A humorous hospital birth involving heroic pushing and threats of violence, read on to see how it all went down...
When you’re pregnant in the Netherlands, it seems that the default way is having a midwife and a home birth. You have to make a special request to deliver in the hospital, and your insurance may not cover it (usually the hospital only deals with medical case pregnancies).
B and I, being new parents with our first child, had already decided that we wanted to have our childbirth in the hospital… you know… to be on the safe side.
Becoming a “Medical Pregnancy”
I had developed gestational diabetes in the second trimester – and, despite the dangers and diet control that it involved, it became a ‘blessing in disguise’, as we automatically got our wish of being able to deliver in the hospital. I started having regular consultations with a gynecologist, a dietitian and a diabetes nurse - funnily enough called the carousel appointment (because you do indeed feel like you’re going around and around to meet different people).
In the 38th week of pregnancy, I complained about uber-itchy feet to the doctor. Having read some of the books, I was paranoid enough to think it could be cholestasis, a gall bladder / liver disease that can develop during pregnancy (blame or thank What to Expect for this information). Sure enough, the blood tests confirmed it, and on a doctor’s appointment on June 23, I was asked to ‘check in’ to the hospital so that they could start the inducement process.
The inducement process was explained (I swear this technical part is important to know so the story will make more sense later on): they’ll insert a hormonal pill up the vagina to jumpstart the softening of the cervix. For this, I only need to be in the ward. When I dilate to 2 cm, they would transfer me to the delivery room and rupture the amniotic sac or break the water. At this point, I get my own room and B could be with me. They would then give me an IV drip to give more oxytocins to help speed up the contractions.As much as possible, they would opt for a natural childbirth.
Weird in the Ward
So B and I happily packed our stuff for the hospital – my clothes, baby clothes, B’s clothes, a baby seat, my laptop (for the movie watching and playlist during labour of course!), DVDs of Harry Potter, a cross-stitch kit and “other essentials” to survive what could be a looong time in the hospital.
We got to the hospital at 3:30 pm. Much to our disappointment, we found out that the ward consisted of being with 3 other women in the room and B was not allowed to stay overnight. So, we addressed our woes by watching Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows 1 while waiting for the doctor. The doctor came at 5 pm and gave me the first pill. They did warn us that the inducement process could take days.
Come evening, little contractions began but B needed to leave as visitors were only allowed until 10 pm. At 11 pm, the doctor came to check and administer the next pill. Even with the minor contractions, I was just 1cm! Unfortunately, as we were moving towards the night shift, the next check-up would only be at 10 am the next day. And of course, I started panicking…
Me: “Um, what if I start having really strong contractions already throughout the night? I was told that as soon as I hit 2cm, they would need to break my water.”
Doctor: “Tell the nurses and they’ll attend to you.”
I woke up at around 12:30 am due to the contractions, which started out as if they were the worst menstrual cramps I had ever experienced, and grew to be the reason that I would end up praying the Our Father repeatedly for another 2 hours. I wished I was back home in a bath. God knows how many centimeters I had dilated by then. Being in the ward, I have to say, was a really bad experience – it was dark, cold and I felt extremely lonely and unsupported. There was no way I could have gone through it without B – I mean, all that pain management practice we did!!
I have to admit, my “asian-ness” or “hiya” (shyness), prevented me from moaning out loud (so as not to wake the other women) or calling the nurse (again, so as not to wake the other women). So, I managed my way out of bed and went to the nurse’s station to engage in what could be the most absurd delivery conversation, they’ve ever had.
Me: “Hi, sorry, I don’t mean to be difficult (as there were just 2 nurses on duty), but I do feel like I have regular contractions every 5 minutes. Is it possible to have a doctor check how many cm I am now?” (hint, hint, so I can transfer to my own room where I can cry and moan shamelessly with my husband beside me?).
Nurse 1: “Is it really 5 minutes? Because sometimes it’s not that regular, it’s 10 minutes, then 5 minutes...”
Me: “Well, I’ve been timing it on my mobile phone, and it seems to be 5 minutes.”
Nurse 1: “Ok. If you are 5 minutes, then we’ll bring you to the delivery. But what you can also do is take a hot shower, that helps.”
Me: “Okay”… and I start to walk away to the shower room, thinking… “wait, what did we agree on?”
After a shower, I crawled back to bed and resumed my silent moans and prayers. Then, a sudden whoosh and gush of what could possibly be my water breaking. I made my way to the toilet and saw that my maternity pad was full on wet with a greenish color. Smelled it (remembering a birth story of how the amniotic water smells like the sea)… and yup, it smelled sea-ish… but I guess, with the baby poop in it. So, I made my way back to the nurse’s station carrying my pad in my hand and resumed another absurd conversation.
