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Birth tales


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4 Tribute 5 Introduction 6 Liani - Nothing in my life has ever been so intense… 8 Yashmitha - Two births, many emotions 10 Karen - Silver linings 11 A collection of birth tales from Nazmiah, Adele and Nolubabalo 12 Palesa - This will be my last born 14 Rifqah - An unexpected arrival… 16 Bronwyn - When birth dreams come tumbling down 17 The inspirational birth of the House of Zinplex 18 A matter of choice 19 Ease the pain – photo-feature of labour positions 20 You can have a better birth 21 Yonda - Always trust your instincts 22 Dielda - The moment I became whole 24 Clair - Old year, new life! 25 Zavannah – On the ball 26 Chantelle – An ambassador for natural birth 28 Helena – A birth wish fulfilled! 29 A collection of birth tales from Washiela, Leanda and Sherezaan 30 Annerie – Reach for the stars 33 Kashiefa – The neighbourhood’s baby 34 Beaulene – When midwifery is not ‘with women’ 35 Angelique – A beautiful VBAC 36 Maggie – From traumatic to amazing 38 Birth hormones - A truly miraculous cocktail © Sister Lilian Centre 2015 Design by Talia du Plessis, Ultra Design 3

TBribute irth tales was born to

offer women a platform to express what giving birth to their babies meant to them. Thank you to the mothers who generously shared their stories. Please know how valuable your birth tales will be to the midwives and other women into whose hands this booklet will fall. The mother featured on the cover is Cornelia Owens, and this was her triumphant VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section), at home in water. It was also the moment she learnt for the first time that her precious baby was a boy – Baby Jordan! Thank you for gracing our cover with all the myriad emotions a woman feels at a pivotal moment like this. And to Marysol Blomerus, who was the ‘midwife’ of this amazing photo – your singular talent captured every nuance we could wish for. In addition, we hope that this collection of birth stories and supportive information from Sister Lilian will help countless others to claim their birth day


with pride and intuition. At the Sister Lilian Centre we know how life-changing birth is – both a good experience, and a bad one. We believe that the courageous, generous women who have shared their stories here, will bring new perspectives and hope to countless others. Some stories will bring a tear to your eye, others a gentle smile to your lips. You might feel a surge of power and pleasure one moment, and like you need to hug one of the women in the very next moment. This range of emotions is good, because it means you are pondering the significance of birth, way beyond the mere physical experience. If you are a midwife, nurse or doctor, we hope that you too will hear the message from each of these brave mothers. To our generous sponsor, House of Zinplex, who made it possible to produce Birth Tales, our heartfelt appreciation. Thank you for honouring and supporting the mothers of South Africa.

Introduction G

iving birth is a truly special experience in a woman’s life. Once you have been there and done that, nothing will ever be quite the same again. Although it is your baby’s birth that will be celebrated on that day, your new life starts on that day too! Shouldn’t midwives, obstetricians, birth facilities and indeed, the couple themselves, all conspire to make so much more of the incredible day that we call ‘birth’? Of course, uppermost in mind should be that at the end of this rite of passage that is birth, both woman and child should be safe and well. A good birth does not only mean a healthy baby and mother, though. A woman who feels good about her birth finds breastfeeding and mothering easier, and there is less chance of postnatal depression! From baby’s perspective it often means better health and less need for therapies to assist milestone development. Making the most of birth is about accepting what worked

best on the day in individual circumstances. A natural birth in which all went well is the best outcome, but if either mother or baby really needed intervention, like delivery by C-section, then that will be the best birth for those involved. You will feel good about your birth if you have been informed and consulted every step of the way, and if you feel that your preferences were taken into account, and that you were respected as a unique individual. As long as you do not feel let down or aren’t left with questions in the back of your mind as to whether or not the birth was handled sensitively and expertly, you will feel empowered by the experience. The best birth does not just fall into your lap though – you need to think about what you want, negotiate with your doctors and midwives, and keep an open mind if your circumstances should change. I hope that Birth Tales will help all who read it, in whichever way you may need.

Sister Lilian 5

Mother: Liani Schütz Father: Ulrich Baby: Mieka

Liani’s story


othing in my life has ever been so intense…

It was a Wednesday in March 2013, and Liani and Ulrich Schütz were counting down the days to their precious little girl’s estimated due date of 7 April. Liani shares her story.



hat night, we went to sleep, but not for long... At 2am, I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. I locked myself in the bathroom, where it felt like my stomach had turned into a washing machine. I’d never been sick like this before – it felt like my body was draining from all possible exits. Once my body gave me a break, I ran to Ulrich, woke him up and told him what had happened. He comforted me, and told me to try to rest, as stressing isn’t good for the baby. At 2:45am I woke up again, this time with really bad cramps, and realised my baby girl was on her way! I felt so many emotions – an overload of happiness, excitement, nervousness, fear and pain. The realisation that this was actually happening felt so surreal.

My whole world just disappeared; the only thing that existed at that moment was my baby. I woke Ulrich up and told him, “She’s coming! She’s making her way to us”. He jumped out of bed, almost as if he teleported from one point to the other, and the next thing I knew, he was on the phone with our hospital’s maternity department. He told them how far apart my contractions were, and they said that they were still too far apart and that I should go back to bed. When he told me what they said, I remember thinking, “Is this woman serious? Go back to bed? Has she ever felt a contraction?” However, we didn’t have a choice; but as I sat back down on the bed, I felt something inside my body changing. Instinctively, I ran to the bathroom and my waters broke. I called Ulrich; he gave me one look and was back on the phone with the maternity ward, not even five minutes after his previous call! They told him to get me to the hospital as soon as possible.

Confusion clouds the excitement When we got there, Ulrich parked in front of the main door of the hospital instead of the emergency ward, but the main entrance was closed. At this stage my contractions were frequent and intense, so I told Ulrich to get back into the car to drive me to the emergency entrance. But he was stressing more than I was, and with a bleak expression on his face, he yelled “There’s no time, we need to get to that door there!” Now, as all mommies who have experienced contractions know, walking fast is not an option due to the pain levels and contracting muscles, so I was walking at an absolute snail’s pace, stopping every few steps! Ulrich’s stress levels were now sky high. He was almost running away from me to get to the entrance, and the more I tried to tell him I couldn’t go faster, the more he tried to hurry me up. After what felt like an eternity, the security guard came running out with a wheelchair, and pushed me all the way to the maternity ward. Finally, I’d made it! There, the nurse calmly and politely explained that they’d only call my obstetrician once I was dilated enough. She checked, and then hurried off to call him, as I was already 8cm dilated! She came back

Note to all husbands – when your wife goes into labour, everything is your responsibility! Liani

and asked Ulrich for my medical card, which the doctor had repeatedly told us must be with us when I went into labour. Ulrich asked me where it was, but I just looked at him in confusion; he was supposed to bring my suitcase and the documents that were lying on top of it. Oh dear, my husband’s sky-high stress levels had now reached outer-space! By the time my doctor arrived, I was ready to push. My sister was also there, as she was my doula; there to keep me calm and hold my hand, so Ulrich could witness the birth of his child. The birthing process was so intense and emotional. No words will ever be able to paint the beauty of it. I could see the stress draining from Ulrich’s face, and the absolute joy and pure, true love filling his eyes when he saw his little princess.

Meeting Mieka! I held her tightly, making sure she didn’t slip out of my hands while my wonderful obstetrician helped my husband to cut the cord. My doctor handed my baby girl to me, gently placing her on my chest. I wrapped my arms around her tiny, fragile little body, looking at this precious human being. Our souls had been connected since she was conceived, and now, after months of waiting, staring into her eyes for the very first time, I finally got to meet her. Mieka was born on 28 March 2013 at 4:15am; she weighed 3,275kg and was 51cm long. The world had never been a better place.

Through all the pain of the contractions and the stress of getting Baby out safely, there has never been a more pure, beautiful and raw moment in my life than when my daughter made her way through the birth canal and into my arms. 7

Mother: Yashmitha Padayachee Father: Praven Babies: Kivesh and Thavina

Yashmitha’s story

births, Two many emotions

Yashmitha is happy with her family now, although she says that the C-section she had second time round was a miserable time in her life. She tells the story of her two births.



ith my son’s birth, I started to feel some tightening and noticed what I thought was my ‘show’ on a Sunday. I was due for my antenatal check on the Tuesday, and I could still feel baby move, so I didn’t stress. On Tuesday, my doctor did an internal exam and found a lot of blood on his glove. I was told to go to my hospital of choice to be induced. I was induced at about 1pm, and by 5pm was still not dilating; Baby’s heart rate was struggling, and I was in a lot of pain. I was advised to take

the epidural, and in hindsight, I don’t think I would have coped without it. The doctor came in after some time and, when he had taken a proper look at Baby’s heart rate, wanted a C-section done ASAP. He left, saying that he’d be back within half an hour, and that if there was no progress, we would go ahead with surgery. At 7:30pm I was nearly fully dilated and Baby was crowning. The epidural had worn off some time back, so I could feel the contractions a bit better. A nurse held one leg up to my ears, while my husband held the other! By 8:10pm, I was the proud mummy of a wonderfully healthy baby boy, Kivesh! As soon as he was out, my doctor pulled open my hospital gown and placed him against me, goop and all! It was wonderful!

