I had just come back from a holiday (at a place called De Kom!) and my grandfather passed away. I had started feeling very tired and rather nauseous and put this down to having stress and visiting the hospital so often during his final days and helping with arrangements for the funeral.
After the funeral was over and the exhaustion and nausea continued, reality finally sunk in and I realised I was pregnant. This was definitely unplanned as my partner and I were quite happy running a business and pursuing our career as designers. Our families were stunned when we told them- my mother never expected to be a granny! Arnold and I had booked a trip to Zanzibar so on a whim we decided to get married. We snuck off to Zanzibar and had a tiny wedding, with just the hotel staff and the official, on the rooftop of the hotel where we overlooked the city and us, harbour and open ocean. The families weren’t so impressed to discover we’d eloped!
My partner, Arnold, is a Traditional Chinese practitioner and so we always treated any ailments through this method and so we decided to choose a midwife as our care provider during pregnancy and planned for a homebirth.
I continued with weekly sessions of acupuncture during my pregnancy and also went to see my midwife, Joy McPherson, for regular check-ups. I had a completely normal pregnancy with no complications or concerns (other than the never-ending nausea).
It was a Monday night when I went into labour. I’d worked all day and stopped to have dinner. I planned to continue to work after dinner but then my water broke. I decided to phone my midwife and let her know, but I didn’t have any contractions at that point so I told Joy I’d call her again in the morning. At 10pm at night I suddenly started having contractions, which were pretty intense, and they were coming every 2-3 minutes. I called my best friend just to let her know and gave her strict instructions to keep my mother away because, much as I love her, I didn’t want her in my space and she’s the kind of person who would be overbearing in such a situation.
We decided to call Joy again and so Arnold got on the phone and spoke to her about how things were going and asked the midwife if she could please come. Things were moving so quickly that I wasn’t able to do things like put on nice music, light candles or any of those things. Joy arrived within about 30mins and then her assistant midwife, Ciska, arrived shortly after that.
By the time Joy checked me we discovered I was fully dilated and was pretty much beginning to feel like pushing. I decided to get into the bath to see if it would help with the contractions but I didn’t feel I was able to push adequately and so Joy and my husband helped me out of the bath and I squatted over it instead. The light in there wasn’t great and I’d been pushing for quite a while at this stage.
We then moved to the bedroom where the light was better and I got into a position leaning on the bed for support but squatting next to it. I pushed with everything I had and his head suddenly appeared, with the next push his shoulders were out and I think at this point I tore quite badly. I’m not sure how long it was that I pushed for, but it may have been around 2 hours and he was eventually born at 2am. Joy told me afterwards that if I had been in a hospital they would have intervened but being at home had meant there were no time limits to fight against. We kept pushing as long as my son was dealing well with it and eventually he was born happy and healthy.
After the placenta was delivered I got into the bath and Joy washed my son, Lucian, and then we moved back to the bed where my husband handed me a cup of fennel tea and Joy helped me get him latched. He took to the breast immediately and it was only at 14 months that he was weaned. Joy then had the task of sewing me up where I had torn as my son had been quite big at 3.6kgs and it took her around an hour to finish.
The two weeks following the birth could only be described as a “Babymoon”. It was February and extremely hot. The three of us just spent those weeks in a blissful, hot, hazy state where much of it was in bed underneath the mozzie net. My midwife came each day for 10 days to help us with bathing, feeding and I don’t know what I would have done without that extra assistance.
I believe that the acupuncture treatments and doing yoga 2-3 times a week helped with a complication-free pregnancy and a relatively easy birth. I also truly believed that my body knew exactly what to do and I decided early on that I would just let my body do what it needed to – I just ate healthy, took walks in the forest and generally looked after myself so that my body was well prepared for the hard work of labour and birth.
I wouldn’t ever choose anywhere else to give birth, and I definitely felt it was the most normal and natural place to give birth. I knew a hospital was there if we needed it but I didn’t feel comfortable being in a place that was alien to me, no one knows me or treats me as an individual. While hospital protocols may be there for safety, they don’t take into account individual situations and some women are made to accept interventions even if both she and the baby are fine. I am also so glad to have hired a private midwife who provided great support for me after the birth whereas I wouldn’t have had this, even in my own home, had I chosen any other caregiver.