My Birth Story

On the day before the big day, I had to see my OBGYN for my GBS (Group B Strep) test. The test was supposed to be a week before that day but there were many deliveries that my doctor needed to attend to, so my schedule for the test had been put off twice. I was already on my 37th week gestation which was considered to be the full term of pregnancy, which means that any time from that day my baby might come out. My expected due date (EDD) was August 27, 2013 so I was confident that my baby would arrive mid-August or early September. George and I were still in the process of cleaning the house and putting up the baby stuff. It took me some time to do the cleaning and stuff because apparently I had a growing little person inside that drained all my energy away. So I was taking my time to do what we had to. But we were “almost” ready to welcome our little one soon.

August 7, 2013, I woke up to a strong contraction around 4 am. It felt like having an intense dysmenorrhea. So I called out my husband and he said “it must be Braxton hicks (false labor) and also said, “baka gutom lang yan” then he grabbed me something to eat. After eating, I tried going back to sleep although I was still bothered with recurring contraction. I was able to doze off until 6 am, still with intermittent contraction. I got the feeling that “this is it” but ignored it because I wasn’t expecting to give birth that soon.

Around 6:30, I was feeling somewhat pooped so I sat on the toilet seat, then I noticed a bloody show like it was the first day of my period. That’s when I was pretty much sure it would be “the” day.

Next, I told George to call his office to take a leave of absence. So George did, but said he had to go to the office to get his laptop so he could work from home while waiting for me to be in active labor in case there were urgent things to be done.

We learned from our birthing class to stay calm and collected and just go on with whatever things you’re supposed to do that day while waiting to be in active labor before going to the hospital. Surprisingly, I was so calm and didn’t feel nervous at that time. Ok I felt a little bit nervous. Who am I kidding? I was about to give birth for crying out loud! I went on preparing myself – took a shower, stuffed my hospital bag, and tried to set up the baby crib.

While George was on his way to his office, my water broke. It felt like a trickle at first and very soon a gush. I wasn’t even able to finish setting up the crib.

It is recommended to go to the hospital when the water breaks, therefore as soon as George came back, we prepared to go to the hospital. Good thing the hospital is just 5 minutes’ drive away from our house. We headed to the emergency at around 8:30 am and waited in line for the usual hospital procedure. My contractions got stronger, but were still irregular. My amniotic fluid was gushing like crazy wetting my pad, even my dress that day (I should’ve worn an adult diaper). After the usual interview in the emergency reception, we proceeded to the maternity area which is located on the first floor so we took the stairs going up. Fiona Dill (our birthing class instructor) advised us to do so if the pain is tolerable and not heavily bleeding. This helps the baby go down.

In the maternity ward, the nurse assigned that day checked my blood pressure, baby’s breathing and my discharge to check if it was indeed my amniotic fluid. Everything was looking good. The nurse asked for our birth plan, but of course George hadn’t printed it yet at that time. So George just showed her our birth plan from the ipad. Welcome to the 21st century. :)
May I suggest therefore, if you are giving birth in a hospital that allows birthing plans, print them already as soon as you finish them and put them in your hospital bag weeks before your due date or at least before you reach full term, you’ll never really know when your baby is ready to come out.

She also did the internal exam (IE) and said that I was already 8cm dilated. Whoah! I was so surprised. Really?? 8cm agad agad?” Deep inside I was happy though because I hadn’t been in so much pain yet to be in that stage or at least not the level I had expected it to be. I wondered “I must have strong tolerance to pain”.

So the nurse immediately sent us to the birthing room. She called my OBGYN and made everything ready for me to give birth. Meanwhile, Contractions were getting stronger. I already felt the pain, it was still tolerable though. I just consoled myself “8cm na. konting tiis nalang,kayang kaya na to”. Then the nurse checked me again and just when I thought she would tell me that I was fully dilated, she exclaimed “oh, you’re not 8cm but 4cm, I’m sorry for my mistake. Would you like to go for a walk while waiting to be fully dilated?”

Still managed to smile, checked at 8cm dilated..er..4cm!
Still managed to smile, checked at 8cm dilated..er..4cm!

