People forget, that with the birth of every child – a mother is born too. So allow me to tell my story in as many words as I would like to use, after all, it's not everyday that one gives birth without anesthesia. I say this to my son. I say this as a person in the process of becoming a mother. I say this as a very fortunate and much loved wife.
We were happy when we found out we were pregnant last May 2011. I took two pregnancy tests at home – one or two weeks apart, before going to my doctor (OB), for check-up. I was happy. I talked to you (my son) a lot. To me, being pregnant meant, simply waiting for nine months and then you go to the hospital to give birth. How wrong I was.
I had no idea that there was more to giving birth than simply letting the doctors tell you what to do. It was after my doctor emailed me the link to Unang Yakap on youtube that my eyes were opened. I realized, that there was more to giving birth than the stuff you see on tv. I started reading. I read What to Expect, which scared me to death. I went online and read from websites of midwife associations, where I found out about home births and natural births. And then I read Pregnancy 411, Baby 411 and finally: Childbirth Without Fear.
Childbirth Without Fear (by: Grantly Dick-Read) really helped me understand so much of what was going to happen when I give birth and after I give birth. It opened my mind to the possibility of giving birth without pain. And it gave me a better understanding about how my body works and what will happen to it when I give birth- depending on how I react. I will always be grateful I came across this book.
Reading about home births, and natural births, and peaceful births, made me realize that there is more to this whole pregnancy and birth thing. It made us think about taking birth classes so that we could have a natural birth without anesthesia. This led me to the birthing classes of Chiqui Brosas-Hahn. And to the preparation of our birth plan.
The desire for a natural birth also encouraged me to find a good prenatal exercise instructor to help me prepare for the difficulties of labor. My doctor refused to sign a consent form for prenatal yoga, which was my first choice (we had been practicing ashtanga mysore 2-3 times a week before we got pregnant), so I ended up going back to pilates instead (I used to do stott pilates regularly before my husband and I started ashtanga mysore). I had a twice a week, one hour prenatal pilates session from the 12th week to the 34th week of our pregnancy. I felt strong (in spite of the pregnancy discomforts: occasional shortness of breath, acid reflux, indigestion and the heavy pregnant belly) and that made me feel confident about the labor part of the birth. The unknown was what worried me.
I was also lucky enough to meet a few people who were able to do home births without pain. These people truly encouraged me towards birthing without the anesthesia. They said people did it all the time. They told me it would be tiring but not painful, and that it was nothing to be scared of because the human body was designed perfectly.
But at the same time, everyone in my family (including my husband's family) and nearly all of my friends (didn't matter if they had babies or not), told me I wouldn't make it through the pain without the anesthesia. I found this so frustrating and discouraging. Thank God they were so wrong. I will always be grateful for my few friends who told me they believed I could do it. One of my friends said, my birth plan was admirable, she wished she had the courage to try it too, and that, I had the strength to do something like that. She really helped me get a hold of myself- because the closer we were to the due date, the bigger my fear was.
The idea of birthing without anesthesia terrified me. I am well aware of my low tolerance for pain. In this culture of 'painful births' it was nearly impossible to convince myself that while giving birth entailed difficulties and a lot of physical effort - I could birth a baby without pain.
And you know, I was nearly able to give birth without the pains. Nearly – because I was only in pain during the last hour before you (my son) finally started announcing (screaming) your presence into this world.
Labor started at the end of January 2012. We were at 37 weeks and 1 day.
January 27, 2012 Check-up: 1-2cm dilated 60% effaced, 37 weeks & 1 day.
I felt completely normal. I had solid contractions from time to time (tummy as hard as my forehead) but no discomfort at all. The contractions were too far apart and not very consistent so we were sent home. We were told it was possible for us to deliver within the week.
The agony of waiting was spent getting a haircut and eating out everyday. We were trying to cram in as many dates as we could afford to have because a lot of things will change when you (the little one) are born (at least for the first few sleepless months anyway).
February 3, 20120 Check-up: 2-3cm dilated 60% effaced, 38 weeks & 1 day.
I still felt completely normal, which made me feel like a freak really. People who found out I was in early labor were shocked that I talked, ate and moved like everything was fine. In the back of my head I was thinking- and why shouldn't it be? I'm in labor, not sick or dying!
