When I was a few months pregnant I read about “birth plans” and started investigating what options were available. I read up on going natural and having elective c-sections. After a lot of thought I decided that I wanted a home water birth with a midwife and a doula.
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The idea of having my baby at home, with just my nearest and dearest there was really appealing to me. I hate hospitals and the idea of being cut open scared the living daylights out me – then again natural birth didn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park!
I had also heard horror stories about women wanting natural birth, going to hospital and being told that they had to have a c-section and finding out afterwards that there in fact was no medical reason for the c-section.
Apparently doctors just want to get the baby out and the quickest and most convenient way for them is just to do a c-section. I don’t know how much of this is fact and how much personal opinion.
I had also decided I wanted to try my best to breastfeed and I had been told by many how they also wanted to breastfeed only to find out that their baby had been given formula in the hospital!
Another factor is that I was told that skin to skin contact immediately after birth helps with bonding and a lot of the hospitals just take the baby away to weigh, measure, clean etc. I felt that in hospital I would feel powerless over how I wanted things to go.
Another huge factor that played a big part in my decision is that I am a recovering alcoholic and addict – so most forms of pain relief are not an option for me. I had also heard from a number of people that they didn’t ask for morphine after the op – it was just given to them.
What would happen to me if they gave me morphine by mistake? I have no idea and I didn’t want to find out!
When I fell pregnant I was living in Plumstead, Cape Town, but at 6 months pregnant I got married and moved to Saldanha Bay which is a drive of one and a half hours to the house in Plumstead.
I didn’t want to change midwife or have to worry about how my chosen midwife would make it all the way to Saldanha when I went into labour so I decided that when I went into labour I would travel to Cape Town to the house in Plumstead where my parents were staying. I was assured there would be plenty of time to do this.
My husband and I did the Mama Bamba course, as well as the Spiritual Birth Workshop with my midwife Marianne Littlejohn. We learnt all about homebirth, watched dvds, learnt about the stages of labour…. it was great. We also met other expecting couples and learnt about their birth plans, their fears and hopes. All in all I found it a wonderful experience.
Through talking with my husband and sessions with my midwife, over time I came up with my birth plan. When I went into labour I would call hubby to come home from work to fetch me. I would be well organised and have everything packed and ready to go…
On the drive into Cape Town we would inform Marianne (my midwife) that I was in labour and we would also call my sister as I had asked her to be present at the birth and to assist with well, I don’t know.. …whatever needed doing. Ruth Ehrhardt would also be present, she is a doula who is training to be a midwife and was present at a number of my appointments with Marianne.
We had the team – Marianne the midwife, Ruth the doula, hubby the birth partner, sister the assistant birth partner. We had booked the birthing pool, bought all the items instructed by Marianne for the home birth. As the time approached everything was organised (well sort of)…
When I fell pregnant I weighed a healthy 63kgs. The first trimester was a breeze except for the tiredness and of course having to come off some psychiatric medications very fast, so I struggled to sleep. I had a few mild symptoms – needing to pee a lot and sore breasts. Other than that I had a very easy first trimester in comparison to most women. No morning sickness (thank you!).
My second trimester went relatively ok. I picked up weight at a rapid pace and I ate like there was no tomorrow. I couldn’t control myself at all, the need for food was so intense.
At the start of the 2nd trimester the heartburn started too, I thought at the time it was bad – it was almost constant and I started drinking Gaviscon almost daily. To be honest it didn’t help much. I was told to stop eating so much and to stop eating certain foods and that would help with heartburn… stop eating? Are you insane, not a chance! Of course I also needed to pee constantly.
During the 2nd trimester I thought I had it quite tough, however in hindsight (after being through the 3rd trimester) I realise it was really not that bad.
Then the 3rd trimester hit with a vengeance! If you have read about any possible pregnancy symptom for the 3rd trimester I am sure I had it:
- Constant Heartburn (this put the 2nd trimester heartburn to shame!)
- Loss of control (farting, peeing in pants ugh!!)
- Pelvic pain (so bad at times I couldn’t walk without crying)
- Swollen feet (were those even feet any more?)
- Water retention
- Constant reflux
- Throwing up daily
- Sore back, sore feet… sore everything
- Pain when baby moved (she was just so BIG)
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (that sore wrist thing and fingers that feel numb)
- Insomnia (BIG time – if I slept 3 hours in 24 hours I was lucky)
I was huge, fat, 90kgs and so miserable. I couldn’t eat anymore and if I could get something in I felt like I would explode, then the food would just climb back up my throat. Then I would cough….. and pee in my pants. I would throw up and pee in my pants at the same time! I sneezed, I peed!
