Michelle's amazing HypnoBirth of her second baby
On Sunday 3rd May, I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant.
The baby was, in my mind, very UN-fashionably late past his due date of 29th April, so as much as I had willed and 'manifested' the privilege of pregnancy, to say I was keen to be done with it all was an understatement.
In the weeks leading to up to my full term, I had experienced increasingly intense Braxton-Hicks 'practice contractions' - annoying for me for the discomfort involved, stressful for Kishore who was on tenterhooks with the false alarms, on constant alert for when we would actually need to leave home for the hospital.
Having become Nadine Ghows' Hypnobirthing student and advocate from my first pregnancy with Lara, and thus being equipped with
(1) a lack of fear about childbirth in general and
(2) a basic understanding of how all the sensations I would experience fit into the big picture of my body bringing our baby closer to us,
I was less stressed - content to wait for the baby to be "fully cooked" and come out whenever he was ready... though I wouldn't have minded at all if the cooking time ended sooner, rather than later.
With Lara, I had been somewhat 'forced' into an induced labour, even though she was not yet due, and that had resulted in a 5 DAY LABOUR. So I was not inclined to chemically induce labour, even though I was assured that for second time mothers, it would be 'much faster and easier'...
That morning, I had a hunch *maybe* that day was the day, because in contrast to previous weeks' sensations of tightening, pressure and even spasms that were concentrated in the front of my abdomen and occasionally shot through my sides and legs, I felt period - like cramping in my lower back which I had not felt before throughout the pregnancy.
It was about 8am in the morning then, and my 'surges' were still relatively mild ('surges' being Hypnobirthing - speak for 'contractions', designed to frame them with the more positive connotations needed to counteract common language in which childbirth is presented as something that is unequivocally painful and traumatic, instead of the miraculous, powerful and natural phenomenon it actually is).
I recall (masochistically?) entertaining the thought of opting NOT to have an epidural JUST TO SEE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE...
I figured this would be the last time I would be pregnant and so it would be my 'last chance' to experience 'drug free labour' which, apart from the health benefits for baby and mother, might be *interesting* in a way that people who are curious about what getting a tattoo and skydiving and bungee jumping are like, might find these *interesting*...even knowing there will be pain and risk involved...
Since I have tried tattoos and skydiving (unfortunately not being able to squeeze in bungee-jumping while my life was purely my own to risk at no dependents' possible detriment) a similar curiosity about a no-epidural labour was on my mind...
In the absence of other signs of the onset of labour (like 'bloody show' or my waters breaking), I wanted to wait until the surges were coming every few minutes before we actually left the house for the hospital, not wanting to be one of those couples who rushed in too early and had interminable waits for the next stage in unfamiliar, clinical surroundings and/or were made to go home in an anti-climatic manner.
I was even calm enough through my surges to have the presence of mind to wash and blowdry my hair, knowing if I did deliver soon I would not be allowed this luxury for a while.
Around 9am I asked Kishore to prep for Lara and himself to be dressed and breakfasted so we could head to hospital soon, while I sent messages to family members on both sides informing them 'today might be the day.'
My mother, who had briefly served as a midwife before going back into general nursing and then becoming a nursing tutor, prophetically stated that if what I was experiencing was true labour, "the baby would be out by noon".
The pace in which my surges grew closer together was surprisingly quicker than I expected; and while I asked Lara to "Hurry up with breakfast" with only a tad more urgency than we normally tell her to do, little Missy being prone to dilly-dallying at meals, I probably freaked Kishore out when about 930am onwards, I had to instinctively get on my hands and knees a couple of times, eyes closed, trying to practice the Hypnobirthing breathing techniques I had revised to help along the process of my body birthing our child into the world.
I recall him saying a bit frantically as I knelt at our front door, doubled over as he waited for Lara to complete something or other, "Lara hurry up! Can't you see Mama is in so much pain and you are taking your own sweet time??!!"
SIDETRACK: Just the night before, Lara and I had watched a TV show in which a woman gave birth with the usual histrionics accompanying pop culture depictions of labour.
Lara watched the scene, transfixed.
I told her, simply and matter-of-factly, "That's what Mama has to do to get baby brother out Lara, and that's what I had to do for you also."
In most of interactions with my daughter, I have sought to equip her to face life's situations with calmness, truthful common sense, and ideally a minimum of drama.
Those who know the dramatic diva that Lara can be will know that this is a work-in-progress, but her response to me that night showed me some of my 'teachings' were sinking in:
She looked at me unfazed, "But Mama," she said. "You won't cry and scream like that lady, right? You will be BRAVE and stay calm, right?"
So as we prepped to leave for the hospital I did indeed attempt to be that role model of calm for her, asking her only for her help in keeping very quiet,
"Because Mama needs to focus on bringing baby brother out and she needs quiet to concentrate...".
By the time we got to Pantai Hospital at around 10.30am, my surges were strong enough I requested a wheelchair to assist me in getting to the labour ward, as I did not trust my own legs to support me... and Kishore would have to wait until Geetha (my sister-in-law) had arrived to take Lara back to my in-laws' house before he himself could go up.
I slumped in the wheelchair and was wheeled up to the labour room with my eyes closed the whole time, trying to handle my surges.
I didn't even look up to see the attendant who pushed me... but did make the effort to thank him sincerely when he handed me over, with what seemed like a palpable sense of relief on his part, to the labour ward nurses.
