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Gabriel’s Birth Story

I know, the last time you heard from me was with a pregnancy announcement, but as much as I don’t even find time to scratch myself these days, I do miss writing, and do hope one day I’ll be blogging frequently again. 

But Gabriel’s birth story had to be recorded for prosperity since the whole thing was crazy fast! (Labor started at 6:30am, he was born at 11:45am the same day!)

Our little Gabriel was born in Perinatal Laranjeiras (Rio de Janeiro) at 11:45am, on 05/05/15, weighing 8lbs 10oz, measuring 20.5″ and after being 6 days late (my due date was April 29th), waiting and waiting for his arrival, once he was ready he was in a hurry!
I had Ellie in the Philippines (birth story here). If you don’t want to read the whole thing, it was a vaginal birth with epidural, and I even had the kristeller maneuver (when they literally push the baby out of your belly — at that time I didn’t even know this had a name and how controversial this maneuver is). I didn’t however have any issues with her birth and thought it was wonderful. The things that were important to me were all respected (no episiotomy, waiting until the cord stopped pulsating before cutting it, no cesarean) and I was open to anesthesia. Her birth was at 39 weeks, 5 days, after a membrane sweep (per my request), that triggered contractions a couple of hours later, which slowly intensified, and once I started dilating things moved fast. 
Exactly 26 months passed, now in Rio, Brazil, and after lots of research to avoid a csection in a country with one of the highest (if not the highest) csection rates in the world (with some private hospitals having over 90% rates!), I chose a wonderful team: Dr Fernanda Macedo, who works with the obstetrical nurse/midwife Heloisa Lessa. 

Dr Fernanda is part of a new movement in Brazil called “humanized birth” meaning birth with no medical interventions (unless absolutely medically necessary, but never out of convenience for the doctor because she has other places to go to). Heloisa specializes in home births, but teams up with Dr Fernanda to help those mothers like myself who feel more comfortable in a hospital setting. Heloisa replaces the doula during labor at home (but with the added medical training of an ON/midwife, being able to check dilation and baby’s heart rate, and even deliver the baby in an emergency). She then goes to the hospital with you, where we meet with the doctor, and she assists her with the delivery. I absolutely loved this, as it took away the guessing game of “should we go to the hospital now?” 

I was again open to an epidural, but again was going to see if I could have a natural drug-free labor, since Heloisa mentioned that second births tend to go much quicker than the first, specially once active labor starts, and during the pushing stage as well, so this gave me hope that I could handle the pain. 
With 40 weeks 5 days, I couldn’t stand being pregnant anymore, I was absolutely miserable. Everything was uncomfortable, I had daily cramps for the last month, insomnia was a constant battle, I was dealing with prodromal labor in the middle of the night for a week, everything would hurt when walking (and we live so far from everything, I ended up spending a lot of time at home), and I was already convinced my body didn’t know how to go into labor without a push, after all, with Ellie I had a membrane sweep to trigger labor. The baby was still very high up, he was already much quieter and not moving as often, which worried me (but that day I had had an ultrasound and baby was doing great).

I went to sleep that Monday night convinced he was never going to be born, and I even mentioned with Karl that I was going to beg the doctor for a membrane sweep next time I saw her. I hadn’t scheduled my next appointment yet because her office schedule was up in the air as she was canceling appointments because everyone else was going into labor (except me, which was making me even more frustrated). I took this picture before bed that night. 

But at 3am the next day (40w 6d along) I woke up as usual at this point, but this time with what felt like gas pains. I had taken evening primrose oil, and a quick google search told me it was a side effect from it, and since the pain was constant, with no rhythm, I didn’t think much of it. It was just enough to wake me up and keep me awake, but nothing to make me hopeful. 

At 6am, I got up and finally went to the bathroom to see if I could get rid of the gas pains. I was unsuccessful, but when I wiped the pee, I saw blood: finally!!! It was a sign that something was going to happen! I sent a message to Dr Fernanda and Heloisa, that I didn’t have any contractions, but there was blood, so maybe today was the day. I warned my parents to be ready to pick up Ellie, but to not get excited quite yet, and not to mention with anyone because it may not be anything yet, and told Karl who was getting dressed for work that he should stay home. 

