The birth of my daughter, my second, came unexpectedly. At 36 weeks 5 days gestational age, we were mentally prepared for her arrival, but we were not logistically ready.
My mother, ie postpartum help and lifesaver, wasn’t arriving till 4 days later
Ian, my 2.5y son, was home for the week without school (classmate was COVID positive, Ian himself was thankfully negative)
My hospital bag wasn’t packed
Keep in mind we are alone overseas with no family or relatives in the east coast
So here’s how it all went down:
3.30am – On April 14, 2022, Thursday, I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a sort of cramp in my abdomen. In the third trimester, this was common, but somehow this one felt different. It occurred intermittently and was uncomfortable enough to keep me awake. For the next two hours I tried to sleep with no success, and finally at 6 am I woke Mark up and let him know something felt off. At the time it felt very much unlikely that I was in labor, I mean it wasn’t even 37 weeks yet! But then I stood up, and felt water trickle down. Oh boy.
Mark and I launched panic mode but ultimately decided we’ll handle things an hour at a time. My clinic advised I head straight to the hospital, so Mark had to stay home with Ian while I packed a very last-minute hospital bag, settled a few things at work, and headed straight out. At this point, my contractions were very bearable and very spaced apart. Some 15 minutes, some 20 minutes. There was very little discomfort.
11.15am – I arrived at the hospital via Uber. On the Labor & Delivery floor, I told the first nurse I saw, “My water broke, I’m 36 weeks 5 days.” She shrugged her shoulds and said “Hm, close enough!” and ushered me to change and go to triage. The PA (Physician Assistant) there confirmed my water did break, though I was only 1.5cm dilated at the time. She did happily announce that I will not be leaving the hospital without giving birth first. And so the party begins…
I want to explain our situation a little bit more: Mark had to stay with Ian because there was no one else Ian was close enough to where he wouldn’t freak out with us being gone from his side. As a reminder, his school was closed for the week. Stating the obvious, at this point I was at the hospital alone. If I could (a big IF) I’d hold off on giving birth until after 8.30pm when Ian goes to bed and Mark could be there with me. Mark wanted to leave Ian with our friends, but the choice that I made (I stressed that as the one giving birth I would make the final decision…), that I would be much more comfortable if he’d stayed with Ian, than if Ian were to be with people he’s not familiar with. Ian is a very sensitive + emotional fella and I can’t imagine how scarred he may be to suddenly spend the night with strangers. So the plan was to deliver as late as possible so Mark could come after Ian fell asleep for the night.
12.30pm – I got checked into the delivery ward and the doctor on call greeted me there. I explained how I wanted my husband to be here for the labor after 8.30pm, and asked that she not administer Pitocin (hence inducing labor) if she could. She glared and gave a firm NO, explaining that given my water broke there is an increased probability of infection as time goes by, she wanted the baby OUT asap. We went back and forth (she pushed for 2pm and I pushed for 6pm), and she firmly noted she could not wait past 4pm to start the induction. Fine, we’d cross our fingers that I’ll progress slowly (spoiler alert: I did not).
4pm – Pitocin was promptly administered, at the lowest setting (1 unit), there wasn’t any real progression. I suspected at this point my nurse may have increased the dosage to 4 units without my knowledge (which was what I heard it was at later on…)
5.15pm – My contractions were 3.5 minutes apart, and the pain was at about 6-7 out of 10. Basically. I progressed pretty quickly.. and by 5.45pm – the pain was at a solid 7 out of 10, occasionally an 8. This was when I asked for an epidural, remembering this was right about before it got really painful to contain my voice and being able to stay still during the first pregnancy. I was texting Mark letting him know that I hope the epidural would slow the labor down. The nurses came in and told me the anesthesiologist was on her way. The pain got more and more intense with every contraction, and soon it was about 2 minutes apart.
From this point on I lost track of time – I was heaving with every contraction. After what seemed like an eternity, the anesthesiologist strolled in with her equipment and the nurses got me into position by sitting me up on the side of the bed. When administering the epidural one had to hunch forward while the needle is inserted into a space around the spine, and in between groans I told the nurse to hold me firmly because I’m not sure I could not squirm during the contraction. The anesthesiologist rubbed alcohol on my back and told me she just need a few minutes more, and this is when shit really went down. I felt a contraction come on really strong and couldn’t contain my body as it started shaking violently. That’s when the nurse holding me started saying “I think she’s transitioning!”, and it was Goodbye to the epidural. (For those that do not know. “Transition” is the final stage of labor when the cervix dilates to 10cm and it’s “go-time” to push. It’ll be too late to receive an epidural at this point.)
