“I have been delaying writing my birth story. It has taken me a while to process the events from that day, and the days and few weeks following, and to be okay with not writing a ‘perfect’ story with perfect English. I truly hope that being real about the latter, and that which follows, will make at least one other mom out there, facing a similar experience, feel less alone in having had a ‘good but not perfect’ birth.
Oh, the itching…Praying for you to come soon
Carrying what is anticipated to be a big boy, with an Olympic-sized pool to practice laps in (I have a large amount of amniotic fluid for no apparent medical reason), in the middle of a blazing summer, the last thing I wish for is getting PUPPP. Oh, the itching – the intense, unstoppable, make-you-lose-your-mind itching. Ice-packs and Calamine Lotion bring only temporary relief. With false labour signs appearing around week 37 (and more than a few trips to the hospital, being a first-time mom and not knowing the difference between a really full bladder and my membranes releasing), and then nothing for weeks, I pray HARD (Church in tow) for my boy to make his appearance on his due date. I am over it!
02:00 a pop and a gush…on time!
I had not heard any of my mom-friends say this up until that point, but you truly do get tired of hearing, “what, are you still pregnant?” especially when you look like you are about to pop – and want to pop the person on the other end of that sentence. Being more than exasperated at this point, but having to just ‘let go and let God’, there is no better sound and sensation than that “pop” and gush as my membranes release…the morning of my due date! I awake with a smile and a very strange mix of excitement and anxiety at what it signals – I am about to meet my son!
You don’t seem too keen to meet the world…breakfast, steps, oxytocin
These are without a doubt NOT Braxton Hicks; these are – appropriately named – surges. The breathing techniques I had learnt and practised from Hypnobirthing classes kick in almost automatically. We time the surges, get dressed, drive to the hospital in a thankfully less frantic mode than in the movies, strap on the monitor, and wait…
In the next 10-12 hours, my surges spread further and further apart, the opposite of what ALL the books say would happen. You don’t seem too keen to meet the world yet, baby boy. A thorough breakfast, walking up and down the Union Building steps…nope, you are content in your pool.
We discuss the need for intervention with our midwife, Christel. Already my heart sinks just a little. This is not how it’s supposed to go. The Oxytocin drip (not part of the picture I’ve envisioned) goes in so that the process of birth can get a bit of encouragement to really get going.
Hypnobirthing – it works!
The surges increase in intensity, very quickly moving on to coming within 2 minutes of each other. I alternate between rocking on the birthing ball and walking up and down the short hallway of the Midwives Exclusive Femina Birth Unit, with my husband and the bean bag in tow. I listen to the calming and affirming voice of the Birth Affirmation tracks on my phone, in between sharing a laugh with my amazingly supportive and loving husband, while still linked to a metal stand with suspended bags of fluid urging my body to birth this baby.
The bath is ready, the candles (which we carefully selected for this very moment) are lit – this will do the job, surely? I awkwardly try to find some kind of comfortable position while my husband juggles reading out affirmations to me and answering the family’s messages. This is not how I had imagined it would be. The surges are intense, and my body is getting increasingly tired, yet the water is not as soothing and containing as I had thought it would be. The reality of where this birth is heading is starting to creep in, threatening to confirm what the scans kept saying, that I did not stand the best chance of birthing naturally. Still, how can this be?
Back on the bed, with my focus continuously on correct breathing, deepening my relaxation, and working with my body to deliver this baby, I am finally 8cm dilated. Everyone in the room is in disbelief that I am this calm at this point in the birthing process. I am immensely thankful, whilst experiencing very real and intense pressure with each surge, that we followed the Hypnobirthing-route. I have not felt scared, overwhelmed, or out of control at any point in the process, something which I did not associate with giving birth before I saw with my own eyes that it is possible. It seems, though, that my membranes have not released properly, possibly preventing my baby’s head from descending into the birth canal. Another intervention follows, and still no baby.
When Plan A becomes a (dreaded) B
I cannot begin to explain how much I appreciate and value the gentle yet expert professional guidance and support of my midwife. When yet another intervention does not seem to ‘do the trick’, Christel very lovingly and gently takes my hand, sits next to me on the bed, and explains the crossroads we are at. I find it very difficult to put into words exactly how disappointed, deeply saddened and alone I feel in that moment. This is not the story I want to tell.
Finally, and with peace in my heart that it is the best decision, we decide to welcome my boy into this world by Caesarean Section. As the medical team goes through the steps to prepare me to go into theatre, and my body keeps surging, a violent flood of emotions silently takes over. I feel intensely scared, removed from the situation, like a ‘patient’, out of control, like everything is moving a mile a minute, and oh so overwhelmingly alone while being the ‘centre of attention’.
I am not prepared for a C-section. I haven’t read up about it, as I subconsciously hoped and believed that it would not be part of this journey. Despite the very professional work of the medical team, I think they unfortunately do not fully realise that what comes to them as routine and without question, can be a very frightening experience for the ‘patient’. I don’t have the time to assimilate the what or why of seeing my belly being cut open yet not feeling pain, hearing my child cry his first cry as he enters this world yet not being able to hold him, feeling nauseous and shaking violently from the side effects of the spinal tap, and and and. Nothing prepares you for this, and nothing can make up for the feeling of being robbed of a better, as nature intended, ‘perfect’ experience, despite the fact that the surgery went well and we are all alive and healthy.
And then you smile
Finally, after what feels like light years, and while I am still being sown-up, I look into the eyes of my beautifully perfect, neatly wrapped baby boy, Mighael. It feels surreal and disconnected, because I was not able to lift him up from under the water onto my chest. And then he smiles…I am his, and he is mine. Just for a few moments, everything else becomes nothing in the face of this moment – I am his mom, and he is ‘my seuntjie’. Nothing will ever be the same again.
It seems strange that, while we know life hardly ever happens as we plan, we are continuously disappointed when this reality confronts us almost daily. AND THAT IS OKAY. It is okay to have wanted something different, to feel a sense of loss, and to mourn the experience which is left behind only in the black ink letters on your birth plan. Yes, I have a healthy boy, AND (NOT but), he did not enter this world as I had hoped. Disappointment and joy can share the same space. It is the joy, though, that wins as I see His hand of Grace in our lives every single day. I am thankful for this journey.”
All images for this post supplied by Sam Schröder Birth Photography