On Christmas morning 2010 we found out that we were pregnant with baby number three. Quite the surprise present it was (since the plan was to adopt our third), but a welcome surprise none the less. Only a few weeks before the time we gave notice where we were staying, with the intention to relocate to a different province. We struggled for two months to find a place to stay and had to live with family during this interim period.
We finally arrived in the Free State in March 2011. My husband literally dropped me and our two girls off with our furniture and boxes and left the next morning. His intention was to finalise the last of his work and fetch the rest of our belongings. I focused on getting prepared, contacting hospitals, gynaecologists and clinics all the way from here to Bloemfontein and Johannesburg (both more than 200 kilometres in opposite directions). It seemed that, here, home-births were unheard of and private midwives and doulas were nowhere to be found. Those whom were registered were not interested, and those who were willing to assist were unlicensed, uninsured or unable to travel. I desired a safe birth with no unnecessary interventions, where my body could take all the time it needed without interference – a ‘free’ birth. I was determined to do everything in my power to give our baby the best birth possible.
I spoke to countless people. The most common responses were: “No, I don’t want anything to do with it” or “People don’t labour at home any more, they stopped that years ago” or “Why do you want to give birth at home when there are hospitals?” (all those famous questions that could be discussed in a thread on a Facebook page called something like “FAQ and daft comments to the Home Birthing Mom”). I could have sworn that some even wanted to slam the phone down in my ear just on hearing that we wanted to do a birth at home. Sometimes their ignorance made me burst out laughing with tears running down my face. Other times I was left despondent and so frustrated that it felt as if I could cry, and cry, and cry some more. As I closed my eyes I heard the words “it will all be fine, everything will work out”. These were the words I heard over and over from that time onwards.
I did feel very alone though, being pregnant and far away from my husband. Some days the pressure became overwhelming. I had a house to unpack and run by myself with no domestic worker and two busy toddlers that were taking strain without their daddy. Fortunately my mom lives nearby and came over for a much appreciated (long) visit.
I finally found some hope when a lady who was trained and licensed offered to assist. She had no experience with home deliveries, had not delivered any babies in many years and admitted that she was nervous. Together we tried to find another medical person to assist so that she could feel more confident. She only became more apprehensive as the weeks went by due to the many ignorant and fear provoking ‘warnings’ she received. My husband, Logan, and I became mindful of the situation as it’s never wise having any birth attendants that are sceptical or fearful. Having a person around with a negative mindset could only make the birth difficult or, at the very least, be a distraction.
My husband eventually fetched us after 6 weeks of delays and disappointments and we spent another 3 months in the Eastern Cape. The girls and myself stayed with family and friends while he worked long hours and did not sleep at ‘home’ most evenings. During this time I carried on searching, making numerous calls and waited for referrals. After we had returned to the Free State, my husband was away for another two weeks before we were finally together as a family – something that felt unreal after all the hardship we had to face. For the first time since the beginning of this year, we were together every day and Logan was home every evening. A time of restoration started. We had so much to be grateful for.
Our “due date” was the 16th of August 2011. We don’t particularly take due dates seriously as it is really just an estimate of when baby could be expected. Our gynaecologist offered to book me for an induction on our due date and was very surprised when I said “No thank you. Why?”. Our second baby was delivered at 42 weeks. This also surprised our doctor.
I believe that nature, our bodies and babies know when the time is right. It is better to leave things alone instead of being impatient and intervening because unnecessary interventions often result in real emergencies. I told her that as long as there is no true medical reason to induce that I am prepared to wait as long as need be for labour to start spontaneously.
My gynae looked at me funny at the last scan when it was ‘predicted’ that baby was 3.7kg – as if to say, this baby is too big to birth vaginally “you only have a size 4 foot”. It was all over her face – so I replied and told her about “a friend of mine who birthed her second baby at home, weighing 5.47 kg and she doesn’t even look like a bus”. She burst out laughing and looked shocked.