Half hour later I noticed the gas pains had a rhythm, they started to come and go, so I started to time them. At 6:40, I sent a message to Heloisa saying I thought they were contractions, but they were still very far apart, lasting only 15-20 seconds, would get closer when I was standing or walking, but they would space out once I was sitting or laying down. I told my parents to pick up Ellie as I thought it was the real thing starting, finally!

At 7:20 I sent Heloisa a message that I was starting to feel downward pressure, and the pain was no longer just concentrated on my belly, so I didn’t think it was a false alarm this time (I had a false alarm a week before, so it was still hard for my to believe this may be it). She said she was leaving Barra, and coming to see me. I told her she didn’t have to be in any hurry as the contractions were still short and far apart. 

At 8:40 I sent her another message saying I had forgotten how much it hurts! But if the British princess could do it, this peasant could too, right? (This was a mere week after Kate Middleton gave birth.) I knew then that it was definitely not false alarm, the pain was starting to radiate towards my back. Like last time, while I was timing them, none of my contractions lasted longer than 50 seconds even though they were only 1-2 minutes apart. They would still pick up once I got up, so I kept myself seated on the couch. 

My parents arrived to pick up Ellie, and Heloisa arrived around 10:30am already talking about going to the hospital — say what? I thought she was going to spend time with me at home and only go to the hospital closer to the delivery time? Thankfully her experience and intuition are strong — if it depended on me, I would have ended up with an unplanned home birth! 

Karl went to walk Lily before leaving, and she checked my dilation and I was 5cm — so all the pain was doing something! I remember going “great, so this baby will definitely be born today or tomorrow!” And her looking at me and saying “Tomorrow? He’ll be born today!” 

The baby was still super high up and hanging out on the left, and I mentioned how with Ellie it was the same, I got to 10cm and she still hadn’t dropped so I had to lay on my right side to help her turn and drop for a couple of hours. This information was super valuable to her — I didn’t know it, but she already knew that without anesthesia and without laying down, once I hit 10cm this baby would come down fast. While usually it’s the baby’s weight that helps reach full dilation, with me I dilate first, and the baby drops after, so checking how high the baby is cannot be trusted (she told me this after the birth — she was super call

and had total poker face throughout labor).

I didn’t know it until after Gabriel was born but she was texting the doctor “hurry up as this is going to be a quick one!” With me she had total poker face. 

Heloisa looked at me and asked “Where is your beer?” She had asked me to but my favorite beer so I could drink a glass before leaving the house to relax a bit, as I was too in tune and controlling and I needed to let go. Karl got back with Lily, brought me a glass of Hefeweizen (ah, 9 months without it!) and she said once I finished we would head to the hospital. Karl went to take the bags down and pull out the car. 

This whole time Heloisa was in touch with Dr Fernanda, who was also coming from Barra (they had a delivery early morning) and that Dr Fernanda Satty was on her way to the hospital to check me in in case Dr Fernanda Macedo couldn’t get there in time (because Brazil has such a csection culture, it is important that the doctor arrives before the patient, since a doctor who is on call would likely send her straight to surgery, or if she’s far along enough, perform a vaginal delivery but with what here is called “obstetrical violence” performing automatic episiotomy, kristeller maneuver, forceps, woman laying flat in bed even if she wants something else, sometimes even refusing anesthesia even if she asks so she will be persuaded to a csection, etc).

Around 11am we left home in the way to Perinatal Hospital in Laranjeiras, with Karl driving veeeeery slowly because the contractions had already picked up and were pretty intense (sitting down no longer helped!), and any bouncing movement made it hurt like hell. 
We arrived, left the car with the valet while Karl grabbed our things and checked me in. Dr Satty was already there so we went straight in. In the elevator, Dr Fernanda walks in with us, so I’m much calmer: everyone is here!

The contractions start getting more intense while we were waiting for the elevator, in the elevator I already start feeling intense downward pressure. I’m no longer speaking. 

