Ladies and gentlemen, remember when I bid you goodbye last year, one Monday in November? Little did I know that the fourth trimester was gearing to start in a day! I kid you not, it’s like I called it.
One minute I am sleeping peacefully, the next, I’m heading to the loo to pee and then the next, I’m lying down and shwaaaaaaa, I feel a gush down there. (I don’t know what onomatopoeia to write to express the feeling.)
I am almost certain this is not it. It can’t be it, can it? I mean, my EDD is a whole week away. I get up and walk to the loo again. Yep. I am spilling water. This is around 6 am.
“Babe, I think my water has broken,” I say, half laughing.
Mr gets up. He has been awake, anyway, since he asked me if I was okay long before this. I had been a bit restless that night but felt fine.
“We should go to the hospital, right?”
Very fast, we dress and grab the bags and masks. It is time, even though it doesn’t feel like it is. I am not even in pain and still not sure my water has broken. I tell my help I will probably be back. Lol. No, you will not, Shiku.
I start feeling something like back discomfort on the way to hospital, on that bridge above the Redhill Link Road. That discomfort I was familiar with during my periods. This is when I start thinking maybe this is actually it.
We get to the hospital and I get out at the entrance while Mr goes to park the car. Immediately I step out and straighten up, shwaaaaaaa again. At this point I’m confused and about to start feeling self-conscious because I just know the maternity pad I have on won’t help at all.
The watchman at the security metal detector can tell I’m in distress, so he quickly waves me away from the scanner and lets me through the side. At this point, I’m leaving a trail of water behind, and I’m holding my long dress up a bit. I get into the lift with two other women who wish me well.
Ting. Maternity floor. I walk to the little security window and tell the guard I need to see a doctor. She lets me in. I head to the next entrance and find the nurses at the desk. I’m still telling them I think my water has broken while I’m leaking like a hose pipe. Smh.
One of them asks me for my maternity booklet. In all the haste, I left it at home. Okay, no worries, we’ll find the records. Please go to the washroom on your right then wait for me there. She points. I follow the directions. Behind the curtains, she brings a gown and asks me to change. I comply. She comes back and sets the fetal monitor up. At this point I’ve given up on controlling my waters and leave a nice pool below me before climbing onto the bed. She connects my tummy to the monitor. By now Mr is here too. He goes off to sort out registration because it’s official, this is going down.
I’m still not in any real pain. The contractions are very gentle and miles apart from each other. I lie there listening to my baby’s heart through that loud monitor. I’m not sure what I’m thinking. Dad comes back and we wait (yeah, from now on he is officially dad, not Mr).
After what seems like a long time, the nurse comes back and says that all is well. She hands me a maternity pad and directs me to the weighing scale at which point I’m about 59kg. Then we head to the labour room. I have some bread and Milo. At that point, it does not occur to me that this is the beginning of many months of Milo, Milo and more Milo and drinking chocolate. I also fill a meal card with very interesting choices.
I’m still very normal and jolly, receiving calls all the time. I’ve also perfected the art of holding the pads in between my legs with nothing else. 😂 I probably use a dozen this day. The not-so-fun stuff begins after the nurse records some few things. First, the doctors come to take a COVID test. Let me tell you, that thing is not even funny. 😭 However, this weird pregnant girl laughs out loud when that swab reaches her throat or whatever part of the respiratory system that is. Additionally, it draws blood and leaves me with a slight nosebleed. This legit freaks the young doctor out. Oh well. Next.
Time for him to check how far mummy has dilated. 😭 Even after having listened to the explanation on how they do it a few weeks earlier, I still have not wrapped my mind around what it entails. I’m not going to describe it. I just know I hated the three times it happened to me throughout this day. Dad is not impressed by either of these bloody tests. 😂 Moving on. 2cm. No problem.
I also get a cannula for this drug I need because I happen to be among those mamas with Group B Streptococcus.
