So, I love birth stories.
I love reading about births. The anticipation. The waiting. The tears. The unbearable pain. The joy. Everything. Both the births of my boys are very different, they were both dramatic in their own fashion. And because their methods of arrival were so different, both their births mean very differently to me.
The birth of my first-born on 2012 was nothing we had expected nor prepared for and looking back, I’m just glad that we managed to keep calm and birth on. More on that later, after the story!
We had our 37th week ultrasound at Dr Y’s clinic and I mentioned the lower posterior pain that had crept up over the past few days. He suggested doing a vaginal exam to see if the discomfort was caused by my cervix opening up and I agreed.
STUPID MISTAKE. VEs are STUPID. MEDIEVAL. BAD.
Surely with technology, you would think that there is an easier way of measuring dilation. Anyway, it turned out that I was about 1cm dilated and my cervix was soft and ready for birth. Dr Y predicted that I would definitely be delivering within the next two weeks.
Saturday, March 3
I woke up bright and early and decided that it was time to tie up any loose ends we had for the bubs. First, we had to settle the cot problem because our kid’s bed had still not been delivered. Next stop was back to the Mothercare annual sale at Harbourfront because I hadn’t gotten a discount that I should have received on a product. Feeling accomplished, we headed back home where I proceeded to put together the nugget’s room, folded and sorted out his clothes and yelled at the cats for jumping into his clothes hamper.
All this while, I continued spotting, and I blamed it on the VE. Bloody hell.
Sunday, March 4
While making coffee at about 1045am, I suddenly felt a light gush of fluid flowing down and I stopped, thinking that I was still bleeding from the VE. Cursing and swearing, I headed to the loo to change my panty liner, only to find myself staring at a wet liner that was free from blood.
I sat down on the bowl to pee and to think, and I realized that…
…I was leaking amniotic fluid.
Shoot. This wasn’t how it’s supposed to happen!
Since the plan was to labour at home, we decided to get on with our day and see if the leaking continued. Mr Thick vacuumed, we went to the in-laws’ for lunch, I headed to school to sort out my work and then proceeded to my mother’s place to have tea with her. By the time we reached home, it was almost 4pm.
And yet, my surges were still irregular and I was leaking amniotic fluid intermittently. My little man was active and moving quite a bit, making me wonder why he wasn’t as engaged as he should be. I tried to get the surges going by changing my labouring positions but nothing worked.
At 5pm, I texted Dr Y, who asked us to go into the hospital at 7pm. We bargained and got it moved to 10 pm, since I was trying to steer clear of any active management of my labour. In the meantime, we had dinner and I even washed and blew dry my hair. The surges were still sporadic and lacked intensity.
Finally at 915pm, we reluctantly left our house and drove towards the hospital. In my heart, I knew that something was wrong and I might not get the birth that I had wanted so badly.
At the delivery suite, the nurse cheerfully hooked me up to the fetal monitor for 20 minutes to check on the baby’s heartbeat and time my contractions. She also did a VE on me (!!!) and announced that I was only about 2.5cm dilated. Shortly after, Dr Y popped in and told us our options were limited: I had to go on an antibiotics drip to prevent an infection since my water had been ruptured for almost 12 hours, and that I had to be hooked to Pitocin to augment the labour since my progress was so slow. The baby had to be delivered within 24 hours of the rupturing of the membranes.
I tried to bargain my way out of the Pitocin, knowing that it would come hand in hand with an epidural but he was adamant. And so Mr Thick and I were left to ourselves for the next hour before the drips were to be administered at midnight.
In a strange way, that one hour proved to be one of the best in my life. It was just me, Mr Thick and our unborn son between us as we hugged and swayed to the music that was playing in the background, which helped me through the surges. It was a special Labour Day playlist that I had put together and it had all the songs that we loved: U2, Travis, Coldplay etc. We were just two people who are deeply in love and contentedly anticipating the birth of our child.
Monday, March 5
All too soon, midnight came and the wonderful nurse came in to administer the antibiotics drip, and to take three vials of blood from me for the banking of the baby’s cord blood at Singapore Cord Blood Bank. She was gentle, warm and reassuring, and for the first time in my life, the IV needle didn’t hurt at all.
