After a year-long hiatus, evidently I am now feeling up for blogging again. I decided to start with something I’d already written up two months ago, ie. the birth of our baby (nicknamed “Babyness” in the womb ). It is a super-detailed account so looks like I’ll have a few parts to it.
We came back to Malaysia from the UK at 33 weeks of pregnancy, at the end of January 2015. I decided to take an intermission from my final year of Master of Architecture after much thought, prayer and discussion.
In Malaysia, amidst the scramble to settle down and also find a hospital to give birth in, I managed to attend HypnoBirthing classes after recommendation from my friend Illy. Previously, my introduction to gentle birthing was through a doctor acquaintance (slash friend and respected older sister figure) who added me to the Gentle Birthing Group on Facebook. I also read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth which I found lovely.
If I were to birth in the UK, I would have opted for a Midwife-led Birthing Unit (attached to a hospital). I did not manage to attend antenatal classes before I flew home, but from what I experienced, the system is very well-established there and pregnant mothers have various birthing options available. (And they are also respected for their personal choices of pain management, birth preferences; all that.)
I had a very smooth pregnancy alhamdulillah (no morning sickness w00t w00t ), and agreed to much of what I learned in HypnoBirthing class: how thoughts, words and fear can affect your experience (not only of birthing, but of life!), the influence of the birthing experience to both mother and child, and the importance of choosing a caregiver and having early communication with them.
We did not “shop” for a Gynae much (didn’t have time to!), mainly I wished for a female Muslim doctor who would be open to discussion of our birth plan. We went for Dr Norshida Brahim of Columbia Asia Cheras based on reviews at GBG and in blogs (and also elimination of other options in my list). I liked the hospital from the first visit – it felt new, fresh, convenient-sized and systematic.
InshaAllah I might share our birth plan later on and how we reached a compromise with several of the preferences.
The following would be my account of how the birth of our first son went, written “live” on the dates and times noted.
Wednesday, 11 March 2015: 38 weeks and 6 days
This morning was scheduled for our weekly antenatal appointment at Klinik Kesihatan, at 10am. Since we were a bit early, and Zauj was hungry (then again he is always hungry ), after parking the car we stopped by a stall to buy nasi lemak kerang (for him) and karipap (for me). (We actually already had some breakfast at home earlier, I always make sure to eat before appointments.) We brought the food with us to KK, I checked in by taking a number and registering my red antenatal book, and sat on a staircase outside to eat while waiting for 10am.
Shortly after 10am, my name was already called for the first station — weighing scale. “60kg”, read the nurse. Yay, same as last week, I said in my head. A few weeks ago I was told my weight gain was a bit overboard (2kg more than what is considered OK in that duration), but it has settled down now. I mostly blame the water retention in my hands and feet.
The next station after checking your weight, is the urine test. It was all routine to me by this time: turn the corner, grab a clean paper cup (ooh I got number 5 again, like last week) and enter the squatting toilet. Today though, I had a bit of a shock at the sight that greeted me as I pulled my trousers down: it looked very much like period blood mixed with clear discharge, and a tiny twinge of redder blood. Oh must be the mucus plug! Also known as the birth show or bloody show, the discharge of the mucus plug is an early sign of labour. My mind wasn’t sure what to do. Uhm, er… what do I do now? Do I still pee?
I decided to head out of the toilet, return the empty paper cup and talk to the nurse who did my weighing. She immediately took me into Room 1, the usual examination room where I meet the community nurse (it’s always the same person, a young nurse with a Kelantanese accent). She recommended that I go to the hospital, “Kalau jumpa doktor sini nanti dia seluk, pastu pegi hospital dia seluk sekali lagi“. (If you meet the doctor here, she’ll do a VE, and then you might have another VE done when you go to the hospital.) I went, “Tak nak!“, and so she matter-of-factly wished me a pleasant birth, “Nanti jangan lupa laporkan kelahiran ye,” and we bid goodbye.
I exited the room and signalled to a confused Zauj that we are leaving. I explained what happened as we walked to the car. “Oh, padanlah you kata you sakit-sakit perut malam tadi.” Yes I did have stomach aches throughout the night, but they didn’t feel like period cramps, so I assumed they were the normal digestion discomforts (which I tend to experience even outside of pregnancy). I then remembered feeling that my tummy was different, that the bolster pillow which I hug to sleep was not as comfortable on my abdomen as it usually is. After Subuh prayer I tried to remember if I felt Babyness moving in the night, but I couldn’t. Around 8am after our walk around the park, he did do his morning stretches though, so I felt better.
