Archive for the ‘Birth stories’ Category

Baby Dewan changed their lives

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

Both Ansu and DW Botha are in their thirties and knew what they wanted from life. Ansu is a business consultant and DW has an aluminium factory. They are proud parents to their special baby Dewan, whose birth changed their lives in so many ways.

“First the romance, the perfect wedding and blissful married life! Then in 2008, brought the big question – to have or not to have children. At 32 years of age and me with problems like endometriosis, it seemed time was limited and we decided to see what happens. We were ecstatic to fall pregnant within a month! Unfortunately, on 6 April 2008, the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 8 weeks.

We decided to let nature take its course and were very surprised to be pregnant again 7 weeks later. Though determined not to be anxious about miscarriage I was terrified when I again experienced bleeding at 7, 9 and 11 weeks. I only truly started feeling pregnant when I started showing at 16 weeks and found out that we were expecting a boy.

As clear as amniotic fluid

At 26 weeks I awoke one morning surrounded by a clear, wet patch in bed. Not knowing what to think I called my doctor for an appointment, but tested negative for an amniotic fluid leak. The leaking continued and a week later I went for another check up with the same results – this time I was labeled paranoid. At 28½ weeks it tested positive for amniotic fluid and I had to be admitted to hospital immediately. We were allowed to go home and pick up some ‘stuff’. What a new meaning to a simple word like ‘stuff’! What to pack for an unexpected baby?! We rushed around the house in a frantic panic, grabbing whatever seemed practical at the time although with hindsight was definitely not! DW grabbed an old backpack from his free roaming days for the baby’s things, the label reading “Animal Active”. This became the permanent nappy bag amidst much humour!

I received steroid injections to mature the baby’s lungs as well as medication to suppress premature labour. On 20 December 2008 – the due date of my first pregnancy and 30 weeks into this one – I was off to theatre for a Caesarean section, as it seemed that infection had set in. Everything happened very quickly. My husband was still fumbling with the camera, when the anaesthetist said that this was the moment if he wanted to take some pictures – the baby was emerging! With very soft but determined cries Dewan, our little miracle, met the world at 15h08, weighing a whole 1,6kg. We held him for a quick photo, after which he was rushed off to NICU, with his dad in tow.

Anxious, overjoyed, humbled

DW had various updates and cell phone pictures for me throughout the afternoon. Dewan was a little fighter and had to be sedated for the intubation! I was finally wheeled in to see my baby at 19h00 that evening and was stunned at his size, at how fragile and strange he seemed. The rhythmic ‘purring’ of the oscillator, joined by an undirected orchestra of beeps and shrill sounds, with bright neon lights adding to the impersonal and cold atmosphere – it took some courage to reach out and touch Dewan. Amazingly, his little hand immediately responded with a firm grasp of my finger. While his fragility was emphasised by all the tubes and pipes, he was still an emotional little human being, eagerly responding to comforting touch. I felt completely overwhelmed by this unfamiliar, different world of whose existence I’d never really known. I realised how fragile pregnancy and the life created within really is and that, although pregnancy is not an illness, it should be respected and handled with the greatest of care to preserve the miracle of life inside.

By the next day I was determined to become mobile so that I could visit Dewan. I felt an intense need to let him know that he was not alone, to comfort him with my familiar voice, to soften his new world of harsh lights and noises. We sat with him, not knowing how or where to touch. I studied him from top to toe. While I don’t know what I had expected, I was amazed at how complete and perfectly formed Dewan was, though his skin was see-through and his body was covered in lanugo, making him look other-worldly and more vulnerable.

Spot the NICU Mom

I quickly adapted to the NICU routine and the constant expressing. You can spot a NICU mommy from a mile away – they all carry a ‘six pack cooler box’ with precious cargo! It felt like I was permanently busy with my breasts. I had to treat them with care and express every 3 hours. For half an hour before I warmed them to soften lumps, expressed for half an hour and then applied cold packs and frozen cabbage leaves to cool and ease the angry inflammation, followed by a vigorous and painful rub with Arnica oil. The cabbage leaves were a source of some light relief, as my hospital room had a permanent odour that lifted many an eyebrow!

My days revolved around how Dewan was doing – did he pick up weight, were his feeds increased? He again proved his tenacity by being weaned off oxygen within 48 hours! He had a bout of jaundice and looked very cute under the lights with his protective goggles. After only one week, Dewan thankfully latched directly, although for only one breast feed a day to prevent weight loss from the sheer exertion of the task at hand.

A brain scan was done and detected small bleedings in both his ventricles. He had tremors in his legs, a possible sign of neurological damage or dormicum withdrawal. Once again we had to wait and see. To our great relief the tremors disappeared.

