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Unmedicated 18 Hour Active Labor in South African Hospital


At 36,5 weeks Alice had a not consented stretch and sweep performed by her doctor which fractured the trust between them. Her doctor started to push for an induction and with the high c-section rates in SA’s private hospitals (76,8%) she had a tough decision to make. Over 2 and a half weeks she researched moving her birth home, and also to another hospital. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, shifting care providers was an immensely difficult decision. 

At 38,5 weeks she was seen by another doctor that she connected with immediately- who took on her birth in another practice at the 11th hour. It was the toughest and in the end most important decision she made to ensure her birth wish of a vaginal, unmedicated birth was supported because in the end, she had a mammoth labour of 4 days in latent labour and 18 hours active labour, which her previous care provider would certainly not have made space for. 

As mentioned, Alice went into latent labour 4 days before baby arrived . Which looked like contractions every night from 9pm that would stop by the morning. It was a bit disheartening each morning when they would end. But her Doula kept reassuring her it was all very normal. And shared stories of similarities with other moms’ labour that sometimes had this for a week leading to D day. 

After a big Christmas lunch the contractions started that evening and didn’t stop. At the time she was staying out of town with her husband and family in Stellenbosch so we left quietly at 11PM to drive through to Mowbray to be closer to the hospital. 

He went back to bed and Alice dealt with the contractions – timing them on an app- and woke him up at 3:40am to tell him they were getting closer together. Then they decided to go to the hospital. So they packed the bags and left, calling their doula to meet them there. 

They arrived at the hospital at around 4am and settled into the labour room. The rooms were wonderful and big and had a bath- which Alice used a lot! The doula prepared the room with essential oils, Enya and a pink salt lamp. 

alice toich portrait

The nurse checked Alice and she was 4 cm … 

6 hours later she had only progressed to 5 cm and it was tough because she hadn’t slept for 38 hours -so was exhausted, 

By 2pm the doctor came a second time and was concerned as to why the labour was taking so long. She didn’t know what was normal but it was very tough- contractions were between 10 and 5 minutes for hours on end. She did an ultrasound and discovered Nova’s head was flexed, she said they deliver babies like this via c-section. Which was a huge blow to hear because Alice’s dream was to have unmedicated vaginal delivery. The doctor asked if I wanted to go to theatre or if Alice had 2 more hours in her. Alice said:” I have two more hours”, so she broke my

waters and offered Alice an internal head manipulation to try get the baby’s head in a better position to descend. Alice says this was the most painful part of labour: 

After that, things ramped up and for the next 40 minutes she progressed into “transition”. “Wow!” She was shaking all over and couldn’t control her breathing any longer. 

The doula and Julz were indispensable ( as were their poor crushed hands) and Alice suddenly (finally) felt the urge to “push”. Alice told her doula who called the nurse. When she checked Alice, she was 10 cm and ready to push the baby out! She could not believe it – it worked ! They felt elated! 

She pushed hard for a short 15 mins. They allowed her to feel baby crowning which was massively motivating. Dr said she’d like to do a small cut as Alice would have torn badly due to a very strong and tight wall. Alice pushed through a contraction, made the decision to okay an episiotomy and agreed to it. She administered some local and Alice didn’t feel it at all! 

One push later a head popped out! She was so happy! They asked Alice if she wanted to put her baby girl on her chest and she said yes! She grabbed her and hugged her warm tony body against her. It was the wildest, most love-filled moment of her life! Julz and her were both in tears. So was their doula. Nova Magnolia was born the day after Christmas.

Alice Toich Bio

Alice grew up in South Africa, studied classical painting abroad in Italy, France and New York and is now based in Cape Town where she is raising her first born, Nova, and her fur-born, Luna, with her husband Julz. She is a full time artist who enjoys being in nature, hiking the beautiful Cape area, baking, gardening, cooking and writing. If she doesn’t have a paint brush in her hand – or a baby on her hip- she can be found with a rolled up yoga mat heading to a hot yoga class or an outdoor session. Alice’s paintings can be found on her Instagram @alice_toich in gallery shows or art fairs throughout South Africa as well as abroad. She is passionate about painting “from life” in the traditional genres of portraiture, landscape, still life and floral painting. Alice’s favourite medium is oil paint on line canvas or wooden panel and also creates tiled murals, watercolors and textiles.

Resources

Motif Medical

This episode was sponsored by Motif Medical. Motif designs insurance-eligible products for busy moms. With a focus on innovation and empowerment, Motif’s line of breast pumps and maternity compression garments are sophisticated, yet discreet, and made to support mothers as they navigate new motherhood. Discover why moms are reporting more milk in less time with the Luna breast pump, and see how you can get it covered through insurance at motifmedical.com/birthhour



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