The Day She Took My Heart Away

I awoke with a Whatsapp message from a friend on the morning of Thursday, 11 July 2013, which was a day before my estimated due date. The ultimate question from my friend was if the baby had popped. My friend, who was celebrating his birthday wished for the birth of my baby on this day. Unfortunately, his wish did not come true. Instead, the day went by as usual. I went for my doctor’s appointment at Week 40. Everything seems to be on track. The doctor laid out labor and delivery options for us if the baby goes past the due date. Since I had gestational diabetes, it was crucial that my diet was under control. Otherwise the labor will have to be induced. He pointed out common risks, such as unforeseen circumstances where natural delivery cannot progress and a ceasarean will need to be done. For some reason he pointed out meconium aspiration, a condition where the baby is at risk of breathing in feces-contaminated fluid when taking the first breath. This is a result of baby having a bowel movement in the uterus. The doctor was tactful in his consultation. The ultrasound cannot confirm if baby has had a bowel movement, and researchers are still unsure why this happens in some pregnancies. He gave us the option to induce labor if we want, otherwise we can wait another week since my diet is well-controlled. I actually felt confused at this last doctor’s visit. It felt quite overwhelming with all that information. Perhaps I was stressed because I felt pressure to actually figure out what the best decision is. If I wait a week, will things take a turn for worse? If I induce, will it be too early and not natural? Will there be complications? My mother-in-law had a different viewpoint to the matter. Perhaps she had an easy labor for both her children and so she thought I would be the same. We forget that every woman goes through different labor experiences. The pain itself is different for each individual … and most importantly, I was too hopeful for a natural delivery that I forgot to lower my expectations in preparation for the real deal. Of course, I want to try and feel my baby, push her out naturally … but nature always throws at us unexpected surprises. Should have heeded my mom’s advice … “Be prepared for a c-section if the situation calls for it. Sometimes you just got to leave it in the hands of the doctor.”

That night, my family and I relaxed with some karaoke frenzy in the comfort of our home. We sang until midnight. I was too tired to continue on. In fact, I had started to feel some intense tightening of the belly, although not regular contractions yet. I remember clearly, at 2.00 AM, 12 July 2013, I woke up to pee. That was when I noticed blood on the toilet paper. Bright red in color. Mucus like in texture. This was the bloody show … but at the time I wasn’t sure if it was suppoze to be bright red in color. I panicked a little. Woke my husband up. Woke my mom up, asked her to come take a look. I wasn’t in any pain yet but the decision was to grab the bag and admit to the hospital. I know alot of resources said wait until the contractions get stronger then go to the hospital, but for some reason … we all felt it would have just been safer to be at the hospital in case complications show up.

On the way to the hospital, I started feeling mild cramp-like pains at my lower abdomen. It was 3:00 AM when they wheeled me into the labor and delivery room. The nurses strapped on the fetal heartbeat and uterus contraction monitors. No, it is not the wireless kind like the Texas Women’s Hospital in Houston. So mobility was limited for me, although I could still get up and walk around if I wanted to. Since it was early morning, we were told to try and get some sleep … but it was difficut to sleep when we could hear painful cries of another woman in the room next door. Besides, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink much until the doctor arrives in the morning to assess. The nurse checked my dilation and I was at 3 cm. I did not like that part. They inserted their two fingers deep into the vagina, and who knows what they were feeling for. It was extremely uncomfortable. So hubby and I continued to wait for 6 hours in that dingy looking room. When the doctor arrived, he confirmed my dilation was at 4 cm. This time he burst the water bag, and broke the bad news that the baby has passed motion in utero. Although, he explained that on the risk scale it was on the mild side. That means the amniotic fluid was not very concentrated with poo. The frustrating part was that he gave us options again. We could do a c-section immediately, or see how labor progresses naturally. The complexity to this decision making process was that the risk of baby having meconium aspiration was already present whether or not it was going to be natural or cesarean delivery. In the end, I chose to try the natural way … Why? In all honesty, I don’t know the reason.

Two hours had passed since the doctor came by. Since then, I was not allowed to eat or drink in case of the need for an emergency cesarean. My contractions were growing stronger and more frequent. Now that there is a risk to baby present, fetal heartbeat monitoring was crucial, and so I had to be strapped on the whole time. The pains were getting worse. I was exhausted and hungry. I thought I could handle it but my pain tolerance was lower than I expected. The nurses kept asking if I wanted pain relief medications but I kept politely refusing the offer. One of the nurses told me I was pretty strong, but she was probably just being nice. My poor hubby, didn’t want to leave my side ven for a minute. I kept asking him to go grab a bite. He had not eaten anything since I was admitted. Even the nurse told him baby won’t arrive so fast! Haha, she was hillarious. So I held on, using the breathing techniques they taught at the maternity class. Time suddenly felt so slow … I was waiting hour by hour with little progress. I started to wonder if I made the right decision for my baby girl. What if I had caused her more distress?

