We left our place to go to the hospital, arriving at Labor and Delivery around 12:30am. I mentioned to the nurses and the OB on duty checking me in how my contractions were coming close together, but not lasting very long.
I begged them not to call my doctor until they knew it was the real thing because I didn’t want to bother her this late at night only to be sent home. The staff replied that Dr. Henson has very clear instructions to call her right away if any of her patients show up at L&D, regardless of the time of day and reason. I started feeling bad that I was wasting everyone’s time.
They set me up in the birthing room (wish I had taken a picture, that room was huge and super nice), and hooked me up to the fetal monitor to check baby’s heart rate (which was reassuring to hear), and to monitor my contractions. The monitor showed how frequent and strong they were (at least I felt good to know that I wasn’t imagining things and wasn’t just a wimp!).
At 2am the OBGYN on duty came in and went to check if I have had any progress. Then he says “you’re 1-2cm dilated” and I almost cried. At that point I had been having strong painful contractions every 1 to 3 minutes for 7 hours! And NO progress? I was the same thing as I’d been for 2 weeks? I asked if I was going to be sent home, he replied he would call my doctor and check with her.
About 15 minutes later he comes back and says I’m being admitted. Though I haven’t had any progress, Dr. Henson is convinced I’m in active labor due to the frequency and strength of the contractions. They ask if I want anything for the pain, and I said yes (I had no plans on doing a natural labor, I did hope to labor at home as long as possible though). They gave me a shot of demerol which did absolutely nothing to ease the pain.
They unhooked the monitors so I could go to the bathroom and get some sleep (HA! As if!). Karl was already taking naps on the couch (I wanted nothing to do with him, not in a mean way, but in a “nobody touch me, just leave me alone so I can deal with this pain”).
The intensity of the contractions started getting worse and worse, and I couldn’t even get out of bed by myself and had to ask Karl to help me walk to the bathroom, even to sit on the toilet and get up from it. I couldn’t time the contractions (since no electronics were allowed in room), but they were definitely longer than before, and were less than a minute apart. I’d have a contraction during the 10 feet walk from the bed to the toilet then a few while peeing, then again before I even reached the sink to wash my hands, and before I had a chance to dry them, another one would hit. The worse part is that I kept having to pee (and more and more bloody mucous would come out each time I wiped).
It was after getting checked the first time that I started feeling the contractions on my pelvis as well. Before the pain was on my back, my insides, the outer part of my belly, and radiating down my thighs, but now it was like my pelvis was trying to separate from my body too, as if someone was stabbing me with a huge kitchen knife each time, from inside. I had a feeling I was having some progress at this point.
An hour after being first checked, the doctor came back in (I know the times as there was a clock facing my bed). He checks me and says “You are 4cm!” (So I dilated 2cm in one hour after so long with no progress.) I was soooo relieved! “The anesthesiologist has already been notified, and him and Dr. Henson will be on their way.”
I should add that my doctor does NOT recommend getting an epidural before you’re 5cm dilated, as it considerably slows down labor, so I never asked for one before then. They had my birth plan and knew I wanted one as soon as it was possible. (The epidural really did slow things down for me, as I went from contractions every few seconds to about every 3-5 minutes.)
Another hour went by and the anesthesiologist came in and injected me with the nectar of the gods, err, the epidural. I had a few contractions during that time, but I had to lean over while he did his thing and not move a muscle. I felt NO pain as the epidural was inserted, except for a little prick when he numbed the area. My eyes were closed, and at some point I felt someone gently rubbing my arm. When he was done and my contraction was done, I finally opened my eyes and Dr. Henson had arrived – I didn’t hear her come in, and had no clue she was already there.
She checked me then and I was 6cm dilated (another 2cm in an hour!). They gave me oxygen, and turned off the lights to the room so I could get some sleep since it was going to be a long day. It realized then that I was going to have my baby that day (I was still not excited/nervous, I just wanted the whole thing to be over).
I was so against pitocin, after watching “The Business of Being Born” but when Dr. Henson said she was going to give me a light dose of oxytocin to counterbalance the epidural slowing down progress, I remember thinking I no longer cared and that I trusted my doctor so I just nodded.
The amazing epidural kicked in and I no longer felt like my baby was trying to kill me. I should add that I heard many people complain how the epidural paralyzes them, but that never happened to me. Dr. Henson will only work with one anesthesiologist at Makati Med because he is one of the best, and he really is. I could still feel all my contractions and my belly tightening, and my legs were numb, but not immobile. I could move them, I could lift my butt , scoot down, etc. I just had absolutely no pain whatsoever. Around this time, Dr. Henson broke my water to help baby drop (baby was still very high up).
I tried to sleep but started feeling very nauseous. After another hour, Dr Henson returned to the room and I complained about the nausea and that maybe the drugs weren’t agreeing with me. Her face lit up and she got all excited and said “actually that can be a sign of full dilation. I bet you’re fully dilated already!” and she checked and was right – I was fully dilated! This would be over soon!
