Life moves on fast like lightning, especially since I gave birth. I’ve wanted to write about how my labor progresses although it all seemed quite insignificant now that the baby is here. I still want to tell you why I chose to have a natural birth, why I didn’t know an induction was performed, the eerie 44 hours of labor, and how I almost ended up having a C-Section and how epidural helps me to avoid just that.
I never thought much about birth. I do know I want to avoid having a caesarean procedure as much as possible, having watched the video in high school. Not to mention the higher side effects and risks. After reading several books about my options in ‘painkillers’, I chose to do a natural birth. It means to have the baby delivered vaginally, without episiotomy, and without medication at all. How would I handle the pain? If women could do it naturally before modern medicine was invented, surely I could survive.
I thought I could. It was on my last visit with the OB, week 40 minus one day. I was already dilated 2 cm the previous week and I was 3 cm that day. She asked me, “Do you want me to strip the membranes?” I was confused. I’ve read a few books but I never came across it. I asked what it was and she said it’s just a simple procedure where she use her fingers to gently separate the bag of water from the side of the uterus near the cervix, which can be done in seconds as she check the cervix opening. I asked whether it was an induction, which I’m against, and she said no, it wasn’t.
Well, it was actually an induction. I started having terrible cramps after that, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Until 3 am that night when the pain, apparently called contraction, starts to come every five minutes. I could manage the pain during the first 12 hours after that. But after 12 hours I began to scream every three to five minutes. By the 16th hours we went to hospital again to find it opened another 3 cm, so it’s 6 cm dilation when they finally admitted me to labor & delivery. My doula came to the hospital and put a TENS unit on my back, which I barely feel. I kneel on the bed with labor ball on my head, back massaged by my sweet husband or doula, I walked, squat, sit on the ball.
“I got this,” I remember saying it to myself. But it took me ten to fifteen minutes to pee, because the pain was so excruciating trying to let the bladder out but holding the contraction intact, which feels like an alien pushing out of your belly downward but it was stuck. I know my labor could not progress if I couldn’t manage to pee because it blocks the cervix. By then it has been about 2 hours since I managed to pee. My ob came at around 2 pm (23 hours of labor) and I admitted that I don’t think I could handle it and that I couldn’t pee. She came to check the cervix and by then it was only 7 cm. I asked her to break the water and to give me an epidural. I had lost my voice by then.
I slept soundly after that, the same for my husband and doula who were also stressed out because we weren’t expecting the labor to be this long. It wasn’t until around 7:30 pm when a nurse told me it’s just another half centimeter before we can start pushing. She said my vagina was so tight (thank you, nurse) and she used probably 4 fingers to pry it open wider (get off me!). She wanted me to start pushing about half an hour after that, teaching me how to feel when and how to push, which is basically like when you had to go number two, only different hole. Ha! The three of them, along with my husband and doula, were so passionate in yelling PUSH for the first hour. Seeing how unsuccessful that was, I agreed to have Pitocin to speed the labor. I start to feel the contraction again after that and I refused to have more epidural by then so I could feel when to push. The three musketeers still yelled, “push”, “one more time”, “that’s it”, “you’re doing great,” while I groan, scream, and cry. Yes, that nurse trying to make passage for my soon-to-be-born baby actually gives me more pain than the whole 42 hours of labor before that. I had no idea. No one told me.
I believed them every time they said one more time. I was so upset when the nurse finally called the stand-by labor doctor and they told me that the baby was facing up and so his shoulder was stuck on your pelvic bone. Wait, what? My ob told me he’s in normal labor position on our last visit. Again, I knew didn’t it mattered. I thought as long as the head was down, it was normal and he should just slide out like how we saw it in movies. I just found out recently that it’s called ‘sunny side up’, the ob-gyn should be aware when performing cervix or pelvis exam, and that they or certain doula/midwife and even chiropractor could turn the baby to ‘the normal’ head down facing down position. Oh, little did I know!
The doctor was upset because it was a prolonged labor and she thinks the baby was also in distress. She said most cases like this ends up in C-Section, how a few hours longer could harm the baby and the mother, and how it is not possible that I could get the baby out in that tight passage after pushing for 2 hours. But I didn’t set out this journey without a fight. I asked her to use suction or vacuum, to help hold the baby moving forward as I pushed. She refused but I kept on begging, and she finally said she would try once. It takes probably ten minutes after that to push a few more times and then my baby is out to see the world. They put him right on top of my chest when he began to cry.
I was surprised, as I wasn’t expecting him to be that big. He was born 7 lbs and 11 oz. He had trouble breathing so they took him from me, put him under the heater while cleaning him and clean his air passage. It wasn’t until after they finished stitching me up about 30 minutes later when they handed him over to me and I start nursing him. This will begin my breastfeeding journey, which I shall write at the next chance.
I guess I know wouldn’t be able to handle the pain after they broke the water without pain medication. I needed the sleep before I start pushing, and there’s no way I could handle the pain being pried open as I pushed. Without my doula I would probably gave up shortly after they admitted me, and I remember thinking just do a C-Section right now if it means the pain will stop. But she holds my leg steady for about 2.5 hours as I pushed and she assured me that I can do this and the pain is normal. Without someone telling me this pain is normal I probably would have given up.
Sometimes it’s easy to set a high expectation and believe we could do it, but sometimes it clouds our judgment and end up putting others and ourselves at risks. I know what I know, but there are things I didn’t knew and I couldn’t change. I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I want you to know that it’s okay if your birth plan didn’t go according to plan. Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are amazing. What matters the most is to have your baby delivered safely. In the end, we are all humans, but just carrying our baby inside of us is amazing enough. It’s been almost 7 months since the day my baby was born and he’s still not sleeping more than a few hours at a time, but that’s okay.
That’s what mothers are for. To comfort, to nourish, to guide and to guard, to listen, to understand, to nurture, to satiate, to entertain, to be there for them and just be. Because mother is the only thing a baby needs. For now. So, happy Mother’s Day to all mothers all around the world! Now I finally understand when you said kids grow too fast. And to my mother, I love you. Always.