My last (but first) post in this series detailed the horrors of pregnancy, but having a baby 6 weeks early comes with its own set of horrifying details as well. Join me on this very strange joyride!
Pregnancy is meant to be 40 weeks long (10 months, technically), and having your baby before 37 weeks in leaves you as pre-term births (or preemies, for short). Megatron was born at 34 weeks, and she was considered late-preterm, which is as preterm as you really want your baby to be. Was it expected? No!
A couple of weeks before she arrived, I had my regular monthly check-up with my gynae and everything looked to be on schedule and progressing well. On the 21st of February I had my bridal shower, and on the 25th of February, my parents, brother and sister-in-law went to Malacca for a holiday so that they wouldn't travel when I was expected to deliver; on the 7th of April. They reached Malacca at 6 pm, and all was well.
We went about our day and night, and Pinata went to bed around 12 or 1 am. He had to be up for work at 5:30 am. By this stage in my pregnancy, I was having trouble sleeping because I was so uncomfortable and I had to make all these lists of what needed to be done in the final month before the baby arrived. All I had in my possession at that stage was her Woombie, the gifts from my bridal shower, and 2 or 3 pieces of clothing which I thought were adorable and couldn't pass up during my pregnancy. I had left everything, including all the reading on how to deal with a baby, to the final month because it still hadn't sunk in by that point that I was pregnant. Denial is a force that features very strongly in my life.
Around 3 am I started feeling twinges of pain. I assumed they were a regular part of pregnancy since everything had been uncomfortable up to that point, and I thought they would go away. They would come and go every half hour or so, and at some point they started to get rather uncomfortable and somewhat like severe menstrual cramps, so I did a Google search on Braxton-Hicks contractions, and I should have figured that a hospital visit was in order because BH contractions are not meant to hurt at all. I just figured the pregnancy had worn me down and my pain receptors had given up moderating what I was feeling.
Of course, the logical thing to do at this stage was to go and wash the dishes in the sink. While doing so, the waves of pain were getting closer together, and I was practically doubled over a couple of times because they were so painful. Keep in mind that I have never had a child, so all this was new to me. And I absolutely did not expect to have the baby early, so I was a little confused.
I had to leave a couple of dishes unwashed because the pain was becoming excruciating, so I went to lie down on the couch. That didn't last long because I was starting to get worried about the pain. I feared that it was a late-term loss of the baby, and when I went to the bathroom and saw some blood, I started to panic. Around 4:30 am, I woke Pinata up and told him he had to take me to the hospital because I was bleeding slightly. By this stage in my pregnancy, I had to wear a pantyliner daily because I had been having a bit of discharge over the couple of weeks preceeding this occurrence. In hindsight, I realised that the streaks of blood and discharge over the weeks were my mucus plug coming unhinged. Yes, disgusting things happen when a watermelon is trying to kick its way out of you.
I could barely walk to the car without stopping along the way to catch my breath because the waves of pain were unbearable at this point. I believe I was whimpering by this point. I was still under the assumption I would get there and they would tell me all was well but I needed to be on bed rest, and then send me home, so all I had with me was my phone charger. On the way to the hospital, I felt a rush of fluid, and I said nothing to Pinata because I was so worried it was the miscarried foetus I would find when I got to the hospital. The entire car ride, my hand was firmly gripped on the door because I was in so much pain. Keep in mind, that this was close to 5 am, so there was no traffic whatsoever, so the contractions must have been no more than 5-10 minutes apart. Yes, I wasn't counting. I was thoroughly confused by what was happening.
At my last appointment, my doctor mentioned that should I require any help I was to go straight to the maternity ward on the 2nd floor, and so I did. Still being in denial, I was a bit excited that we got parking right outside the hospital (because parking there is an utter nightmare), and I told Nick I would walk in with him.
We got to the maternity ward and I told the nurses what was happening. The nurse attending to me was very efficient and calm. She told me to go to the loo if I needed so, and of course I did. I was 8 months pregnant!
