“Remember this, for it is as true and true gets: Your body is not a lemon. You are not a machine. The Creator is not a careless mechanic. Human female bodies have the same potential to give birth well as aardvarks, lions, rhinoceri, elephants, moose, and water buffalo. Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.”
― Ina May Gaskin, Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth
I have been wanting to write throughout my maternity leave, but I have never been so occupied in my entire life – by one little soul. But this is another story altogether.
Growing up, I have always wondered about childbirth. I have heard stories of pain, and I have always thought that that is all to it. I have always known that I am going to be a mother one day, that I will have to face childbirth, and that I will have to inevitably face the pain that I have dreaded for all my life.
Last month, I was given the blessing to look at childbirth beyond the pain, and see the incomparable beauty of it. Here’s my story:
It was Tuesday evening when I started feeling the contractions. For first time moms-to-be, the sensation is like having menstrual cramps but contractions are much more defined. My new rule of thumb is: you will just know, you know.
Since I’ve experienced similar contractions (false labor) the night before, I brushed them off. Nevertheless, I downloaded an app that records and keeps track of contractions.
We were on our way to have dinner at Ikea (which is about 40 kilometers away) that night at Luke’s request. While in the car, I noticed that the interval between contractions, the frequency, and the duration of the contractions were becoming more regular. Since the contractions were painless, I was not fully convinced that I was already on labor.
We were home at about 10 pm and at 11 pm, I told Luke to go ahead and sleep while I continue monitoring my contractions. I couldn’t sleep because of anxiety but at 1 am, I finally dozed off.
At 2 am, I was awakened by a very strong (but still relatively painless) contraction. The frequency, duration, and intervals are still as constant as when I started monitoring them but this time, they were becoming stronger. I woke my sister up and asked her if it is wise to already go to the hospital. She told me it was my call. Because I was afraid it might be a false alarm, I decided to wait a bit longer.
I couldn’t remember how many times I tried to sleep and stood up and walked around and went back to bed but my sister told me later she became a bit anxious when she realized I was becoming restless.
At one point, I went to the bathroom and started re-reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting’s chapter about entering into labor. I wanted to make sure I knew what to expect just in case I went into labor that morning.
My water bag broke
At around 4 am, I woke my sister up for the second time and asked her again if it was wise to go to the hospital already. She told me to try to sleep instead because I will need all the energy in case I go to labor. That was when I decided to sleep.
I went back to bed and started calming myself to try to sleep. After a few minutes, while I was still wide awake, my water bag broke. I knew it because I felt a small stream of fluid coming out – much stronger than a regular discharge. I immediately woke Luke up and told him calmly, “tara na sa ospital (let’s go to the hospital)”.
I looked at the water I discharged and noticed that it was not as clear as it should be (as described in the book). I made a mental note and focused on remaining calm.
After about 10 to 15 minutes of preparing, we were on our way to the hospital. By that time, Luke has already called his parents and we called my mother while we were in the car.
I had three bags prepared: one bag for the baby, one bag for me, and my handbag where my wallet is among other essentials.
At the hospital
At the hospital, I opted to walk rather than to get on a wheelchair. Good thing there were a few people during that morning because despite having worn a maternity pad, my water kept gushing out and trickled out of my pants.
We headed straight to the maternity ward where a Filipina nurse immediately led me to an observation room and hooked me up the CTG machine to monitor my contractions and the baby’s heartbeat. I made sure I told the nurse that my water was not clear. By that time, my in-laws already arrived at the hospital. While I was being observed, Luke took care of filling out the paperwork for my admission.
A few minutes after I laid down the bed, I started feeling the pains of my contractions. I gripped the metal railings of the hospital bed to somehow help ease the pain. It was already around 6 am and my dilation is at 2 cms. Once Luke returned to the room, I held his hand and gripped it tightly each wave of contraction (Luke told me later that his hand was still painful a few days after my delivery).
I remember worrying and praying about my dilation and my labor. I was worried that at 2 cms, I still had a long way to go.
Around 6 or 6:30 am, once it was verified that I am in actual labor, I was asked to head to the delivery room. At last, it was my chance to walk in hopes that it will help ease my labor pains. But it was just a short trip towards the elevator and the delivery room.
