A letter to my pregnant self

Dear 37-weeks pregnant me,

I remember that when the photo for that week was taken, I was so full of joy and excitement. I didn’t know what awaited me, except that I was oh so looking forward to meeting my little man.

I also didn’t know that barely a day after the photo was taken, I would go into labour. Nor that my prayed for labour never happened.

Eight weeks on, I am older and wiser. My life has been taken off its hinges and spun 360 degrees around. It hasn’t settled yet, no, far from it, but at least I feel more or less like myself again. And looking back at the time when I was still pregnant, I wish somebody had told me what I am able to tell you now.

1. Enjoy pregnancy
I was fortunate to have a pretty smooth pregnancy and despite some of the aches and pains, I have tried to stay positive and happy. I loved every moment of being pregnant and if there is one thing that I do regret about the early delivery of Aidan, it would be that I never did enjoy more of my pregnancy.

So treasure that bump. Immerse in every hiccup, every little kick that the baby delivers from within. Sing to baby, dance with him. Imagine and daydream of your life with him.

You will miss being pregnant.

2. Enjoy couplehood
You wouldn’t believe how much parenthood can transform your relationship with husband. It’s been eight weeks and our marriage, while intact, has definitely changed. There are so many things I miss about being just us: going out on a whim, watching a movie together, chatting about politics and other topics not related to baby, sharing details of our day, watching telly together while having our dinner. If somebody had told me that I would give birth to Aidan at merely 37 weeks, I would have done more, luxuriated more in being just the two of us.

At the same time, I am grateful that we made the decision to have a little Hong Kong holiday last December. There were lots of lovely memories and it will forever be a trip to remember.

(Funny how things always happen in Hong Kong for us.)

3. Be open to help
Back then, I was adamant that I could handle everything by myself after birth. How wrong was I, how STUPID, how NAIVE! In the end, I was a complete wreck and right now, the dreadfulness of the first four weeks have become hazy to me. Selective memory, I say. Motherhood is tough shit and the lesson that I have learnt is to never say never to help.

4. Be firm but flexible
The one thing that I love about me is that I research to death and then make my decisions on how I want to lead my life. It’s a strong trait and something that has guided me through many tough times.

I was insistent on hypnobirthing. I was insistent on going drug-free during labour. I was insistent on many things.

We all know how that panned out.

So yes, we can hold on to our beliefs but we cannot be blind to other options as well. Always go with the flow and do not cast decisions in stone.

5. You WILL fit into your clothes again
Honestly, that should be the least of your worries. Right now, I can squeeze into my pre-pregnancy bottoms. There might be an extra kilo here and there but it’s not a big deal. You CAN afford to put on a bit of weight.

Don’t fret. You WILL don those gorgeous frocks again, sooner than you think.

Oh, and that nose? GONE.

6. Wear your eye bags with pride
You won’t look the same anymore. Those eye bags that you have been desperately wishing away your entire life? THEY WILL GET WORSE.

But it’s okay, if it means that your little man will get all the goodness of the breast milk that you can offer. And nursing is NOT forever. Enjoy it and forget about how shitty you look.

(There’s always Botox.)

Love,
Mama me

Aidan: A birth story, part 6

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5

Sunday, March 5 (continued)
In the meantime, Mr Thick went with our son to the nursery to be cleaned up and he later recounted to me that our little man stayed alert throughout, looking calmly at his surroundings.

When I came to, I was in a ward and Mr Thick was with me. The nurses bustled around me, making sure I was comfortable, before leaving us alone. And as we drifted off into sleep, Mr Thick sitting next to me, he held my hand. Every time a shivering fit hit me, I would grab hold of his hand and he would squeeze back gently in return.

At 6am, a nurse brought Aidan in and asked if I wanted to try breastfeeding him. I said yes and amid the shivers, I put him to my breast and he started suckling like a champ. After a while, they took him back and as my shivers subsided, I fell back asleep.

Two hours later, Dr Y came in to check on me. He explained that the umbilical cord had wound itself around Aidan’s neck and every time Aidan tried to descend, it must have tightened and caused his heart rate to fall. The cord was also thin and short, which explained why he wasn’t able to descend at all. If the cord had been longer and thicker, it might still have been possible for him to be born vaginally.

The aftermath
Immediately after the birth and for the two days after, I had problems falling and staying asleep. Whenever I drifted into slumberland, my body would jerk uncontrollably, waking me up. Or I would dream of falling off from a cliff and wake myself up. I suppose my body had taken a toll and these were the repercussions.