Mother touch

I was committed to kangaroo care and spent hours every day with Dewan on my chest, covered with a dark towel to provide him with some shelter from the harsh lights and sounds. Life settled into a routine and I spent most of my time on the hard NICU chairs, causing constant backache.

Dewan was discharged at six weeks, weighing 1,8kg and breastfeeding 8 feeds a day. We were welcomed by a vicious storm that first night, leaving us without power and fumbling to feed in the dark. The three hourly feeds took an hour and a half each, with loads of medication and vitamins having to be administered in between.

Long walk to freedom

The preemie journey is a long journey. Dewan had a groin hernia repaired at 10 weeks (2,2kg). He started with colic at 12 weeks (most days crying – screaming really – for 8 to 10 hour stretches) and had such bad reflux that he needed a Nissen repair at 14 weeks, when he was just 3kg. The colic abated after 7 weeks, ironically right after we had a very bad accident coming from hospital. I rolled my car with Dewan inside. Yet another miracle – we weren’t hurt.

The journey continues with physiotherapy to assist with muscle balancing and speech therapy to desensitise his mouth and assist him with eating solids. He is now 9 and half months old (corrected 7 months) and an absolute joy!

A friend of mine phoned me in tears a few days after Dewan’s birth, ‘sympathising’ with our situation. What a negative experience, as we were so thankful that he was doing well. Dewan’s birth was the most rewarding experience of our lives and seeing our happy and bright baby provides us with constant happiness and fulfillment! We generally approach life with gusto and decided from the beginning that a positive attitude and a sense of humour to lighten the stress is what this experience called for – a decision that made all the difference in the world! ”

Birth story of Keana Lottering : Born on 11 June 2008

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Just over four months prior to my daughter’s birth, our family survived an armed robbery in our home during which my husband, Pieter was shot twice, seriously and I was shot in my hand. Our 3-year-old son, Kael did not sustain any physical injury and I was 5 months pregnant with our daughter at the time.

This is the story of my journey towards healing climaxed by the birth of our daughter, Keana on 11 June 2008…

Keana Lottering, born on 11 June 2008 : Photographer, Talana van Bosch

I am woken up at 5am with my waters breaking. At first I wasn’t sure if it was amniotic fluid or my bladder emptying itself. As the fluid continued to flow I realised I had no control over it and it dawned on me that this is it, the day our daughter will be born. I woke Pieter up and told him what happened and he logged onto the Internet on his cell phone to do some quick research on how to be sure it was my waters that broke, as there were no contractions. We marvelled together at the power of technology although I wasn’t too happy when one search result returned information stating that once the amniotic fluid had ruptured, labour could last up to 48 hours. I was not keen on that idea and quickly stated the intention that I wanted to be home in time to watch Egoli at 18h30 with my baby in my arms! Shortly afterwards I felt slow, gentle waves moving through my belly. Each wave confirming that indeed, this was it, the day we had been waiting for.

Four weeks prior, I found myself sitting in my gynaecologist’s office crying my eyes out, on the verge of begging for a caesarean section. Mentally I felt totally unprepared for a natural delivery. The last four months were characterized by fear, fear for my husband’s life, my life and the lives of our children, fear of going to sleep, fear of being attacked again and fear that complications may develop in our unborn baby, due to the high anxiety I was feeling. I felt anguished mentally and had worked hard at processing what had happened to us while at the same time doing my best to remain calm and keep my strength for the sake of our baby girl. I was afraid of going into physical pain associated with labour and afraid that I would not be able to get through it and that I would give up half way through. My doctor listened to me and gently reassured me that I was in good hands with Heather and Margo (as I knew I was) and that he would be on stand-by for me. He told me that something “else” kicks in when a woman naturally delivers a baby and that I had done this before, to trust myself and to keep to my original intention for a natural delivery. I am so grateful for the wisdom and insight he gave me on that day as it allowed for me to experience one of the best days of my life.

That day was today. I had planned to use movement to assist with pain management and started bouncing up and down on my birth ball at home. I lit the candle we had received especially for this day and plugged my earphones into my phone. With each contraction I bounced and disappeared into the music I had selected for today. One of the most poignant was the song, ‘Absence Of Fear’ by Tori Amos. I cried as I listened to the words, each of them touching a place very deep inside of me.

“Inside my skin, there is this space
It twists and turns, it bleeds and aches
Inside my heart, there’s an empty room
It’s waiting for lightning, it’s waiting for you.
And,
I am wanting, I am needing you here
Inside the absence of fear

Muscle and sinew, velvet and stone
This vessel is haunted it creaks and moans
My bones call to you, in a separate skin
Make myself translucent, to let you in
I am wanting, I am needing you here

Inside the absence of fear

There is this hunger, this restlessness inside of me
And it knows that you’re no stranger, you’re my gravity
Hands will adore you through, all darkness and
They’ll lay you out in the moonlight and re-invent your name.

