14 September 2011, by Tan Yi Lin
Yes, yes, I know there has been a LOOONNNGGG radio silence since my last blog entry. So long that readers have left comments asking what has happened to us!
We are happy to have welcomed little Cho Kai Xin Colette, aka Coco, to our family on Monday 22 August 2011, at 9.27am. Yes, we have a very efficient baby who decided to arrive on the very morning of Mummy’s first day of maternity leave.
Ok, let’s get straight to the birth story – cos that’s what everybody wants to hear right? 🙂 (Also because my laptop is running low on battery while I’m keeping an eye on the baby as I write this entry – and I want to get it out before she stirs for her next feed! New parents don’t just suffer from interrupted sleep – it’s interrupted EVERYTHING 24/7 now.)
I couldn’t have asked for a more straightforward birth. It went exactly according to the birth plan. There was the added bonus of the birth progressing with my body clock, which I’ll explain a little further down this post.
Sunday 21 August, 6am
I woke up with dull abdominal cramps. They weren’t painful or regular, so I figured these could be the Braxton Hicks “practice” contractions and didn’t think that I would be going into labour anytime soon that day.
Sunday 21 August, 11am
As the morning progressed, the contractions started getting closer and closer. By 11am, they were 10 minutes apart and lasted about 30 seconds per wave. I was also experiencing some light spotting, but the bloody show and/or mucous plug had yet to make their appearance. The pain was rather mild, like period cramps, except that they came in waves instead of a continuous cramp. Since I was still feeling pretty good and could walk without problem, we proceeded to a friend’s (Coco’s godfather-to-be) place for lunch (Our friends, however, freaked out a bit when I told them that I was having contractions, haha. Guess a home birth on the couch of their new home wouldn’t have been a pretty sight!)
Sunday 21 August, 5.30pm
By this time, the contractions were getting as close as 6 to 10 minutes apart and lasting up to 60 seconds per wave. I had realised earlier on that afternoon that I WAS going into active labour and that we would probably be leaving for the hospital that very evening or in the middle of the night. I started a panic a little as I had forgotten what I was suppose to do during labour and delivery! I spent the whole afternoon lying in bed with my antenatal class notes in hand and frantically reading up on the birth process. Yes, it was not unlike last-minute mugging for an exam.
Sunday 21 August, 7pm
With the contractions down to 5 minutes apart, we hurriedly got dressed, grabbed our hospital bag, bid farewell to my family (who was having a leisurely BBQ in our backyard!) and drove to the hospital. In the car, the contractions quickened to 2 minutes apart! Dan drove swiftly but calmly to KKH (not a difficult feat with the uber smooth Sunday night traffic on the ECP.) He even had the time (and the gall) to ask me how many children I wanted as I doubled up in pain from the intense cramps coursing through my lower back and abdomen. Still no sign of the bloody show or mucous plug.
Sunday 21 August, 9pm
By this time, I had been lying in the triage area under observation for quite a while, hooked up to a couple of machines to monitor my blood pressure and the baby’s heartbeat. The nurse stuck a couple of fingers into me to check on the dilatation of my cervix – 1.5cm – and guess what, out came the mucous plug with her fingers! Hellooooo Nurse!
My doctor came by to check how I was progressing (the first thing I said to her was sorry for making her come in late on a Sunday night) and said that from the look of things, I would probably deliver in the morning.
Sunday 21 August, 10pm
I checked into the maternity ward to await delivery.
Sunday 21 August, 11.30pm
The contractions had now increased in frequency and intensity and were now a minute apart and absolutely BRUTAL. I called for the nurse and asked to be brought down to the delivery suite to be given pain relief… NOW!!!! And that, was the end of my first night’s stay in the maternity ward! All 1.5 hours of it. Sigh.
Throughout my pregnancy, I had already been leaning heavily towards the option of getting an epidural. We had learnt during antenatal class of the possible side effects of taking the plunge but we weighed the pros (a lot) and cons (very minor and low chance of risk) and made a calculated and informed decision to get an epidural if the pain proved to be unbearable. The decision to go for it at this point in time now was a no-brainer. I thought long and hard about it… well, not quite. The thought process went something like this:
My contractions are one minute apart and hitting me with incredibly intensity.
I am only 2cm dilated.
It takes the cervix approximately one hour to dilate one centimetre.
Which means I have 8 hours more to go before I can push.
Thus, I have to ride out roughly 240 more waves of contractions throughout the night.
JUST GIVE ME THE EPIDURAL, DAMNIT!
In the delivery suite, I was give etonox from a gas mask to help me cope with the pain. I was 2cm dilated by then but had to wait until I was 3cm dilated before I could be given an epidural. The gas made me REALLY HIGH – like really woozy and rather delirious, which I guess is what helps take your mind off the pain temporarily. I remember telling Dan that I felt as if I was at Zouk on Mambo Night and drunk to the point of being incredibly high – to the point just before one passes out, but even better because you don’t actually pass out while on etonox. I could even imagine the dance floor and disco lights at Zouk, complete with Mambo music (I attribute this to Class 95FM’s incessant promotion of their Retrolicious concert on air…) When I removed the mask from my face, I imagined that I was sitting on the curb outside of Zouk and breathing in the fresh air.
