My daughter, Alyssa, was born on 7 August 2019 at 18h10 at Genesis Maternity Clinic. I had such a positive and peaceful labour and delivery that I’ve decided to share my story in the hopes that it would be an encouragement and help to other expecting mommies.
Alyssa was my second pregnancy. My first pregnancy was three years prior and had also resulted in a wonderful, natural delivery at Genesis Maternity Clinic. It started with my water breaking early in the morning, and after eight hours of labour and 20 minutes of pushing, my firstborn entered the world. I had a few stitches, a lot of bleeding and my son had some complications, but I was thrilled with how well the whole process had gone.
As I prepared to give birth to Alyssa, I looked back at what I had learned from my previous labour and formulated a new approach. I planned to do three things differently:
I planned to push myself a little more and keep as active as I could during my labour
I planned to relax as much as I could through contractions and not fight against the pain, but rather just let each wave do its work of pushing the baby down
I planned to focus more on what my body needed and follow my instincts by moving into whatever positions felt comfortable (I remembered feeling more comfortable on my hands and knees during my previous birth, but I birthed on my back instead)
I believe that these three decisions made all the difference for me.
It’s amazing how your body works to prepare you for the huge task of birthing a human being. I remember moments of feeling overwhelming anxiety as I looked forward to giving birth. Although I managed a natural birth the first time, I wasn’t sure I could do it again. I remembered the intensity of the eight hours of labour - how exhausting it was. Now, with two toddlers at home, I definitely wasn’t going to have the same amount of energy I had the first time. I knew the journey that lay ahead of me and I was scared that I was not up to the task. But by the time labour finally started, something inside me had changed. I felt determined and ready. I was so ready!
The last few weeks leading up to D-day were a rollercoaster of emotions. Alyssa had already dropped when I went for my 36 week check-up with Dr. Sikakane. She was sitting very low and I was very uncomfortable. On 30 July, at 38 weeks pregnant, the Braxton Hicks started to get much stronger and more regular. I took my final photo of my pregnant belly thinking, “Today might be the last day of my pregnancy.” It wasn’t. A few days later, on Saturday morning, 3 August, I lost my mucous plug and had a bit of a bloody show. “This is it,” I thought. “We aren’t going to make it through the weekend.” We did. Monday came and I was still pregnant. It was a frustrating wait.
I woke up in the early hours of Wednesday morning with contractions. Nothing unusual, as I had to use the toilet and at this stage of pregnancy, a full bladder often induced Braxton hicks, especially in the middle of the night. I would use the opportunity to practice my breathing, breathing deeply in through my nose and exhaling slowly through my mouth. I would practice relaxing my body through the waves, telling myself “just let it happen, don’t fight.” I expected the contractions to subside and be gone by the time I had to wake up, as this had been the case all week. I lay in bed after using the toilet, waiting for the contractions to stop so I could go back to sleep. When my husband got up to attend to one of the toddlers, I checked the time and was surprised to see that only an hour had gone by. I had felt a lot of contractions during that hour. This was it.
By the time I woke up to get the kids ready for school, the contractions had grown further apart, but they hadn’t stopped. I also noticed some bloody discharge which confirmed that labour was really starting now. I felt eager and ready, but also tired. Thinking that I might have a long day ahead of me, I went back to bed after sending the kids to school and had a nap. When I awoke, the contractions seemed to be gone, but I was determined to get things going so I did the best thing I knew to do – get up and get moving! I wondered around the house doing chores and bounced on my gym ball while in between tasks. Slowly the contractions returned, getting stronger and closer together.
At about 12 o’ clock I messaged my midwife, Ester, to let her know that the contractions were about 7-10 minutes apart. I had an appointment to see her at three that afternoon, so I wanted to check if I should still go, or just wait it out. She asked me about the intensity of the contractions and then told me that we would wait until a little later to decide and asked me to let her know if the contractions got to 5 minutes apart.
I decided to keep myself moving and distracted by making a short trip to a nearby mall. I wondered around window shopping with my phone in my hand, timing contractions. After only half an hour, the contractions had gotten a lot stronger and were 6 minutes apart. I hopped in the car and drove 6 minutes to get home. Two contractions in the car, things were picking up.
When I got home, I continued with the distractions by taking down the washing I had hung up earlier that day. By the time I was done, contractions were 3 minutes apart. I couldn’t believe how quickly they’d picked up. I called my husband to let him know it was time to go and told Ester that we would meet her at Genesis clinic in an hour. We dropped the kids off at with their grandparents and arrived at Genesis at 15h30.
