Birth | Alexander’s Birth | Pretoria Birth Photographer
“It’s not just a baby that is born, but also a mother. Each and every time we give birth, we are also reborn” – MonetNicoleBirths
It’s not often that I almost miss a birth. They tend to be hours of waiting for that big moment when Baby comes into the world, and I have plenty of time to capture the moments leading up to it. Every so often, though, the Baby is so eager to greet the world, that I get there with only moments to spare. So it was when Laetitia and Shaun welcomed their first child into the world.
“Someone once said, love is the closest thing to magic. I would like to think a mum said it, because there is nothing more magical than bringing your baby into the world. It is a love so profound, no one will ever be able to explain it, it has to be felt with the heart. It doesn’t matter how many stories you hear or read, your story will always be magical and unique. This is ours…
On 16 May 2018 we found out that we were expecting our first child. We were super excited about our little bub and wanted to add to the wonder by keeping the gender a surprise. This proved to be a fun game with family and friends. I also decided early on that I wanted a natural unmedicated birth. I wanted to experience the emotional and physical rawness of giving birth and I trusted my body to do what it was made to do. I also found it special that our baby would choose his or her own birth date and time; it wouldn’t be scheduled.
The odds seemed to be in my favour for a natural birth as I had a healthy and uncomplicated pregnancy. At 38 weeks and 3 days I decided to call it quits at work and went on maternity leave to “rest and nest”. It was a very long week and few days waiting for our little cherub. Anyone who has waited for a baby will tell you it is the most exciting, scary, sad, happy and confusing time ever! But I knew Baby would come when he or she was ready. I mean, I did the prep. I went to the chiro for a pelvic adjustment, went to the reflexologist to release all the good labour hormones, spoke to Marthie our antenatal teacher and a doula, drank cups and cups of Carmien mama tea and had WAY TOO MANY DATES.
My body and mind was ready…
So there I was, waiting for any signs of impending labour. Nesting – check; emotional – check (I mean, I’m having a baby any day now, of course I am emotional); contractions – waiting (wait, what should they feel like?); and the oh-so-obvious water breaking – waiting (is it a gush or a trickling?).
On the eve of my due date, I started experiencing a very dull pain in my lower back. I messaged our midwife, Sr Heather, telling her I might be in labour. She said to monitor it and keep her informed. My husband, Shaun, ran me a bath to see if that would alleviate some of the discomfort. The pain subsided. It was clearly a false alarm.
The due date came, and I was 100% sure that our baby would be one of the 5% born on their estimated due date. I felt completely overwhelmed that day, more than any other day. Something just didn’t feel right. Family and friends constantly wanted to know whether baby had arrived – it really had me at my wits’ end. I told Shaun that I was feeling a bit down and that I needed some “us”. I knew that it would change forever once our baby was born. I cherished our “last” things together as just the two of us. He suggested we go for ice cream – something we have always loved to do since we started dating 12 years ago.
We sat on a bench just outside the shop.
I had a huge ice cream, caramel and chocolate milkshake and he had ice cream in a cup with chocolate sauce. We joked about the fast food shops just below the gym and stared at people as they walked past. We laughed and talked about many random things. This was us…
When we got home, we went for a long walk in our neighbourhood. After the walk I stood outside our home and just knew this would be the last sunset as just me, Laetitia – the dreamer, the avid DIYer, travel junkie, coffee lover, ultimate unicorn fanatic. Tomorrow, I would add a new title – Mom.
At 00:30 Wednesday morning, 30 January 2019, I woke up to pain in my lower abdomen. I didn’t want to wake Shaun as I wasn’t sure if it was the real deal. I walked around the house, drank some water and ran myself a bath. As I laid there listening to Hillsong United’s Oceans I knew this was it – our baby was coming into the world.
I started crying.
Was it because our 40-week journey was coming to an end? Was it excitement that I would finally meet my little boy or girl? Or was it that I felt I was losing a part of me? I didn’t know. What I did know was that I was at peace. Peace that I was ready to accept the change, the new life, the new me.
After monitoring my contractions for about an hour I decided to inform Sr Heather. At 03:07 I sent her a screenshot of the “irregular” contractions and said I would keep her informed. I also messaged Sam, our birth photographer. About an hour later I started feeling uncomfortable in the bath and decided to sit on my bouncy ball. At around 04:30 I felt tired and laid down on the couch, trying to get some rest. I knew it was going to be a long day and that I needed to conserve as much energy as I could in the early stages of labour.
Shaun woke up at 05:30 and was very excited that I was in labour. At 06:03 I messaged Sr Heather another screenshot of the “irregular” contractions. I asked whether we could still see her at 07:15 for our scheduled appointment just to confirm that I truly was in labour.
Before leaving home, I put a load of washing into the washing machine, because I was convinced that we would be back home by 08:00, waiting for the labour to progress. Shaun put our bags in the car and off we went.
In the car I told Shaun that he should go to work after our appointment and that I would let him know when my contractions become regular and closer together. He said that he would rather just work from home to keep an eye on us. The car ride wasn’t very long and the contractions subsided.
