In the morning of the 4th of December 2016, I woke up early and hurriedly brought my dirty clothes to the washing machine. With belly about to pop and without a household help, I had to finish all the chores really fast—laundry, cleaning of our unit, washing the dishes, folding and keeping newly washed clothes. With a Sunday Mass and a family-initiated Baby Shower up next on my Google Calendar, I knew it’d be a very long Sunday for me and my husband.
While lifting each piece of newly washed outfit from the washer to the dryer, I could not help but wonder how long it would take before I finally meet my baby. I was 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant. After finishing all the errands, I took a shower and cherished the comfort I felt as the warm water refreshed me from head to toe. I imagined long baths like this would soon be rare with a baby waiting for me to finish really quick.
Time flew, and my hubby and I went to church early for our usual choir rehearsal. During the practice, I excused myself for a while to take a quick washroom break. I was surprised to see a light pink stain on my undies. My Google searching taught me that instances like this are common, especially when your labor days are fast approaching. So without a care, I went on to attend the 12 noon Mass and join our choir just like what we typically do every Sunday.
During the Mass, I felt uncomfortable (but painless) menstrual cramp-like sensations. It’s a sensation very similar to what I feel before having my dysmennorhea-free menstrual periods. Since I was a first-time preggo, I called my OB to ask if the pink stain and the menstrual cramp-like sensation were normal. She asked me to go to the Emergency Room right away.
That was the end of my Baby Shower that never began.
That was the beginning of my very quick labor story.
The Unexpected First I.E.
At the emergency room (ER) of the nearest hospital, I experienced my very first internal exam (IE). With a blood pressure higher than usual, the resident doctor at the ER was forced to check if I was already in labor. So though I wasn’t emotionally prepared yet for that dreaded IE, I was forced to face it. Thank God for deep breathing technique, the uncomfortable unavoidable procedure happened really fast. “You’re 3 cm dilated, and your BP is high,” declared the resident doctor. “I strongly suggest you proceed now to the hospital where you will give birth and inform your OB asap.”
From ER to Labor Room
Since my due date was December 28, my hospital bag wasn’t prepared yet when my OB gave a green light to my hospital admission. So hubby and I went home first to pack our things, bought food in the nearest drive-thru, and ate on the way to Commonwealth Hospital and Medical Center! I can’t believe I was still eating fast food during labor!
After hubby and I finished our cheeseburger and fries, we went to the ER of Commonwealth Hospital, relayed what happened to the nurses, and was asked to wait lying down on one of the ER beds. After a few minutes of the ER routine check, the nurse came back and said, “Ma’am, we will take now to the labor room.”
While lying on the stretcher on the way to the labor room, I was honestly completely calm and at peace. Just exactly what I prayed for! I prayed for presence of mind and serenity during labor and childbirth. At that very moment, I wanted to kiss God on the cheek in boundless gratitude.
There was just one woman in labor when I entered the labor room at four in the afternoon. She was very quiet. Her mother told us she had been in labor since nine in the morning. With her unruly hair and dry lips, I must say she was not having a great time. She could probably morph into a lady Wolverine with just one more strong contraction.
On the other side of the room, there was me! The nurse asked me to lie down on the bed, but I insisted to sit down. Google searching taught me that women who remained lying down had longer labors. I did not want that! I asked if I could walk around, but unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to walk as a machine that monitored fetal heartbeat was immediately connected to me. I could clearly hear my baby’s heart beat like a galloping horse.
The nurse in the labor room checked my blood pressure again and did an IE. “It’s still 3 cm. Please wait for the doctor,” she said.
Not long after that, the Head Doctor (or whatever it’s called) of the Labor Section arrived, and did another IE! What’s annoying about medical procedures like this IE thing is that when it’s done to you repeatedly, you get used to the sensation but the discomfort doesn’t fail to be present. “It’s part of the deal,” I told myself calmly.
My water bag broke!
A few minutes passed, and I felt a surge of hot fluid. “This must be the water bag breaking portion I see in movies,” I muttered. Though I knew what was going on, I asked the nurse, “Parang may tubig. Normal ba yun?” (I feel a watery substance. Is that normal?) Of course, she gave me a standard reply, “Normal yan. Pumutok na kasi yung panubigan mo.” (Yes, it’s normal. Your water bag broke.)
Not long after my water bag broke, I started to experience stronger contractions. At that time, I could already tell the sensations I was feeling were contractions and not just some “menstrual cramp-like sensation”. The sensations were stronger and were starting to be, well, bothersome. It’s not painful. It’s not panic-inducing. But it’s clearly bothersome!
Despite the bothersome sensations, I kept my cool. While calmness enveloped my whole being, the Head Doctor and the nurse seemed restless. They kept on checking my records, and trying to call somebody on the phone. I could tell something’s not normal. I asked the nurse what’s going on, but she just told me to relax and wait for my OB.
When my OB arrived, she told me straightforwardly,” Gwen, you’re having preeclampsia. I’m sorry but your baby needs to be delivered via C-section right away. If not, there’s a risk that you will have seizures….”