My daughter’s birth I was miserably sick for six months of my next pregnancy, and ate nothing but fruit and veg! On Thursday, 20 February, I woke up feeling very tight, with a lot of pressure low down in my torso. I left work early to see my obstetrician, and was told to go onto a ‘trace’ at the hospital to determine if I was in labour. Turns out I wasn’t, but in the two weeks since my previous visit, my baby had not gained any weight at all, and I had lost almost 3kg. This worried my doctor, so he told me that if nothing happened during the night, I was to report bright and early to be induced the next morning. This was a different type of induction to my first; much more painful and with lots of internal exams. After a very, very long time, I asked for an epidural, roughly around 7pm. The doctor came in shortly after and manually broke my waters, which were completely tainted by meconium. An emergency C-section was arranged and by 7:30pm, I was in theatre. I can honestly say it was the most horrible experience of my life! I couldn’t feel my lips, or talk, or move my head. I was crying and feeling very miserable. The doctors did their best, and cracked some jokes to lighten my mood. I vomited and, because I couldn’t move, I choked a bit too. At 8:10pm, my little girl Thavina was born without a cry. There was no holding her – the paediatrician flushed out her tummy and checked her lungs.

I was overwhelmed with a feeling of loneliness, and emotional detachment. After they got her breathing and had completed the tummy wash, she was wrapped and placed on my chest for a few seconds. I remember thinking, “So what, I can’t even feel her, there’s tons of material between us, maybe we’ll always be this apart.”

A frightening, sad time! My husband followed her to the nursery while I was sewn up and wheeled to the recovery room. I had about five of those warm blankets put on me, and I was still freezing. Eventually, I was taken up to my room and put into my bed, still completely immobile. They brought my sleeping little baby, and the nurse was wonderful. She held her against me, and I got to kiss her little face for the first time. The nurse was concerned about my lack of movement, so she came by again, re-wrapped me and comforted me. I slept a while and, when I woke up, I tried a bit of my own physiotherapy, wiggling my toes and fingers to get my blood circulating, and, after a while, lifting my arms. At roughly 1:30pm, I could move enough to carry my baby for the first time. To my relief, the bond was still there. I breastfed her perfectly and snuggled up together for a bit.

In the middle of Yashmitha’s second pregnancy hubby Praven was diagnosed with end stage renal failure. This was a very stressful and emotional time for the family. When Baby Thavina was about four months old they began the procedure to have Yashmitha tested as a possible donor match for Praven. Shortly before Thavina’s first birthday, Praven and Yashmitha underwent the transplant operation. 9

Karen’s story

S ilver linings

Mother: Karen Kay Father: Lance Babies: Connor and Amelia

Karen’s anxious labours had a good ending for both her births. She tells us more.


ith my son Connor’s birth, my contractions started around 4:00pm on a Saturday in May, 2009. Five hours later, the contractions were about five minutes apart, so Lance and I left for the maternity ward. By the time we got to the hospital, I was so scared. The nurses said I was between 2 and 3cm dilated, but by 3am the next morning, my contractions had stopped. They recommended that I have an enema to bring on contractions, but after an hour, they stopped again. At 9am, my doctor arrived. She said I hadn’t dilated any more and that I could either go home and wait for labour to start again, or she could break my waters. I was petrified, but there was no way I was going home without my baby, so she went ahead and did it. Contractions came back with a vengeance! By early afternoon I was in agony and opted for an epidural. Half an hour later, the anaesthetist arrived and the epidural was done. I started to shake and felt extremely nauseous. At 5pm my doctor did another internal; I was only 5cm dilated. She tried to stretch me and gave me medication to try to help me dilate quicker, but an hour later, my son went into distress and I needed an emergency C-section.

I was so scared for my boy. 10

After 28.5 hours of labour, at 8:28pm on Sunday, 3 May, 2009, our gorgeous son Connor Ethan Kay was born. He weighed 3.39kg and was 53cm long. He was, and still is, the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on.

Amelia Ann arrives Three years later, I was near the end of my next pregnancy when, on a Sunday just after 5pm, I felt my waters break. Lance called my doctor, but she was in Cape Town and I had to use another doctor, Dr Mthethwa. I was very unhappy to hear that at the 11th hour! When we arrived at the hospital, I was only 1cm dilated, and the sister asked if I wanted to consider a VBAC, but I politely declined. At about 7pm, they wheeled me into the theatre where I met the doctor, who was lovely, and explained every little detail. Finally, after what felt like an absolute lifetime, Dr Mthethwa announced, “It’s a girl!” – the three most amazing words I have ever heard. I could hear her crying and my heart just filled with love. I watched Lance while they were checking her over and fell more in love with my husband.

It really was such a special moment. Finally she was handed to me and she was perfect! She stopped crying immediately and just stared into my eyes. Amelia Ann Kay was born on 18 November, 2012 at 10:10pm. She weighed 2.7kg and was 47cm long.

Nazmiah is married to Nasief Titus. This is her story:

Adele and Virgil Niekerk are one of few couples who still experience a natural breech birth. Read on:

decision T he day I gave TheI’vebest ever made breech birth M

y second baby was due in February 2015, but, due to a complication, my obstetrician wanted to induce labour two weeks early. I had had an episiotomy and 15 stitches after my first birth, so I would have preferred a C-section, but my doctor convinced me to have a natural delivery. Thank goodness – this was the best decision ever! As I was wheeled to the delivery ward, I told myself, "This is where the fun and games begin". I had the best midwife possible; she checked up on me every 10 minutes! At 7:30am, the epidural was administered – how I enjoyed that first dose. I slept through most of my labour, with an excited Nasief waking me up every 30 minutes. By 1:15pm, I was fully dilated. Three pushes later my daughter Suraa was born, weighing 2.7kg. This delivery had been so much better than my first. If I could relive that day, I would!


he week before my daughter Caitlyn was born, the doctor told me that she was breech, but that she could still turn, so I didn’t worry. At my next check-up, to my surprise, she had turned. That afternoon, I started getting terrible pains. My parents took me to the hospital, and by 6:15pm, the nurse broke my waters. When she did, the water was green, which was an indication that Baby was stressed, and still breech. She asked the doctor if she should prepare me for a C-section, but the doctor said that there was not enough time. I have never experienced that much pain and I have never screamed as loud as I did that day. Caitlyn was born feet first, with the nurse holding both her hands ‘there’ to ensure my baby’s hands didn’t get stuck. It’s an experience I never want to relive, and I thank God that all went well!


to relax I learnt at home… Nolubabalo Wayiti gave birth to two babies, Joy and Zorya; she shares her insights.

hen I arrived at the hospital for my first birth, I was only 2cm dilated. While I waited, I saw women coming and going with their babies, but the nurse kept telling me I had a long way to go. This upset me, but my mother calmed me down whenever she was able to visit. The contractions were painful, but more bearable than the period pains I used to have! I gave birth at 2:45am on a Saturday morning. My experience was better than expected, but I learnt not to go to hospital too soon. I was more relaxed during my second labour because I knew what to expect. I didn’t want to arrive at the hospital too early, so I stayed at home until my contractions were 20 minutes apart. I arrived at hospital at about 4am and, to my joy, was 7cm dilated. I gave birth at 5:26am – less than an hour and a half later! I had a great experience, and wish more people would choose natural birth. 11

Palesa’s story

Mother: Palesa Tau Father: Brian Lekoloana Baby: Marang

Thisbe will my

last born

Palesa has three children, but her last birth story left her disillusioned and determined never to repeat the experience. She bares her soul.



he birth of my third child was not so awesome, because, this time, I had no medical aid and had to go to a state hospital. I was overdue, and had to be induced. A solution to be drunk in quantities of 10ml every four hours was given to me and I drank it throughout the night, starting at 4pm. I felt no pain, but in the morning after bathing, the doctors came and did their rounds and I saw blood on the doctor’s glove and realised that I was in labour. While she had her fingers in my vagina, she stretched something in there, saying it was to quicken the labour process. That was painful! From then on, I started feeling mild pain right until 4pm, when, out of nowhere, extreme pain came. I felt contraction after contraction, giving me no time to breathe. I started to feel boiling hot, and took off everything I had on, but still, sweat was dripping off me like a leaking tap. I couldn’t even stand, and crouched on the floor until a sister came.

She was so rude, screaming at me, telling me how I was scaring new mothers. The sister told me to get onto the bed, and it was the hardest thing ever to do. She then shoved her gloved fingers inside of me, and screamed that I was only 2cm dilated and was performing like a crazy 10cm dilated person. She then told me to wrap myself up with a sheet and follow her to the delivery room. I couldn’t believe she was making me walk! I didn’t even make it out the door; water gushed down my legs, and another sister rushed to me with a wheelchair, and I was taken to the delivery ward.

