Clearly, I find it a struggle to blog about anything these days, but for birth stories: I must write! It’s just something I wish to re-read in the future, or if my kids ask what their births were like, I’ll have them read these themselves (God knows I’ll forget the details anyway).
This was actually my fourth pregnancy; I experienced a miscarriage in the first trimester sometime mid-2019. Alhamdulillah we discovered this pregnancy early this year, 2020, and are very thankful for the blessing of having our next baby!
The pregnancy experience this time was slightly different from previous ones:
We decided to stay where we are this time instead of balik bandar to my mum’s place like previous births and confinement periods. For one, Mama’s loyal house helper of 24 years has retired and returned to her homeland. Also, my older son is 5 and in kindergarten so we wouldn’t want him to miss school. Alhamdulillah, Mama agreed to come here to help us during this time.
As mentioned previously, we discovered the concept of gentle birth and Hypnobirthing and they all emphasise the importance of choosing the right caregiver for you. I did a quick search in Facebook groups and came across mentions of Dr Suhaiza Abdullah from Kuantan Medical Centre. Husband’s colleague also recommended this doctor for attending to my miscarriage in 2019.
Since it is our third baby, our experience has led us to just a few requests related to birthing. We discussed our birth preferences in one appointment and she patiently went through the list to explain what they can and cannot cater to. She respectfully declined to sign the birth plan, but we verbally agreed on us:
It was an ordinary Tuesday, with the exceptions of:
At night I texted my old buddy Kim who is in Sabah, checking in with her due to the high Covid-19 cases. I shared with her that we’re awaiting the arrival of baby #3 anytime now. It was good and relaxing to chat with an old friend; I feel it’s really necessary especially this year when everything seems to have turned topsy-turvy.
I knew I couldn’t sleep early due to the naps, so I watched YouTube and a webinar recording till midnight. Interestingly, there was a point where the guest mentioned a wife in labour and how that shows the love for her husband and I shed a tear! Blame the pregnancy hormones.
I could barely sleep at night, as usual. Turned and turned and turned on the bed. Took a toilet break, didn’t know what time it was though, and tried to go back to sleep.
At some point I decided to wake up and sit on the peanut ball (an inflatable exercise ball, but shaped like a peanut, not a sphere). It was almost 5:30am. I tracked a few surges with the app, they were about 30 seconds long but irregular. I woke husband up for prayers, told him I thought I was having surges but I wasn’t sure because they were mild.
He said he knew something was up. “Because you’re awake so early.” Usually I have trouble sleeping at night because of my back aches, then wait till the last minute to wake up for prayers, then sleep in again to make up for lost sleep.
I already decided we should go to the hospital (which is an hour away) after Subuh. A few factors: traffic, wanting to leave before my two older boys woke up, and preferring to be on the safe side due to my last labour taking a very short time.
My husband made me a jam and butter sandwich. I told him he should eat too, to which he replied, “But I don’t know what to eat” (and I internally eyerolled—his definition of breakfast is either nasi lemak or nothing). Luckily I later noticed a plate of cheese sandwich in the car which he ate while driving.
Mama knocked on the bedroom door. I was all dressed in tudung and socks, bouncing on my peanut ball. We told her we’re leaving for the hospital, she gave me a hug and asked last-minute questions about the boys’ habits and routines. And she packed me an apple and pears into ziploc bags.
The drive was uneventful, I listened to my two Hypnobirthing tracks, Al-Mathurat pagi and husband recited two surahs. My surges were regular but manageable, I didn’t need any massaging. In my mind I thought maybe I’m 4cm dilated, at most 5, seeing that the surges were not that strong. Husband texted a few work people to take his leave for the week, and called the hospital and our medical insurance.
I was dropped off at the emergency department, sat in a wheelchair with my bag, “cashew” neck pillow and bolster pillow.
