A year ago today, at exactly this time (time check: 11:15 pm), I was lying in my hospital room in Mt Alvernia‘s Our Lady wing recovering from an emergency c-section. I remember just lying there, physically and emotionally exhausted, hooked up to painkillers delivered by IV drip and unable to move the lower part of my body. The baby was by himself in the nursery and my husband was just walking around the room really not sure what to do.
I haven’t blogged in a while but I thought to celebrate E-Man’s 1st birthday today, I would share his birth story. If you know me, I love hearing birth stories — they remind me of how strong women really are! Really, we created a human being, we are capable of anything. I would like to preface this entry by saying the choices I made were personal and strictly based on my own preferences. No two births are the same – just like no two women are the same. That is what makes this world so beautifully unique. I would love to hear your birth story, but please do not criticise mine.
So it all started on 14 September 2014 when I went in to my doctor’s office for a check-up. I was literally 40 weeks and there was no sign of a baby at all. He recommended an induction before I hit 41 weeks because apparently the possibility of foetal death raises after 41 weeks (albeit marginally). I then decided (well, I had spent a week thinking about it), that I would induce him on his estimated due date (EDD) which was 16 September since it was also Lee Kuan Yew’s birthday and that it would be kind of cool for E-Man to share the same birthday as Singapore’s first Prime Minister.
My doctor agreed and everything was set for a 16 September delivery. I went in at 2 am on 16 September where the labour ward nurses inserted a pill up my cervix and I was hooked up to a monitor the whole night. Surprisingly, I managed to get some shut eye. Nat on the other hand was too cold to sleep. Even with a spare blanket and a jacket he was freezing. I think the temperature is specially set for perpetually hot pregnant women. At about 6 am I was woken up, placed on a wheelchair (I don’t know why – because I could walk) and wheeled into Labour & Delivery. There, I was orientated into my own private birthing room and started to get comfortable – I had my fully charged mobile phone, my iPad and my books next to me. At about 7:30 am, the Nurse Manager did a quick check of my cervix and I was 3 cm dilated (you can start pushing at 10 cm – so at least I was a little dilated!). FANTASTIC. Everything was moving as planned.
Oh and by the way, it was only during my last few weeks of pregnancy did I realise how painful cervix checking is. I am not a biology student so I never realised how far UP your cervix is. Ok, too much detail, but let’s just say it’s not anywhere easily accessible. And I do NOT know why this LITTLE detail of the cervix check is omitted in other people’s birth stories. I shall leave it in mine because it was quite a relevant re-occurance, obviously.
At about 8:30 am (can’t really remember), the Anaesthetist came in to deliver the epidural. I agreed with my OB that I would have epidural early because literally, the only thing in my birth plan is PAIN FREE. So she came in, put the epidural in – which didn’t hurt at all – and went on her way. I was very lucky in that the epidural had no side effects on me. I was having a merry time watching my Hollywood and Bollywood movies. Haha.
At 9:30, the OB came in and broke my water. I think at about 11:30 or 12 he came back again and checked me and lo and behold I was 5 cm dilated. He commented that he thought the baby will be out before dinner. It was fantastic. The nurses started bringing in all the equipment to deliver the baby. I felt very successful! The contractions were coming strong but I felt nothing and used the time to Whatsapp friends and family with hourly updates. I was so excited. I remember hearing the screams from other women in other rooms. Some were terrifying as though they were getting stabbed. After each scream, I would turn to make sure I had plenty of epidural left.
Lunchtime came and went. I hadn’t eaten the whole day and was suitably famished. I couldn’t even drink water, I could just have tiny sips. But luckily my movies kept me distracted. After lunchtime, the Nurse Manager checked me again and commented that I had not progressed past 5 cm. She rang the doctor and he said to just let me progress naturally. I started to get impatient. I was looking forward to having the baby out before dinner so that I could eat dinner and watch this current affairs show on Channel NewsAsia which was going to feature North Korea (one of my favourite topics) at 8:30 pm. I remember this very clearly because I really wanted to watch it.
3 pm came and went. 4 pm and then at 5 pm the Nurse Manager said she received a call from the OB asking about my progress. I was still 5 cm. So he recommended pitocin. I knew what it was from watching countless birth videos on YouTube and agreed to using it if it was going to speed up this labour. I’m such a typical Singaporean – everything must be fast, fast, fast!
