Brandon, MS. Your middle name is from Pappa’s pappa, Lukas Petrus Steenkamp of Springs, South Africa. You have the same birthday as Pappa’s Oupa, Jacobus Louis Steenkamp, who passed away in 2004.

Louis and Anna Kate came to meet you after school.   Ouma had arrived Thursday night, and she took them to school. Pappa brought them to meet you, and they were thrilled! Little Louis LOVES his baby brother and dotes on you all the time. Anna Kate was afraid of you, but has warmed up to you now. She wakes up and asks me, “Where’s baby James?” You are all of our baby, James.

My sweet baby James.

Love.

Your mama

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