Husband went to park the car, and it turns out the car decided to break down there and then in the parking space. (Long story short: a cable snapped when he changed gears, luckily we managed to get it repaired the next day.)
I remember him coming into the emergency department afterwards holding my inflated peanut ball. This humourous vision—him and the peanut ball in the hospital—helped get me through quite a few surges alone later on! (I didn’t end up using the peanut ball at all.)
I was wheeled through to the third floor, without my husband because they needed to do the Covid-19 swab test on me (and wait for the results, apparently?) before he’s allowed in.
They brought me to a sectioned-off ‘room’ near the labour rooms. I stuffed my handbag and bolster under the bed. I was asked if I wanted the toilet and I said yes. The nurse told me to take off my underwear too.
She strapped the CTG belts and I requested that the bedhead be raised a little bit. She was a nice nurse and responded kindly. She checked for dilation and said 2-3cm. Shortly after, I felt warm liquid down there and thought it might be blood. (It was the mucus plug, “Lendir sebab check jalan tadi”, the nurse told me after I informed her).
I remember the nurse asking if my appointment was coincidentally supposed to be today. I replied, “Ah… esok. Harini Rabu kan?” I think she asked because my husband said I was 40 weeks earlier downstairs (technically I was 39 weeks and 6 days).
I was then mostly left alone with the CTG beeping, monitoring my surges and the baby’s heart rate. The space was pleasant enough. A wall clock, orange curtains, some baby pictures and breastfeeding pamphlets on the wall.
I heard a lady in labour down the corridor. No, I heard a nurse coaching a lady in labour down the corridor. “Teran lagiiii!,” said the loud yells. Followed by the mother squealing. And I heard a male voice too, must be the husband. In my head I was praying, “I do NOT want that nurse in the labour room with me”.
(At some point there came a baby’s cry! Alhamdulillah. And thankfully no more yelling from then on.)
I tried my best to breathe, to loosen my jaw, to remember the affirmations: I meet each surge only with my breath. From experience though, these only work up to a point.
Then I needed to lie on my side. I tried calling the nurse to help me get my bolster from under the bed but there was no reply. So I just shimmied around to reach for the pillow.
I remember the intensity increasing and wishing my husband was there to massage my legs and buttocks. I tried doing it myself. I was getting warm and removed my hijab pins, but wasn’t sure if it was right to take my hijab off yet.
The wall clock moved very slowly. All sorts of thoughts came to my head:
How do people birth so many babies: 7, 8, 9? Maybe 3 is enough for me. (I’ve always envisioned a maximum of 5!)
Then I thought, maybe Caesareans aren’t such a bad idea, some people choose to have it voluntarily!
I also guesstimated how long it would take for me to dilate… What if I’m only gonna be done at 12 noon? Noooo. I prayed hard for ease and a quicker labour.
Memories of my first labour, when I was left “alone” because it was a shared ward, came flooding back. It didn’t feel good.
At some point I called the nurse again. “Mana suami saya?” I asked. “Sakit ke?” she replied. Oh before that, she did come in to ask me to “tulis buku”. I repeated blankly, “Tulis buku?”, she took a look at my face (presumably sweaty and all out of it) and immediately replied, “Takpe nanti suami tulis”.
I think she checked me again and said 5cm. At some point before, she mentioned “boleh duduk wad” (maybe because I was only at 2cm?) but I thought to myself, I’d rather do the labour room. Thankfully she now said, “Boleh pegi labour room lah”. I asked, “Selamat tak nak bukak tudung? Saya panas”. She said, “Ada patient”, so I kept it on till we reached the labour room.
I think it was 9am by now. They wheeled me to the labour room just across the corridor. It was much colder and I didn’t see a wall clock (it must have been behind the bed). They made me change into a hospital open-back shirt even though I tried to decline, “Takut saya sejuk”. But the nurse insisted so I changed.