Left alone, because I ‘knew better’ When we arrived, she told the receiving nurse that I was 4cm dilated. I screamed and said, “She’s lying, she doesn’t know how to do her job anymore!” I got on the bed and the receiving nurse tried to strap the

baby heart monitor on, but I removed it, telling her I could feel Baby’s head. She then walked away. I pushed twice, and my baby was born. The nurse came back and said she had been watching me from behind the curtain. I was cleaned up by a second nurse, who was friendly. She gave the baby to me to breastfeed, but I was still drowsy so she gave her a syringe of milk and put her in my arms. After about twenty minutes, I was asked to get into a wheelchair, and was pushed to a waiting area, where I joined other new mothers. I asked them why we were there and how long they had been waiting – one lady had given birth over 16 hours earlier! While waiting, I was cold and bleeding but I put my baby to my breast, and listened to other mothers’ birth stories. I was alarmed to see a young girl lying in a cubicle with blood flowing freely onto the floor. She was weak, but I made out that she wanted a doctor. About four of us started calling out to the sisters, who kept telling us they would be with us soon.

In the nick of time When a doctor passed, we asked him to please look at the lady. He went in, took one look at her, and started calling out to others. Curtains were drawn and the lady gave one painful scream and passed out, but the doctor managed to wake her. She was covered with an oxygen mask when they opened the curtains, and I heard the doctor say she must be taken to theatre immediately for evacuation. Apparently she had screamed like that because the doctor had pressed down on her womb and the placenta had been expelled. She had given birth hours earlier and they had left the placenta inside her. I felt shocked and traumatised. We waiting Moms were only wheeled to our recovery beds at around 9pm! I ended up staying there for three days due to high blood pressure, and my experience made me decide that this would be my last born. 13

Rifqah’s story

Mother: Rifqah Roberts Father: Naathir Baby: Jibra’eel

An unexpected arrival… Rifqah assumed she had Braxton Hicks pains, when, at 38 weeks pregnant, she was woken by contractions. Hers is a tale of the unexpected tinged with humour.


y birth story begins in the early hours of a Sunday morning in January, 2015. At about 1:30am, I woke up with a very tight, hard belly, but I quickly turned over and went back to sleep. The discomfort kept waking me every half hour until about 3:30am, when it became more than uncomfortable, and I had to actually get out of bed


to ‘walk it off’. But I still had another two weeks of pregnancy to go...right? By 7:30am, I realised that the pains were a little too regular to be Braxton Hicks; they were 10 minutes apart, and lasted two minutes each. By then, my husband Naathir had woken up too, so I filled him in on the night’s events, and we started to

get excited about the birth of our baby. However, we agreed that we wouldn’t tell anyone just yet, as the whole process could still take a day or two before Baby actually arrived. We did inform our birth photographer, just in case, and double checked the hospital bags to make sure we had everything ready.

Nonchalantly organised! Even though we thought that baby would only arrive the next day, we thought it best that we book in at the hospital, which we had only planned on doing after my next doctor’s appointment. We arrived at the hospital late morning, by which time the contractions were erratic, but we booked in and went to the labour ward to fill in the necessary paperwork. I had some contractions during the interview, but made sure to hide them, since I didn’t want to be stuck at the hospital too long. From the hospital we visited my mom, all the while hiding my contractions. Next stop was my in-laws for Sunday lunch – an intense contraction hit as soon as I walked through the door. Luckily, no one saw me stop dead in my tracks and breathe through it, and we were able to continue without arousing suspicion. My sister-in-law remarked on how low my belly looked, but I just shrugged it off, and proceeded to take a seat on the couch… when I experienced a very weird, yet unmistakable gushing sensation. I jumped up with what felt like a waterfall running out of me. I immediately knew my waters had broken, and must have had some special look on my face, because my sister-in-law asked me laughingly whether my waters had broken! All I could do was nod, so Naathir rushed me to the car, and then back to the hospital where we’d been just two hours earlier! About 15–20 minutes later, contractions started again, and they were definitely more intense than before!

I was very careful when walking, as I didn’t want to slip in the never-ending river of water that was flowing out of me!

When we got to the labour ward, the nurses looked confused since they had just seen me and I hadn’t shown any signs of early labour. I just smiled and shrugged! The nurse proceeded to do an internal exam, and ascertained that I was already 6cm dilated, to our surprise! That explained the intensity of the contractions, which were now coming at 5–6 minutes apart. The sister contacted the on-call doctor (my doctor was away and would only be returning the next day), but they were only expecting things to really start happening at about 3pm, which was when the doctor would arrive. We quickly contacted the birth photographer, and she rushed through, hoping to make it to us before it was too late. Another nurse asked me whether I would like an epidural and I very bravely (or stupidly) declined, saying that I was still managing with the pains. Ten minutes later, I felt I could no longer manage the contractions and asked for the epidural, but by then it was too late, and I was too far dilated... I was gutted!

Ready to push! The photographer arrived at 2:40pm, followed shortly by the doctor, and my time had come! My son, Jibra’eel, was born just 10 minutes later, weighing 3.185kg, with the cord around his neck, which the doctor quickly removed. He was placed on my chest, quiet and tentative at first, but he very quickly found his voice and made sure everyone heard him! Even as we contacted our families, they could hear him in the background – there was no denying the latest addition to our family. After he was cleaned up, he was given back to me to be placed on my chest for skin-to-skin bonding. Everyone was in awe at how quick the birth was, and I was high on adrenaline for the rest of the day!

Images by Marysol Blomerus, South Africa’s first specialised professional birth photographer. Find more of her work at 15

Mother: Bronwyn Lilburn Baby: Jason Connor

Bronwyn’s story

hen birth W dreams come

tumbling down Bronwyn was induced at 42 weeks, though, in hindsight, she says she wishes she had waited. What a bittersweet story she has to share.


probably should have left my baby boy inside me until he wanted to come out. However, my friend would be visiting from the UK, and I was stressed about not having my baby yet for her to meet. Anyway, my then-husband and I were at the clinic, and decided to go for a walk to try to get the birth started. We only got about 10 steps down the road when my waters broke, so off we went, back to our room to proceed with the next steps. I must say, I thought that birth was going to be easy because I was a toughie... Well, I learnt something completely new that day! I had planned a water birth, but I probably spent less time in the water and more time trying to get to the gas, as I didn’t have an epidural, and those contractions were not pleasant! After 13 hours of excruciating pain, my baby started backtracking, instead of coming down! At 10pm, my obstetrician was called, and at that point, I just wanted Baby to be taken out. An hour later, the doctor started with the C-section, but I still had feeling, despite the epidural. Eventually, they gave me sleeping gas, which also took ages to kick 16

in, and meant that I didn’t witness the birth of my child. Baby spent his first night with his father and I was woken up later. Fortunately, my baby was healthy and my recovery was good.

I was quite calm about my birth experience, because I think most people feel like they didn’t have the birth they had planned. However, the nurse seemed determined to keep my Baby away from me; whenever I picked him up, she made me put him down again. Breastfeeding was also a mission, and I started to feel as though it would never work, but with the help of two specialists and lots of determination, I am still breastfeeding 18 months later.

House of Zinplex’s story

inspirational Thebirth of the

House of Zinplex

Ockert Fourie had worked in the pharmaceutical industry for more than twenty years when, in 1998, his personal health needs gave birth to a company that has become synonymous with Zinc supplementation in South Africa.


ckert’s interest in zinc came from reading an article by a prominent medical researcher, which described the wonderful qualities and uses of zinc supplementation. It referred to research done by scientists all over the world on zinc supplements and zinc combinations. The results were tremendous! It was found that treatment with zinc:  Helped reduce and improve skin conditions like pimples, acne, eczema, and cold sores  Supported rapid wound healing  Helped relieve inflammation and infections like the common cold, genital herpes, ulcers, boils, and shingles  Markedly influenced increasing male fertility  Generally boosted the immune system of all age groups

An entrepreneur is born Ockert suffered from severe cold sores, so he immediately started taking whatever zinc supplement he could find. Finding success, he investigated further – eventually creating his own zinc treatment. Research showed that zinc absorption could be improved – with the least side effects and best results – by complexing zinc with picolinic acid.

The name Zinplex comes from Zinc, complexed with the body’s prime chelator, picolinic acid. The family business success story, Zinplex Marketing cc, was born.

