Andrew and Tanya: the birth of Jason Noah – 23 March 2020
We sat in the bedroom of our guest accommodation in Seaview having a cup of tea and rusks watching the first light of Monday morning touch the waves just beyond the garden – the two of us from the Tsitsikamma and our midwives, Margreet and Juanita. And with us, this soul who had just entered our world in the most peaceful manner and left us in awe.
When we found out we were pregnant for the second time, we instinctively knew we wanted to do things differently this time round. Our first-born son entered this world by way of vacuum extraction after almost two hours of coached pushing under the bright lights of a hospital delivery room. This all even though I was already fully dilated when we arrived at the hospital, ready to welcome our baby. The stark, clinical atmosphere of even the friendliest hospital left me with “stage fright” and meant our son had a fairly traumatic introduction into our world. The whole experience left me feeling disconnected from both the birth and the beautiful new life that had entered our lives.
We had always dismissed a home birth as an option for us given the distance we live from our nearest private hospital in Port Elizabeth. But then Margreet suggested it as an option for our second birth if we could find suitable accommodation in PE and a gynaecologist that would back us. I was healthy and my pregnancy was considered low risk – we found a wonderful gynaecologist who was very open to working with our midwives and very supportive of a home birth. Finding accommodation was slightly trickier – not having fixed dates to book means you need a few alternatives.
Given the number of variables involved we had decided early on to keep all our options open. If we went into labour with no accommodation available or if there were any complications, we would go to hospital with Margreet acting as a doula and deliver there. But, if the stars aligned, I got some kind of indication that labour was imminent, we managed to pack up and get to PE, and there was accommodation available – then we would labour there and have a home birth with our midwives. My idea of an ideal birth was being able to be relaxed and present during the experience, allowing me to fully connect with every stage of labour and our baby’s journey into this world.
It was early Sunday evening and I was busy with our bedtime routine with our toddler when I realised that I was leaking amniotic fluid. After consulting with Margreet we decided that this was our sign. We contacted our first-choice accommodation option and it was available! Our hostess was incredibly accommodating and supportive and made sure everything was ready for us to arrive in our own time. We got our toddler to my parents, packed the car and headed off. It was a very comfortable trip as I didn’t have any contractions yet. On arrival at about 10:30pm we unpacked, had some tea and headed to bed. The arrangement with our midwives was that we would call once contractions started and intensified.
My contractions started just after 1:30am. They were manageable, especially while listening to the waves crashing against the rocks outside our bedroom window. It was amazing feeling the power of each contraction surge through my body and for me to experience and connect with my dilation as it happened. Just before 3am things picked up pace and we decided to call Margreet and Juanita. They arrived just before 4am – with no big fan fare. No one turned on lights or disturbed me in any way. They were just present and let us know that they were there if we needed them. By this point I could no longer lie down comfortably. So, I found myself sitting on my knees on the floor in front of our bed. I breathed through each contraction in this position and stretched out into child’s pose between contractions. Andrew and Margreet took it in turns to rub my back between contractions and help me to the bathroom whenever I felt the need to go. This was undoubtedly one of the more comfortable aspects of a home birth! A few contractions later I felt the unmistakable burning sensation of a crowning baby – I couldn’t believe it – I hadn’t had an urge to push or been told to push once. Margreet and Andrew guided me on to the birthing stool and Andrew sat behind me. This position was so comfortable, and my body felt completely open and ready. Moments later Margreet asked me if I wanted to reach down and feel our baby’s head. There are no words to describe how incredible that first touch was. With the next contraction I caught our baby and Margreet helped me lift him into my arms. It was 4:33am.
I was helped on to bed with this new life tucked up safely on my chest. After what felt like only minutes Margreet asked whether I was ready to deliver the placenta. Again, this came as a surprise to me, as it was so quick and easy. Only once the placenta was delivered did Andrew clamp and cut the cord.
We descended into a state of calm happiness, watching the sky change colour outside and listening to the constant power of the waves. Once Jason had latched and had a good drink, we weighed and measured him. Andrew and I were both completely surprised by his size…4.46kg, 55cm tall, with a head circumference of 36.5cm. And I didn’t have a scratch on me.
The far-reaching effects of Jason’s birth on us as a couple, on me (both physically and emotionally) and on Jason himself cannot be underestimated. By that afternoon we were back home in the Tsitsikamma settling down with our family of four. Within a day or two I felt fully recovered from the birth. And Jason is the most relaxed little baby I’ve ever come across. We will be eternally grateful to Margreet and Juanita for giving us the opportunity and then holding the space for our ideal birth.