[Alternative title: There is no easy way to give birth]
It all began, like with Benji, with some “bloody show”, a sign that labour is starting because the mucus plug is coming off. Since with Benji it took a good three or four days for this to result in labour, I was determined not to rush to the hospital this time where I knew they would admit me for observation pointlessly. However, on second thoughts, I figured that since the baby was in breech position, I’d better get myself checked out and besides I had a feeling something was happening.
At 37 weeks, I had not yet decided whether I was going to deliver in a private or public hospital. At 36 weeks, I had pretty much decided on private only to go up to the maternity ward for some foetal monitoring procedure and emerge none too impressed with the less than spacious ward and the noise from the visitors allowed in throughout the day. In addition, there was the private hospital’s breastfeeding policy which I knew to be not as encouraging as the public one ironically.
I finally resolved to go private if I could carry Schmoonbee up to the fixed c-section date at 39 weeks but if there was any sign of needing an emergency c-section, I would go public because the cost of an unscheduled procedure would balloon way over a budget I was comfortable with.
While I was pondering these thoughts over the weekend, I was faced with the bloody show on Monday. V was convinced to take a half day off and we trundled down to the public hospital with little fanfare via MTR and minibus.
Anyway, as expected, when I buzzed the labour ward, they insisted on admitting me. A doctor came to do a cervical exam and remembering my awful experience last time, I asked her outright if it was necessary. She got all huffy and said that I had the right to refuse, in a voice that clearly indicated that it would be held against me if I did. She said something on the lines of: “We are only trying to help you and if you don’t want our help then why come?” as if cervical exams are the be all and end all of the process of birthing. In contrast was the midwife who coaxed me into it, saying it wouldn’t hurt and in the end, it didn’t.
That ordeal over, it was determined I was not in labour yet but should be admitted anyway – that being hospital procedure – so I was taken up to the ward. There I was back in familiar surroundings whiling away the hours with the difference from last time being that the nurse told me to let them know as soon as I felt contractions so they could arrange a c-section if need be.
The entire day I felt a tightening sensation that got stronger and somewhat regular but couldn’t be called contractions yet. Just like with Benji, I was determined to tell them I wanted to go home the next day. The baby had other plans, however.
At around 3 am, I woke up to pee and when I got back into bed felt a strange pain in my stomach which I attributed to gas, opting to ignore it while plotting my escape from the hospital the next day. Fifteen minutes later, my water broke. A glance at the clock revealed it was 3.50 am, exactly the time Benji had arrived in 2010.
I called a nurse and after ascertaining that I had indeed ‘broken membranes’, they called a doctor. I reminded them that I had Group B Strep and needed to be started on antibiotics as soon as possible. The doctor took a while to arrive and I was happy that it wasn’t the same one from the morning but a very gentle one with great bedside manner. She did another cervical exam and determined I was about one finger dilated and fixed me up with a butterfly needle in my vein. It took a whole hour before they got the antibiotic into me at 5 am. In between, they asked me when I had last eaten – they need a six hour window to do a c-sec ideally.
At some point, the anaesthetologist came and introduced herself (the first and only doctor in the entire system to introduce herself by name) and asked me some questions about my medical history. They gave me some material to read about the kinds of anaesthesia and I had to sign a couple of consent forms.
As I lay about waiting for the OT to be arranged, I started emailing people – my boss, my sister, my friends and finally V, alerting them that it was all happening. V was totally surprised though I wasn’t. I had suspected that something was happening and it was unlikely to make it to 39 weeks though I had been hoping for 38.
V arrived and called me though he wasn’t allowed into the ward. At 7.30 am, they transferred me to another bed and wheeled me down to the OT. We encountered V en route and he was allowed to come down to the OT with me but had to wait outside. I was relieved when a senior looking doctor took charge of things.
After hooking me up to various IVs (if I remember correctly) and strapping down one arm, the first step was the spinal block. I had some problems curving ideally for them while lying on my side with my big belly and the midwife literally hugged me to her. I flinched when the first injection to numb the area went in but was better for the second.
I felt myself going numb very quickly and this was the most disorienting part. I found myself getting kind of freaked out that that I could not move my legs. I felt like one leg was bent at the knee, though logically it wasn’t, and I kept trying to get it to move. To stave off panic, I tried to breathe deeply. I remembered something GB had written in her birth story – “Breathe for your baby” – and I did that.
They had raised a curtain between me and my belly and I could just about feel some pulling and tugging. Literally, 10 minutes after the spinal block took effect I heard a wail and my baby was out. They whisked her away to another room and like with Benji, I followed the sound of her with my eyes. I realised I was crying when the midwife wiped the tears out of my eyes.
Then began another set of pulling and tugging which I assume was the placenta being delivered and me being sutured up. I began to feel nauseous and had a bit of gagging. The anaesthetologist felt this was due to the manipulation around my belly and not the effect of the anaesthetic.
A nurse then brought Mimi all bundled up to me and I kissed her and then she was taken away. All of an hour later, I was out of the OT and in recovery. I felt my nose and eyes itching and began to wonder if I had picked up some superbug in the OT. Later, I would be told itching is a side effect of the anaesthetic. They kept doing cold tests to see if the spinal was subsiding.
Half an hour later, I waved to an anxious looking V in the corridor and he came over and kissed me and then I was taken up to the ward. The whole morning I was alert and excited. The nurses urged me to keep massaging my uterus to help it contract and I also focused on getting my legs to move. V visited me at noon and I chattered non-stop. The nurse actually asked me at one point whether I wasn’t feeling sleepy.
Then the fun started. I wanted to pee but didn’t want to use a bedpan. Like enemas, I have a thing against bedpans. They told me I needed to try eat something first and check if I felt like vomiting. Since I hadn’t felt any nausea, I was confident I’d pass the test. Alas, a mere cracker reduced me to puking. So I was confined to the bed for longer. In the end, they gave me something to help with the pukeyness and at 8 pm, I decided to attempt getting off the bed. A nurse came with a wheelchair to take me to the loo.
That’s when the pain of the huge cut in my stomach kicked in. Peeing was agony and the worst was having initiated the process of getting up, I was told I was now free to hobble to the loo on my ownsome. Which unfortunately turned out to be something I needed to do every couple of hours. As the morphine I had been given during the surgery wore off, the pain got worse. It seared and burned when I moved and the Panadol they gave me didn’t seem to be working.
The next couple of days were pretty bad in terms of pain.Mimi was in a special care unit because of a kidney issue diagnosed when she was in utero and also because they were unsure they had got the antibiotic for Strep B to me in time. I began to wonder how I was going to hold and breastfeed her. I began to understand what people were talking about when they said that c-sec recoveries are harder than natural birth.
When I compare the two, I’m not sure which one I’d choose. Natural birth was 12 hours or so of horrendous pain. The c-sec was painful for a couple of days after but only when I moved. Definitely, the c-section operation itself was a breeze but the recovery was longer, even given my episistiomy last time. And I didn’t really like the sensation of being paralyzed waist-down. So even natural with an epidural might not be a good choice for me.
Luckily, I don’t ever have to make that choice again.