Another two hours passed, my cervix dilated at 5 cm. At least, there’s progress. By now, I was in a lot of pain. These cramps were getting so intense, and I was getting tired of trying to breathe them away. At one point, when the contraction pain came … I cried. Hubby wasn’t around as I finally convinced him to go eat something and let my parents and his parents know my status. They’ve been waiting with me this long as well, but they were not allowed to see me in the labour room. Finally, I gave in to the pain. Without further ado, I asked for the epidural because I knew I didn’t have much strength left to withstand the pains when the cervix dilates even more.

I whimpered like a kitten who was about to have its neck snapped. The stories about epidurals gone wrong have frightened me a great deal. I don’t know why it affected me so much. Perhaps, I was already in so much pain, and the fear of a needle going the wrong way at my spine just brings it to a whole new level. In reality, the whole process was not that bad. And I’m really glad I asked for it. In just 15 minutes, I started to feel some relief. After an hour, the lower half of my body was numbed out. When the nurses came in to check my dilation again, I felt absolutely nothing! It was a great relief! I really disliked the discomfort each time they checked my dilation. To our dismay, the dilation was still at 5 cm. And I thought the pain was associated with a 7 cm dilation. My contractions were going the right way, but the cervix was just not opening up. The nurse also mentioned the baby’s head was still in posterior position. I was at a lost. I was hoping for a natural birth, but all the signs were pointing a cesarean delivery. Now, all we could do was wait for the doctor to come by to reassess. It had been a long 15-hour journey …. When the doctor finally arrived, he checked my dilation again … it was still at 5 cm. Baby’s head had not descended and turned to anterior in preparation for birth. I was already at maximum dose of oxytocin. The doctor called for an emergency cesarean.

My heart ached. I wasn’t sure why I was upset. Tears started rolling down my cheeks as I held on to my hubby’s hands. Did I make the wrong decision? Was baby alright? She seemed to be okay as her heartbeat was still at a normal rate. But was she really ok? All these random thoughts were going through my mind while the nurses prepared me for the surgery.

At the waiting area in the surgery ward, the anesthetist increased the epidural dose. I started shaking pretty violently. I thought it was my body panicking at the thought of surgery but I was wrong. I was told this was one of the side effects of epidural and there was nothing harmful about it. The whole time I was shaking intensely. They wheeled me into the surgery room, prepped me up. Hubby was sitting behind me. The doctor came in and started the surgery without further ado. I felt everything went by so quickly. Till today, I’m still not sure if it was a good or bad thing. To think that I was suffering for 15 hours waiting when all of it could have been taken care of initially with an 8-minute surgery …

Literally, it was 8 minutes from the point the doctor made the incision, to my baby taking her first breath and letting out her first cry. Her first cry was the sound of angels to my ears. I was extremely thankful to the heavens that she was safe. They managed to vaccum out the fluid from around and in her nose before she took her breath to minimize the risk of meconium aspiration. I guess this is what they truly call tears of joy 🙂

I saw my baby only briefly. I could not hold her yet as they still had to stitch me up. The nurse just shoved baby’s face to my face as she informed me baby is a girl. My eyes were filled with tears and so I did not get a good look at her. For some reason, my husband left the room too with the baby. There I was left lyin in the surgey ward as they cleaned and stitched my wound up. Then, they wheeled me to the recovery area, where I took an hour long nap apparently. My family was worried as they didn’t know where I was, and my husband couldn’t get back in to the room to see me. When the nurses confirmed that my condition have stabilized and I wasn’t bleeding abnormally, they wheeled me back to the post-delivery ward. My parents, my in-laws, and my husband were waiting eagerly for me. Not long after they transferred me onto the bed, my baby was wheeled into the room. They placed her lying right beside me since I wasn’t able to sit up and hold her. It was an indescribable feeling, having baby Emma right next to me now … instead of inside my belly.

Although, a strange thing happened. Just when everyone had a chance to admire little Emma, my mother received a phone call from her hometown, which brought sad news of my grandmother’s passing. There’s birth … and then there’s death, all in the same day. I was shocked, but too tired and beaten up by the labour process to shed anymore tears. I felt sad of course, seeing my mother cry. I had told my grandmother that we would bring baby to see her once she was born. Sadly, I am not able to do that anymore. We can only show our respects now through an incense prayer.

I never knew someone so little could exist so beautifully inside of me. I never knew I could give my whole heart to someone I’ve never even met. She is now here with me, with us. The joy of having an addition to the family is undeniably immense. Like a celebrity walking the red carpet, everyone once a piece of this beautiful memory. So there it is, Day 0 of Emma in our life. The journey of motherhood has just begun.

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