When I found out about my pregnancy, my first instinct was fear instead of joy. My mother’s words about labour pain were deeply carved in my mind.
Pregnancy is like a one-way train on an exotic ride without reverse gear. It is perfect this way because along the way, I gradually expanded my inner capacity to embrace the joy of creating a new life.
As I paid more attention to the subject, I noticed more and more 'success stories’ around me - cousins, friends, friends’ friends, who had smooth deliveries through natural birth, and I convinced myself that I could do this too.
What the internet taught me
Being pregnant in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, I resorted to Google to learn everything I needed to know. I took serious notes about labour that the pain starts from the lower back to the front; and there is a ‘5-1-1’ rule that says go to the hospital when contractions come every 5 minutes, lasting 1 minute each, for at least 1 hour.
Some sources said that I should discuss all my questions with my gynaecologist as if he is a friendly ally. A birth plan was often mentioned to give the mother control over the delivery process.
Hence, I was confused when my doctor was a stern old man who carried out business in a stoic manner. He was so efficient that each visit lasted only 5-10 minutes if there was no other test. Up until my last visit at 37 weeks, my doctor didn’t mention a birth plan at all. Even though I trusted his expertise, I was doubtful about how he is going to be present during my labour if we don’t talk about it at all?
Now, I know that I read too much about labour to not recognise it when it happened.
That morning, I went to a nearby cafe to do some work and grabbed a Subway sandwich for lunch. I remembered clearly that as the discomfort in my lower pelvic area intensified in the afternoon, I was in a dilemma whether to rest or continue working. Luckily, I made a good call to treat my body well and rest.
As the pain continued to intensify in the late afternoon, I recalled the ‘5-1-1’ rule and timed the pain. Although the pain happened in interval (like contraction), when I recorded a 2 minutes gap, I simply didn’t think that I could be in labour at 37.5 weeks pregnant. Moreover, I felt the pain in my lower pelvic area which didn’t start from the back like what I read.
I only decided to go to the hospital after dinner when the pain was unbearable - which I thought I’ll get some pain killer and go home.
I was in too much pain to think clearly when a nurse wheeled me into a labour suite.
After being pestered by my confused husband for a while, the midwife said, ‘let’s make this clear, your wife is here to deliver a baby. We’ll know for sure when after checking her dilation.”
The moment she told me that I’d reached 4cm dilation, my jaw dropped wide open for a few seconds.
So, I went through a whole day of labour without knowing it? How could it be? I hadn’t even packed my hospital bag yet. We hadn’t done laundry for baby. I can’t believe that I’m doing this!
I was instantly relieved at the sight of my doctor when he marched in like a shining knight. It was then I understood that there’s only one birth plan available - to get the baby out safely no matter what.
In the hindsight, everything unfolded perfectly because by the time I knew that I was in labour, I was too overwhelmed by pain to feel panic about delivering a baby.
I understand that every mother has her own preference when it comes to childbirth. For me, getting the epidural shot when I was curling up and moaning in excruciating pain was one of the best decisions I’ve made in life.
When the epidural took effect, I felt light and relaxed, almost like being transported into a new universe with every single trace of pain sucked out from my body. From the monitor, I saw that the contraction was still happening and best of all - I felt nothing.
The epidural enabled me to go through the rest of contractions in peace, even catching a couple hours of sleep before everyone sprung into action at 8cm dilation.
When the delivery happened past midnight, all I needed to do was to follow the midwife’s instructions to a tee - when to push, how hard, when to stop. It was painless and quick.
The moment I heard my baby cried was the most magical moment in my entire life. Catching the sight of a tiny body at the end of the bed, the profound reality of bringing a new life into the world sank in.
I could still remember the weird smell when they placed a waxy baby on my chest. I was bewildered to see him yawned, awestruck by the tiny being in front of my eyes. He was living in amniotic fluid just a few moments ago and now he is breathing air!
The end is the beginning
I am grateful that I had an extremely smooth delivery with only a first-degree tear and a few stitches.
When I was snoozing comfortably in the hospital, the whole family scrambled to get ready for the arrival of our newest member - which my mother-in-law refers to as a beautiful memory and remains a good story in our post-meal conversation until today.
Being a first-time parent, my baby was like a precious gemstone in an invisible glass case - I enjoyed watching him but was too afraid to handle him.
My husband and I were both completely clueless and kept ringing the bell for help whenever our baby cried. I didn’t know that we could change the diaper, unwrap and rewrap the baby, and even carry him around in the hospital suite.
It was the silly fear that only first-time parents experience, something we could both look back and laugh at.
The post-delivery hospital stay was like living between a dream and having a dream come true. It seemed like only one thing was different (the baby) and yet my whole universe was never the same again.
There was an influx of intense emotions - intense love, intense gratitude, intense wonder, intense awe, intense liveliness - that I never knew existed before.
Before leaving the hospital, I got to spent a quiet moment alone with baby Travis. I sang him a song that has given me a lot of comfort through tough times.
Going home felt real, felt big, felt like an end and a beginning. As much as I gave birth to Travis, he gave me a new life as a mother.
That was the first time I cried ever since giving birth to him.