I gave birth to a boy last Saturday, all praise be to Allah. I know a post on such a momentous event deserves a more dramatic opening line but i suppose the first line summarises every important points I’d like to convey. It was not until I hear how my mother described my labour process to others that I realised mine was not exactly a smooth one – the truth is I did not know what exactly is normal!
It was on Thursday when I went for my weekly checkup that the doctor again reiterated the fact that I didn’t ‘look’ engaged (and I was not) and we found out that i was 1cm dilated. She warned me, it could be tomorrow the D-day – and I should come back tomorrow for another checkup. The verdict was still 50-50 on whether It would be normal or Caesarean, given that my baby is looking upward and the head is considerably large at 9.8cm. I prepared myself for the possibility of C-sect. I am not at all sentimental about how I’d deliver; vaginal or otherwise. The most important thing is the safety of the baby. I informed everyone necessary that I might go into labour the next day, and at 1 cm dilated I didn’t feel a thing. I drove my way back home (the partner, for the first time could not accompany me to checkup), even managed dropped by a stall selling coconut juice after having my lunch.
The next day my husband took a leave – one that we thought would be a paternity leave – and went to the hospital, only to find out that i was only 2 cm dilated (I’d have been warded if it’s 3) with mild contractions. The doc said that since it is slow-progressing we should only come back on the due date itself which is 4 days away.
That afternoon both of us paid a visit to my parents who arrived in Shah Alam the day before. There were contractions along the way but mild enough for me to ignore it.
The night came and as usual I woke up several times to go to the toilet. At around 3 in the morning when I woke up for the third or fourth time perhaps, the contractions were already bothering me. I managed to sleep but the pain got me turning left and right – I was restless by the time we rose for Fajr prayer.
My husband was concern of course, he kept asking on whether we should head for the hospital, which is less than 5 minutes away. I said no – with the sole reason of me not knowing what contraction should feel like! I had breakfast in such a discomfort, and by 10 am I have basically tried every single position suggested in Miriam Stoppard’s book to ease early labour pain. I told my husband if this lasted until 12 we’d go to hospital, but at 11 things seemed to get better I refused to go, to the dismay of my husband who called my doctor.
The doctor asked how far apart the contractions were and I said 20-30 minutes. Funnily, as soon as I hung up the contractions came less than 10 minutes apart!
My husband went to buy lunch, as I said I could wait until after Zuhur prayer before going to Tawakkal and if I were to deliver I would want a full stomach. I was hungry, but I could not finish the meal – I tried squatting (which was the most efficient position to reduce discomfort so far) but it didn’t help – then only I begged my husband to rush me to hospital – not to the A&E, but to get CTG done (even at this time I still did not think that I am actually close to labour).CTG showed some contractions and upon internal exam I was found to be 3cm dilated – which means I had to be admitted.
I was then transferred to the Labour Room (I think it was LR2 for record purpose), asked to change, given enema and told to relax. Seeing me in so much pain (I would not call that pain actually, it was more like menstruation cramp that does not go away), the nurse asked whether I would like to get epidural – I said I would think about it (and no, you could not think while you have a cramp) and when my husband arrived in the labour room after settling the admission thingy, I already surrendered.
The nurse then prepped me for the procedure – the drip and urinary catheter. I did squirmed when the anaesthetist tried to insert the catheter; my spine is always too sensitive to touching. Looking at the unusual mess the anaesthetist left, my doc guessed that it was an abnormal procedure- because he is a neat one in normal condition!
And now I have to say, epidural is such a Godsend mercy! As soon as the epidural took effect I felt relieved and my body started to relax. I recalled the fact that I have been restless since 3 in the morning – which means my body is tired due to 12 hours of turning left and right, sitting and standing due to the contractions, so the pain relief is very much welcome.
At 5pm I was 6 cm dilated, and the doctor said she will come back at 7.30, predicting that by then I’d be ready for delivery. I was laden with surges of tiredness at that time, and I told them I wanted to sleep and rest. My husband went off to pray, and came back informing me that my parents and siblings, as well as my in-laws were already there.
