Thursday, June 29, 2017

First-Time Mom at 42: My Birthing Story

Blurry photo of me in the Lamaze room
(Continued from Part III) I woke up my husband, then texted my OB-gyne and called her secretary. My OB-gyne told me to time the contractions and go to the hospital if they come in 10-minute intervals. She was in El Nido for the three-day weekend!

Later, her secretary called to tell me I could also go to the delivery room of The Medical City for an internal exam (IE). So we went. The doctor asked for my details then instructed me to lie down on the bed while the staff attached a machine onto my belly to time the contractions. I was also given an IE.

I wasn’t in pain, nor did I feel anything unusual about the contractions. The results confirmed that they were mild, but were regularly spaced in five- to seven-minute intervals. The IE showed that I was one-cm. dilated. Once informed, my OB-gyne recommended that I be sent home to rest and gave instructions for me to continue timing my contractions. I asked if I was giving birth anytime soon. The DR doctor said it was hard to tell—it could be soon or weeks ahead.

My husband and I went home. That evening, the contractions continued. They were still coming in five to seven minutes apart but were more intense, and while somehow still tolerable, they kept me awake throughout the night. My husband kept asking if we should go back to the hospital but I didn’t want another false alarm. I decided I would wait for sunrise so he could at least get some sleep. At 7 a.m., I woke him up and told him to take me to the hospital. I was surprisingly calm. I took a shower and waited for him to get ready. I had already packed our hospital bag the week prior.

At the delivery room, the nurse attached some wires onto my belly to time the contractions. That took a few minutes so I did breathing meditation while waiting. A doctor came in to do another IE. I was 4 cm. dilated! My OB-gyne gave instructions over the phone and endorsed me to one of her colleagues in case I gave birth before her return flight to Manila.

All this time, my husband was waiting outside. When he was called in, the doctor updated him on my status and told him I will be admitted. He seemed surprised but was quick to say he’ll get our bags and get a room for us.

I was wheeled in to the Lamaze room and was injected with Epidural. After an hour or so, a mature, bespectacled female doctor strode in with two of her young resident doctors. She had a self-assured air about her, and a no-nonsense way of speaking. I liked her immediately. She asked me if I wanted to let my birthing take its course or if I wanted to delay so I can wait for my OB-gyne. She explained that the latter could cause stress to our baby. I was inclined to proceed but called my doctor just the same for reassurance. She said she had complete faith in her reliever who was also her mentor. Hearing her say so buoyed up my confidence.

I was in good spirits as I waited in the room with my husband. I couldn’t believe our nine-month journey will soon be over. My husband had been so patient, accompanying me to every doctor’s appointment and giving in to all my requests, big and small. I was glad I didn’t cause him too much trouble, as our baby remained strong. During my pregnancy, my parents went through major health crises and there were nights when I would cry in bed to unburden. I was worried it would affect our baby but every checkup would confirm that I was giving birth to a feisty one.

I was contracting efficiently until I was between 8 and 9 cm. dilated. Then it stopped progressing. The doctors administered oxytocin to aid the process and also ruptured the membranes to help with the dilation. By 4 p.m., the resident doctors asked me to do trial pushes. After doing this twice to their satisfaction, they asked my substitute OB-gyne's permission to wheel me into the operating room (OR).

In the OR, my OB-gyne asked me to do another trial push. Then she called the whole team to gather around me and give me breathing and pushing instructions. One cycle involved taking a deep breath and pushing hard to a count of 10, followed by a quick gulp of air before continuing the push for another count of 10. I did as instructed but in the second count I only made it to 8. The OB-gyne reminded me to stick to the count.

For the second cycle, I was determined to do better. I gathered all my strength to give the mightiest push of my life, one so enormous it caused all the capillaries on my face to burst. I felt a heavy load slide out of my belly and, when the count was over, I beheld a most precious little being in between my legs. She came out head first, blood covered, eyes wide open, arms and legs in the air, like a warrior who’s just gone through battle victorious. She owned my heart completely. I felt a hand brush my forehead, then a kiss. It was my husband.

That's how it came to be that on May 9, 2016, at 4:45 p.m., my husband and I became Dada and Mama to our beloved Joan Ilsa Alessandra.

My husband's message to our friends
The doctors and nurses swathed our baby in cloth and put her on my breast to latch. She had a good, strong latch. I cut her umbilical cord, then she was brought to a corner to be weighed and checked. She rated 9/10 in the Apgar scale. We were taken to the recovery room together. I couldn't keep my eyes off her. That day, I began my daily account of her life in a notebook I labeled “365 Days of Jia.”

I normally don’t share personal stories on my blog but I know that if you put something out here on the Web, it lives forever, and I want this story to live forever. For my daughter, most of all. But also for every one else who could use one more love story.

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