I thought long and hard about sharing the birth story of Zac. I wanted it to be kept a memory, our memory. But then, I had shared Aidan’s story and I think Zac’s deserves a voice too. Plus, I want people to know that it is possible to have a drug-free, natural birth after an emergency Caesarean.
So here it is, the story of how my second-born joined the family.
7 June, Saturday
We woke up, thinking that it was going to be a regular Saturday morning. The kid was rolling around in our bed with us and we were talking about going to the supermarket for a grocery run. I got up and went to the bathroom and then I saw it. Blood. Just a little bit when I wiped but enough to tell me that the time for Zac’s arrival may be sooner than later. My contractions were still intermittent but they were getting stronger.
“We are going out for a good breakfast,” I declared to husband. “It may be my last good breakfast for a while.”
We ended up at one of our favourite joints, where Aidan kept demanding “pancakes and banana”. And we did do a grocery run before heading back to put the little man down for a nap. He ended up taking a long 2.5-hour one with Mr Thick, before I woke them both up.
On hindsight, I should have taken a nap too! But a contraction woke me up just as I was falling asleep and I couldn’t go back to sleep after that. Boo.
We headed out to National Museum for Children’s Season and, at the very last minute, I decided to go to Vivocity to get my eyebrows done. Just in case I go into labour soon! Priorities, people.
After dinner, we went home, put Aidan to bed and then chatted for a bit before I decided to hit the sack at 11pm.
8 June, Sunday
Unfortunately, sleep was NOT forthcoming. Every time I drifted into unconsciousness, I would get hit by a contraction. And as it died down, I would try to go back to sleep, only to be hit by another one. Slowly and groggily, it dawned upon me that I was well and truly in labour. Gah!
I started timing the contractions and they were coming about 20 minutes apart. Thinking that I wasn’t going into the hospital anytime soon (I was gunning for the frequency to be about three to four minutes apart), I tried to force myself to sleep.
And so this went on, me drifting in and out of sleep, while being woken up by contractions. At about 1am, I realised that the frequency had increased to 10 minutes and the “biggie” contraction was REALLY PAINFUL.
“We are in labour and I want an epidural,” I announced to an astonished husband, who was geeking out in front of his computer in the living room. We marched back into the room and started packing our things for the hospital stay. And then we sat and waited.
AND THEN THE CONTRACTIONS WENT BACK TO 12 MINUTES APART.
Okay then. At that moment, Aidan woke up in his room and Mr Thick went in to soothe him. I stayed in our bedroom and tried to get comfortable. I couldn’t walk because the pressure down my back was too great, and going on all fours did not help. I could only lie on my left or sit up and hug my pillow.
I remember reading somewhere that how you usually respond to pain would be how you are like in labour and the writer was right. I ended up internalising the pain: I would tell myself that every contraction is helping me to dilate and to move baby down. I would tell myself that this is nothing, this is not a “biggie” (I was getting a labour pattern of two small contractions and one huge one). And when the “biggie” hit, I would tell myself that it’s okay, I can get through this, OUCH OUCH OUCH.
After a while, time seemed to pass so slowly. I was still timing my contractions and they went back to being eight minutes apart. It was so frustrating, I thought that labour was stalling because they were just not moving faster. In frustration and denial, I stopped timing and tried to go to sleep.
To make things worse, I started throwing up at about 4am. At the peak of every big contraction, I would rush to the toilet to hurl. Sometimes, it was just dry heaving. Other times, I was throwing up bile. The pain from the contractions, I could take. But the vomiting was just too much, I could not imagine myself throwing up all the way till baby was out.
I needed that epidural. NEED.
And so after almost two hours of emptying my stomach, I woke Mr Thick, who was sleeping in Aidan’s room, at 6am and told him this was it, we were going to the hospital for that epidural. And as he was washing up, Aidan woke up too and came into our room cheerily.
“Hi mama!” he said. Love the kid so much. At that moment, I ran into the bathroom and threw up. That was when Mr Thick knew that I meant business and he started to hasten his steps. He dropped Aidan off at my mother’s and by the time we hit the road, it was 7am. And surprisingly, the nausea had all but disappeared. I remember the car leaving the carpark and there was a glorious sunrise in the horizon.
What a beautiful day to have my baby, I thought. And it was.
We reached the hospital in record time and I was asked to change into the hospital gown in the observation room. The two ladies – veterans, most likely – took one look at me and asked for details. I gave them what they needed hazily, I was so tired from the lack of sleep. They looked unconvinced and said they would do a VE. I closed my eyes and…
“7 to 8cm!” she declared. “Prepare birthing room 2!”
Woah. 8cm (I’m all glass half full, not half empty). Woah.
“If you had told me that I was at 3cm, I would have cried and asked for an epidural immediately,” I said to them.
