Gerne Patterson shares her journey through three very different births. Gerne’s first two births did not go as she had hoped. Both were in her native South Africa and although the babies were born healthy, she describes them as “two very sad experiences”. The third however, was a complete joy.
“My eldest, Henko, was born weighing 3.5kg, with the help of forceps and quite a large tear. I also had an epidural which I didn’t really want. My second baby, Ruben, was a whole different story. He was overdue and we were told we’d need an induction. Seven hours after I was induced, labour had still not started, and the doctor said we’d have to do a c-section as I wouldn’t be able to give birth naturally due to Ruben being too big. My heart was very sore as I really did not want a c-section. Ruben was born that evening weighing 4.3kg. My recovery was just terrible. I was in a lot of pain and struggled to walk properly, and to get up and attend to my newborn and toddler.
In 2013 we moved to New Zealand and were surprise
d to find out I was pregnant shortly after. With baby number three, there was just one thing in my head: VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) and that I wanted to feel this time. I found an amazing midwife, Jo Mounsey, who supported me all the way. She was very happy for us to attempt a VBAC and if it wasn’t for her support I might have just opted for a c-section.
At 36 weeks pregnant, Jo noticed that our baby was breach. I did all the lifts and tilts and luckily he turned by week 37. But at week 38, Keanu was breach again and an ECV (External cephalic version) was booked for the next week. The doctor turned him on week 39 and the ECV was not painful at all.
I was booked in for an induction again and my contractions were mild and very manageable. I found the hospital chair very uncomfortable so my husband brought my yoga ball. Once I was on that ball I never got off, it was the most comfortable place to be! I just rocked and made circles with my hips on the ball to manage the pain. I was very surprised at how well I was managing everything; I always thought it was impossible to give birth without an epidural. I was very determined to get to 7cm because after that I could not ask for an epidural. I started to Skype with my sister, mother and aunt in South Africa (they were at both my previous births and it was hard not to have them with me this time). When the contractions started getting very strong I used gas. I began to feel really tired and discouraged but I lay on my side on the bed feeling strong urges to push. The midwife told me to just do what my body told me to do and with every contraction I could feel the baby going down and through the birth canal. It was the most amazing feeling in the world. Julia Fransen, the stand-in midwife, was amazing and kept me calm the whole time. My husband and our photographer, Simone Hight, who took our birth photos, were with me. Our beautiful Kiwi baby, Keanu, was born weighing a whopping 4.65kg. Our biggest boy! We did it, I got my VBAC, with no epidural and only a tiny two-stitch tear.
There are really no words to describe the feeling of giving birth, it must be one of the most empowering fulfilling things I have done in my life. I would choose natural birth over and over again. To read the birth notes afterwards and read things like, “way to go Gerne you are an amazingly strong woman” just gives me such pride in myself. I did it - something I never thought I could. As women we tend to forget just how amazingly strong we are, how amazingly special we are!
My experience of giving birth in New Zealand was incredible. At times I felt so guilty because I was treated like the most important person in the world and I was not paying for any of it, and I was not used to that. I am so grateful to everyone who made this such an amazing experience, and I can just say thank you from the bottom of my heart for a life-changing experience.