Objective. To explore and describe the values, beliefs and experiences of rural Swazi women regarding childbirth. Method. A retrospective ethnographic explorative inquiry was utilised, and snowballing sampling method used to recruit participants. Unstructured interviews of 15 rural Swazi women were conducted and recorded using audio-taped face-to-face interviews. Thematic analysis of transcribed and translated interviews was undertaken in conjunction with analysis from field notes. Ethical approval was received from the human ethics committee of the university where the researcher was enrolled. Permission to conduct the study was obtained from the village chief by way of a signed plain language statement, after providing all the necessary information relating to its nature and purpose. The nature of the study was also verbally outlined to the rural health personnel before an invitation to assist the researcher in accessing the sample was extended to them. Results. Findings were categorised into nine themes: choice of venue for birthing; remaining active during labour; freedom to assume position of choice; hand inserted if a problem; attendant at birth; leaving perineal tears to heal themselves; traditional medicines used during labour; delayed clamping of the cord and; opting for home births without any assistance. Implications. Rural Swazi women engage customary explanations and practices commonly at odds with the current biomedical model operating in the formal health sector. Consequently, these women often have unmet expectations during labour which yields dissatisfaction with their childbearing experience. This indicates that there is the need for a more culturally appropriate approach to both the education of midwives and also the provision of midwifery health services in Swaziland.