Shazana's fast & empowering encaul birth of her first baby
A whole year of you, my son. and now i'm finally able to share the story from when you first graced our lives..
29th January 2015
“I kept waking up to these aches but I don’t know if they’re contractions though” I loosely recall saying to Safwan, as he awoke from sleep. I layed on his shoulder, and took my phone as I scrolled through to decide on a contraction-timer app, baffled from the plethora of choices we were spoilt with.
Mild surges? Tick. Oh, eight minutes apart.
Ended several rounds of calls to my sister-in-law Kak Zaza, and Nadine Ghows (Hypnobirthing, AMANI birth teacher, and doula) to gauge our next step. It was still too early, and so we agreed to delay our hospital trip.
The night before, encroached, I crawled into bed weak, after pushing myself to a liberal amount of squats, stretching my daily squats to a twenty. I was increasingly eager to meet my baby. I can invariably declare – as a tip – that the squats aided my quick three hours of labour in the ward for the three-weeks-early birth of my baby boy. Alhamdulillah.
“Should I go to work today?” Safwan looks over at his rather distracted wife, heavily into timing my then, mild and sporadic surges. “You can give me a call? If there’s anything, I’ll be home quick.” He adds.
He after all, works only a five-minute’s drive away, but my heart leaned heavy to see him leave for work that morning.
“I don’t know, this feels different. Maybe you should take the day off?” I reluctantly proposed.
He went in to shower just as I hopped out of bed to do a final round through our packed-way-way-in-advance hospital bags. Birth plan. Check. Birthing flashcards. Check. Change of clothes. Check. Baby clothes. Check. Check. Check.
After bidding our Salams and asked for forgiveness from my parents, we set out on our way to the hospital.
“This is it! We’re finally meeting our son!” My thoughts whispered, as my heart started to pound out of my chest.
Midway through, we diverted our hospital route as an attempt to recollect myself, prior to plunging into the day’s “celebratory surges”. Pain free, one would hope.
So we made a quick stop by Che Nah’s food truck for nasi lemak and nasi dagang. Always stick to the classics for a closing cheat meal before confinement sets in. But as soon as I settled in for a bite, the surges were gradually building up and considering that I was a huge pregnant lady with a raging appetite, I could barely empty my plate.
I couldn’t sit any longer, and so Safwan paid and we left.
There was a minor hold up due to early morning traffic. At that rate, I panicked and inevitably, the drive to the hospital felt longer than it should.
I looked down at my phone, letting the heavy morning traffic flow over my mind as I rode my waves and hesitantly ticked ‘strong’ as I timed my surges. Taking my mind away as I gently repeated the words, “one step closer, each surge brings you one step closer to your baby”. I remember wishing I could stretch the five-minute interval between surges longer. Pause, freeze, halt, stop, anything just to hold on to time. In light of this situation, I’m now on the fence regarding timed surges. Does it make you focus on the pain more than on the time? Either way, does it help?
I was finally able to be put to ease when we finally arrived at the hospital and thankful to have survived the long car ride unscathed. We parked our car, took the lift up, and buzzed ourselves in. At the labour ward, we were showed to a private room and the monitors were switched on.
“No, no inducing”, “No drugs”, “No episiotomy”. Questions after questions were being asked before the nurse ended with,
“Can we do a vaginal examination?”
In my head I had said no, but what had escaped me was,
“I would prefer my doctor to do the vaginal exam, please.” I asked, while praying for the nurse’s consent. What am I doing? Heart raced harder.
“You’re 4 cm dilated.” Dr. Idora informed us, as she removed her gloves. “You could still go out and have a walk around, and come back later on.” Dr. Idora adds, assuming I would take long.
But I decided against it. What if it escalates stronger? What if the baby comes early? I could use this time to maintain myself calm and recite The Quran.
“I think I’ll stay”
To which, Safwan went out to settle the room, and brought up our bags. I climbed into bed, casually preparing myself as I read through my flashcards several times before getting restless. It was growing stronger. I alternated between doas, knowing that I needed to focus.
Surges rushed in as I grabbed unto the edges of my chair. ‘Very strong’, I ticked.
A nurse rushed in as my humming rapidly deepened. My voice had somehow creaked its limits to an uglier rendition of a failed attempt at starting up a broken down engine, of an old car. Beastly.
“You’re doing great. Good Job.” She gently says to me. Followed by my husband’s words of encouragement.
“Are you having the urge to bear down?”
“Huh?” I managed.
“Do you feel like you’re about to pass motion?” a nurse asked, as I let out a shy yell.
“Yes, I feel it coming. I feel it down there already.” The words slid me.
And off she went, as I convinced her to call the doctor for my vaginal check instead. Again. Are you sure, Shazana?
My favourite Dr. Idora makes her appearance.
