My Rite of Passage… the day my baby was born

 In Renascent Articles

My Rite of Passage… the day my baby was born

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you…”
 Khalil Gibran

The whole point of woman-centered birth is the knowledge that a woman is the birth power source. She may need, and deserve, help, but in essence, she always had, currently has, and will always have the power. 

Heather McCue Childbirth educator and doula
I feel there is a necessary prologue to my fairytale (which this is by the way, in case you didn’t notice), and this is how it goes… The morning of my baby’s birthday I woke up from a very vivid dream about being in labour on a plane. I remember it clearly but won’t bore you with details of flight destinations etc. What I will say is that I was on a plane with my husband when I suddenly felt very real, very painful contractions. The general theme of the dream was that I had to face the threat of giving birth without him, and for the first time, it felt terrifying. Hmm seems my subconscious knew what was in store better than I did.
Membranes rupture
This begins like all good stories… with a wet spot. I woke up from my very vivid dream at 5am, completely pain-free surprisingly and rather flustered. I lay in bed for a few minutes trying to remember what the pain was like and whether I could handle it in the dream. Failing miserably, I rolled over to hold my husband who, unlike the man in my dream trying to get off the plane without me, was fast asleep and not going anywhere. As I turned I felt a damp patch between my legs. Now, even though I knew the Hollywood-type fountain of water wasn’t a common occurrence, I still felt that water breaking would be a little more in your face than a 5x5cm inconspicuous wet spot. So I woke hubby and we proceeded to poke, feel and even smell the spot. Yielding no obvious conclusions, I deduced that if my bladder was still full, I couldn’t have wet my pants, and it must be amniotic fluid. So off I went to the toilet… and peed… a lot. As I came back to tell my now fully awake hubby that today may be the day, another few millilitres of fluid spilled out. It was confirmed, my water had broken.The next few hours was spent trying to get some sleep to prepare for the exhausting day ahead. I confess I was far too excited to sleep and lay in bed fantasising about holding my baby for the first time. Not once was I afraid for what was about to happen.
 Contractions begin

We waited till 7am before calling my midwife to give her a heads up and the hospital to book a private room. At 8am I started feeling pains in my lower back, which felt suspiciously like period cramps. They were mild and fleeting and disappeared completely for about 30minutes. Sr Ciska’s advice was to come to the hospital when the pain became really unbearable, and to forget about timing the contractions. (note that this was safe advice as, because I was a first time mom, labour would progress fairly slowly. Please make sure you discuss with your caregiver before doing the same) I busied myself with repacking my hospital bag and readying the nursery. I had planned to go for a walk but the amniotic fluid kept coming in gushes, and I went through a pack of maternity pads before I even left for the hospital. I also planned to have a bath with my homeopathic BirthBath drops but once your water breaks you need to try and stay sterile down there, so I had a long shower instead.

I was drying my hair when the contractions really started in earnest. I remember having to stop what I was doing and fully concentrate on the few seconds of pain, while doing deep long Yoga breaths. Done properly these contractions last about as long as 2 breaths, and this was totally bearable. I walked around the garden a bit after that (I’d read that walking helps bring baby down and aids contractions efficacy) and each time another contraction started I shouted for my husband so I could hold onto him. Its hard to explain what they felt like, as you’ve no doubt heard, the brain deliberately erases memory of birth pain so that we can continue reproducing I suppose, but I do remember that it came in waves of increasing then decreasing intensity. So the beginning and end is easy to ride, and there’s enough warning to get ready to brace yourself for the crescendo. We practiced a few positions in antenatal classes to aid the pain during labour, and the ones that worked best for me were initially standing and holding onto my husband when the pain came then later squatting between his legs, letting him hold me through the pain.

I must emphasize that between contractions you really are completely functional and totally pain-free, and at that stage there was more than enough time to move around and do what I had to do between pains. When the pain became really intense and I could no longer walk or talk through it, we got into the car and made our way to the hospital. Incidentally contractions were now 6 minutes apart and it was midday, 4 hours after contractions began. When you’re in labour, time is measured in contractions, and 4 hours is really nothing if you look at it that way.

Arriving at the hospital

By the time I reached the hospital, they were so bad, I had to wait till a contraction passed before getting out of the car. As I got to the reception desk another one hit and the porter came rushing with a wheelchair. I had 2 more contractions before we reached the labour ward. My mother met us there with snacks and energy drinks and I spent some time rocking on the birth ball before my midwife arrived.

When Ciska assessed me I was already 6cm dilated and she suggested we get straight into the birthing bath, which is simply a really big bath. Having her there was like having the conductor at an orchestral performance, completely indispensable. She knew from my facial expressions how far I was and she knew exactly what would relieve my pain at which time. In the bath she got hubby to pour hot water onto my lower back during contractions while mom sang lullaby’s in my ears between them. She urged me to drink all the time and eat if I could (which I couldn’t) When the warm water started slowing the contractions too much she got me to get out and walk for a bit. The gravity made the contractions come really powerfully so she assessed me again and found that there was a lip of cervix not completely dilating. The most painful part of all was when she had to manually move that piece of cervix over baby’s head at the most powerful part of a contraction. I screamed till my throat was raw, which made the pain in my pelvis a lot more bearable. I screamed so much during my birth that the lady in the room next door opted for an epidural before her pain even started. I moaned, I sang, I swore, I screamed… and I will do it all again, because sounding your pain is the best way to let it go, and I let it go till the cows came home!

