Desmond's Story.

I kept starting and re-starting as I tried to tell this story. I wasn’t sure where to begin because there is so much wrapped up into it- a year of struggle and searching and figuring out who I am as a mother. A year that could have been smooth sailing but when fear crept in felt stormy. Desmond’s birth feels like the culmination of one of the most challenging seasons of my life. He came so peacefully and quelled my fears.

Like my previous pregnancies, I was convinced that I would go into labor before 40 weeks. And like my previous pregnancies, my due date came and went. I was planning another home birth with the midwives who delivered Vera. Their group works closely with the doctors at a private (as opposed to government) hospital here in South Africa and the patients are required to choose a backup Obstetrician in the event that a hospital birth is necessary. Routinely, I saw the backup OB around 30 weeks and at the time, the baby’s heart was skipping beats so I ended up seeing her several more times. Anxiety crept in and I began to worry. She sent us to see a specialist and a neonatal cardiologist who both confirmed with confidence that the baby’s heart was perfect and functioning as it should. 

At the next routine OB appointment (36 weeks) she did an ultrasound where she raised some red flags about the size of the baby. She had said said similar things about Vera when I was about 36 weeks pregnant with her and V ended up being almost a pound smaller than her big sister. So, I brushed it off. Ultrasound measurements aren’t usually accurate that late in a pregnancy anyway. I expected to have the baby before I would have to see her again at 41 weeks…but 41 weeks rolled around and I was still pregnant. I got desperate- The OB had mentioned that if I went overdue she would not be able to recommend a home birth. I was feeling vulnerable and a bit fearful of giving birth in the hospital here. So, I decided to try the only natural labor inducing remedy that I hadn’t tried before- castor oil. I should have done more research before slugging it back because after two days of consistent (painless but intense) contractions my midwife informed me that I would have to have taken the whole bottle (500ml) for the castor oil to have enough of a shock to my body to put me into labor. 

