Your birth story is exactly that…YOURS
Whether you choose to go natural with no medical pain relievers, or you chose an elective C-section. Whether you chose the epidural or had an emergency C-section because you waited too long to birth naturally. Whether you home birth, hospital birthed, water birthed or plain down just went to the toilet and poof!
YOU ARE A MOTHER.
And why that comes with an open invitation to criticism, I will never understand. Our society has become over informed and under educated in the judgements we make of people.
No birth is superior over any other, everyone comes with their challenges. From episiotomies to tears to permanent scars which cause that dreaded tummy flap… None of this ‘robs’ you from that childbirth experience. Whose experience are we even living up to?
Your experience is your childbirth experience. From the day I found out I was pregnant (maybe even before) I vowed to always have a non-medicated, natural, waterbirth. A dream soon crushed by our lack of water birthing facilities in Durban and the cruel private practice industry that wouldn’t allow my OB to birth at the few available. At the time, I was misinformed about birthing centres and too nervous for a home birth.
This dream soon became only a natural birth for me, please. Thanks! I want to run the Mandela marathon (4 weeks after my due date) barely even before my post birth bleeding would have stopped. If you have run this route, you will realise how beautiful, crisp and serene this route is. My absolute favourite race to date! Wow, momma. Never did I anticipate how gruelling pregnancy would be on my body!
I did all the right things, I was fairly active throughout pregnancy, high intensity training at iTrain, to running (on the track and in the gym, always supervised) till he became too heavy for my weakening pelvic floor. The birthing classes, reading articles, practicing my breathing. Perineal massages, exercises to induce labour. I was trying to be informed.
Was this to my detriment? Maybe.. A little back story, my baby had always measured 2 weeks ahead at every scan since 15 weeks. He then grew rapidly between 28-32 weeks- we are talking a kilogram and some change here. I was sent for a glucose tolerance test (to test for gestational diabetes, yikes!) and when it was proved that I didn’t have gestational diabetes, I was sent to a maternal foetal specialist to see if there was anything else going on with him and to see if my placenta was functioning well. Nothing, other than one of my cords that made up his umbilical cord was feeding him nutrients at an exorbitant rate. It was drawing a lot from me, my teeth discoloured and my nails were weak. I was harbouring calf cramps as if I had an endless supply. I was just destined to have a big baby. He was predicted to weigh 5.5 kg’s at 40 weeks given his growth pattern. WOW.
They then explained that I would be ‘cut off’ from carrying him at 39 weeks due to my placenta misfunctioning and being a detriment to both me and him. Also, to give me a fair chance at natural birth so that he wouldn’t be ‘too big’ to birth naturally.
At 35 weeks pregnant, on the Friday night, I began to feel mild contractions with burning in my lower back and pelvic area. Almost like on-and -off period pain. Here we go! I thought, all excited and nervous at once, I was only 35 weeks pregnant! Only for it all to stop 10 hours later. I called the labour ward and was told to wait before coming in.. I didn’t want to be that person crying wolf.
At 36 weeks, in the early hours of a Saturday morning, it was my first weekend off in 8-10 weeks! I realised that I hadn’t felt my overactive ninja move since Thursday! How did I miss that?? I waited for 5-6 hours before finally going to wake up my husband to tell him that the baby STILL hadn’t moved and I was exhausted and going to sleep. He refused, picked up my hospital bag (which I had only just packed) and rushed me to the hospital. I was immediately put in a labour holding room, on a CTG machine and a sound I had never heard before rung from the monitor. It was the most soothing sound I had heard in weeks, a strong, stable heartbeat. You know what happened next? He did a whole somersault and started his ninja moves again! On the ultrasound and physical exam, it was found that he had officially run out of space and would now be restricted in the way he moves. Wow. I was sent home with a ‘see you soon’. Where did I go for some sanity? Back to work on a Saturday afternoon!
As time went on, I became more swollen, but no fireworks for 2 more weeks. I carried on going to the gym, trying to induce labour and hearing the words ‘any day now’, ‘the baby is still quite high’ at my follow up check ups.
At 38 weeks and some change, I was walking through the front door and felt a release and a sudden urge to run to the loo. Probably losing my urinary continence along with my depleting sanity, I thought.. Mild contractions continued for the evening and the next day I decided to walk around at the mall. My ‘walk’ became 5 long hours on my feet, but still mild contractions. On the Friday morning I woke up with contractions a little more intense, feeling dizzy and a runny tummy. Labour signs! Yay! But no labour, or so I thought. I then became extremely sleepy and slept the weekend away, till I had a severe contraction on Sunday afternoon. Go time! At the end of a painful minute, the baby physically moved higher up in my tummy! The pain eased off, I was starving and off we went for dinner.
On Monday morning, my ankles were the size of my calves, my husband was away for work and I went to my OB’s rooms first thing in the morning. If she said one more week I was going to die! I didn’t tell anyone that I was still going for my appointment, but my sister had a feeling and swung by. Thank god for sister telepathy!
I was in non-progressive labour for 5 days, my water had broke when I thought I almost wee’d myself, he had about 40% amniotic fluid left. The swelling was my body trying to progress the labour but failing. He had loss mass over his stomach area, now measuring at 3.2 kg’s as compared to 3.8 kg’s the week before. And lastly, I had Group B strep.
She said, “you’re having this baby today. This is the first appointment your husband has missed, how soon can you get him back? We want to induce you immediately” – but in the more friendly way that my OB talks!
My first reply was, “Can I go home and do my hair first?” which rang louder than it should have. We all laughed. I needed to get a CTG first to see if baby was in any sort of distress, then went home where my sister lovingly shaved my legs and we went back to the hospital. Only when I was admitted, did we phone everyone. Induction was painful, but not long. My body wouldn’t give him way and he was impacted between my left rib and hip bone. How unfair, I thought. He is the perfect size for natural birth.
4 hours later I was being wheeled into an emergency C-section, no husband in sight and a lovely anaesthetist who was trying to delay so that my husband could make it for the delivery. He finally did, and a quick 7 minutes later, he was holding a beautiful, healthy 4.1kg boy.
The surgery was emotionally and physically difficult. I had a migraine, I was exhausted, I was shaking and I couldn’t talk. I felt paralysed. Recovery has been long and hard. I only ran my first road race again at 9 months post-partum. Plans fail, especially birth plans. The best plan is to be open minded.
Now, looking back 11 months later, would I change anything? No. I would do it a thousand times over if it means I have a healthy baby to hold.
Was there criticism and cross judging my well educated and experienced birth team? Oh yes! Tons. My birth story is my special way of bringing a little human onto this earth, and that, dear moms, is empowered birth.