The birth story that never got published, until a year later. Because life as a mum of three is so full of life and love. For photos of the birth, hop on to https://vimeo.com/176589079
Three is the Perfect Number
We thought we were done, but we were not. Soon after Xandrea turned 2, I began toying with the idea of adding another little one to the family. Somehow somewhere, something felt missing in the puzzle. Like a call remained unanswered, or an explanation remained untold. Whenever I envisioned the future, I have always imagined having three grown-up children – with the youngest a boy, tall spotting glasses. Whenever I watched Ewan and Xan playing, it always felt more fitting if there were one more sibling to join in the fun.
We were skeptical at first. It just didn’t seem practical, what with the rising cost of living. With both kids all grown up and rather independent now, we could finally go for a movie or lunch date on our own – uninterrupted! Travelling has become easier too. Yet we couldn’t stop talking about it. There was still space in our hearts to nurture another child. It took us almost a year of contemplation before we decided to give fate a chance and try for two months. What are the odds, right? If it happens, great. If not, we’ll move on.
The stork has been watching us closely. We fell pregnant on the 2nd month. Destiny or miracle? We’re not sure but we do know that three is indeed the perfect number for us.
The pregnancy was full of uncertainties to begin with. It wasn’t the happy, glowing and all-things-great kind of pregnancy that I have had with my second child. From falling sick and family issues to the challenging search for a doula and photographers for birth and newborn, nothing seemed to come within my grasp easily. Circumstances had me switching from one doctor to another, with the third and last one just two days before I went into labour.
It was hard to stay positive. If there was one thing I have learned in this pregnancy, it was to relax and just enjoy the journey. There was a constant voice coming from within, telling me to “Just let it go. There’s no need to plan so much. Everything will fall into place eventually”. And it was with that mantra that I surrounded my mind and soul with, in preparation for my labour and birth.
Myth: Subsequent babies come earlier.
Truth: Baby will come when baby is ready, no matter the order of pregnancy.
Both my older children came within the 38th to 39th week mark. When there was no signs of labour by mid 38th week, the jitters set in. The Husband’s leave has begun, the summer holiday has started and my doula and doctor were leaving for their vacation soon. As again, I felt the need to take charge and be in control. There must be something that I could do. From DIY acupressure and climbing the stairs, to eating pineapple and spicy food and doubling the intake of raspberry leaf tea and dates, nothing seemed to bring on the real deal but only prodromal ones comprising constant practice surges and bowel movement. It was a very trying, emotionally draining period.
Then I decided I have had enough. No more putting my life on hold for uncertainties! I finally threw in the towel and decided to plan my days as if I were not pregnant. Breakfast? Sure. Playdate? Why not. A fun day out? Let’s do it!
4th July 2016 ~ The Day Before
I woke up feeling really tired despite a good night’s sleep. The Husband was working and I was in-charge of the children and their meals for the day. I took things slow and easy throughout the whole day, bringing them to a nearby store for some groceries in the morning. After lunch, they had their free play with the neighbour’s son while I took a long, deep nap on the couch. It was much needed. When the Husband declared that we were having dinner out, I was relieved and ecstatic. That night, I was woken up with an urge for a bowel movement that couldn’t be ignored. After that, I couldn’t go back to sleep and stayed awake almost the whole night dealing with some period-pain like cramps and very mild surges with intense, downward pressure.
5th July 2015 ~ B-Day
I remember waking up that morning contemplating if I should cancel my breakfast date with Julia. It was to be my treat for her upcoming birthday. Not wanting to spend yet another day lying around and obsessing about going into labour, I got changed and whispered to the Husband that I had been experiencing weird surges with intense pressure around my cervix the whole night. He thought nothing of it and went back to sleep.
Breakfast was uneventful with on and off surges that had me stopping to focus on them. They were still mild and very manageable. I drove home after that to join the Husband and children for our trip to Kidzania. I spent half an hour with them before moving on to the next plan. “Please watch out for your phone, just in case I go into labour today,” I reminded the Husband before leaving to a nearby spa for a pre-scheduled post-natal massage. Upon entering the massage room, tranquillity set in. I told the masseur, “Press any points you want and don’t worry about putting me into labour. I’m so done with being pregnant!” to which she smiled and said in her very pleasant Thai-accented English, “Baby will come on his own, Ma’am”
I made my way back to Kidzania. All was still normal as I queued up at McD’s for my lunch. After that, as I waited with the kids for the activities – and as if on cue – the surges kicked in again. It was getting more intense and I took the opportunity to practise the surge breathing which helped tremendously. It was 2.13pm, I could still walk and talk, and was very much still myself. Not entirely sure if it was a real deal or false alarm, I decided to time my surges for the next one hour.
