My husband and I are blessed with 3 beautiful children. We adopted our first child, our second was born in the hospital, and our third child, Lisa, was born at home and I will cherish this beautiful memory forever! I wanted to have a home birth, but I thought it wasn’t possible in South Africa and my husband was not keen on the idea at first. “ What if something goes wrong?” was his main concern. So I prayed, and researched home birth even more thoroughly, to have plenty of arguments to convince my husband that this was the safest, most sensible thing to do. And it is true, for woman with a low risk pregnancy, a planned home birth with a skilled midwife is just as safe as a hospital birth (if not safer!) for mom and baby.
A couple of days before labour I was having more Braxton Hicks, severe heartburn and feeling a lot more pelvic ‘ pressure’, but I was still feeling so energetic that I was convinced our baby would let us wait for at least another week. One day before my due date I woke up with those cliché nesting urges. I wanted everything tidy and clean, now! I instructed my husband to get stuff done from the never ending “ to do before baby comes’ list. One of those things was smoothing out the very sharp edges of our bath base (to make it kid proof) and now he was painting it. We intended to get that done way sooner, since we planned a water birth in that bath tub. But, I had been sick that week and between taking care of me and the kids, my husband hadn’t had time left for chores. He convinced me that if needed, the paint would be dry within 4 hours, so it wouldn’t be a problem. I was watching him paint and annoyed he was painting so slowly, because I was feeling ‘ something’ in my tummy. So I kept asking him if he was sure the paint would be dry in time, if labour would start now, that was around 3 in the afternoon. He said it would.
Around 4 I texted Margreet ‘something’ was going on, but that it was probably false labour. She asked to keep her updated and we will wait and see. The next hours I continued our cleaning spree and Cor shaved and did his hair. We decided to ‘ prepare’ in the case this was real labour and dropped kids off at grandparents. I packed my ‘ just in case hospital bag’ (better late than never) and packed stuff for the kids in case they had to stay over at my parents’ . In the end we decided we would let the kids stay at home, in case this was real labour, cause it was near their bedtime, and they could just as well sleep through it all. In case we needed, my parents are a couple of minutes away. So we fetched the kids around 5, made some eggs for dinner, let them watch TV and got them ready for bed. By that time I was pretty sure this was the real thing, because I needed to focus to get through the contractions. A warm water bottle gave some pain relief. I was constantly moving around in between contractions, doing laundry and stuff, eating and drinking little bits, and helping with the kids. All this time I felt very calm, not stressed or worried at all, excited even that labour had started! Pretty soon we would meet our girl and this time we would be able to enjoy her straight away! Around 8 I asked Margreet and her assistant Sjoukje (also a midwife) to come over. From that time the contractions where getting more intense very fast and I was glad they were on their way, wishing I had asked them to come sooner. Cor was watching “Suits”, and at this point we were not making jokes anymore (we had been all that time), he even wasn’t allowed to touch me during a contraction, so he knew it was getting serious. When Margreet and Sjoukje arrived I was 6 cm dilated. I was glad, things where moving along nicely! I knew that it was possible to dilate a couple of cm’ers per hour, so this was motivating for me. After that, my contractions got very painful and a lot intenser, but I was never scared (like I was in the hospital). It was time to get in the tub.
Once in the tub, the warm water felt so good and gave instant pain relief. Contractions where still very intense and painful, but I cherished those breaks in between. I was having a hard time at this point, feeling I don’t want to do this anymore! I prayed and asked the Lord to help me through this, and He did! Margreet kept reassuring and encouraging me and everyone was so calm. At 8 cm I felt Lisa having hick ups, and that was such a motivation! It was a confirmation for me that she was doing just fine, moving down the birth canal, while having her usual hick ups!
Time to push. At this point I was focusing only on Margreet, and not so much my husband. I trusted her, and wanted her to tell me what to do. It helped having my husband’s hand to squeeze though. The pushing was very intense, but relieving at the same time. At one point, Margreet said we will only need 1 or 2 more pushes, and that was so encouraging, because I thought I needed much more, I thought, I can do this! It went so quickly, before I knew it, my baby was born! She started crying straight away, and I knew she was totally fine. Margreet put her on my chest and we waited for the cord to stop pulsating. My husband cut the cord and I needed one little push to get the placenta out. Margreet checked the placenta and me, they helped me wash up and into bed. Lisa and I cuddled, while I was stitched up (I had a small tear). Margreet checked her reflexes etc, and she had an APGAR of 10 and weighed 3,5 kg (a big surprise to all of us, she seemed so tiny), and she latched on my breast for her first feed. I felt euphoric; we had a healthy baby, labour was over and done with and we were all doing fine.
My labour experience in the hospital was completely different. Even though I had a healthy, low risk pregnancy and planned to do everything natural, I had a lot of interventions with complications. We went to the hospital very early (too early I learned later) and around 4 cm dilated the contractions already felt very painful. Labour took very long, I hardy had anything to eat or drink, neither did my husband and we were left alone most of the time. Dilation was checked a couple of times, which was very painful. At 7 cm I somehow felt I couldn’t cope with the pain, I was so afraid and had the staff convince me to get an epidural. My son was in distress soon after, his heartbeat dropped couple of times (extremely stressful for me), I was hooked on monitors and had to stay flat on my back (what felt so uncomfortable!), my baby was born with a vacuum and I had an episiotomy. I complied to every intervention the staff told me I needed, because I thought: a. they know what they are doing, b. I didn’t want to be a ‘ difficult’ patient or worse, jeopardizing the safety of our baby! I also remember being embarrassed making too much ‘ noise’, moaning trough contractions.
After birth, I needed to be stitched up and I needed 2 blood patches (a procedure to ‘ fix’ a whole in my spine, an epidural complication) and had severe headache, I could only lie flat on my back to cope with the pain. So we had to stay in the hospital longer and I needed to come back later that week. The first couple of weeks my body needed to heal and I couldn’t enjoy our new family at all. I was determined to breastfeed our son, but since I could only lie flat on my back, that was a huge challenge. (Luckily breastfeeding succeeded in the end).
I felt guilty afterwards putting my son through this ‘ traumatic’ birth and sad that I had ‘ missed’ enjoying this special time. I also felt so sad for my daughter who could only see us 2 days after this major life event. And we needed to be separated again later that week for my second blood patch in the hospital.
My son was also separated from me soon after birth for more than an hour (for observation- which I specifically said I did not want, but its hospital policy) which felt terrible for me.
Looking back, I do feel if I had birthed at home, things probably would have been completely differently, and interventions and complications could have been avoided.
Most woman and also doctors fear home birth, because they have a completely wrong idea of it. For me it was the other way around. I’m convinced the first part of my home labour was almost painless, because I was so relaxed in my own environment, and then, all hormones work how they should to ensure a healthy labour process. I knew having the birth at home would be the best for me and my baby, I trusted Margreet as a midwife, and I felt completely safe and confident during labour. It was the best decision ever. We could enjoy those first moments so much more. Lisa was born around 10 pm, we could go to sleep afterwards in our own bed, the next morning the kids could come meet their little sister and my husband made me coffee with a smoked salmon sandwich I had been craving for 9 months J. Lisa was settled quickly, my body heeled quickly. Most importantly, we where both healthy and happy. Thank U Lord!
By Danielle van der Burg