Pains and joys of motherhood

A woman entering motherhood experiences changes in her bodily appearance and functions. We speak too easily, too lightly, of someone becoming a mother when she has given birth.

Just Keep Breathing is a collection of birth stories written by people from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds.

The stories are told by both men and women in interesting ways. Some are traumatic, some joyous and others sad.

The one story that touched my heart was about a woman, Nolubabalo, from the Eastern Cape. While she was pregnant with her second child, she discovered that she was HIV positive.

She had to wait for nine months until after the birth of her baby to find out whether the baby was negative or positive. This was a psychological trauma for her.

Then there is the story of Judge Albie Sachs, who became a father at 71. The birth of his baby was difficult. Vanessa, his wife, was induced. Four hours later the amniotic membrane was ruptured, but still no pain. After yet another four hours, still none and she was nicknamed "Ms Another Four Hours".

Vanessa's aim was to give birth in water. Through all this, Sachs was very supportive.

After hours of waiting they decided to do a Caesarean section. But there was another obstacle - there was no power.

Later that night their happiness was restored - Vanessa gave birth to a 4,64kg baby.

One of the authors, Sandra Dodson, says: "The media is synonymous with melodrama or sentimentality. Hospital dramas and soapies with depictions of women in extremes - with make-up intact - come to mind.

"Birth is often viewed through a softened lens, with peachy-faced babies and glowing mothers bonding spontaneously.

"Even first-hand experiences of pregnancy and birth are often unconsciously mediated."