I would lie down because I was so sore and I would get heartburn so badly I would have to sit up and then I would get sore. I would finally start dosing off and then I would have to pee. I could hardly move and would huff and puff just to stand up from the couch. I was drinking a bottle of Gaviscon a day and I still don’t know why because it did nothing for me towards the end (and it cost R60 odd a bottle).
The only thing that seemed to work was chocolate milk – lots of it. I also tried drinking apple cider vinegar for the heartburn…. I read about that on some website. I tried it and it was disgusting…. it also made me throw up violently, but after throwing up for a few minutes it would actually give me a bit of relief for quite a while.
I began wishing I would go into labour and waited for any sign it could possibly be starting and nothing happened. My due date loomed closer and I was just praying all day every day for this to end. Even feeling my baby moving inside me was absolute agony… she was so big and when she moved it hurt so much, it felt like she was trying to claw her way out of my belly-button.
Time went so slowly in the last few weeks. I was in constant pain and so tired. I could do nothing but lie around in pain and in misery waiting for labour. I started thinking about my birth plan and then thinking about driving into the hospital and saying “cut this thing out of me!!”.
A week before my due date (Thusday 27/10/2012) I started seriously considering having a c-section, but my midwife called me on the Sunday night and told me that if I hadn’t gone into labour by Friday she would induce me…. the end was near. I have not looked forward to something so much in my life.
Time moved from slow to snail pace from Sunday night. I got more uncomfortable by the minute and each minute felt like an hour! My due date was Thursday and my induction was planned for the Friday if I hadn’t gone into labour by then.
It felt like forever to get there. I thought I was well prepared and then got into a panic because I could hardly move and the house kept getting dirty (as they do lol) and I felt so overwhelmed trying to get the place clean and ready for our baby girl’s arrival.
On the Thursday morning there was still no sign of labour and the house was dirty and there were so many little things I had wanted to get done that I just couldn’t seem to do. So Thursday morning I decided that I would just do everything and not stop until it was done even if it killed me in the process! I sent off my last few work emails, repacked my bags and cleaned like a crazy woman. It felt like it nearly did kill me.
I managed to get almost everything done before hubby got home. I had put the dish clothes in the sink to soak in jik and the only thing I had to do was mop the floors, which I decided to do after he came home as he would come home and walk on my wet clean floors.
So hubby got home and I told him to do what he needs to do and then lie on the bed so I could mop the house and it could dry. He did as he was told and waited for me. I mopped all the floors and mopped myself onto the bed.
Finally I lay down next to him and cuddled as best we could with this mountain of a tummy in between us. I was absolutely exhausted and for the first time in ages thought I was about to fall asleep…. then I rolled over and felt a gush of water!
I got off the bed and gushed water all over my nice clean wet floors. I thought when my waters broke or labour started I would be in an absolute panic, but I wasn’t. I calmly told hubby that my waters had broken and he jumped out of bed and asked “What do we do?”
I pointed at my bags packed neatly in the kitchen and told him to put them in the car and he said “What are you going to do?”
My reply was “I have to rinse the dishcloths and hang then up – I can’t leave them soaking in jik!”
So bags packed, dishcloths rinsed and hung up and we were in the car on our way to Cape Town. It was 17h45pm on Thursday 27 October – my waters broke on my due date… what’s the chances?
Half way to Cape Town I started having mild contractions and I contacted Marianne and my sister to let them know the fun was starting. We arrived in Cape Town in good time and nothing much was going on except the mild contractions and me gushing water everywhere. Marianne called and asked for an update and told her nothing much was happening, we were just going to have some food and try rest….
Marianne called again later and nothing had changed. She arrived late that evening anyway with all her equipment and settled in for the night. Hubby slept almost all night and I slept on and off, nothing too hectic. By the morning I was told my contractions weren’t getting stronger and she was still going to induce using castor oil. By that time my sister had also arrived.
Nothing much was going on except I was throwing up and a bit more uncomfortable. I drank the castor oil and nothing much happened for a long time except getting a runny tummy. By the afternoon my contractions were quite a bit stronger and having to go to the toilet all the time was no fun at all. In between going to the toilet I was sitting outside in the sun with my hubby and sister, throwing up on the lawn occasionally.
