Hailey Ho arrived safely on the 22 December 2018 at 6.23pm, weighing 3.35kg (7lb 6oz) and being 50cm in length.
This is her birth story, as told and experienced by her mother.
21 Dec 2018 (Friday) – Night before labour
I was 38 weeks and 6 days into the pregnancy. I remember feeling really uncomfortable after dinner, and my lower back was feeling incredibly sore. It felt like bad cramps with a lingering fiery soreness. I actually had repeated episodes of this same back muscle-spasms from the week 36, except that it was the worst that night. It was about a 9 out of 10 on my “pain-meter” (and I would think that I have quite a high pain tolerance). The pain was so bad, I was afraid I was going to start puking. Thankfully, I didn’t. But my belly felt rather low and heavy that night. My back was hurting so much that I skipped taking a bath, took a Panadol and went to bed to sleep it off. As Ming Han massaged and stroked my hands, my body slowly relaxed. And as the Panadol finally took full effect, I fell asleep.
We were actually told by our personal gynae (3 days prior to that painful night) that the baby might be arriving sooner than expected. He also informed us that he was going away for a few days, which also happened to be a week before our EDD (December 30th). Due to those circumstance, we were given the option to either have me induced (that very same night) or wait for nature to take its course. Ming Han was still working on a video and I didn’t feel comfortable being induced any earlier than necessary. So we decided on the latter and I was hopeful that she would stay in my belly a while more. Or at least just till Sunday when our doctor would be back. But just in case, we had a back-up plan if anything else might have happened.
We packed all our bags into the car beforehand and I limited all my activities, my walking and literally anything that might trigger or cause my labour to happen any sooner than it needed to.
22 Dec 2018 (Saturday) – Day of Labour
I woke up at 5.30am to pee and noticed that there were light pinkish-brown stains on my sanitary pad. It was also partially soaked. It hit me. I was leaking and spotting! 2 key signs that labour might not be far away. Ming Han realised I wasn’t in bed and came to check on me. “Did your water bag burst?” “No, I think I’m just leaking… and there’s light bleeding too”. Then it happened - I experienced my first contraction. My whole tummy tightened and then, a zing of period abdominal pain below. Owh! I’ve had Braxton Hicks contractions all through the final trimester, but never with any pain until that moment. It was tolerable though. I could still talk and walk normally. I took a shower, we packed and headed to the hospital. I didn’t even bother with all the apps I downloaded to time my contractions. I just told Ming Han when I was having one and he timed it. They were roughly 5 – 7 minutes apart at that time. It didn’t matter – we were already on our way to the hospital. We made sure that the car was with nappy liner just in case my water bag burst on the way.
7am – Reached the hospital and got strapped straightaway to a CTG (to monitor baby’s heartbeat and also contractions of the uterus). They confirmed I was definitely having contractions but I was not dilated at all. Because I was spotting, they wanted to monitor my progress through the day. We checked into a very comfy room and was told to rest. My tummy was tensing up from time to time – minor contractions, but nothing too uncomfortable. I had breakfast and slept one of the best sleeps ever during the pregnancy. I’ve been anxious the last few nights about knowing (and being right) about when to head to the hospital. Every little “sign” would make me question if the baby was actually coming or me just overthinking. But since we were now within the safe walls of the hospital, I was able to rest and relax a bit more.
1pm – After lunch, nurses did another CTG and my contractions were even milder than in the morning to our amusement/confusion. I wasn’t feeling any pain either. I was thinking that perhaps my labour will stretch till tomorrow when our doctor is back. However, the nurses said that some moms have “silent labour” where they have labor contractions without knowing because they don’t feel any pain. So, to be sure, they did an internal check to see if I was dilated. And to my shock, I was already at 4cm. WHAT? That meant active labour was not far away. I looked at Ming Han. “I guess we’re having the baby today”. Suddenly, I was prepped to be transferred to the labour ward. I had an enema and then came the epidural procedure. Surprisingly, epidural did not hurt as much as I thought it would. Nurses checked and I was already at 6cm. Contractions were still pretty mild and up to that point, things were progressing pretty quickly and painlessly.
3pm – Our alternative gynae was on stand-by the entire time and once I was all prepped for the labour room, he introduced himself. He said it might just take another three hours before it’s time to push and told us he was going to have to break my water bag. The process of that felt worse than any of the internal checks. After he did, there was a super warm sensation (like peeing in the swimming pool. Not that I know how it feels like. Ming Han has told me stories). Ming Han said it wasn’t a lot of water that came out to his surprise, just a splash compared to a gush of water that he was expecting to see. My cervix apparently went back to 4cm after the water broke (the nurses said it was normal), but my contractions escalated quickly and were getting a LOT more painful. The funny thing was that I could feel all the internal checks and contractions as time went along. Even my legs and toes were fully functional and sensitive. That’s when we had a strange feeling that the epidural was either not in full effect or not working at all. Maybe it’s still kicking in, I said to myself.
