As you have probably heard by now, we have finally welcomed our darling baby boy, Eli James into what can only be described as the craziest of times. I have tweeted about a lot of what had happened, but I thought that I’d put it all together in my birth story, sharing the days that lead up to his birth and how my husband almost missed Eli’s birth altogether.
Thursday, 8th of June
At 38 weeks, I was due for my usual clinic visit. I was quite nervous as with Axl, at my 38-week check-up, they detected abnormalities and I was booked for an emergency induction. The day started early, it was cold, I was miserable but I was first in line, and with a little luck, I should have been out of the clinic and at home by 9:30 am. We started running my usual checks and despite being put on blood pressure medicine a week earlier, which had resulted in horrible but expected side-effects, my blood pressure was still borderline high. The nurse decided she wanted me to go for a high-risk assessment to see how we should proceed. I mentioned that I’d be going to a different hospital and that I’d like for her to coordinate the appointment with them, but she refused and called the feeder hospital, which is known to be notoriously bad.
I was in the room when she made the call and could hear the other side of the conversation. She had explained that she had put me on blood pressure medication, and recited my vitals over the phone, to another sister who just about lost her shit. Yep, that’s the only way I could describe what ensued. As it turned out, my blood pressure wasn’t high enough to put me on medicine and it was completely unnecessary. The sister instructed the nurse on my case to call back after 9 am so that she could present my case to the doctor who would then decide what I needed to do next. I left the room and later received a call to go back in. My sister decided to take it upon herself to call someone else and they arranged that I go to the hospital which I had very clearly said I was not willing to go to.
I left the room in tears, trying to explain that I was not comfortable with their decision and that I had said from the beginning that I am going to the same hospital that I gave birth to Axl. My nurse had completely ignored my wishes and the anxiety started to set in. I called Darren, who was at home with Axl, to try explaining the situation and asked him to get ready to take me to the hospital. I rushed home, got changed and together, we made our way to the hospital.
We approached the hospital to have the car stopped and searched for guns at the entrance. I was already unsettled, but this seemed so weird – like why would this be a check, at the maternity section of a hospital? We walked through to the ward, where a security guard stopped Darren and told him that he would have to stay outside, and I’d have to go through on my own. I looked at my husband like a deer caught in headlights and he reassured me that it’d be okay. So, I braved up, walked through the doors and looked for a doctor to find out where I should be, except no one would make eye contact.
I waited at reception for about 10 minutes, before I managed to stop a student who was walking past to ask her where I should be. She gestured to some broken benches next to the desk and told me to wait there, someone would see to me. I sat down and watched… I have this habit of people watching; I read body language, I imagine their inner dialogues and while staring at the circumstances that were unfolding around me, a little voice inside me kept growing louder and louder, telling me to run. I messaged D and told him that this didn’t feel right. The curtains were being held up with cable ties, the doctors wouldn’t make eye contact, a woman had just been wheeled in from an ambulance and left at the admissions desks where doctors just looked past her.
Darren asked me what I wanted to do next, so I said that I wanted to stick to the original plan and go back to the hospital where I had welcomed Axl. He agreed. So, I met him at the car and we flew through to Uitenhage where I made my way to the maternity ward.
I was immediately met by friendly nurses who listened to my story and sent me back down to high risk, where they were expecting me. The sister in high risk was the same sister who helped me with Axl, so I immediately felt comfortable as she spoke me through the process. We were to collect my hospital file, have my weight, blood pressure and baby’s heart rate checked, before heading upstairs to have blood tests run. Then, we were to wait to see a doctor who would do a full scan and then decide what should happen next.
All my tests came back normal – even my blood pressure. The doctor seemed happy and he even said that I could carry to full-term, well, that was until he did the sonar. The scan showed signs of calcification of my placenta which according to my doctor wasn’t a massive concern but with my history of hypertension, and now this, he wanted to book me in for an induction. He also mentioned that while I was 38-weeks pregnant, Eli’s head was already the size of a 40-week baby (thanks, doc, I have to push that out!). He tried scheduling my induction to start on Monday, but as you know – Lydia was due for a visit. She had literally booked a ticket to fly in late on Sunday night and leave Monday night, after we had coffee, took selfies and caught up. I wasn’t prepared to miss that, so I asked for him to push it to Tuesday.
Monday, 12th of June
On Monday, Lydia and I enjoyed breakfast before I packed and repacked my hospital bag. Darren had an emergency appointment with an ENT as he had been experiencing unexplainable migraines and swelling behind his ear. The doctors were stunned at what it could be and threw out every possibility from cancer and tumors to the likeliness of him losing his hearing. His appointment with the ENT revealed that his skull and jaw were separating which required emergency dental surgery, as the condition cannot be fixed if it were to get any worse. Of course, with our luck, they wanted to schedule his surgery for Tuesday or Wednesday, when I was due to be in hospital for my induction. Darren explained our circumstances and they agreed for him to come back on Thursday.
