Birth | Hayden de Jager | Pretoria Birth Photographer
“Anyone can give up; it is the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone would expect you to fall apart, now that is true strength.” – Chris Bradford
It never ceases to amaze me what immense reserves of strength women have when it comes to arguably the biggest challenge of their lives – giving birth naturally. Hours of pain and physical exertion and somehow they find the strength to pull through – in their faith, in their support system, in their deep desire to meet their new baby. It is truly remarkable. Guineve is one such woman. As a midwife herself, she was unusually prepared for the logistics of birth, but no amount of practical knowledge can truly prepare you for the unique, overwhelming experience. Being a midwife posed its own unique challenges, making it hard for Guineve to let go and just be a mommy. This is her incredible VBAC (Vaginal Birth After C-Section) story.
“I woke up at 01h00 after restless sleep due to weeks of coughing from bronchitis, which meant I had to sleep upright. I had promised myself this time round in early labour I would be calm and try to rest, as opposed to walking or bouncing. I knew if this was it, it could be a long day and I needed to conserve energy.
The fear started to creep in.
How am I going to labour while being so sick?
Especially since I’d been sick for so long. I had a pep talk with myself and realised we don’t have a choice. It was time and we would get through it, regardless of the birth method my baby boy chooses. I did some deep breathing, forced myself to relax, and let it go. I was aware of the contractions coming and going, but they were short and mild, so I was able to rest a bit in between.
The contractions increased steadily, and at about 05h30 I felt them increase again. The pain was radiating into my back, it was becoming difficult to stay in bed. I woke my husband, Guido, and told him I was having contractions.
“Are you sure it’s not just Braxton hicks?” he asked.
I assured him I’d been doing this for almost 5 hours already, and no, it was not Braxton Hicks! So he made a hot pack for me, which helped with the back pain and made me a bit more comfortable again.
I got up at about 7h00 to get my daughter ready for school, and had to smile at the difference between the first and second kid. Once I was up, the contractions increased and I had a hard time making tea and fitting hair brushing in. Around 8h00 I began to feel overwhelmed by the pain and really struggled to get through them. It was time to try the bath.
The hot water felt so good, although it was difficult to find a comfortable position. We emptied the geyser on the first bath. Everyone was running around filling buckets to keep the water hot! At this point the contractions were about 2.5 minutes apart and still 40 seconds long. Guido asked if it meant we had to head to hospital, but I wanted to stay at home until they were at least a minute long, even though they were already 3 in 10 minutes.
I got out the bath and the contractions increased again. All I could do was get onto the bed on my knees and lean over a triangular pillow to try to get comfortable. I laboured like that for what felt like forever and for the first time I cried.
The pain was so overpowering.
I felt a bit panicky, so I listened to Hayden’s heart for the first time. The beat was perfect and that reassured me.
I had lost all concept of time. The level of irritation and emotion at that stage made me feel like something had shifted and I hoped it meant I was in active labour. At 10h15 I timed the contractions again and they were over a minute long and about 3 minutes apart. I asked my midwife and doula to come to my house – I needed the support.
My doula, Marthie, arrived and she helped me with some relaxation techniques. I had hoped for reflexology, but could not sit still long enough to give Marthie access to my feet. Nevertheless, she was a great help. She helped me find comfortable positions and I felt like she brought a calm to the room, which I needed desperately at the time. The check was super quick, which I took as a good sign. I was 5cm dilated, had a thin cervix and bulging membranes. I was so happy to hear that, and my midwife reassured me that she didn’t see any reason that I would not be able to have an NVD.(Natural Vaginal Delivery) We slowly got ready to move to the hospital.
The car ride was horrible and felt like it took forever, but actually we got to there quickly! Sam arrived, which encouraged me, and I got settled in the bath. My husband remembered to put my playlist of songs on which I was so grateful for. I had not thought of the music, but it was a welcome distraction and good point of focus for me. I think most of the afternoon was a bit of a blur, yet I have specific moments that I clearly remember and the photographs have helped me piece together the events.
