It’s the last day of 2011 and as I try to look back to the things that happened these past 365 days, one incident stands out from the rest: the birth of our baby boy in October.
Sixty plus days have passed since Benjamin was born and I haven’t written his birth story. And I have an excuse – I have not really processed what happened that day enough to really share it fully with the world.
…without crying, that is. Until now.
But the weeping every time I remember about the whole labor-delivery thing will end here, as I close 2011. It’s not easy recalling everything that happened, especially if those moments weren’t pleasant or what you’d hope it would be but somehow, I know, I needed to write this and leave it behind the doors of 2011 before stepping out to greet the new year. I am writing this for me.
October 25, 2011 – 39th week prenatal checkup
I went to my regular prenatal checkup at Al Wasl Hospital without any problems. The usual stuff – blood pressure, sugar, urine tests – all I passed without significant findings. I’ve had one of those happy go lucky textbook pregnancy.
Until I mentioned that I’ve really been itching all over my hands and feet and by self research, I am suspecting cholestasis of pregnancy. The unassuming doctor examined me and said, yes, by the looks of it, it must be cholestasis so ordered blood work and led me to the ultrasound room to check the baby inside. Baby is fine but amniotic fluid is a bit decreasing.
With cholestasis, bile acid build up is toxic to the baby so induction (artificial means to start and speed up labor) needs to be done in most cases. I am lucky that I am in my full term of pregnancy when this happened.
I was advised for admission the next morning. I was ready to pop anyway, so no big deal.
October 26, 2011
We arrived early at the hospital, did the paperwork and by 9 am, I was in my hospital bed. Just before noon, a group of doctors were doing their rounds and visited me. One lady doctor gave me 1 tablet of induction meds (to be inserted there). Then she performed a “membrane sweep“- the midwife/nurse/doctor will simply “sweep” a finger around the cervix (neck of the womb). The aim is to separate the membranes around the baby from the cervix. This releases hormones called prostaglandins, which may kick-start labour.
I could go on write so many things to describe it but one, simple word will do: PAINFUL. That bring-you-to-your-knees-and-beg-for-mercy kind of pain.
The doctor expected I’d go into labor full speed and have the baby at least before midnight. True enough, the contraction pains came but along with it, I developed a slight spike in my body temperature later that day. Everything was still ok and I was still tweeting about the whole experience and walking around the hospital, hopeful that that one induction tablet will speed up labor and I’m going to have my baby today.
So little did I know.
19:00 – Another doctor came and examined me. I am but 1-2cms dilated. With respect to childbirth, this is nothing. She gave me another induction tablet and “swept”again. If Dubai heard some horrible howling that night, that was me.
Contractions, contractions, contractions.
I was strapped with fetal monitors to see how the baby is doing. The baby’s heartbeat started to get faster than normal whenever I have fever. The nurses just gave me Panadol and left. I shivered in the cold for an hour.
October 27, 2011, just after midnight
Upon checking that my stubborn body seems to be taking time to respond to the induction meds, another doctor came and gave me the final third tablet.
By this time, I was already feeling a bit restless being on one side for at least an hour strapped to the fetal monitors. The pains were still manageable but it is not something I look forward to feeling for the rest of the day.
October 28, 2011
More than 36 hours after the contraction pains started, I had the most horrible fever. My whole body shook so the doctor ordered that I be transferred to the delivery suite from the labor ward so I can be induced further with Pitocin drip. The pain is becoming more and more intense as my whole body shook with fever. I was febrile every 2-3 hours.
I heard one of the doctors say, “Was she given an antibiotic? My goodness this fever is not looking good!”
The fetal monitors strapped into me showed the signs of distress called tachycardia – rapid heartbeat of the baby. Normal range is 160 beats per minute and baby’s heart rate went up to 200 then dropped to 80, twice. That’s when the doctor decided to break my bag of water so labor can further speed up, open the birth canal so I can deliver the baby as soon as possible. Fever usually means an infection going on inside the body and hell it’s not good when you’re pregnant AND when your amniotic sac has already ruptured making the baby susceptible to infection.
Doctors suspected Chorioamnionitis – an infection of the membranes (placental tissues) and amniotic fluid. It occurs in about 1 to 2 percent of all pregnancies, but is much more common in preterm births. Chorioamnionitis can cause bacteremia (blood infection) in the mother and may lead to preterm birth and serious infection in the newborn baby.