“I’m sorry what??” 4cm??you must be kidding me! was my silent reply. That means I had to go through more painful contractions before I could push the baby! That was between 9:30-10 am.
I took out my TENS machine which my boss lent me. She used one when she gave birth to my “alaga”. It’s a good alternative pain relief if you choose not to resort to epidural. For those who do not know, TENS machine is a device used by athletes as non-medicated pain reliever. It’s like an electric massager where you can control the amount of pressure (electric shock) to your back. It really came in handy and was a big help to ease my discomfort. It works two ways  I guess- counter pressure on the thigh or back or during contraction, and psychologically, divert your attention from the pain.

George and I went for a walk outside the corridor. Contractions were getting a lot stronger and closer together. I knew I was already in active labor. I couldn’t talk, smile, and eat anymore. I was so focused on every contraction and silently praying, and telling my baby “please don’t give mommy a hard time, anak”

Serious moment. praying and coping and holding on to the TENS machine the whole time.
Serious moment. praying and coping and holding on to the TENS machine the whole time.

My OBGYN came in to see me at 10:30 am and had me checked again and said I was 6-7 cm dilated and progressing so well. At least I was a bit comforted by her words. Hubby and I were trying our very best to Relax and cope with every contraction before reaching full dilatation. We asked the nurse to be intermittently monitored and be free from contraption so I could move as much as needed. We learned from Fiona to take advantage of gravity during labor so staying in bed lying down is the last thing I should do. We laid out the material we got from our birthing class and did every recommended position – sit, stand, crawl, commode, slow dance, all of them. I even tried the Gas and air machine to which I just felt dizzy (didn’t work on me but they may work on you, so request them from your hospital if it’s available).

Recommended labor positions
Recommended labor positions

The nurse came every now and then to monitor the baby’s breathing, my contraction and blood pressure. At around 1 pm, I was 8-9 cm dilated so they called my OB GYN. I was so pooped at that point and felt the strong urge to push. I even asked the nurse if I could sit on the toilet bowl but she stopped me as I might push my baby in the toilet (not a good place to push the baby apparently lol).

Not my most glamourous shot for sure! just wanna show you all what it looked like inside the birthing room. Leaning on the bed, standing was my most comforting position with all the paraphernalias laying around-birthing class material, TENS,tennis ball for massaging my back, and food and drinks.
Not my most glamourous shot for sure! just wanna show you all what it looked like inside the birthing room. Leaning on the bed, standing was my most comforting position with all the paraphernalias laying around-birthing class material, TENS,tennis ball for massaging my back, and food and drinks.

The doctor came in and everything seemed going well- baby’s going down nicely so the pushing began at around 2pm. I felt like I used up all my energy in labor that I had no power to push anymore but I had to push with all my strength anyway.

George was there the whole time and was really doing well in coaching me to push. After an hour of pushing and screaming, our little pumpkin finally came out at exactly 3:05 pm weighing 5.21lbs (she’s tiny).Tears of joy moment. Couldn’t believe I just pushed a baby out of my small body. Definitely one of the proudest moments of my life. One hour of pushing may seem a long time, but our birthing class instructor said it’s not too bad for a first time mom because the average pushing time for a first timer is 2 hours.

I wish there was a photographer to capture every bit of it. George wasn’t able to take more shots either as he was busy assisting the doctor by holding my other leg as my support and giving me feedback and encouragement throughout the process. Nonetheless, we we’re both so happy and grateful that we made it through together just as how we envisioned it to be- Normal, un-medicated, uninterrupted, straightforward and safe delivery. It was a beautiful experience, I wouldn’t change it one bit. It wasn’t too long, agonizing or traumatic. (8 hours of labor is not bad as I heard a lot of long agonizing labor that still ended up in C sec) Yes, there’s pain but it’s supposed to be there. You just have to be realistic and embrace it. It’s tolerable kind of pain anyway (hey, I did it without epidural).

George also had the opportunity of cutting Alyanna’s umbilical cord which was part of our birth plan. It was such a priceless moment seeing the tiny creature we have both made (or more accurately speaking, pro-created).