From birth to market leader Zinplex is a pharmaceutical mineral supplement registered with the South African Medicine Control Council. Their product supplement range has grown from one in 1998, to over 30 in 2015 – and is still growing. The majority of their products use zinc as the base for boosting the immune system of infants, children, adults, and athletes. The HOUSE OF ZINPLEX (Pty) Ltd, as the company is called today, was registered in July 2006 – and it is this ‘Proudly South African’ company which made the publication of Birth tales possible. The Zinplex products range can now be found in all Southern African Countries, as well as England, Europe, and Cuba. They are now looking at expanding the business into Australia and America. The publishers of this first-of-its-kind booklet, the Sister Lilian Centre (Pty) Ltd, salutes HOUSE OF ZINPLEX for supporting the expectant women, mothers, fathers, babies, children, midwives, and all health professionals of South Africa. 17

A matter of choice! You need to keep your options open, but aiming for the stars – that’s a natural, physiological birth – gives you the best shot at a dream birth come true.


he birth that’s right for you will depend on your pregnancy and how labour unfolds. Use your 40 weeks wisely to learn about your options and seek out the best. In a nutshell, the birth options available to most women are:

Normal delivery in a hospital Vaginal birth takes place in a maternity unit in a hospital, sometimes with interventions like medical pain relief, induction and instrument delivery. The delivery room seems like an operating theatre, but, for the best birth, you should ask for as much privacy as possible, to walk around in the first stages of labour, and to give birth in an upright or crouching position.

Active birth An Active Birth Unit (ABU) is a pleasant homelike birth suite that’s freestanding or inside a hospital. More natural techniques are used, and you’ll have your chosen midwife in attendance with a doctor on call. This option gives you the freedom to choose the birth you would like. Some units are quite up-market, others are midwife-led units in a hospital, while there are also more homely ‘birth houses’.

Home birth

Water birth A water birth can take place at your home with the help of an experienced midwife, in an ABU, or at some clinics. Water really helps for pain relief in labour, so you’re likely to feel more relaxed, and your labour should progress faster.


CAESAREAN SECTION This is not supposed to be an option,but a necessity for some complicated pregnancies or labours. Written by Sister Lilian 2015

If you have a low-risk pregnancy, you can book a midwife to help you give birth at your home. Family can join, and the relaxed atmosphere often helps labour to progress more easily. Your midwife will probably work with an obstetrician she can call if any complications arise.

Ease thepain pain Ease the Delivered

To have an easier labour, choose the position that instinctively suits you best. Sister Lilian shares her favourites…

5 Magic birth tips 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Walking around between contractions will help Baby to move down the birth canal, so labour will progress faster. Create a calm space – ask for dimmed lights, gentle music in the background, hushed voices and as few interruptions as possible. Remember, you have a right to be cherished, and your labour requests should be supported. Alternate periods of movement and rest; lying down on your left side is best when on the labour bed. Take a bath or shower, or wrap moist sheets around your belly to help ease pain and provide you with some comfort.


Squatting helps keep you upright and opens your pelvis for better labour progress.

Models: Roxy Whitehouse and SW Lubbe; Photographer: Alan Paramor

Leaning forward

Ideal for resting between contractions, the forward tilt eases pain, splayed legs will open up the pelvic bones and your back can easily be massaged.

On the ball Support

Labo positionusr you to trfor y


‘Hang’ on to your partner for a sense of weightlessness, comfort and a good back rub; you can also easily roll your hips to help Baby move down into your pelvis.


This eases back and labour pain, making this position ideal during a contraction. You can also roll your hips to help Baby move down. Lean against a bed, table or chest of drawers.


Kneeling eases backache instantly, and positions your womb and birth canal ideally for good labour progress. You can roll your hips for comfort, and can easily get a back massage.

A birth ball supports you without restricting your pelvis from opening. You can roll your hips and lunge from side to side, all of which keeps labour progressing well, eases pain and helps you to relax. 19

12 eBaby l September–October 2014

You can have a better birth Sister Lilian’s six tips will help you have the most special of all birth days; the one on which you welcome your baby into the world.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Read as much about birth as you can, be aware of all your birth options so that you choose the one that best suits you, and draw up a birth plan that you discuss with your midwife or doctor. Remember, no birth is predictable, so you’ll need to be flexible about your birth plan, but having an idea of what to expect could help tremendously.


Pace yourself in early labour

If your contractions have just started, pace yourself by either going back to sleep (if labour wakes you at night), read, water the garden, take a deep warm bath, or go for a gentle walk. You could also do a few last-minute chores – nothing too strenuous, though. You only need to go to the hospital or birth centre when your contractions are regular and strong.


Eat! Yes, eat!

It may sound strange to eat during labour, but you’re going to need your energy – it’s called ‘labour’ for a reason! Have small, light meals like fruit or steamed veggies, and drink fruit juice or rooibos tea.


Pack a hot water bottle and an ice pack


Proper support


Give birth in an upright position

Some women just love the warmth of a hot water bottle placed on their back or lower abdomen during birth, whereas other women find cold ice packs help more with the pain.

Apart from your partner, it can be extremely helpful to have your mother or a doula with you during labour. Whoever you choose to see you through could help by wiping your brow with a facecloth, giving you a gentle massage, and encouraging you throughout – whatever you need them for, really.

It can be extremely uncomfortable to lie on your back during labour. Instead, walk, stand, squat, rest your upper body on a table and kneel on all fours. This will speed up the labour process, and reduce your pain. When deciding which position to give birth in, simply pay attention to your body – it will tell you which one is best.

Take these six tips to heart too: • • •


Keep your bladder empty so that it doesn’t slow down progress Play soothing music to help you relax throughout your labour An arnica oil massage will soothe backache

• • •

Put your hair up in a band as your neck might become very hot in labour Warm socks are helpful as your feet can be icy cold in labour Lip balm helps for chapping from heavy breathing

Written by Sister Lilian 2015


Mother: Yonda Nenzinane Baby: Olivia

Yonda’s story

lways trust Ayour instincts

Single mom Yonda had a very difficult pregnancy due to uncontrolled hypertension. She was booked for an induction at 38 weeks. Hers is a story of a close encounter of the wrong kind.


n admission on 18 January, 2014, my baby was right occiput anterior, which means that her head was slightly off-centre, facing my right thigh. I was given the first dose of the induction mix that I was to take every two hours. There were no beds available, so I sat on a chair for the next few hours, until another woman was done giving birth, and I was given her bed. I stayed there until the following day, and just after 11:30am, the doctor broke my waters. Absolute hell followed, but despite the pain, I was stuck at 4cm dilation for the rest of the day. Finally, at 4am the next morning (20 January), the doctor decided to send me for an emergency C-section. The spinal block was injected, but I still had feeling, and so had to be given general anaesthetic. I was going to miss seeing my baby being born – what a disappointment!

I didn’t hear her first cry!

Seven hours later, at 6:40am, I finally got to meet my gorgeous little girl. However, the next day, I couldn’t urinate. All they told me was that I wasn’t drinking enough water. Only on the 22nd, after going up and down asking to be helped, did a doctor finally insert a catheter and drain over two litres of urine. Tests showed that I nearly died because of the toxic build-up. My baby stopped urinating too, and, once again, my concerns were dismissed; they said Baby was pooing and peeing at the same time. I went from one nurse to another asking for help. Finally, one nurse took Baby to a doctor who was just seconds away from leaving. They inserted a catheter, and lots of urine came out – I had been right to worry about her! That afternoon, two nurses were discussing the death of a baby who wasn’t pooping – my baby girl might have been a statistic if I had given up! Four months later both Baby and I are doing well. I was very unsure about whether I would have another baby after that birth experience, but, in the meanwhile, I have decided I would love a sister or brother for my Olivia. 21

Dielda’s story

Mother: Dielda Mienie Father: Handré Baby: Lana

he moment I Tbecame whole Dielda had a feeling with that first contraction – a sixth sense. She just knew that this was it. Here’s her birth tale.



was 40 weeks and six days pregnant when what felt like a bad period pain woke me up. I lay there, eyes closed, waiting for the next one, which arrived in three minutes. I woke my husband, Handré, telling him: “Lana gives you a day off; you don’t have to go to work tomorrow.” I suggested he try to sleep some more, because it was going to be a long day, but I could no longer lie still; I wanted to move. Poppie, our pug, was on duty; with each contraction I walked up the corridor, around the edges of the carpet in the living room, and back to our room, Poppie following me every step of the way. Surprisingly, the time passed quickly – maybe because I didn’t focus on it. My midwife suggested I take two paracetamol and climb into a warm bath for at least an hour. While I was in the bath, Poppie lying on the mat in front of the tub, my mother called, her daily call since 40 weeks, asking me if there were any signs of labour yet. But Handré, who was now awake, started pulling faces, which meant: “Don’t you dare say anything!” I kept my cool.

Labour only got stronger Before the hour was up, it was 9am, and the contractions were still one minute long and three minutes apart, but they were so painful! I knew the birthing clinic was a two-hour drive away, so I insisted that we leave immediately. I think that’s when reality kicked in for Handré; he was suddenly in a hurry and his jokes stopped. That specific moment in the car became a precious memory – I remember looking at him, knowing that it wouldn’t be just us two in the car ever again; that we would return home with a baby.