Labour has a way of reaching a new level of pain and intensity that completely overwhelms you to a point that you feel as if you can’t go on. Yet somehow, you dig deep and find the strength. It is as if it plateaus and you are able to cope again. Heather, my midwife, showed Guido how to push back on my knees during the contractions, and that offered relief for my hips and back. It was a great position for me. Not so much for Guido who had to sit on his haunches and lean against the wall behind him in order to put pressure on my knees.
Next check I was 7-8cm, which meant good progress, and Hayden’s heart was still nice and strong.
I was hoping this time I would progress quicker, but of course any progress was good news and I had tried to prepare myself for a long labour. Despite my preparation, the exhaustion started to set in, and I felt so tired. I tried lying down on my side to rest a bit. My husband was behind me putting pressure on my back. I needed lip ice and Marthie got some for me and offered me water. Heather was doing pressure points on my hand, Sam was standing by the foot of the bed. I was so uncomfortable and in so much pain, but tried to lie there for a few minutes and soak up the love and care and tenderness everyone was offering me, drawing on their strength.
I was in the bathroom when I heard Dr Kruger come into the room. I decided to hide out until she left. I wasn’t ready for doctor intervention. She did help by prescribing pulmicourt for me to nebulise with. It opened up my lungs, helped me to breathe through the pain. She also prescribed pain meds, but I knew I did not want them, or the side effects they come with. I was worried that the team thought that I wasn’t coping but I knew that despite my complaining and feeling like I couldn’t do it, that I was doing it, and would continue to until I could meet my boy.
I think we got to about 17h00 and I was 9cm, so we decided to rupture membranes to help things along. Guido asked how much longer we were looking at. Heather said we would reassess in two hours. I was heartbroken. I did not feel like I had two hours left in me. I felt so overwhelmed, like this might actually not be possible, maybe I can’t do it. The next hour was the hardest for me, it felt like torture. It had gotten dark and we lit candles around the bath. I was trying all different positions, but struggled to find something bearable. I had worked so hard on breathing and relaxing, but when the contractions came it was so crushing, all I could do was ride it out and wait for it to be over.
I was uncomfortable and wanted to get out of the bath, but I knew that meant the pain was coming with me. What I really wanted was to get out of the bath and leave the contractions there too. I got into a kneeling position on the bed and though I didn’t have the urge, I decided to try push anyway.
I gave one big push and could feel Hayden move down.
The feeling of pushing and having him so low was horrible. I had a little pep talk with myself between contractions. I knew now that it was up to me to push him out. No one could help me, and I most definitely could not do this for two hours. I reminded myself that I wanted this so badly and what a privilege it is to be able to get to the point of pushing. They asked if they could put on the lights so that we could get better photos which I did not mind at all. I was seriously over the ambiance of the candles and dim light. I had bigger things to worry about.
After the most intense pressure I felt relief and they said his head was out. More pressure with the next contraction as his shoulder was birthed, and then the most amazing relief once his body slipped out. My husband helped me up and I scooped down to pick my baby boy up.
That moment was everything to me.
I picked him up to my chest and a towel to cover him magically appeared. He looked at me with a stunned wide-eyed expression but didn’t cry. I rubbed his back and kept saying, ‘he is ok’, as if to reassure everyone, but I think it was more for me. He gave us a very small half-hearted cry and I relaxed. I saw in the video I said, “I can’t believe he is here!” and kept kissing his little head.
Hayden decided he wanted to latch, and fed really well. I was surprised as he was so tiny and looked a bit tired at birth. I was so relieved as I knew he was 100% ok. I noticed how dirty he was. In all my effort to pack him nice new, turquoise towels, all the little turquoise fluffies came off on him.
Parenting fail #1 and he was only an hour old!
I took a bath so we could give Hayden a quick rinse too. I am so glad we did as it gave us a nice opportunity to have Sam there for his first bath photos. I quickly got dressed and really wanted to dress Hayden. It was so special to be able to put his first clothes and nappy on.
I felt amazing and was keen to sleep in my own bed. Luckily we were given the all clear to go home. I was very proud of myself for going into labour, birthing and being back home all in one day! Walking out of the hospital to go home with our son was such an unreal feeling. My boy is home now, and I could not feel more blessed. Welcome to Earth, my boy.”
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