I attended my first birth in Johannesburg, South Africa! I supported an excellent midwife-doula team as a well known stand up comedian delivered her second baby boy via c-section (known as a “Caesar” in South Africa) at a birth clinic here. The mother, let’s call her Tsholang to protect her privacy, switched her care providers in the last three weeks of pregnancy to a midwife-doula team supportive of her desire to VBAC. The midwife and doula generously invited me to help out at the birth.
Tsholang labored at home with her husband all day long; her primary doula went to her house around 6:30pm, giving me instructions to meet them at the birth center. Tsholang’s contractions were nearly one minute apart! By the time the team assembled at the birth center, contractions had slowed way down, and the monitor was showing significant fetal distress. The midwife checked Tsholang and she was 1cm dilated. It was time, everyone decided, to go in for a C-section.
We doulas prepped Tsholang for the Caesar. We talked about what she could expect in the operating room (here it’s called a “theater”), and who would be in the room. Tsholang’s husband, her midwife, and both of her doulas would be by her side along with the team of doctors and nurses. As she changed to head to the “theater”, she and I took a minute to prepare emotionally for what was up ahead. No matter how we met the baby, we discussed, this was still her labor, her pregnancy, and her son’s birthday. We would still keep the vision of her birth plan in tact as much as possible. “I just wanted to feel contractions,” she kept saying, “I’m so thankful to have felt labor.”
Tsholang and I used some imagery exercises that are inspired by the DreamBirth work of Catherine Shainberg
, which is fantastic for preparation for labor, delivery, post-partum and C-sections. We created a garden where Tsholang could prepare for her delivery. I encouraged her to invite anyone she wanted into the garden to support her during delivery, and to welcome her son into the world. She communicated silently with her son, preparing him for the journey out of her womb and into this physical space. A slow smile spread across her face, and she was ready to head downstairs.
The atmosphere in the theater was jovial. OBs, anesthetists, nurses, doulas, midwife, husband and pediatricians laughed with Tsholang as she cracked her legendary jokes on the operating table. Once their son was born, parents sat side by side and the Dad held his son until Tsholang was able to nurse him. As doctors finished the operation, Tsholang turned to me. “Thank you,” she said, “for helping me to make my happy place. You gave me somewhere to place my mum,” who had died just before she became pregnant.
I am infinitely grateful for the comfort and warmth Catherine Shainberg’s visionary DreamBirth sequence brought to this mother. This was the warmest, most relaxed c-section I had ever supported a family through. I am thankful for Tsholang’s sense of humor, and certainly for her mother’s presence with us in the room that night.