When I went in, my pantyliner was soaked through, and there was a little blood on it. I had read all about what it would be like when your water broke, and it did cross my mind that that was what had happened, but I dismissed it because I was 6 weeks away from having the baby.
She then took me to a room and hooked me up to the contraction-recording machine (I have no idea what it's called). She left Pinata and me there for half an hour to record what was happening, and when she came back in, she looked at the chart and told me she had to examine me. She checked and told me I was 4 cm dilated and that my water had broken, so the baby was coming. My first response was that that wasn't possible, but she went to call the doctor. Pinata and I were in shock, but eventually I told him to call my parents.
Trust me when I tell you that even being told that, I was still hoping it was just a mistake a bad nurse made. The thoughts racing through my mind were manifold and horrific. The baby was still in breech (head up) at my last appointment, and I hadn't made my decision about whether I wanted a natural birth or c-section. I was prepared for both, but I wasn't prepared in the slightest for a baby at this stage.
They then transferred me to a pre-delivery room, and I was in excruciating pain. I could barely walk the length of the hallway without stopping every couple of metres. When I got there, I was told to change into a gown, and they stuck a monster-sized pad between my legs to catch the bleeding and leaking. Trust me when I tell you that the pain overshadows any concept of shame you might have. You will not even notice the thousand people looking and touching your vagina. It's a free-for-all at that point!
The fun starts here. They asked me a few questions about when I had last eaten, and what allergies I had, and then gave me an enema. They do this to stop you from pooping yourself while pushing the little monster out of you. Yes, you will do such things. Life hates women. It didn't take very long to take effect, and I was left utterly alone while Pinata ran down to put a deposit for the hospital bill down. I don't think "panic" begins to describe what I was feeling. When the nurse came back, I told her I wanted the epidural ASAP, because I was extremely worried that they wouldn't give me one in time. I just wanted the pain to stop. Anyone who does this without the drugs has a seriously masochistic streak.
My doctor got there shortly after the nurse called him, and he did an ultrasound to check on the baby. She seemed fine, but was still in breech, so it was going to have to be a c-section. He then examined me and told me that I was 8 cm dilated, and we may not make it to a c-section, but he would manage it either way. It was imperative at this stage to get the baby out because she had apparently pooped in me. When that happens, it's called merconium, and I thought I saw a brownish tinge on the nurse's fingers when she examined me, but I chalked it up to dark blood. This is very much a concern because it could cause infections and complications in the baby. Yes, the little shit pooped IN me. What a cow.
Pinata then had to call my parents and let them know that the baby would be here within 2 hours. Later on, when my parents eventually turned up, they told me that they thought it was a false alarm, and they didn't bother to start mobilising until after the second call.
Finally, the anesthesiologist turned up to give me the epidural. It's a painful experience, but nowhere near as bad as contractions are. The biggest worry was that it would hit the wrong nerve and I'd be paralysed so I kept making him stop everytime I had a contraction just to be safe. It didn't take too long for the epidural to kick in, and I was extremely relieved when the contractions stopped. Why the hell do people volunteer for the pain? Seriously!
Not too long after, they wheeled me into the operating theatre. Pinata had to wait outside, and all I remember was him being told that he couldn't take pictures or something to that effect. Before they started, they put up a screen, and made sure I was numb from the waist down. They then let Pinata in to sit by my side before beginning the c-section. You really feel nothing but tugging during the procedure, and I'd take that over a torn vagina from your baby's head ripping out of you too quickly, any day!
I was horrifically worried throughout the c-section, because having preemie was a whole set of circumstances I wasn't prepared for. There could be any number of complications from underdeveloped lungs to developmental delays. It's truly not something I wanted to go through. So, when I heard her cry, it seems surreal. I was still in shock about the whole thing, so intellectually I knew that the baby was out and it had a cry, and that was good; but it didn't feel real at all. I couldn't see what was going on, but there was a whole lot of tugging when they were sewing me up and it was very uncomfortable. There was a paediatrician (Dr Musa, who is now her doctor) in the room to make sure all was well with her, and he was doing all his checks on her. While they were sewing me back up, I started to feel extremely nauseous. I'm guessing this is a normal thing because they had the sort of suction device dentists use to suck up the puke before it gets all over the operating theatre. I told them I was about to puke, and the nurse was there instantly. I could have used one of those when I was pregnant!
