I had been feeling contraction pains since 3 weeks before my estimated due date. They were irregular but got more frequent as the days went by. Strangely, people say the real contraction pain starts from back to front, but I was experiencing the cramping from the front to back. So I thought maybe it was just Braxton Hicks contractions.
The sensation got more intense the night of 15 April 2016. Hubby and daughter had already gone to sleep, while I was catching up on some Korean drama series on the computer. After an hour or so, I realized maybe I should start timing these contractions to see if they were regular, indicating early labour. True enough, they were 10-15 minutes apart but after 45 minutes, it slowed down. So I went to bed at midnight thinking it wasn’t a sign of early labour yet. I couldn’t sleep well because the sensation was still there irregularly, but intense. At about 4 am, that’s when things got serious. The contractions got closer and they weren’t going away. It was getting more painful too. I woke hubby up, took a shower, went to cook and eat Indomee, and half an hour later I was in the car on the way to the hospital. Emma was still asleep then. I kissed her and whispered to her that It was time for me to go.
We seemed better prepared this time. With Emma’s birth, I think we all got nervous and panicked. The whole family followed me to the hospital at 2 am, and I was there for 15 hours before being wheeled to the emergency c-sec room. This time, we went into the labour room mentally prepared. I still did not like being strapped up with the monitoring devices. I felt each time I walked or changed positions, it sped up the opening of the cervix. But the nurses would reprimand me for doing so, because they would lose monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat. It was getting very painful, the breathing excercises were barely helping me manage the pain. I wasn’t going to succumb to epidural just yet as I wanted to increase my chances of giving birth naturally. At least, I didn’t need to be induced this time around. I was already at 5 cm dilated when I arrived. When I got to 6 cm, the nurse suggested I take the painkiller through injection, and use the laughing gas mask to help relax my body through the contractions. She also said the painkiller would help speed up the opening of the cervix, but I was a bit doubtful. She was right in the end, within an hour I was dilated to 8 cm. “Almost there! You can do it!” my hubby said to me. I was so ready to get it done amd over with but truthfully I was nervous about the pushing part. At this time, I felt like I needed to poop real bad. Baby’s head was still facing up, which means birthin naturally would be very difficult. I had dilated to 9 cm when the doctor came in and started preparing the birthing bed for the pushing part. We didn’t wait until 10 cm to push apparently, nothing seemed to be in the way and so the doctor gave me the green light to push. It was harder than I thought. It also wasn’t a grntle experience. You have the doctor and the nurses sternly telling you what to do and what not to do. I was advised not to close my eyes. I had to focus the pushing down there and not to hold my breath in my cheeks. At this time the doctor told me that I can try and push and if baby’s head turns, we can do it naturally. The baby’s head did turn after I tried pushing three times. Breathing the gas mask through each contraction definitely helped. It made me drowsy in between contractions, but when the pain started it was enough to wake me up.
Prior to labour, I was tested positive for Group B Streptococcal (GBS). The doctor laid out the risks, and prescribed antibiotics when I admitted into the labour room. However, once the waterbag breaks, the baby is at risk of getting infected. I had hoped the antibiotics was enough to protect him from it, but I was wrong. When the doctor passed him to me, he was a little purple, and he didnt let out a big cry. He was grunting, and so I could not hold him for long. The paedetrician immediately checked and sent him to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). While all that was happening, I was fully drowsy, as the doctor stitched me up. After all that, I rested for a long time in the labour ward because there was no room available for me yet. I was heartbroken, my baby was sick with congenital pneumonia and I couldn’t hold him. My hopes of breastfeeding right after birth went out the window.
I was greeted with the sight of tubes and tapes all over my baby when we visited him at the NICU. I felt heartbroken. Why did I have to pass to him this infection? As a mother you will always feel inadequate, not providing the best for your child. I could not hold him close to my chest. All I could manage was to stroke his arm and head, and let him wrap his fingers around mine. Just talking to him hoping he would be able to hear my voice. Does he even know I’m his mother? Is he wondering where is his warm and loving mother? He opened his mouth to let out a cry but because of the tube down his throat, there was no sound. I started to cry. I will never forget that moment of distress my baby was calling out to me yet I could not do anything.
He stayed in the NICU ward for 4 days. Each day, he showed improvement. I chose to stay on at the hospital as a lodger so that it was easier for me to pass to the nurses the breastmilk that I had pumped. Every two hours, I had a pump to my breasts. It was very tiring, but it helped because Lucas wasn’t tolerating the formula milk they were feeding him. I’m glad every bit of the golden liquid was able to help him in his recovery. But when he was stable enough that I could hold him to initate breastfeeding, he would not latch. I felt the heartache again. He had gotten used to the syringe and cup feedings by the nurses, he did not know how to latch on. Luckily, one morning, a more experienced nurse allowed me to take off his swaddle and shirt. I held him close for awhile against my skin, and within a couple minutes he was able to suckle at the breasts. Skin-to-skin contact! Looking back, I’m surprised the nurses were not as aware of this important knowledge. Even so, Lucas got so used to the cup feedings and the amount they top up with formula, he didn’t suck long at my breasts. The first few days home were challenging too as my milk supply was not quite there yet. He was jaundiced, so his sleepiness did not help with a successful feed most of the time. Worse, the post-natal confinement rules conflict the breastfeeding. After this experience, I am a firm believer that post-natal confinement has no scientific basis and is just another area for folks to commercialize into a lucrative business. I am all for the nutritious food, don’t get me wrong. But things like you can’t go outside because the wind will seep into your body and make you weak, and your hands cannot touch tap water for the very same reason…. It’s all crap to me. In fact, I feel these restrictions are contributing to post-natal depression in new mothers. Yes, we need more rest and care. But it doesn’t warrant a mother to not step into the garden compound of her house for some fresh air (we’re not living in winter so I don’t understand the basis for the cold wind to the body). Anyway, enough of the post-natal confinement experience. The more I think of it the more frustrated I get.
We are at Week 6 with Lucas, and he is growing up to be a sweet boy. Although, he has been demanding with his feed lately. I hope it is a growth spurt, just a phase that will soon pass. Looking back at how tiny Lucas is reminds me of Emma when she was little. Now she is a rebellious threenager, of whom I cannot fathom. At times, I feel like we need a break from each other, as there’s too much drama, too much emotions flailing about. She loves her little brother though, and I’m glad they get along well … for now. I do miss spending time with her yet I can’t wait till they reach an age where they will play together. Right now, we’re still in a bit of a chaos, trying to find some balance and sense into this new routine.