Every mama has a unique birth story. Whether it’s a C-section, a 2-minute bathroom delivery or hours of gruelling labour and pushing, it’s a story of incredible strength and determination. This is mine.
It was two days before my due date. I still wasn’t feeling any signs of labour — just feeling miserable with the heaviness of my belly, back pain, and endless pressure on my bladder. That day, at 11 AM, I was going to meet my doctor for our regular scheduled appointment.
When I got to the clinic with my husband, I was asked if I was feeling any labour symptoms, I said none at all. I was then told I was 1cm dilated and we’d do a “stretch and sweep” to see if that would kickstart anything. It was a quick procedure. I didn’t find it painful, all I felt was a bit of pressure. I also didn’t feel sore after. I was able to walk — I should say waddle — like usual.
My husband and I then decided to get groceries before heading back home. We probably spent about an hour in the store because I really wanted to walk as much as possible. On the drive home, I felt something pop. I told my husband “something popped but I’m not sure what that was.”
As soon as we got home, I went straight for the bathroom because I badly needed to pee. While in there, I was confused about whether I was peeing or if water was trickling down. After a couple of minutes, I finally decided to put a maxi pad on. This is when I thought maybe it was my water breaking. I then called my doctor’s clinic and was advised to go to the hospital at the Obstetrical Assessment Unit so they could check if my water indeed broke.
My husband and I prepared for this moment. We had our hospital bag ready at the foyer so we won’t forget it once this moment happens. The car seat was already installed in the car. But no matter how prepared we were, we still felt a bit frantic. My husband managed to quickly cut up a watermelon so we can have something to eat on our way to the hospital (we haven’t had lunch at that point), despite me panicking and repeatedly saying “we’ve got to go.” He did his best to keep his cool so I won’t panic any more than I was. He kept reminding me to do deep breaths and focus on myself.
At the hospital
I remember that drive to the hospital with my husband, both of us were so excited. We called our respective moms and told them we were on our way to the hospital because it appears that my water broke. But we also warned them it could be a false alarm.
I was already feeling contractions at that point. But they weren’t intense. They felt like how period cramps are. I started timing them but they were very irregular — some came 5 minutes apart, some closer.
When we got to triage at around 1PM, one of the nurses checked me and confirmed that my water indeed broke. I didn’t get admitted right away but she hooked me up to a machine that could tell exactly how far apart and how intense my contractions were. The nurse advised me that there was a chance I would be asked to head back home if I were still in early labour. At that point, I remember thinking to myself please don’t send me home because by then I was feeling my contractions becoming more intense.
I was allowed to stay in bed for a couple more hours that afternoon. The nurses regularly checked the frequency of my contractions. I was still managing the pain through breathing techniques that I learned through online classes.
Around 5PM, one of the nurses checked me again and said my contractions are closer and more frequent. One of the residents and my doctor checked me and said I was about 2cm dilated. I thought I was for sure closer to at least 4cm given the pain of my contractions. Good news, however, was that I was admitted and transferred to my own room in the labour and delivery unit.
As my contractions were getting more painful, I was offered a narcotic for pain management. I immediately felt some relief and was able to control the pain by deep breathing. I thought to myself I can handle this.
After about three hours, I felt the pain level shoot up again, the effect of the narcotic had worn thin. My nurse then suggested if I would like to try “laughing gas” for pain management, to which I agreed. My mindset at the time was, if I could avoid the epidural needle, I would. It was around 9PM when I was told I was about 3cm dilated — in my head it’s such a slow progress.
The “laughing gas” was helping me a lot through my contractions. My husband, mother-in-law and my nurse (who was the loveliest and most caring nurse ever) were all taking turns to walk with me in the hallways of the hospital. I also asked for a birthing ball at that point, in hopes that it would help speed up my labour.
The medical staff would check me every hour, I was dilating at a very slow rate. Every time they would check, my guess would always be 2-3 cm above my actual dilation. At around midnight, my doctor talked to me about possibly using oxytocin and whether I could still manage without epidural and just using laughing gas. I said I’d keep going with the laughing gas, and expressed that I prefer waiting a bit more to see if labour would speed up more naturally.
It was around 2AM when I was told I’m closer to 4cm. At that point, I felt really exhausted especially thinking that it took about 5hours to get from 3 to 4cm. So I agreed to have oxytocin to help induce my labour. Shortly after that, my contractions really became unbearable and the laughing gas was no longer helping. It was then that I started crying from pain and exhaustion. Finally, I told my nurse I would like to get the epidural.
The Epidural Needle
Warning: The next picture might be too graphic for some readers.
I remember being scared of the needle. I was asked to go on the side of the bed and slouch over my pillow to really create a nice round spine. It was an awkward position and it took a few minutes for me to get the perfect position that I had to be in.
I didn’t see any of the needles. The first needle was to numb the area. I felt a slight sting, but I thought it was not bad. I thought ok my anesthesiologist is doing a good job. After a couple minutes, it was time for the real deal, the epidural needle. I didn’t look; I focused on my breathing and held my husband’s hand tightly. We waited until I was done with a contraction, then in went the needle. To my surprise, I didn’t feel any sting; I felt some pressure but there was no pain.