At home I attempted to finish packing the hospital bag (I only started doing it yesterday, haha ), listened to HypnoBirthing birth affirmations, and drank lots of water. I still feel gassy and like I need to go to the toilet, so maybe the stomachaches are food-related after all? I also WhatsApped Ayuni, my instructor, to let her know about the first labour sign I’ve experienced, but that I’ve not felt any surges yet.
(FYI, surges = contractions = rushes = waves, whatever you wish to call it.)
Now will probably do some design work on the computer and listen to more HypnoBirth scripts.
Shortly after arriving home earlier, I texted my husband (who went out again to help Abah run errands) a snippet from an online article, just so we won’t get our hopes up too high:
If this is your first baby, your labour may not start for another week or so after you lose the mucus plug. Or it could be a sign that you’re in early labour. Early labour, where you may feel mild contractions, tummy aches, cramps or backache, can last for hours or days.
Our housemaid walked into the room as I was packing, and remarked, “Mau pegi mana ini?” “Hospital.” “O, udah sakit-sakit ke?” “Belum,” I replied in short, as the only sign so far was the birth show. And the fact that we’re not supposed to think of anything as painful in order to avoid pain and fear. Around 1pm I went down to have lunch (although my husband wasn’t back yet, but he has trained me to eat when I’m already hungry rather than waiting for him), it was chicken rice today. I ate quite a lot of chicken. I also noticed the crampy feeling in my lower abdomen in several incidents when I was walking and standing. It felt like tightness all around my perimeter.
It was only until Ayuni replied to my WhatsApp message that I figured they actually counted as surges. Our conversation went as follows:
After working on the computer for a bit (task was creating some icons), I lay sideways on the bed and listened to more HypnoBirthing scripts.
By this time I could differentiate when a surge was coming (or whether it was just Babyness being extra active), and my husband timed them on the BabyBump app.
Thursday 12 March 2015: 39 weeks exactly
As you can guess by the time gap between the last piece of writing and this one, things became quite a bit more eventful in the last 24 hours. My surges were getting intense by night, around after Isha’. I remember breaking the news casually to Mama (about mucus plug discharge and surges starting) before Maghrib and she advised us to get some rest in case we need to go to the hospital that night.
Our weekly antenatal appointment at the hospital was actually scheduled that morning, so plan A was to just attend it as usual if we can make it till then. However, that night near midnight I decided I couldn’t take it anymore. Attempts at sleeping between surges were futile. The breathing and relaxing techniques I learnt worked well for the earlier surges but it was getting too much for the stage I was in. As I spent some time bouncing on my gym ball while watching my husband sleep, my thoughts kept going over the contents of our hospital bag and what else I missed.
After waking up Zauj to say it’s time, we grabbed the last-minute items (fruit, dates, bottled water, chocolates, pillow and bolster, even the gym ball ), bid goodbye to Mama and drove off. The hospital is 30 minutes away, though Google Maps advised us to take a different route due to an accident (indeed we saw the traffic jam as we went on a fly-over) and made it to the hospital around 12:40am. In the car, we timed my surges and they were coming about every six minutes. (Our Gynae’s advice was for us to leave our house when contractions are every 10 minutes.)
We checked in and I was wheeled on a wheelchair up to the labour room. I was still quite sane and felt alert at this point. I had my first experience of a VE (how shall I describe what a VE feels like? Hmm, very not-smooth-feeling and the texture of the glove the nurses wear against your insides feels like crunched-up paper poking deeply around ). “1cm”, she announced. I felt disappointed and negative thoughts started swirling in my head. Only one? After all that? Maybe we should’ve stayed home longer? They also put the ECG on for over half an hour to track the baby’s heartbeat and my surges.
The nurses contacted my doctor, who decided I should stay in the ward that night. One question that I remember a nurse asking was whether I wanted painkillers so I could rest a bit throughout labour until morning. I declined. I think not all of the nurses were aware of our birth plan (which the hospital already had a copy of), because when one of the other nurses noticed the copy we brought with us, she photocopied it. My husband had to go around settling the registration stuff while the staff prepared our ward room. It turned out that they were out of single bedrooms and so I was allocated a bed in a four-bedded room (with two female occupants already in it). We were aware of the system from talking to a nurse during the hospital tour some weeks ago, and that shared rooms basically do not allow male visitors to stay overnight.
Next up: oh how I did not know just how “intense” the surges were going to be… and riding them without my husband slash birth companion?