On the morning of the 16th of August (the “due day”) I had quite strong surges that seemed regular for the most part. From our experiences with the first two births I have learned not to just take anything that looks like labour seriously as the chances are quite high of having at least one “dress rehearsal” (as one of our very loved and trusted midwives called it). It ended up being exactly that but it was enough to warn me that the real thing was close. The lady that was going to assist us with the birth paid us a surprise visit shortly after lunch. She was just about in tears. After hearing too many negative and ignorant opinions she grew too fearful of the responsibility and wanted to back out. My heart sank. So what now?! I was yelling inside. As we sat and listened to her explanation, a calmness came over us as well as a peace to release her from her commitment to us. All our avenues and resources where depleted but I still carried on searching with tenacity. I must be honest and admit that even as I made more calls it was as if I knew that I was wasting my time. In this I found hope because I realised that I didn’t have to do anything in my own strength. Trusting in God and having faith was enough. I didn’t have to try find anyone else because “it will all be fine, everything will work out”.
I had started to read birth stories and blogs with medical information, some statistics, etc. a number of months prior to this birth. The more I read, the more fascinated I became and more faith started stirring in me. Even though labouring was nothing new to me, I started realising more than ever before that WE WERE MADE TO BIRTH. It is THE most incredible experience, not to be spoilt by Fear.
There is a general misconception around birthing – that it is an excruciatingly painful and a dangerous medical event. I disagree. Even though true emergencies do happen, it is not the norm and when they happen it is very often as a result of unnecessary intervention in the event of attempting to “fix something that isn’t broken”. God knew what He was doing when He created us. We can trust nature, our bodies, our babies, the process of birthing, and above all, Him who orchestrated all of this to function together so miraculously. We have no reason to doubt our body’s ability to birth or listen to and internalise the words of any person doing so – because we are created to bring forth life! Our bodies have done the perfect work of carrying and growing a beautiful baby – which is the real big work.
Why now doubt that your body can deliver that same baby?
There was this unspoken communication between my husband and myself. We intuitively knew what was going to happen from here. We were in agreement about it and we had complete peace. I called Kay, our previous midwife, to update her about the situation and then asked her something I didn’t anticipate we would ever consider doing. “Would it be fine if we did the home birth by ourselves with you supporting us telephonically in case we needed advice about anything?”
(Needless to say, as with any other home birth, you must always have a backup ‘Hospital Plan’). Her tone of voice was filled with faith, courage and tenderness. It confirmed the peace we had about going ahead with a planned unassisted childbirth (“unassisted” – no midwife or doctor present). I also arranged with extra midwives we know for telephone support in case we were unable to get hold of Kay when needed. It was all set and now we had to wait patiently.
I would like to add that we certainly do not promote unassisted childbirth and we realise that many people would say that what we had planned was “reckless” and “irresponsible”. This was the right thing for US, with THIS pregnancy and THIS baby. We prayed and meditated on our decision, prepared ourselves mentally, physically and emotionally and then decided to go with peace. We realised as with any other home birth that we had to be willing to transfer to a hospital if necessary. I can honestly say that I had absolutely no doubt that everything would go smoothly and that baby and I would be safe. We trusted our decision and our faith was unwavering.
The day of truth 😀
On Thursday morning, the 25th of August I woke up at 4 am with surges approximately 10 minutes apart. Wondering if it was another “dress rehearsal” I stayed in bed trying to sleep, pretending that nothing was happening. The power had been out for a week and only came on the previous night. We were planning a water birth and therefore prayed that baby would stay put until the power was back on. This was only one of our answered prayers. At about 5 am I notified the three midwives that something might be up. I followed Kay’s suggestion and tried to sleep more. Around 7 am the surges where about 5 minutes apart and I felt the need to get upright and onto the birthing ball. Logan helped me up, made tea and put on some music.
My sister arrived just after 8 am to look after our two little girls aged 5 years and the other 20 months. I asked if she’d like to stay as I have been wanting to share a birth with her since our first pregnancy. She accepted my invitation and minded the girls in our home instead of taking them to hers.
I found that making low noises was quite soothing and smiled as our 20 month old, Jeriah-Storm, was copying me. After 9 am the surges started slowing down but increased in intensity. I felt sleepy as I was gyrating on the birth-ball. I was expecting this birth to be very quick as our first birth was a day and a half, and our second only 8 hours. For this reason I was surprised that I was not holding our new baby already. It proved to me once again that labour is unpredictable and it will take as long as it needs to. Every birth is as unique as the baby you are giving birth to.
Our midwives cheered us on via text messages as and when we shared any news. At this time I still had not yet had a “show” nor had my membranes ruptured. I could clearly feel baby moving down and somehow also that the membranes was under much pressure, as if about to burst.
