Monday 04 February 2008

I live on a farm in the North Eastern Cape.  We live three hours away from East London and three and a half from Bloemfontein.  For my second birth I hired a cottage in Chintsa, East London for a month.  At age 38, I arrived with nanny, 2 year old daughter and my big tummy 2 weeks before the date.  Donovan drove in convoy with a bakkie full of additional requirements!  Heidi, a midwife in East London, had done all my check ups, supported me through my pregnancy and was my backup midwife.  I visited my backup gynae in East London for a check up.  Karen, my midwife for my first birth, was on her way moving from Cape Town to Hamburg to set up a birthing clinic.  Our timing was good!

My first home birth in Cape Town had left me with a feeling of being cheated.  I had managed a home birth and Sophia had arrived peacefully and content, but I had found it traumatic.  Not because I hadn’t had the best care I could have wished for, but because I had not managed to push Sophia out easily as the books had described!  The real value of my first home birth was being in the comfort of my home through a difficult birth surrounded by skilled, loving people. Also, the precious week after the birth during which Donovan and I were able to bond uninterrupted with our new arrival and ease into parenthood with a rude bump!  I realise now that I would not swop that experience for the world.  If I had been in hospital, I would have been forced to have a Caesar in accordance with South African hospital policy.

I was however very nervous for my 2nd birth.  Karen and I had discussions about this while waiting for girl no. 2.  I said that “I thought I had managed my birth so well”.  That’s the point she said.  You managed it.  This was the key.

I popped into Exclusive Books and found Women’s Bodies Women’s Wisdom by Dr Christine Northrup.  A friend had lent me the book before the birth of Sophia and I sensed there was something there for me.  The chapter on pregnancy and birthing talks about “birthing like a cat” and this was something I could really identify with.  If I wasn’t going to manage my birth, but rather trust myself and move with it, then this was the inspiration I was going to take into my next birth.

Donovan came to visit us each weekend from the farm and he brought extra clothes with him on the 2ndweekend.  By Sunday night nothing had happened so he was due to leave early Monday morning.  At about 2.30am I woke up and told him that I thought I was in labour.  We phone Karen just to let her know, but since my previous labour had been long, I told everyone to go back to sleep.  I lay next to Donovan and concentrated on my breathing.  I was not fearful. I reveled in the power of the labour and participated in it by accepting it and welcoming it.  The contractions rolled in steadily and I imagined myself opening, flowering, blooming, widening.  In the early stages, I can say the experience was sexual, with warm feelings which extended over my body and were very enjoyable.  I can’t really say that labour is painful.  I would describe it rather as exceptionally powerful and overwhelming.  This time, my way of easing through this was by becoming completely intimate with it, accepting it and calling the power because it was good power which could and would deliver another wet warm bundle.

I woke Donovan up a couple of times to go to the toilet or get some fruit juice ice blocks (my hot tip for sustenance in labour) and to change into my beautiful birthing dress.  I can remember having a good cry at some point – my response to the powerful ride my body was taking me on.  Sensitive and flowering, the emotions were riding with me.

At 5.30am I asked Donovan to phone Karen and ask her to come.  He struggled to get through because of the bad reception, and when he did get through I heard him say quite nonchalantly that he thought Karen should come over.  But what I said is “ tell Karen to come now!”.

At 5.50am Karen arrived.  I asked to go to the toilet.  “Not yet,” was the response.  My waters broke.  I didn’t get to go to the toilet.  I kneeled on a blanket on the floor and leant face down towards the bed.  Donovan was sent off to boil Karen’s instruments.  He was still sleepy and contemplating a long day of labour.  She walked into the kitchen and poured out most of the water.  “The baby is coming now” she said.  “There’s no time!  This must boil quickly.”

Maxine was born at 6.10am with a big voice!  I hardly pushed and she gushed out.  She was 4kg.  Her umbilical cord was exceptionally short and wrapped around her neck.  Karen was able to catch her and remove the cord from her neck.  She was a fat wet, red bundle.  I lay on the bed and she went straight onto my chest.  A while later, the contractions to release my placenta were very intense and I can remember Karen commenting how beautiful it was as I lay on the bed and responded to the rhythm of my body, Maxine now lying on the bed and circled by my body.   Donovan cut the umbilical cord.  I did tear slightly during the birth and as Karen stitched me up, Donovan had a chance to hold Maxine.

Sophia woke up a little later and came to greet her sister.  I had been very worried about how Sophia would cope with her mother in labour as she was emotionally strongly attached to me, however she had slept right through it in the next room and was delighted to come and say hello to her baby sister.  Maxine was able to suckle almost immediately.  My sister from Cape Town was staying in the cottage next door and she couldn’t believe a baby had been born during the night without much fuss!  Later, Sophia and Donovan watched and helped as Maxine and I enjoyed a warm bath together.

I feel so privileged to have been exposed to woman like Karen, Heidi and Lana through my births and to learn through our friendship that mother nature and therefore mothers are powerful beyond our own comprehension.  Through trusting our bodies and the power of nature, we are able to have enriching and empowering birthing experiences which deepen our relationships with our children, their fathers and ourselves.

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