Birth | Jaden Pretorius
“And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.” Romans 8:28 (Amp)
Elmain Pienaar defines strength in adversity. When she was faced with a very scary choice to make – stick to the natural home birth she had dreamed of, or go to the hospital – she did what any good mom would, and put her child’s safety ahead of her own wishes. Despite the disappointment of not being able to deliver Jaden the way she wanted, Elmain’s newborn boy brings her so much joy and comfort. My heart goes out to this courageous woman.
Here is Jaden’s birth story:
“Being a doula, I thought I was prepared for any birth scenario – I had it all planned out.
Finding out I was pregnant while on a trip to Vietnam and Bali was the first surprise. This little guy was travelling the world – snorkelling coral reefs, eating new foods and climbing a volcano before he was even born.
We had a picture-perfect pregnancy – low risk, and both of us as healthy as can be. I had read articles, watched videos and tapped into all I had learned and experienced as a doula, making sure my husband was on the same page as well, of course. Finding the right midwife for the big day was simple. We were happy with our choice after the first interview.
It came as no surprise to me when we went past every single estimated due date we had been given since our first scan and check-up. This is our first baby after all. After 41 weeks, I decided, with support from our midwife, to start trying some natural ways to encourage this little guy to enter the world – reflexology, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and osteopathy. I also tried some exercises at home, all to try and avoid a medical induction or C-section. I wanted a very natural, unmedicated birth. I can’t remember ever wanting something as much as I wanted this. I had visualised and dreamed of this day. Birthing my baby in the water and bringing him up to look at his sweet innocent face for the very first time in the warmth and comfort of our (and now his) home.
That was not how it panned out…
I went into labour at 41 weeks and five days.
Contractions started at 3:00 and I never thought I would be so happy and relieved to be in pain. There was nothing about this experience I feared. I had mentally prepared myself for every single step – no matter how long it would take.
My husband woke up around 4:30 when he realised I wasn’t next to him in bed and I remember laughing as I told him that I think this is the real deal. He messaged our birth team and we started to run a bath to see if it would encourage or calm the contractions. They stuck around after an hour in the water and I decided to start getting ready for whatever the day might hold.
We peacefully laboured at home.
It was a beautiful day and my heart felt overjoyed for what was to come. I embraced every contraction. I worked through them while taking time to sleep, eat and drink where possible. I knew that I would need my strength later on.
Night time came and my birth team arrived. I felt excited that every contraction was bringing me closer to the baby I would finally get to meet. At around 18:00 I was six centimetres dilated and my water had broken. This was less than I thought it would be, but it didn’t hinder me. I was prepared to do this, no matter how long it took.
I walked, squatted and moved on the birthing ball to open my cervix and help my little boy down. The intensity of the contractions definitely picked up after my water broke and we decided to get into the birth pool around 22:00 to relieve some pain and to become more comfortable.
I laboured in the water for what seemed like forever and the warmth provided a comfort I cannot describe. At this point, I suspect, my body was being flooded with hormones. I can’t remember everything very clearly. I had gone to a place where I was working through each wave as it came, but not fully aware of anything else around me. It was both the hardest and most blissful thing I had ever experienced.
At around 00:00 we checked my cervix again to see how we were progressing. I was sad and disappointed that after another six hours,
I was still only six centimetres dilated.
I felt as if the contractions were pulling me down to the ground. We also learned that there was meconium in my water when it had broken six hours ago. It could be nothing to worry about (which is why the midwife didn’t mention it at the time), or it could be a sign that my baby was in distress. Even though his heart rate was normal, after 21 hours of labour, I felt as if something was working against us.
I wasn’t prepared to put my baby’s life at risk and made the most difficult decision that I have ever had to make… To go to the hospital for what was most likely to end in a C-section.
The journey to the hospital and every minute there felt like hours, even though it must not have been much more than 45 minutes.
Once the doctor came to check on me, he concluded that I was still only at six centimetres and that my baby boy was not in an optimal position, which is why he hadn’t moved down any further. He felt that a C-section was necessary. I had hoped that somehow, something would have changed by the time we arrived at the hospital and that a natural birth would still have been possible.
I was prepped for surgery and was feeling as alone as I had ever felt in my life.
Why had my body failed me? Failed us?
What did I do wrong for things to have changed so drastically in the last week, days or hours before labour? These thoughts ran through my mind while laying under the bright light in the operating room.
My husband was brought in and as soon as I saw him, I stopped agonising. He brought me back. Back to focus on the present. No words needed.
After a few minutes, I vaguely remember a baby’s cry. I remember asking the doctor if I could have immediate skin-to-skin and if they would allow for delayed cord clamping. I never thought that we would end up here, so I hadn’t asked him in my last appointment, or even while they were getting me ready for surgery. How could I have missed those last few important factors, which I still had some level of control over?
They placed my baby on my chest and a tear rolled down the side of my face.
This was not the euphoria which I had envisioned when meeting my sweet boy. I was happy, but at the same time angry, disappointed and sad. This was not what I had wanted. I couldn’t control these thoughts when I was supposed to be ecstatic about this baby that had been growing inside me for the last ten months.
The doctor and my husband were wonderful and helped me focus as much as was possible. Before I knew it, Jaden and I were in our room, recovering from the birth.
The first few days were the hardest…
I could barely look at my baby without crying. How could I have done him so wrong? Why could I not give him the birth he deserved? What could I have done differently? Did I make the wrong decision going to the hospital? Was I weak for not having laboured longer? For giving up too soon?
These questions still haunt me every day, but I think about them less now when I look down at my perfect baby boy sleeping in front of me.
Someone once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”
Jaden, you were the hardest lesson I have ever had to learn, but you are the most beautiful!”
You guys will always have a special place in my heart
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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.