Micah Viljoen, born at Genesis Clinic on 10 April, 2011
As told by his mommy, Linda Viljoen, Genesis staff Midwife (who has since imigrated to Australia with her family).
I am in the unique position of being a midwife and a mother to three precious children. This is the story of Micah, my last born’s birth. My first daughter, Rebecca was born at 38 weeks after my waters broke and I had to be induced by my then midwife and partner in practice, Marinda Taha.
It was a straightforward 8 hour labour and waterbirth, although Rebecca was lying posterior androtated only just before she was born. My second daughter, Isabella was born at 39 weeks after I went into labour spontaneously, but I needed to have a stretch and sweep and my waters broken artificially to augment labour by my then midwife and partner in practice, Tamzin Ingram. Once again, Isabella lay posterior until just before she was born and the back labour was really tough.
So, with my history, I was expecting labour this third time before my due date and was almost sure Micah would also lie posterior in labour. I really should have known better than to try and predict these things – as midwives we know that the one rule is you can predict nothing about labour and birth!
I ended up going 6 days overdue and found it very emotionally challenging – I started thinking there was something wrong and that my body didn’t know what to do. Again, silly thoughts for a midwife, but they are very real concerns by any woman who is pregnant and overdue. I had a check up with Henny (my midwives were Henny and Jeanell of Growth Spurt) on the Friday, the day I was 4 days overdue and she did a non stress test and a stretch and sweep. The stretch and sweep definitely caused some contractions and as I went home and had a midday nap with my two daughters, I still felt quite a few “twinges”. But as the afternoon and evening progressed, all the contractions disappeared.
On Saturday morning, I sent Henny an sms to ask when she would suggest another stretch and sweep and we arranged to meet at 16h30 that afternoon. I had some light contractions during the day and took my girls to Cresta for lunch and did quite a bit of walking. Henny repeated the stretch and sweep and said she was surprised I wasn’t in labour yet cos my cervix was 4-5cm dilated – encouraging news! So she gave me some caulophyllum drops to take orally, some clary sage to sniff and a burner, a bean bag and a TENS machine and sent me home. We left each other with a big hug and a hope to see each other later that night or on Sunday.
I went home and my husband, Sven, Rebecca, Isabella and I went for a brisk walk (with my clarysage-infused cotton wool in my bra). I started timing the contractions from 19h30 when we were getting the girls bathed and ready for bed, and smsed Henny and Ingeborg (my doula) to tell them something was starting. I suggested Sven go to bed early cos I’d need him later and I had a shower and checked the bags. I had a cup of Raspberry Leaf tea and set myself up for labouring in our very quiet lounge on my birthing ball with clary sage on the burner and caulophyllum to take every half hour.
The contractions were stronger from 21h30 and definitely taking my breath away but still manageable. I smsed my family in Australia and Howick to let them know our baby was on his way. At about 22h30, I was starting to wonder why the contractions weren’t intensifying, when I heard a “crack” sound – it was as if my pubic bone or my coccyx had been twanged. I didn’t thinkanything of it, but the contractions were definitely much stronger after that. It was only when I got up to go to the toilet just before midnight that I realised that my waters had broken with that “crack” sound! I woke Sven to update him but then left him to sleep some more.
This time of labouring alone, sitting on my birthing ball, praying and enjoying the silence was an awesome special time for me – and I think helped prepare me for what was still to come. I tried to lie down at some point cos my eyelids were getting very heavy, but it was way too uncomfortable, so I jumped up very quickly and back to the safety of the ball! I had a very intense contraction just before 01h00 that stopped me in my tracks. I smsed Henny and Ingeborg to let them know that contractions were still 10 mins apart but very strong and that my waters had broken, and I said I’d monitor for another hour. Henny replied that she would go through to Genesis so long and nap until I got there, but that I should feel free to go through at any time.
I think I got up off the ball sometime between 01h20 and 01h30 and the next contraction suddenly told me we should get going! I woke up Sven and he woke up his mom to come and look after the girls. Miraculously Rebecca and Isabella slept through everything – one of their most peaceful nights’ sleep ever. I smsed Henny and Ingeborg to tell them we were on our way and I stopped timing the contractions, but they seemed to be 3-5 minutes apart. The short car trip to Genesis was very uncomfortable – Sven tried to drive as gently as he could over the bumpy Melville roads. He was suddenly so in tune with me – he didn’t say much, but I could sense his oneness with me in this birthing process.