Like I said, I was REALLY HIGH.
Monday 22 August, 1am
Despite how fun breathing etonox sounds, I was still writhing around in great pain through each contraction. Anxious for the nurse to administer the next stage of pain relief, Dan called for her to check the dilatation again – 3cm! Just ripe for an epidural!
The anaesthetist arrived soon after. Compared to the pain of the contractions, the sensation (I wouldn’t even call it ‘pain’) of having the local anaesthetic injected into my spine was negligible. Once that was done, I didn’t even feel the huge epidural needle being inserted. Still high on the gas, I even happily repeated the whole “The Gas Makes Me Feel Like I’m At Mambo” story to the anaesthetist.
She commented that I was very cheerful. I managed to reply, “No lah! I’m just REAAAALLLLYYYY HIIIIGGGHH! Hee hee hee.”
Monday 22 August, 1am to 7.30am
With the epidural in place, I could actually sleep quite peacefully throughout the night, except when the nurse came round to empty my bladder with the use of a catheter or change a bloody sheet (uh huh, sorry, no pretty details in the labour process.) The dosage was administered at base level – meaning I could still feel sensation in my lower half and even control movement in my legs, but could not feel any pain from the contractions. The only “pain” was having to perpetually lie on my left side the ENTIRE night because any other position would result in the monitor losing track of the baby’s heartbeat. It wasn’t unlike during pregnancy, when the baby would protest strongly by kicking me in the ribs if I chose to lie on my right side. Fussy.
Throughout the night, the husband slept in the Lazy Boy chair next to my bed.
Monday 22 August, 7.30am
My doctor popped in to check on my progress – I was 9cm dilated but the water bag still hadn’t ruptured. The doctor burst it and prescribed a dose of oxytocin to help make the contractions more regular. I can’t quite remember if that also helped me to feel the contractions better, or whether the nurse lowered the epidural dosage so that I could tell when a contraction was approaching and prepare myself to push together with it.
Monday 22 August, 8.30am
The nurse coached me to start pushing. In my excitement and panic, I got my breathing technique all wrong and was pushing inefficiently. My amazing husband recalled the proper techniques that we learnt during antenatal class and instructed me to channel my breath and energy correctly. He helped hold one leg while the nurse held the other (I could control and hold my own legs but wasn’t doing a very good job of pulling them back far enough to aid the delivery.) He also helped me count to 10 for each push, which encouraged me to strive to hold each push for 10 seconds or longer.
After 15 minutes of huffing and puffing and pushing, the nurse said, “Very good. That was just for practice. We’re going to start pushing for real very soon okay?” WHAT?!?!?!!?
Monday 22 August, 9am
By now, I had been pushing “for real” for 15 minutes and was making good progress. I could feel the baby coming down the birth canal. What does it feel like? Like you have a really bad case of constipation and are stuck in mid-poo and just REALLY want to get the poo out. All that pushing is pretty tiring.
A few minutes later, the doctor reappeared to perform the episiotomy. I was still in the right state of mind to ask her if it was going to hurt when she made the cut/s. She replied no, and true enough, thanks to the epidural, although I could feel the sensation of being cut, I didn’t feel any pain. In fact, hearing the snipping sounds was more traumatic than actually being cut. I didn’t expect the snips to sound so loud! Dan didn’t either – but cleverly compensated by counting louder, and louder, and LOUDER to drown out the snipping sounds.
Monday 22 August, 9.27am
With one last mega push, the baby’s head finally emerged from the birth canal. It only took a small push to clear her shoulders through the opening and TA-DA! She was out! *woot!*
Weighing in at 3.015kg, little Coco didn’t turn out to be a big a baby as we expected from the size of my belly (it was all water) and the estimated measurements during the regular ultrasound scans. In fact, I heard the doctor tell the nurse, “Oh, she isn’t that big after all. She just has a big head”!!
Immediately, the sound of angry cries filled the air – as if she was damn pissed off at being evicted from her comfortable pool villa. The nurse gave her a cursory wipe-down and placed her, naked, on my chest. SHE IMMEDIATELY STOPPED CRYING. It was nothing short of amazing. It was an incredible feeling to be finally holding on to my baby after 10 long months of having her inside me – and since I first saw her on the monitor during the Frozen Embryo Transfer, as a little embryo, freshly thawed from the deep freezer. In the meantime, Dan snapped photos and sent out birth announcement messages to our family and closest friends.
Back at the maternity ward, we basked in the joy of welcoming our little daughter and sharing the joy with our friends and family.
We stayed the night at the hospital and were given the green light to be discharged the next morning. It was utterly amazing, to finally have our little bundle of joy share our home with us.
That pretty much sums up the birth story. As I mentioned earlier, I’m thankful that the contractions started and progressed at a pace that allowed the epidural to be administered around midnight, thus letting me sleep painlessly through the night – just like I would have on any other given night – and wake up the next morning to start pushing. It’s almost like going to sleep as per normal and waking up to go to work, no? 🙂
3 weeks on, the memory is already starting to fade, so I’m really glad to be able to capture – and share – it on this blog. On hindsight, the pain and physical exhaustion from the birth process also seems like the distant past. So if you ask me now whether I would go through it all over again and have more children, my answer would be a resounding…. YES 🙂