Monday, 25 February 2013

A positive birth

A positive birth
25 February 2013

The biggest gift one woman can give another, is the gift of a positive birth experience story.  Truly it is.  It is more valuable than lotions and potions, pretty jewellery, gift vouchers, spa treatments, clothing or even things for the home.

Few things are more terrifying than realising that wonderful though your pregnancy is, “this baby’s gotta get out”.  It is definitely a woman type thing.  An ancient old fear.  I remember giving it lots of thought as just a little girl.  Being scared then already.  And even though the miracle of Caesars were around when I was still small, it hardly sounded like a very palatable option.  Having my stomach cut open certainly held no appeal.  The term between a rock and hard place certainly comes to mind.  And funny enough, at just eleven years of age, my little Amber has already expressed concern.  Which probably partly explains her desire to adopt.

And once I was with child, I made peace with the fact that this baby would eventually have to make an entry into this world.  But I was a bit of a dreamer.  In fact, I’m one in many areas of my life.  I had visions of quickly popping a baby out, with minimum fuss and not too much pain.  My recovery would be speedy, my waistline would again reappear instantly and I would embrace natural childbirth with remarkable aplomb.  Oh, I was prepared for a wee bit of discomfort.  It was only normal.  And part of me certainly felt that it was like a rite of passage.  Something us women have to do.  It would make me feel more like a mom when I finally held my precious bundle, as if I truly deserved this miracle only after enduring labour.  And giving genetics it’s due, my Mom, my Ouma Helene and my aunt Bettie had virtually sailed through childbirth.  I therefore felt that it was not unrealistic to expect my uterus to also expand like an aeroplane hangar with a huge double door, enabling an easy exit for my much anticipated baby boy.

Huge was my shock though, when labour ensued.  Where were the fine beads of sweat on my brow that my husband would lovingly wipe?  Where was my feeling of one-ness with my body?  Where was my sense of earth motherly calm?  It was sore and very painful and I was petrified and scared.  And though the pain was not constant, it would ebb and flow with each new contraction.  Like a rush of heat and a tightening that swept through my body.  I anticipated the relief of finally feeling an urge to push.  But fifteen years later, it still has not happened.  I envisioned dilating and an end being in sight.  But no such luck.

My waters had broken at 3h15 in the morning.  Though it was a trickle and not a gush.  At first I was not even sure if the show was about to start.  But by 4h25 after a phone call to the Hospital to double check we must indeed come in, as well as a call to both sets of grandparents, we set off to go and have ourselves a baby.  What an interminably looooong wait.  With not much happening at all.  My poor dad could not stand the suspense.  He popped in to the Hospital a few times during the course of Luke’s birth day.  Each time he would reach my room, stick his head around the door with a huge big anticipatory grin, as if he assumed that Luke had just been born and the waiting was finally over.  And each time, he would see me still in pain, turn green and beat a hasty retreat, having not said a word.

After many hours, an epidural, an episiotomy (fun, fun, fun!!!) and a suction cup, Luke finally took his first breath at 20h25.  By this stage, I had already signed the consent forms for a rush Caesar, but we thought we’d give it a last ditch attempt.  Three last pushes and if he still did not appear, we would do the Caesar immediately.  I really could not care.  They could have sucked him out of my nose for all that it mattered.  I just wanted him out.  It was most certainly not a highlight in my life.  But hearing his little cry and holding his little body most certainly was.  It was all worth it and the second they laid him in my arms, Grant said I glanced up at him and said “I want to do that again”.  He thought I was a nutter.  My recovery was slow and painful, but it all faded into significance, compared to finally having my new baby boy.

And then when I fell pregnant with Amber, our doctor who is a friend said “Not over my dead body are we doing that again.  It’s definitely a Caesar this time.”.  I could have kissed him I was so delighted.  And subsequently I had an elective Caesar with Cole too.  What a marvellous experience!  It was incredible!  None of that undignified huffing and puffing and agonies of pain.  Yes, my recovery was also painful and not all that fast, but here is the clincher – I COULD PUT A BANDAGE OVER MY WOUND.  And believe you me, it made all the difference in the world.  I felt victorious and vindicated.  I was a woman!