“You want epidural or not?” one of them asked. “It’s now or never, girl. You may take two hours, you may take four hours to dilate. Who knows.”
“Can I think about it?”
“No need to think, by the time you decide, it’s time to deliver your baby,” one of them said. “But I think you don’t need lah. You are at 8cm and you can still smile.”
At about 830am, I was wheeled into the birthing room. There, the nurse bustled around, setting up the room and making sure that I was comfortable. I will never forget her name: Camille. She will play a big and wonderful part in helping me birth my son.
Soon after, Dr B came into the room to say hi – my regular obstetrician was away on holiday. He looked at the birth plan (so glad I had one!), told me that it’s mostly feasible except that in the event of an emergency Caesarean, he will have to put me under GA because there likely isn’t enough time for an epidural to take effect. He also reiterated that I have to make a decision on whether I wanted the epidural or not SOON. When I said I had to think about it, he laughed and repeated what the nurses had already told me. He also checked my charts and murmured to Nurse Camille that the contractions were too spaced apart and not hitting high enough, which meant the next 2cm could take a while.
And with that, he left me alone to my own devices. WHAAAAT. Not high enough? But they eff-ing hurt! I looked at husband and asked if I should just go for the epidural.
“I think you can do it,” he said. “And look, you can blog about it after!” Ah. My husband.
For the next two hours, I laid on the bed and tried to sleep. But each time the “biggie” hit, the pain escalated and I started moaning. It went on and on like this until suddenly, I felt an immense pressure down my back and butt. I sat up quickly and at that same time, we heard the wails of a baby from outside the room. Almost immediately, another wave hit and this time, it was BAD. Like OMFG BAD.
“I think I need to push,” I told husband urgently. We pressed the button and Nurse Camille came in. She quickly did an examination and told us that I was dilated to 10cm but the baby’s head was not low enough.
“When the next contraction comes, see if you can push the baby’s head lower,” she urged.
“HOW DO I PUSH?”
“Just follow your body! You will know what to do. Baby can be lower. If he is lower, we can call the doctor in.” And so I pushed when the next contraction came about. (Yes, it IS like taking a dump. Trust me on that.) She did an examination again and then shouted to her colleague, “Call the doctor!”
In the meantime, the nurses started to prep the room for delivery. The stir-ups were put in place, loads of weird things were being wheeled around and the warming table for the baby was switched on.
In a few minutes, Dr B bustled in, did an examination on me and said, “Oh good. I’ll leave the nurses to share with you on how to push.”
AND THEN HE LEFT.
“Is he going to, like, grab a coffee?” I asked husband incredulously. Nurse Camille sniggered a little but didn’t say a word. She and another nurse – I never quite got her name but she was definitely a senior nurse – started to “teach” me how to push: breathe in and then push down, tuck my chin in, grab my knees this way, husband to support my neck that way.
And then a contraction hit and they all went, “DEEP BREATH IN, PUSH! PUSH AS HARD AS YOU CAN! HARDER HARDER HARDER! YOU CAN DO IT!”
The contraction finally burst my membranes. Nurse Camille shouted out, “Call the doctor!” She then turned to me and told me that I had done a good job and she could see the baby. Before I knew it, the doctor was back and he said, “Oh wow, that was fast. Now let’s get this baby out.”
And so we went on, contraction after contraction, with me taking the biggest dump of my life. I pushed and collapsed and then pushed and collapsed. I don’t remember how many pushes it took eventually. All I remember was that the baby kept slipping backward, until Nurse Camille urged me to push for as long as I can in a breath so that baby won’t retract. And when the baby crowned, the pain and sensation was so odd. Try as I might, I just could not push him out. I had hardly any energy left and I could not do anything other than lie back in a limp, sweaty mess.
Oh my god, I thought, he’s going to be stuck between my legs forever. I need a coffee.
“Make the next push your last,” said Nurse Camille encouragingly. “Keep pushing!”
Okay, I can’t have a baby stuck there forever, I need to refocus my energy.
“He has a lot of hair, I can see his head,” said Dr B happily. “Keep pushing!”
When the next contraction came, I channeled all my strength into pushing this baby out. And in about three more pushes, his wails filled the room. I was done. I had done it. In under an hour. I had achieved a natural birth, sans drugs.
“You don’t know if it’s a boy or girl?” someone asked. “Well, it’s a boy!”
All I could see was this greyish-pink little thing being waved at me, its umbilical cord still attached to me. And I smiled. A boy. Hello, Zac.
