Stephanie & Stephan van Rooyen Birth Story

Right after our beautiful baby boy was born my husband Stephan asked me if I would do it again.  “No, never!” was my reply.  Though sitting here, 4 weeks later, I am ready to have 3 more children.

I dreamt about the birth almost a month before it happened.  Everybody has their own opinion about dreams but I truly believe that mine was to prepare me.  In my dream nothing was the way I imagined and planned it to be.  My Midwife wasn’t there… and just as I thought I won’t be able to make it, she popped into the picture.   Just after that our little baby boy was born!

One day past 40 weeks, that Thursday evening, 22:00, I started to have period like pain. I climbed into bed with the intention to rest, but I was too excited and too anxious.   At around 24:00 I had a little bloody show, so I told Stephan this might be it.  Around 3:00 Friday morning the dull pain turned into contractions and because it was my first time I started to monitor the contractions.  (Note to self-try to sleep through these initial contractions because the best is yet to come)  I sent my Midwife Esti and my mom a message.  Esti suggested I take a warm bath and try to rest because even though the contractions was about 6-7 minutes  apart, they were at 30 seconds each, not long enough.

In Esti’s message, she also let me know that they had a very rough week and she is booked off for two days.  She gave me Christine’s number and said she will be assisting me with my birth.  Immediately I remembered my dream where my Midwife wasn’t there with my birth.  For me, being someone who likes to know what is going to happen, as well as when and how…this made me bit nervous.  Nevertheless, we waited until 6:00 and then contacted Christine.  She suggested we meet up at Netcare Femina at 11:00 to check my progress.

The contractions on the way to the hospital honestly really hurt!  Therefore I was disappointed to find out that I was only about 2 cm dilated.  After my check-up I went to the bathroom.  As I walked, I felt a gush and suddenly my whole skirt was wet.  I turned around and told Christine I think my water just broke.  She came to the bathroom to check, but there were no more water coming out.  We later discovered that my sac did tare a little and Eben’s head held the tare closed until later that evening.  Christine assured me that there is still nothing to worry about and that I must go home, eat and rest.

At home I did try to rest but I am not going to lie (it being my first time) the contractions were really sore and distracting.  I had mixed emotions and felt that the drive to the hospital will be too far if baby decides to come.  By 17:00 I felt that this time it must really be it because the contractions are longer, closer together and even more painful.  The emphasise on the way the contractions hurt is not to scare the pregnant first time mommy reading this.  It is merely to be real and helpful to advise you to be prepared and rested, as I was not!

We arranged to meet up at the Midwife unit again at 18:00.  We took the hospital bags along and my mom came with as I wanted her to be there for the birth. After checking me again, Christine said I was 4 centimetres dilated and suggested that we go home again.  They say you feel more comfortable at home and are more likely to get faster progress at home because you are relaxed.  At the hospital some women tense up and start to stress and that causes the process to slow down.  In my mind however, I felt that I feel more comfortable at the hospital where I know there is someone to keep an eye on things and that she will be close if something happens.  We discussed it and decided that we will stay at the hospital for the evening.  Heather took over from Christine and said that if I stay I will need to be active for the process to keep going on track and that she will check the dilation again at 23:00.  Knowing myself, if I was at home I wouldn’t have been so active and I would have stressed a lot and this would’ve stopped the progress.

Stephan and I started to walk around the hospitals parking lot, determined to get things moving.  He was so sweet and supportive and motivated me all the way.  We would walk up and down the lot and stop every time I get a contraction.  He will then hold me in his arms and we would sway our hips from side to side and then bent our knees slightly into a squat.  This movement helped me to get through the contractions and to keep focus.

