Since I was a little girl I knew I wanted to be a ‘Momma’. I would tote my little dollies around changing them, patting them and even feeding them from my flat little chest. I never doubted this innate desire and natural instinct. So too, I took for granted that I would give birth naturally. However, this is not the message conveyed by the world of healthcare professionals of the 21st century. Unfortunately modern medicine insinuates that one’s idea of a natural and intervention-free birth to be completely unrealistic and unattainable today. In our day in age, birth is portrayed as scary, painful and unnatural. However, this went against every inherent thought I believed about my body. Billions of women before me had given birth and I too hoped for the sacred rite of passage. I therefore set out to educate and surround myself with as much positive and empowering information about natural birth as I could get my hands on. I truly believe that this was a pivotal factor in my unmedicated, positive birth story, in which I had the privilege of experiencing. The other invaluable and powerful factor was hiring a doula. My mother is a nurse and doula so it was a word and person I was extremely familiar with and therefore hiring Colleen was never even a deliberation.
My husband, Dave, and I met with Colleen twice before our birth to chat about our hopes and fears regarding the birth experience and to discuss a ‘birth plan’ or rather the many possible scenarios that could occur. We also had a detailed chat regarding labour and delivery. Colleen and I also had a session on breastfeeding and she even took me on a tour of the labour ward, which I found so strategic in helping me envision my birth place! Each of these meetings were so empowering and really helped us set the stage for a truly great experience. Knowledge is powerful, especially regarding birth.
Three days before my due date I let Colleen know that my Braxton Hicks contractions had started to become stronger, but there was no pain so she advised I carry on as normally as possible until things progressed. The next day she popped in to see me and I had started to have more serious contractions, but they were sporadic and very irregular. I was googling early labour symptoms, all of which I had, but Colleen wisely told me to just relax as this could continue for a few days! I was a bit disappointed, but this helped me to not get too anxious or impatient. She advised I stay on my feet as much as possible, without tiring myself out. She also advised to take a nice long walk when hubby got home, which we did. The walk was absolutely exhausting as my contractions started to become very strong about halfway home. When we finally got back to the house I told Dave that I was going to eat supper and head to bed as I thought something might happen and I wanted to try and rest. I timed a few contractions before bed and they were about 8-10 minutes apart. I wanted to try and wait until they were 5 minutes apart before going to the hospital, if I could manage it. So I went to bed and slept fitfully in between contractions until midnight when my water broke. I phoned Colleen right away and she said she would meet us at the hospital. Now my contractions were coming fast and furious. The drive to the hospital was extremely hard work and the realisation hit me that this was happening! I was about to meet my child!
Colleen met us in the labour ward at about 00h30 as they were checking me, I was so relieved to see her! I felt so at ease knowing she was there to guide and direct me. The sister said I was already dilated to 6cm and she wanted to put me in the delivery room right away. I was so happy! My worst fear was that I would arrive at hospital with major pain and only be 2 or 3cm dilated. This news gave me strength to press on. When we arrived in or labour room Colleen had dimmed the lights, put on soothing music, lit candles and organised the various labour tools we spoke about using. She made it so peaceful and safe. However, because I had done most of my contractions at home in my bed on my side, we never even used the labour tools we had hoped for. All I could manage was to lie in the bed on my side and brace myself against Colleen or Dave (my hubby) as the contractions rolled over me. Dave and Colleen were so encouraging though and kept affirming my ability to handle one contraction at a time. My biggest fear was that I would have to drop my brave face and start begging for medication, but to my great surprise I managed to get through each contraction. After only 2 hours I suddenly said to Colleen that I had the urge to bear down. I had stopped being able to breathe through the contractions and instead was holding my breath against the urge to push. Colleen quickly called the nurse. When she went to check me she said the head was crowning and I needed to stop pushing. I asked where the doctor was and she informed me that he would not arrive in time, she and the other nurse would deliver the baby. I felt nervous about it, but Colleen reassured me that they have lots of practice and deliver babies often. 10 minutes later, at 02h40, our son, Duncan George, made his first appearance into the world! What sweet relief! It was completely surreal. They immediately placed him on my abdomen and I finally got to meet the tiny person I had carried for 9 months! The moments that followed seem frozen in time. I vividly remember how his eyes, bright and clear, stared into mine and my husband’s. I kissed his small, wrinkly hands and freshly born cheek. I watched him latch on to my breast and take his first drink. I lay in complete awe that I just delivered this little human. I did it! My mind, soul and body just did it! I had a healthy and natural birth with no interventions and no complications. Colleen congratulated me on all my hard work! What an incredibly tough and intense, yet beautiful experience! This was the greatest achievement of my life! I felt that I had done something I was born to do.
Colleen gave us some time alone as a new family but was soon back to help me walk to the shower and then to the maternity ward. She ensured that Duncan was latching well and suckling, all of which he did so naturally, and helped me with positioning. In the days that followed she was invaluable in helping me establish our breastfeeding relationship as well as other baby related issues. I would not have managed the transition to motherhood as easily if it were not for her amazing support!
I firmly believe that without the benefit of knowledge and a great support team, birth is a much more difficult and complicated task. But with a firm education and strong, peaceful, encouraging people around, one can endeavour to have a great birthing experience! Whether one’s hopes are for a natural birth or not, knowing your options, getting educated and trusting one’s body are invaluable factors in creating one of life’s most beautiful memories, one that a mother and father will treasure for ever!