Then There Were Four

Guys, I had another baby! And my heart is so full – I have two beautiful little girls. I am so happy, that amazing, peaceful, contented kind of happy.

If you don’t like birth stories, look away now. I promise to try not to make it too graphic.

On Wednesday morning, we visited the midwife for a check up, and ended up having a Stretch and Sweep. For 3 weeks now, the fundus (basically my baby-carrying sack) hadn’t grown, and Karen was worried that baby was running out of room. So, stretch and sweep time (and let’s-move-baby’s-arm-from-its-head-internally time – that was comfortable!).

We went home for the rest of the day to wait for (hopefully) labour to kick in. Poor Pete – he was so impatient to meet his child, he couldn’t sit still. In hindsight, I should’ve sent him to the pub.

My mum also came straight back from my sister’s on hearing about the ‘sweep’ – I really needed this baby to come today, otherwise everyone’s hopes would be up high for nothing!

Thankfully, like clockwork, my labour started as I fed Stevie her bedtime booby (nipple stimulation, especially towards the end, I known for releasing oxytocin – the labour hormone. Interestingly, oxytocin is released 3 times naturally in a woman – during orgasm, during labour, and during breastfeeding. The human body is fascinating – it’s all connected to making babies!). Quarter past 8, I was feeling intense pressure and let Karen know.

Luckily for me, my doula was Karen’s daughter-in-law, Bianca – I have a history of short labour, and this meant they could get to me, together, nice and quickly.

And of course, my history of fast labour repeated itself. Karen and Bianca got to the house (and assisted Pete with the birthing pool) just in time for my contractions to start with a real bang – I was told the day after, that on my first check after arrival I was between 5 and 6cm dilated already.

When watching period dramas involving labour, I always wondered about the towels and pots of boiling water that they ask the husband for every time – it turns out, keeping a birthing pool hot is hard work! I don’t think Pete has boiled so much water in his life – because of course the geyser ran out after a while!

Anyway – the pool was run in perfect time and in I hopped (I did not hop anywhere, of course – hopping whilst 39 weeks pregnant and in labour is not an option). Water birth was the best decision I ever made. I went from 5-6cm to the full 10cm in about 40 minutes, so I have very intense labours and the water really helped with supporting me. It was still bloody sore, but I didn’t worry so much about finding the perfect position, as the water balanced my body.

Active labour started at round about 9pm. Karen kept me informed all the way through that my waters still hadn’t broken, and that she was reluctant to break them for me while I was progressing nicely – which I was thankful for. En caul births are rare – so of course I wanted one!

In the end, my water sack actually broke shortly after contact with the water. I got to feel it though, which was different. It felt like a very rough, papery water balloon. Then came the head, and a strange, primal moment where I tuned out everybody in the room and pushed – Karen said she even saw the change. My body, knowing what to do from last time, took over of its own accord. I tilted my pelvis, let out some kind of weird noise and the biggest push I have ever known had her out, pretty much in one fluid movement.

Looking down into the pool and seeing this little, tiny creature floating in the water will go down as one of the most surreal, and amazing, moments of my life.

But wait – what I haven’t even mentioned yet is that Stevie was in the room for half of the process, and got to physically see her little sister being born! My mum brought her through and talked her through the entire thing, and she thought it was fascinating. As I lifted our new baby onto my chest, Karen called Stevie over and asked her to to be the first to see what sex her new sibling was. It was such a special moment.

I know, I my new-mum, baby-brain muddle I will have missed something out of this birth story – probably something really vital, like how Pete was with me in the pool the whole time, or how important perineal massage is. But this is just how I remember it now, 3 days after the event. Birth is beautiful, and painful, and overwhelming, and the best thing I have ever done now – twice! Even if there was a small moment on the last contraction before her head crowned where I wondered why I’d ever put myself through this again.

Home birth isn’t for everyone – as stated, I have a history of quick labour, I had a textbook, complication-free pregnancy, and I don’t like hospitals, so home birth with a midwife was ideal for me. If you feel as though this sounds like you, and something you’d like to do, then I highly recommend it. I got to labour and birth in the comfort of my own home – I got to use my own towels, tandem feed my kids for the first time in my own bed, and wash off in my own bathtub. Plus, I now know how to clean off a murder scene – always handy, no?

My midwife was Karen van der Merwe, who also works as a private midwife at Genesis Clinic in Rosebank, if the whole home birth thing seems a bit much. To contact her re a home birth:


My doula was Bianca van der Merwe. A doula is a birth assistant, who can be hired for both natural and assisted births, and also c-section. Bianca also offers pregnancy massage and reflexology.



Less-Common Pregnancy Fears

This is my second pregnancy. You’d think, because of this, I’m familiar with pregnancy safety, and keeping myself healthy and comfortable, right?

Well, mainly, you’d be right. But every pregnancy is different. Oh, I remember the heaviness at this stage, and the tiredness and the restless legs. But this baby is carrying totally differently – meaning I feel ultra heavy, so much so that I have no appetite, feeling as though my stomach is so small, nothing will fit. Trust me when I say, I did not have this problem last time (thank you, all the world’s food, for my excessive weight gain). Right now, I’m eating 6-7 small meals/large snacks a day to keep myself going. Sounds like a great diet trick – until you realise this is not good when you’re carrying an extra, precious parcel.