Our first ever family picture
Our first ever family picture

Reminiscing all of these floods my heart with joy and gratitude. I couldn’t help but attribute my birthing success to the following:

Prayers. It was by GOD’s grace that we were able to do everything. Since day 1, we prayed everyday not just for a safe delivery but we were VERY SPECIFIC in asking HIM for a normal, less painful, un-medicated,straightforward delivery. HE never fails as always.

Strong “emotional why”. The biggest reason why we aimed to have a normal delivery so badly is because basically we are far away from our families. It’s just going to be George and Me! No mom, or dad, aunt or big sisters to help out! Normal delivery means fast recovery. I couldn’t afford to stay in bed to fully recover if I had a C-sec. George was also allowed to take only 5 days paternity leave, so I would  be by myself with the baby in the house after a week. Oh, and by the way, my insurance (basic government insurance similar to Philhealth) only covers normal delivery as mentioned in my previous post. It would have cost us a fortune if I had some birthing complications. I don’t know exactly how much it would cost, but just to give you an idea of how insanely expensive here, we paid a little over 700$ (roughly 30,000php) for the ultrasound alone. That was just the excess after the insurance coverage. I can’t imagine paying for a c sec. I could’ve given birth in the Philippines too, but that’s the least of our options and perhaps it would be more costly for us to do so considering the airfare and a high probability that George wouldn’t be around when I gave birth, which we certainly didn’t want. All these reasons propelled us to do whatever it would take to have a normal delivery.

Consistent exercise and physical activity. Labor is called labor because it’s hard work. It requires good stamina and physical vitality. Training is the way to go. It helped a lot for me that since early pregnancy days, I was always on the move – Lifting car seats, strollers, cleaning the house and all other household chores. It kept my weight on check and enhanced our routine pregnancy exercises. Therefore for those moms who work in an office, do your best to do some physical activity in the evening. There are exercises you can find online that you can safely do specifically for each month throughout your pregnancy which will help you prepare yourself for the labor. The husband-coached childbirth has a long list of exercises which you can follow and you should get your husband to help you out and encourage you to do it every night before sleeping. One other tip I learned is good sleeping position throughout pregnancy – don’t sleep on your back, especially on the later part of your pregnancy when your belly is already big. Always try to sleep on your LEFT side so that your baby gets the optimum flow of oxygen-rich blood pumped by your heart. I didn’t know about this until I got pregnant! Now, I am so used to sleeping on my left side instead of lying in my back.

Healthy Diet.Needless to say, having a healthy diet is essential as long as we live, and more importantly during pregnancy. For me after my 1st trimester blues, I made sure that I was eating right and drinking lots of water on time. I always had something with me to eat everywhere I go-usually crackers and dried fruits. Strangely, my body craved only healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, and a little bit of meat. So I gained just the right amount of weight and my baby didn’t go big( makes a lot easier to push). I also watched out my sweet intake to avoid developing gestational diabetes. The reward was a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated birth.

Birthing class. It makes a huge difference to adequately know your choices when it comes to giving birth. For others, attending birthing class may be a waste of time. But ours made a big impact on us. I am so grateful to my former boss for recommending me to a good birthing class instructor. I couldn’t emphasize more how it helped us big time. No, we were not talked into having un-medicated, normal delivery in the birthing class by the way. Rather, the class equipped us with the necessary information so that we would be ready whatever situation we would be in during the labor and delivery time. For example, i hadn’t known before that labor pain has something to do with the proper positioning of the baby during birth. If the baby is not in the best position, labor is likely to be longer and more painful. (google posterior baby for more details)

A good birthing partner or coach a.k.a my husband. I don’t understand why in some places husbands are still not allowed to be in the delivery room, especially in the Philippines. It should be allowed, or even required, as long as the husbands are well-informed and have prepared for that important day. Here in Bermuda you are even allowed to have a “doula” or a hired birthing coach who can be with you in birthing room aside from your husband. Lucky me for I have been blessed with the most supportive and the most amazing partner in my whole pregnancy journey. George was my cook during my blah days, researcher, advisor, coach, exercise buddy, cheerleader, alarm clock, and doula all in one (ahem ahem).