I knew I had chosen the right person to be next to me that day. The contractions in the car were uncomfortable. I wanted to move but couldn’t. I remember very little about the rest of the car ride, but between contractions, Handré and I would make plans and share our excitement. When we drove through the clinic’s gate at noon, it felt as if I had had a shot of energy! I was ready and excited! My midwife examined me, and looked up smiling. I was hoping I was 7cm dilated, so when she said I was fully dilated, I burst into tears; I was so

incredibly proud of myself. My doula and midwife started filling the birthing pool while Handré phoned our parents with the news that Lana was on her way. I could feel my body and muscles pushing our baby down.

I distinctly remember the joy and excitement from everyone in the room. As I got into the bath, my waters broke. I didn’t feel or see anything, I only heard my midwife say, “Rupture of waters, and it’s clear.” Handré was right next to me from then on. He didn’t leave my side once. He gave me sweeties and sips of cold drink, and made me feel so comfortable.

I listened to my body My eyes were mostly closed; I was in my own world. I could feel Lana’s head on my perineum and knew what I had to do. The doula reminded me to open my eyes and take in the moment. It was then that I saw the water had gone from clear to murky brown. I looked at my midwife and she calmly said: “I do not know what it is, but it’s not disturbing your baby.” At that moment, I noticed the kidney dish on the table, wrapped in blue, and I knew there was a pair of surgical scissors inside. I told myself that I was not in control anymore. I gave each contraction my all, but at 2:50pm, my midwife advised me to get out of the pool because I might tear badly. On the bed, I used all the energy I had left on the next two or three contractions. I was tired and demotivated, and the kidney dish was worrying me, although Handré tried to encourage me and keep me positive. My midwife told me she was going to numb my perineum and then gave me two or three more contractions to push. When she took the scissors in her hands, I could tell it wasn’t what she wanted to do, but she cut twice, and Lana was born with the next contraction. My first thought was that I just wanted to hold her, and tell her that everything was going to be okay. That moment, when I held her little body in my arms, heard her cry, saw her fingers turn pink… everything around me became still, and all sounds, noises and voices faded. Overwhelming emotions flooded my heart. She, who I’d been waiting for and talking to and loving wholeheartedly for months, was here! I know that, in that moment, I became whole. 23

Clair’s story

Mother: Clair Fraser Father: Raurie Baby: Abigail

Old year, new life!

Clair Fraser had spent nine months hoping her baby would take her first breath in 2014, but as Clair explains, Baby Abigail had other plans! She tells us about her New Year’s Eve birth.


went into labour in the morning, although I didn’t know that it actually was labour at the time – it didn’t feel anything like how antenatal classes described it. My waters broke at noon and I was at the hospital by 1pm. The midwife checked and confirmed that it was labour and that I had dilated about 3cm, but Baby had still not dropped, and it looked like I would need a C-section. I really wanted a natural birth, but had spent the last three months preparing for the possible reality of a C-section, because all my friends, with the exception of one, had had a C-section. Because it was New Year’s Eve, there weren’t many doctors available, and my obstetrician was off for just these two days! I couldn’t believe my ‘bad luck’. The on-call obstetrician and an anaesthetist eventually arrived after two and a half hours. The anaesthetist came to my room to explain what was going to happen. By now my contractions were really painful, and I was getting frustrated because I figured that since I was going to be cut open, they may as well get on with it and give me some serious drugs! About one minute after the anaesthetist left, I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to push! I screamed that the baby was coming now! The midwife checked, and announced that Baby


was indeed on her way out! A bunch of nurses ran around like crazy to get ready. I was in the recovery room so my husband, Raurie, and a nurse had to rapidly push my bed into the delivery room next door. It all happened very quickly – the doctor hardly had her gloves on when my little girl came gushing out, after only 10 minutes and four pushes, at 3:35pm. It turned out the umbilical cord was wrapped twice around her ankle, which is why she hadn’t dropped. So now we like to tell the story that she waited until the last second, and then bungee jumped her way into the world! It was the very best moment of my life and as it would happen, my ‘bad luck’ turned out to be such a blessing, as I believe that if my obstetrician had been on call, she would have been at the hospital sooner and I would have had a C-section, instead of our amazing and fun story instead.

From now on, New Year’s Eve is going to be an even bigger party in the Fraser house!

Mother: Zavannha O’Callaghan Father: Martin Baby: Layton Martin

Zavannha’s story

On the ball

Just a few days before the main festive season in South Africa, Zavannha reached 40 weeks. Ready or not, 24 hours later she was a new mother, she says.


was 40 weeks pregnant and went for a check up on the 22nd of December, 2014. My doctor told me that my cervix was not yet soft or open, but that I should be at the hospital at 12 noon so he could induce labour. When I got home, I started experiencing cramps, but I thought it was Braxton Hicks. When we got to hospital at 11:30am, they told me I was 1cm dilated, and so already in labour. The sister gave me an injection which made the cramps worse. I told the sister that I would love a warm bath, but I was in a room with a shower. A few minutes later, the sister told me I could move to the labour room with a big bath. I ended up taking five or six baths, because my cramps were really bad. A doctor broke my waters, which was really painful, and it took long for me to dilate.

They gave me one of the yoga balls to bounce on, and I was on the ball more than the bed, because when I was on the bed, the cramps were worse.

I was extremely tired as I hadn’t slept for over a day, and still could not sleep at all. The sister kept asking me if I wanted something for the pain, and I told her no, but by noon, I asked if the doctor could perform a C-section. She told me that we should just wait until 1pm to see what the doctor says. The sister gave me a mask and injection while I was on the ball, which placed me on a ‘trip’ and made me sleepy, but it worked. I was dilated 4cm just after 1pm, and given an epidural. While I was getting the epidural, I dozed off and my husband got really stressed. The doctor said that it was fine, and I should sleep a while. My husband went outside where he bumped into one of our pastors. They prayed together, and the pastor told my husband that the baby would be born within 40 minutes. My husband came back to the room, and had been there for only a few minutes when I jumped up, saying “it is sore”. The sister checked, and I was 10cm dilated. The delivery wasn’t painful, but I could feel the contractions. Our baby was born at 15:55pm on 23 December, 2014 after more than 16 hours of labour. 25

Chantelle’s story

Mother: Chantelle Mellet Father: Corné Babies: Samuel Marthus and Hannah Helene

An ambassador for natural birth Chantelle Mellet says she is thankful that she had a vaginal birth after her first C-section (VBAC), and will take the experience with her forever! She describes why women should stop being afraid.


always wanted to have a natural birth, but when I was 37 weeks pregnant with my first child, the doctor said that I had a small pelvis and a large baby. My son was born by C-section at 37 weeks, weighing 3,8kg. It was a traumatic experience; they used forceps because he was ‘stuck’. Straight after birth, his lung collapsed. I didn’t even get a chance


to hold him because he was rushed to the ICU. The epidural took more than 12 hours to wear off. I was weak, sore and sad. His birth haunted me for a long time. When I found out I was pregnant with my second child, I was determined not to go through the same experience! I declared that I would have a

successful VBAC. My doctor (not the same one as with my first child) was sceptical about performing a VBAC, but said that the decision was ultimately mine. He gave me the statistics and the risks, and I decided the odds were in my favour, so stood my ground and stuck with my decision to have a VBAC. By 38 weeks, my doctor said I was ‘textbook perfect’ for a VBAC; my pelvis was perfect, and not small, as was first reported; my cervix was soft, Baby’s head was facing down and she was an average-sized baby. He gave me until 41 weeks, after which, he would perform an induction. I prayed some more, walked every day, drank raspberry leaf tea and did squats.

My waters broke at 40 weeks and one day, at 1am At first, I sat around wondering what was going on, and as the waters kept pouring out, I realised they had really broken! I battled to wake my husband, Corné – he was so confused. I said to him, “My waters broke”, he woke up, looked at me and said “That’s good news”, and went back to sleep. I shook him a little harder and gave him the news again; but he dreamt someone was hitting him, and just said, “I will hit you back”. I had to really shake him and keep telling him about my waters breaking, until eventually he was almost awake, and asked if I had called the hospital. When I did, they said I should come through, so we were there by 2am. They wanted me to sit in a wheelchair; I resisted as I wasn’t sick, but they insisted. The man who pushed the wheelchair walked so fast, I thought to myself, “I am in labour, not bleeding or dying!” An hour later, I still had no contractions, so my doctor asked if I was sure I wanted a VBAC and said that I could still opt for a C-section. He examined me and said that my cervix was hopeless, but I persisted in my quest for a VBAC, so they started the induction. By 10am, the doctor came back and said I was only 1cm dilated. He gave me two hours to advance another 2cm, or they would need to do a C-section.

I thanked God for each contraction, even though they were extreme because of the induction drip.

