By Pamela Mkhize
Like every first-time mom, I wasn’t looking forward to labour. I was excited to meet my little one, but a part of me was also scared because I didn’t know what to expect. What’s worse, I was giving birth in a state hospital and we’ve all heard the stories about how traumatic that can be. However, my experience was slightly different.
The big day arrived
My EDD (estimated due date) was Monday, 12 February 2018. I felt so normal and there was no way I was going to give birth on that day. Two days later at around 5am I had slight pains, but I told myself it was nothing because I was waiting for my water to break or to experience the sharp pains we see it in the movies. The slight contractions didn’t stop though, and when my fiancé noticed that I was in pain, he ordered me to freshen up and drove me to the hospital (talk about being bullied!). Tears streamed down my face as we approached the hospital because I knew my worst nightmare was about to become a reality.
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Hello labour ward
I’d been to a public hospital before with a friend who was in labour and I recall being freaked out by the pregnant women walking up and down the passage, groaning in pain. This day was no exception but this time it was me who was there to give birth. When we got there, it was my mom-in-law, me and my fiancé who looked traumatised. When I was examined, the family was told to leave and I was admitted at only 1.5cm dilated. I felt as if God hated me so much because the pains grew stronger and stronger, but I don’t want to scare new moms. l was shown to my ward and while the nurses had told me not to sleep but to walk around so that labour will be easy, I couldn’t. I was in serious pain.
Mommy! I’m ready to meet you
It was hours before my next check-up at about 6pm. I hadn’t eaten anything and God knows how weak I was. “Makoti woza” (which translates to “come wife”) the nurses called but I couldn’t walk. I just stood there. Funnily enough, the nurses offered to help to get me to my bed and I was told I was 8.5 cm dilated. I think they broke my water and I remember my mom-in-law came in at about 7pm, kissed me and said she’d wait outside.
Thirty minutes later – after a lot of screaming, cursing, pushing and praying – I was handed my little girl who looked so pretty I just burst in tears. I thought there’d be a lot of nurses and doctors around my bed but there was only one old lady and she did a pretty good job, believe me!
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re going to have a state hospital birth:
- You’ll wait in a queue, unless it’s an emergency. Fortunately, I had people with me who did the running around.
- Have your pregnancy file on hand and in order. They will shout at you if you missed clinic appointments.
- Leave the attitude at home. Nurses work long hours and you don’t want to get on the wrong side of them.
- Follow instructions – it makes everyone’s job easy and labour will be over before you know it.
- Bring extra blankets. You might feel chilly after giving birth.
- I was there for two days and I must say it sure felt like home. In the mornings, we were woken up and came together as new moms for prayer and lessons on how to take care of our babies.
- I was stoked that you could get the baby’s birth certificate done there – no Home Affairs queue for me!
- Don’t believe everything you’re told. When you’re pregnant, everyone believes they need to have a say about everything. I listened to people who told me a birth at a state hospital was the worst. Not mine!