welcome harper olivia: the birth

Harper Olivia MacPherson
Born 4:10 pm on 4 July 2014 at Vincent Pallotti Hospital,
Cape Town, South Africa 
3.9 kilograms & 54 cm long // 8.5 pounds & 21.2 inches 

Harper's due date was Monday 30 June. Monday came and went. Nothing. On Tuesday morning I was suspicious that my water had broken, but after going to the hospital to see the midwife, we weren't sure. Tuesday came and went. We headed back to the hospital on Wednesday - bags and all, just in case - but again, nothing.

On Thursday morning we headed back to the hospital for a scheduled check in with my OBGYN, Dr. Kate Richardson, as I was then a few days overdue. The scan indicated a few things: there was very little liquid around Harper, and she had turned and was now in the posterior position. Dr. Richardson decided the safest bet was to induce labour later that day. We rushed home, backed our bags, and notified family and friends that we were headed back to the hospital to get the show on the road.

I was induced that evening and pretty quickly the contractions started. Almost immediately they were as close as 3 minutes apart. Our midwife, Sandy Standish, and our doula, Harriet Came, met Andrew and I at the hospital and we moved into the labour ward. I laboured for about seven hours, being supported through the contractions by Andrew and Harriet. I started on the birth ball, which was great and, since she was posterior, kneeling with my chest on the ball gave my hips and back a lot of relief. After a little while, Harriet suggested I move into the bath for a little while. What a relief! It was great. I laboured in the bath for what felt like an hour (who knows!), at which point Sandy suggested I get out in hopes that my contractions would not slow down too much, and that they would remain intense enough to encourage Harper to turn.

By 5 o'clock the next morning, after about seven hours of labour, the contractions were nearly back to back and I was dilated 3 cm. With that in mind, Sandy suggested an epidural to increase our chances of a natural birth. I continued to labour, with the epidural, for another eight hours or so, but Harper didn't want to turn. By 3 o'clock in the afternoon, after hours of nausea and chills caused by the epidural, I had dilated to 6 cm. We were given the option of continuing to labour for a few more hours, hoping that Harper would turn and that a natural birth might, at that stage, be possible. From what Sandy indicated, there was about a 50% chance of vaginal birth at that stage - at best. The other option was to move in the direction of a c-section. Andrew asked Sandy and Harriet to leave the room. I looked into Andrew's eyes and knew in my gut that I didn't have it in me to labour any longer. I knew Harper wasn't going to turn, and that this was the moment I had to set aside my prideful wish for the "perfect," "natural" birth. What I had said so many times was coming clearly into focus - ultimately, the baby and God had the final plan for this birth. We decided to move forward with a c-section and within an hour, Harper was born. Despite all the drugs, the joy and relief I felt when Dr. Richardson held Harper up was overwhelming. Tears streamed down my face. Immediately they wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to Andrew, who then brought her to me to lie on my chest. The next hour was spent skin-to-skin, and that was it - we had our baby!

I am so grateful that what was certainly a long, tiring birth did not turn into a traumatic one for myself , my husband, or my baby. I am grateful that I was able to access enough acceptance and humility to make the decision easily to have a c-section, despite my efforts and desire for a vaginal birth. I am grateful for a midwife, doula, and OBGYN who were supportive of the entire process, and had the wellbeing of myself and my baby uppermost in mind. I am grateful for a partner - a loving, attentive husband - who was by my side the whole time, able to read me and support me in whatever way I needed. And lastly I am grateful for the most beautiful baby girl I could ever have imagined, and a love that is beyond my wildest dreams. 


  1. this is just beautiful Ariana. I feel proud and privileged to have been a part of the journey. Harper is a lucky girl.. you're an amazing lady and a natural and beautiful mum. love Harriet xx

  2. Ariana, what a beautiful birth story! Even though the outcome didn't end up the way you expected, I am so touched at the grace and power in your words as you process and share your experience. I hope you are all doing well and enjoying falling in love with your new family. Again, thank you for sharing your story!


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