I was put back onto the fetal monitor and the sound of my little nugget’s swooshing heartbeat filled the room. But shortly after the IV drip started, the sound disappeared, to be replaced by the warning beeping of the machine. His heart rate had fallen out of the safe zone of 110 to 160 bpm to the 80s region. I could sense the anxiety in the nurse’s eyes but she remained calm and reassured me that it could be the baby shifting around. She moved the paddle around my belly and finally located the heartbeat again. She apologetically performed another VE on me to ensure that it wasn’t a cord prolapse that had caused the drop in heart rate and thankfully, it wasn’t.
Instead of starting the Pitocin drip, she decided to monitor the baby’s heart rate for a while before deciding if Dr Y needed to be informed of the situation. She also had me put on an oxygen mask, just in case my nugget was in distress and needed the extra oxygen. We were left alone and not more than 10 minutes later, the warning beep sounded again.
This time, the nurse was clearly worried as she made me lie on different angles while she tried to locate his heartbeat. It took a while and the tension grew thicker and thicker. What was happening to my little man? Thankfully, the sound of his heartbeat came back again but we knew that it was getting serious. She did another VE (!!!!) and assured me that it wasn’t a cord problem, before leaving to call Dr Y.
All I could do was to lie there on that awkward 45 degree angle on my right side with a drip on my left hand and an oxygen mask. At about 1am, Dr Y rushed into the room, frazzled and harried. After performing a VE (sigh) on me, he grimly informed me that my cervix had not dilated any further. He told me that the baby could be in distress and that he was putting me on a low dose of Pitocin to kick start the labour process. Hopefully, that would do the trick and my body would take over from there. At the same time, I had to be hooked onto the blood pressure machine.
Time passed by very slowly. I was still lying on my right in that strange angle, an IV drip on my left hand, the fetal monitoring paddle on my belly, an oxygen mask on my face and a blood pressure cuff on my right arm. I couldn’t move an inch, for fear that it might affect my little guy. The surges were fast gaining intensity and speed, thanks to the Pitocin, and were moving from three to four minutes apart to one to two minutes apart.
It felt like the worst night of my life.
And it got worst.
Twice, the baby’s heart beat fell and twice the warning beep filled the air. By then, all Mr Thick and I could do was stare at each other in growing despair. This was not how we had envisioned the labour and delivery. Where was our calm, serene labour? And is our son alright? By then, it was 3 am and we were both exhausted. My frustration grew and then disappeared over the night, to be replaced by resignation.
Initially, I couldn’t understand why the labour was not progressing despite our best efforts. It made me wonder if the little man was not ready to be out. And yet if he wasn’t, why did the amniotic bag rupture? Why? Why? Why? These questions kept haunting me as I laid on the bed but the repeated warning beeps from the fetal monitor eroded my anger. All I wanted was to have my son out.
Mentally, I was prepared for an emergency Caesarean and even asked Dr Y to have an epidural administered at the same time as the Pitocin. But he told me to give my body some time and see if the Pitocin alone would do the trick. Obviously it didn’t. When the baby’s heart rate fell for the fifth time, Dr Y came in and told me that it was obvious my little guy wasn’t doing very well inside and he needed to have him out fast and he needed to have him out NOW. We had no other options but to have a Caesarean.
Things kicked into top gear after that decision was made. Thankfully, there was another emergency C-sect happening at the same time so we didn’t have to waste time waiting for an anaesthetist to go down to the hospital. I was stripped off, shaved (urghs) and prepped for the surgery with no sense of dignity at all. Everything was about speed and faster, faster, FASTER.
When I was wheeled into the operating theatre, Mr Thick was led away to be prepped since he was to be in the theatre with me. In that cold, cold room, Dr L, the anaesthetist told me gently but urgently to bend my knees towards my belly and tuck my chin down as low as possible. I then felt three sharp stings down my spine – “ant bites”, as Dr L assured me. Oddly enough, I wasn’t fearful or anxious. In fact, I remember feeling calm and at ease.
And then the curtain was drawn at my chest, Mr Thick appeared by my side and the surgery began.
To say that it’s bizarre to have people tugging – none too gently, I might add – at my insides while I was conscious is an understatement. At one point in time, Dr Y asked Dr L to help push down at my stomach as she stood from my shoulders. “Since you are not pushing, we are doing the work for you,” she explained, as she pushed at my innards.
And then shortly after 4am, our son was born. “No wonder! His cord is around his neck!” Dr L exclaimed.
The nurses and doctors started congratulating us but all I wanted to do was weep. Finally, after those two dreadful years of infertility and despair, after that nightmarish labour, he was here. But the urge to cry was subdued by a sense of surreality: I have a baby? I finally have MY baby?