Every birth story is always beautiful and unique. All the pain, and hard work are truly worth it because the reward is your baby. Whether you have it via c-sec or normal, with or without epidural, preterm or overdue as long as you don’t end up feeling robbed of your choice to a pleasurable birthing experience. Often we hear horror stories that leave us feeling discouraged or scared of the idea of giving birth. I on the other hand hope that my story won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth. What I learned from this whole experience is to be in control and trust God’s wonderful creation which is my BODY. I came out mature, empowered,fulfilled and more confident of my God-given gifts as a woman because I embraced and was able to endure all the pains of labor and birth.

Wherever you are in your motherhood journey right now – whether you are trying to conceive, or already expecting your first or your next baby, may this post inspire you to trust your body and work towards having your own wonderful birthing story. Once that happens, feel free to share it here on my blog (or, you can start your own!) so that readers can learn and benefit from your experience as well. Thank you and sorry for the long read. I hope it’s worth your time.

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My Pregnancy and Birth

My Pregnancy and Birth

It’s been a year and a half today since I gave birth to our daughter, Alyanna. It’s truly amazing to look back and think about how God laid out his plans for us and really blessed us in so many mysterious ways. My pregnancy and birth, though not quite what we planned, turned out to be what we actually prayed for. It may not seem relevant now for me to talk about my pregnancy and birthing as it seems a long time ago, but for my friends who are newly married or expecting a baby this year, you may get something from this. I hope you don’t mind if I make this as detailed as possible and this might bore you a little so I suggest you get some popcorn ready while reading this post. 🙂

PREGNANCY

George and I had been married for 2 years before I got pregnant with our first child. On the first year of our marriage, we intended not to get pregnant to enjoy our first year as a couple. We were also not ready then financially. I was hoping to land a job in Bermuda to help George with our finances, but opportunities were scarce and my qualification was not in demand. I was jobless for many months so I thought, “Might as well have the baby while I’m young and free”.

At the time when we we’re financially okay and ready to be a family, I was confronted with some medical issues which made it difficult for me to get pregnant. When I was in college, I had already been diagnosed with PCOS (PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome), a condition caused by hormonal imbalance that can result to infertility among women. I had to see an OBGYN and was recommended to take some ovulating pills along with other meds to help me get pregnant.

After a few months of trying and trying and no baby still, I decided to stop taking medications. It was just a waste of energy and money. I thought that we were not that old, so why hurry (we were only 28 then). I continued looking for a job and tried to apply for a child caregiver post (nanny) and very soon enough, a Bermudian-american couple accepted me despite the lack of experience, to care for their soon-to-be daughter at the time. I couldn’t be happier when I got the job. Finally, I would be able to share with our finances and help my family in the Philippines.

Just after six months in my job, I found out that I was PREGNANT.
I couldn’t BELIEVE it. I was in DENIAL. I was WORRIED of so many things especially my job. (yeah, I’m a worrier). Not quite the reaction I expected. I was kinda hoping some happy tears or be more dramatic but then it didn’t happen. At first, I thought the test could be wrong so unless I heard the heartbeat of my baby, I wouldn’t be completely sold out.

So George and I went to emergency on January 1st, 2013 where I had an ultrasound and for the first time, we heard the heartbeat of our 6 week-old baby in my tummy. What a great new year’s gift! We were also happy to know that our baby was doing well, no issues so far.

Soon after the big confirmation, we bought some pregnancy books including of course the most popular “What to expect when you’re expecting”. Also a friend of ours, Olga Anderson lent us a book called The Husband-Coached Childbirth by Robert Bradley. George found it really interesting and devoured the book in its entirety in less than a month’s time (he’s such a book worm). We learned a lot from that book as well which supplemented all the learning we got from the birthing class. We made up our mind to aim for a normal delivery no matter what it takes, as long as I and the baby are safe.