Pinata got to hold his daughter first, and then they put the baby on me. Little Hera Megatron, born at 8:13 am on the 26th of February, 2016.
[The New Human]
What were my first thoughts? "Why is there such an ugly Chinese baby on me?", and then, "Oh my God, is whatever is spewing from its mouth going to get on me?" Finally, there was, "Please take it back!"
Yes, there was no immediate bonding, and no sense of amazement that I had created a life. It still didn't feel real, and I was still worried that something might be wrong with her.
They took her to the NICU (Neonatal ICU) for examination, and they wheeled me to the post-op room. The most unexpected thing happened while I was being wheeled out of the operating theatre: I started shaking uncontrollably! I didn't even know this was a thing, but my teeth were chattering and my body was shaking so much that I could barely ask what was happening to me. I thought I was going into shock. The nurses assured me it was normal and put a heating blanket on me. I continued to shake throughout my time in the post-op room, which was probably an hour or less. It continued to the time when I went to my designated room as well. It must have gone on for 1 or 2 hours, and it was deeply uncomfortable. I later read that it was normal after a c-section, but I wish someone had told me before!
It also occurred to me at some point during the surgery that I was meant to have lunch with my friends that day, and I wasn't sure how I would make it, so once I got to the room, I asked Nick to send them a message about the fact that I wouldn't be joining them. I was a little sad about that, but they were shocked and excited.
The other joy of having a c-section is that it is major abdominal surgery, so you have a catheter inserted into you and you're meant to stay in bed for the first day. You're also not meant to eat anything until they tell you you can, and it's usually a liquid diet for the first day. No one told me this, and I had no idea, so once the shaking subsided, Nick got me a bagel from Coffee Bean and I ate half of it.
The room I was in was amazing. I asked for a private room in the premier ward because if there's anytime you deserve the best room ever, it's when you're having a baby. It was more like a hotel room than a hospital, and was rather cosy. I also love that KPJ has a philosophy of supporting breastfeeding and rooming-in of mother and baby, so I was waiting for them to bring the baby to me in hopes that I would feel something other than disbelief about her existence. Everytime a nurse came in I would ask when they would bring the baby to the room, and they all said the same thing. They were waiting for the paediatrician to give the all clear. One of them told me they had given her some formula as well while waiting for the paediatrician. While I knew from the day I found out I was pregnant that I wanted to solely breastfeed for the first six months, I was also prepared for the fact that formula may be necessary if there was an emergency, and so this wasn't an issue for me.
Other than that brief glimpse of a spitting baby for me, I had no idea what was going on with her, so Pinata kept going to check on her in the NICU. My first hours of looking at my child were through his lens.
[In the NICU]
While she was being held there, my parents, brother and sister-in-law turned up and I got a lot of jibes about how I ruined my father's first holiday in 5 years. Megatron was a diva from the very beginning!
Then The Enabler arrived to keep me company, and she didn't leave my side for 2 days! Thankfully there was a full couch next to the window and she could stay with me to help out. And yes, I needed it.
Eventually, at 2+ in the afternoon, they wheeled her in and gave her to me. It was so surreal. They told me she had been given the all clear and wouldn't even need an incubator so she would be with me in the room for the duration of my stay.
Pinata was having a bit of a flu, so he was extra cautious with her on account of her being a preemie.
[Preemies and Diseases]
(Pictures Courtesy of The Enabler)
[I Finally Get the Baby]
[The Enabler Has Arrived!]
(Picture Courtesy of The Enabler)
[Grandma and Hera]
Since I was planning to exclusively breastfeed, they did try to get her to latch when she came in, but she didn't seem hungry. They said it was likely because they had given her some formula while she was in the NICU. The nurses were incredibly supportive and encouraging, which was really lovely. Not too long after, a lactation consultant turned up to have a chat with me. She was all set to convince me that breastfeeding was the way to go, and she looked visibly relieved when I told her it was already in my plans. She was an absolutely stellar lady and so nice! She was incredibly patient too with all my queries about how I should approach the situation.
