If you’re anything like me, you would probably enjoy a good birth story. This is the birth story of little Gwen, from the perspective of a Singaporean first-time mum (me!) who delivered in the United States.
I am penning this story with relish and fondness. Even though childbirth was painful and trying, it was through that miraculous, necessary process that I safely brought my baby into the world.
Prior to undergoing it myself, childbirth was so foreign to me. Though I am approaching the big 3-0, I am the first among my close circle of friends to experience pregnancy and childbirth.
The lack of precedent turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I didn't get much unsolicited advice, which I know can be a bane for many expectant mothers.
I was free to decide the kind of birth I had envisioned for my little one. This autonomy brought with it a deep sense of confidence. I decided on a natural delivery without an episiotomy and was open to epidural should the pain prove too much to bear.
My intuition told me that I would likely go into labor before 40 weeks. My nesting instinct had begun at 34 weeks and I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks (false contractions) everyday since.
At 37 weeks, my obstetrician performed a cervix check. I was 0% effaced and not dilated. She reckoned that I would go past my Estimated Due Date (EDD) to deliver a baby of 6 to 6.5 lbs (2.7 to 2.9 kg).
I say "reckoned" because third trimester ultrasounds are not common practice in the States for non high-risk pregnancies. My baby's birth weight was guesstimated via the traditional method of measuring the fundal height.
Turns out my obstetrician was right on the birth weight but not the birth date.
On the night of 38 weeks 6 days, painful cramps unlike the usual Braxton Hicks kept me up the entire night. The very next morning, the sight of a bloody show greeted me. Excitement started building up as this was an unmistakable indication that labour was on its way.
39 weeks. I downloaded a contraction tracker app for the first time. When I recorded 5-7 mins painful contractions from 12 to 3am, I thought, "This is it!" and eagerly woke the husband who whisked us to the hospital at 4am.
Disappointingly, the cervix check showed that I was only 1cm dilated. I failed to meet the hospital admission criterion of 4cm. I was sent home to await active labour.
39 weeks 1 day. I entrusted the husband to time my contractions. Near midnight, he started recording contractions 5 mins apart, lasting 30s-45s. Finally what we had been waiting for! We checked into the hospital childbirth ER again.
Our hopes were dashed! Dilation remained at a dismal 1cm. I was extremely fatigued. Non-stop contractions hadn't allowed me rest for the past two days.
The nurse urged me to take a morphine shot to rest. This was a big concession for me because I wanted a drug-free pregnancy. I had gritted my teeth through headaches in my first and second trimesters without reaching for Tylenol. But now I really craved respite from the physically and mentally tormenting contractions so I gave in.
39 weeks 2 days. If I thought the contractions experienced over the past two days were strong, they were nothing compared to today's. Upon admittance into the hospital childbirth ER, the attending doctor did a cervix check and found me 2cm dilated.
ONE CENTIMETER TOOK A FULL DAY OF CONTRACTIONS?!
I was exasperated. How would I ever get to ten to deliver my baby? The same nurse who had seen me for the past two days prescribed lots of encouragement. I was sent home at 2am again with another morphine shot.
39 weeks 3 days. My contractions had reached a record high intensity and were breaking down every ounce of my endurance.
The husband decided to cheer me up by cooking my favourite carbonara for lunch. I could barely manage a mouth. What I didn’t know was that food refusal was a sign of labour; my body had shut down some functions to prepare for strenuous delivery.
In the mid-afternoon, I could no longer take the pain. I was desperate for pain relief and returned to the hospital.
At that point, my contraction intervals were still irregular. I mentally prepared myself for the outcome of being sent home again. Out of formality, I let the on-duty doctor perform a cervix check.
"A stretchy 6."
The husband and I were in disbelief. I couldn't believe my ears. "6, you said?" The doctor looked at my shocked face and gave a firm nod.
Oh thank god. The end was near.
A flurry of activity ensued. I was wheeled into a delivery suite and put on IV. I requested for epidural because I was so drained that I could not trust myself to push my baby out.
My blood was drawn for tests. My obstetrician reviewed them and shared that my white blood count looked unusually high. He reckoned the cervix checks done over the past few days had probably introduced some bacteria into my body. He assured me that this wouldn't pose an issue.
Two hours into being hospitalised, the epidural was blissfully administered by the anaesthesiologist. By then, I was swiftly dilating to 8cm.
I stole an hour of rest before the nurse reached in and repositioned my baby for a smoother birth. Thanks to Happydural, I felt nothing.
Two hours passed and I was swiftly dilating to 9cm. My water bag broke. It was a small trickle of fluid, quite unlike the dramatic gush usually seen in movies.
Half an hour later, I was so, so close to that perfect ten. 9.5cm. The nurse guided me to practise pushing, with the husband helping to hold my numb leg in place.
An hour before midnight, my obstetrician and the full medical team were called in by the nurse. It was time for real pushing.
My mind was completely on my unborn child. The nurse had found traces of meconium in my amniotic fluid discharge. My baby wasn't in acute danger, but I wanted her to swiftly pass through the birth canal and enter the world safe.
I pushed with all my might, in tandem with the nurse's instructions. In less than half an hour, my baby's head crowned and she slid into my obstetrician's hands with clear, loud cries.
The medical team chimed their congratulations. The delivery ward was alive with the sounds of new life and warm wishes.
The husband was invited to snip off the umbilical cord after it stopped pulsating. It had once connected my baby to me, providing for her in every way my body knew how.
My baby was quickly placed on my chest for skin to skin contact. I reflected on the past ten months when the two of us had co-existed. It was surreal to know she had grown from a poppy seed to a miniature human in my body.
She looked like the strangest little thing, but a warm sense of familiarity washed over me. This precious baby is the only person who has heard my heartbeat from within, who knows me by smell and voice.
I held my baby close for close to an hour, awed that she was finally here. I was so smitten by this wrinkly, crusty, fragile little being who laid serenely against my chest that I was oblivious to my placenta being delivered and my obstetrician stitching my second degree tear.
After two days in the hospital, we brought our newborn home. The memory of homecoming would be one I would remember for life. The husband stayed home to take care of me and bubs for four weeks.
He is as hands on as any newly minted father can possibly be. Recently I wrote a letter to thank him for being the sole reason why our little family is thriving - read here.
Gwen is putting on weight well and very social now, smiling and cooing often. There are days I feel extremely sleep deprived and overwhelmed by the responsibility of being a parent but it has been so rewarding seeing her grow day by day.
We are just so in love with her and there is really nothing more we can wish for in life.
You might also like:
Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.