“Oh, the baby is here! I can feel the head.” with her two fingers up my enclosed parts.
At this point, I was submerged in increased waves of intense surges and had forgotten all about timing my surges. Inner battles resonated from all angles within my head. “I should have taken the epidural! Okay stay calm and breathe! Breathe!” I was, at the mercy of my own pain, just as I recalled Nadine’s wise words saying, “If you feel like giving up, that’s when the baby is coming!”. Right, the transition period! Okay. We’re almost there.
“Hmm, it opened up more earlier. Maybe you should change positions to the previous one.” Dr. Idora soothingly suggested, while I was kneeled against the headboard of the bed.
Exhausted and unnerved, I succumbed to switching back to my quasi-squatting position. Safwan stood close as he devoted himself to me, ergo became the prime victim of physical abuse. He soothed me with words, while I sided to twisting his arms to all sorts of magnitude.
The surges stormed in and manifested itself into a tyrant, to which the mental focus I was retaining, had reached its pinnacle. I wanted the baby out and I wanted it all to end.
Dr. Idora sat at the edge of the bed, and was on stand by for my next surge. and I can’t deny how nervous I was for her having to wait so long. Everything always feels longer when you’re in labour. But she was patient and kind.
The memories surrounding the moments that followed has faded, ergo my failure to observe who had initiated it but Dr Idora and Safwan, who was standing right beside me, both gently cheered me on; reciting beautiful doas to put my pain at ease (or the pain that never eased, to ease a little). It was empowering, and fed our souls. I felt. It was what anchored the strength I needed to pull through just another push.
Forceful surges flooded in, and so I let out the loudest scream! It’s still hard for me to overcome how ugly and embarrassing my howls and shrieks must have sounded, echoing through the labour ward.
I wanted more time to recuperate. When’s the next wave coming in? Oops, here it is! So close. No time to breathe.
“I can see the head now, do you want to touch it?” Dr Idora gestsures Safwan. Alhamdulillah!
“With gloves or without?”
“Umm. With, please.”
He preceeded to touch the head as it crowned. At this stage, Sarfraz's head was still in its balloon-like watersac. His cocoon was white, filled with water and still in tact beautifully. As Safwan describes it till today, “He was protected till the very end.” Alhamdulillah. I sometimes wish I were able to witness that celebration from outside of me, to capture every angle of our son’s arrival on this earth and store it at the back of my memory. But I felt it my bones, in my mind, and in every single nerve on my body. Those are the only recordings I have today. And they still feel as real.
Just as I couldn’t hold on to my perch much longer, a colossal amount of water gushed out, accompanied by my baby and my painfully ugly cry. The water sac popped with my baby. Blood carpeted the bed and my baju kedah top from arwah Maktok that I wore.
I was at a loss for words and all I could manage was “my son!” when he was placed on me. In retrospect, I should have said a little prayer or mouthed an Alhamdulillah but instead, I measly succumbed to stating the obvious. But it’s now embeded in me, a core memory of our first moments together. It seemed like we were starring in one of those cliched films where the couple reunites and in that transient moment, everything circulating them flows by unnoticed. That’s what it felt like, how all else melted away. I was captivated, and life at that, had paused for us.
I was at a bipolar parade with myself. My emotions dropped from a frenzied furor to a displaced dream. My heart was raw and soft. Those tiny hands, were an extension of me and the boy I bore. It was a chaos and I can’t recall who unbuckled my bra, but suddenly I was breastfeeding him for the first time. And there I was, staring intently as I submerged myself in awe of the boy who’s mine.
It was time to clamp and cut the chord. Dr. Idora tugged out the placenta, I remember being so exhausted that I couldn’t really care that I wanted to wait it out for a normal placenta delivery. It was time to stitch me up, and I hailed my white flag to Dr. Idora with a poetic “do as you wish” plea. We delayed all other procedures for the baby. Safwan gave the Athan into both our baby’s ears, and the rest was a blur from then on.
As dawn crept in, my eyes in daze, I drifted across my husband and fell in love under a new light. Exactly the way a hero would, he was present and he saved me from despond. My Labour Saviour. Him and I, against the world, and now our son completes our story.
After having put my pain threshold in its entirety to a test, I can now single out and grasp the concept of a mother’s brimfully painful yet powerful love. It wages like an instant pledge. And as the cliché goes, “anything for you my sweet.”
Numbed by every inch of me that was in pain from being in labour, my baby’s late night view kept ke awake a little longer…
“When you gave birth to the baby, it gave birth to you too” Mardiana said. “It takes an utter descruction to be reborn.” She adds.
Tabula rasa, like a clean slate, a paralleled opportunity to start over. Motherhood has broken me down to accurate slogans but I wouldn’t have my amanah any other way. Alhamdulillah.