On the bed Ciska offered me some laughing gas, which I grabbed thinking “what the hell, it’s something to do” I took a few deep sucks on the mask and felt absolutely no different. She also showed my husband how to put his whole weight on the side of my pelvis while I lay on my side. Either the way that this moved my pelvis helped the baby move down or the pain of his weight distracted me from the contraction, but this really did help me and I felt strong enough to get back into the bath. Ciska showed mom and hubby how to massage me in different places at different point in labour and I can’t tell you if this made a major difference or not but they used Heavenly Labour aromatherapy oil throughout, and the smell was at least a distraction from the clinical birth room.

There is a point in your labour, if you’re lucky enough to experience it, called the transition phase. It is essentially the last 2 to 3 hours of contractions and a period where baby really settles deep in your pelvis. My own experience of this phase was that just as you get used to the pain (a kind of intense, deep lower back / period pain), it changes and suddenly its a whole new kind of pain (something more like your lower pelvis widening) I also felt myself go into a more trance-like state, during which everything else in room disappeared, and it was just me and the pain and the moaning. It was at this point that I very bravely told my mom to “shut the f*** up!”, as every sound or movement or sensation takes you out of your trance and you feel the pain more intensely. Ciska’s advice during this phase was to hold onto a pole, stand up in the bath and gyrate my hips with the pain. My mother (who forgave me quite easily thank heaven) later described the scene “like watching an Amazonian princess do a strip dance in a trance” I remember looking at my husband while feeling my eyes roll backward in my skull, and seeing tears in his eyes. All he could do was mutter “wow, you’re amazing…


Throughout all this otherworldly type drama, Ciska kept asking me if I was feeling like bearing down. I really didn’t know what that was supposed to feel like till I felt it. Its such an obvious urge to push, you can’t imagine. My plan was to have a water birth and have my baby be delivered through the water. (Benefits of birthing this way has been demonstrated for years and there is endless amounts of literature to this effect online) As soon as the urge to push began I knew I had to get out of the tub. You see, Vincent Palotti’s baths have no handles and therefore there’s no traction against which to push. I knew that I was going to push with all my heart and there was no way I could do that in a slippery bath. So I got out the bath and Ciska pulled out a marvelous invention that I had never seen before… a Birth Stool.

Birth Stool: Courtesy of
It basically allows you the benefit of squatting (gravity, compressed abdomen, open pelvis) plus it’s less physically exhausting and has handles to provide counter traction. To me, in my Amazonian trance, it seemed like it had built for what my body instinctively wanted to do. I sat down, got my feet up onto the stool (which Ciska said she’d never seen anyone do before) held onto the handles, and with my husband squatting behind me and holding me tight we waited for the contraction to come so I could push.
When that urge comes it can only be described as an unbearable urge to pass a stool. It literally feels like there’s a brick up your bum, and if you don’t push it out, your bum will explode. (forgive my bluntness, I was in a trance) What happens when that urge begins is that you find all the energy you can muster after being in labour for 8 hours, which isn’t a lot, and you press like you’ve never pressed before. This is where most epidurals fail a patient… without that unbearable urge, there’s little motivation to find that hidden little pocket of energy deep in your soul, and you find that doctors have to do episiotomies, vaccuum extractions or forceps deliveries to get the baby out.
My mom placed herself right in front of the action so she could be the first to see her grandchild and Ciska opened the delivery tray and put on her gloves. It took about 3 pushes before my mom started crying and saying “I can see the head baby, I can see the head!” I then fought my way through another 3 before baby’s head was completely delivered. Mom was at this point sobbing her heart out and I was about ready to pass out from exhaustion. I knew the shoulders still had to come, but that essentially the worst was over, and that overwhelming sense of imminent relief motivated a final surge of energy.
What I had forgotten was that there is a brief moment when you really shouldn’t push and that moment is to allow the baby to rotate its body so that one shoulder is delivered at a time. As Ciska screamed “OK Leilatjie, now pant when the pain comes and DON’T PUSH”, I couldn’t help myself, and screamed “I have to!!!!!” Had she said that it only takes a second or 2 and that I would probably tear if I pushed, I may very well have fought the urge and bitten back for a few more moments, but all I could think was “I can’t go on any longer” and pushed with all my might… so at 4:35pm… my beautiful baby was born.
A baby is born
The feeling for every mom as they hand you your baby must be the greatest in the world, or so I thought. I remember feeling like I was a million miles away, what I imagine a near death experience to feel like (I’m sure there’s an irony in that, but its too deep to delve into in this forum) and all I felt was an overwhelming relief for the longest time. The baby in my arms was mine and I instantly loved it, but it was still a “it” for quite a while. We let the cord stop pulsating before the clamps were applied and my husband ‘cut my baby from me’. Again there is lots of literature for and against delayed cord cutting but I weighed up my priorities and decided to wait till nature was ready for me to let go. The placenta delivery happened effortlessly and soon afterward.
If any of you meditate deeply, you will know that eating something settles the energies and kind of ‘brings you back to earth’, well I experienced that first hand when I suddenly felt myself slip back into myself the minute I took a bite of the sandwich next to my bed. I suddenly became aware of the fact that the baby in the room belonged to me, and that the person who had been growing in my womb was finally here to meet me. That moment was the greatest in the world and I almost wanted  to do it all again, just to feel that high one more time.
An unfortunate side effect of coming back into one’s body is of course feeling pain again. And a strange stinging was happening between my legs. The one thing I didn’t prepare for, and the one thing I most expected to happen (talk about manifesting your reality), I tore. It all happened in the moment that I pushed instead of panted and I didn’t feel a thing until that moment, which was actually Ciska injecting anaesthetic to sew me up. It wasn’t a bad tear thankfully, but did interfere with me getting up and walking out of that labour room. Ciska had mom run me a new bath and baby and I had our first bath together before facing the world.
So there I was, smiling more in my soul than on my tired face, being pushed in a wheelchair to my hospital bed, holding my little newborn tightly to my chest… proud to have earned the new title of “Mother”.   
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