We decide to ask if we can chill in the room since it seems we’ll be here a long time. The nurse obliges and I pretend to watch TV while dad goes back home to get some more things. You may ask why I’m chilling here instead of being at home while this far away from active labour. I will repeat again for newbies — because my water broke. There’s never a debate about being chill at home when this happens, regardless of stage in labour.
Haya. So every once in a while, I walk around the maternity section. Everyone knows they say walking quickens labour and all. Gradually, I begin to feel the contractions become real. So every once in a while, I have to hold on to the railing on the walls and pause my walk. I guess that’s why they have those things strategically positioned everywhere.
Fast-forward to some hours later and everyone is back to check dilation. They say 5cm. Yay. Progress. Periodically, they monitor baby again.
Eventually we start to get a bit uneasy when darkness is approaching and we’ve moved out of the room to a different labour room. Nurses and doctors switch shifts. I’m now deeply in labour but not at the tail-end yet. Sweating and feeling hot like crazy. Every once in a while, dad has to wet a hanky for me and place it on my forehead. I still walk around when I can then the other time I’m rolling on my exercise ball. Then breathing through those contractions. Dad is massaging me too. He is also trying to ignore calls from mothers because at this point, I’ve forgotten about my phone.
Time passes by so much that we move to yet another labour room where that last dilation check happens with another doctor. This one now introduces another weird dynamic we had not encountered before. He claims I am not even 5cm dilated, only 4. He cites differences in doctor opinions. Ngai. This is around 9pm and I am wincing like crazy. And we ain’t seen nothing yet because it’s now time to get some oxytocin inside me to try quicken the process. Machos!!!
Labour, in its natural form, is lenient to the woman, because you don’t feel constant pain. Contractions are meted out minutes from each other, at least for the most part. Oxytocin augments contractions so that there’s literally just a few seconds in between. And during this time, you have a fetal monitor on your tummy the whole time. So you can’t move to make it easy on yourself. 😭 So I am lying there on my side, twisting and breathing and still hoping we’re almost at the end. At some point, I need to go to the loo. My poor husband has to walk with me to hold on to the drip stand. To this date, he has never forgotten that bloody experience.
The plot twist
To cut the long story short, even oxytocin does not help. After all that pain, the doctor comes in, reads the fetal rate report and states that it seems the baby’s heart rate is dropping. We will need to go for a C-section. He asks the nurse to remove the oxytocin drip and replace it with water. He then goes off to call for a second opinion. Me and dad look at each other helplessly. When they tell you such things about your baby, you can be sure you’re in no position to argue.
In a blur, I have signed the yellow consent form and turned my gown the other way round, ready for surgery. The contractions are still with me, but much fewer now, since the water is taking over my oxytocin-ridden system. Another eternity passes with me holding on to dad’s waist, telling him we really did try. The theatre folks come to wheel me out of the labour room and down to the theatre. Heh.
A whole ecosystem awaits me here, as there are about ten people going about, readying the place for the surgery. Someone puts me in a mask (no idea where my original mask went during labour). They make some introductions (that I don’t get), and someone asks me how I am feeling about being a mother. Well, I don’t know how to answer that question because I definitely did not expect to end up on this surgery floor.
They move me from one bed to the other and then make me sit and hold on to a pillow while bending forward. You can imagine bending over in my condition. This teddy-like guy (I really found a lot of comfort in this guy for some strange reason) holds my arms firmly while the anesthesiologist injects me with spinal anesthesia on the lower back. It only stings a little, compared to the contraction, the final one being the one I feel when the injection is happening. They give me a warning not to even wince, because the slightest movement during that procedure can complicate matters.
That is done and I’m put back on my back. My hands are placed apart on some stool-like things I think. With that spinal procedure, I’m supposed to feel pressure but not pain. A nurse asks me if I’ve shaved and I’m like yeah, but not necessarily by your standards. I say this with a chuckle. Can you believe I’m still laughing at this point? (I think this is the denial stage of the fourth trimester.) She quickly shaves me behind the curtain.
