22 Jan, 9.00 pm (38 weeks, 7 days)
During my shower, I feel some water escape. At first I doubt myself and then I become sure, omg my waterbag is leaking … again. (This was also how my labour with Watermelon started.)
I put on a maternity pad, and lie down beside Watermelon to coax her to sleep. I feel a little sentimental thinking about how life is about to change in a huge way, and that this could be the last night of Watermelon being my only child.
I woke up at 6.30am in a panic, thinking I had wet the bed. Seems like a little more water continued to release.
I really want to eat nasi lemak, so I make NG bring me to Changi Village, after we drop off Watermelon at school. The plan is to eat, then walk along the beach, but the late morning becomes too hot to walk in the sun. Instead we eat chendol and then head home.
I feel stray and mild surges, but nothing to signal that I’m in active labour. I drink lots of water (to replenish the waterbag) and keep my doulas updated.
At home, I finish up some work, guiltily start on Watermelon’s photo book which I’d been wanting to do, then take a nap.
Around 5 plus, we fetch Watermelon from school then head to the airport to eat at the newly certified halal Goshin Ramen. I start to feel slightly stronger surges but they’re still quite far apart. I remember feeling surges as I walked from the car to her school and through the food court at the airport. I’m mildly impressed by how casual I’m acting. I even play catching with Watermelon after dinner, which sends her into peals of laughter.
On the way home I remind NG to please top up the petrol before I get into active labour — it won’t be funny if we have to stop by Caltex before driving to the hospital!
24 Jan, 1.00am
I’m woken up by a surge, and try my best to breathe deeply while riding it out.
A few more surges come, and at one point I kneel on my bed and lean on the headboard for support. Beside me, NG is fast asleep. I tap his arm lightly and feel a little disappointed he didn’t wake up. Yet I leave him be.
In between surges and broken sleep, I read past Whatsapp messages on Mrs F’s labour because I recall she had a similar experience with a waterbag leaking early.
I grab my pillow and wireless headphones, play hypnobirthing tracks, and lie down on the playmat in the living room. Somehow the open space feels more comfortable than my bed.
Shortly after dozing off, I’m woken up with a startle. NG’s face looms in front of mine.
“Omg you scared me,” I accused.
“Are you okay? Why didn’t you wake me up?”
“I tried… but anyway I’m more comfortable here. Can you lie down with me?”
We cuddle on the playmat and try to go back to sleep. I continue to try managing my surges alone, but eventually I succumb and ask NG to massage me as the pressures build up low in my pelvis. He obliges with light touch massages, and also tries to time my surges so we know where we’re at. But I’m somewhat reluctant to tell him whenever the surges start and stop, plus they still feel irregular. I think he only managed to time 2-3 of them before he gives up.
Upon seeing that my surges are getting more intense, NG calls our doula Azlin to come over. I don’t know what time she arrived, but the moment I see her, I complain that I’m very tired from not being able to get proper sleep.
She nods in understanding, and encourages me to lie down and sleep. NG follows suit. Azlin sits in front of us and stares out into our dark living room, like a watchperson over us. I feel bad for her but am too tired and distracted to apologise.
More sleeping before being awakened by surges. This time I am going on all fours, sometimes leaning my upper body on my birth ball, and calling for massages. Azlin’s massages feel soooo good, especially when she does this new cat-like technique where she paws my lower back with counter-pressure.
During my surges, she whispers words of affirmations: your cervix is opening, your baby is coming down to see you. I nod silently and repeat the affirmations in my heart, and whisper to myself that every surge brings me closer to my baby, and that soon I’ll get to meet Chickpea.
In between the surges, I lie down and try to sleep. As a new surge rises, I first try to act cool and remain lying down, before deciding I cannot take it and get up begging for counter-pressure massages. Rinse and repeat.
Azlin keeps reminding me to do my surge breathing which is helpful, because frankly I’m starting to get lazy to put in so much effort breathing deeply. Plus the surges feel so intense and I start feeling a little frustrated that labour is not as “pain-free” as hypnobirthing sometimes promises.
After a particularly intense surge, a switch goes off in me and I decide I am DONE lying down. I sit up with my hands planted in front of me, bracing for the next surge. Azlin sharply observes that I’m starting to perspire, which she says is good.