The lady in the labour ward next to me had been in labour for two days, and ended up going for a C-section. When I heard this I started to cry. The nurse told me that no one had said I needed a C-section, but I was bawling my eyes out, saying “I really don’t want to, please, don’t do a C-section”. I was so confused by the pain. When my doctor came back at 12pm, I was 6cm dilated! Even he was amazed. He saw I was in tremendous pain, and suggested an epidural, which I agreed to even though I didn’t want one. However, the epidural didn’t work; it only made my left leg numb. The anaesthetist was sorry it didn’t work and said I must have an injury from a previous epidural. I was glad, because I could remain active throughout the birth, and be aware of any early warning signs of uterine rupture. My doctor returned at 2:30pm, when I was fully dilated and needed to start pushing. My baby’s heart rate dropped, but not dramatically. My doctor was such an inspiration, and he really helped me to stay calm with each drop of her heart rate. They opened the induction drip before each push to encourage strong contractions. Twenty minutes later, our little angel was born, weighing exactly 3kg. No assistance, no suctions, no forceps, no cuts, only minimal perineal tearing. It was so rewarding, my husband by my side, his support and love through 14 hours of labour; we felt so connected.

The natural birth was one of the best experiences I have ever had, even with the pain. My baby girl, Hannah, was perfect. She took to my breast like a pro, and was such a calm and easy baby, burping easily with no cramps at all. She was born on Saturday and I went home on Sunday. I could do everything; I had no pain. My tummy was flat; it didn’t even look as though I’d had a baby. I didn’t have the pain of a cut over my tummy, or the irritating stitches, or the six weeks of pain afterwards – none of that. Natural birth is an experience like no other. I was strong and felt like a true woman. We are women; we can do it! 27

Helena’s story

Mother: Helena Stander Father: Schalk Baby: Carlo

Helena did lots of research and found that for her low risk, normal pregnancy, a natural birth would be best. She shares the story of the day her dream came true.

A birth wish fulfilled!


alfway through my pregnancy, I changed obstetricians to a doctor who was natural birth-friendly, and asked a registered midwife to act as my doula. I was 39 weeks and four days pregnant when I felt the first contraction in the morning. I knew it was labour, so went to my room, sat on an exercise ball, and tried to relax. An hour later, I lost my mucus plug and knew we were going to meet our baby that day! When my contractions became stronger, the most comfortable position was hanging forward with both my hands around my husband’s neck. I couldn’t bear lying down or sitting during a contraction. At 4pm we phoned my doula, and she joined us at home. She confirmed that I was in active labour, and checked my baby and my vitals. I felt nauseous at 7pm, so she checked again, and I was 5cm dilated. I was so happy to know that all that hard work was doing something! We decided to leave for the hospital.

My midwife-doula was my advocate At the hospital, my doula was so helpful – she encouraged me and helped my husband to support me in the ways I needed most. She told the nursing staff that I wanted to avoid an epidural, and only wanted intermittent monitoring. 28

The hospital nurse then declared me only 2cm dilated, but instead of becoming discouraged, I decided to trust my doula. Just as well, because when my doctor arrived, he said I was 7cm dilated! I struggled from 7–10cm, and the doula suggested I use some nitrous oxide, which doesn’t really affect the baby and is only in your system while you inhale it. It helped me to take the edge off the pain. At 10:45pm, the doctor said I was 10cm dilated, and could start pushing. I gave birth lying on my left side; this was a great position and much more comfortable than lying on my back. Even though it was painful, it took only about 10 contractions, and 20 minutes later my son was born at 11:03pm, weighing 3.74kg. I only had a slight tear that required two stiches. He was placed directly onto my chest and the doctor waited for the cord to stop pulsating before he let my husband cut the cord.

Not only was my son born that night, but the mother in me was also born. I was in awe, and felt on top of the world, like I could do anything. It was the most intense, amazing, empowering day of my life, and I would have it no other way!

O h boy, Mommy, you’re 9cm!

Washiela Jacobs tells the story of giving birth to Baby Lailaa.


n 11 March, I noticed reddish mucus on my underwear. I had slight pains the entire day. That evening, I saw blood, but had no contractions! I contacted my aunt and we headed off to the midwife obstetric unit (MOU), where a midwife told me I was 1cm dilated, and to go home and rest. I relaxed in a warm bath to keep myself calm. As soon as I got out, the pains were stronger. I arrived back at the MOU at 7pm, and was told I was now only 2cm dilated. The midwife suggested I walk as much as possible and lie in a bath to relax. At about 10pm, I asked my aunt to call my midwife, because I could feel Baby was coming. As the midwife checked how far I had dilated, she said, “Oh boy, Mommy, you are 9cm dilated! Can you walk?” We rushed to the examining room, and I gave birth after just three pushes! My little girl, Lailaa, was born at 10:13pm and she latched at my breast immediately. It was the most overwhelming experience, and I couldn’t wait to show the world my beautiful daughter!

Crowning glory Leanda is married to Ugen Cuppen and she tells us how quickly Baby Jenson was born.


y initial due date was 6 November. I saw my obstetrician on 28 October, and he said he’d induce if Baby hadn’t made his arrival by the following Monday. That Thursday, I had slight period-like pains that came and went, and at 2pm, I decided to lie down. As I bent down my waters broke. I phoned my doctor and he advised me to go to the maternity ward. As we arrived at the labour ward, I started getting a few intense cramps. The nursing staff took me into a normal room to check how far I was dilated. Well, all I can say is as soon as that nurse lifted my gown, she was in a state – my baby’s head was already crowning! They rushed me to the delivery room, and my doctor got there within minutes. It was too late for any pain meds, so I just took a few deep breaths of gas and Jenson was born on 30 October, 2014 at 3.2kg, a very healthy boy.

A s strong as an ox

Sherezaan and Fadley Atkins’ baby boy, Ismaa’eel, was born six weeks early.


t 33 weeks my blood pressure was very high, and I had protein in my urine, so needed to be admitted to the hospital immediately. For the next two days, I was given steroid injections to strengthen my baby’s lungs, and on 30 October, I was induced. Next morning at 8am, I was wheeled into the labour ward for my waters to be broken; I was 2cm dilated.

About five minutes after my waters broke, I had my first contraction. Two hours later, I asked for an epidural. At 13:15pm, I was 9cm dilated and my obstetrician was called. “This is it, I’m finally going to be a mom”, I thought. Just 30 minutes later, my son was born, weighing 2.9kg, and as healthy as an ox. Despite being born a month and a half early, he could breathe on his own and latched immediately. The best day, hour, minute, and second of my life happened on the day my son was born! 29

Mother: Annerie Coetzee Father: Jaco Babies: Janco, Anrich, Hugo and Anri

Annerie’s story

Reach for the stars In January, 2009, Annerie discovered that she was expecting her and Jaco’s first child. They kept to the usual schedule of appointments and sonars, but there was little talk of the birth itself. Annerie looks back over her four births.



hat first time, I assumed that natural birth was a given – how wrong I was! I learnt a number of lessons from my four births.

Janco’s birth My due date was on a Friday in late September, but by the following Monday, my blood pressure was so high that the doctor said he needed to do a C-section. I asked if it could rather be an induction, but he explained that Janco’s head was still too high, and induction would anyway end in a C-section. We booked the operation for the next morning. People who know me know that I don’t get scared easily, but while I was lying in that bed waiting for my

Baby Janco

Baby Anrich

turn, I was terrified. I still remember how, in the theatre, they lifted my baby Janco up, and he was sleeping, and didn’t make a sound. I saw him only briefly before they took him away to be cleaned and tested. Eventually, I got to hold him for about three minutes before they took him to the nursery, as they said he would get cold. I told my husband, Jaco, not to leave him for a moment, then I lay there for what felt like hours while they stitched me up. An hour and a half later, they brought me my son. I could finally hold him, but the anaesthetic had worn off, and I could feel the pain from the cut. Poor Janco was sleeping from the anaesthetic too, and it was only after about four hours that I could breastfeed him. At 3am next morning, I called a sister to ask if my child was okay. Hesitantly, she told me that they needed to flush his lungs and throat, because they still contained amniotic fluid. I began to cry as I thought how my poor child had been screaming, and his mother hadn’t even been there to comfort him. He must have felt so alone.

I realised that this was not how birth should be. This was a turning point for me. If they were worried about him being cold, they could have given him to me for skin-to-skin contact!

Anrich’s birth I fell pregnant again when Janco was eight months. I wanted a natural birth this time, but my doctor advised against a vaginal birth after a C-section (VBAC), saying it was dangerous. That December, I went to visit a friend, and happened to be there when she had a home birth with a midwife. What a wonderful experience for me as a bystander! I can remember the expression of empowerment and exhaustion on her face. I decided to read up on VBACs, and found they were possible and quite safe. For the first time ever,

Baby Hugo

Baby Anri

I began to do my homework, and decided I had been stupid to leave such a big decision to my doctor alone. We went to a well-known birth clinic in Johannesburg, and, from the beginning, I was given deadlines; I couldn’t go over 40 weeks, and when I did go into labour, I must dilate one cm every hour. At the time, I thought that was reasonable, but I now know that all births are different. By 38 weeks, I was extremely stressed and anxious. At 40 weeks, a catheter with an inflatable balloon was placed in my cervix to help prepare my cervix for labour, and they told me they would give me a few days. That weekend was hell; my family-in-law was also there, because everyone was waiting for this baby, but nothing happened. On Monday evening, my midwife said I should come in for a check. I was 5cm dilated, even though I’d had no pains. At 2am and 7cm dilated, she broke my waters. The contractions began to wear off, and after two hours, I was back to 5cm. I was told that the baby’s head was half pushing through the cervix, but that the cervix wasn’t opening. Eventually, we decided to go for a C-section. I remember sitting on the bed for the spinal, and the doctor said I’d never be able to have a normal birth after this.