By early evening Marianne and hubby started getting the birthing pool ready. Marianne monitored me constantly – my baby was posterior which is known as a “back labour”. (Baby was lying head down but facing the wrong way). A back labour is apparently the most painful labour, I wouldn’t know as this is my only experience. I can only say, yeah it was rather painful!
My labour increased in intensity and I went through all the stages of labour relatively unscathed. It was intense but I was with it and relatively calm. Then Marianne told me it was time, that hubby and I should get in the pool so I could have some pain relief and soon I could start pushing.
I went through an intense while of labour and then everything calmed down a bit…. Marianne asked me if I felt like pushing and I felt no inclination. What I wanted was some crackers with cheese and a bit of juice – damn I was hungry!
After the snack I was again asked if I feel like pushing and I didn’t. She asked if I wanted to try pushing. I tried and I felt stupid and it felt wrong, so I told her that. She said she would do an internal and check…. when I was told I was only 3 cms dilated I was crushed and felt panic creeping in.
Only 3cms!! How could it be? I had been through all the stages of labour, I was supposed to “just push her out now”.
The calm feeling left me and I felt cold and panicky… what to do? I cried and hubby held me. That night felt like it went on for a century. My labour continued and I was put on a drip to prevent me from dehydrating and to help the contractions move along. By 3am I was 6 cms dilated and so uncomfortable I didn’t know what to do with myself … so I cried some more.
Hubby slept for a while and my sister sat with me rubbing my back while I cried.
At 11am the next morning another internal – still only 6cms! I had now been in labour for just short of 42 hours. I had been brave and determined to have a home birth with no pain relief, but hey a person can only take so much!
I called my husband and told him I’d had enough and I wanted to go to the hospital. He got such a look of relief on his face and I was packed in that car so fast!
He got me to the hospital in record time and Marianne hooked me up to all this horrible equipment – it was so uncomfortable having these things strapped over my contracting belly. I begged her to take it off and she explained she can’t – it is hospital policy. So I lied and said I had to pee. We both knew it
was absolute bull, but she unstrapped me and I walked VERY slowly to the bathroom and back. When we got back she said I could have some gas – what a joke. It did NOTHING for me except make me laugh and forget I was in labour until the next contraction hit me with a vengeance.
It didn’t take long for the gyni to arrive and examine me. He told me I was still 6cm dilated – if I wanted natural birth the only thing he could suggest was to induce me further and then we would have to wait at least another 4 hours to see if anything was happening. He also said he personally doesn’t think that I will dilate any further as my cervix wasn’t thinning.
I told him I wanted a c-section. He then looked at me very seriously and reminded me that I was absolutely adamant when I saw him for my scans that I wanted a natural birth – am I sure?
I made sure we were clear on the subject by telling him to “Cut this f***ing baby out of me NOW! Clear?”
He said “OK that’s clear enough for me” and quickly went to get ready for surgery.
When we went into surgery I was told that the spinal would hurt and I must lean forward – I felt nothing at all. I suppose being in labour for that long and being in so much pain kinda cancels out the small stings?
In a very short time I felt relief – there was no pain at all anymore and it was wonderful! But although I felt no pain I could feel everything they were doing. I felt the cut and I could feel tugging and pulling. I was looking at my husband as I hate blood and being cut and just didn’t want to know what was going on. Unfortunately he kept looking over at what they were doing, then all of a sudden he went pale and I felt something being pulled from me… then I heard my baby crying.
I looked up and they were holding her above me – she was all wrinkly and looked very angry. Marianne put her on my chest… it was all so surreal.
I started throwing up again and didn’t want to throw up on my baby, I was also scared that something would go wrong with them stitching me up and me heaving at the same time. Plus Marianne was trying to latch my baby to my breast.
It was all so hectic at once. Then I got cold and started shaking uncontrollably which was quite scary. Marianne saw very quickly that I was struggling and very quickly took our girl to her daddy and put her on his chest under his shirt. It was a lovely moment to see the two greatest loves of my life bond for the first time.
I think I probably had a little more drama in my birth experience than some (and thankfully less than others) but I am happy with the way things went. I actually enjoyed the experience and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I really wanted my home birth and I can rest assured that I don’t have to bash myself up for lack of trying! She was just not going to come out that way and I accept that. But by going through the labour process all those hormones were activated which promote bonding and I can say I have so been through labour even if it ended up in surgery.