I am wanting, I am needing you here
Inside the absence of fear.”

I had been carrying my daughter through the trauma and anxiety of the shooting and I knew that this song was for us. I was calling her to meet me in the absence of fear and to embrace this birth, her birth, with joy and delight. I felt a tremendous weight lift from me as I boldly bounced, cried and laughed my way into the journey ahead.

We drove to the Stork’s Nest and met with Heather at 11h00. She checked all our vitals and confirmed that we were 3cm dilated. Our friend Julie and her daughter, Jordan arrived to offer support and love for the road ahead. The room was filled with light and laughter and the innocence of a child already.

At the Birth 2 Baby clinic : Photographer, Talana van Bosch

The contractions were still gentle and I was easily able to move through them and with them and marvel at the beauty of my body, as it knew exactly what to do to bring my daughter to me. Slowly the frequency and intensity of the contractions increased. Our friends Angela and Garrick arrived to offer support and Angela immediately took on the task of rubbing my back, my bum, my calves and legs to keep the energy flowing. She counted with us, moved with us and supported us beautifully and completely. Talana took on the task of photographer and took lovely photos of the labour process that I will cherish forever. Pieter gently guided me through each contraction, held my hands, rubbed my jaw, kissed me and held eye contact to keep me focussed. I needed his contact, and connection with me, his immense inner strength and his comforting love and support, he gave it as he has so many times in our lives together. I felt loved, safe and most of all unafraid in this beautiful room filled with light, love and laughter.

When it became more challenging for me to work with each contraction, I climbed into the warm welcoming water of the birthing bath. The contractions were steady and pain that had not registered before made itself known as my daughter moved further and further along the birth canal. For a moment I panicked, I had lost myself in the movement and music, in swaying and breathing and the physical exertion caught up with me. I felt tired for the first time and did not know how much longer I could go on. The contractions were like stormy waves and they continued to peak and break before swelling up again. Heather checked again and to my surprise and relief, she announced that I was 10cm dilated and that I was ready to begin pushing. I was amazed and happy that we were so far along.

Memories of coffee plungers and panting puppies came back to me, as I got ready to bear down. This was it, what we were all here for. It took a certain amount of strength to bear down and push. I realised that true commitment was required at this point of the journey to bring my daughter to me; I had to push through the pain to bring her down and ever closer to the outside light. I marvelled at the synchronicity of my own journey, how I have courageously pushed through mental and emotional pain to reach the light.

Moments before the birth : Photographer, Talana van Bosch

Pieter climbed into the bath with me and held me and supported me from behind. His strength flowed through me as he held me and for a moment I felt as if we were in the palms of God’s hands – safe, warm and surrounded by love and life. I could see and feel my daughter’s head as she moved down with each contraction. I longed to hold her and for the labour to be over. With the next push, her head crowned and we could all see her wispy black hair. I held her there and awaited the next contraction. It came, I gently panted and pushed, closed my eyes and felt the release of her body as she slid free of mine into the warm water.

I opened my eyes to find my beautiful baby girl, Keana in my arms. I gazed upon her filled with immense joy at finally being able to hold her so precious and prefect. I kissed her and held her and quietly whispered my thanks to her for being born into our family and for being here. I felt like her and I had been through so much already and that she had at times held me and carried me through some of the darkest moments of my life while I carried her and treasured and reassured her. I have been in love with her from the beginning and this love exploded within me as I reverently held this baby close to my heart. I silently prayed that our relationship would always reflect this closeness and this love and that she would always know that I am here for her, and will forever love her as completely as I do on this day.

I felt overwhelmed by the beauty and perfection of this birth. I did not specifically recall immense pain (with the exception of the last 10 minutes or so), I felt strong and in awe of what I had just accomplished. This birth has shown me so much about myself, so much about my mental and emotional capacity and how powerful and strong I am. Keana was born at 16h50 almost 12 hours after my waters had broken. In those twelve hours I let go of immense fear as I journeyed through pain and embraced the strength, power and love that I am. It was a journey of healing like no other I have experienced and I feel full and confident as I continue to stride through this blessed and beautiful life.

The perfect moment : Photographer, Talana van Bosch

My deep thanks and gratitude to my magnificent husband Pieter, his love and compassion inspire me and uplift me. To my first loved son Kael, for his innocence and love. Thank you to my friends Julie, Angela and Garrick – you were each there when I needed you to be, in the way that I needed you. Your love and support is astounding. To Heather and Margo, thank you for creating such a beautiful space for moms to birth their babies and in many ways to birth themselves. It is a profound and blessed journey and I am honoured to have shared it with all of you.

With love,
Marilyn