We need to go to the changing room and Dr Satty helps me change to the hospital gown. There are too many people that work in the hospital there, talking loudly, laughing, and despite both doctors and the midwife asking them for silence, they don’t quiet it down. The humanized birthing room is not quite ready (all other rooms are for cesareans, only one is meant to labor in, thanks to Brazil’s high c-section rate), so they put us in a small dark room at the end of the hallway to wait. A strong contraction hits me so I lean over the bed and as soon as it’s over I say I need to pee, something I had already mentioned a couple of times. Dr Fernanda asks to quickly check the baby’s heart rate before I go, she uses the doppler while I’m standing, baby is still high up but already centered on my belly (he had been on my left still when we left home).

I go to the small single bathroom next door, at the end of the hospital hallway, Heloisa follows me and closes the door, waiting for me on the other side. The bathroom:

I sit down, and hear a “ploft” with something falling and hitting the toilet water hard. I’m unable to pee but suddenly I have to poop. I open the door, while still sitting on the toilet, and tell her “I want to poop, but I heard needing to poop sometimes could be something else…?” She says “ok” completely calm, closes the door then seconds later she comes in and squats to my left, Dr Fernanda comes in right behind her and squats to my right, they turn off the light and leave the door ajar with just enough light from the hallway so they can see me and Dr Satty stands right next to Dr Fernanda at the door. 
I start saying that it hurts, I don’t want to be there, I don’t want to be on the toilet though I have no strength to get myself up, intense contraction follows, I find out what the “circle of fire” means, I want everything to stop. Karl hadn’t even arrived yet, he’s still registering me downstairs!

The contraction ends and Dr Fernanda asks me to scoot over to the edge of the toilet and they help me do so. It’s very uncomfortable, I complain that it hurts, I don’t want to be there, I have no strength, I ask for the birthing stool I had heard of, please get me out of there, I can’t handle it. I ask them to take off my underwear, since it’s still halfway down my legs (after all, I only went in for a quick pee!).

A super intense contraction hits seconds after and I scream that I want to squat, grab onto Heloisa and I squat while holding onto her neck for leverage, in front of the toilet, I start screaming like a mad woman that it hurts, to make it all stop, I want my epidural (though deep down my rational side tells me it’s too late, the head is coming out, I don’t even have strength to move, there’s no way I can get any pain relief at this point but yet I keep asking for it). 

And I keep screaming “AAAAAAAAHHHHHHH” between an “I can’t! It hurts! It hurts” I can hear loud noises from the hallway and they are making the pain more intense, Dr Satty keeps asking the hospital staff that’s chatting to be quiet to no avail. I know Karl is missing the birth. I’m aware that everyone can hear me scream like a wild banshee, but I couldn’t care less, the yelling helps push the baby down, it gives me strength to push, the screaming is coming like the baby: without my control! I have never been so out of control of what my body is doing before!

When the second contractions after I had squatted hits, I push with an incredible force to end this once and for all, and he comes out, followed by a huge “ploft” sound as my water breaks wetting our feet and the floors. His body slides out and Dr Fernanda catches him and immediately hands me the baby, and I keep holding him and kissing him, saying “oh baby, mommy had you in the bathroom, I’m sorry!”, while his eyes are half open and letting small cry out. I am still wearing the hospital gown, still squatting with them helping me balance while I am holding the baby, and I can’t believe that I gave birth in a hospital hallway bathroom while squatting in front of the toilet (that was definitely NOT in my birth plan!). It is all very surreal. 

I look down at the lit hallway and see Karl running towards the bathroom and I just say “I had him in the bathroom, I couldn’t wait for you” while he’s looking at his son and crying. 

Heloisa and both the doctors help me get up from the very slippery floor, full of amniotic fluid and blood covering the tiles, and I am left with absolutely no strength, holding the baby on my arms, the umbilical cord half in half out, and they help me wobble back to the little dark room next to the bathroom. I am terrified I’m going to slip and fall and drop the baby!

I lay on the bed with their help, Karl cuts the cord when it stops pulsating, Dr Fernanda helps me deliver the placenta — and that hurt like hell and took longer than the baby to come out! It felt as if I had given birth to a cheese grater and now the placenta had to get through the grated areas! I didn’t tear, just had some grazes (and later found out that the recovery is way more painful than when I tore with Ellie!)

