After lugging all our stuff, my husband decided that Mama should come over and spend the night with me. I myself could not envision going through labour alone, and though I was sad that my designated birth companion (my husband), the one who has been attending birth classes with me, who knows all the right words to say, couldn’t be there until morning, I was still thankful.
But the time between my husband leaving to fetch my mum and coming back (which was about an hour) was honestly one of the worst experiences of my life. My surges’ intensity took such a turn to the point where both my thighs felt the “zaps” every time; my legs trembled like crazy. At the time I was not aware that surges may be felt in the thighs. Only later on, reading articles, did I find out that that can be the case:
“…may be characterized by pains in your abdomen or lower back (or both) and may be accompanied by pain in the upper thighs.”
I don’t know how to describe surges other than, you can tell that it’s coming, it’s like a tightening all around your abdomen (unlike period cramps which you can usually pinpoint to a certain area and massaging it or curling into certain positions tends to ease the discomfort). Being alone left me with the most negative thoughts possible. Lying on the bed trying to massage my thighs while remembering to breathe correctly and keep good thoughts was a true struggle. I don’t remember whether I started to vocally cry out with each surge at this point, but I certainly did that a lot towards morning and still feel guilty at disturbing my wardmates’ peace and quiet. (Though I still did hear them snore sometimes.)
They had patient listings on-screen!
Mama was such a champ throughout. The massages were epic, and she kept repeating reassuring phrases to me, “Mama sayang Nchah,” “Sikit je lagi, ni semua nak bagi baby keluar,” “Breathing, breathing”. She did not sleep a wink. I think I managed some form of short naps, though mostly I did keep my eyes shut as much as possible anyway throughout both labour and delivery.
I was not aware of the time, but remember it being time for Subuh prayer, and letting my mum pray first. My husband came back at some point earlier (he spent the night in the hospital’s surau downstairs) and again I felt so grateful. I managed to take wudhu’ at the toilet and pray while lying down on the bed, but not before vomitting on myself right after drinking a cup of warm water. I have been feeling wind and burping urges all night but they did not come out. I hardly ate anyway other than one date and plain water. Throwing up made me feel better though.
(Wanted to also mention this: more of the mucus plug was discharged throughout labour, so toilet experiences were already such a sight. )
I think we called the nurses before Subuh as my surges were getting unbearable (though still not very frequent — they said to inform them if it gets to five surges per ten minutes, but my mum still counted about two surges per ten minutes). I cannot remember the details of events, but there was another VE, and I was four cm dilated, and they said they would bring me into the labour room after 7am. I was in a wheelchair again, though this time in a green hospital gown, head haphazardly covered in a towel and my mind already in a “separuh akal” state, not caring or noticing anything around.
They had like five labour rooms behind this door.
It becomes a long story after this. I need to shorten it because in hindsight, it was a very long wait filled with many attempts at going through the different stages of labour. Points to note:
The labour room was very bright and the lights were not dimmable. We were aware of this. Like I mentioned, I mostly kept my eyes closed and was in my own world.
I brought my bolster pillow to the labour room. It has been my pregnancy pillow and hugging it between my legs while lying sideways has been my position of choice throughout the surges.
Breathing through surges became more and more difficult. I am not a yeller or screamer, truly, but from my memory, my labour was so full of vocal expressions, loud ones at that — I could not find many other ways to express what I felt other than through my voice. I think at times I also flailed around and swayed and shook my legs to try to take the sensations off.
My husband went out for a tiny while to get my water bottle because I was thirsty. At that moment, one of the nurses asked if I wanted gas (pain relief) to take off some of the contraction pain. I answered, “Tak nak!”, as our birth plan even already mentioned not to offer any medication, but she said something about how the baby’s heartbeat chart “nanti tak cantik“, and in my not-quite-sane state I somehow ended up taking some. I don’t know if it helped, the nurse kept saying I should inhale deeper bursts of it, but sometime after my husband came back he made sure to keep the gas mask away from me.
Another remark of another nurse that I remembered was her asking, “Tak nak IV eh?” I said, “Tak“, and she replied, “Kalau emergency?”, and I responded, “Kalau emergency OK”. It was all already in the birth plan and I am thankful that I remembered to answer as we have decided.
I did not have my glasses and so did not track time, though I doubt I would care to even if I could see the clock. It felt very long but in reality it wasn’t quite so.
I remember just surviving the surges, while husband was massaging my back like the nurses taught how to. The labour was dotted with intermittent monitoring of baby’s heartbeat and blood pressure checks.
At some point I reached 8cm dilation, then full dilation. Even before this stage there were so many times when I felt like pushing, in fact my yells were “rasa nak berak…!” because the urge was just so strong. The nurses persuaded me, “Puan, jangan push puan, belum lagi, tarik nafas, tarik nafas“.
I think the doctor came to check on me at least twice in the morning. The second time, when I was fully dilated, I distinctly remember her saying we are waiting for my water to break. “Awak kata nak tunggu dia pecah sendiri kan? Kalau saya pecahkan mungkin cepat sikit but you made your choice.” “But I don’t know how long that will take…” I managed to reply. (I think my doctor’s presence helped me to regain a bit of sanity and consciousness, it is just in her air as she gave salaam and greeted us with her smile as always.) She replied in agreement, “Ha, I also don’t know how long it will take.” I really appreciate the fact that she respected our birth plan and did not try to persuade me to do something I decided early on not to do.
My water did break not too long after, with a surge and a huge gush. I remember remarking, “Airrrr!” and the nurses came in to clean off the bed. The nurses came in and out of the labour room throughout. There were times when it was just my husband and I, and other times when there were one or two nurses around. My husband talked to the baby a few times, saying we are ready for you, you can break the water now, etc.