Tonight, I tuck my 3-year old into bed knowing that the next time I see him, I’ll be introducing him to his little brother. While I’m excited to meet our little boy, I’m also flooded with emotions – maybe it’s tiredness, or pregnancy hormones or just me being overwhelmed with everything that is currently going on – but I can’t help but be a little angry. I really didn’t want to be medically induced again, I didn’t want my pregnancy to end this way. I wanted the gradual contractions, I wanted my waters to break on their own, without someone using a needle to do so. I wanted to trust my body as it guided me and told me what it needed and when it needed it but instead, tomorrow we start our day at 6am, where I will be pricked, poked and scanned before starting the induction process in the afternoon. Then, on Wednesday morning, I’ll drink a solution that will bring on the intense contractions within minutes and will just need to trust and hope that my body does what it needs to, so that while I may not get my natural labour, I’ll get my natural birth. Yes, in the end, it doesn’t matter what birth I have, it’ll all be worth it because I’ll have my baby boy in my arms, but right now, I’m feeling rather bleak.
That evening, I was overwhelmed my emotions. I felt so betrayed by my body and even my faith. I had prayed throughout my pregnancy that I would have a natural and healthy labour. My pregnancy was far from perfect; I had experienced morning sickness throughout, my heart-burn could not be saved, I was in a lot of pain which resulted in sleepless nights and for the last 3 months or so, I literally stayed in bed for most of the day. I tried my best to prevent my pregnancy from having the same fate as my first. An induction is exceptionally painful and not guaranteed to be successful – I just can’t make peace with this idea that you go through 2 days of pain and discomfort, just to be sliced open when it fails. The thought that made me more upset was that I’d be away from Axl for at least 2 nights, and if it were to fail and I’d land up having a c-section, I’d be away for longer. And then, I’d come home in pain and he’d not be able to jump on the bed in the mornings and I’d have to take things slow – I don’t do slow. I sobbed for hours, as I packed my bags, had a bath, wrote some notes for my in-laws and finally settled in bed.
Tuesday, 13th June
We started the day bright and early, where we collected my hospital file and then went ahead with my usual checks; blood pressure, urine, weight, etc. By 9 am, they had already admitted me into hospital and told me to go to my ward, where the doctor would administer the catheter to expand my cervix.
I never got the doctor’s name, but he was a really young intern and both D and I couldn’t get past the fact that he looked identical to the best man from our wedding. At first, it was a joke and funny, until I had to sit with my legs open for him to administer a catheter, while he asked me how Lydia’s visit went and what was the outcome of D’s ENT appointment.
The catheter is probably one of the most painful parts of an induction. I struggle to shake the sound of that instrument going inside of me, not to mention the actual filling of the balloon. After it had been inserted, I was encouraged to walk, in hopes of bringing on my contractions and breaking my waters on their own. If the catheter falls out without my waters breaking, it has failed and the doctor would then break my waters the next morning, before starting me on the solution to start my contractions.
The rest of the day was spent in hospital. Darren brought me food before leaving to go home and get some rest, to be back in time for the evening’s visiting hours so, I spent the day walking around, watching series on my phone, listening to music and sleeping as much as I could, in between tests. Lydia also happened to be in hospital, so she and I kept each other entertained while I shared tales from the maternity ward.
Darren came back that night with dinner and loads of juice. We chatted to the doctor who said they would start the induction process at 7 am the next morning and that D should be back then, so he could be with me. We kissed, said goodbye and got ready to become parents again.
Shortly after visiting hours had ended, the catheter had come out but had failed to break my waters, so the doctor would need to do it for me.
Wednesday, 14th of June
I woke up feeling exhausted; they only switched the lights off at 2:30 am, just to switch them back on at 4:30 am and of course, woke me frequently to check my blood pressure and run ECG tests, ensuring Eli didn’t go into distress. At 7 am, I messaged D to find out where he was and he replied that he was running late – all roads to Uitenhage were closed because of protests. I started going into a panic, knowing that last time I was induced, they broke my waters at exactly 7 am, and started me on the solution right afterward.
I still look back at my first birth and feel so empowered and proud of how everything turned out. I know that Darren got me through that labour – he was so kind, calm and spoke me through every contraction. When I could no longer speak to the nurses, he did, without me having to tell him what I needed. He just knew. Even after I gave birth to Axl, a doctor came up to us and said that she’s never seen a couple so supportive of one another – D is my rock, and now with Eli, the protests were threatening me from having him there and that scared me.
Darren eventually got there at 8 am, but the doctor still hadn’t seen me. D came in and the nurses chased him away, saying he could only come in when I was 4cm dilated. Cue the panic… again. He told me that he’d be in the waiting area, a few steps away and that he’d come in during visiting hours. The doctor started doing his rounds, so I tried checking in with him to see if Darren could come in, but he had no authority and I would just have to accept how things were panning out.