After transferring to the other bed, another nurse came to do the Covid-19 swab test. It was not bad, the swab was long but tiny. She even asked, “Dah berapa cm dah?” Semi-confused, I answered, “Umm, 5 kot”, while internally facepalming and thinking she shouldn’t ask a labouring woman such questions. My husband later told me that the lab opens at 8:30am, making me wonder how the other patient managed to have her husband with her if she hasn’t had the swab test done. Maybe she checked in the night before?
The nurse in the labour room was a different one than in the waiting area. I remember remarking, “Keluar aiiiirrr”, because my water broke in a huge warm gush and wet the bed. (Remarkably, my bolster pillow stayed dry.) She said, “Takpe puan, tarik nafas dalam-dalam”. I remember my exhales now being accompanied by vocalising, “huuuuu, huuuuuuuu”.
My husband was still nowhere to be found.
The intensity increased after my water broke. I was still in lateral position, mengiring kiri hugging my bolster, wearing my neck pillow, closing both eyes. It was a relief to finally hear my husband’s voice. (He said he was filling in forms and could hear me in the labour room. I wanted to facepalm when I heard this. So much for husband accompanying me during labour!) The nurse and my husband massaged/rocked my back, one person doing the lower region and one upper. It helped so much. Then I started to remark, “Nak push, nak push“… so many times. The nurse encouraged me to breathe, “Selawat, jangan fikir rasa tu”.
And so I did. Allahumma solli ala Muhammad, wa ala ali Muhammad. The nurse praised me when I got it right. She and my husband selawat with me too, again and again and again.
Sometimes I slipped and went at it again, “Nak push… nak push…“ My lower body started shaking in protest. Oh how I recognised this part of labour.
I don’t know what was the sign that it was OK for me to push—the doctor arriving? Or when I said the word “crowning”? The pressure around the lower back / pooping region was very significant.
But finally they did let me push. I think one of the nurses asked me to baring terlentang, she said “lagi senang nanti“, I remember saying very clearly, “Tak nak, nak macam ni (mengiring) je”. I still had my eyes shut most of the time.
Then doctor asked me to lift my right leg (I didn’t know it was the doctor at the time, husband told me this fact later), presumably to start pushing. “Tadi kata nak push kan?” I heard someone say. I took deep breaths and led it downwards to the back of my throat, just like my practices in the toilet (to do business #2).
I heard a nurse’s voice protesting, not letting me vocalise, “Bukan macam tu”, but I did what I wanted to. In what seemed like less than a minute, it was over. Yes there was pain, I felt stretched to the max down there, but it was over!
I just thought over and over, “Allah is too kind. Allah is too kind to us. Ya Allah.”
“9:42”, someone announced the birth time.
I breathed sighs of relief, opened my eyes and started to regain my senses.
The rest of the process was straightforward. I had stitches for a first-degree tear, then birthed the placenta. I remember the nurse who attended me in the waiting area popping her head in the room to comment on how fast it went, “Tadi baru 2-3cm”, she told the doctor. The labour room nurse also commented, “Puan memang bersalin macam tu ye?” (maybe referring to my teran style and/or my lateral position and/or the quick progress).
Baby was placed on my chest, but after a few minutes seemed like he wasn’t ready for breastfeeding yet so they took him for cleaning and suctioning (my husband followed him). I relaxed in the labour room, watching the morning scene outside the window, while the nurse started cleaning things up.
The only surprise: baby weighed 3.79kg at birth! SubhanAllah. My husband said even the doctor was surprised to hear this afterwards. He was only estimated to be 3.1kg in the last scan, and my previous kids were born at 3.09 and 3.05kg, respectively.
All praise and gratitude be to Allah.
Baby F was born barely 4 hours after my first surges at home. We were discharged from the hospital the day after and returned home to much excitement from the big boys.
I am very thankful for everything: the relatively uneventful labour, the doctor and staff involved, my husband, my two older boys, Mama, and all my colleagues and friends.
Allah is too kind.