We met Sr Heather at the birth house at 07:15 and as I greeted her, I felt another contraction flowing through my body. She took us into the consultation room and connected the CTG machine to check how far apart my contractions were. Sr Heather left the room to collect paper for the CTG machine. As I laid there Shaun held my hand and watched the monitor closely. I just looked out of the window, trying to focus on my breathing. After about the third contraction I asked him how high the measurements were and he said 100. I thought to myself: “Man, isn’t that very intense for contractions?”. When Sr Heather returned at around 07:40, she looked at the monitor and said that my contractions were 2 minutes apart. Again I thought to myself: “That is rather close together, isn’t it?”. She said that she wanted to do an internal examination to see how far I was dilated, but she estimated that I was somewhere between 1 and 3cm. After the examination she said that I was neither 1 nor 3. My heart sank in my chest. I thought I hadn’t even STARTED dilating after nearly 6 hours of contractions…
I was 5cm dilated!
I was completely overwhelmed and asked her whether we should make our way to Femina hospital, as that was where we planned to give birth. She said that there was nothing to worry about, it could still be a while, because my water hadn’t broken yet.
Off she went to phone Sam to give her an update on my progress. As we laid there completely surprised by the entire situation, I felt a weird sensation in my lower abdomen and the next moment we heard 2 popping sounds followed by a gush of water. It was a very intense sensation and I grabbed my husband’s hand and squeezed it super tight. I told him to call Sr Heather, because my water just broke. The contractions got closer together and they were extremely intense, painful even. I struggled to keep my focus and control my breathing. At 7:50 Sr Heather suggested we do another internal examination before we make our way to the hospital.
I was 8cm dilated!
Very calmly she said that we could either birth at the birth house or we could drive to the hospital. It was about an 8 min drive. I looked at her and then at Shaun and he just said: “No we are staying here.” I didn’t even argue. I knew we wouldn’t get to the hospital in time during rush hour traffic and I didn’t want to have our baby in the car. The birth house wasn’t part of our plan, but it was according to God’s plan.
At 08:10 I walked into the birth room, urgently needing the toilet. I can distinctly remember pressing my hand against the cold white wall tiles, wanting to scrape them with my fingernails. The pain was excruciating.
It didn’t stop, didn’t give me chance to recover, just for a second, didn’t give me a chance to just breathe…
I eventually got into the bath at 08:15 not long after I entered the room, but it felt like an eternity. The water brought some (very minute) relief. I was panting like a dog, feeling completely bewildered. Then all of a sudden it dawned on me; we didn’t climb the stairs, Shaun didn’t rub my back or press my hips, we didn’t do our high school dance, we didn’t eat our snacks, I didn’t have a lappie on my forehead and we didn’t listen to even one of the carefully selected songs from my birth playlist! We missed out on it all! And Sam!? Is she going to be on time? Everything was happening so fast.
The contractions eventually dissipated, but were followed by a serious urge to push. I didn’t want to push! “Where is Sam?”, I asked. Sr Heather responded that she was 5 min away from the birth house. As I turned into a sitting position to get more comfortable, Shaun whispered in my ear: “Sam is here”. #canIgetawhoopwhoop. My mind and heart was at ease. “All is in place, let’s get this baby earthside,” I thought.
I didn’t push for very long and within about 5 minutes of Sam’s arrival our beautiful baby came into the world at 08:57.
As I sat there, holding our baby in my arms, relief washed over me. I DID IT! I’m a freakin’ birthing queen! It was intense but oh so worth it! I looked down at our little baby with a full head of hair and full lips and thought he/she is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen! After a good few minutes, Shaun eventually asked whether it was a boy or girl. Sr Heather happily replied: “It’s a boy”. We were elated…our little Alexander is here!
After a delicious breakfast and happy smiles all around we were ready to return home. But before we said our goodbyes Sr Heather gave us one piece of advice. “You have received this book today. A beautiful book with a beautiful cover, called Alexander. But when you open the book the pages are empty. It is your responsibility on how you are going to fill this book. You are going to discover and write this beautiful story for the rest of your lives. This is only the beginning.”
At 14:30 on 30 January 2019, we headed home with a knitted blanket and well wishes from our midwife family. We were ready to start our new life as a family of 3. I’ve always liked beginnings, because they are full of promise. Promise of beautiful things to come.
P.S. We hung the washing out when we got home.
Note to self: Next time take it easy on the dates and Carmien mama tea. 😉
This is our story. Yours? Well I don’t know, but I truly hope that it is magical. That you will be strong and brave. That you will know that YOU are a birthing queen, regardless of the birth you have or the plans that you make, because life has a funny way of working out just right…
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“I have been delaying writing my birth story. It has taken me a while to process the events from that day, and the days and few weeks following, and to be okay with not writing a ‘perfect’ story with perfect English. I truly hope that being real about the latter, and that which follows, will make at least one other mom out there, facing a similar experience, feel less alone in having had a ‘good but not perfect’ birth
I have had the privilege to work with many wonderful doulas and I would like to say thank you! Thank you not only for your servant heart but also for what you are doing for woman. In a place of vulnerability you aid us in being strong, in a place of insecurities you reassure, in a place of fear you speak hope!