The anaesthesiologist takes his position on my left side near my head and the others stay behind the curtain.
“Can you feel this?” someone asks. I imagine they are pricking me, because that’s what I feel. I say yes. They keep pricking until I say I only feel like I’m being touched.
The work begins. I feel like they are tearing something in my tummy. Then there’s some pressure, some conversations I don’t quite understand, someone says my muscles are tight. At this point, like four people are around me, one on my right in front of the curtain, pushing my abdomen for reasons I’ll never understand. They push and shove. I am told to relax. Then I hear one of them say “Chukua mtoto”. Then they continue with whatever it is that’s happening behind the curtain.
All this time I have been staring at the clock high on the wall on my right. It’s all silent at this point and something is happening with my baby at the other end of the room which I obviously can’t see. I’m asking myself, why is she or he not crying? Is it even a she or a he? God let my baby be okay. I wait. I wait. The clock I’ve been looking at, a digital one, shows some minutes past 1am. Someone says, “Come on, baby.”
I’m not sure what to think. Is she okay? What’s wrong? No-one is saying anything to me. I feel like it takes forever before baby finally lets out a quick cry.
It’s like my tear ducts were just waiting for that. I break down instantly. The tears are just running down my sides because I am strapped down. My baby is here. My baby is here. I don’t know if it’s a boy or girl, but the baby is here. The anesthesiologist is now congratulating me as I sniffle. I finally catch my breath to ask whether it’s a girl or boy. It’s a girl, he says. I continue crying because I think I knew it.
After forever, someone comes over, holding her in that hospital receiving blanket and cute hat. Says that she needs to be taken for observation in the nursery because I-don’t-know-what. I cannot understand what they are saying at this point. Please go tell the dad what you are telling me. Let me touch her. I place my hand on her forehead. One eye is open and the other slightly closed. I am complete. My heart is full. They whisk her away.
The surgeon and helpers are still at it behind the curtain. I begin to feel like I am being pricked again. Anesthesiologist adds some more pain relieving stuff, probably morphine and I am now seeing double of everything. Even that clock of mine on the wall. I guess this is what feeling high is like. After a whole other eternity, they are done.
The surgeon comes to my side to explain something about my muscles being tight and thus having to do an inverted T incision on my uterus. Meaning I will never be able to give birth vaginally in future. He assures me that I should not feel less like a mum. Sigh. My mind is not really absorbing all this right now so I just say okay and move on.
I am wheeled away to the recovery section where I take a whole other eternity as they monitor my vitals. Finally, it’s time to be taken back up to maternity. The nurses move me back to my bed. I am dazed but not confused. Mr dad finds me, in his own state of wonder. You can imagine he was going through his own drama, with praying mums on the other side of his phone, not knowing what was happening, then only seeing his daughter, with a story attached and then seeing me again hours later. Yawa.
Fast forward to seeing my daughter again, many hours later, after the observation. You can bet we did not sleep a wink throughout those many hours. In the end of this beginning, what mattered is we were safely on the other side of this journey. It did not seem completely new to me. Plus my belly was still the size of a pregnant woman’s, when I was finally allowed to stand up and go to the loo. I was not in pain, thanks to all the morphine I was getting. Plus after that procedure, lots of other meds are dished out to prevent blood clots. My hands saw many cannula insertions.
Let’s continue this story next time. 🙂
A few key lessons
You may plan your birth experience, but it can go in many different directions. Just do what you can and leave the rest to the Almighty and the medics. Also, I highly recommend this watch.
You see what the surgeon told me at the operating table, I only understood it two weeks later during my postnatal visit to the gynaecologist. She asked me how I felt about the whole experience and I teared up. So yeah, I can totally see how postpartum depression can hit you if you don’t talk about stuff.
Also, dads feel these things. I had sung many songs about how he should get the car seat and bassinet ready for days. Mr dad only did it the same week our baby girl arrived. So, trust them dads-to-be. They know what they are doing.