They help me put the baby against my bare skin, and change the hospital gown to a clean one (I was still laying in bed). Gabriel — who was still very much unnamed at this point — doesn’t nurse right away, but about 15 minutes later latches easily, him very calm, but as startled as I was from the whole thing. I don’t have one picture right after his birth because there wasn’t any time for anything. Karl had changed as fast as possible while hearing primal screams that he wasn’t sure if they were coming from me. 

It’s been almost a month and it’s still all very surreal. When I think of his birth story, that I had him squatting in the bathroom, 15 minutes after entering the hospital I still can’t believe it. If I had any clue that would happen I would have freaked the fuck out. 

I would never have been able to do any of this if Dr Fernanda and Heloisa didn’t believe in me, giving me encouraging words when I thought I couldn’t do it. They gave me strength when I had nothing left of my own, and kept calm despite the speed in which everything happened. Not once did they try to get me up or move me from the bathroom (I don’t think it was physically possible at that point, but the fact that they didn’t even mentioned it certainly helped!). And special thanks to Heloisa that let me grab onto her neck with all my strength and to all three of them for putting up with my screams in that tiny bathroom! Their ears were probably buzzing for days after that! And I’m thankful to Heloisa’s great intuition that everything was going to move fast, and amazed that they maintained their sense of humor despite everything! They even joked “When Heloisa texts you to hurry up, you run!”

I cannot recommend my birth team enough. They were incredible, and actually makes me want to live through the experience again — ring of fire and all — because of how spectacular I felt afterward. 

I never understood the whole natural birth movement, epidurals a exist for a reason! But after giving birth both ways I understand what is all about. I’m not better than moms who haven’t experienced the pain of drug-free delivery, but I felt so incredible afterwards. You’re left on a high as if you can do anything, conquer anything. It’s hard to put into words! 

Ellie has been smitten with her baby brother since! I was so afraid of jealousy but followed all the tips to make her included and luckily it works, she just loves this little boy!


And of course, he went from being this tiny little thing…

To 3.5 months old by the time I put this post together. Oops. 


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Filed under Brazil, Pictures, Pregnancy

Elena’s Birth Story–Part 2

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!


Filed under Baby, Foreign Service, Pictures, Pregnancy

Elena’s Birth Story–Part 1

Before I get started, I should warn that if you get squeamish about blood, and other very TMI related details, you might want to skip this.  I loved hearing birth stories while I was pregnant, so figured others may be interested in mine as well.  Plus, I don’t want to forget the details of the delivery, so this is very long!  Dividing it in two parts so when I start forgetting things, I can look it up here and remember the day our lives changed forever…

On Monday morning I went to the doctor to get my membranes stripped for the 3rd time.  I was hoping there had been some changes since my 39 week appointment, but sadly, I was still 1 to 2 centimeters dilated, 60% effaced, baby still at -2 station. 

For those of you unfamiliar with pregnancy terms, for a baby to be born by a vaginal delivery, you need to be 10cm dilated (that’s how open your cervix is so baby can come out), 100% effaced (meaning how thin your cervix is getting in order to allow full dilation), +3 station (it goes from -3 to +3, meaning if baby is high or has dropped).  So basically, I was barely dilated, walking around for 2 weeks with no change, and the baby was still very high.

I made an appointment to go back on Thursday, and the doctor was going to do an ultrasound to check if everything was ok to let me go overdue, and we talked about an induction when I reached 41 weeks.  I left feeling deflated, and as I was on my way out and told the secretary “see you on Thursday” she smiled and said “No…  I’m not going to see you on Thursday…” (Great intuition, no?)

I met a friend at Jamba Juice in the Fort after my appointment, talked about how little had happened, walked to her place with her since I wanted to get things moving, and as I was walking back to High St at almost 1pm, I texted Karl “This time I didn’t even have cramping afterwards 😦 ” 

At 2:15pm I sent Karl a text “Spotting and a bit of cramping now.  So at least the strip did *something*” 

At this point, every time I went to pee, I also had to wipe a lot of bloody cervical mucous.  The “bloody show” as they call it, can be a sign that labor is starting, but because I had the membrane strip, I was associating it with that, since that can cause spotting and cramping.  (The bloody cervical mucous never stopped, and lasted until my very last trip to the bathroom the next day.)