Ester started by checking how far I had dilated. I was nervous because my contractions had slowed right down during the drive. I really didn’t want to be sent home on a “false alarm.” Thankfully, I was 4 cm dilated. Ester informed me that the baby’s head was very low and that we were just waiting for dilation. She estimated about a three hour wait. I was sceptical. I had arrived 4 cm dilated for my last birth and only gave birth 7 hours later. I wasn’t convinced, but I trusted Ester’s judgement.
I was put on the machine that measures contractions for a few minutes. They were starting to pick up pace again, but still were not as strong. Since I had tested positive for Strep B, I also had to be put on an antibiotic drip for half an hour. During that time, my mother arrived to support us. When the drip finished, Ester asked if I wanted to take a walk, an offer I had declined with my first birth. This time, I eagerly agreed, determined to move the labour along. My husband and I took a stroll around the parking lot. I had to stop a couple of times to lean on him while I waited for a contraction to pass. After only about 10 minutes, things were feeling much more intense, so we went back inside.
Inside, I sat on the birthing ball, gently bouncing while leaning on the bath in front of me for support through contractions. The four of us in the room – my husband, my mom, Ester and myself – chatting about TV shows, family, work and church. We laughed at the thought of the dramatized labours of women in sitcoms like Friends. We were all relaxed and comfortable. Ester came and sat behind me for a little while, massaging my lower back through contractions. Then she suggested I go to the toilet to empty my bladder. She said, “Once your water breaks, we can get you into the bath.” As I stood up from the ball, my water broke.
I sat on the toilet while Ester ran the water, leaning forward on my husband for support during some very intense contractions. As I tried to keep my body relaxed through contractions, I noticed that I was starting to moan as I breathed out forcefully. It was the only way to release the tension building in my body instead of holding it in by tensing my muscles. Ester then asked me to sit on the ball again so she could monitor the baby’s heart rate through a couple of contractions. We waited and waited, but the contractions were suddenly very far apart. Looking back, I realise that I was in transition during this stage. My body was taking a short break, getting ready for all the work it was about to do. Ester obviously could read the situation and suggested I get in the water. She told me that if I wanted to push, I shouldn’t fight against my body. This was a very different message to me because I had to refrain from pushing during my first labour. It was a relief to know that I didn’t have to fight the urge.
I got in the water and made myself comfortable. My husband sat on the edge of the tub, rubbing my shoulders. It was only a few minutes before the contractions came back, this time very strong and very quick. I felt like they were less than a minute apart and lasting longer. My moans were getting deeper, a sign that we were close. With the third contraction, I started feeling the urge to push. Well, not necessarily an urge, more like my body automatically starting to push following the contraction. I didn’t fight it, but rather leaned into it gently. I felt my legs being forced open with each contraction and I moved into a sitting position, leaning back on my hands.
After the fourth or fifth contraction, I wondered if I should tell Ester what I was feeling, but I thought maybe I should wait through one or two more contractions to be sure. She was standing by the door, quietly telling someone that she had a mom who was about 9 cm dilated and needed an underwater heart monitor. Another contraction came and I suddenly pushed hard and cried out in pain. Ester said, “Oh!” and came and sat in front of me – the baby was crowning. She told me to push slower so I wouldn’t tear, which I did. Seconds later, she announced, “There’s the head. Oh!” The rest of the baby just slipped out. It was such a strange feeling suddenly losing a load that I’d been carrying for so long. Ester caught Alyssa and placed her onto my chest. I couldn’t believe it! It was 18h15, less than three hours since I’d arrived.
Ester and the Genesis staff midwife present to assist remarked at how easy it was. “That was barely even a push!” she said. My mom, who was on camera duty, apologised saying, “It was so fast! You didn’t give us enough warning. I couldn’t get the camera to focus before she was already out. I’m afraid your video is just going to be a blur.” I didn’t care. I was so overjoyed and at peace with how well everything went. I felt like my daughter had just birthed herself.
I would love to recount every detail following the birth, but I wouldn’t want to keep you all day. I will say, however, that I was grateful not to need stitches (despite her head being bigger than my firstborn’s) and to be able to breastfeed within the first hour after her birth. I slept with Alyssa on my chest all night, soaking in every moment that I would never get back.
I was so grateful for Ester, who gave me space and freedom to labour as I did and who continued to support me through the following ten days. She has a gentle and calming presence which is so comforting to a tired mom. I was grateful for Genesis Clinic and staff who provided such a safe and quiet environment for my family. Mostly, I was grateful to Jesus for giving us the beautiful gift of a peaceful birth and a healthy daughter.
I know that there are so many possibilities of complications when it comes to childbirth and I know that my story is unique because each story is different. Birthing is scary for many because it is so outside of your control. But I would like to encourage expecting mommies to educate themselves as much as they can about the process of childbirth and then surrender to the process.