Birth | Gertjan Holtzhausen
“I can do all things through Him who gives me strength” – Phil 4:13
Sometimes a mother is lucky. Sometimes, despite doubts and minor setbacks, the birth goes smoothly – almost exactly as planned. So it was when the Holtzhausen family welcomed Gertjan into the world, their second child, and second unicorn birth. With Gran, Aunt and Big Sis standing by to meet him, and Dad lending a well-practiced hand, as he had with their firstborn, Gertjan’s birth was a truly special family moment.
“My birth story starts at 34.5 weeks, when I felt my little boy drop into my pelvis.
My first was born at 36 weeks – with only 3 strong contractions before a VERY quick 20 minutes of pushing birth. A unicorn birth, as someone once called it. With that in mind, we were all worried that the second might be even quicker and even sooner.
My midwife moved to Pretoria during my pregnancy
(I live in Bloemfontein), and my worst fear was not being able to birth in her extremely capable hands. So, after a phone call to her, we decided it was best for me to follow her to Pretoria as soon as possible, to be on the safe side. Her birth unit is only 4 minutes away from my in-laws’ home. The luck!
But then the waiting game started… Never would I have thought that I would give birth to a full-term baby! I waited in Pretoria for 5 weeks before my little guy came. At 36 weeks I was 2cm dilated. At 37 weeks 3cm. So it went on, about a cm a week. I really struggled! I was in a lot of pain, very uncomfortable…
I could feel his head 3cm in, for weeks!
I had contractions (real ones) daily that came and went. That is how my body labours… Slowly, without me being in extreme pain until I’m fully dilated.
Even so, as the weeks passed, so my fears grew. Fears of my baby growing more and more, and me not being able to birth him (my first baby was 2.3kg). Fear of tearing badly, as I have heard way too many times that I am too tiny, or too old (imagine that… I’m 32!) to give birth naturally.
On 39 weeks – a Monday – I was supposed to see my midwife to see how things were progressing. I wanted her to help things along very badly, but my pillar-of-strength husband asked me to hang in there and give our little boy a chance to come when he was ready. The night before seeing my midwife, I agreed to let him be. I prayed that we would not have to do anything to rush him, as my midwife told us it could be the difference between 8 hours of pain and 20 minutes of pain.
That Monday morning at 04:00, my contractions started.
They were 10 minutes apart. At around 06:00, I took a warm shower to see if they would go away, but they didn’t. My contractions weren’t painful at all, they felt like period pain (I am extremely lucky!). We told everyone we thought it was time, and luckily when I went to the bathroom, I had bloody show, so I finally knew for sure! My sister and mother in law came along to help look after my 2-year-old girl, as I wanted my husband with me at all times.
When we got to the birth unit, I was already fully dilated, so into the bath we went. With my first baby, my rock star of a husband was with me the whole time. I sat on his lap while I birthed our girl and this time around we were fortunate enough to do it the same way. We sat in the bath for nearly an hour with what felt like nothing happening! Everyone was chatting away, my daughter was playing in the room.
I asked my midwife if she was certain I was fully dilated.
She laughed and said yes. She checked and asked me if I knew I was having a contraction. I did not. She told me to start pushing, so we could help Gertjan along. For the next 2 contractions she had to tell me when to push, and THEN I felt him! 20 min of pushing and my little guy was safely born into the hands of his dad.
As painful as it is, there is no other feeling quite like it. To be born with your baby. My little girl saw her brother being born, while she, a sister, was also born. I loved including her in the whole journey. We all enjoyed the first holy moments in the bath together. My husband had his turn of skin to skin time with his precious son, and as soon as I was able, our breastfeeding journey started. Within 3 hours we were home again.
After all the waiting, we were blessed with another unicorn birth! It was certainly worth all the effort of moving home for a couple of weeks. I am extremely grateful!”
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Why was I so desperate to have a natural birth?
Yes, it would have been a most empowering experience for me and yes my next one will be a VBAC, but was it really that important in the bigger scheme of things? At the end of it all we got what we set out to achieve – a human being that we could guide and mould and set free into the world for her to make her own impact. Maybe that trauma she and I both endured in getting her Earthside happened exactly how it was supposed to. That’s birth and even more so parenting – you set off on a course with big plans and that’s great, but there has to be flexibility and acceptance in changing course depending on whatever life (or your kid) throws at you.
After a minute or so we heard your first loud cry. It was glorious and we could finally breathe. Sr Lotter brought you to us and our hearts melted, my boy. You were beautiful. We checked for 10 fingers and 10 toes and we couldn’t stop looking at you. The happiest moment of our lives. You were born at 11:33 weighing 3.49kg and measuring 53cm.