Currently, there are a few soon-to-be mommies in my circle of friends. Speaking to them reminds me of the anxiety I felt around giving birth. I was so nervous about what to expect, and how little control we actually had on the impending series of events that would change our lives forever.
I may have mentioned this more than once, but I felt really "lucky" about my delivery experience. While I had imagined it to be a level 10 in difficulty and pain, in reality it was a 6 at its worst. Everything that came after, is another story for another day.
Know that there will be positive birth stories like mine and also negative, even horror, birth stories where women describe an unimaginable pain. There isn't any better way to say this but by the time you start panicking about giving birth, it's too late to back out.
That being said, the things I share comes only from what I know through my personal labour experience.
1. You need to pack everything in your hospital bag
At week 36, I packed us a huge bag for our 2 nights stay at the hospital. Highly influenced by the countless videos I watched on youtube, I packed a variety of items like incontinence underwear, extra clothes for my husband, myself and baby, an iPad, newborn diapers, witch hazel pads, perineal cold packs, breast pumps, a massager and even some books (to kill time while we waited). I used none of it. Not even the clothes for the little one since she stayed on for an extra week.
I was advised by a few mommies that bringing items like my own diapers or pumps meant that I could strike them off the final hospital bill. However, in my case, these items were already included in the "delivery package" and I had already been charged for them. In hindsight, I should've checked with the hospital before carrying that huge bag with us to and from the hospital (twice).
I think it's safe to assume that in Singapore, you will actually survive without packing very much at all. Considering that many of our hospitals have malls and shops attached to them, there really isn't any cause for panic if you don't have your hospital bag ready.
2. You will be sweaty and screaming during labour
Once again, influenced by the many youtube videos, my husband and I were expecting labour to be a lot more dramatic than it actually turned out to be. Shows like 'One Born Every Minute' gave us the impression that only the minority of labours go smoothly and that it was unlikely for us to be one of those 'lucky' couples. But of course, drama makes for better television. In reality, the entire labour ward was a really calm place. For the entire time I was there, I didn't hear any screaming, any beeping of hospital equipment (as seen on tv). Up until it was time to push, it was actually kind of boring. Don't get me wrong, boring is good.
Uneventfully, what happened was, my water bag did not break/burst/gush. I spotted my mucus plug the day before I went into labour and started feeling contractions shortly after. I had contractions for 18 hrs before I got officially admitted to the hospital. I didn't have to stop and take a break while walking to the ward in pain because I was asked to sit on a wheelchair the minute I stepped out of the cab. Within an hour of being admitted, I was administered epidural. It was another 8 and a half hours of waiting around before I could start pushing.
3. The 5-1-1
I stressed so much on remembering what the 5-1-1 rule was and none of that mattered.
If you didn't know, the 5-1-1 rule is supposed to be an indication of when it is time for you to head to the hospital. If you have contractions coming every 5 minutes that lasts 1 minute for at least 1 hour, it's time to go.
Well, I was experiencing a 3-1-1. Even though I was suspicious of the fact that I wasn't really having painful contractions, being first time parents we abided by the 5-1-1 and went to the hospital. There, the nurse hooked me up to the machine, confirmed my contractions were coming every 2-3 minutes, told me I wasn't dilated enough and sent me home.
As mentioned, I wasn't in pain, so I managed to get in 4 hours of sleep in before being woken up by a strong contraction. This time around, the contractions weren't as quick but they were more intense. Worried to make another wasted trip to the hospital, I waited around the house until the contractions got too intense for me to walk.
Between the first time we went to the hospital and the second, the level of pain I felt went from a 3 to an 8 but there was only an additional 1cm of dilation which was enough to get me admitted.
4. You can't eat during labour
I need to proceed with a lot of caution with this one mostly because this shouldn't be taken as advice in any form. However, I felt the need to put it on the list because, despite being told by almost every mommy that I needed to eat before going into the hospital or I wouldn't be able to eat anything, things panned out totally different for me.
Being overly concerned about not wanting to be sent home from the hospital a second time, we forgot about breakfast and all that advice about eating before being admitted. Upon arriving at the hospital and receiving my epidural so promptly, I was told that I wouldn't be able to eat and that I was only allowed to sip on water so as to avoid the possible nausea that the epidural would bring on. I told the nurse how we haven't had anything to eat and that I was starving.
She explained that she would arrange for food to be brought in but strongly advised me to have just a small bite and I agreed. Unconsciously, I devoured the entire meal. I apologised to the nurse and went into a food coma.
The point is, I totally ate during labour and felt great about it. However, I wasn't completely free of side effects.
TLDR: I was induced later on to accelerate my slow labour, had to increase the dose of epidural to cope with the pain and developed a high fever during the last stage of my labour as a side effect.
4. It takes one snip to cut the cord
This is only a myth if you've not heard many birth stories. The cord doesn't just get snipped off in a second like in the movies. As an actual piece of flesh, my husband had to use what was the most blunt pair of scissors in that room to work his way through the cord. It took a few attempts and some hand muscles to actually cut the cord. Gross.
5. You won't Remember the Pain
True-ish. Although, some mommies who went through their labour without medical aid might disagree. Even though I did choose to get an epidural, I still felt pain before it was administered and during the period where my labour got induced. I remember crying during each contraction from the pain. I remember that dull pain in my hand from having the IV inserted.
But there is something magical about a baby that makes you forget it all. I know that touching something hot burns me and that it hurts, so I avoid doing it. I know that giving birth also hurts, yet I'd gladly do it again because of the reward after.