Sorry to my long time readers who are dealing with me going back into the past. But I have three new readers and want to set it up so people get a feel for who I am more. Also, I know as a young wife, I was desperate to read about women’s labour and delivery experiences so maybe there’s a new wife out there who also wants to know how things can turn out. My ideal birth (in my mind) was at home in peace with a midwife. But I was open to hearing about all types of experiences. I just love the miracle of life.
So, we’d seen a herbalist in a last ditch effort to conceive. We didn’t have money for IVF and I didn’t even know they had that kind of specialty in Kenya anyway. I was at the point where I’d stopped watching birth videos and was watching adoption stories as I felt I was wasting my time praying for pregnancy when I was going to be a mom for sure! Adoption was guaranteed. Why prepare for something I’d never experience? I almost felt like grabbing one of the orphans we used to see walking with the manager of the home they used to live in. My husband didn’t want me to have a criminal record, so I never pursued that.😁
A month after the last foul tasting concoction was drunk and I was impatiently wishing we’d come back to South Africa so we could begin the adoption process, I stepped into the bath and my husband who was watching me as he brushed his teeth, says, “Your skin is glowing. I think you’re pregnant. You’re looking beautiful.” After a certain look that I gave him, he added, “You’re looking more beautiful than ever!
How do we confirm it? Do we go see your old gynae who was trying to treat us?”
No! I told him we could buy a pregnancy test the very next day, so off he went early the next morning while I stayed home. He was so sure that I’d gotten pregnant that he also returned with a bunch of congratulatory flowers, along with the pregnancy test. A test which indeed turned out to be positive.
Thanks to having watched all those labour and delivery videos, I knew I wanted an active birth with no painkillers. I wanted to be walking around, not lying trapped in a bed in pain. I wanted to be upright breathing through the pain, in control as much as possible. And an Active Birth class the Aga Khan hospital was offering, was perfect for us! I enjoyed it! And we got a certificate at the end of it! We were taught how to save our oxygen for the baby to use by breathing deeply, instead of screaming. We were taught how to move around and taught about how we might poop while pushing. (They never mentioned THAT in my shows!) We were taught how to manage pain through breathing and movement, but were also told the available pain management options.
On June 19, 2005, I was about to get into bed, I was clambering onto the bed, actually. When boom, I started peeing on myself! I jumped off my poor bed and tried to carefully run to the loo, dripping on the floor as I went. “Honey, I can’t stop peeing! Help!”
He looked down at the floor and in a deadpan voice said, “There’s no way your bladder can hold that much water. You’re NOT peeing yourself! Can’t you see your water has broken?”
No! I couldn’t even see my toes. Let alone breaking water!
Our hospital bag was packed already though it was two weeks early. We organised with his brother for his car. And then, we waited. They’d told us to go in when our contractions are regularly 5 minutes apart. Mine weren’t. He ended up sleeping while I timed my contractions which were ten minutes apart, 1 minute, 5 minutes… And not really increasing in intensity.
But because my water had broken and it had now been 12 hours since then, and they’d told us the risk of infection rose after one’s water breaks, we went into hospital anyway.
My friends know I’m the quintessential, aristocratic Victorian ‘lady’ of yore. I’m not loud. I’m not bombastic. I’m peaceful. I just don’t like being noticed. I prefer to hide in the shadows and watch others shine. Which meant, I didn’t want to be like the drama or comedy women who screamed the whole hospital down when in labour or delivering. It didn’t suit my nature. I’m the 6 year old child who didn’t tell her parents that she had heartburn every day and stomach and muscle pain every day. They only found out months after it started when I was now 7, when they came into the room at night and found me rolling around silently in pain trying to massage my calves while similar clutching my belly.
Had a colonoscopy as soon as they heard how bad it was and how long it had lasted, and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Yes, I tend to minimise my suffering.
So there we are in the hospital. Husband has left me alone outside the ward while he goes to pay. I hear a very African voice shouting, “Mama! Get it out of me! Mama, I’m dying! It’s sore! It’s sore!! Mama!!”
I started crying. Delivery is hard! What was I thinking? How could I have ever thought I’d survive such an ordeal?? No way any breathing would get me through the torture she was going through! I was scared of labour for the first time in those 38 weeks.