Twenty minutes later I wrote “Cramps come and go.  Don’t get excited though.  Decided to time them and they last 10 seconds each.  Def not labor.”

Karl had a facial after work, which I told him to go to.  At 6:45pm I texted “No labor.  Contractions stopped.”

Karl got home around 7pm, by that point things had started up again and they were coming strong, by 7:50 the contractions were lasting about 25 seconds, anywhere from 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes apart, and I couldn’t talk, walk or do anything during them. 

I had bought fondue cheese earlier that day, and since I didn’t meet my friend for dinner as planned because of the pain, I decided that it was a good day to make fondue, because if I was in labor we might not get a chance to eat it later.  So I cut up the baguette, cut up and boiled potatoes, prepared the cheese, and we sat on the couch to eat.  It took forever to get things ready, because I kept having to stop to deal with the contractions, the same thing happened while eating dinner.  At this point it was around 9pm.  The contractions were just as frequent but still not lasting more than 35 seconds.

At 10:30pm the pain was getting worse and more intense, I went with Karl to walk Lily, and when we got back I started talking about going to the hospital.  I couldn’t deal with the pain, and all the online tips we found (massaging back, counter pressure, being on all 4’s, sitting on the exercise ball, taking a hot bath, etc, etc) didn’t do crap to ease them.  Trying to do anything actually made the pain worse.

Karl was hesitant to go to the hospital and being sent back home, since everything we read said to not go to the hospital until your contractions are 5 minutes apart, 1 minute long, lasting for at least an hour.  At that point, they had been anywhere from 1.5 to 3 minutes apart for about 4 hours, but aside from one contraction that lasted 3 minutes (!!!), they never lasted more than 50 seconds, and for the most part they were only 30-40 seconds long.  We didn’t know if it was only early labor (when you should stay home) or active labor (you should go to the hospital) because it didn’t follow any of the patterns we read about.  Contractions lasting only 30 seconds are usually early labor, contraction intervals lasting 5 minutes or less usually means active labor.  The last thing I wanted was to drive to the hospital in pain, only to be sent back home!

I texted the doctor to see if she could provide any guidance, but she never texted me back.  In her defense, I texted her at 11pm, and she had been very clear to CALL her when I went into labor (here the doctors actually give you their cellphone and home phone numbers, I’m so going to miss this personal care at my next pregnancy!).  I didn’t want to call her though, because it was late at night and I was still not sure whether this was anything so didn’t want to bother her for no reason.

I finally gave up, put make up on (I wanted nice postpartum pictures – spoiler alert: by the time I gave birth I looked liked crap, and got no good pictures), took this one last picture (I’m totally faking this smile in between contractions), and we headed out.  You can see from the picture, how my belly was still very high, and baby hadn’t dropped.


It was hard convincing Karl to go, I knew how unbearable the pain was, Karl was timing them and knew how frequent the contractions were, but still they weren’t following any patterns.  Since it was so late, I told him we would be in the hospital within 10 minutes, not having to deal with traffic, and if they sent me back then it would just be another 10 minute drive back home, but I really wanted to get checked because I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I should take this moment to say that the contractions were much much much worse than anything I’ve ever imagined.  It felt like my body was literally being ripped apart from the inside.  I had heard that in between contractions you get a break and feel normal, but in between contractions I still felt pain, they were just not as bad.  I really don’t think it’s a low pain threshold thing, as I’m not particularly weak (heck, my dental fillings were all done without anesthesia, because I’m more afraid of the needle than of the grinding pain), but I’m convinced that just like pregnancy is different for everyone, so are the contractions and pain of labor.  I mean, everyone’s body is different, so why assume that labor feels the same for everyone?  My grandmother had four pain free labors, and mine were the complete opposite of that, so it wasn’t just because she dealt better with pain.

The weird thing is that though I’m a crier, at no moment I cried, it was all just so painful, that I didn’t even have energy for that.  And at no point during labor did it even cross my mind “I’m having a baby!” or get excited about the end result.  All I could do was deal with the pain at that moment and concentrate on breathing.

