Updated: Sep 23
Disclaimer: Long post ahead!
So it all actually started 2-3 weeks even before I delivered. I had very mild cramps in my lower abdomen on/off for weeks. The first time I got them, I freaked out a little because I was only at week 37 then and had decided to try expressing some colostrum which I think could’ve triggered the cramps. But the whole cycle lasted for only a few minutes up to half an hour before stopping entirely and were very infrequent. Pain level was just 0.5-1 out of 10.
At week 38, we went for our gynae visit and she did a cervical check for me to see how dilated I was. She reported that the process was starting and I was 1cm dilated. At the same time, she said that she would do a membrane sweep for me to get things going. She did that so smoothly in one go that I barely had time to process it, and couldn’t say no in time. I was really upset after that because based on my birth plan, we’d agreed to do this only at week 40, or earliest at week 39. She also told me that my amniotic fluid level was slightly low, and that if it didn’t go up by the next visit, we’d have to induce. I have to say that I was pretty mad after that appointment. After asking around, I’d heard from friends who went to more pro-natural gynaes that the amniotic fluid level was just an estimate, and that I didn’t really need to be too concerned about it.
I decided then, to skip my week 39 appointment (it was supposed to be weekly visits from week 36). It was a decision that I struggled so hard with!! On one hand, I didn’t want to be induced unnecessarily. On the other hand, I wanted the reassurance that baby was still doing well inside. It was scary, not knowing. But I also felt that the gynae might unnecessarily scare me during the appointment as well, to get me to induce. So I went ahead with the decision, and spammed water in the 2 weeks to hopefully increase the fluid level, and also kept close tabs on baby’s movement.
On 21 Dec, baby’s EDD, we were back at the gynae. I went in with some apprehension. While I was in the process of doing the CTG, my gynae breezed in and asked me if I was ready to deliver. I was just stunned and blinked at her. Then she told me “don’t worry, we can discuss later”. In her office, we did the usual scan, and thank God, the amniotic fluid was back in the normal range! My cervix, unfortunately, had not made any progress and was still only at 1cm dilation, but my gynae managed to stretch it to 2cm. Baby’s heartbeat was also still healthy, so gynae gave me another membrane sweep and the green light to wait one more week. Thank God!
Up to that week, I’d been walking and swimming at least twice a week each to hopefully open up my hips and get baby moving down the birth canal. I was also climbing stairs, 17 floors up to the highest level in my estate every time I came back from my walk. In the last week, I didn’t go swimming but went for long walks every morning. I also did the curbside walk, which is also supposed to help “jiggle” baby into the correct position in the pelvis.
All this while, we hadn’t made any Christmas plans because we’d thought that baby would’ve been out way before, and that we’d be in confinement. But looks like that wasn’t happening after all. I guess baby knew that there was good food for her to enjoy :p And so at the last minute, we managed to join hubs’ family for their Christmas Eve feast. I’d been starting to feel more cramps that day, but once we headed out for dinner that evening, it stopped entirely for the rest of the night.
On Christmas Day, at 40w4d, I decided to sleep in for the first time that entire week. We woke up around 9am and lazed in bed for quite a long time. And that’s when I started to feel the cramps again. Still very bearable once again, around 1-2 on the pain scale, and so I didn’t think too much about it. Got up and had breakfast, and turned on the TV to watch our church’s Christmas Service. I bounced on my birth ball and did my hip circles like what I’d been doing for the past few weeks. It was around then that I noticed the cramps seemed to be a bit more frequent compared to what I’d been experiencing over the past few weeks. I still wasn’t sure whether it was the real thing or not because of the low pain level, and I checked in with other mummies in my EDD Telegram group chat about how they could differentiate between Braxton Hicks & contractions. Apparently the main difference was just in the frequency, so I decided to finally whip out the “Contractions” app to start timing my contractions. I didn’t want to overthink things and raise a false alarm, and I was continuously telling myself that it wasn’t painful xD But we had made (once again, last minute) plans to have Christmas dinner at my parents’ place that evening, so I decided to give them a heads up in case we couldn’t join them for dinner after all. The frequency was pretty iffy, between 3-8 mins, but on average it was 5mins between contractions. My mum said that it sounded quite like the real thing based on the frequency and suggested that I give call to the hospital to check since it was Christmas Day and things could be a bit different. I was surprised that they directed the call straight to my gynae and she was pretty chill about it. She said that I could either go straight to the hospital since average frequency was every 5min, or I could wait it out a little longer.