My cousin mentioned that she pleaded for a caesarian section when she was 2cm dilated. Everyone asked me if I had back pain (including my doctor and all the residents and nurses who checked on my while I was strapped to the baby & contraction monitor thing). It was really annoying that they kept on asking me - “hindi masakit?”. It almost felt as if they wanted me to BE in pain just because I was in labor.
Just to make it clear- I had no back pain, no tummy pain, no pain at all. My pregnant belly would just feel as hard as my forehead whenever contractions came. I was happy and excited because I knew that my boy will be born soon. And I was ecstatic and so full of hope that I would have a pain-free and anesthesia free delivery.
February 10, 20120 10am Check-up: 2cm dilated 70% effaced
How can dilation be reversed? My doctor was shocked to discover that the 2-3cm dilation a week ago was now a 2cm dilation. How can this happen? She doesn't know. It's the first time she's ever encountered something like this. There was nothing to do but wait for God's perfect time. Our doctor told us that she would be attending a wedding (as a sponsor) the next morning (February 11th), and told you (my baby) not to come out then because she would be busy and then she blessed you (the baby) like she always does.
Needless to say we were sent home again. So I made plans for big lunch with my best friend and our Mommy the next day (because I like to eat out, and I wanted good Lapu-lapu).
That night, I was unable to fall asleep. I was in bed by 9 o'clock. I was not uncomfortable, or worried, I just wasn't sleepy. So I read a book.
It was around 3 o'clock in the morning when my water broke. I thought it was my water, but I wasn't sure. I thought it smelled like pee with a weird consistency. It looked like chicken broth. It came out in a thin stream. And for all the 200 kegels a day that I did from the 6th month onwards, I could not interrupt the flow. So I put on an adult diaper, and my husband and I tried to go back to sleep. But then, my contractions intensified and it felt like something was bearing down my bottom. So I checked my diaper, and saw a pink stain at 4am.
We decided to call our doctor. She told my husband, yes that's her water, go to the hospital now.
Of course we did not go right away. I mean, you (the baby) are coming, it's not as if someone was dying. In case you're wondering, still no back pain, and still no painful anything. And because I like to eat, I snuck into the kitchen to have a few strawberries and a giant glass of water. I knew that once we were admitted I would not be allowed anything at all. Who knows how long you (this little boy) will make us wait?
We drove to Betterdog in Pasong Tamo to drop off the baby bear Finn. (so he can have fun with his furry friends while we were busy birthing you - his baby brother). And then we went to the hospital. We arrived at around 5am.
Here's what our labor record says:
3-4am: rupture of membrane
5:03am – admitted.
8:00am – contractions are moderately strong, 1 minute duration, 2-3 minute intervals,
80% effaced, 3cm dilated, station 2, position: BOW
8:15am – first stage began.
11:40am – second stage began. Baby delivered spontaneously by: Normal Spontaneous Delivery Lamaze at 11:50am. Median episiotomy. Cord was clamped after pulsations have disappeared.
11:50am – third stage. Placenta expelled via gentle cord traction (Brandt-Andrews method) at 12pm. Cotyledons complete. Anomalies: none. Local anesthesia for repair of third degree laceration.
Normal Spontaneous Delivery at 39 weeks 2/7 days
Born: Alive- strong
Anomalies/ Injuries: None
Apgar score: 9, 9
Weight: 2950g or about 6.50lbs
Just to give you an idea also, our total bill was (hospital bill including all doctor fees, use of high risk pregnancy unit room for labor, and use of a small private room with rooming in for 2 nights): Php 55,620.80
I was completely unhappy with the first internal exam performed on me. She was horribly rough. It was the most painful one I've had yet and I was so very sorry I could not remember the name of that doctor who did it. I want to punch her. I was not sore to begin with but after she examined me, I had pain down there. I imagined my pain hitching a ride with karma to get her when the time is right. (Okay, I was being mean.)
