Cape Town waves, by Hans-Christian Harder
About two months ago, pregnant with our sixth child, I began to look into something I have previously never considered: a home birth. I was 34 weeks pregnant and becoming increasingly frustrated with my OB who seemed focused on reminding me of all the possible things that could go wrong with my delivery. I’ve given birth five times before, no c-sections, no high blood pressure, no gestational diabetes, no placenta previa, no PPH or any of the other complications possible. My only issue has been that my pregnancies tend to go past 41 weeks! So after been told I was “high-risk” one too many times I decided to look into seeing a midwife and having a home birth.
Surprisingly this was met with complete support from my husband, who as a licensed paramedic wasn’t previously interested in the idea. We considered all the factors (including our 5 minute ETA to the hospital, if necessary), found a highly recommended, experienced certified nurse-midwife from Switzerland, and went shopping for exciting things like ice-packs, linen savers, and homeopathic oils and powders. I talked to amazingly supportive and encouraging friends who’d had home births. I learned some new exercises to help baby enter the birth canal, made some freezer meals, saw two such freezer meals slide out of the freezer, crash on the concrete floor, proceeded to clean up broken glass dishes and cried about throwing away my glass-shard filled food. I read dozens of home birth and water birth stories, got inspired, and then got totally freaked out when I remembered my last labor. Yes, we do forget the pain of childbirth but I can ask any one of you who’s delivered a baby to try to remember…and yes that memory is as fresh as if it happened yesterday, if we want to call it up.
We eagerly anticipated my due date, and then saw it come and go. Christmas Day came and went. 41 weeks. No baby.
Finally Monday night I started to have consistant contractions, every 10-15 minutes. I woke to some other definite signs of impending labor and since the contractions persisted I felt fairly certain labor was beginning! I called the friends I had lined up to watch the kids and we dropped them off that afternoon as I prepared mentally to give birth. As the heat of the day increased all signs of labor stopped. Nothing. Sadly we picked the kids back up again and I became that woman who faked labor.
As the sun went down that night, my contractions started again. Every 10-15 minutes, the whole night. I tried to sleep in between but by morning I thought, certainly this is it. So I called the midwife, and she came over about 8:30am. Just as everything stopped again. She shared with me her concerns about having the home birth since my labor didn’t seem to be progressing. She gently told me she would like me to deliver in the hospital, where she could still attend the delivery.
We went in for a non-stress test and saw baby was still happy inside. The midwife did an internal exam and saw that I was only dilated 2cm and not effaced, even after two nights full of contractions. The rest of the day was so hard…I felt like my chances for a delivery without intervention were slipping away. My two main goals with this baby were to go into labor on my own and deliver on my own. As I was sitting for the non-stress test I saw the shelves full of epidural equipment and could just see the scene play out…induced labor not progressing, me getting exhausted and stressed, finally asking for medication, eventually delivering but having to sort through mixed feelings of disappointment at not having the natural childbirth I desired. I’ve had three deliveries unmedicated, two where I got an epidural. One of those was necessary due to my level of exhaustion and prolonged labor due to induction, but the other was me second-guessing myself and getting one more out of fear of another prolonged labor. Part of my strong desire for a home-birth was to be in a supportive environment where I could labor on my own and not be tempted with short-cutting the awesome experience of natural childbirth. If I know relief from pain is sitting next to me on a shelf at the hospital…I am going to go for it!
But since above all of this is the goal of a healthy baby, I agreed to deliver at the hospital. We made arrangements for a friend to come stay with the kids at home.
I considered an interesting comment by my mid-wife, that rarely in her experience do women give birth during the heat of the day. If a client hasn’t called her by 8am, she knows the baby will not be born that day and she is free until evening. This seemed to sync with my experience with labor as well.
At sunset that evening, my contractions re-surged with a vengeance. Every 7 minutes, strong and getting stronger. I dared to hope this was real labor, but kept quiet about it because of the previous false alarms. Finally when I almost dropped Eva while working through a contraction, I told Gert I think this is real labor and maybe we should call the midwife. I chatted with her on the phone, explaining they were coming every 4-5 minutes now and what should I do? So she said she would get dressed and come over, and why don’t I take a hot shower in the meantime to relax me.
While in the shower I had several strong contractions and started trembling uncontrollably. Since it was a hot night I knew I wasn’t cold. By the time Natasha came over, I was nearly in transition. We didn’t really discuss it, but since I was so close to delivery, she decided to assist us at home after all. She helped me find positions to labor in, the one that helped the most was leaning over an exercise ball on the bed with Gert by my side. She used several essential oils to rub my back, apply heat, and generally guide the baby down the birth canal. As I tried to manage the intensity of each surge, she said things to me like “only you can do this, no one can take this away from you,” and “you want this, you want this baby, you can do this.” She helped me breathe, and told me to visualise the baby on the other side of the road, and said I had to go get it. This one didn’t work for me :). First I pictured my newborn laying there in the ditch and then standing up like a toddler about to get hit by a car! But visualising the baby wanting to come down the birth canal and eager to meet me did help.
“With my God I can scale a wall,” the word He gave me in my 8th month of pregnancy, resonated in my mind throughout the labor, especially in the intense time of transition. As I spoke this out loud, I felt His power strengthen both my mind, heart, and body.
The midwife suggested I sit in the bathroom through a couple of contractions, I think she was hoping my water would break there. She asked if I could feel the head, and I asked her if she wanted to check me to make sure I was fully dilated for pushing. She declined, saying each time you do an internal exam, it sets labor back again, and I would know when I was ready to push. After two more strong back to back contractions I stood up and immediately felt the urge to push. I was standing next to the bed hanging on to Gert when in one gush my water broke and I felt the burn of baby”s head crowning. I pushed once and her head and shoulders came out, the rest of her body quick to follow. Natasha reacted quickly to catch her by the head and leg, unwrap the cord which was loosely looped around her neck twice, and hand her to my shocked self. Labor was over and suddenly I had a baby!
She cried and cried and cried, yet none of the kids woke up. Fireworks were going off all along the beach front, and we watched from our bedroom window. Labouring through New Year’s Eve, she was born 12:30am New Year’s Day, 11 days past my due date. It was a celebratory, joyful, peaceful birth-day, with candles and worship music and my amazingly supportive husband and midwife attending the birth of our sixth baby, in the comfort of our home. I learned so much from this experience, about allowing my body to do what God created it to do without interference and allowing myself to lean into pain, knowing it is birthing something new and beautiful and full of life.
I am so grateful for this birth. God is so good to me. His kindness and hand was with us through it all. He helped me overcome the discouragement of two days of false labor and brought me through a fast and intense labor when at last the time came. I am thankful for all the prayers that helped this labor and delivery commence and follow through without hesitation or stalling. And I am so thankful and in love with our little 8 lb 12 oz Eden Joy Roets.
Hope and Eden
Special Birth Announcement from Anne M