Thursday, August 27, 2015

Helen Aller's picture, and my birth story

"What do you mean labour pain? You didn't have labour pain. You took the easy way out. You haven't experienced actual childbirth until you've had a normal birth. Without any epidural." -- a visitor, 6 weeks after Ammu's birth.


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It's not often that I think ahout my labour. But last week, an image was shared on my Facebook wall and that picture took me back to the wee hours of May 15.

At around 3am on May 15, my back hurt. Not my usual it'll-go-away-if-I-rest-it-long-enough kind of pain, but this was different. At the time, I was in the 37th week of my pregnancy. It was the home stretch. My mum and I were going to pack my hospital bag over the weekend and I was also going to call the stem cell registry to store Ammu's cord blood. That was the plan. Well, to be more specific, that was my plan. Ammu, on the other hand, had something entirely different envisioned for herself.

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May 12, 2015.

It's a Tuesday. I look like a whale. Or something. Most people who've seen me this pregnant, think I look amazing for someone this pregnant. "You don't look like you're going to have a baby in three weeks" is what I heard. I didn't have to buy an entirely new wardrobe. The few maternity tops I did buy were meant to serve as nursing tops too, so, it was a dual-purpose investment. The night before, I'd gone to Chap Chay at The Raintree, St.Mary's Road. It was my aunt's birthday. Thankfully, I didn't empty the contents of my stomach immediately after. The walk from the car park to my OB/GYN office was getting harder to do as the days went by. In the waiting room, the number of old faces had decreased. By some strange miracle, I got a single digit token number, and got called in early. I had my third trimester scan reports with me, they were taken to rule out IUGR. The doctor gave me my usual physical exam, perused my scans and said, "Everything's fine. I'm a little worried about your weight gain, you won't realise it now, but after your baby is born,  you will feel every single kilo you've put on." 

I smiled at her. At 37 weeks, honestly, what more could I do about losing weight? So, I asked her about my birth plan. "Everything looks okay. We'll go in for a normal birth. The chances of a c-section are very low. Unless there's some unforeseen development in the labour room, I don't see why we should opt for anything other than a normal birth." I was so relived when I left. Since the beginning of my pregnancy, the only thing I worried about was what kind of birth I was going to have. Between eating well, and trying to get in whatever little exercise I could, I was praying that I'd have a normal birth. 


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May 13, 2015.

Something's wrong. I mean, my anti-nausea pills should be working. But, who the hell am I kidding? Doxinate NEVER worked for me; all through my first trimester, I threw up my anti-nausea meds and my prenatal vitamin pills as whole, undigested pills. It was a sight to behold. Truly.

So, here I am, again. Trimester three. The kind of nausea I hoped I'd never have ever again. Doxinate has obviously decided to not work and just dissolve in my digestive juices with no effect whatsoever. Standing at the sink and throwing up was simply not what I'd thought I'd be doing this late in my pregnancy. And my nausea has this nasty tendency to be a 24-hour episode. Going back to the doctor isn't going to help. She can't give me any other medication. 


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May 14, 2015.

Still throwing up. Every heave has me clutching my stomach, terrified. I'm frantically texting my friend in the Netherlands. She's pregnant too. We keep checking in on each other. Her son is due in July. She has a rather extreme case of Hyperemesis Garivardum. She's on a nasal feeding tube. We keep consoling each other. Marveling that we're both mothers now. I tell her that I'm waiting to get rid of my goddamned nausea medication. 

I spend the entire day feeling super uncomfortable. I sat on my sofa the whole day, being miserable and upset. I tell Amma that my friend P asked me about getting my hospital bag ready. "We'll do it during the weekend. We'll take the red bag."


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May 15, 2015.

It's 3am. I'm awake. Man, this baby won't quit! I need to sleep. I'm exhausted from all the vomiting. But my back begins to hurt and I need to go to the loo. Something's off. This isn't the normal kind of ache. I'm pacing the room. I wake my mother up. She says, it's nothing, it'll go away and that I need to lie down. I do. But the pain is so intense that I can't sleep on my back, I keep tossing and turning. By 4am, I tell my mother that I'm spotting and that we need to go to the hospital.

We wake up my dad, I go to change my clothes. I have a cold shower and change into a nightdress, and take my file and get ready to leave. I call my husband to tell him I'm going. We call the immediate family to let them know. Everyone else thinks that this is a false alarm. They happen. I'm the only one who doesn't. I've already started timing my contractions. They're ten minutes apart.