Thankfully, my recovery from the Caesarean was smoother and quicker than expected. By noon on the day of Aidan’s birth, the glucose IV drip was removed from my hand and I was drinking milo. The nurses also removed my catheter and I was able to get up and walk to the toilet to pee that same evening.

The following days were a bit tough, especially in the mornings when I got out of bed and the wound hurt like crazy. But I was determined not to stay in bed and tried to walk around as much as I could. By Wednesday, I was walking out to the nursery to see my little man, albeit hunched like a wizened grandmother walking at a snail’s pace.

When I got home on Thursday, the pain had all but subsided, save for a few twinges now and then. I was just so happy to be home, I think, that the pain was erased from my mind.

Unfortunately, Aidan developed jaundice while we were in the hospital but that is another story for another day. We have been trying to get him settled down and while the first night was extremely trying – he had crying bouts from 230am to 730am – we are both doing the best that we could.

So yes, the birth went nothing like we had planned. It was everything I didn’t want. A Caesarean, however unpleasant, was necessary in our case and I have accepted this as our birth experience. More importantly, Aidan is fine, and so am I. And that’s all that really matters.

Aidan: A birth story, part 5

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Sunday, March 5 (continued)
Thankfully, there was another emergency C-sect happening at the same time so we didn’t have to waste time waiting for an anesthesiologist to go down to the hospital. I was stripped off, shaved (Urghs) and prepped for the surgery with no sense of dignity at all. Everything was about speed and faster, faster, faster.

When I was wheeled into the operating theatre, Mr Thick was led away to be prepped since he was to be in the theatre with me. In that cold, cold room, Dr L, the anesthesiologist told me gently but urgently to bend my knees towards my belly and tuck my chin down as low as possible. I then felt three sharp stings down my spine – “ant bites”, as Dr L assured me. Oddly enough, I wasn’t fearful or anxious. In fact, I remember feeling calm and at ease.

And then the curtain was drawn above my chest, Mr Thick appeared by my side and the surgery began.

To say that it’s bizarre to have people tugging – none too gently, I might add – at my insides while I was conscious is an understatement. At one point in time, Dr Y asked Dr L to help push down at my stomach as she stood from my shoulders.

“Since you are not pushing, we are doing the work for you,” she explained.

And then shortly after 4am, our son was born.

“No wonder! His cord is around his neck!” Dr L exclaimed.

Ah.

The nurses and doctors started congratulating us and I felt like weeping. Finally, after those two dreadful years of infertility and despair, after that nightmarish labour, he was here. But the urge to cry was subdued by a sense of surreality: I have a baby? I finally have MY baby?

He didn’t cry, like most newborns do, but was quiet. The nurse asked Mr Thick to have a look at his son and he went off to the checking station with a camera in tow. According to him, our little man was alert and his eyes were checking out his new environment. Only when the paediatrician started to examine him then did he let out an indignant wail. But once his daddy was by his side, he quietened down. The good news was that he was perfectly fine and had an APGAR score of 9.

Meanwhile, Dr Y was removing the placenta from me and stitching me up. It was also at this time that the side effects of the epidural kicked in, and I started shivering uncontrollably. It felt really, really dreadful to be shaking every minute and have my teeth chattering. Dr L asked me kindly if I wanted to be sedated for the next few minutes while the doctors did their work and I said yes. She injected the medicine into my IV and I was out almost immediately.

The following period was a haze to me. I remember waking up and Dr Y congratulating me again. And then my little burrito bean was placed on my chest and somebody took photos of the three of us.

Hello Aidan, I said. This is mummy. Can you recognize me? Your name is Aidan and I love you very much.

And then I fell into darkness again.

To be continued…

Aidan: A birth story, part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Sunday, March 4 (continued)
At about 1am, poor Dr Y rushed into the room, looking all frazzled and harried. After performing a VE (sigh) on me, he grimly informed me that my cervix had not dilated any further. He told me that the baby could be in distress and that he was putting me on a low dose of Pitocin to kick start the labour process. Hopefully, that would do the trick and my body would take over from there. At the same time, I had to be hooked onto the blood pressure machine. He assured me that he would be staying the night to monitor me and then left me to labour.