As the doctors discussed among themselves, their nervous voices hovering around me,
…”we have to deliver the baby fast”
…”risk of still birth”
…”or brain damage…”
I prayed in silence although my insides are screaming, “Please save my baby, I’d do anything to spare my baby!”
After the Pitocin drip in an attempt for normal delivery, the doctors found out that my body didn’t respond at all and I was stuck at 4 cm. Bloody, God damned body not cooperating at all. I hated myself. I hated the fact why I am so different from my mother who birthed six children as easy as sneezing up a nasty cold.
The fetal monitor beeped a deafening sound, the sound of danger, the sound of my baby asking for help. The next thing I knew, my husband was called to sign a piece of paper and everything was a blur. All I remember was a group of people running my gurney into the walls while turning corners in the hallway trying to get me to the operating room as fast as possible. They looked tensed. And it scared the heck out of me. My husband was asked to say a few words before they would close the doors of the operating room. Morbid if you say it but honestly, I thought that was the last moment I’d spend with him. He was told, everything will be done in 30 minutes.
Suddenly 30 minutes sounded like 30 years.
The anesthesiologist guided me through the procedure while holding my hands, looking at my face wet with tears. He sat me up, had two nurses holding me so he can administer the spinal block. I was asked NOT to move or twitch a muscle – a very difficult thing to do when you’re sobbing, huge hot tears. This was not the way I wanted it to be. I have read and FEARED C-section and now here I am about to be cut up. But anything for a healthy baby. ANYTHING.
The second the needle touched my skin, I felt a tingle in my toes and suddenly, I can’t feel all of my feet at all. They felt like rubber.
There were so many people in the room and I can’t distinguish which are doctors or nurses. I laid flat on my back and someone pulled a screen in front of me near my chest so I couldn’t see what’s going on in my lower half. It felt like they were playing on my belly, you know, just running their nails softly on my skin but in truth, the doctors were making a big incision with sharp surgical knives!
I heard, “baby is out” but I didn’t hear a thing. I was so scared. I kept on shouting, “is the baby ok” for God’s sake why isn’t he crying! I didn’t hear a cry but my own!
They had NICU specialists inside the room and when I heard the word NICU, it was the first time I actually thought “what if this doesn’t end the way I thought it always would? What if all those positive affirmations I gave myself weren’t going to be true?”
A few seconds that seems like eternity later, I heard a faint cry. At last. He was cleaned and was made to lie on my chest. He was warm, he was breathing life. Benjamin is finally here. My beautiful baby boy. The team of doctors saved his life by taking him out fast. And contrary to my fears, he looked as normal as normal is.
Five toes on each hand and feet.
A good cry. Warm skin.
Eyes that looked at me as if saying, “I am here mom, no need to worry.”
Unknowing to me, my husband later admitted that he had those negative thoughts earlier than I did. He was told if everything goes well, it will all be done in 30 minutes. The baby was shown to him after 30 minutes yes, but even after more than an hour waiting for me at the lobby, no one came to tell him what had happened to me. I was in the recovery room for observation of bleeding and while I was actually ok, actually survived everything physically (though extremely broken psychologically and emotionally), my husband thought of the worst because he was basically kept in the dark.
When it was nearly 2 hours that I did not get out and not one of the nurses came to tell him what was going on, he thought I had, well, died. And he was there sitting in one corner of the hospital contemplating of his would be life ahead, with two children, one a newborn without a mother. When I was wheeled out of the operating room, my husband, standing, pacing back and forth outside the door nearly fainted.
Benjamin even with an Apgar score of 9 (perfect score is 10) wasn’t out of the woods yet but we didn’t know at that time. The infection seeped in the amniotic sac as the OB suspected and he was admitted in the NICU for six days with IV drips for antibiotic and observation. Needles on the little hands. It was heartbreaking to see. I could not breastfeed him because I was bedridden for the first 24 hours. He was fed with formula milk via a syringe because that was the other option than the feeding cup – my husband did not want the feeding cup and the way he was fed by the nurses so he did it himself, every two hours, each feed lasting for 30 minutes.
But our little guy is a fighter and he managed to prove everyone he won’t bow down to an intruding infection. He came out with flying colors and was discharged healthy and well. Just perfect.
Needless to say, it was the scariest day of our lives. I am glad that has passed. Now, I spend time with Benjamin everyday and just as life with a newborn, there are sleepless nights, painful back pains and dirty diapers. But I love him to bits and extra thankful to God for giving him to us, just perfect as I prayed him to be. All the other discomforts don’t really matter.