I was very impressed by the delivery room. It looked reassuring, bigger than our flat, complete with all sorts of machines and gadgets. Since it was already around 7 am, it was time for the nurse to end her duty, and a very warm and cheerful African lady took over. A Filipina pediatric nurse went inside the room and explained thoroughly to Luke what she is going to do with the baby once she’s out. Everything was reassuring for me so far, and aside from my labor pains which were at their peak, I did not worry about anything else.
Soon my OB, Dra. Farkad, was in and out of the room, checking my dilation and the position of the baby’s head. At around 9 am, I was already fully dilated (10 cms), thank God, but the baby’s head was still high. I wanted to have a normal delivery so I started praying for the baby’s head to go down. The nurse told me to start pushing whenever there’s a wave of contraction, but to refrain from crying out (which was not easy). After a while, she told me to go at the edge of my bed and get into a squatting position. I held on to Luke and we started pushing together. It was the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life.
A hard call
I tried to hold on as much as I could but I was growing tired. At around 9:30 am, Dra. Farkad told me her concern. The baby’s head was still high and she has already passed meconium (fetal poop) – this is the reason why my membrane water was not clear. Dra. Farkad saw that I was already tired and the baby might be distressed already so she proposed that I undergo a cesarean section (CS) which, she said, was a safer choice for me and the baby. Inasmuch as I wanted to have a natural birth, more than anything, the words “the baby might be distressed” pierced into my heart. I just knew that going through CS is the wise thing to do at that moment. I probed into Luke’s eyes for his approval and I knew he wanted it as well so we both said yes.
The moment I said yes, the nurses were out and about. Phones were ringing, papers were flying around… and in between waves of contractions, I had to write my name and the date, and affix my signature on three pieces of documents (I thought they will let my husband do that, but no).
After 20 minutes, I was on the way to the Operating Room (OR). And as in the movies, they had to stop Luke at the door while they wheel me off to the distance.
I counted about 8-10 people at the OR (or maybe less – my head was not already clear at that time). Everyone was doing his own thing, making sure that they had the right patient, the right tools and equipment, and the right medications. Once I was strapped in, the anesthesiologist told me to not worry because the whole team will take care of me, and that everything is going to be OK. I was not worried about the operation but I was still in pain so I focused on singing worship songs in my head. I wanted to ask the anesthesiologist to hurry up with my anesthesia because I wanted to somehow calm my body before the operation.
The anesthesia was administered at my spinal cord. I felt the numbness travel from below my chest towards my hips, my legs, my foot, and then to the tip of my toes. I relaxed and chose to focus on the wall clock on my left while trying to concentrate on praying.
During the operation, the anesthesiologist would talk to me and ask me how I felt. I was mostly calm.
At 10:11 am, the anesthesiologist stood up and massaged my belly, just below my chest. I felt the baby’s feet freeing itself from my belly. I then knew that they were already pulling her out. After a few moments, I heard someone declare, “baby’s out! It’s a girl!”. A few seconds later, I heard my baby cry for the very first time, and the sun came out, the breeze was just right, and the birds were singing happy songs. And then I saw Lyra for the very first time. It’s as if God’s creations were summed up in one little beautiful creature. I forgot about the labor pains, I forgot about the operation (they were still stitching me up at that moment), and I forgot about everything else. My whole life, and the whole universe became this small person who was kicking and squirming at the cot. And when they presented her to me, it felt so unreal.
I told the nurse to make sure Luke will see Lyra before they do anything else to her, and they kept true to their word.
After my stitches, they wheeled me to the recovery area where they monitored my vitals. I fell asleep but for a good 5 minutes only. I couldn’t wait to see Luke and Lyra so I kept on asking the nurses to bring me to my room. 30 minutes later, they finally wheeled me to my room and we had to wait for a while for them to bring Lyra in.
Soon after, once Lyra was in the room, the pediatric nurse taught me how to breastfeed the baby, and I knew then that my life will never be the same again.
A grateful heart
Even though I did not experience vaginal birth, I thank God that I was able to feel labor pains. It is such a beautiful pain. It is the kind of pain that reminds you about the goodness of God – the kind of goodness that has given you the opportunity and the ability to unconditionally love one little soul.