The surges were one minute long each, though inconsistent in time gap ranging between five to 12 minutes throughout that one hour. I sat down and waited for my children to complete their activities there. When the surges became more uncomfortable, requiring my full attention to get through them and attracting curious stares from onlookers, I called the Husband and told him it was time to go.
On the way home, I texted both my doula and back-up doula as well as photographer to pre-empt them. It was around 4pm when we stepped into our apartment. The Husband gave the children a quick shower and whipped up some dinner for them while I took a hot shower and did some last-minute packing. I could still manage a bump selfie in the bathroom. For memory’s keepsake. The surges that rolled in after that had me kneeling on the floor – with my eyes closed and arms around a gym ball – to get through them. They were now three minutes apart. I no longer bothered checking my beeping phone anymore. Both my children chuckled at the sight of their mum hugging a ball on the floor. They came over and started messing around me, asking “What are you doing, Mummy?” and “Mummy is sleeping on a ball hahaha!” I couldn’t bring myself to answer them anymore.
I stared at the Husband in the kitchen after each surge, waited and waited wondering what was taking him so long. When I could no longer take it anymore, I asked him, “Can we go already?” to which he replied, “Oh you want to go already?” I mumbled, “Yes, any longer I will pop out here.”
The Husband took a quick shower while the kids made their way to the neighbour’s just two doors away, excited for their very first sleepover. We thanked our neighbour for helping us with our children and made our way to our car. As the lift to the carpark opened, a long and intense surge came, holding me stationary for a good one minute while I hung on tightly to the lift bar. A couple who coincidentally rode the lift with us panicked upon seeing my reaction and started helping my Husband with the things he was carrying and waited for my surge to be over before walking to our car with us. After loading our things in the car, they wished us all the best. I will always remember the little encouraging words from the lady that very moment – “Good luck, it’s worth it!”
In the hospital
The 10-minute ride to Al Zahra Hospital felt like 30 minutes, with road humps adding to the discomfort. I reminded the Husband to go slow when he started speeding. A surge came as we reached the hospital and stopped his car at the entrance of A&E. He suggested that I should get down first and make my way to the Admission counter while he parked the car. At that point of time, I could no longer bear being alone without him. We walked a short distance together, hand in hand, as another surge came and we stopped to focus on it. By then, the surges were two minutes apart. Hoping that walking will help to get things moving along quicker, I declined a wheelchair and walked to the labour ward slowly, as we surfed through two more surges, with both times on the floor with my arms around my ball and his hands giving my hips a counter pressure.
While waiting to get my name registered, I once again knelt down in front of the labour ward reception to get through another surge. It was 5.30pm when the midwife led me to the labour room and requested me to lie down on the bed for a CTG monitoring. I knew what lying down would do to me, so I knelt on the bed with my arms around the ball instead. They couldn’t get any signal in that position and suggested for a vaginal examination instead. Desperately wanting to get into the birthing pool soon, I agreed to it. My heart leaped in joy when the midwife shared that I was 8cm along. “I can see the head already,” she added, which raised my hope that it won’t be long now. Little did I know that false hope was to become the stumbling point of my labour.
We walked to the Hypnobirthing suite, which also housed the only birthing pool of the hospital. The water was running, the room was dimly lit with ambience stars and the clock showed 6pm. Without further ado, I got into the pool and let out a sigh of relief. I felt better immediately.
As I sunk into my own zone, the events that happened after that became bits and pieces of puzzles put together. The Husband called my doula and photographer to update them on my progress. I remember hearing Dr Amber’s voice as she said hello to me and “I’m glad I met you two days ago.” Having known that my previous doctor would leave for her summer holiday earlier than expected, I switched to Dr Amber just two days before.
Then my photographer arrived, followed by my doula shortly after. I was labouring as quietly as possible, consciously reminding myself to keep breathing love and oxygen to baby. It was a change of work shift and my existing midwife was replaced by Bethany, whom I would be forever grateful to for the outcome of my labour and birth eventually. Sweet-looking and respectful with an empathy for her clients’ needs, she made the whole experience worth remembering.
At one point, I started feeling pushy, like a big bulge was making its way out of my cervix. Erin guided me to hum instead. At each surge, the Husband would give me counter pressure on my hips while Erin took care of my sacrum. These helped greatly. My knees were feeling tired from constant kneeling and though I’ve tried changing positions to sitting upright, it didn’t feel as comfortable as kneeling. Erin kept feeding me with water throughout.