It was during this consultation that I realized the doctor on my case had become pretty adamant on me having a c-section. Those who know me, know that I am headstrong. Once I have made up my mind about something, it’s pretty hard to convince me otherwise. And on the morning of the 14th of June, I had decided that we were having a baby, no matter how crazy or shitty the circumstances. I also believe in affirmations and the power of words, so when I announced, “let’s have a baby!” I wasn’t expecting my doctor to be negative Nelly and tell me that there’s still a chance that things could go wrong, which would result in a c-section. You have to know, I have only been in hospital twice – both times to have my kids, naturally. I fear surgery, and the thought of me having a c-section was terrifying. I messaged D to tell him how negative the doctor was being and he reminded me that the doctor didn’t know me and what I am capable of, and I’d just have to show him – boy, did I show him.
Strangely, the doctor decided not to break my waters and left the room handing a script to the nurse, for me to start drinking the solution. Everything seemed so odd and back to front. I waited around for an hour or so when a sister came to check in on me, she asked about my waters and I had explained that the doctor didn’t break it. She was fuming and said that the doctor should know better that it doesn’t work if you expect the waters to break on their own. Now that I think back, I realize that the doctor broke everyone else’s waters except mine which sort of confirms that he was counting on me failing at the induction – maybe he had a quota to meet, and decided that I was going to be his c-section for the day. Who knows!
Anyway, the sister broke my waters for me and started me on the solution, just in time for visiting hours. Darren popped in, and I told him we needed to walk – I was adamant that I was walking this baby out. I had to drink 25 ml of the solution every 30 minutes and to try walk as much as I could. My goal was to get to 4cm dilation, so I could have D with me for the rest of the way. I knew from the last time that once I got to 3cm, it was really hard to walk so I was going to take advantage of the early stages of labour and walk the halls of the hospital flat.
Despite visiting hours being over, D continued to walk with me. After all, he wasn’t in the ward – we were walking around the hospital. The first two caps of solution did nothing, but by the third, I started feeling the slight cramping. On the fourth cap of the solution, I started having to stop walking for the contractions and would breathe through the pain. The nurse said I had to come back for an ECG after my fifth cap, so D and I kissed and parted ways. I climbed into my hospital bed and started really experiencing labour. I was in so much pain and I was alone. I could no longer type messages, explaining to Darren what was happening.
A new, friendlier doctor came to check in on me and explained that I was only 2cm dilated. I thought that I might cry – I so badly wanted my husband there. There were several women in the ward, all going through inductions – they were loud, screaming, swearing and one even hit a nurse. There was no such thing as a calm environment and the louder they got, the more unsettled I felt.
I couldn’t believe the amount of water that was coming from me – with Axl, they broke my waters which was a big gush, and then during labour, I experienced trickles of water which I could stop with maternity pad. But with Eli, there were just gushes, so much gushes of water. The doctor even brought me extra linen savers, because there was so much damn water.
It was at about this point that I convinced myself that I needed to stand up and put on my electric water bottle. I somehow plugged it in through a contraction and then stood by the window, squatting, and saying my prayers. I was in so much pain and despite thinking I was prepared for what to expect, everything had gone pear shaped and I was going through this labour with my husband, via Whatsapp.
I must have stood there for about 10 minutes before the pain got too bad and I decided that it would probably be best for me to lie down. I grabbed the heated water bottle, and placed it on my lower back and laid on my side.
Meanwhile, Darren messaged me to say his phone was dying and he needed to go and buy a charger. He messaged his assistant to google the nearest cellphone shop – his phone was already on 2%. His assistant sent the coordinates, and he rushed off to the cellphone shop, bought a car charger and flew back.
I was lying on my side, praying when it felt like my waters had broken all over again and a sharp pain started. I could feel Eli shifting down, and screamed for a nurse. I knew that I shouldn’t push – but my body wanted to and that meant one thing; I had progressed VERY quickly and was about to give birth, without my husband being there to welcome his son.
The sister came in, she checked to see how far I was and just said, “call your husband.” Somehow, I managed to pick up my phone and send D a message, “Darren, come quickly.” As I pressed “send”, he sent a message saying that he had just pulled into the parking lot. He replied instantly that he was coming.
Every time we’ve used the lifts in the hospital, it took at least 7-10 minutes for a lift to arrive. By some miracle, a lift was already there waiting for Darren. He ran through to my maternity ward, where 6 women lie, each going through the early stages of labour, making his way to the last bed – my bed. The curtains were drawn, he opened up and I was already pushing.
I can’t explain the relief of finally seeing him there and knowing that he’d be there with me, to see the rest of this birth through. I started pushing, it was hard, emotional, painful but I had my husband there, holding my hand and telling me that I could do it. They gave me one final cap of the solution, to bring on a stronger contraction, and with that, I pushed and our baby was born.
(Axl on the left, Eli on the right)
After only 4 hours of labour, Eli James was born at 1:50 pm, weighing 3,4 kgs and measuring 57cm. He is the definition of perfect – his cheeks are the sweetest, he looks just like his brother, only chubbier, longer and he has my dark hair.
I was discharged the following morning and had experienced no complications or stitches. I was also taken off all blood pressure tablets immediately and was relieved to get my ass home and be with both my boys. Axl wasn’t bothered by his brother – we had a lot of family visiting at the time, so he was distracted, which gave me some time to rest and get used to breastfeeding, and frequent nappy changes again.