My birth story actually begins even before the June arrival of my son this year, as I unfortunately had a series of miscarriages leading up to where we are today… however that is an entirely different story for another time!

First time pregnancies, in my experience at least, are always a fascinating journey – so much unknown & so many “firsts” that it can either be an amazing adventure or anxiety induced rollercoaster…. throw in a global pandemic and you have yourself a memorable experience for sure!

I had just relocated to the Cape, after more than a year and a half of commuting between here and JHB & was looking forward to starting this new chapter with my hubby. None of us could have expected an international lockdown to be woven into the story of our first born’s arrival.

After a bit if a rocky start to get to a tangible stage of gestation (as mentioned – miscarriages, investigations, copious amounts of blood tests, trying again, changing specialists, a fair amount of “life” stress, moving, etc…) the first time experience wasn’t quite what we had envisioned it to be.
Hubby wasn’t allowed at any of the checkups; constant regulation changes as to hospital policies with the ever changing milieu, in light of a bothersome little virus affecting the world; uncertainty as to whether hubby was allowed at the birth and whether we’d be able to have family come from near or far once bub arrived; ante natal classes via zoom; no likelihood of a baby shower…. mood dampener for sure! All things that were out of our control.

External factors aside, the physical aspect of my pregnancy was going well. I was fairly symptom free (apart from the occasional sniper that would get me in the back and have me buckling at the knees during the last trimester) and I was thankfully, able to stay very active throughout the pregnancy.

Fast forward to the 4th June 2020 at 2:30 am after what must have been the billionth late night bathroom break and I felt a “pop”. It was go time – albeit somewhat earlier than my predicted due date.

Surprisingly, my contractions came consistently every 2minutes from the moment my waters broke, which I was not anticipating at all! Where was the intermittent respite that would allow me to find my Zen?!? Not happening mama… baby wanted out.

The plan was to labour at home for as long as possible, knowing that as soon as you change environments, there would likely be a stagnation in the progression of said labour. Our bodies have a clever way of adapting to it’s environment – all we have to do, is let it.

Reassuringly, I seemed to “get in the zone” fairly quickly. I had been told by industry colleagues, family and friends who had experience, that the mental prep would get me through, should I want to go down the natural route (a decision for which some time was still undecided!)
I had my affirmations ready, meditation and play lists too. Hubby ran the bath (water has always been my go to) and got the candles going. I paced, swayed, bounced on the ball and changed position as often as my body told me to. “Breathe mama – juat ride the waves.”

As one would hope, the initial stages of labour progressed in what seemed like a blink. Time to get to the hospital…. stagger up 3 flights of stairs to get to the car (longest trip ever!)… can’t sit normally in the front seat – too painful!

On all fours in the back seat, – just right! “Don’t wait for the red robots, just get to the hospital!!” hollered from the backseat intermittently to the front (Interspersed with many an expletive not suitable for this forum.)
Arrive at the hospital (eerily apocalyptic feeling, being so empty with COVID protocols in full swing), mask on, is hubby allowed in? “Yes, for now.”
“Have you had a COVID test?”…..”uuuum – No… I’m 2 weeks early, we were booked for tomorrow.” …. dramatic pause –
” Right, we’ll have to treat you as a potential positive case then. The lab will have to come and do a swab now. Please don’t remove your masks. In the meantime, let’s see how things are progressing”.

By this stage it was 7:30 am – I was already 7cm dilated and in a headspace that had only been partially experienced in the final stages of some hard triathlons that I had previously done… but this was on another level altogether. My husband equates it to being in the last few km’s of doing Comrades…. I’ll let him have that belief that there is some similarity 😉

Nurse: “Do you have any pain management preferences?”
Husband: “We want to go as natural as possible”
Me: thinking but not able to verbalize, “We?!?What the actual…….?!?!”
Nurse: “ok then, you’re doing great. Ah, Lancet is here, time for your nasopharangeal swab, you ready?”
Me: still not able to verbalize anything as mid (another) intense contraction and possibly heading into transition?
enter swab
Husband: “oooef… that looks uncomfortable”
Me: (in my head) ” … you think that’s uncomfortable buddy?”

Swab done, contraction tapering, another one on the way.
Enter Gynae –
Dr: “Morning! You’ve had quite the day already – progressing well. Still at 7cm though, I’ll see you in an hour.”
….a million hours pass….
Dr: ” Right, only 8cm, things seem to have slowed down. Keep breathing, keep moving, I’ll be back in 45min”
Me: I can’t believe 😑
Everyone else: chatting, going about their day, taking it all in
Me: (in my head) breathe Bailey, ride the wave… work with me baba…. man some pain meds would be great… oooh… another contraction… longer, stronger…..
Nurse: “Don’t push Bailey, the cervix isn’t ready”
Me: (I promise I’m not… my body is doing it all! I actively had to try and not push. How incredible are our bodies?)
Husband: “There’s no rush, slow things down”
Me: evil eye stare and somehow managing to say….”don’t… you….tell me…. there’s… no…rush.” 😂

10:45am arrived after what felt paradoxically like both a millennia and a heartbeat. Dr arrives again;
“Oh good, we’ve progressed nicely – time to meet your bub. On the bed, let’s go”

2 and a half pushes and a cumulative total of 8ish hours later (all those Fit4Two classes surely helped!) and our little man, Harrison Ian MacDiarmid, met us earth side, bleary eyed and chubby cheeked, weighing a healthy 3.55kg and measuring 54cm long.

A spontaneous, natural, unmedicated delivery during a global pandemic …What an experience!
I could hardly believe what had actually just happened.

Fortunately all went well and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Bub and I were healthy. Dad could stay a little while with us in the isolation ward, as we still didn’t have the COVID results yet – No visitors of course.

The maternity ward staff had a torrid time with multiple PPE gear changes every time they needed to check on us for anything, or to simply drop off a cup of tea. (Note to self: invest in medical supply companies- you’ll make a fortune!)
Considering things had gone smoothly and hubby wasn’t allowed to stay or come back until I was discharged – we were able to head home the very next day to get to know our newest, little(ish) family member better.

Whilst things didn’t pan out exactly as we had anticipated (can you ever actually fully prepare for your first time I wonder?), I can’t imagine having had any other experience.

The one silver lining to this irritant of a global pandemic, is that it allowed us to have all the time in the world to adapt to this new way of life in our own time. Interestingly, some studies have shown that babies have returned to their pre birth weight far quicker and mom’s have had a speedier post partum recoveries than in previous years. Which makes me wonder, maybe Mother Nature is trying to tell us all to slow down a little?

So to any mama’s heading into the unknown for the first time- trust the process. Don’t worry about the things you have no control over and whichever route you decide to take to meet your little one, know that you, and your amazing body, have got this – regardless of whatever else is going on around you.