By the time we reach the hospital, it's 4.30 and there's no one there, kind of. My dad being the army guy, goes into officer mode and starts ordering people around. I'm wheeled into the labour ward at around 5.15am. The nurses have told me that I'm in labour. I've changed out of my home clothes and into hospital gear. I'm busy on Whatsapp. The nurse tells me to please pretend that I have labour pain. The strap on a fetal monitor and I can hear Ammu's heartbeat. It's reassuring somehow. Tells me that she's okay.

My contractions are now 5 minutes apart. By this time I've had two pelvic exams. I'm in excruciaitng pain. Dilation is on track, but there's a huddle. Huddles in hospital rooms worry me. They're waiting for my OB/GYN to arrive. By now, I've been in labour for 6 hours. My doctor arrives, one more pelvic exam, and her glove comes out looking yellow. She says "meconium staining". There's one more huddle. It's 10am now, and I'm freaking out. My contractions are a couple of minutes apart. I'm no longer ashamed of screaming my damn head off. In less than a minute, there's all kinds of things happening. I'm asked to get onto another bed, they're going to move me to the OT. As I get up, and battle one more contraction, my water breaks. It's greenish. The nurse gasps. She puts a rush on my trip to the OT.

As I'm wheeled, I see amma running to me. "She pooped. They need to get her out." Amma looks so worried. I walked out of the labour room at 5.30 to tell her I'm fine, and she has to go home and get my a toothbrush and an overnight bag, and baby clothes. She'd reached the hospital a few minutes ago.

I'm taken to a swanky room. Something's hissing in the background. The give me the anesthetic. The frame is placed, and many other things are happening, the only thing I know is that I feel like I'm in an episode of Grey's. The Oxygen is seriously getting to me. I'm high on pure Oxygen. Who would have thought that? The doctor huddle continues and someone keeps tapping my face asking me to stay awake. And then there's a scream. My child has arrived. And someone is pulling some kind of black string up in the air. She's taken away, and I continue watching the black string come up from time to time. Suddenly, I ask the anesthesiologist "Is it a boy or a girl?". "WHY DIDN'T YOU SHOW HER HER BABY?", and she continued to pull that damn string! Someone brings over a pink, warm bundle to me "It's a girl." "Hi baby," I say. I want to get up and hold her, but I'm strapped down and that cursed string is still flying in the air!

The surgery is done, I'm wheeled out to the post-op room. And then to recovery. I haven't seen my daughter yet. My phone battery has died. I want to talk to my husband. I feel so disconnected from everything. I can only hear people barking instructions about getting her a mosquito net, and god knows what else. Everything happened so fast. I also can't feel my legs.

I keep falling asleep. When I'm awake, I'm trying to nurse my baby, who wants no part of it. She's sleeping and doesn't like being disturbed. I spend the night huddled with her. I'm in a lot of pain, but frankly, I don't care. There's an impossibly tiny person lying next to me, with long fingers and toes, pink skin and silky black hair. I can't believe that I'm a mother. I'm waiting for the Hallmark moment to hit me. It doesn't.

Everyone is excited. They're visiting, snapping photographs. Asking me about names, whether I'm glad she's a girl, so many questions. I just want to get my IV off my hand and eat some real food. I want to go home and sleep. I want to be alone with my baby. I want to bathe. I want to walk like a normal person. I want to see what my scar looks like.


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August 27, 2015

It's 1.10 am as I type this. Ammu is asleep. I want to sleep too, but I feel like I'm doing something dangerous. Staying awake well after my newborn is asleep. It's like I'm tempting fate. I don't want to, but I couldn't resist. It's been a week since I encountered Helen Aller's moving image. I keep going to her page and looking at it. It was taken off because Facebook is an idiot, and after the image went viral and common sense prevailed the image is back online.

Looking at that image only made me think about the day Ammu was born, my first glimpse of her, the days I spent not being able to feel anything because I went from pregnant to being mom so fast! I remember seemingly endless nights, my absolute extreme mood swings, my being the last person in the room to be fasicnated by her. I remember trying to hold on to her while she decided that the best way to feed was by pretending she was superman and hauling her tiny legs high up! She's only three months old and there's already so much to remember!

Thank you for that photograph Helen Aller. Every time I look at it, I erase every ridiculous comment people make about c-sections.