First trimester(0-3months)
“Crazy times”

My first trimester was not as horrible as many other expecting moms. Not much throwing up, but I had to deal with a lot of heart burn and nausea at work. What made it hard for me that time was the fact that my job required physical work. It also didn’t help that l kept my situation from my employer for a month before I finally had the courage to tell them. I was worried that they would get upset and would ask me to refund them of the work permit fee since I signed a two-year contract with them, and I just had worked for them for 6 months. Surprisingly, they were totally cool with it and very supportive. Only then, I became completely HAPPY and at PEACE with my pregnancy.

During this time, I usually had my “morning sickness” in the afternoon or evening. I was feeling great in the morning but would start to feel acid reflux from 4 pm onward so I had a lot of problem eating dinner. I would go home from work feeling so beat and drained and all I wanted to do was to curl in bed. It’s the hardest part of my pregnancy- Taking care of an infant, while trying to hold back my nausea. Tums, Skyflakes and hot choco were my life-saver. I couldn’t eat much; I craved so much for Filipino food and fruits UNAVAILABLE in the island. I had some errands and late-night baby-sitting to do. Crazy times. Sobrang nakakaiyak! Thank God for the love and care of my awesome husband at this period of my pregnancy. I couldn’t imagine going through it without him. George had been so supportive and involved in my pregnancy journey that he read more books than I did.

Looking back, I realized that God gave me that job to prepare myself for motherhood. I also got a good glimpse of how western parents raise their young and picked up bits and pieces from their parenting style and devise my own.

For the expectant mommas, who are in the “crazy times” of their pregnancy now, stay cool! It doesn’t last forever. In fact, it doesn’t last that long. Don’t worry that you’re not eating enough. You can always catch up when your appetite is back. I must also say that husbands SHOULD BE INVOLVED in the pregnancy (not just in the baby making!). Keep yourself informed of what your wife is going through by reading books or watching relevant videos (youtube). Now is the best time to sign up in the baby center website for more information. And PLAN PLAN PLAN! it’s never too early to plan for the birth options, financial aspects, etc.

Second trimester (4-6 months)
“happy times”

It must be the best time of pregnancy. I felt awesome on my fourth month. No more nausea, I had hearty appetite for food. And soon, gained back the weight I lost on my first trimester. Our little pumpkin was growing, the baby bump was showing and I was rocking my natural pregnant glow 🙂

This is a perfect time for baby mooning too. To spend quality romantic time with your husband because I assure you, once the baby comes, everything will be different. Go abroad if you have the budget or perhaps an out of town trip or just spend some quality time in a resort or hotel in your place. I also suggest that you list down the things that you want to do with your hubby that you may not be able to do again when you have the baby. For example, a spontaneous movie date or late night pigging out. Do them while you can.

We planned our babymoon to go to Canada towards the end of my 2nd trimester, but our visa didn’t come on time so we postponed it during my 7 month.

Another highlight of my second trimester was the BIRTHING CLASS. Joining such was the best decision we made during my pregnancy. We learned so many things like the phases and stages of labor, pain management, relaxation, birthing options, medical interventions and procedures, and many more. (see the below).

the topics discussed in the birthing class
the topics discussed in the birthing class

We also did a hospital visit and we’re able to see the apparatuses in the birthing Room. One purpose of the hospital visit is to get familiar with place so as to know what not to bring and what to bring that can aid the labor process.

Before this, the idea of giving birth scared the hell out of me. I came out of it feeling strong and determined. (Real talk, no exaggeration!)

Having said this, I highly recommend that you sign up for a birthing class if there’s ANY in your place.(I really wished, it’s accessible to all pregnant mothers). The thing is, nobody taught us about giving birth. The reason why we are scared of it is because we are clueless of what’s gonna happen in the delivery room. Fear is your greatest enemy inside the delivery room. As they say, the greatest of all fears is the fear of the unknown. It can cause your muscle to tighten and your cervix to close, thus slowing down the normal labor process, putting the baby in jeopardy, and more chances of C-sec.