But, after checking me and hearing how long I’d been having contractions for, they admitted me. I had no choice now. The only way I’d leave is if I gave birth.
I was at 2cm. After 12 hours, only a measly TWO CENTIMETRES! I wanted to go home. They told me to wait. So, off we set on our ‘active birth’ mission. Walked around the hospital but weren’t allowed to go out the labour department. So that got aborted! There wasn’t much ‘hospital’ in one corridor! They said they didn’t want me to walk out there in case my grimaces of pain scared other patients. See? Home birth was better than this!😆
GROSS STUFF COMING UP-They gave me castor oil. Didn’t help. Didn’t even help my stomach! They swept my membranes. In between, I kept walking. Loo was gross! It was a communal loo and other ladies in labour had used it but it had not been cleaned up yet. Seeing the trails of blood on the floor and on the seat, I wondered if I too was trailing my own. It was gross. And embarrassing. I didn’t want to be walking around making a mess!
Back to the labour room, where a patient was also labouring. I don’t know if she was naturally quiet, or had taken birth classes, but she was doing everything we’d been taught. Low moan instead of a scream. Breathing. Rocking. Swaying… It was as if none of us were in pain.
By hour 18, the nurses had now given me a drip to speed things up. I was trapped on the bed as they monitored the baby’s heartbeat for 30 minutes to make sure he was tolerating the medication. Those 30 minute torture sessions convinced me that Active Birth was the right choice. Somehow, lying still made the pain feel worse!
By this point..it was.. kinda sore, you know. I was walking up and down and tired. I wanted the baby out! I wanted my body to stop squeezing and tormenting me. The contractions were so strong and consuming. I prayed for help, for my child to be ok, as I imagined angels in the room with me, keeping watch while I walked past them.
The nurses had done a check and I was at 8cm. They were getting ready to call the gynae at last! As they examined me, the pain relief offers started coming. “Don’t you want an epidural? You’ve been in labour for 20 hours now! You need a rest… Don’t you want pain medication? Even if it’s just the injection in your thigh… Mama, we can see in your eyes that you are in pain. You’ve done so well, walking up and down. We’ve never had a patient walk so much before. And you haven’t bothered us for no reason like some do, you’re just doing your thing. Please, let us help you!”
I kept refusing. I didn’t want any drugs passing to my baby through the placenta even at that late stage. And I wanted to feel delivery, as I’d read how when you have an epidural, sometimes you become so numb that you can’t tell that you’re pushing and things stall.
But they kept nagging at me. So much for their classes!! “Mama, your face is showing us you are suffering. Please, please let us bring you pain medication.” So I agreed to gas and air. Anything to just send them away so I could keep meditating and breathing and praying.
Then the gynae and a different nurse bustled in as the others walked out to go fetch the tank. She checked me. “What?? She’s about to deliver! I can feel the head! Why didn’t you call me sooner!?”
Woo! Time to go into The Screaming Room! For 35 minutes of pushing hell. I thought she’d said the baby was about to come! I was tired! I was vomiting in between contractions. I couldn’t tell what I was to do and I wanted to ask them to get me off my back and onto one of the positions I’d learnt in class. But I didn’t want to bother anybody with moving the bed around and replacing the leg portion they’d taken away. I was tired. I wanted to beg for a c-section! but I did none of those things.
Then a nurse who had been standing by my right shoulder encouraging me all along told me, “Mama, push as if you are pushing towards the ceiling. Push high.”
With the energy left within me after not having eaten, after having stayed awake all night and day, I “pushed towards the ceiling.” I felt like he was going to get stuck! Could I ever get such a huge head out of me?
“It’s a BOY!” My husband yelled! “You did it! It’s a boy!” I guess I could. And I did. But not without them having to cut me during that push. I really HAD correctly felt like I was not able to set my poor BOY free.
I endured internal and external stitching while I alternately vomited, then fell asleep, then woke to speak to my new baby and his dad who was singing the hymn we’d been singing to him since he was conceived and we knew he was coming, then vomited… We were parents!
At last! ❤️
As for the nurse who had been at my right shoulder and gave me such specific directions that with one last push I was able to have my boy see the light of day… My husband said there had never been a nurse there. No nurse with a slim figure and gentle hands..that HE saw.