We must have got to Genesis just after 02h00 and Ingeborg met us at the car at the door to the clinic and gave me a big welcoming hug. I had a big contraction just as we drove up to park. Henny came with a warm beanbag in hand and gave me another welcoming hug. I had another contraction half way down the passage to Geranium, my favourite room – they were coming fast and furious now. Henny decided to do the monitoring of baby’s heartbeat and my contractions while I was standing up since she could see that I was way too uncomfortable to be able to lie down on the bed.
Henny “sensed” what I needed at any one time throughout the labour and birth, we didn’t use many words at all. Sven started running the bath and got some music ready. The contractions were not far apart and from this time onward, I laboured with my eyes closed – it helped me to stay focused. I heard people when they spoke and I sensed where they were in the room, but I really didn’t see much.
When Henny did the internal exam, she gave me the wonderful news that I was 7cm dilated. I then climbed into the warm water of the birthing bath which was so, so soothing. When the next contraction came, I realised that the water wasn’t going to help much with the actual contractions, but it felt really good to be submerged in between. The weightlessness of the water definitely made a difference – I could let my body float between contractions and Henny and Ingeborg were able to massage my lower back even when I was in a semi-reclining position. Although Micah was lying “the right way around” (anterior), I still had a lot of contraction pain in my lower back, so this
massage and counterpressure which Henny and Ingeborg did was essential to my coping and I didn’t go through a single contraction without it.
There was no talking in the birthing room (something I’d asked for in my birthplan) – Henny and Ingeborg could hear by the change in my breathing when a contraction was building up. I was so grateful for this because I couldn’t talk and I couldn’t open my eyes. We were listening to a worship CD by Michael W. Smith and the magnificent words of those songs helped to keep me focused.
There were three “focal points” for me:
1) God is in control and I can do this because He will enable me;
2) Breathing properly. Henny always says “push your tummy out while you breath out” and I concentrated on getting that right;
3) And unclenching my jaw, because if your jaw is relaxed, your cervix will dilate better.
The contractions were very intense but I just took one at a time. At 03h20, Henny did another internal and I was 9cm dilated. I think it was about 04h00 when I started giving some involuntary short pushes, but I never felt a strong urge to push as I was expecting. What I felt was kind of like an “open feeling”, as if I was aware that my cervix was no longer in the way and I could push if I wanted to. With a few contractions, I gave one push and then just breathed through the rest of the contraction cos it didn’t feel right yet. After a while of pushing, Henny suggested that I try a squatting position, but I didn’t have the strength and asked if I could rather try kneeling. My legs had been in one position for a while and my hips were really quite sore. At this stage, Ingeborg moved to the other side of the bath to take photos and Henny asked Sven to come and kneel in front of me and hold my hand. This was perfect and squeezing his hand while I pushed helped me to know that we were bringing this baby into the world together.
I was so aware of the sensations I felt as Micah moved down the birth canal while I was pushing and this was just incredible. Henny guided me perfectly when to push slower and when to push harder. I could feel when his head descended onto my perineum at the height of a push and then receded again when the contraction waned. And then I just knew that he was coming with the next push. I could feel the ultimate stretching and knew that the biggest part of his head was crowning. I could visualise his head moving smoothly through and out. I stopped leaning forward on the bath’s edge and reached down to touch his head. Henny guided his shoulders out and I reached down and lifted my son out of the water and onto my chest. What an indescribable feeling! Time stood still as I held Micah skin to skin. I will never be able to put into words how I felt at that moment. I love the photos Ingeborg took of our first moments with our son – I will treasure them forever.
After the longest time, Micah was handed to Sven so that he could hold him skin to skin. The placenta had been birthed, I was helped out of the bath and I felt so strong. I didn’t need any stitches (I thank God that I have had three natural births and no stitches!) and Micah breastfed immediately.
After he had finished feeding, Ntombi, the wonderful Genesis midwife, weighed and measured him – I was so surprised that he weighed 3,57kg (much bigger than his sisters who weighed 2,87kg and 3,05kg respectively). I then had a shower and Sven went home to fetch our precious daughters.
Ingeborg also managed to capture on camera their first reactions to their brother and it was such a great moment to be able to introduce them just two and a half hours after his birth.
I cannot say Micah’s birth was “easy”, but it was wonderful. The love and support which surrounded me in that birthing room helped me to cope better than I have before. It helped that I was so in tune with my body and with the birth process. And it helped that I was in a beautiful birthing environment like Genesis with a precious midwife like Henny and an amazing doula like Ingeborg and a beloved husband like Sven.
Micah 6 v 8: “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”