Because I was past due, I needed to see my midwives for a CGT (fetal assessment) and the backup OB again for another checkup and ultrasound. During the CGT the baby’s heart sounded perfect and I was having some contractions. The next day I saw the backup OB again. My appointment was at 12:30 and we expected it to be fairly quick. As the OB did the ultrasound, the measurements were calculating that the baby was over 5KG (11lb). I was trying not to freak out despite the anxiety and stress in the tone of the OB. Because I was eager to deliver at home and it was my third baby, instead of jumping the gun and saying I needed to be induced or deliver in hospital right away, she decided to call a colleague for a second ultrasound and opinion. She sent us down to the hospital’s coffee shop to wait until her colleague could see us. While we were in the coffee shop we ran into Glynnis, one of my midwives, who was at the hospital to deliver another baby. She had a few minutes to sit and chat with us about our stressful meeting with the OB. She spoke with the OB and they came up with a plan that if I didn’t go into labor that evening (Friday) that I would come to the hospital first thing Saturday morning for my midwives to break my water and deliver the baby at the hospital. We also discussed that if I did go into labor that night and was having a long second stage that we would go to the hospital to deliver there. Glynnis told us to come and see her in labor and delivery after our second ultrasound before we left the hospital.  Of course we didn't want to risk shoulder dystocia or putting our baby at risk in any way. We trusted our midwife and were happy with the plan. As we walked the grounds of the hospital (and ended up at a strange park that we later found out was a walking trail for horses) I was having contractions that I was trying to ignore. I was feeling a bit disempowered and was convinced that I wouldn’t go into labor before they broke my water in the morning. We went back up to the OB offices to have the second ultrasound with another OB. He too said the baby was measuring quite big and advised against a home birth. We went back down to labor and delivery to see Glynnis and were making a plan to get the kids settled in at Omi and Opa’s (Steve’s parents who were visiting and helping us look after Margot and Vera)  and for what to pack in a hospital bag. Glynnis said that she wanted to check to see if I was dilated at all before we left and when she checked, to my surprise, I was dilated to 7cm. I was still in a really strange headspace after the appointments and 5 hours at the hospital so when she said, “rush home to have this baby!” I half thought that she was joking. By the time we pulled out of the hospital parking lot and were sitting in stop and go rush hour traffic, I was having intense contractions. When Steve went over a speed bump I looked him in the eyes and said, “don’t ever do that again”. He fist pumped the air and said, “yes! we are in the zone!”, celebrating that fact that I was in labor. As we got close to home another midwife, Susan, called me and asked if we had arrived at home yet. I told her that we were still in traffic and she asked that I call her when we arrived at home so that she could come over. I hung up the phone a bit bewildered and said to Steve, “um, I think Susan thinks that I am actually in labor”. He called me crazy, told me that I WAS in labor and that everyone except me believed it. As we pulled into Muizenberg (the town where we live) we decided to park our van a few blocks from home at the flat where Steve’s parents were staying so that they would have it (we had another smaller car at home). We walked home pulling our “just in case we need to stay at the hospital bag” (which was more of a security blanket to help me feel prepared that day since it didn’t actually have anything that we really needed for a hospital birth in it) behind us. We ran into some YWAM friends, one of whom said, “still pregnant!” I told her, “I think we are going to have the baby now” and kept walking. We arrived home and called Susan. Steve left to go over to his parents flat and tuck the kids into bed. As Susan set up everything for the birth I was in complete denial. I remember sitting on the couch hiding behind my phone thinking, “Susan is just going to have to pack all of this stuff back up”. and even though I felt totally comfortable with Susan, I was avoiding her-unconvinced that “this” was actually happening. Susan asked when Steve would be coming back home and because we thought that we had more time, I said “about 45 minutes”. Susan checked my dilation, said, “I think we should break your water so that you can have your baby now.” (it had broken spontaneously with my other two labors) because I was still at 7cm and the baby’s head wasn’t engaged yet. After she broke my water she said, “tell Steve to come home right now” (about 6:45PM). She spoke with urgency but I was still thinking we had a long while to go. In my previous labors I wanted to be completely alone, to pace and contract in peace. This time, still so unsure and lacking confidence, I wanted Steve right by my side the whole time. I stood at the island in the kitchen and rocked my hips back and forth as Steve put a cold washcloth on my neck. I felt like that sturdy kitchen island was keeping me grounded. A second midwife, Juliet, arrived (standard practice as it gets close to the time that baby will be born) and I started to believe I was actually going to have the baby. To my surprise (yes, still in shock), very shortly after Juliet arrived I felt the urge to “bear down” and we moved to the bedroom. The baby’s head was still high and so I squatted as I pushed, Steve supporting me with his arms. It took me a while to “remember” how to push and even as I did it, I could feel myself shrinking away from the process. I was asking Susan questions like, “Am I doing this right? Am I actually pushing?” I was holding back, still afraid of being rushed to the hospital mid-labor and needing a c-section. Susan’s phone rang in the other room and Juliet went to answer it. t was Glynnis and I heard Juliet say, “she is pushing- baby will be here very soon!” I remember thinking, “if Juliet is telling Glynnis then it must be true!” As my thoughts drifted, Susan called me back and said that the baby was crowning. As with all three of my deliveries I had a “What the hell?!?!” moment when I realized that I was actually giving birth. My confidence arrived (finally!) and one push later the baby was in my arms. Steve and I both immediately said, “he looks like Vera!” Our baby boy, nine days past due (but covered in more vernix than either midwife had seen on an overdue baby) arrived with ease and peace. And just like that, we are five. Desmond Reverie has only been in our lives for eleven days but I can’t remember life without him.

le petite prince.

Desmond: gracious defender (and a nod to Tutu, social peace activist and retired archbishop of the Anglican church of South Africa)

Reverie: an instrumental piece suggesting a dreamy or musing state

wynken, blynken and nod.

© 2010 unless otherwise stated all photos are copyright diane schallert and may not be used without permission. thanks.

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