There is no right or wrong way to bring a child into this world.  Whatever works for you.  It is personal preference.  Though medical safety and costs certainly also play a role.  No one has the right to make you feel like less of a woman or a mom because you never had natural childbirth.  That you’re a failure because you had a Caesar.  The important thing is that your baby is born.  Is it not more important that you get out on the other side, healthy and whole?  Able to care for your child, not traumatised?  Your baby’s delivery, whether it be natural or Caesar, is but page one of their life story.  And your story as a mom.  It is merely the preface or introduction.  It’s setting the scene.

It’s what you do with the rest of that child’s life that makes you a true mom.

So, be kind to yourself and cut yourself some slack.  The same goes for the old breast vs bottle debate.  Pretty superfluous in my opinion, as long as you’re feeding your child.

And though I’ve told you a slightly less pleasant birth story, I was merely doing so to illustrate a point.  I was my own worst enemy because of the ideal I had in my head.  Being pregnant and the prospect of birthing and raising a child is daunting enough.  Make it easy for yourself where you can.  Encourage other women to look after themselves.  To see to themselves emotionally too.  They are not to be judged for the choices they make in birthing their child.  Natural child birth is not always all that natural for everyone.  Some women are just less able to do that.  Their bodies don’t allow it.  But thank heavens for the marvels of medicine and the choices it allows. 

A very special someone out there that I know, is facing this dilemma right now.  Her first experience was traumatic and she nearly didn’t make it.  She is still deeply troubled by it today and has lost lots of sleep over it.  More than a year down the line, the memories have not faded.  And now she finds herself expecting again.  She is petrified and my heart simply aches.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  This new baby is not a ticking time bomb, growing deep in her womb.  I’ve seen both sides of the coin and for me there is no comparison.  I would have a Caesar in a heartbeat again.  In fact I wear my scars with pride.  Visible proof of two of the best days of my life.

Look after yourself, special lady.  You can do this.  Your little boy needs you to be healthy and whole.  You need to make a pact with yourself.  To look after your wellbeing too.  Lightning doesn’t strike twice.  It will be better this time.  You can ensure it.  Be kind to yourself.

I have full faith that your “Page One” of your new baby’s life and your motherhood journey with this new bundle will be an awesome one. 

You are a woman, a mom and a survivor too.  Much love. xxx


  1. What a honest account of giving birth - I think that is sometimes needed more than a positive one, because the end product is your amazing miracle matter how they came into this world
    Amen to happy mommies = happy babies :)

  2. Helene - I think I need you as my birthing partner - brought tears to my eyes - you are so apt and really spoke to me in this - thank you special friend - a powerful message needed at the beginning of this journey... much love and hugs xxx

  3. I have 4 children,each entered my world a little differently: my oldest is a step-child, followed by one 'natural', one vertical caesar(high risk breech, etc), and one lateral c-section, so I speak from experience that you are equally a mother no matter how your children are born, and that includes adoption. There are good reasons to favor one method in general, but it all comes down to what works for you and your child. Thanks for saying it again, especially new moms need to hear what matters is love and care, not which route they take.

  4. I have 2 wonderfully amazing children and with my first, a son, I had a natural birth and 2nd one was a caeser due to her being breech. I was lucky that with my natural birth I only had 4 hours labour but included an episeotomy. I then had a D&C within the hour as my placenta would not detatch. Yet the next morning (Birth was 00.10) i was up an about no problem. Yet after my daughters caecerion I was bed ridden for 3 days and took me over 3 weeks to feel 'normal' again. As you say, each situation is different, but if I was to have more kids I would go the natural route without a doubt! Whatever you choose or have to do under doctors instructions, remember that you will be a MUM afterwards and that is what it is about! So rewarding!