What better way to manage your fear than by being informed and learning the ropes of birthing! Having no idea or knowledge at the time of delivery is like going to a battle without knowing how to fire a gun, or who your enemies are. Giving birth is similar to a battle because it’s a matter of life and death too. It’s important to train and train harder. It’s too risky to rely on luck alone. The Birthing class (if well presented) will equip you with knowledge and boost your confidence to achieve the birthing experience you want just like it did to us, but of course you must also make an effort to apply and do whatever you have to do.

Initially, hubby and I registered for a July birthing class because I was due in August so we thought it would be good to have the birthing class close to my due date. However our birthing class instructor moved our class to May (3 months before my due date) which actually worked on our favor, because early on we learned so many things about pregnancy and birthing options, exercises that could facilitate normal labor. As soon as we completed the birthing class, we applied all recommended exercises such as walking, squatting, pelvic rocking, spiraling, positive affirmations (meditation), kegels and even the perennial stretching exercises. We got most of these tips from Robert Bradley’s book and our birthing class materials. (If you’re not familiar with the exercises I’ve mentioned, google it or search videos in youtube)

doing some spiraling while playing music for my little one
doing some spiraling while playing music for my little one

Third trimester (7-9months)
“Exciting times”

We learned the gender of our baby on my 7th month. Most parents here already know the gender of their baby on the 20th week ultrasound. It took us a while as our baby was a bit shy. We were ready to be surprised of our baby’s gender on the day of delivery until my last ultrasound confirmed we would have a girl for our first born. The news just made me the happiest. I had been silently praying for a baby girl because It’s always exciting to dress up a baby girl.

Early this time also, George and I traveled to Toronto, Canada for our baby moon. That was our last trip before I gave birth. We did a lot of sightseeing and walking there with a big load in my tummy. Probably, it also helped me to have an easy delivery. 🙂

@ 7 months pregnant. Taken last June 2013 in centerville Toronto island, Ontario Canada
@ 7 months pregnant. Taken last June 2013 in centerville Toronto island, Ontario Canada

I already quit my job when we returned to Bermuda so I thought I could enjoy the last few weeks of pregnancy preparing for the big day- shopping baby stuff, sleeping (lol), and consistently doing my exercise routine. I also filled my mind with good vibes by listening to music and positive affirmations we got from youtube. George even made a checklist for me to follow everyday so I wouldn’t miss anything.(may pagka O.C lang sya).

checklists of my routine
checklists of my routine

We also made our BIRTH PLAN ready for the big day. For those who are not familiar, here in the west, a Birthplan is pretty common. It is simply a list of the preferences and choices that the couple decided and have agreed with their OB-gyn ahead of time. The hospital will ask if you have a birth plan. This may not be the case in some hospitals so I suggest that you check early on, and speak to your OB-GYN about it. This will serve as the hospital staff’s guide of your preferences during the delivery day. Having a birth plan helps your delivery experience smooth and organized.

Our birth plan
Our birth plan

I would also like to mention that regular check-up and monitoring of your baby’s well- being is very important in the whole duration of the pregnancy. This will give you peace of mind and will allow early detection of medical complications, if there’s any. Here in Bermuda, I had to see my OBGYN almost every month during my first and 2nd trimester, every other week during my 7th and 8th month and every week during my 9th month. I also went through 3 ultrasounds and a few blood works.(O.A na diba) It’s exaggerated and initially I thought it’s just a money-making strategy, but I now appreciate its importance. I won’t suggest that you do the same, but don’t overlook and underestimate your doctor’s appointment especially in the most crucial stages of your pregnancy and Talk to your OBGYN about your pregnancy issues and concerns.

Finally, the big day arrived. On August 7, 2013, on the 37th week plus 1 day gestation (exact full term), I gave birth to my sweetie yummy munchkin, my lovely daughter, Alyanna Georgine C. Alayon. A more detailed account of my labor and birth will be posted separately. Feel free to leave any questions, comments, tips, wisdom or anything that you would like to share from your own pregnancy journey. I’m not an expert. These are just based on  my personal experiences. I hope you learned something from me today. Thanks for taking some time reading this!