Just after 11 am our second birth attendant arrived. A sweet lady I met at my sister’s church. She was the only one present who had given natural birth. It was a comforting thought knowing that there was at least one person present (other than my husband) who was familiar with the birthing process.
We were all together in the kitchen having tea while my husband started up his famous tomato and red pepper soup. The kids where playing around the house, running and giggling. Every so often they would come to me for hugs and kisses and when they became a bit wild my sister would come to my rescue. Jeriah-Storm even offered to “help you mommy” during one of the surges. We talked, made jokes and listened to ‘soaking music’ from Bethel Church. The atmosphere was thick with peace and tranquillity. God was in control.
Our third birth attendant arrived – a lady who had always wanted to attend a natural birth. Even though I didn’t know her all that well, she had been on my mind for a long time. I thought to bless her by sharing this experience.
Soon afterwards I felt I needed to get to the bathroom as something was happening to my membranes. I also felt a desire to get into the bath and continue labouring there. While visiting the “porcelain scooter” my waters ruptured. “How convenient”, I thought to myself, “now the floor doesn’t need to be cleaned!”
I looked towards the bath. The sun shining onto the water creating hundreds of tiny dancing stars and sparkly waves against the bathroom wall. It was like the water was welcoming me and almost enveloped me with comfort. The breeze softly moved the cloth draped over the open window and breathed something new and fresh over me. Steam twirled towards the ceiling and misted up the mirrors behind me. It looked and felt mystical. I became aware of how tired I was but could hardly wait to feel the euphoria of our baby turning into the birth canal. I knew she was so close.
All I wanted was to feel the intense pressure of her crowning, knowing I would meet her soon. As I held out my hand in anticipation to feel her crown the surges grew more intense. I flowed with my body’s urge to push and cupped her head with my hand the very next moment. While waiting for another contraction I softly and slowly touched her face, feeling her eyebrows, her tiny nose and perfect little lips. It was like time stood still and we were connecting, somehow communicating. I was letting her know that I was there waiting for her, that I would see her little face and would cradle her body against mine sooner than soon. The next contraction came. The pressure grew stronger and the burning sensation increased until the sudden release as she was received into her daddy’s waiting hands (2:45 pm). I saw her lying over his hand in the water. The back of her head with a mop of dark hair. Her left leg pulled up and quivering. Her tiny left foot blue and flexed. I scooped her up in my arms. She felt warm, floppy, light and slippery as I held her close. She was covered with thick yellow vernix that looked like creamy butter. There was not a thing about her not to fall in love with. I am sure that a legion of angels where standing around us. I could think of nothing else but how perfect she was and how God had His hands over us. She is a miracle. The birth was a miracle. Someone in the bathroom reminded me to see if she was a boy or a girl. I was so in awe of what just happened that the gender did not even cross my mind. There I found myself cuddling our third little princess. I put my lips against her forehead, whispering, telling her how much I loved her and how beautiful she was . . . over and over. We sat together nursing, loving one another. It was all an incredible dream where none of this other world existed. All that mattered was bonding with each other and being utterly humbled.
Logan helped me out of the bath and we went to our bedroom where we invited the girls to come and meet their new baby sister. They loved her. We called Kay as the placenta was stubborn and did not want to detach. After a few attempts of squatting and all sorts, it finally delivered an hour and a half later. It now resides in our front yard, waiting for a “birth tree” as its companion.
Close to 7 pm my sister’s house doctor came by to check her vitals which were all fine and well. Logan weighed her on a meat scale – 4 kg. We spent the whole first evening skin to skin without even as much as a nappy on. Low and behold she only made a thick, black, sticky poo the next morning – the kind that is quite a challenge to wash out of a blanket.
I am thankful for great supportive people like our midwives, our friends and communities like Birth Without Fear and Beautiful Birth. This experience has been sacred, spiritual, romantic, fearless, super faithed up and incredibly empowering.
Meaning of her name:
Psalms 141:2 says “Let my prayer be like incense placed before you, my praise like the evening sacrifice”. The Hebrew word for ‘incense’ is Keturah.
Deluge is Latin for “downpour”. I kept on ‘hearing’ this while pregnant with her. As a ‘downpour of blessing and anointing over her life.’