Me: “Excuse me, I think my water broke, and I think the um, errm… (pause for contraction)… baby pooed already.”
Nurse: (feeding a neo-natal baby patient in his arms) “Oh, okay, we’ll bring you to the delivery room then.”
Me: “Would you like to see the pad? But I don’t want to bring it too close to the baby.”
Nurse: “No, it’s okay, show me.” (I show the pad). “Yes, that’s meconium already. Please pack your things and we’ll go to the delivery room.”
So, back in the ward, I packed my things. The nurse came in and offered to carry the other things (like the empty baby seat which at that precise moment, seemed like an ever so poignant goal for all that I was feeling). I was determined to power through. We walked through the corridors to go to the delivery room, and the nurse and I made small talk about how I was “this close to asking for drugs”, and he said there was no shame in asking for drugs. I tried to remember the pain management techniques I’ve learned. Just breathe.
Push It Real Good
3 am-ish and finally, my own delivery room, which I celebrated by freely groaning. It was still cold and hospital-like but at least the room was all ours. I called B with the happy news that I’d been moved and that he could now come join the birth party. A nurse strapped me to the CTG monitor and told me that as soon as a doctor was free, they would check on my dilation status. Then we waited for 2 hours for a doctor…
B arrived, and honestly, thank God, Goddess and all the other powers of the universe! I can’t imagine how women went through labour without loved ones by their side. For two hours, B and I handled the labour alone, calling the nurse only to ask questions (she needs to pee, can we take off the straps?). I only remember zoning in and out, B holding and hugging me and guiding me through the breathing exercises, with chanting going “ommmmm…” throughout the contractions -- like… “ommmmmmmmmm… fuuuuuck… ommmm”. I had prepared a music playlist for “birthing relaxatoin”. It was of course full of cheesy songs that I have been known to like. There were times I swear I would have lost it, had B not been there. He was amazing, and I have to say, I am in love all over again… but I digress.
After two hours, I suddenly had an urge to poop and we went to the toilet. The strangest sensation happened… when I just connected with my body and knew that this was different, this was not pooping, it could be the primal urge to push already – and I was sitting on a toilet! B called the nurse and for the nth time asked when a doctor would come to check my dilation status. I also tried to explain my poo/push dilemma.
Nurse: “Get back on the bed. I’d rather have you poo on the bed than have the baby on the toilet. The doctor is coming now."
A doctor and assistant came in, checked my dilation and said, “well, I think you’re ready to push now.”
Me: “Okay, though I warn you, I’ll probably also poop.”
She notices the ugly, but extremely warm, Christmas reindeer socks that I’m wearing.
Doctor: “Would you like us to take off your socks?”
Me: (remembering another birth story of how cold a mama was after...) "No, I feel cold."
So, we all get into position, a contraction came and I started to push. “Push, push, push. Don’t exhale yet.” is all I hear. B notices that I am pushing with my face sometimes (which I rationally knew was wrong, but couldn’t control myself at the moment) – “Push down, baby” B says – and I held on to him and the thought that the baby was almost out.
Doctor: “Okay, stop. Only push when a contraction comes.”
She notices our music in the background “wow, to be delivering to this music…” I refrain from telling her that I had a separate playlist for “birth power pushing.” Another contraction comes, another push, another pause.
Doctor: “Wow, you’re doing so well, you’re an expert pusher!”
Me: “It’s my years of experience with constipation”. Another contraction. Head crowns and, ladies and gentlemen, the RING OF FIRE is real!
Doctor: “Okay you have to stop pushing now. I know it’s hard, but it’s to stop from tearing.”
Me: “You gotta be kidding me. B, hit her!!"I proceed to make little blows in the doctor's direction.
Despite the funny banter, I have to say, I felt I really was in the zone. It was a powerful moment, and I cannot remember any other time in my life where I wanted so badly to thrive through it – where I was both in pain and in joy. A few more pushes later, and I felt the baby slip out!! The doctor immediately placed him on my chest, and we got to meet our baby – it’s a boy!! It’s Liam!! Salisbury Hill was playing on the laptop, the birth team was taking our first family photos, and finishing up with the last stages of the delivery. I wasn’t really listening to their talk as I had a beautiful baby on my chest. Sigh, what love can do.
B cut the umbilical cord, and I could not stop crying, shaking and smiling all at the same time. We were now a family of three. And 5 hours after that, we were sent home… and the family life began.
Despite the obvious pain, I must say that I had a relatively fast, albeit highly intense, delivery to have been induced and go through labour with only B. My faith in the Dutch hospital system is a bit so-so now, but I am proud to have gone through the experience, tapped into my own power and discovered that I was strong enough to go on much further than I thought I could. My connection to B has multiplied in ways beyond my imagination and we have a beautiful son, Liam, with whom we are falling in love with more and more every day.