So, baby Mark is here. But guess what: getting the baby out is harder than getting it in.
Many women love to share terrible labour ad birth stories. I’m sorry, mine will be PG-rated: it was an amazing experience and it wasn’t that bad. Lucky me?
Like I explained, I didn’t enjoy being pregnant and I was certainly not glowing. I was looking forward for the grand finale. Sure, I was a bit anxious about it, but he perspective of going through labour didn’t bother me much. I figured billions of women had done so before me and that it was a natural process. Besides, as much as I dislike hospitals, I’m not a very modest person and I don’t get grossed out by body stuff easily—blood, secretions don’t bother me.
I didn’t attend any pre-natal classes and I didn’t read much about birth and labour. My birth plan was simple: I had told my ob-gyn I had no set principles, that I trusted the medical team and that I wanted to go with the flow. The only thing I asked was for Feng to be with me and that he’d be the one announcing the gender. I wanted natural childbirth, i.e. no epidural. Again, it wasn’t a matter of principle and I hadn’t done much research about the pros and cons—I just wanted to keep things natural and straightforward, if possible. Besides, I rarely take any medication, and I’m high if I have a Tylenol!
The Onset of Labour
My due date was approaching: I was 37–38 weeks pregnant (38 weeks according to the doctors, I still think I was 37!). I started to look out for the early signs: the baby dropping, increase Braxton Hicks contractions, and of course the breakage of the amniotic sac and the mucus plug.
On October 11, I had my weekly appointment at the hospital. I had been feeling tired and uncomfortable but no more than usual. Actually, I had just decided to put my yoga classes on hold! I walked back the 2.5 kilometres from the hospital to home that evening, so obviously I was still fine.
It was Feng’s birthday but we postponed eating out to the weekend since I came back late from the hopistal, where I was the last patient of the day.
Around 11 p.m., I started feeling pain in my lower back and cramps in my legs. It had happened before and I thought I had walked too much.
I went to bed but couldn’t sleep: the lower back pain wouldn’t go away. I stared at the digital clock in the bedroom and at one point realized that the gap between the sharp shots of pain was regular—the interval was about seven minutes.
At 2:30 a.m., I woke Feng up. “Alright, this may be nothing but I’m really in pain… and it may be real contractions.”
I had heard about false labour and I was still expecting my water to break as a sure signal of labour, so I was pretty calm. We are only a ten-minute drive from the hospital and babies don’t drop like that.
The pain was bad for a minute, and then for five minutes I would be just fine, until it starts again. It was weird: during the contractions, part of me just wanted them to go away, but during each few-minute respite, I kept on hoping it was actually labour, and I was looking forward for the next contraction to confirm my instinct.
At 3:30 a.m. I called the hospital’s triage hotline. The woman on the phone was very calm and helpful, and suggested I’d take a bath and relax. “If it’s labour, it will take a while,” she said, “so you can stay home for now, as long as you are okay with that.”
It seemed like a plan. Feng and I read the news and tried to keep ourselves busy, not talking much. It was just weird. It was the middle of the night and we were on the computer, reading the news and answering work emails.
“Okay, maybe you should pack a bag,” Feng eventually offered.
I didn’t have my hospital bag ready—I’m usually pretty organized but for some reason I found it was bad luck to pack ahead of time. I did have a list ready though, so I threw some toiletry, a change of clothes for me and the baby, my Kindle and the usual content of my handbag (BlackBerry, IDs, etc.) into a bigger bag. What else would I need?
Just before 6 a.m., I told Feng it was time to go to the hospital. I was perfectly fine between each contraction but they were getting stronger and stronger, and I was literally down on my knee each time they came. Besides, I couldn’t feel the baby moving as much, and it scared me a bit.