4.30pm – Somewhere in between everything, they gave me Pitocin to quicken my labour. I didn’t even know I was given Pitocin at that time (or why). It was only after delivery was over that I was told. But it explains why contractions got a whole lot stronger and pain went to a whole different level. They upped the epidural dose when my pains weren’t getting any lesser. They did another internal check – I was at 7cm! The 3 hour wait did feel like forever. With each contraction, I was paralysed with pain. I could not talk or focus on anything else. I closed my eyes the entire time and held Ming Han’s hand, focusing on his voice.... ok breathe in, breathe out. Deeeep breaths. Ok your numbers (on the machine that measures the contractions) are going down now. Yup yup that was a big one... good job. And just as soon as I had a small space of time to breathe and relax, the whole process would repeat again. Ming Han would constantly ask the nurse to check on my epidural every time my pain seemed to be increasing.
4.45pm – The pain I was experiencing was going into a whole new level. I was probably in the most pain Ming Han has seen me in since my muscle spasm episodes… or ever. Each surge of pain with the contractions were really tiring me out. I was pretty groggy in between contractions that were coming every two minutes now. I could hear Ming Han asking me questions but all I could do was to focus getting through the next contraction when it hit. Ming Han called the nurses to check on my epidural again.
5pm – Another dose of epidural for the pain got administered but the pain intensity was still the same. This time, my knees and below felt numb but it did nothing to my contractions. Instead all the pain felt like they were now channeled and focused into both my thighs. The feeling was like something stabbing my thighs each time a contraction came.
5.20pm – Contractions were even more intense now. The nurse did another check and said I was at about 8–9cm. No one could figure out why I was still feeling all the contractions at full force with the max dosage of epidural already pumped into me. But I was almost there – just ONE more cm to dilate. All I wanted was to get to 10cm, push the baby out and be done with these nasty contractions.
5.40pm – Just when I thought it couldn’t get any more intense, it did. I didn’t want to wait till 6pm. I wanted to be checked again. Nurse tried a pushing exercise to help stretch my cervix to 10cm but was unable to. So I had to wait for another 20 minutes. In between the pushing exercises, I had some poop mess but the nurses assured me that it was totally normal for many mothers during this process. At that point of pain I was experiencing, any and all feelings of embarrassment were off the table and I just wanted this baby OUT.
6pm – Finally, I heard the doctor’s voice. It was time to push. Those words were music to my ears. He saw I was in so much pain and he offered the laughing gas to help me through my contractions but like the epidural, it made no difference. I told him it’s ok I’ll do without it, let’s just do this. He was super encouraging. Ok, girl after 3-4 pushes you are going to meet your daughter. By 6.15-6.30 everything will be over. Let’s do it……… 10 more minutes to our “deadline”……… One more time, if not I’ll help you ok. After 10 minutes of pushing, the doctor resorted to using a vacuum extraction which was also followed some of the worst pain I’ve ever been in.
My body jolted and it felt like I was being ripped apart forcefully. Ming Han said that’s when the head and shoulders came out. Everything was a blur at that point because every part of my body took over to process and to endure the pain. I remember holding Ming Han’s hand, moaning and groaning in pain. Poor thing, he felt so helpless but continued encouraging me, telling me it’s almost over. Then I felt a heavy load leave my body……. Hunny, she’s here. She’s here… You did it! You did a goood job! I saw her. She came out with close to no crying. She was here! I was R-E-L-I-E-V-E-D. and just so glad that it was over. The doctor delivered my placenta and proceeded to stitch me up. They gave me a local anaesthesia on my right thigh so I couldn’t feel it. But like the rest of the whole process, I felt the stitching. The doctor quickly ordered the nurses to pass the baby to me so that I could focus on her instead of the pain. He quickly finished up what he needed to and said it was all done! FINALLY! I remember asking the doctor “How do people have 11 children?” I don’t know why I chose an odd number like 11 – maybe it was the meds talking. I really salute all moms out there who had full-on natural births – hats off to you.
Time stopped. There were no more contractions. What used to be in my belly was now no more. I looked at Ming Han and he told me all about Hailey – how she looked like, how she was behaving and just stayed with me. I really don’t know how I would have gone through without him by my side. I wouldn’t have been able to. I held Hailey for awhile before she was taken away to be monitored for the next 4 hours. I couldn’t believe she was here. They cleaned me up and soon I was back in my room. There were so many gaps in my memory, and I asked Ming Han to recollect back what happened.
In my case, my epidural failed to work fully during my labour and I wasn’t mentally prepared for a full-on natural labour experience. Was I traumatised by it? Yes. Will I still choose epidural in the future? Yes. I did some research online and found similar stories – there were many possibilities why the epidural did not take full effect. However, there were many things that I was thankful for. A really short labour and a quick progression – 4 hours of labour and 10 minutes of pushing. An experienced gynae and staff nurses that made the delivery quick and as painless as they could for me. A safe delivery and healthy baby whom docs labeled as a “big baby“ and ended having only 4 stitches which healed very fast. I know I will eventually forget the pain over time. It’s been 3 weeks now and I’ve forgotten the pain a little more. But that night, when it was just Ming Han and I in our hospital room – I cried it out. Hailey came back to our room after 4 hours of monitoring and it was a pretty magical moment, just the 3 of us. We now have a daughter, in the flesh. Pretty clueless about parenthood but we got by, one hour at a time.
24 Dec 2018 (Monday) – Going home
We arrived home, just in time for Christmas Eve. We were now a family of 3! Having both our families help out the entire time we were in the hospital and when we got back made the transition so much easier. Here’s to parenthood!