My husband tried his best to put me in a happy place, bless him, but I think overall I just could barely think of anything. I remember snapping many times, “Shhh!” “Don’t talk about this!“, shoving his hand away because I felt too hot and didn’t want to be touched… (I was warm and sweaty throughout much of labour despite the air-conditioned room.) I tried to remember some of the visualisations I experienced in HypnoBirthing class, I recited the du’a “la ilaaha illa anta, subhanaka inni kuntu minaz zalimin” which my mum kept reciting to me that night, istighfar, selawat, but for the most part, the labour sensations overwhelmed my mind.
I mostly stayed in a semi-reclined position and also on my side (lateral position). After the waters had broken and I was allowed to try pushing, I did attempt to kneel while holding the endrail / holding on to my husband’s shoulders, but in the end resorted back to semi-reclined and lying on my side.
The “pushing” stage was probably most difficult for me. I tried to breathe the baby down, I tried the alternative breathing style whereby you let the breath out in puffs (these are all ways to actually avoid pushing, which leads to tearing down there). After what felt like forever trying different kinds of breathing/pushing (I believe it might have been an hour), the nurses came in to give advice, ie. how to do “purple” (traditional) pushing.
We practiced a few times whenever the surges came. Essentially, you hold your knees up, park your feet and butt firmly on the bed, take a huge breath and push like you’re doing a number 2, but without making a sound or puffing your cheeks or letting the energy escape in any other way but downwards.
When we had enough practice (or maybe when the nurses thought it was time) (or actually, I did manage to hear their conversation about a scheduled caesarean at 12 or 12:30… so maybe they were trying to tie things up here), the doctor came in, they readied the bed and equipments for the final stage, and I tried again and again to really finish birthing. I think the doctor’s instructions helped a lot. There is always a sense of urgency and expertise whenever she was there, and I seemed to be able to take things seriously rather than give into my tiredness and crazy thoughts.
I remember her asking whether I ate breakfast this morning (I did not, even though I remember the tray was already delivered) and remarked that my energy must be low by now.
The nurses who taught me purple pushing also offered me to touch the baby’s head one time down there as I pushed to make me feel more motivated to finish everything off. I did it once, it felt soft and hairy.
In the final stage, there were so many encouragements of “OK OK, just a little bit more, last push!” but of course it never really became the last push. Until at some point when the baby’s heart rate went down to 90 (from 140-150, my baby was such a champ too staying down there and still being strong) and Doctor mentioned the word “episiotomy” before giving me one last chance. Of course I did not want an episiotomy but at this point I simply nodded to everything but gave my “last try” anyway.
During the last shot, I felt burning and pain and I couldn’t really tell how much of the baby’s head was out but kept going as the cheerleaders did their job too. I think it was a struggle for me to “curi nafas” after the first breath ran out. If you can’t make the push continuous, the baby will pop in again. Looking back now, I also think I was not bearing down enough — really, giving birth uses the same muscles as pooping, the sensation is very familiar!
And then it was over. I felt the baby rotating as he came out, and then he was on my chest. I remember noticing his slight conehead and bits of blood in his fine hair, but my mind and feelings were still quite dysfunctional. Maybe I was mostly glad it was over and we made it. He looked reddish pink, had wide slanty eyes and tiny red lips. We stared at the baby for awhile, my husband recited azan and iqamah to him, and then let him latch on for breastfeeding.
In the meantime, my guess is the cord was already cut (Doctor did not agree to delayed cord clamping) and I was given an injection in the thigh to expel the placenta and contract my uterus (we agreed on this when discussing the birth plan), although I was not aware of when this happened. Then came the stitching and cleaning, I had a second degree tear during one of the pushing attempts, though at the time the doctor sounded so matter-of-fact about it all (she simply stated, “Ah, koyak dah…“).
We spent at least an hour in the labour room afterwards, just holding Babyness while one or two nurses cleaned up and got things ready for us to move back to a ward room. I got an empty two-bedded ward for a bit (until the other bed was occupied later in the day), so that was nice. I was basically in the labour room that morning for four hours. My parents were in the hospital foyer the whole time, I remember being wheeled out of the labour room on my bed and my mum’s face entering my blurry vision. I smiled.
I was served a snack in the ward (bread, butter, jam, MILO and orange juice). A sleeping Babyness was wheeled in after he was weighed and cleaned up. His birth weight was 3.09kg. At some point, my in-laws also arrived. I must’ve napped for a little while despite all the visitors.
They took his footprints after cleaning him up too.
We stayed in the hospital that night for monitoring and came home the next afternoon. My husband and mum must have been epic tired as well. But everyone was happy and thankful to welcome Babyness into the family. He did not give us much trouble in the first few weeks (it was just us n00b parents not knowing things like making sure he’s not cold, using Yu Yee oil for tummy wind, burping techniques…), up till his first growth spurt when the fussy side started coming out. But overall, our son is calm, alert and tegap (even in the neck) from the get-go. Alhamdulillah.
InshaAllah I will write further entries on things like packing my hospital bag, what the hospital fees were like and things like that. This whole thing already seems like so long ago. When going through labour, the thought did enter my mind, on how other women could go through this multiple times (seven kids? Ten kids?!) but I think we are also blessed in how the pain/suffering/etc. all seem to be erased just shortly after the experience. The confinement period is a separate thing altogether, but mostly what I can advise on is to REST and to not worry about ANYTHING else other than taking care of and feeding your child. Labour and birth take huge tolls on your body and recovery will not be immediate.
And that things do get better inshaAllah, they always do.