The baby was still high up, so the doctor told me we could push now, but it would be a waste of time, I would be there for hours pushing, eventually my body would get tired, the pushes wouldn’t be as effective and I might end up with a c-section (which I didn’t want). The baby’s heart rate was ok, there were no signs of distress, so she said that we were in no hurry, to take our time and allow the baby to drop on her own and she would be back in an hour.
She came in shortly before then, checked and said “baby is at zero station, she is starting to drop. But let’s wait a little longer.” She had me practice a push to see if I could handle it, and if I could do it ok. She told me to bend my legs, hold the back of my thighs, take a deep breath, hold it for 10 counts while pushing as if I was trying to take a big poop (which I probably did, and it’s true what they say, at that point you really don’t care), while I was doing that, Karl had to put his hands against my upper back to lift my upper body from the bed. The goal is three pushes per contraction, so we did those, and she said I was pushing great, I could do it, and we would wait another hour to see if baby had progressed.
Another hour or so she came back, and a bunch of other folks came along, people started turning machines on, moving equipment around and I remember thinking “I guess I will have this baby today, maybe even by this afternoon?” I had NO idea that all the action meant I was having this baby NOW. I was still very nauseous and still very much out of it, going with the flow, but not really there if that makes any sense.
She set up her spot and told Karl to take his spot behind me to help (I should add that I didn’t want Karl to see the baby crown, as I do want to leave some things a mystery, you know?). She explained that one of the nurses was going to help me push and bring the baby down. This tiny little but super damn strong Filipina nurse stood on a stool and stayed to the left of my stomach. With each 10 count push, she would literally put all her body weight against my belly pushing the baby down. It was an excruciating pain, and even though I couldn’t feel anything else, there’s no epidural that works against tiny strong Filipinas. I mean, in between contractions I actually tried to talk her out of using so much force and letting me be. (Karl thought that was hilarious, that in the midst of it all I was trying to reason with her. She kept going “sorry, ma’am” each time I tried asking her to stop.)
I pushed for about 30 minutes, but that was only 9 or 12 pushes, it was only long, because we had to wait for the contractions to come, and again, they were still really far apart because of the epidural.
At the end of a set, the doctor looked at me, did an ok sign (you know making an “o” with her thumb and index finger) and said “the baby’s head is here, you’re like this!”
So I pushed three more times and she said “open your eyes, look at your baby!” I honestly though she wanted me to see the baby’s head coming out or the baby crowning, which terrified me, so I hesitantly opened my eyes, and there was a whole baby, head to toes. I had NO idea I had just pushed the baby out, or that I was done pushing until I saw the baby.
I was so out of it, that the first words out of my mouth was “Oh my god, it’s a baby, a real baby!” (yes, I sounded super smart). I started tearing up while the baby let out a huge cry and they put her on my chest.
She was bloody and covered with vernix but I couldn’t stop kissing and kissing her whole head going “my baby, my baby, she’s so pretty, oh my gosh my baby!” Karl was on my left and kept kissing her head as well. Neither of us could care less about all the blood she came covered with! And yes, THIS was the moment when it hit me I had a baby. It never hit me during labor, I really just was going through the process, either dealing with the pain or following instructions from the people around me.
She was born on March 5th, Tuesday, at 8:47am, after more than 12 hours of labor, but every minute of pain and nausea was completely worth it in order to have her in my life!
I remember at some point that night thinking that I was afraid I might not immediately bond with the baby. I had such a miserable pregnancy, specially towards the end, and labor was excruciating painful, then I was still nauseous once the pain went away, and I was so detached from the whole thing, that I thought I’d be one of those people that feel detached from the baby once she finally came along (it’s very common not to immediately bond, though everyone bonds with their baby a few days later, some just don’t get that immediate magical feeling at birth).
But the minute I saw her and said my ridiculous “it’s a real baby” statement, I was instantly in love. I already loved her more than anything in this world. I can’t believe how lucky I am to have little Elena in my life!
When the cord stopped pulsating, the doctor asked Karl to cut the umbilical cord, shortly after I delivered the placenta, she showed it to us and it was disgusting, I cannot believe people eat that thing.
They finally took the baby to get tested/weighed and cleaned up (they only wiped her down, didn’t bathe her), and Karl finally remembered he had a camera in his pocket this whole time (!!!) after the nurse asked him if he wanted to take a picture, and he took a few, including this one of her pouting. She got a 9/9 on her apgar score.
Then the doctor started stitching me up. I had been very clear that unless it was necessary, I didn’t want an episiotomy, I wanted to tear naturally. Of course, deep down I was hoping I wouldn’t tear at all, but it took her 40 minutes to stitch me up, so I knew it was bad. I asked her not to tell me how many stitches, I would rather not know. She told me that it wasn’t too bad, it was only a second degree tear. (Once the epidural wore off, I realized how much BS that is, it was pretty bad! My poor hooha!)