The surges are starting to get pushy, and it feels more comfortable to stand up. I cling on to the bookshelf as I ride out the surges. Azlin prompts NG to wield out some food, so he brings out kurma which I nibble on, and then tries to feed me granola.
I start to feel cranky and frustrated. Although I remain calm, I can’t help but feel that this is not the labour I dreamed of. It feels like forever, just like with Watermelon, and the surges are intense. Why can’t I have short and quick labours like other people?? I exercised! So much! Without realising I’m in transition, I quietly think to myself, “Epidural? C-section? Yes give me all, I just want this baby OUT! And I don’t want to do this again!”
I can’t contain my frustration so I ask Azlin, “Why is my labour so long?” Poor gal has to answer a rhetorical question like that.
Standing behind me, she immediately and calmly answers, “Babies need time to come.”
I don’t say anything and continue wallowing in self-pity.
Watermelon wakes up and joins us in the living room. She looked shocked seeing Azlin there lol. Being near her brings me comfort. My father in law swings by shortly to pick her up. Coincidentally her school is closed on CNY eve, so that was one less decision to make.
Azlin asks me if I’m feeling pushy.
“Yes,” I admit. My surges have been veeery pushy for the last hour or so, and I wondered when would be the time to go to the hospital. My surges are still not close to the 5-1-1 trigger point we’d earlier agreed on. (5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, for the last 1 hour)
“Ok then let’s go to the hospital,” she says. Music to my ears. NG scurries to put away the unfinished kurma and granola, and gets us ready to leave. Azlin calls our other doula, Hidya, to activate her.
At my void deck, while waiting for NG to fetch the car from the multi-story carpark, I cross my arms, put them raised against the wall, and lean in while riding out another pushy surge. I can hear 2-3 people walking by and assume they’re looking at me funny, but it’s not the time to care.
I dread the car ride because of the awful things I’ve heard from labouring mums. But it turns out to be not as bad as I imagined. In the car, I close my eyes and try to sleep. The journey is surprisingly smooth (thank you God!!!) considering it’s the morning peak hour. I get only 2-3 surges throughout the ride, and each time I lean forward on the driver’s seat for support. I can feel some waters releasing; the surges are stronger now.
When we pull up to the hospital at NUH, Hidya is there waiting for us. Azlin suggests to take a walk. Inside my heart, I’m half “SERIOUSLY?!” half “I dunno what is happening I am just going to follow my doulas.”
I cross my arms and shuffle to where they want me to walk, to the next building 50m away. Azlin mentions to Hidya that we walked to NUS during Watermelon’s labour. I remain silent but alarm bells go off in my head at the idea of walking towards NUS in my current state.
Thankfully they decide to u-turn back into the main building. When NG met us again after parking the car at the Kent Ridge Wing, I instinctively feel more relaxed and uncross my arms. Near the crowded hospital entrance, I pause to ride out another pushy surge. She feels so near!
We stop again near the directory outside Kopitiam because my doulas say they want me to walk around there. I’m grimacing because I feel so uncomfortable, I think I may have pooped in my pants, and I just want to head towards the delivery suite asap.
But in this last phase of labour I don’t want to talk. Heck, I don’t even share just how pushy the surges are, and how low I can feel Chickpea going. It feels so private, like a secret for me to guard.
Another surge, another episode of wrapping my arms around NG as I ride it out. My doulas get the hint, and suggest heading up to the delivery suite. I’m so relieved but again I don’t say anything.
Up the lift, and 10m away from the delivery suite, my three birth companions try to cheer me on. “Almost there!” I groan because it makes me feel worse — the closer I am to the destination, the harder I have to fight my body’s urge to let go.
To prove my point, an intense surge comes, and I worry Chickpea is going to crown anytime. I hold up my hand to signal everyone to wait until Chickpea moves back up and I’m ready to walk again.
Azlin sends us off at the door, because only Hidya is officially registered with the hospital. Inside the suite, the nurses greet us and direct me to the triage at the end of the corridor. My room is still being cleaned, they explain.
Shuffle, shuffle. Two doctors who are chatting pause mid-conversation and look at me funny.
I stop again in the corridor to ride out another pushy surge. Urgh. Coincidentally a nurse says we are standing outside my designated room. She peeps in and says it’s clean, but floor is wet. Hidya tells her it’s ok we’ll take it. (Yes please!!!)