My dad brought us dinner to keep our strength up, but I wasn’t in the mood to eat.  Although now I know that next time I must try to eat more and drink much, much more water! Keeping hydrated is key…

I bounced on the ball a bit, showered, gotten into the bath,-everything I could do to help with the pain-and also to keep the dilation going.  At 23:00 Heather came to check again while I was in the bath.  It was such a relief to hear that I was now 5cm dilated and she was happy with the progress.  I kind of lost track of things after that point because the tiredness started to take over my body and mind.  By now I was awake for a full 23 hours and counting…

My mom was such a big blessing as she helped in the background with all the small things.  Getting me water, helping to dry me off, comforting me with a cold cloth every contraction and so much more.  After everything my mom has done for me and Stephan on that day, I realized how important a Doula is.

Every hour I dilated a centimetre further.  Suddenly, still lying in the bath, exhausted, I had this massive urge to push with the contractions.  With Heathers calm demeanor and sweet smile she instructed me to focus where I push.  Who knew it is not just pushing…You have to concentrate to push down and relax and not press the pressure up into your throat.  By now I was fully dilated and it was time for Eben’s big debut, but he was a no show!

With all the pushing I couldn’t get him to nudge past my pelvis bone.  I started to completely lose control-asking Heather to rather let me get a C-section.  I did not have the mind-set to think I will be able to push this baby out.  Despite my freaking out, little Eben’s heartbeat was still strong and stable (i.e. me stressing for no reason really). But it made Heather decide to change things up.   She got the birth stool, turned on the lights and let me get out of the bath.  This made me realize that it is now or never.

There I sat on the stool between Stephan’s legs, vulnerable, tired, exposed but determined to give my very best.  They gave me a drip to get my energy up and also added something to get the contractions to speed up. Stephan was the best coach, whispering in my ear, guiding me through the contractions by helping me to focus where to push.   With every push Heather told me how good I was doing and that the head was right there…but still there was nothing more.  Turns out, because of the tiredness I took too many breaths between pushes.  Instead of holding him there, he slid back every time I gasped for air. (Dramatic, I know, but at that moment it felt like fighting for survival)

From here we moved to the bed and it was decided that the Kiwi pump will be used.  I was a bit out of it while Heather attached the pump to Eben’s head.  When it got time to push again, Esti has joined us and she sat right behind Heather where I can see her.  My dream…I remembered my dream – and that my baby boy will arrive just as Esti popped into the picture.  With 2 pushes Eben crowned!  “Okay, now just a small push” Heather said.  (Stephan always laughs at this part because I couldn’t understand why I have to give a small push now, just as I got the hang of the big pushes.  Apparently my face was priceless at that moment.)  The rest of his body slit out with a couple more “small” pushes.  Our baby was put on my chest and Stephan laid next to us.  In that moment it was only us 3, everything else blurred around me.  That moment will be precious to me forever.  After a while I called my mom to come meet her grandson and Stephan got ready to cut the umbilical cord.  He cut the cord with his knife that he carries with him every day.  A guy’s way of sentiment I guess, but it actually was rather cool! Eben was perfect, born 21 January, 6:40am, 3.3kg and 51 cm long.  He is beautiful in every way!

We are so grateful for all the Midwives for their support and assistance before, during and after the birth.  I am grateful for Heather being firm, in her sweet way which made it possible for me to give birth naturally without pain medication.  I am also grateful that Esti came in…her face played a big role in Eben’s arrival!

I would definitely want to give natural birth again.  A few things to take away from this experience however:

  1. Prepare yourself physically. Eat healthy and keep fit during the pregnancy.
  2. Rest, rest, rest, rest (especially when first labour pains start)
  3. Know that everything does not always go as planned.
  4. Make sure you have such a great supportive husband as mine.
  5. Have a Doula or someone in that role.
  6. Trust your Midwives.
  7. You’re stronger than you think.
  8. It is worth it! (When he is a month old you wish you could go back and have that moment again because time goes by so quick and they grow up so fast)
  9. After the birth you don’t actually have a clue what you are doing but you learn every day. You are the best mommy for that little one. Remember the Midwives offer great support.

Everyday has new challenges but it is so much fun.  Stephan and I have this thing now…Every time things seem a bit overwhelming, he takes me in his arms, we sway from side to side and go into a little squat…knowing that we will get through this.  Eben truly is our little bundle of joy!


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