My current favourite place in the whole world.

But the lack of appetite I can deal with. The food poisoning I got earlier on the week? Not so much.

Nowadays, the majority of women have heard that the old-wives’-practice of taking castor oil to bring on labour is unsafe. The contractions/cramps brought on from the effects of the oil can cause major contractions (similar to being induced) and can also cause said previous parcel (the foetus) to suffer the same, releasing meconium (poo) into the water and making baby go into distress.

In a similar way, food poisoning and diarrhoea can also bring contractions along with the tummy cramps. Fun, isn’t it? There’s something I never had to deal with in my first pregnancy. Never again will I eat suspect sausages, blaming the funky taste on pregnancy sensitivity. I spoke to my doula after I first started suffering, so I felt comfortable knowing my ‘team’ were informed (my midwife and doula are mother-and-daughter-in-law). But I was warned to keep an eye on those pesky stomach cramps, and to call if I started vomiting (another fun thing – dehydration can also cause pre-term labour. Vomiting may have required a quick trip to hospital to be put on a drip).

Factor 50 loaded…

The second thing I’ve learned this week, thankfully before it was too late, is a funny fact about sunburn. If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to Google this information, so go ahead.

Sunburn releases prostaglandin – one of the ‘labour’ hormones. In very extreme cases, my midwife said, extreme sunburn can cause premature labour. She herself has had 2 cases so far. Now, 2 cases in 25 years doesn’t sound so bad – but I really, really want my unmedicated home birth, so I’ll be doing everything in my power to not get this baby out before 37 weeks. No pool time (the only place I’m comfortable) without factor 50 cream. No dodgy meat. No bending over – okay, so that one’s not about keeping the baby in, just about keeping my food where it’s supposed to be!

The best way to enjoy pregnancy…

Pregnancy’s great. Some people really enjoy it. I just can’t wait to get to the baby at the end!

Pregnancy Vitamins

So, here’s something that may shock you: with my last pregnancy, I didn’t take any all-inclusive pregnancy vitamin. I know, it’s shocking, isn’t it? I took a basic folic acid supplement (also known as vitamin B9) and, controversially, a vitamin D supplement. My midwife, who I loved, told me not to worry about taking any more – so I didn’t.

But this time, it’s been different all round. First off, my GP has been worried about the effects of excess vitamin D on a foetus, and since your general prenatal supplement contains vitamin D, she advised me to skip it. Folic acid, meanwhile, is one of the top ingredients in most prenatal supplements, so there was no worry about my lacking in that (although my body may have thought so – in the first trimester I found myself craving more citrus fruits and leafy greens than usual, which are high in natural vitamin B9).

When I saw a gynae for my 20-week check and scan, he advised taking a general inclusive prenatal vitamin. I started out taking the most popular brand, but I was invited to try Chela Preg Trimester 1,2,3.

Chela Preg is a newer supplement, and instead of being a general, all round kind of tablet, it separates into the 3 different trimesters. Now, because I heard of it late, I didn’t start taking it until 27 weeks, and therefore had only a week of the 2nd trimester pack. So I’m not going to even bother giving an opinion on it. Im not qualified!

However, I am now 2 weeks into trustee 3 of Chela Preg. So far, I’m liking it. Now, I’m no scientist, so I can’t claim that slightly less reflux is down to the different medication, or if it’s just a moving baby. If you believe in coincidence, then maybe it’s just that… or maybe not.

There are 4 tablets to take a day in trimester 3. This is, admittedly, a slight struggle for me – I had to have the copper loop inserted at 12 weeks pregnant, as I couldn’t handle taking the mini-pill at the same time every day – so these were a bit of a nightmare to get used to! I found placing them next to the glass cupboard helped, so that I’d see them getting my morning juice, and in the evenings getting my dinner drink. So far so good!

In the third trimester pack, the idea is that the vitamins and nutrients are formulated to help with excessive growth of the foetus. This means more iron (the chelated form, so less constipation and reflux are the aims of the game, here), more calcium for strong bones, and more zinc and vitamins C and E to help reduce the chance of complications in the rest of the pregnancy and during birth.

So far, sounds so great, right? I just liked the idea of the tablets being formulated specifically (I’m a nerd like that, sometimes) and I honestly didn’t know if I’d feel any different after changing them over. And, of course, we’ll probably (hopefully?) never know if any one brand of vitamin does any harm, or has any benefits, more than the other. However – I can say I’ve felt pretty good since using it (who knows if that’s a placebo effect?) AND it’s cheaper than the leading brands – and I mean, MUCH cheaper – the leading brand of prenatal supplements costs r208 per 30-day pack. Chela Preg Trimester 123 costs r600 for the entire 9 months or so of pregnancy. It’s a no-brainer, for cost effectiveness if nothing else.

For a more official review of this product, go to News24.