The moment we’re inside, I ask Hidya to close the door so I can immediately change out and push out this baby. The nurse lays out the pink and blue CTG bands and invites me to lie down on the bed.
I look at it with great hesitation — there is no way I’m going to lie down anywhere in this state.
“Um I can climb on it, if you want…” I offer.
“No no, you have to lie down so we can monitor your baby. After that you can stand here,” she says, pointing to other side of the bed, where she and the machine are.
I walk over to the other side of the bed instead, thinking she can strap me up while I stand up. I am seriously not going to lie down.
Another surge comes, so I throw my arms around NG again and this time… Chickpea crowns!
“She’s here, she’s here,” I say softly.
The nurse panics and puts her hand between my legs. “Baby will fall!!!”
Then my favourite moment comes: NG tells her, “it’s okay, mother will receive baby.” So the nurse removes her hand and I reach down instead.
A few seconds later, Chickpea’s body slides out by itself and I yelp because it’s so slippery, ticklish, and sudden. Amniotic fluid and blood splatter all over the floor. I grab hold of Chickpea and bring her up to my chest.
SHE’S HERE! Her eyes are closed and her skin is sooo purple. “Hi,” is all I can say. In my fantasies I imagined myself squealing “dah sampaiii” which is what I usually announce to Watermelon whenever NG parks the car, but in reality, both fatigue and crankiness have inhibited me.
The next minutes go by in a blur. Nurses enter the room, I get on the bed, and cuddle Chickpea on my chest.
A nurse clamps on Chickpea’s cord before I can stop her. “More than 3 minutes already,” she says. Urgh, I would have preferred a longer delayed cord clamping. She’s about to fix the second clamp when NG, who was washing his hands, comes over and negotiates for her to wait a little more before clamping again. Nurse relents. Minutes pass, the second clamp goes on, and NG snips the cord.
Dr Citra arrives, helps to deliver my placenta, and assesses me. She says I have a second degree tear, and gets to work stitching me. My legs are shivering from the cold, and Hidya helps squeeze my feet to keep me warm.
I offer Chickpea the boob and she latches briefly. I’m in a daze and somehow don’t feel that euphoric. Plus the cramps are stronger and more uncomfortable this time.
I’m finally wheeled on the gurney (so fun!) to the labour ward, where I look forward to catching up on sleep. My brother, Mama Kraken, Watermelon, and my parents in law visit us in the evening. With the new visitor registration requirement, my brother and NG have to take turns. It sucks, because 3 years ago we could freely squeeze in a whole kampong into the room if we wanted to.
Chickpea seems a little fussy in her bassinet in the wee hours, so I let her sleep in bed with me, mostly so I can sleep peacefully. That’s the difference as a second time mum I think — I got smarter. Lol.
The hospital is a ghost town because it’s first day of CNY. Most of the shops downstairs are closed. Overall it’s a less joyful stay than 3 years ago, coz now the nurses don’t manjakan us anymore. Plus they’re probably understaffed over the public holiday.
We go home around 1pm and spend the day lounging around, before my family comes over to celebrate Watermelon’s birthday. Chickpea and Watermelon’s birthdays are one day apart! I wanted them to share the same birthday just so it’d be cool (what are the odds, right?) but when labour kickstarted I figured I didn’t want another 40h labour experience either.
Alhamdulillah for this pregnancy and gentle birth!
Alamak, birth story so long, still want to do reflections eh?
1. I had high expectations going into birth, so even though I managed an unmedicated gentle labour, I could not help but feel disappointed about my experience in the first few days.
2. I was sore about my exercising and birth walks not speeding up my labour. But on hindsight my recovery was pretty good (save for some discomforts like painful cramps) so I guess they paid off after all.
3. I wish I’d done more hypnobirthing visualisations during birth. I was too caught up trying to manage the surges through deep breaths that I didn’t have the bandwidth to truly relax.
4. Overall I took longer to bond with newborn Chickpea than with newborn Watermelon. It’s kinda sad, but it is what it is…
5. So glad I got doulas. I really appreciated their companionship at home and in the hospital!
6. I was also bummed that my waterbag leaked again, despite a better diet this pregnancy. But as Azlin says, perhaps this is my pattern. Kinda like how I gave birth standing up again.