The nurse attending me at Pantai was calm, steady and efficient. I answered some questions and changed into my labour gown while waiting for Kishore to come up, all the while managing the increasingly intense surges with my rusty Hypnobirthing breathing techniques.
By the time Kishore joined me at around 11am, I was asking the nurse on duty, "How soon can I get an epidural??" thinking what crazy woman thought she could do this without drugs???!!!
The nurse checked my cervix dilation, I saw her bloodied glove indicating my mucous plug had dislodged, and she told me, "Well you are already at 7cm, you are really doing well, if you made it this far without any drugs, if can you try and manage without it... I suspect within 2 hours or less you will deliver your baby and since it will take about that time for the anaesthesiologist to be called, epidural to be administered and kick in... it might all be for nothing... but of course the decision is completely up to you... "
So there I was, super torn, should I risk the sensations becoming worse... or risk the epidural becoming a waste?? And of course I was trying to decide this as my labour surges were coming at me stronger and stronger...
I was in such a dilemma...because as a 'recovering approval junkie' there was also a silly element of approval-seeking involved, ("The nurse thinks I can do this without drugs... maybe I CAN do this without drugs... Yay me!") mixed with that element of curiosity I mentioned earlier ("What if I actually CAN do this without drugs... plenty of other women have done it all over the world since time immemorial.. no big deal, how bad can it be...??") ...
So in the end, I guess my curiosity won out, and I turned down the epidural "just to see what it would be like and if I had it in me" (in addition of course to avoiding the side effects of any drugs introduced into my and the baby's body).
My labour occuring in the time of coronavirus, it was protocol for me to have a COVID19 test done, so the medical staff could apply the necessary precautions. I had heard from a friend Sharon Ruba that the test procedure was uncomfortable, so when the nurse came with the test kit as I was starting another surge, I asked, "Please can I just finish this surge before I do the test?" as I really didn't think I could multitask tackling multiple uncomfortable sensations in one go.
The COVID19 test involved what felt like a looong, skinny cotton bud being inserted into one nostril... I definitely felt more than a tickle as it went in and up, being told to take deep breaths by the nurse. Then she asked me to "Try to swallow" and I felt it go into my nasal cavities where I didn't think anything could go any further, but was proven wrong when she asked me to swallow again and the swab was probed even deeper. Then she warned me there would be some slight discomfort as she prepared to collect a sample... but at that point all I could think about was:
(i) I really don't have much of a choice
(ii) please let this be over before my next surge kicks in
(iii) if all the people breaking the MCO rules knew what it feels like to do this test maybe they won't put themselves at risk of the need to perform one...
In full disclosure as I was transferred into the actual delivery room at some point after 11am, another nurse offered me 'laughing gas' to ostensibly take some of the edge off... I took the self-operated breathing nozzle passed to me but don't recall it making any difference to my sensations..so didn't use it much as it seemed pretty pointless.
I recall some measure of relief when I heard my gynae Dr. Paul entering the room, greeting Kishore and me, and telling us it was going well and it wouldn't be long now and he would see us again shortly.
From my previous labour with Lara I knew the midwives pretty much take you 90% of the way through the labour and when the Dr is called in you are really at the home stretch, so was very relieved to hear his voice though knowing he would leave and come back later meant it wasn't quite over yet.
I do remember realising when I had crossed the Thinning and Opening Phase of labour to the Birthing Phase, by the change in sensations... it is still amazing to me that as the Hypnobirthing book mentioned, having this knowledge I was instinctively able to switch breathing techniques for the next stage of labour .
Was my opting against epidural the right choice for me?
I think I experienced 3-4 such natural explusive reflexes, rhythmically pushing the baby down the birth path, one of which was accompanied by what felt like a swoosh of water coming out of a hose with a diameter the size of a golf ball... this was when I realised my water had finally broken...
The nurses kept instructing me to do different things, to keep breathing, to move to my side, then to move to the middle, to raise my feet...but I basically ignored all the intructions because I felt I had no capacity to direct any part of my body to do anything and someone else would have to physically manoeuvre that body part themselves.
When I heard Dr. Paul's voice again and the flurry of commotion surrounding his presence, I knew the time was close... and when I heard the nurse say to Kishore, "Sir, these are your gloves, for when you cut the baby's cord", it was music to my ears...
I'm very, VERY grateful Kiaen slid out after maybe the 4th of those involuntary pushes... the wave of RELIEF when he came out so quickly... it still boggles my mind that my mother was essentially right and as his birth time was 12.02pm, it was *only* about 1.5 hours between our arrival at the hospital and his arrival into the world.
Kiaen was placed on my chest for skin to skin bonding and remained there for a considerable time.
For our short stay in the hospital he would be with us in my maternity ward number C327... another trivially serendipitous sign for me because he was born on the 3rd (May) and our wedding anniversary is 27th (July).
I was discharged the following day 4th May at about 5.30pm.
Also that the human condition is miraculous and it is such a privilege to experience it.
To our son Kiaen Aaryan, thank you for coming into our lives and choosing us as your parents.
Even though Papa and I are both zombies trying to settle into a night time feeding routine with you, I look forward to spending not only all future Mother's Days, but every day, with you and your Akka...
And last but not least, to my husband Kishore...without whom none of this would be possible - we did it sayang, I love you.