I didn’t want to head to the hospital for nothing or end up spending longer than necessary waiting in the hospital for my labour to progress, so we decided to just wait. Anyway, we had a ton of last min things to do, so we set about doing all the prep. My parents said that they’ll send us to the hospital whenever we were ready, which was super helpful! So glad that I didn’t go into labour in the middle of the night. I can’t remember what I’d had for breakfast that day, but I recall that I wasn’t very hungry for a proper lunch. But I was thinking that if I did need to deliver, I would probably need the energy. So hubs made a 3-egg scrambled egg for me to eat just before we left for the hospital. My parents picked us up at 4pm and my mum was pretty surprised that I could still talk, walk, laugh as we were on the way to the hospital. Pain level was still 2-3, very bearable and I could ignore it pretty well while I was busying myself earlier.
We reached TMC at around 4.30pm and went up to the delivery ward. The sister there was so welcoming! In fact, all the nurses at the delivery ward were really, really nice. I feel kinda bad that I can’t remember their names, but I’m so thankful for all that they did for me. I was brought to the observation room, and after getting me to change into the hospital gown, they strapped me to the CTG to monitor baby’s heartbeat and my contractions. After awhile, one of the nurses did a cervical check for my dilation, and guess what? She said my cervix was closed. WHAT?! I thought my gynae had already stretched it to 2cm, so I asked the sister if it could close back -.- She told me she’ll check again when a contraction came, and thankfully, when she did, she said that my cervix was open. But….I was only 1.5cm dilated -.- OMG. I couldn’t believe it. After waiting so long (for weeks and during the day…!!!), my cervix had only dilated 1.5cm?! *facepalm* But the nurse said that my contractions were a “good” type of contractions (no idea what that meant), and that they’ll call my gynae to ask if I should be admitted. Thank God she said yes. Imagine having to head home and wait all over again…(well I guess at least I had a Christmas feast as a backup plan, but still).
They needed to continue monitoring me for 1hr and it was such a pain (literally) lying in the bed unable to move much. Hubs had to go off to do to the admission paperwork, so I was literally lying there alone with only the contractions to accompany me. I’m pretty sure that the intensity was the same as when I was at home, but they felt so much more uncomfortable when I had to lie still that way! I was a bit miffed at myself for going in to the hospital so early. Thankfully after the 1hr, the nurses agreed to do intermittent monitoring for me, so that I could get off the bed. I’d asked about the wireless monitoring, but apparently there is an extra charge for it, and the machine was being used anyway. Sister said that she’ll help me to order some sandwiches to eat and asked if I needed anything else. I requested for a birth ball, and was happy to be told that it was available. Yay! The nurses then asked if I’d like to go to the ward or stay in the observation room. I didn’t like being in the observation room where there were other beds (even though I was the only one there at that point), so I opted for the ward. I thought they meant the delivery ward. But no! They actually brought us up to the ward that we’ll be staying in. There was an option to sit in a wheelchair to go up, or walk, and I decided to walk since I was in pretty good shape and I really wanted to get moving to speed up the labour!