Two hours passed since I was last told by the first midwife about the sighting of baby’s head. I was getting demotivated, worrying why it took so long for baby to crown. I could still feel baby’s kicks inside, but not the significant downward movement I was hoping for. I reached my hand inside and felt a smooth and slippery bulge which I later realised was my waterbag. With tired knees and throat, we got out of the pool to change positions with the hope that it would get things moving quickly. As again, as a surge came, I dropped to my knees and hugged the birth ball.
Dr Amber dropped by for a second time to check on me. From sitting upright on the birth stool and birth ball, to standing up with my hands squeezing Erin’s arms and the Husband giving me counter pressure massage, labouring without water seemed to take a toll on me. My knees were hurting and my back felt like it was going to break into half. I was giving up. As I managed a surge and saw Dr Amber walked out, I raised my hand asking her to wait.
Looking at the Husband for approval, I asked Dr Amber, “I can’t go on anymore. Can you vacuum the baby out? I’m so tired. I just want to sleep” to which I received a jaw dropping reaction from everyone. She sat down on the floor next to me and with a calm and reassuring voice, she said: “You have come so far. You wanted a HypnoBirth. From the sounds you’re making, you’re almost there.”
Bethany asked if I wanted a VE. Desperately needing to know how baby and I are progressing, I consented to it. She concluded that there was still a little bit of cervix left and waterbag has not broken. It was then I realised that the first midwife had given me a false hope. We tried sitting on the gym ball but it was near impossible as a sharp discomfort poked my back when I sat down on it. I decided to lie down on the bed to get some rest but the subsequent surges that came had me grunting and saying out loud, “I can’t do this anymore.” Dr Amber asked if I wanted help with rupturing the membrane but before I could think about it, another surge came.
It was to be my transition point. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to have my waterbag ruptured artificially. Bethany suggested to go back into the pool since I seemed to cope better in the water. Although the pool was just a few steps away, walking there seemed to have taken longer than needed as I was overcame with more surges and had to pause each time.
It was a huge relief when I immersed myself in the water again. Little did I know that the next surge was to be the final few surges that would mark the end of my pregnancy. It was the queen of all surges – very intense and very long that it left me breathless from the constant catch of breath to continue humming – so much so that my waterbag released and my baby’s head dropped to my cervix significantly, and then crowned. Realising that our baby is about to be born, I called out to the Husband and told him that our baby is crowning. I looked around the room for our photographer Emma, who happened to have stepped out for a toilet break. This was the moment I have been waiting for, and I wanted it captured in memory. Seeing me calling out for Emma, Erin quickly left to call her.
I could feel my baby’s head moving, as if checking out his new environment. At the next surge, I worked with my body and surrendered to its urge to push, but to no avail. Bethany asked if she could help to maneuver baby’s shoulder out and upon my agreement, preempted me to catch baby from my front once he’s fully birthed. Emma and Erin were back in the room by then. The next surge came and as I hummed and pushed with all my might, Bethany adjusted baby’s shoulder and his entire body slipped out. She passed baby to my hands underneath the water and I brought him up to my chest as I leaned against the Husband behind me.
They say that pregnancy is the only time you’ll ever fall in love with someone you’ve never met. I would now add that meeting your baby at birth is the only time you’ll finally learn what tears of joy is; a moment I’ll be forever smitten with.
So it’s a boy! Baby Julian made his debut 3.5 hours since we arrived in the hospital, five hour since active labour began. A bouncy bundle of joy weighing 3.375kg, measuring 52 cm in length. Covered in vernix, he let out a loud cry as if to announce “I’m here! Hello world!” He was so alert, looking around the room and listening to conversations for over an hour before he started nursing. APGAR score of 10/10 after five minutes. His placenta was birth 45 minutes later. We spent the next couple of hours skin to skin, marveling in his perfection and reminiscing our gratitude for a smooth and easy birth.
After the Husband left the hospital for home, I spent the night sniffing and gazing at Julian, thanking life for all my blessings. The past 39 weeks. The past five hours of active labour. Every single second of it.
Despite an unpredictable pregnancy journey, everything fell into place eventually. I couldn’t ask for a better birth. My post-partum recovery was fuss-free and better than I have hoped too. The tear was first degree, very minimal and didn’t require any stitching. I felt amazing, I could function like normal. Breastfeeding was a breeze. I was up and ready to rock the world again five days after birth.
Birth matters. Birth is beautiful. Birth is powerful. The only time in a woman’s life when we are tested to the edge, feeling so physically and emotionally challenged, only to emerge more empowered than ever.
AND THEN WE WERE FIVE.