I should not dwell on the unpleasant, but the truth is, hospitals do not afford us the peace and calm we all need during this most important moment of our lives. I suffered the indignity of showing strangers my private parts, getting poked at, and laying on bodily fluids while waiting for the little one to come out. On top of everything else, they wanted me to pee on the bed using the bedpan. Once again I would like to remind everyone, I was giving birth- not dying. I was capable of getting up and sitting on the toilet- except my room didn't have one. So I took the bedpan, set it on a chair, sat on it and peed. It didn't help me that they kept pulling my husband away from me- asking him the same questions over and over (which was all in the clear-book we prepared- that they were too lazy to read!). So I had a lot of alone time during that part of labor where your contractions get stronger and you start to feel tired. And then we had bright lights- which I asked to be dimmed or turned off but could not be done because they needed to see me. I don't understand how they can see me, I was under a sheet. They could've dimmed the lights and just turned them on whenever they needed to examine me- which only happened twice by the way. One of the nurses actually turned on the television, and I remember thinking- how can anyone concentrate with the tv on? Someone turned off the air-conditioner in my room because she assumed I was too cold. Can they not ask me first? Please forgive me for being such a bitch. I wanted what I wanted and I wanted everything now. I wish I had more quiet, less light, and better residents to watch over me. :(
I was so unhappy with the resident in our room. I kept telling her what was going on with me but she wouldn't listen. I cannot even begin to explain the stress from that doctor. She should not be at the bedside of someone attempting a natural birth. She kept sticking her face too close to mine,when all I wanted to see and smell was my husband. (who wants to see a stranger's face during a private and precious moment in her life? And do I want to know what she had during her coffee break??) She kept asking me to push, when I knew that you (my son) were not ready- you had not descended yet. And when I was so certain that you (my boy) were coming out, this doctor refused to listen. I kept telling her that you (my baby) were coming out but she kept urging me to push. In my head I was thinking: I am not giving birth with you. Who knows what dangers you will put us in? I refused to push. And I did my best to avoid her annoying face.
It was during the final hour of labor when I started screaming my head off – or so I was told. The contractions were coming every 5 minutes and your head was really truly descending. Your Tatay (My husband) was the coherent one. I had no concept of time anymore. There were a lot of gaps in between the painful tearing of my most sensitive folds of skin. I don't remember what I said. I do remember voicing out my pain but I had no idea how loud I was. I completely forgot about all those breathing exercises. Alvin tried his best to make me take long deep breaths, but I just wouldn't. I was pulled into another universe. In my defense, my skin was torn in all the worst places ever. At this point my mind was starting to crumble. The book said I would stretch to accommodate the passing of the the baby. Why was I not stretching? Why did it feel like I had several tears that were starting to smart and sting terribly? I wanted to run away. I wanted an epidural so bad. But your tatay, my husband held fast. It seemed he knew I was losing it. I will be eternally grateful for the life we've had that led us to that exact moment when he held my face, drew his face near mine and said: “Konti nalang, malapit na.”
Our relationship with each other helped us birth you (this baby) naturally.
You have to marvel at the beauty of it. I was in bed with all the goo and pee and poo. I was screaming in pain every time you (my son) pushed forward. I wanted to run away from the torn body parts, the yucky bed, the annoying resident, and the tiring labor. But your Tatay (my husband) was there, and he made me believe we could do it.
And we did it. But not without more difficulties.
When the insensitive resident finally listened to our request, the chief resident was finally called in to do an internal exam. And lo and behold I was 9cm dilated. After assuring me that everything was fine, the chief resident rushed out of our room.
My doctor came to see me after what felt like forever. The first thing I said to her was: “Ansakit ng pepe ko.” She stroked my hair. I don't remember what she said, but I felt better. And then she left to make preparations. And then I was stuck with the annoying resident again.
By this time, I knew your (my son's) head descended. This baby was coming out now. All I had to do was push. I had to tell the resident several times that I had an urge to push- but she kept ignoring me.
By the time she finally realized I was truly ready to push it was almost too late. And then she started asking me to stop pushing! (Jeez lady, if I pushed earlier when you told me to, this baby would've come out earlier and I would've had 4th degree lacerations!) I was so mad at her at that point, but I was too exhausted and too busy to do something about it.
They had to transfer me to the delivery room. Everyone running around for who knows what. I swear it felt like some of them were panicking. Someone came to my room to wheel me to the delivery room. I lost your Tatay (my husband) somewhere.