So off we went to the hospital…

(To be continued, I’ll post the second part tomorrow.)


Filed under Baby, Foreign Service, Pregnancy

Pregnancy Update: 40 Weeks!

Ok, so maybe I didn’t make it quite to 40 weeks…


Meet baby Elena, named after my maternal grandmother, or as Karl has affectionate nicknamed her, Ellie.

Baby Elena was born on March 5th, at 8:47am, 19.75” (50cm) long, and weighing what must have been around 7lbs.

She weighed 6lb 6oz in the delivery room and was up to 7lbs the next morning… No baby gains half a pound overnight after birth, they actually lose weight. So after testing with various scales that confirmed the 7lb weight, it was decided the one in the delivery room needed to be calibrated. Good thing I don’t really care much about this mistake – everything from my labor to my hospital stay went so well, that a faulty scale did not ruin my experience!

I left my Monday’s doctor appointment convinced I would be overdue.  The doctor and I discussed an induction date at 41 weeks, since I had had no progress from my previous appointment.  Got my membranes stripped for the third time, and surprisingly went into labor a few hours later.  It was the most excruciating pain of my life, I’m not going to lie.  (And I’ve had second degree burns on my leg that even got infected, so I do know actual pain.)  The only thing I can make sense of, is not that my pain threshold is that low, because it isn’t, but that bodies react different to labor (just as they do to pregnancy), and some people just have more painful contractions than others. 

Anyway, full birth story (because I do want to remember the story for prosperity) to come. 

Here is the last pregnancy picture I took, in between contractions, shortly before heading to the hospital – and if there is ever a fake smile, that one is it.  I have to admit that I did fake it well…


It was love at first sight, and since then we’ve spent our days snuggling with her.  Finally came home from the hospital yesterday and enjoyed a quiet day at home today.

But who cares about all these details right?  There are cute baby pictures to share!  (My friends on facebook are probably tired of all of it!  Yes, I’ve become that mom.  OMG, I’m a mom!!!  It still feels surreal!)

Right after getting cleaned up, she was already pouting!


Karl’s first picture with baby – she looked like a little sumo wrestler when she was born!


Looking very much like her daddy in this picture!


I can’t believe how different she already looks from these first few pictures!


Always passing out on mommy!


Adorable baby feet!  (Thanks to my friend Zizi for the picture!)


Karl is totally devoted.  It’s adorable!


After two days in bed, finally got back up on my two feet!


After debating two names (Alessandra and Catarina) for months, we finally settled on a completely different name…  We both had been leaning towards Alessandra (baby Allie), after my late grandfather (who was Alexandre), and also the name I almost had – my dad changed his mind the night before I was born. But she just didn’t feel like an Alessandra…  She was “baby” for the first 2 days of life, and if it wasn’t for the birth certificate deadline, she would still be baby now.  We announced that we finally made a decision using this picture:


Such kissable cheeks!


Proud daddy!


Trying to get a shot of her eye.  Still a mystery if they’ll lighten to blue, or darken to brown like mine (please let them not be brown!).


Ellie’s first flowers, thanks to my friend Michelle.  We had a lot of visitors in the hospital, just as I had predicted, I’m one of those people who actually wanted interaction with friends afterwards!  Being cooped up in a room was driving me nuts, so the visitors were a nice break!


I thought it was adorable how she crossed her arms under her little face!


First day home, after a well deserved shower.  Lily making it clear she’s a tad bit jealous!  Since then she’s been staying the hell away from baby, she’s a bit hesitant/scared, but hoping she’ll warm up soon like the big sister she is!  Lucas is also hesitant about the new addition, his pupils dilate like crazy when he approaches us!


Naked baby!


Front view of me 4 days postpartum and still super sleep deprived (I had so much adrenaline, couldn’t sleep in the hospital at all!).


To help Lily warm up to baby, we both joined her and Karl for a walk this afternoon, and I got to try my sling for the first time!  Still getting the hang of it, but I’ll be using it quite a bit, I can tell!


I’ll share my birth story in the next post, for those of you who want all the TMI details…


Filed under Baby, Pictures, Pregnancy