BIRTH | DAHLIA SMIT | PRETORIA BIRTH PHOTOGRAPHER
“A father is someone you look up to no matter how tall you grow.” – Unknown
Dad’s tend to shy away from sharing their birth experience, maybe it’s not the sharing part as much as putting pen to paper and that is exaclty why I was super excited to find a little note from dad when Mom Elisma shared her birth story with me.
My Birth story: Elisma Smit
It started at 23h30 on Sunday 27 Feb 2022.
I woke up to what I hoped would be ‘the real thing’ after two previous false alarms.
The contractions/surges were not painful, more a feeling of prolonged abdominal muscle cramps/spasms. There is really no other physiological process to compare, it is a completely unique experience! Previously I had been able to sleep through these ‘contractions’, but this particular night I was very uncomfortable and had to change positions frequently. To not disturb my husband, I got up and ran myself a bath at around 02h00. I fell asleep in the bathtub. Around 04h00 I got out of the tub and bounced on my yoga ball.
At 06h00 I contacted my midwife to inform her that I’ve been experiencing consistent contractions. I asked her to check whether I was actually in labour this time! My husband decided not to go to work and we went for a walk. I had to stop and squat/lean against my husband during each contraction. They were about 5 minutes apart but lasted less than a minute each. I still didn’t really have any ‘pain’ as such, more of a pressure in my back that was very distracting. At 20h00 at the midwifes’ offices we did a CTG to check the baby’s heart rate and she also did a cervical check. I was 4 cm dilated! Yay! It was great news! I was currently at 41 weeks and a day and I really didn’t want an induction/other interventions and we were REALLY ready for her to arrive!
The midwife advised me to go home and try to rest/go about my day and we would then later decide when I felt the need to go to the birth house.
At home I managed to get an hour of sleep. I also took another bath, had a swim in our pool and did some more ‘Miles Circuit’ positions. I was very relaxed and was waiting for the contractions to become more powerful and consistent.
Around 16h00 we went to the birth house as I started to feel a bit antsy. I was only dilated 6 cm at this stage and my water had not yet broken. Baby girl was doing fine and my husband and I were in high spirits, although I was a bit disappointed that I had not progressed further during the day. My midwife ran a bath and we made ourselves comfortable. The contractions were now closer together, I was unable to talk through them and had to focus on my breathing. My husband kept reminding me through each contraction, to breathe! Sam was also there to remind him, to remind me to breathe and relax through the contractions, to allow my body to do the work.
By 18h00 I had still not progressed much and my midwife had us walking up and down and doing some squats. She also broke my water fully, which was very uncomfortable and the ‘worst’ pain/discomfort up until that point. I started losing ‘the head game’ as the pain in my back became very overwhelming and I started vomiting. If it hadn’t been for Sam who came as birth photographer but jumped in as doula to direct my husband, I think my husband would have run away at this point. I was extremely tired, I was exhausted and ready for this to be over. The contractions became so frequent, if I made any movement they would overwhelm me.
I felt ‘trapped’ lying on the bed but was almost unable to move around.
By 20h00 I was still only 8 cm dilated and I was unable to eat or drink anything. The midwife decided to put up a drip and told me if I wasn’t ready to push by 21h00 we would be transferring to Femina Hospital. My husband then gave me a pep talk. This was what we wanted, what we had prepared and prayed for and I could do this! I felt some energy returning after the IV. I decided I was going to WILL this baby out! We had not come this far and waited so long for her to come, to have the end result be a caesarean.
I got out of bed and moved around- on the toilet, on all fours on the floor, hanging over the bed with my husband applying pressure on my back. At this point I was in a “haze” and not fully in touch with/aware of my surroundings. Apparently I told our midwife at some point- ‘ I am going to shit on the floor’- which I proceeded to do (cringe).Around 21h00 I still did not really feel an urge to push and most of the pain was still in my back. My midwife put me on a birthing stool and said we are now getting this baby out! I focused all my energy into pushing with each contraction and trying to relax my perineal muscles.
When she finally crowned I was so ecstatic at feeling the ‘ring of fire’ that it felt more like a relief than pain.
It was a tingling/burning sensation that meant the end was near and we were going to meet our baby. I was so excited I forgot about all the pain and exhaustion. After a few very intense pushes and having my legs up past my ears, her head was out- together with a whole hand and arm! The culprits to my ‘slow’ progress. When her body slipped out at 22h14 on 28 Feb 2022 it was a very tickly feeling, it felt very weird and almost ‘gross’ to me. She was in our arms and I was euphoric!
I had never worked so hard physically and mentally and I only realized the next day, how intense things had become! Every muscle in my body, even in my hands and face was sore and stiff. Both my husband and I also had some bruises from where we had grabbed hold of each other during those last few moments of pushing.
For weeks afterwards I could not stop talking and thinking about that day and the absolute adrenaline rush and euphoria of that moment. My husband and I felt like we had grown closer together and we were both in a state of utter amazement at the whole process of labour. I felt like I had climbed mount Everest! It was one of the greatest things I had ever done.
Getting to experience that night again through Sam’s photos is something I will always cherish. I would recommend a birth photographer over and over again. After all, this is a day just as important as your wedding day- if not more! I am also so grateful that I had the privilege of being taken care of by such an incredible, competent and caring midwife who went above and beyond to help me have not only a vaginal birth, but a healthy baby.
Should I have been been under the care of a gynaecologist, I am sure, I would have had a caesarean much earlier that day.
I am forever indebted to the care and support that had given me the opportunity to have this life-changing and spiritual experience! I can honestly say I am looking forward to my next pregnancy and delivery!
My experience: Wian Smit
As a newly appointed dad, I can positively say that I envy no man whose wife is in labour. The experience was however unbelievable. The air of love, excitement and overcoming joy at the time of delivery is something that words cannot begin to describe.
Walking into the labour room we did not know what to expect. Elisma had been in pre-labour for the whole day, and by mid afternoon we could not wait any longer.
Arriving the day’s progress was disappointing, but full of hope we soldiered on.
Without the support of the midwife and photographer/doula, I am sure I would not have been able to provide the support my wife desperately needed. Especially when (by 18h00), the labour had not nearly progressed as far as everyone would have wanted it to. It became clear we were in for a long night.
The sympathetic smiles of everyone assisting us was the fuel I needed to keep on encouraging my wife, who by this time was delirious because of the pain. Constant input into my technique and reassurance that the baby was doing fine and was on her way, kept our spirits up at such a critical time. As the baby began crowning, the relief and elation in the room was sincere.
We all knew (even my delirious wife) that the sun was looming on the horizon.
Our baby girl was born just after 22h00. Exhausted, we cuddled and stared in awe at the tiny human being, who for nine months felt so distant, but was now so very real and part of our lives. The effort, support and attention to detail from the midwives in these hours are commendable.
This is an unforgettable experience that I cannot recommend enough for expecting parents.
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At 19:55 I am trying to stall labour and Christel says that they will video call hubby because he won’t make it in time. I’m trying my best to not push… feeling the urge to bear down is uncontrollable. I don’t lift my head at all, concentrating and steadying myself with one hand on the bath floor.
I jumped up and started cleaning the house a little, breathing through them easily using the HypnoBirthing-breathing techniques during and between surges.
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