I was surprised that the delivery room was dark. I took comfort in that. They took so long preparing the delivery bed, that my next contraction came while I was in the middle of crawling to the delivery bed. Let me just say, I howled because I felt my your head surge forward. It is impossible to control a contraction. The uterus has a mind of its own. But I made it to the other bed. They pulled my feet on to the stirrups and started draping sheets over my legs. They cleaned me up. The next contraction was coming and I was really ready to push. My doctor sensed it and asked me if I had the urge to push. I didn't say anything. Instead, I took a deep breath and then I got into a nearly sitting position (my feet were on the stirrups ha, ang taas. Thank you Patit for my abs. Thank you Jon for my flexibility.) and started to push. In the middle of it, my doctor pulled out her cutting tool and said, she had to do an episiotomy. I nodded, and then I continued to push with all that I had for as long as I could. I felt a snick, and then your head came out, your neck was a tiny bit of relief and then your shoulders came. But the contraction ended, and someone to my right was pushing me down on to my back telling me to rest and wait for the next wave. I went against it, maintained my position and pushed a second time. I felt your long legs slip out. That took only 10 minutes, from the time I entered the delivery room to the time you came out.
When the doctor lifted you up so I could see you, I heard you cry. It was so loud and clear. I felt such a profound relief to see you kick and hear you cry. I felt greatness unlike anything anyone could ever imagine.
They put you on my stomach to wipe some of the goo off. And then you started crawling towards my breast. I guess you were hungry. You quit crying and struggling only after you successfully latched. Your Tatay cut the cord. One of the nurses took pictures for us, but really, you can't see the cord- only the scissors in his hand. Poor Tatay, no evidence of his awesomeness.
Your looked like a cone-head. Your really did. It's amazing how quickly your head became round.
And then I remembered that poo came out along with you. I asked my doctor about it. And she assured me that they cleaned it all up.
It was the greatest moment of my life and I was exhausted. I was so tired I kept falling asleep. I didn't see you get weighed and measured. But your Tatay did.
While these things were happening the placenta came out. Gauze was used to remove whatever blood clots were left behind. They kept sticking wads of gauze into me to mop up my insides. Don't ask me how the doctor's hand got it in there. I refuse to think about it. I had to get stitches to repair my tears. I had third degree lacerations- which meant I almost ripped my butt apart when you came out. (Lord, my life will never be the same again, please help me face the aftermath.) This was painful, I felt every needle prick and every inch of thread going through my skin. I HAD to ask for local anesthesia. And because there was so much to repair, I had to have 2 shots of local anesthesia. When the doctor was tying the knot inside my butt, I remember thinking, Lord, save me from my poo.
My birth plan involved some things that we weren't able to do anymore. Compromises had to be made. Looking back, I think the fear made me tense and caused my third degree lacerations. I wish I was able to relax. Maybe next time. I was also in the wrong position for labor. I was on my back instead of sitting upright. Maybe next time. I am just thankful that we had a doctor who understood what we wanted and helped us get there. But I am most grateful that Alvin (your Tatay) was everything I needed him to be. I never could have gone through all that difficulty without him. Needless to say God gave us everything in His perfect time.
When we were wheeled back into the high risk pregnancy unit, I remember looking at you (my son) and being grateful you came out whole and healthy and strong. I was thankful I had my husband with me from that moment we found out we were pregnant to the moment you (our son) came into this world. Alvin took such good care of me. Even my own parents have never done anything like that. Alvin made it impossible for me to fail. There was so much love that I had no room for all the bad things (grief over my father's death, fear of not being able to safely birth the baby..and all other things that I could've been worried about.) I thank God for sending me Alvin who loves me the most.
They all say that after the birth you will forget about the difficulties and the pain from the episiotomy or laceration- because supposedly you will be overwhelmed with love and joy. I was overwhelmed with love and joy – I truly was. But I cannot deny the pains, especially during that first post-birth pee and all they give you is Dolfenal. Holy mother of the universe, it stings in the worst way ever. And don't even ask me about the poo. They nuked my insides with Lactulose to help the little poopies along, but it was sweat, blood and tears in the bathroom for what felt like an eternity.
But then I remember why I'm tired and uncomfortable. I remember how much love I have for my little one that I waited for all my life. I remember the amazing journey I had to get to this point. I never forget the pain, but when I see that little person underneath the blanket, I feel better.
This gives a whole new meaning to the word life. I am your source of life. I was pregnant with you, I gave birth to you and now I will be your source of nourishment through breastfeeding. A mother forgets everything to take care of her child. And a father gives up his life for his child by keeping the mother happy. (A most difficult task, I promise you.)
This is the greatest present we can ever give you anak, a natural and drug free birth. A rare chance to experience the first day of your life with a clear mind; free from labor inducing drugs, pain relievers and sedatives. The first day of your life spent with us, in our arms, instead of a plastic bassinet in a cold nursery full of strangers. Happy birthday Antonino, my deep blue sea.