We went up to the ward at 6pm, and they told us to let them know when we wanted to go back down to the delivery ward. It was great. We had the whole room to ourselves and I was no longer strapped to the bed. I got hubs to unpack my “labour kit”. Oh btw apparently TMC has a diffuser for patients to borrow if needed! But I didn’t need one because my essential oils were the roll-on kind. I’d prepared quite a bunch of things to “help” manage my surges (like fairy lights, tens machine, a spotify playlist, affirmations etc), though I didn’t end up using many of them. Tried the tens machine but it did nothing to relieve the intensity of the surges so I just stopped using it after 5min. The most useful was probably the birth ball which I continued to bounce on and do my exercises. Hubs was also an amazing support, being super proactive and encouraging, and the massage techniques that we’d learnt were really helpful in alleviating the pain as the intensity increased to level 5-6. At some point, the surges were getting very close in frequency, and I was wondering how far along I was in terms of my dilation. Hubs said to just call the nurses if I wanted to, and so we did.
Things escalated fast after that! When the nurse came back at 7.30pm, she made me get on the bed again so that she could strap me to the CTG. The pain level shot up from there!!! I started crying uncontrollably from the pain and when they asked me what was the level of pain, I could barely answer (probably >>8 on the scale?!). They wanted to measure my contractions but seeing how much in pain I was, they decided to just bring me down to the delivery ward. I couldn’t walk by then, so they put me on the wheelchair and whisked me down the corridors. It was a blur. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t breathe properly and the nurse had to keep reminding me to slow down my breathing otherwise I would hyperventilate. So much for being a Pilates instructor HAHA. It took all my effort to just try to breathe through the pain.
The sister at the delivery ward was bright and cheery as she welcomed me back “Wow, welcome back, didn’t expect to see you again so fast!”. I had no mindspace to answer her. In the ward, I was strapped to the machines and they checked my dilation again – I was at 7cm. Oh God. When I heard that my heart sank, wondering how much longer it would take. Surprisingly, the epidural never actually crossed my mind even at this point, not even laughing gas. The nurses called my gynae to make her way over. Hubs was scurrying around, wetting a cold towel to help cool me down, breathing with me through each contraction, and reminding me that we would be able to see baby soon. I was writhing on the bed with each wave, and I was already feeling a very strong urge to push! The nurses told me to not to push at that point because I was not dilated enough and I was so worried that I would tear really badly, but honestly, I don’t know how you could not push when the urge came because it felt like my body was just doing its own thing and I couldn’t even control it!
Thankfully my gynae arrived really quickly, and they said that I could start pushing once she’d arrived. Everyone was in cheerleader mode and super encouraging. I requested to be in somewhat of an all-fours position, resting against the elevated head of the bed, based on my birth plan. I felt like I was pushing, but apparently baby was not coming down and she was starting to get distressed. I almost started to panic at that point because I didn’t wanna end up in a c-sec, nor lose my baby at that point. So when they suggested that I get back onto the regular birthing position on my back, I did. And mercifully, that was when baby started to make her way down my birth canal. Although the progress which I thought I was feeling was much less than what was actually happening, so it really took A LOT OF EFFORT to push her all the way to the entrance. At that point when she was crowning, I honestly couldn’t imagine getting her out because it felt SO STRETCHED I was sure I was gonna tear. Once her head passed the entrance, the rest of her body slipped out like a fish and it was DONE. 8.55pm.
The nurses placed my little baby on my chest, covered in blood, and I was just kinda in a stunned state. Haha. I always thought I’d cry when I saw my baby for the first time (I always cry while watching those birth videos), but I didn’t. I think I was just so relieved that the pain was finally gone. It was just so amazing though, how there was this new little life in the room, and she was mine :’)
I’m thankful that my gynaecologist and the nurses respected most of my birth plan of an unmedicated birth with minimal interventions – intermittent monitoring, no enema, allowing me to attempt birthing in an alternative position, not offering me any medication, no episiotomy (I still tore naturally).
How was my birth experience? Painful, for sure. But it was empowering, and I thank God for watching over baby and I through the entire process and bringing her into the world safe & healthy.
Hello 2021, a new journey awaits 🙂