Her words dramatically faded out, just like in movies. I could still hear her speak, but I wasn’t listening. A loud voice over was playing on my mind, “OK, let’s get this over and done with. Just crack me open, whatever you wish.”
While my mind was busy introverting, the nurse injected what they called magnesium sulfate to stabilize my overacting blood pressure. The side effect? Extreme hot flushes! It felt like a was surrounded with fire!!! But the feeling didn’t last long. It was tolerable enough to manage my condition.
Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen “at any point in the pregnancy”. It occurs “when the placenta abnormally invades the uterus by growing into the spiral arteries of the uterus incorrectly”, according to Robert Atlas, MD (Google it for reference). It is generally diagnosed at around 20 weeks gestation and is characterized by a sustained blood pressure elevation. But in my case, preeclampsia occurred at the onset of labor.
I encountered the term “preeclampsia” several times in my 9 months of Google researching, and I knew how serious and life-threatening it was. Thus, to my OB’s decision to have me deliver via C section right away, I gave a very fast and easy YES. I even signed the waiver even when my husband wasn’t around yet.
The Husband’s Signature
Speaking of my husband, he was calmly having dinner with my dad in the hospital’s cafeteria when all the preeclampsia hullabaloo happened. Poor guy, he thought it would still take several hours of labor before he could see our baby girl.
The bothersome-ness of my contractions were gradually progressing. To add to my annoying ordeal, they placed a catheter on me. Placing the catheter on my V was worse than the IE! So since I knew that I was going to deliver via C-section anyway, I wanted to start the operation as soon as possible as to avoid prolonging my agony. The thing was the nurses couldn’t find my husband who needed to sign the waiver!
“We need your husband’s signature before we start the operation,” said my very calm OB.
Unfortunately, my phone wasn’t cooperative at the time I needed it most. For some reason, it died during my labor. It probably couldn’t bear witnessing its owner having contractions. So I had to borrow my very kind OB’s phone to contact my Mom (the only mobile number I’ve memorized aside from mine).
Thank goodness, my Mom got my message so he went to call my husband and my Dad to break the news about my preeclampsia and my imminent C section delivery.
After a few deep breathing attempts to fight the escalating contractions, my OB informed me that my husband finally signed the waiver. “We’re good. We’ll push through with the operation,” she said.
In all cluelessness, I asked, “when?”
“In a while. We are just waiting for the last patient to leave the delivery room, then we will bring you there,” said my OB.
The Dreaded Anesthesia Injection in the middle of Holiday Party Talks
While I lie wide awake on top of the operating table fighting my contractions, my OB and my anesthesiologist were talking about the upcoming Doctors’ Christmas party. While the nurse connected various medical gadgets to my pregnant body, I could barely hear Chainsmokers’ Closer playing on the background. “How cool can a C-section operation be,” I wondered.
After a brief and very casual discussion on holiday party, my medical team decided it was time for me to receive the dreaded spinal anesthesia (whatever it’s called). My anesthesiologist asked me to sit down on the side of the operating table/bed.
“Linisin ko lang muna, Gwen,” he said. (I’ll just clean it.) I felt a cold wet cotton ball being rubbed on my back, where I suppose my spine was located.
“Ubo ka nga,” continued my anesthesiologist. (Pretend to cough) So without questioning, I coughed.
“Isa pa,” he added. (One more time) And I coughed some more.
“OK na,” he finished. (It’s done)
What!??? I did not feel a single thing! That’s when I learned putting catheters on is worse than scary spinal injections!
“You might feel very cold or you might feel like vomiting,” said my anesthesiologist. “These are the possible side effects of the anesthesia.”
“Sure,” I said.
He proceeded to test if the anesthesia was working its magic on me by pinching me, tapping my skin.
A cloth was placed on top of me, as if it was a heavy curtain preventing the audience from seeing who’s behind the stage while the show has not begun. I can feel cold gauzes cleaning the top of my belly. By this time, the background music has changed into another popular song, which I could no longer remember. Then like in the movies, the scene gradually faded out.
The next thing I knew, there were several voices, but the only word I absorbed at that time was “Baby”. I could not tell whether it was a dream or reality.
It was past eight in the evening, and at the other side of the room, I glanced at a doctor cleaning an infant. Everything seemed bleary, but my mind could tell that the baby was probably mine.
“So it’s done,” I told myself in my groggy state, trying to make sense out of the moment’s surrealism.
Then my vision turned black. I probably dozed off again. Thanks to the anesthesia!
Next scenario– a baby girl, so soft and fragile, was right in front of me.
Her cheeks was forced to mine by a human in white (who I now assume was the Pedia).
“Mommy, smile naman dyan,” a voice came out, and I managed to pull off a sincere smile despite my wooziness.
Then, this not so pleasant woke-up-like-this photo was captured, posted on Facebook and liked by hundreds, and preserved in my memory forever.
That was the first time I held my precious baby girl Natacia Gael. Since my memory has become unreliable, I wrote this long detailed piece to preserve every bit of this sweet milestone in my life.