Time passed by very slowly. I was still lying on my right in that strange angle, an IV drip on my left hand, the fetal monitoring paddle on my belly, an oxygen mask on my face and a blood pressure cuff on my right arm. I couldn’t move an inch, for fear that it might affect my little guy. The surges were fast gaining intensity and speed, thanks to the Pitocin, and were moving from three to four minutes apart to one to two minutes apart.

It was possibly the worst night of my life.
And it got worst.

Twice, the baby’s heart beat fell and twice the warning beep filled the air. By then, all Mr Thick and I could do was stare at each other in growing despair. This was not how we had envisioned the labour and delivery. Where was our calm, serene labour? And is our son alright? By then, it was 3 am and we were both exhausted.

My frustration grew and then disappeared over the night, to be replaced by resignation. Initially, I couldn’t understand why the labour was not progressing despite our best efforts. It made me wonder if the little man was not ready to be out. And yet if he wasn’t, why did the amniotic bag rupture? Why? Why? Why?

These questions kept haunting me as I laid on the bed but the repeated warning beeps from the fetal monitor eroded my anger. All I wanted was to have my son out, safe and sound. I couldn’t care how. Mentally, I was prepared for an emergency Caesarean and even asked Dr Y to have an epidural administered at the same time as the Pitocin. But he told me to give my body some time and see if the Pitocin alone would do the trick.

Obviously it didn’t.

When the baby’s heart rate fell for the fifth time, Dr Y came in and told me that it was obvious my little guy wasn’t doing very well inside and he needed to have him out fast and he needed to have him out NOW. We had no other options but to have a C-sect.

Things kicked into top gear after that decision was made.

Aidan: A birth story, part 3

Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, March 4 (continued)
At the delivery suite, the nurse cheerfully hooked me up to the fetal monitor for 20 minutes to check on the baby’s heartbeat and time my contractions. She also did a VE on me (!!!) and made the announcement that I was only about 2.5cm dilated. Shortly after, Dr Y popped in and told us our options were limited: I had to go on an antibiotics drip to prevent an infection since my water had been ruptured for almost 12 hours, and that I had to be hooked to Pitocin to augment the labour since my progress was so slow. The baby had to be delivered within 24 hours of the rupturing of the membranes.

I tried to bargain my way out of the Pitocin, knowing that it would come hand in hand with an epidural but he was adamant. And so Mr Thick and I were left to ourselves for the next hour before the drips were to be administered at midnight.

In a strange way, that one hour proved to be one of the best in my life. It was just me, Mr Thick and our unborn son between us as we hugged and swayed to the music that was playing in the background, which helped me through the surges. It was a special Labour Day playlist that I had put together and it had all the songs that we loved: U2, Travis, Coldplay etc. We were just two people who are deeply in love and contentedly anticipating the birth of our child.

Monday, March 5
All too soon, midnight came and the wonderful nurse came in to administer the antibiotics drip, and to take three vials of blood from me for the banking of the baby’s cord blood at Singapore Cord Blood Bank. She was gentle, warm and reassuring, and for the first time in my life, the IV needle didn’t hurt at all. I was put back onto the fetal monitor and the sound of my little nugget’s swooshing heartbeat filled the room.

But shortly after the IV drip started, the sound disappeared, to be replaced by the warning beeping of the machine. His heart rate had fallen out of the safe zone of 110 to 160 bpm to the 80s region.

I could sense the anxiety in the nurse’s eyes but she remained calm and reassured me that it could be the baby shifting around. She moved the paddle around my belly and finally located the heartbeat again. She apologetically performed another VE on me to ensure that it wasn’t a cord prolapse that had caused the drop in heart rate and thankfully, it wasn’t. Instead of starting the Pitocin drip, she decided to monitor the baby’s heart rate for a while before deciding if Dr Y needed to be informed of the situation. She also had me put on an oxygen mask, just in case my nugget was in distress and needed the extra oxygen.

We were left alone and not more than 10 minutes later, the warning beep sounded again. This time, the nurse was clearly worried as she made me lie on different angles while she tried to locate his heartbeat. It took a while and the tension grew thicker and thicker. What was happening to my little man?

Thankfully, the sound of his heartbeat came back again but we knew that it was getting serious. She did another VE (!!!!) and assured me that it wasn’t a cord problem, before leaving to call Dr Y. All I could do was to lie there on that awkward 45 degree angle on my right side with a drip on my left hand and an oxygen mask.

To be continued…