Meanwhile, Dr Y was removing the placenta from me and stitching me up. It was also at this time that the side effects of the epidural kicked in, and I started shivering uncontrollably. Dr L asked me kindly if I wanted to be sedated while the doctors did their work and I said yes. She injected the medicine into my IV and I was out almost immediately.
The following period was a haze to me. I remember waking up and Dr Y congratulating me again. And then my little bean was placed on my chest and somebody took photos of the three of us.
Hello Aidan, I said. This is mummy. Can you recognize me? Your name is Aidan and I love you very much.
And then I fell into darkness again. When I came to, I was in a ward and Mr Thick was with me. The nurses bustled around me, making sure I was comfortable, before leaving us alone. And as we drifted off into sleep, Mr Thick sitting next to me, he held my hand. Every time a shivering fit hit me, I would grab hold of his hand and he would squeeze back gently in return. Two hours later, Dr Y came in to check on me. He explained that the umbilical cord had wound itself around Aidan’s neck and every time Aidan tried to descend, it must have tightened and caused his heart rate to fall. The cord was also thin and short, which explained why he wasn’t able to descend at all. If the cord had been longer and thicker, it might still have been possible for him to be born vaginally.
Immediately after the birth and for the two days after, I had problems falling and staying asleep. Whenever I drifted into slumberland, my body would jerk uncontrollably, waking me up. Or I would dream of falling off from a cliff.
Thankfully, my recovery from the Caesarean was smoother and quicker than expected. By noon on the day of Aidan’s birth, the glucose IV drip was removed from my hand and I was drinking milo. The nurses also removed my catheter and I was able to get up and walk to the toilet to pee that same evening.
The following days were a bit tough, especially in the mornings when I got out of bed and the wound hurt like crazy. But I was determined not to stay in bed and tried to walk around as much as I could. By Wednesday, I was walking out to the nursery to see my little man, albeit hunched like a wizened grandmother walking at a snail’s pace.
When I got home on Thursday, the pain had all but subsided, save for a few twinges now and then. I was just so happy to be home, I think, that the pain was erased from my mind.
Looking back and with the benefit of a second, successful vaginal birth, I realise that there were a few things that could have prevented this emergency Caesarean (maybe, I don’t know).
For starters, there was absolutely NO NEED for a vaginal examination at my 37th week check-up at all. Throughout my second pregnancy, my new obstetrician did not perform any VE – and I only popped at 40 weeks! So I should have said NO to that VE and prevented all that pain, leakages and bleeding.
Secondly, I should have switched to a obstetrician who had a pro-natural stance towards birth, since I was leaning towards that. I did not (still do not) believe in being induced without any medical reasons, and was hoping for a drug-free birth. My then-doctor was skeptical but out of sentimental reasons (he was my fertility doctor), I opted to stick with him, against my gut feeling. Huge mistake, for he kept trying to dissuade me from going drug-free at every turn of the way. For my second pregnancy, I switched to someone whom I believed would respect my birth plan, as long as it was medically sound, and that was one reason why I achieved the VBAC that I had envisioned.
After my surgery, I refused to stay in bed and was up and about as soon as I felt able. That helped tremendously in my recovery, I felt. I ditched painkillers and was back to normal once I was discharged from hospital. Walking helped to improve the circulation and allowed me to heal faster.
All in all, I was tremendously glad that I had gone for hypnobirthing classes. It may sound all hippy and otherworldly but at the heart of it, hypnobirthing is about the power of the mind. The daily affirmations helped to ease my mind for both pregnancies and I daresay I was NEVER fearful or anxious about birth. It also prepared me mentally for the emergency C-sect, such that my anaesthetist remarked that I was extraordinarily calm. The husband enjoyed the classes very much and he came away with in-depth knowledge about birth and breastfeeding, which was very helpful during the chaos of this particular birth!
This post is part of the Birth Stories’ Blog Train hosted by Owls Well. To read other exciting birth stories please click on the picture below.
If you would like to travel to the previous stops on this Blog Train and read more interesting birth stories, you can start with this one here by Debs over at Owls Well. Debs is a Sunda Scops Owl who married a nice British Barn Owl and is raising a trio of hungry young owlets in a highrise tree in Singapore. Debs is a trained medical professional who is currently training to be A Parent.
At next week’s stop we will be visiting Delphine at Life in the Wee Hours. Delphine can’t quite believe that she is a mother of three kids. She has no artistic talent and does not know how to cook, so she spends her free time reading, blogging, and collecting matryoshka.