I remembered getting violently pushed onto my back into the birthing position, then I heard someone shout “She’s crowning!” Honestly, I was horrified but was too engrossed in the pain to react. In less than a minute, a bunch of people came dashing into my ward. Within the next contraction, I felt a strong urge to push, which I haven’t felt before with my first birth because of the epidural. I remembered not seeing my doctor among the many faces in the room, so I asked the woman directly in front of me (who was a physician assistant), “Can I push???” and all I saw was a blank stare back at me. Oh God.
A few hours ago, before my active labor, I had asked the doctor prior that if for whatever reason I don’t get the epidural, would I receive any pain relief during the birthing process (I was basically afraid of the “ripping” underneath). She grinned and said, “Girl, the burning (i.e., ring of fire) and pressure of pushing the baby out IS your pain relief.” She was 100% correct. After the “crowning” stage, all I can really feel is immense pressure and the so-called burning pain overtook the pain of my contraction.
My body voluntarily started pushing (and I was shaking violently in the process). FINALLY, my doctor arrived, took a quick look, and shouted “WAIT, don’t push yet. You need to focus! Focus! Do not push!” I forgot everything I learned during the birthing course 3 years ago and I had NO IDEA how to not push, so all I did was to try and not exert any strength, although I felt really intense pressure at that point and lost control of my bowel movements (TMI, but this is a completely normal process of labor). And when the next contraction came on I was asked to push as hard as I can, and within the next contraction, Faye Lam was born at 6.27pm, 2.5h after my labor was induced.
For comparison, my first labor with Ian took well over 24 hours, and probably 10 hours or so after the painful contractions begun. You can read all of that here.
I was both exhilarated and in shock – I can’t believe I just delivered my baby without pain medication. I was so sure I had destroyed everything in the process, but my doctor said I didn’t need any stitches! It was probably because Faye was a tiny baby, born at 4lbs 5oz. I told the nurse next to me to call Mark and she excitedly video-called him, and I could see the look of astonishment as tears welled up in his eyes. I honestly wish he could be there, but the circumstances didn’t allow it. The doctor apologized for him not being there, and said she wished she could have done something but couldn’t wait longer.
Unfortunately, because she was under 2kg (1.972kg to be exact), she was sent to NICU to monitor her vitals.
As someone who just delivered her baby, it was hard to hear you couldn’t bring the baby home. I did shed some tears when I was alone in my recovery ward, but I knew it was the right thing to do. The nurses took great care of Faye, and I couldn’t risk her getting discharged not being 100%, and having to come back to the hospital (and if that happened, she wouldn’t come back to NICU, but to ER).
Mark came right after Ian went to bed and it was SO nice to finally see him. We both spent time with Faye at NICU before Mark had to leave for the night so he could be there when Ian wakes up. Faye ended up staying in the hospital for 6 days. For the first two days while I was still staying at the hospital I visited her every 3 hours and spoke to every nurse and doctor that saw / took care of her. I spent my time doing skin-to-skin and tried to breastfeed her where I could. The nurses that took care of me in postpartum were SO nice, they knew I spend lots of time at NICU and brought their equipment / medicine / test kits there to meet me.
When I was discharged, I went home without a baby, which felt very weird and strange, in a sad way. I came home and saw Mark and Ian together, and immediately hugged Mark and teared up. I felt better seeing both of them, my two other most important people in the world are safe. And to a large extent, Faye is safe, too. It was a smooth delivery, and she was born without any issues apart from her weight. I was grateful, thankful, and felt whole again.
Despite not being there, Mark was absolutely instrumental in this whole process. Knowing Ian was safe with him was all I needed to feel strong through the contractions (and ultimately the fleeting, birthing process). Ian had an absolute blast with him, and they both bonded so much over the three days / two nights together. Mark did absolutely everything – making all of Ian’s meals, taking him outside everyday, bathing, nighttime routine, morning routine, soccer practice, AND tidying up the home. It may sound like these are just everyday things, but I know how difficult it was having to do all of it alone. I was so so so proud of him, and honestly, can’t ask for a more perfect husband.
Ultimately Faye came home to us safe and sound, and 3 oz above her birth weight. She’s growing day by day and we can’t wait to see what she’ll become as she grows older. Ian on the other hand…. Needs more time to get used to having Faye around, but we expected that and will continue to encourage him and give him attention.
I am grateful, and thankful everyday to call myself a mother of two. I won’t ever take this for granted. Hello World to the, now, lady of the family, Faye Lam!