When the cord stopped pulsating, Dr B invited husband to cut the cord, as per my birth plan. There was such joy and cheer in the room. He then reminded the nurses that I wanted skin-on-skin contact and they quickly helped to hitch my hospital gown up and laid him on my chest. He was perfect. My littlest. Zac. I tried to latch him on but he would have none of it. He was beautiful. He was ours. And then they whisked him away to get cleaned up and for his Apgar test, while a giant wave of contraction helped to deliver the placenta. Again, this was done naturally, as per my wishes.
And then, there was relief.
Which was short-lived.
During the delivery, I had some tearing, which Dr B assured me was minor. Nurse Camille passed me the gas mask as the doctor injected the local anaesthesia to do the stitching but that gas was bloody useless. I could still feel the pricks of the needles. As he stitched, husband cradled our little baby in his arm next to me. That’s one moment that I love about delivering my babies: seeing the husband fall in love with them, seeing that glow in his eyes and that joyful smile. But I was so exhausted that I could only lie there, attempting to breathe in that stupid gas.
Just when we thought everything was done, Dr B’s expression turned serious. He had been checking through my nether regions to make sure that all was well and had suddenly discovered that I was bleeding inside.
I was too zonked out at that point in time but husband said that the doctor and nurse had exchanged a FARRRRRRRK look, which totally freaked him out.
Dr B quickly explained that Zac must have torn the interior vaginal wall on his way out, and the tear was too deep for him to perform any stitches. The only way he could repair the injury was to wheel me into the operating theatre and put me under general anaesthesia. And if the tear did not heal, there was a chance of the wall collapsing.
Which, I surmised from all that medical mumbo jumbo, was pretty bad.
At that moment, all the doctor could do was to pad up the tear with some surgical foam and hope that the wound would clot up and heal on its own. Otherwise, a surgery was our option.
“Is this sort of tearing rare?” I asked the doctor.
He smiled, “Well not rare. But you only see it once every few years.”
Mr Thick and I exchanged a look.
The doctor did his work, which left me moaning and groaning in discomfort. Before he left, he told me to watch out for three warning signs that my condition was turning critical: excessive bleeding, acute pain and breathlessness (a symptom of aneamia). If I spotted any of these signs, I was to tell someone IMMEDIATELY.
“You know, you are made for pushing babies out. Should consider having another one,” said the doctor before he left. Hilarious.
Finally, we were back to peace and quiet in the room. Nurse Camille and Senior Nurse wheeled some toast and milo in for me, Mr Thick was gently cradling our baby boy, and I was slowly regaining my wits and energy. We chatted a little, the nurses talking to us about this and that, praising me for being a champion pusher, telling us how cute Zac was.
Then Senior Nurse pushed me into my ward and, gosh, have I mentioned how wonderful they were? We were lucky enough to be upgraded to a premium ward and I laid in my bed, trying to comprehend what we had just gone through. Zac was taken to the nursery to be cleaned up and it was just me and husband in the room.
Wow. We have another boy.
The rest of the day passed by in a whirl. Our families came by to visit and I finally got to see my first-born. I missed Aidan so very much and I could see that he missed me too. He clambered all over the bed and wanted me to hug and kiss him. He stuck close to me the entire evening and I was so thrilled to be able to hold him properly. He was a tad ambivalent towards Zac but I think we will slowly get there.
That night, Mr Thick took Aidan home while I stayed in the hospital. But it was near impossible to rest, I was woken up by the nurses to have my blood pressure and temperature taken every two hours or so. And they would always ask me the same questions: “Are you feeling okay? No pain? No bleeding?”
I only realised that the entire level was on high alert for my case on my last day in the hospital. I had to stay for another night to be observed and when I was finally discharged, I could see the relief in the nurses’ faces. Stealing a peek at the patient notes on a nurse’s clipboard, I saw the following written next to my room number: “Excessive bleeding, watch out.”
Thankfully, the wound did heal on its own, or so we assume. During his rounds, Dr B was confident that I would be okay, and that in the event the wound did not clot up, all we needed to do was to pad it up some more with surgical foam. There was no need for a surgery after all.
When I finally saw Dr T before I was officially discharged, he told me that everything looked good. And on my way out of the clinic, one of the clinic nurses looked at me in concern and asked if I was okay.
“We heard about your case, you apparently had a very bad tear! Are you okay? Are you in pain? You seem okay, and you can walk?” she asked.
Ah. Good thing I was blissfully unaware.
On hindsight, many factors worked in my favour to ensure that I had the VBAC that I wanted. Zac was not a big baby, only 2.8kg at 40 weeks. The water bag had remained intact until the very last moment, ensuring that my contractions were cushioned. I had somehow dilated quickly enough without having to go through fast and furious contractions (they remained stubbornly at five to eight minutes apart and never really peaked until I was at 10cm). I was able to push efficiently, thanks to the wonderful coaching from the nurses.
So that’s the birth experience with Zac – intense, dramatic and just as it was meant to be.