When the epidural kicked in, I started shaking uncontrollably. I remember freaking out about it but my nurse said it’s a typical reaction from getting the epidural. I also felt really cold and so I asked for a couple extra blankets. At that point I no longer felt the pain of my contractions but I knew I was having them because I was feeling all the pressure.
After ensuring that the procedure went well, a catheter was hooked on to me. Because the epidural numbed my lower body, it also caused loss of bladder control. Shortly after that, I was able to get some rest — a light sleep — for about an hour or two. I didn’t fall in deep sleep because I was getting checked every hour to see how I was progressing. I also had a birthing ball in between my legs which apparently should help with the process.
Time to Push
It was around 6AM when my nurse helped me to practice pushing. At that point my doctor told me I was really close to 10cm.
I reached 10cm around 6:30AM, so I started pushing. The sensation was inexplicable. It was not painful but there was a ton of pressure. With every push, I felt every ounce of energy in me was getting used up. Considering that my last meal was the night before (because you’re no longer allowed to eat after getting the epidural), I knew it would take everything in me to deliver my baby. After about 30 minutes of pushing, there was not much improvement. I asked to take a little break. I took a sip of water but then I started feeling like I had a heartburn.
Then I tried pushing again. The medical staff and my husband, who was standing next to me, were all telling me I was doing great; but at that point it was close to about an hour of pushing. My doctor then stepped out for a bit and told me to continue pushing with my nurse. That was when I sensed that I was progressing very, very slowly; otherwise my doctor would not have stepped out. When my doctor came back in and checked me, he said something that I will never forget, “this baby has a lot of hair.” That gave me renewed hope and determination. I knew my baby was right there and I was so close to meeting him. So I kept pushing and we continued on like this.
Another nurse then came in and offered a slightly different technique to push — she asked me to lay sideways as she lifted my leg at an angle and a bit closer towards my face. After trying it this way for several minutes, progress was still very minimal. At that point, everyone was saying I was doing great but I no longer believed them. I WAS BEAT. My husband beside me kept encouraging me and saying I was doing so well but everytime he said it, the more I thought they were all lying to me. Because if I really was doing great, my baby would have been out by then. I wanted to just ask for a c-section even if I didn’t know if it were still possible at that point.
My dear husband would offer me a sip of water, and I would take it because my throat was burning from all the pushing, but then I’d feel like I was having a heartburn or maybe it was acid reflux, I wasn’t sure anymore. But each time I took a sip of water, I felt even worse.
At around 8:30 AM, my doctor asked for a second opinion from another doctor. The second doctor confirmed what my doctor was thinking and told me that it seemed my baby had his chin up a bit (maybe he was excited to come out and was trying to take a peek). But this was why no matter how hard I tried to push and no matter how well I was pushing, our progress was really slow. He talked to me about possibly doing a vacuum delivery. He relayed the pros and cons. While I did my best to listen and understand what they are, especially the potential risk to my baby, I was so drained; and at that point, I was willing to try everything so I said yes to the vacuum delivery.
The moment I said yes, I felt like being on a medical TV show. The doctor put a new pair of gloves on and told me “you’re gonna meet your baby soon.” A team of nurses then came in the room. I’m not exactly sure how many there were but it certainly felt like there were at least 10 of them. I had a nurse stand on my left side, my husband on the right. Another nurse next to him. Both doctors in front of me and then a whole team of nurses behind them. They were all ready. It’s like they each had a role and were ready as soon as the moment arrived.
The second doctor then performed the vacuum delivery. I wasn’t sure what was being done but I didn’t feel any pain, I felt something pop and then so much pressure — so much that I felt like screaming and saying stop. But it was over in what felt like 10 seconds. Then the doctor looked at me and said “now I need you to push really hard, I’m gonna deliver the shoulders.” I looked at my husband in disbelief and I said, “Shoulders? Do you see the head?” At a loss for words, he squeezed my hand and nodded his head.
I was so determined at that point. Push. Push. Push. After those 3 pushes was when I exclaimed “I can’t do this anymore.” My nurse held my hand tighter and said, “you are so close, you can absolutely do this.” My husband was by my side, whispering in my ear, “you’re doing amazing, it’s almost over.” Another round of pushing. And then another. And another. It went on until it was over.
I heard my baby cry, and then I started crying. My whole body surrendered to my bed. I remember that moment when I didn’t want to move and was just crying a river.
And then I blurted, “where is my baby?” to which everyone pointed to my chest. He was so light and tiny that I didn’t even realize he was already placed on my chest.
That moment, as my son was resting on me, was a whirlwind of emotions. I was feeling getting stitched, I was still exhausted, I was feeling very weak, my throat so dry I can barely say anything; but one thing for sure I love this tiny human being resting on my chest.
I saw my baby for the very first time, I held him and kissed him on his forehead, and all I could say was “aw my baby.”