I love hearing stories about birth. OK you probably know that about me already. But what i really love is hearing stories of hope, stories that inspire people. This is a wonderful story of one woman’s courage and how she dealt with all the curve balls along the way. The way she tells her story, with such grace and humility can only serve to help woman in similar situations and remind us of the pure miracle of pregnancy and child birth.
This is her story…….
Let me start off by introducing myself. My name is Candice, I’m 30 years old and I am married to Francois (34). We have two boys; a nearly 8 year old named Storm, and our new edition, Phoenix. This is Phoenix’s birth story:
At the beginning of last year – 2014 – my (reluctant) husband and I made the momentous decision to expand our little family. Why I say my husband was reluctant is because our first journey into parenthood was rather rough, with many complications and struggles.
I have Bipolar Disorder, so the decision to have another baby was HUGE! I didn’t’t want to conceive while on medication, so I went to see my doctor and she agreed that I could go off the meds as long as I saw her regularly and watched my moods very closely.
It took us 3 years to fall pregnant with Storm, so when I found out I was pregnant just 2 months later, I was over the moon.
I prayed every day for a smooth pregnancy (unlike my first) and hoped that I wouldn’t’t pick up as much weight as I had the first time.
At about 6 weeks pregnant I went back to my doctor. As much as I’d hoped to remain off my medication for the duration of my pregnancy, I knew myself well enough to know when I wasn’t coping. So I started taking my meds again and prayed for God to keep me well.
Somewhere around my 16th week of pregnancy, a voice in my head began to whisper something very specific: cleft lip. I knew that one of the biggest possible risks of taking my medication while pregnant, though very small, was cleft lip and / or palate; but I brushed the voice aside. What a crazy thought, right?
That whispered thought is why, at my 19 week 4D scan, I was prepared for the words: I’m not happy with his top lip. I knew then, with utter certainty, that our little blessing did in fact have a cleft. The woman who did the scan said she couldn’t’ determine whether his palate was affected or not, but I had faith that it was only his lip, because the voice had said so.
For the most part, the rest of my pregnancy was quite uneventful. I truly loved every minute which was such a good feeling as I had hated being pregnant the first time. I took loads of belly pics and tried to document it as thoroughly as possible. It was like being pregnant for the first time, only better!
In the end, however, I did develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and became hideously swollen. I reached a staggering 92kg! Once again, I had cankles.
At around 3am on Saturday the 17th of January I awoke in a puddle of water. I couldn’t stop laughing! I had just recently told my mom that things like that only happen in the movies. I started having mild contractions, but nothing serious.
I called my midwife to let her know, as we had been told to notify them immediately if water breaks. She asked how I was feeling and said not to worry, as it could still take sometime before labour actually starts. She said that they generally allow 24 hours before doing anything to accelerate labour, so I just had to wait patiently. I was so excited (and nervous) to know that my baby was on his way.
I spoke to my midwife again a bit later in the day – nothing much was happening at all, so she said she would come see me at home to check my blood pressure etc. Once she had checked that and we’d had a chat, she said she would like for me to come to the hospital for some foetal monitoring – just to be safe.
At the hospital she attached the monitor to my tummy to measure my contractions. My blood pressure was ok, so we weren’t worried about that, and my contractions – although not close together – were very strong. The midwife said that she didn’t think we would need to do anything if my contractions continued, but that we should meet at the hospital again at 7am the next morning if nothing significant was happening.
At around 3am on Sunday (my due date), I awoke with very strong contractions. They were still a bit irregular, coming at ten minutes, then seven, then five and so on. But by 5am they were very regular and extremely strong! By that stage I couldn’t talk or walk during a contraction and they were becoming very sore.
I called my midwife again and she said if I was happy to wait till I was getting three contractions in ten minutes I could come to the hospital then. I felt more comfortable at home, so we agreed to meet at Vincent Pallotti at 7am if I my contractions didn’t progress sooner.
At 6am things picked up very quickly and I was contracting every four to three minutes. The contractions were so strong and painful I was scared I was going to give birth right here at home! The pressure on my pelvis was so great, it felt like baby was going to just drop right out of me.
My best friend, Melissa, had arrived at my home at about 4am to support me, so we were able to wake my 7 year old son for breakfast before we had to leave. I then woke my husband, Francois, to tell him that we had to leave ASAP (he had slept through it all)!
The drive to the hospital was terrible. The contractions were excruciating and I was trying not to hyperventilate. I had visions of giving birth in the car.
When we got to the hospital, I walked as fast as I could to the maternity ward; my mom, aunt, best friend, hubby and our son trailing behind me. My midwife, Ciska, was waiting for me and gave me a huge hug; she held me through a contraction, telling me to relax and to take slow, steady breaths.
We went into the active birth unit and I laid down in order for Ciska to examine me.
I had wanted to labour in water, but Ciska informed me that I was already 9cm dilated! No time to even fill the bath. I laughed and said that was okay with me; I just wanted him out.
I laboured on the floor for a while, leaning on a birthing ball, but then felt that I had to move, so I got onto the bed in a yoga child’s pose only a little while before I felt the urge to push.
The pain was virtually unbearable, but thankfully it only lasted half an hour. Less than six hours after labour started, at 8:45am, Phoenix Caleb was born at a whopping 4.2kg! I couldn’t believe it. No wonder it was so sore; much worse than Storm’s birth (he was only 3.8kg).
I gripped Phoenix to my chest, elated and exhausted, and marvelled once again at the miracle of birth. I had done it. With the support of my amazing midwife, I had managed to have another drug-free, natural birth without any intervention or tearing; exactly how God intended.
My mom and my best friend were overwhelmed with emotion, both in tears. My aunt and Storm, who had gone outside when I started pushing, came back into the room, and he gazed lovingly (and curiously) at his baby brother.
Melissa very proudly cut the cord and shortly after that I offered Phoenix my breast. To my relief, he latched perfectly. There was an air of jubilation in the room. Ciska had filled the bath and I got in with Phoenix still nursing. I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience.
Because most cleft babies are unable to breast feed, our story is quite unique. In fact, most often than not, breastfeeding is not even offered to clefties, as it is assumed that they will not be able to. Because of this, I was approached by a journalist and lactation consultant who asked if she could write an article about us to spread awareness and let other cleft moms know that it just may be possible for their babies to breastfeed if they just give them the chance. Our story will be featured in the May issue of Baba & Kleuter.
We will be seeing the plastic surgeon at the end of this month and will hopefully be able to have Phoenix’s lip repair done in April before I return to work.
Thank you So much for sharing Candice. What a remarkable journey and what a brave mamma! We wish you all the best for his future and we cant wait for the follow up story!!!
The mom diaries xxx