My Mother was the First one to Touch my Baby

Posted by on Oct 11, 2015 in Writings

My Mother was the First one to Touch my Baby

Thursday 11 October 2001

I fell pregnant when I was 20 after returning from a hitchhiking session through Europe with my younger sister, Kate. I came back home to pack up and move to Ireland to study drama but when I realised the constant nausea was morning sickness, I made plans to move to a nearby farm community. I wanted  my child to be born into the world in a natural setting.

I had grown up on a farm North West of Ceres and my mother while not trained to, had fallen into the role of being the farm labourers’ midwife.

When I was expecting my first baby, I saw no reason why my mother should not be the person to support and assist me.

I wrote the following two years later when I was expecting my second child.


I woke up with a desperate urge to shit at about one in the morning. I went to the toilet, came back to bed again and lay down again.

I tried to sleep.

Again, I wanted to poo, so again I went to the toilet, relieved myself and came back to bed. I tried to snuggle up to Nolan but my boep* was in the way, so I turned around and tried to sleep.

Again, I needed to poo, so off I went, but this time only dribbles of shit came out. My abdomen cramped.

I went back to bed.

The cramps kept on coming. Building up…building up…building up…ebbing away…ebbing away…ebbing away…

I sat up.

I put on the bedside light. I sat and felt the pains come and go…not sure. Scared to wake Nolan up. Eventually I did. He sat up immediately…

I phoned my mother. She was at a friend’s house. She told me to time the contractions. If they were less than a minute apart, she said, I would have to go into hospital because she wouldn’t able to get to me on time. My mother was going to go and fetch my sister Kate and then would be on her way.

I timed the contractions. 1 minute and 35 seconds apart.  1 minute and 20 seconds apart. 1 minute and 40 seconds apart. They felt fast and hard. I panicked. I didn’t want to go into hospital. I was set on a home birth.

The night before I had read (funnily enough) that to relax and slow down labour, a warm bath would help. Nolan ran a bath while I tried desperately to breathe through the rushes of pain. Breathing was impossible and painful, unbearable. Easier to grit my teeth, not breathe and bear it.

Once in the bath, great relief flooded my body. I relaxed in the pink hue of the candlelight. I could begin to breathe with the pain.

I phoned my best friend Nikki (who was studying in Jo´burg) from the bath. Nikki phoned me back from her dad’s cell phone. So good to speak to her, wished she was there, so far away.

Nolan had been instructed by my mother to line the bed with black bags. To get all our towels and sheets together. To put a pot of water, with a pair of scissors and a string in it, on to boil

I ate a paw-paw in the bath.

After an hour in the bath, I got out, wrapped in a white towelling bathrobe. The starkness of the light in the kitchen brought on the pain tenfold. It slammed into me.

At that moment, my mother arrived in a rented car. I hung on her.

Hello Mom.

Back in the candlelit room: it was quite magical and soft. Kate and my mother were there. My mother showed me how to breathe:

“Loosen your lips when you breathe out…”


What a relief it was to breathe out. As though my pains, my worries, my tensions were leaving me. How it eased the burden. I felt the breath go until my lungs were empty. My mother’s gentle palm on my chest, gently pushing that last breath out.


In limbo.

Then the first intake of breath. Gasp. Pain. Agony. Unbearable. As though my groin, my womb, were being ripped open. I felt like a shop-grilled chicken, a carcass, ripped open by some gluttonous fuck.

The pains came and they went. Everyone watched me. Kate sat in the corner, sketching the process. I breathed and squirmed and winced.

They built a pyre of cushions and blankets. I knelt before it and leaned into it. Softness enveloped me. A shock of pain grabbed hold of me. I couldn’t bear it. I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Instead of breathing out, I buried my face in the cushions and screamed and screamed and screamed. I then flung myself on to my back.

The pain was gone…

Steve was playing the marimba outside. Ballie was drumming a gentle repetitive rhythm on his seisel drum. Again I felt bathed in bliss. I had a view of the sun rising from my bed and I thought,

Aaah, I’m going to have a sunrise baby.

Then the door opened. Pete walked in.

“How long have you been in labour for? How long’s this been going on for?” He demanded.

The spell was broken.

My mother’s cell phone rang. She answered it.

Chaos took over.

“When did your waters break?”

“They haven’t broken yet. Or I don’t know if they have…I had a bath earlier…”I stammered. I wanted to tell him to leave, to fuck off, that he was invading my sacred space. But no one asked him to leave, protected me, too scared of him, why?

“I told you not to have a bath, you know what happened to Noesj.”

(As though it was my fault).

“ I…” I didn’t know what to say.

He talked at my mother; she smiled weakly.

I screamed, wracked with pain, but also to scatter the energy.

My mother´s cell phone rang again. She answered, talking to some idiot. I screamed to stop her talking. To draw my mother´s attention back to me. Me! This is happening tome!

Put down your stupid fucking cell phone!

I walked around in that tiny space. Like a caged tiger. Pacing. Pacing. I was cold, shivering, even though the heater was on and it was hot that day. Everyone was watching me, sweating. I felt  irritated, I wanted to escape. Anywhere, sleep, death, anywhere.

Vomiting. All kinds of shit coming out of me. Dribbling. Spraying.

I hung on Nolan. The shower rail. Pete. Squatting. Hanging. Screaming. Desperately trying to scream away the pain.

And then bliss, even sleep…

Then I was a lion. Wounded. Full of spears. On a cliff. Hunted. Roaring my last roar of pain.

Noesj came in. Fuck off, I wanted to say, we don’t need more people crowding in here, but I didn’t have the strength or courage. Instead, I beat Nolan’s back. He thought it was Noesj beating him on the back and told her to leave.

I can’t go on. I can’t. 12 hours. Contractions every 1 to 3 minutes. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. I can’t go on. Just want to escape. Help me. Anything. Sleep. Death. Whatever.


“You’re fully dilated,” said my mother, “I can see the head.”

I reached down and felt my baby’s head and laughed with relief, wanting to cry, a new surge of strength rushing through me.

Breathe. Push (I thought my eyes were going to pop out) and out slid a perfect little head. Everyone rushed to see, leaving me gasping. Feeling this being hanging from me.

Another push and out he slid. Perfect little boy with all his fingers and toes.

We all cried.

I held my slimy perfect little baby.

My son.

We called him San.


San stayed attached to his umbilical cord for the rest of the day. We cut it that evening as the sun was setting. San’s placenta is planted under a peach tree on that farm.

We weighed San by bundling him in a baby blanket and hanging that from an old fish scale. He weighed 11 lbs ( I only worked out years later using an online converter that 11 lbs translates to 5kg!)

(and no…I didn’t tear)

No Comments


  1. Big Baby - True Midwifery | True Midwifery - […] So when I gave birth at 38 weeks pregnant to a 5kg (11 lbs) baby boy (over an intact…
  2. After the Birth... - True Midwifery | True Midwifery - […] I remember my grandmother’s voice crackling over the phone the day after giving birth to my first baby. […]
  3. Twenty-One Years a Mother... - True Midwifery | True Midwifery - […] My Mother Was The First One To Touch My Baby […]