The truth was I could not sleep except for a bit during that 2-hour window. After a while the pain came back, though of a lower level than before – to the dismay of my husband who thinks I should not feel any pain AT ALL. The nurse told us that at 8cm dilation it is normal that I would still feel the pain – and I could not help imagining how much worse it could be without the relief.
The nurses trained me to push – which mostly was a failure because they could not feel a thing when I said I have pushed, in rhythm with the tightening of the uterus. My husband was coaching me on breathing (thanks to the antenatal class we attended and a partner who doesn’t suffer pregnancy brain) – but all I could think of at that time was how cold it was that I shivered. Lying there in a hospital gown, there was nothing much i could do – I tried pulling the blanket but the nurses persistently removed it from me.
The doctor came at around 7.40 pm. I was not so sure if I was already fully dilated, but what I knew was that the baby was still high. The nurse had to help pushing him down while I waited for the contraction to come to start pushing.
It did not work even after a number of tries – I was sleepy ( my eyes were half-opened most of the time.)The doc and the nurses were, credit to them, a very good team of cheerleaders I would say. And so was my husband who’s there, catching my hand whenever I took a break from pushing.
With the baby pretty high and his head in posterior position, the doc gave me until 8pm to push on my own, and if he’s still not out I’d need the help of vacuum. She kept motivating me to push ‘Buat geram, betul-betul geram’, ‘Doktor cuma boleh tolong je, ibu sendiri kena usaha untuk anak‘. But by 8pm I still could not have him out, so the doctor started briefing me about using vacuum – the fact that I still need to push hard because the work is still 50-50 between me and the machine. And she gave me three pushes max – or we’d have to resort to C-sect.
I waited for the tightening to come – it was all on my own time having told the nurses not to help push the baby out of my belly until I started pushing (I could not feel the contractions when my belly is being pressed). My husband, without any invitation help out too – and to the surprise of the doc, a father’s push worked wonder – it seemed to give more effects than the nurses’!
To tell you the truth, I almost gave up that I asked for a C-sect (of course the doc rejected this idea seeing me still able to produce polite smiles now and then) in the middle of pushing – what was I thinking, right? My husband still teases me about this – and I guess he is right to do so: you claim to be tough and now half an hour into labour, fully dilated and all you choose to Give up?
In the midst of all that, there were several things that I noticed: it was raining outside ( which contributed to my shivering) and the tv screen before me were showing a documentary obout crop circles on Nat Geo.
Despite epidural giving me a dry mouth and stuffy nose which didn’t help when I was to make several pushes in one breath, All praise be to Him, I managed to nail it in one try (and one continuous push) – I remember telling myself just do it once and for all, and when the husband told me the head was already crowning that he could see the baby’s hair (I doubted it though, he was beside me he could not really see any of that) and the nurses cheering in high pitch that I should not stop. I kept pushing until this weird sensation came – as if you are passing a very big stool – then I knew it was almost over.
The next thing I remember was a warm little creature was put onto my chest that is my little angel. There was my son, my child – one that I carried for nine months, who causes such a mixture of feelings – but still a blessing I would not trade for anything.
Within seconds all that I could hear was his screaming – loud and clear – announcing his arrival. I remember my husband kissing my forehead whispering softly ‘Afni, ni Isa, Afni’.
And no, I did not cry. Or to put it correctly – I could not cry. I have rehearsed this moment in my mind so many times before, and I knew I would not be able to hold my tears when it actually happens but the sleepiness took the best of me. All that I do was hugging my baby while the doc finished her job and stitched me up.
I bled – a lot – according to the doc and my husband who witnessed the whole thing and my blood pressure was pretty low. The doc most probably won’t say this out loud that I tore up pretty badly – and stitching me up took quite sometimes, but the doc kindly increased the epidural dose (previously lowered to help me feel the contractions hence assists in pushing) while letting me cuddle my precious child.
I think it was quite some times before they removed my son and put him next to me in his warmer, nicely swaddled.
I could not take my eyes off him.
He is indeed the most beautiful baby I have seen.