I was put on pitocin and still nothing. At 7 pm I was checked again – this time the nurses shift had changed and I was becoming very very impatient. I had progressed to 6 cm. Small whoop! But then the whoop quickly changed to panic when the nurses noticed that the baby’s heart beat had slowed down at 8 pm.
I told myself, ok, it’s already 8 pm. I guess I could watch the North Korea documentary at 8:30 pm here and then deliver after.
Really, why I was so fixated on this documentary, I don’t know.
When the baby’s heart beat dropped, the nurses started to panic. They quickly put an oxygen mask on me and made a call to the OB to come quickly. At one point I commented, “I don’t need this oxygen mask. I can breathe fine.” To which the nurse replied, “It’s not for you, it’s for your baby.” Oops, and I panicked even more.
The doctor came at 8:45 pm. Again, I remember this time because I was in the midst of my North Korean documentary and had to decide whether to focus on him or the TV. HAHAHA.
I started to focus on him when five other nurses came in PLUS a new Anaesthetist. I really never had a c-section in mind at all and started to panic yet again. He said that, as we had discussed, the moment there was a valley in the heart beat chart (meaning the baby’s heart beat drops) it’s time for a c-section because our end goal is to get a healthy baby. I really wasn’t mentally prepared for the c-section. I started to tear up and cry uncontrollably. Nat tried to comfort me but the nurses told him that he needed to move our bags out of the room to the recovery room and get changed into surgery scrubs.
I remember so many things happening around me. There was a flurry of activity. I felt as though I was in the eye of the storm. The nurses sprung into action, preparing me for surgery. The Anaesthetist kept reassuring me everything would be fine. She was amazing. Seriously. I was quickly wheeled into the operating theatre. I remember crying all the way to the operating theatre.
In the operating theatre I cried even harder. I was just SO freaked out about getting cut up. Being a person that thrives on achieving milestones and goals, I was disappointed I was unable to achieve my goal of a pain-free natural delivery. Anyway, the baby had to come out one way or another and he obviously wasn’t coming out naturally.
The operation wasn’t painful but it was quite scary. The force that the OB had to use was terrifyingly strong. Nat and I like to describe it as it felt as though the doctor was a mechanic working on a car. Seriously. And just before the baby came out, the Anaesthetist and Nurse gave a big mighty push from the back (a push so strong they had to ensure their feet had support). I must say one comforting thing was how calm and relaxed the doctor was throughout the entire procedure – which made me panic a little less.
9:50 pm Baby E-Man came out. At first he was silent and the whole room seemed to be waiting in anticipation. And then we heard it. The strangest sound ever. Over the course of the day I had heard many babies cry. They all sounded nice. Except mine went, “oohh-wehh oohh-wehhh oooh–weehhh!!!” He only did that for a while and once he was bundled into a burrito he was placed on my chest and kept silent, you could see that he was absorbing his new environment. I felt at that moment I had delivered an old soul.
I stopped crying when they gave me the baby and the lovely Anaesthetist took a picture of us.
Very quickly though Nat and E-Man left the operating theatre for the nursery where he was weighed and measured. One of the nurses wheeled him in his little trolley with Nat following along. When they got to the nursery, Nat remembers the nurse counting his fingers and toes for him. According to him, she went, “1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – 10 fingers and 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 – 10 toes. Ok?”
Nat went back to the recovery suite to wait for me. And I just lay there in the operating theatre thinking about how insane the entire day was and how incredibly helpless I was feeling. Oh, if only I knew at that time that unexpected situations and feelings of incredible helplessness are common themes that would re-occur in the year to come and I expect for the rest of my life as a parent.
Now, if you would ask me, if I had to do it all over again, knowing the things I know now, what would I do?
1) I would probably wait a few days more before getting induced.
2) I would probably wait until I was about 4-5 cm dilated before I get the epidural. Nah, I’m not a hero.
3) I would probably put more exciting movies in my iPad – I remember getting a bit bored.
4) Nat would probably bring an extra jacket and blanket.
I would not really change much else. Mt Alvernia is really such a wonderful hospital. The rooms are new and very luxurious, the staff are unbelievably caring and professional and the location is perfect.