The nurse brought the baby back to me and asked if I wanted to try to get her to latch. I did, and she wouldn’t latch right away just kind of head butt me.
(By the way, a week ago I’d be horrified of the thought of popping out a boob in front of a bunch of people and having a male nurse touching my breast helping me out. You do lose all your dignity during childbirth, and at that point I didn’t give a crap who saw my humongous post-pregnancy boobs, I could care less that it was a male nurse helping me, and was actually grateful for his kindness and help.)
After a good half hour she finally latched and nursed a bit, and since then she’s been nursing like a champ!
While waiting for our room to be ready, we took a couple more pictures… This was my first picture with the baby, and proof that the make up I put on for my last pregnancy picture was long gone…
At this point Karl complained that he had yet to hold the baby, ooops!
Eventually we moved up to our recovery room, and I was hooked to the bed with a catheter for 2 days (I asked for the second day since I was in way too much pain from the stitches). I was bleeding like a pig, and despite the puppy pad under me, I got my share of bloody bed sheets, which was quite embarrassing, I felt horrible for the nurses. (And gosh, you bleed a whole lot postpartum! And if you’re wondering, it has nothing to do with the tearing, but it’s your uterus contracting to get rid of the extra fluids – so whether you tear, don’t tear, have a c-section or a vaginal delivery, there will be blood. And lots and lots of it.)
I even got a sponge bath the second day, which felt amazing, and like a spa experience, as the nurse scrubbed and massaged me with a warm wet washcloth using my own toiletries. After over 24 hours not showering and bleeding so much, it felt amazing! (I have no clue if all sponge baths are this nice, or only here in the Philippines.)
It took us two days to settle on a name, and I’m still getting used to calling her something other than “baby.” Elena passed all her tests and is a super healthy baby. I couldn’t sleep in the hospital, as there were always people coming in and out to check on me and the baby, and the adrenaline was running in my system. I got 7 hours of sleep in 3 days and I wasn’t even tired! Karl slept a lot since he can sleep anywhere, and would literally close his eyes in mid-conversation, while I was super energetic non-stop. Ellie stayed with us in the room (we didn’t send her to the nursery), and except for nighttime, I kept her in my arms the whole time, I couldn’t let go! The last night, I ended up holding her all night as well instead of putting her in the bassinet.
We had a ton of visitors, which was great, as I was cooped up in that little room for so long, so it made the time much more interesting.
On Friday we finally left the hospital and came home, and I’ve been loving the time at home with her, despite being very much sleep deprived (the exhaustion did catch up with me the minute we arrived at home, so I’ve taken many naps, and yes, many naps with baby!). Karl stayed with us in the hospital, and is taking two weeks off to stay with us at home as well, so it’s been great having him around.
Lily and Lucas are hesitant about the baby, and Lily is definitely hurt, as if she’s been replaced (she has not, I love her just the same, but she’s keeping her distance a bit, but hoping she’ll warm up soon).
I should finish this by adding that I had heard a lot of complaints about the nurses in Manila, that they’re not very competent, don’t know to wash their hands, etc. We stayed in the hospital from Tuesday through Friday, and my experience was the absolute opposite. The nurses were spectacular, always washed their hands (they would put their things down in the room, go to our bathroom to wash, and come back out), very knowledgeable and patient. At no point did I feel that my health or my baby’s health couldn’t be trusted in their hands – far from it, I trusted them completely, and anytime they didn’t know an answer, they would call the pediatrician or OBGYN on call to check. And they were also incredibly nice, always attentive and you could tell they genuinely like their job and interacting with patients. I’m planning on getting them a basket of goodies to thank them for the hard work.
The food at Makati Med was also surprisingly good and I was very well fed, didn’t need any of the snacks we brought (though I did snack on chocolate I received from Sara – I’m not superhuman after all!). I had heard it’s super oily and unhealthy, but my doctor had me on a high fiber diet, and the food was great – so if you’re there for whatever reason and like me you dislike Pinoy food, ask for a high fiber diet as well!
Despite my personal struggle with labor, my birth experience was incredible, and I don’t think I would have gotten care similar to that in the US. My doctor was always available by cellphone (no answering service!), I knew she would be the one who would deliver my baby (no multiple doctor practice), she is as friendly as one can be, but takes absolute charge of the room when it matters, and you could tell she is highly respected in the hospital. As I mentioned, the nurses were also spectacular. And everyone else from the cleaning staff that came to the room every day, to the guy who delivered my food, were friendly and amazingly nice.
My OBGYN and Ellie’s pediatrician also stopped by every single morning we were in the hospital to check on me/her (when in the US your actual pediatrician would make the rounds at a hospital prior to going to her office – even when she has office hours in the next town over?).
I am so so so glad I made the right decision and delivered in Manila and didn’t medevac to the US or Singapore! I spent so much time debating where to go to, that now I look back and see how silly it was. Home was not just the best place, but the best care, surpassing all my expectations!