I could feel something inside me die. My beautiful baby was 4.25kg, and I couldn’t stop staring at him. I realise now that the catheter and balloon may have opened my cervix to 5cm, but that my body had never really been in labour.

Hugo’s birth We’ve always wanted a big family, and when Anrich was about a year, we found out we were pregnant with number three! We made an appointment with a midwife, and as I told her my story, I began sobbing. She gave me a hug, and said she would help me. Wow! For the first time ever, there was hope! The birthing clinic I had been to previously only allowed VBACs after one C-section, and another private hospital known to offer various birth options


Annerie’s story had the same 40 weeks rule; we didn’t want to be pressured again, like we had been with Anrich’s birth, so we decided to have a home birth. On the first Wednesday of January, 2013, I woke to realise my pants were wet. Very excited, I woke Jaco up and told him that I thought my waters had broken. I texted my midwife but because there were no contractions, she said I should try to sleep. I woke again at 9am, without a hint of a contraction. Jaco and I walked and walked, but by 3pm, there was still no sign of a contraction. I started crying, certain that I would again need a C-section. My midwife came over, and said she’d still give me until Monday, because my cervix was very soft, and I was 1cm dilated. However, she did put me on antibiotics, so as to prevent infection after my waters had broken. Two days later, on 4 January, at 11pm, I had contractions every 2–3 minutes. My midwife and doula arrived at our house at about 2am with their full kit. I was 7cm dilated, but Hugo was still high up, so my midwife made me climb stairs for an hour, sweat dripping off of me, and Jaco trailing behind so he could give me a backrub. After an hour, I was 9cm, and felt like pushing, but after two pushes, my midwife said Hugo is still too high and I should take a bath. In the bath, I had my first inkling of doubt that I could actually do this. Jaco told me that I had wanted this, and had fought for it, and that I could do it.

It was the best feeling in the world. I got back onto the bed and began pushing. It felt as though I pushed for hours. Eventually, my midwife told me to stop pushing, and the next moment, Hugo, my wonderful child, the child people told me I would never be able to give birth to naturally, was on my chest.

Anri’s birth On 5 March 2015, the first contractions of my fourth birth started. I was so excited, but by the afternoon, they were weaker and only came every now and then. I lost my mucus plug, and hoped that I would get to meet my baby girl that night, but instead, the contractions disappeared completely. On Friday morning at about 2am, my contractions started again, 10 minutes apart and quite strong. I was very uncomfortable, but I still managed to sleep. That night, I lost more of my mucus plug, so I let my midwife know. She told me to keep her posted. 32

Exactly 24 hours later, my contractions were strong and five to six minutes apart. I texted my midwife, who said it sounded good, and asked if she should come over; I said no, because I thought these contractions would just disappear too. She said I should wait an hour, then take a bath, and if I was still having contractions, to let her know. In the bath, the contractions became even stronger. At 3:38am, we called the midwife, woke my mother, and she and Jaco started to get the room ready. At 4:30am, the midwife arrived, checked, and calmly said I was 9cm dilated. I was so excited, but also absolutely exhausted. My midwife broke my waters, and they were clear, even though I was overdue. She asked if I was ready to push, but it was difficult and unbelievably painful. Jaco held my one hand tightly, while my mother held the other. Eventually, my midwife said she could see Baby, but I didn’t believe her. I decided that I’d had enough, and started to turn on to my side. My midwife said firmly that I needed to focus and she and Jaco held me in position. To encourage me, Jaco took a photo of ‘down there’, and I could see just where Baby’s head was. That gave me all the motivation in the world, and I again began to push. My perineum began to burn like fire, but the next moment, at 5:23am, Baby’s head was through, and I felt instant relief. My midwife asked Jaco if he would like to catch our baby, so he put his hands on her little head, and caught his daughter. The midwife wiped her down, then placed her on my chest.

Wow – our experience made even all the pain in the world worth it! We waited for the cord to stop pulsating before Jaco cut it, with me bonding with my daughter skin-to-skin the entire time. I couldn’t have done it without my midwife, and the love and understanding of my husband. My mother was also with me for this birth, and it was an unbelievably special moment that I could also share with her. If I had known at the beginning what I now know about birth, I would have had a home birth with a midwife for all my children! I am convinced that is what made all the difference.

Mother: Kashiefa Fataar Father: Ismail Samsodien Baby: Shumeez

Kashiefa’s story

he T neighbourhood’s baby

Kashiefa’s first two babies had arrived more than a week later than predicted. She picks up her story from exactly one week after her due date with Baby number three.


y due date was the 4th of June, and on the 11th of June, I felt so energetic, I actually hosted a family lunch! After lunch, I was busy sweeping when I felt a mild cramp. At 5pm, I had a few more cramps, but they too were mild. I tried taking a nap, but by 7pm I felt restless and annoyed, so I tried cleaning. Twenty minutes later, the pain was worse, but still very manageable. I told Ismail he should prepare just in case. He felt it would be better to get to the hospital, but I insisted that I knew my body and that we had plenty of time. Five minutes later my water broke and the contractions came immediately, one after the other. I tried getting into the car, but as I lifted my leg, I could feel Baby’s head was already on its way out. I wobbled back inside and lay down on my bed, breathing heavily. When I told Ismail, he freaked out, and ran next door to the neighbours. Then, he came back and phoned his brother, who lived nearby.

I started pushing because that was all I could do.

My sister-in-law finally arrived, and started gathering towels. Because of all the fuss, neighbours from my whole street walked into my room, while I was lying there exposed! Between pushing and trying to cover myself, I managed to scream at everyone to get out and close my door! One of our neighbours was pregnant, and between her and my sister-in-law, they managed to deliver our baby safely at 7:50pm. When the paramedics arrived, they covered me up with Baby on my chest and wheeled me to the ambulance. There were so many people in my front garden, curious about what was going on. Luckily, amidst all the chaos, someone had called my mom, who made sure I was covered, saving my last shreds of dignity. She also made sure my children were seen to, and went in the ambulance with me. It was already 10pm when we got to the hospital; my afterbirth was still inside me and the cord had not yet been cut. Just one hour later it was all over, and I could finally enjoy my baby. She was so beautiful and sweet; I spent the whole night staring at her. It took me a while before I was able to look my neighbours in the eye again, but my baby, who will be turning nine this year, is still as sweet and beautiful as ever. 33

Beaulene’s story

Mother: Beaulene Viviers Father: Olaf Coetzer Baby: Dunay

hen midwifery is Wnot ‘with women’ Beaulene consulted a midwife throughout her pregnancy. She tells us her harrowing tale.


t my 38 week visit, my blood pressure was very high and I had protein in my urine, so my midwife said she couldn’t help me. I went to the hospital where they found that my blood pressure wasn’t too high, so the midwife said she would help me deliver, but with an induction. I arrived at the midwife’s house at 7am next morning, and every time she did an examination, it was so sore. She inserted a few tablets into me, and after waiting a few hours, she broke my waters. We waited some more, and she gave me pain medication that made me very sleepy. When I was fully dilated, I started pushing, but all we saw was Baby’s hair. The sister who accompanied my midwife suggested cutting me, but the midwife said no. After a few more pushes and three injections jammed into my leg, the midwife told me my baby was going to die if I didn’t push. I tried so hard that all the veins in my face and eyes popped. The midwife eventually grabbed my legs and seemed to tear me open. When she pulled Baby out, she wasn’t breathing. 34

She roughly put my baby on the bed, and started stitching me up, while the accompanying sister gave Baby oxygen. I asked my midwife how many stitches I got, and she said she didn’t know, as she was trying to stop the bleeding. My baby was bathed and given a bottle of milk. The midwife gave me soda to drink as I was very nauseous, cleaned me up, and said I had to go home because she had another birth. At home, we prayed that I would survive the night, as I had lost so much blood. I slept in the living room, away from my baby, just in case I died.

I was scared I would never see my baby again. The next day, I took my baby to hospital where she was taken to the ICU as she had jaundice. I’m pregnant again and this time, will go to a hospital; I had such a terrible experience with that midwife that I still cry when I think about it.

