This story needs to start from the beginning – and the birth of my Shyami started preconception! But I will skip the details of the longing, surrendering, false hopes, praying and negotiating and releasing that we went through before he was ready to join us.
I remember the time of his conception clearly. We were nearing the end of our sojourn to a holy place known for its magnaminity and mercy – a place that we went to as a family for deep nourishing and reconnecting after a tough few years of gruelling, relentless work. So Shyam spent his first weeks forming his perfect body in my womb while we made pilgrimage with our older son to the most holy places in India.
First stop after Sridham Mayapur (capital of ISKCON) was Krishna’s birthplace known as Vrindavan -deeply beautiful, ancient steeped temples and saints. And on to curvy, steep, faceless roads that hug the northern mountains of the Himalayas – as we walked in snow, journeyed on ponyback, dunked from ice surfaces to natural hot springs, ate with pilgrims, sadhus, slept in tents covered with ice, warmed ourselves at fires used to make fresh chapatis and drank chai to warm our insides. As well as bathing in crisp cool Ganges when out of the Northern colder regions – giving us fresh relief from the heat.
Starting a new job (after immense negotiation with the Department of Health – so I could be closer to home), I hid my pregnancy for a while. I soon found out that this new hospital was named the “busiest and roughest trauma unit in the Western Cape” for a reason! Night shifts, day shifts, more than 8 hours not only on your feet but running often, resuscitating, diagnosing TB, MDR TB, as well as every other emergency and trauma diagnosis you can imagine. I “slept” for an hour in my car during night shifts. As they all tell you “Well at least it is good experience.” Heartbreaking. Social medicine at its best. The results of poverty, crime, alcohol, drugs. The results of Apartheid still ripe. I lasted 2 months. And then begged and made a plan to swap departments. Still busy, tragic and hectic – but different hours and pace. And following my interest – obstetrics.
So aware of my growing baby within throughout all of this – I took fetal love breaks – often – either while walking from one ward to the next, sitting down for a moment here and there. It wasn’t easy. I remember doing a resuscitation at 5am after a night call, at about 33 weeks – with incredibly inept staff. Switchboard was on “lunch” (the incredulous term used when anyone is taking a break at any time of the day!?) and we could not call a red box emergency alert so other doctors could come help. If anyone knows CPR is hard work!
And finally at 37 weeks I started maternity leave. I rested, refreshed and became ready. But by 38.5 weeks I was itching and the “just waiting” was hard.
So my famlily and I decided to go camping!
We stayed in a beautiful healing low fynbos forest about 1.5hours away. and a short and bumpy dirt road in! We slept in permanent tents on a bed in the forest. We had outdoor showers, camping food, incredible walks (that I lumbered along) and soaked in the rich healing and sacred wisdom of the trees in the forest.
These profound trees are used to make healing essences – African Tree essences – just like flower essences. It is a truly healing sanctuary. We walked a labyrinth, spent time with a
1000 year old Milkwood tree!! and had the whole site to ourselves and loved it. It was just right.
A Milkwood tree , known as the Tree of Wholeness – symbolises power, groundedness and connectedness. “The energy of the milkwood tree can assist us with feeling at home in the world – it connects you with your personal power, and may remind us on a cellular level that we are all one family – each of us loved and needed and cared for.” I was happy to soak in her vibrational healing energy at this this time! http://www.africantreeessences.co.za/tree_of_wholeness.html
A one day camping trip expanded into 3 days as we continued to spend some time with some good friends, and swimming in the salty ocean!
And on Saturday night we came home.
Sunday morning I made homemade bread before our meeting at my home with the organisational commitee for the first Midwifery and Birth Conference in South Africa! My midwife, also on the team, did a prenatal with me before and felt it could be anytime now or even later. And after the meeting I had a fantastic lunch and went to relax and read a little.
At 13h40 my water broke. And after about 1.5 hours I was in full blown established labour.
Continued in Part 2…
A long version of this in combination with my my own journey to birthing work appears in the wonderful book Water Birth: Stories to Inspire and Inform by Milli Hill at http://www.waterbirthbook.com .