Mother: Angelique Stanton Father: Warren Baby: Mila

Angelique’s story

A beautiful VBAC

Having had her first baby via C-section, Angelique Stanton wanted nothing more than a natural birth the second time round. She relates her vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC) experience.


n a Friday morning at 4am, I was awoken by contractions that were 20 minutes apart. My midwife suggested a hot bath and two paracetamol. Throughout the day, the pain came and went. On Saturday evening, after another hot bath and two more paracetamol, the pain didn’t ease and an hour later, I had my show. I was so excited! I contacted my midwife, who told me to monitor the contractions and keep her updated. I eventually called her to say I was off to the birth clinic. Once there, a sister placed the monitor on my belly, and told me that I was 3cm dilated and definitely in labour. At that moment, I felt my baby turn and the contractions eased up. I walked around to get labour going again, but nothing helped. When my midwife arrived, she told me I wasn’t in labour, as my cervix was still posterior and I had not yet started dilating. However, the moment my husband, Warren, and I left the birth clinic, the contractions returned in full force. I lay in bed for the whole of Sunday; very uncomfortable and confused as to what was happening. By 10pm, I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without Warren’s help. When I had a contraction and felt like something was coming out, we were told to get to the birth centre immediately. The same sister wanted to monitor Baby and me, but I refused, as I was scared Baby would turn again. A few minutes later my midwife walked in

and did an internal; she made a sound of surprise and I braced myself for the worst; I will never forget the moment she said I was 9cm dilated! I moved to the birthing pool, still surprised. Warren was crying with joy. After an hour and a half of pushing, I could feel Baby but she was not coming out. The midwife said we should apply suction before Baby went into distress and I ended up needing a Caesar.

I was determined to push her out; I was not going to have a Caesar. I got out the bath and onto the bed, Warren holding my hands. I had a contraction and pushed my baby Mila out with that same contraction. I was about to pull her to my chest when the midwife told me not to, as she had a very short umbilical cord – this was why she didn’t want to come out, and why I needed suction. I stared at this little person lying on my stomach and could not believe it; I had just had an all-natural birth! We waited for the cord to stop pulsating before my husband cut it; then got back into the birthing pool and enjoyed some quality time with our newborn. It honestly was the most amazing experience I have ever had. 35

Mother: Maggie Father: Andries Babies: Roelf and Wikus

Maggie’s story

Fromto amazing traumatic I As Maggie and hubby Andries were relaxing and watching TV one evening, she felt the need to yet again visit the loo. She tells us her story from the moment she felt a ‘pop’ between her legs.


t was Monday, 11 March, 2013 at about 8pm. It felt like the hundredth time that I needed the loo that day! As I got up from the couch, ‘pop’ – I felt water running down my legs. I instantly realised my membranes had just ruptured. On our way to hospital, I had no contractions. When we arrived, the nurse determined I was 1cm dilated. I was hooked up to monitors, and the nurse told us that my uterus was currently just irritated, that my husband, Andries, could go home, and that I should get some rest. I tossed and turned, excited that my baby’s arrival was near, and that we would soon know if it was a boy or girl. I started to experience slight contractions. Just before 5am, the nurses hooked me up to the monitor again. There was little change to the contractions. The nurse phoned the doctor

who told them to start an induction at 6am. The nurse reassured me, saying she expected my contractions to pick up quickly once the induction started. A few hours later the contractions did start, and were getting painful. I requested pain medication, but the midwife denied it, saying they were scared that if they gave me a painkiller, my contractions would die down. I walked around and took several baths. Finally at about 3pm, the midwife took me to the delivery room; I was 8cm dilated.

me, since I thought they were just Braxton Hicks contractions. When the alarm woke us and it was time to get up, it had been more than an hour since I’d had a contraction, but during breakfast, I told Andries to keep his phone close. I felt great; I did the washing, my firstborn and I went for a stroll, and I still had no contractions. I put my son down for his afternoon nap at 11:45am, and, as usual, I lay with him until he was asleep, during which time I had another contraction.

My son’s C-section

I did my house chores but suddenly had an upset tummy; three bowel movements within an hour, and extreme nausea. I assumed something I had eaten didn’t agree with my body. My son woke at about 1:30pm and we played outside. Irregular contractions started again and after a while, we came inside because they were really painful. A while later, I had a bath to see if that wouldn’t ease the contractions, but they just became more frequent. I ignored them and started preparing dinner, but soon I had to go on all fours and breathe deeply to be able to manage them. Just before 4pm, I phoned Andries to tell him the contractions were painful and about 10 minutes apart, and that he needed to come home. He arrived home to find me on all fours in our bedroom. He immediately phoned his mom to come and pick up our son. On our way to hospital, it seemed like the contractions were subsiding. When we got there, they connected me to monitors, and it was so difficult to manage my contractions while lying on my back. At about 5pm, the nurse told me I was barely 1cm dilated. My heart sank to my shoes but I refused pain medication. Just before 6pm, the doctor arrived and did another examination, and, to my delight, I was 5cm dilated. The doctor gave me a walking epidural, and everything felt amazing. Just before 8pm, I felt an urge to push, and my membranes ruptured. A few minutes later, my second son was born at 8:18pm, weighing 3.19kg and 55cm long. I did tear, but I was able to hold my son while the doctor stitched me up. My son had his first breast feed right there in the delivery room.

When I was fully dilated I started pushing, but Baby didn’t want to come out. The doctor checked, and noticed there was still a ‘lip’ on my cervix. Then my baby moved back and I was only 6cm dilated. My doctor called another doctor to assist with a forceps delivery, but the other doctor refused as I was not completely dilated. I was wheeled in for a C-section. After baby was delivered and while the doctors started to close me up, the feeling in my toes came back. I informed the doctors and they immediately gave me general anaesthesia, which meant that a significant amount of time passed before I could breastfeed my child.

It was a traumatic experience. An amazing second experience After that first experience, I did research about vaginal birth after C-section (VBAC), and prayed that one day I would have a vaginal delivery. Well, the birth of my second son in February 2015 was an amazing experience. On Friday, 13 February, I had a doctor’s visit and was extremely emotional, because if I didn’t go into labour by the 19th, the doctor would assess whether it was possible to artificially rupture the membranes and get labour started, or whether I would need another C-section. My mom came to visit that weekend, but I was not very good company. On Saturday, Baby felt a bit lower in my pelvis which made me uncomfortable, and to make things worse, we had no water at home as there was a serious problem with the municipal pipe network for our area. On Monday morning at 2am, I started having irregular, painful contractions. They didn’t bother

Doing what mothers do

It was such an amazing experience! 37

Birth hormones A truly miraculous cocktail

When it comes to birth, one of the biggest things women worry about is the pain. However, Mother Nature is on your side.


keeping the pain at a level you can manage. It also facilitates the release of prolactin in labour, (see below) and helps mature your developing Baby’s lungs. After birth, it keeps both you and Baby happy; it’s in your breast milk, and is believed to help Baby adapt to life outside the womb.

Catecholamines (adrenaline and noradrenalin)

Oxytocin is known as the hormone of love. In pregnancy, it enhances nutrient absorption and conserves energy by making you relaxed and sleepy. If you are treated kindly in labour, oxytocin will ensure better labour progress and make you resistant to stress. During birth, it causes effective contractions, and, after birth it helps prevent abnormal bleeding. It helps get breastfeeding started, and will help you bond with your new bundle of joy.

These hormones are produced in response to stress or the need for sustained energy. In a normal birth, catecholamines will peak just before you push Baby out, and you’ll have a rush of energy and strength and have strong contractions. This helps you to birth more easily. Catecholamines also make sure that Baby is wide-eyed and alert for when he meets you, and protect your newborn’s brain against low blood glucose.

Oestrogen and progesterone

Prolactin is the hormone of tender mothering. Its levels rise steadily during pregnancy, decline during birth and then rise again steeply straight after birth. This surge gets lactation started and prepares the breasts for feeding. It reduces stress and, together with oxytocin, elevates your mood and keeps you calm. It will help you to put your baby’s needs first, and makes you want to nurture your child; fathers often have increased levels too! Some studies show that it plays an important role in the development of the newborn’s brain, which could partly explain the higher IQ and more optimal brain development amongst breastfed babies.

During pregnancy, progesterone causes your ligaments to relax. This enables your pelvis to open during birth, so Baby can pass through more easily. Oestrogen also increases the amount of oxytocin receptors in your uterus, allowing your uterus to contract. Both these hormones also help with pain relief.

Beta-endorphin Beta-endorphin is a natural painkiller that keeps your contractions in check – when they’re too painful, beta-endorphin will slow them down, 38










Written by Sister Lilian 2015


uring pregnancy, you trusted your body to look after your developing baby, and it adapted and developed to provide the very best environment for your growing baby. If you continue to trust your body, your labour hormones will make sure you have an amazing birth. They do a lot more than just help you through labour too…


ZINPLEX CALCIUM CHEWABLE TABLETS Calcium is an essential mineral in maintaining bone and dental health as well as reduction of obesity. We need calcium from birth till we reach old age. In our infant days, calcium is required for proper bone and tooth growth; during adolescence, as the bones develop, calcium is essential to support the growth and during old age ample calcium is needed to prevent bones getting porous and weak. Calcium helps in the easy movement of nutrients across membranes and is an essential mineral to use especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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Birth Tales  

Birth tales is a one-of-a-kind initiative of the Sister Lilian Centre, born to offer women a platform to express what giving birth meant to...