She also told me that I should wake the baby up every 2 hours to feed her because she was a preemie, but if she doesn't eat, it's fine.
Not too long after, she did pop on the boob, and I was well on my way to breastfeeding her. It was strange, but even at this stage she had a preference for the left over the right, and I was assured it wasn't an issue, but it did prove to be one. (I'll go into my issues with breastfeeding and why I had to start her on formula in a later post.)
It was nice that there was attention to detail at all times in the hospital. The anesthesiologist, paediatrician and gynaecologist came in daily to ensure that all was well, and I was there for 3 days. The nurses also did everything from diaper changes to swaddling her upwards of 10 times a day because she kept escaping!
On the second day, the anesthesiologist came in and asked how the pain was. I was hooked up to pain killers, so I felt nothing. However, I was still extremely itchy, and when he asked if I was and then told me that it was the result of the anesthesia, I was relieved! He told me it would pass, and I was beyond grateful. He then removed the IV that was pumping painkillers right into my back and put me on oral painkillers. I was really worried at how that was going to feel, but not long after, the nurse came and removed the catheter and helped me walk around a little. It wasn't as uncomfortable as I thought it would be, but I could definitely feel some pain where the incision was.
(Pictures Courtesy of The Enabler)
[My Second Day of Being a Mum]
A really weird side effect of a c-section and having a catheter is that when you first go and pee, it just doesn't come out! I'm not sure if this is just me, but it was like my body had forgotten how to pee because of the catheter. It was so weird. I sat there for around 20 minutes trying to pee, and nothing! It took a few hours of worrying if I would ever pee again, but I eventually did thankfully.
(Picture Courtesy of The Enabler)
My doctor told me I could go back after the second night, but recommended that I stay another night and so I did. This was moreso because I was freaked out as hell about being a new mother, and I had no idea what to do. As I mentioned, I had not done all my parenting reading, so I was panicked! And so, I stayed another night and let the nurses look after me. It was a really nice feeling.
It was only in the quiet of the night that I realised that I was just starting to bond with little Megatron. I was still in disbelief, and it hadn't sunk in that I was a mother (it still hasn't to be frank), but I still knew on some level that I would do anything for her. So, I kissed her for the very first time on the cheek, and I haven't stopped since!
[Still In Shock]
That night, Megatron slept for 12 hours straight despite the fact that I kept trying to rouse her to feed her as I was instructed to. It was shocking, and I was a little panicked. However, in hindsight it seems that infants are exhausted after the trauma of delivery so they're at their sleepiest in the first few days after birth. The next morning the paediatrician came in and assured me it wasn't a problem because she had wet diapers. I hadn't actually seen any of her diapers, but I was assured all was normal, so she must have pooped as well. Yes, you do become obsessed with your child's digestive tract after your have a baby. It's inevitable.
The lactation consultant came in as well to make sure all was well, and she too assured me it was nothing to be worried about and told me to come see her if there were any issues when I went home.
The incision did hurt, and getting in and out of bed was difficult at first, but if you just take it slow, it gets easier. It didn't hurt enough to stop me from carrying the baby or walking around, though. And it was infinitely less uncomfortable than actually being pregnant, so I had absolutely no complaints. By the third day, my itching had subsided and I was beyond grateful that all my pregnancy symptoms were gone!
And then, I had no idea how, but they let me leave the hospital with Megatron. I was half expecting someone to stop me and tell me I wasn't qualified to look after a baby, let alone a preemie. It was all extremely daunting, and I'll go into how the first three months have been in the next post.
Overall, I don't think I could have had a better birth experience in terms of the professionals involved, even when you don't account for the circumstances. It was an incredibly comfortable stay, and it felt more like a hotel than a hospital. The nurses were extremely attentive and helpful, and were so very kind and patient with me as a new mother. I highly, highly recommend it as a place to have a baby because their policies fall in line with all the research that is out there. 10 thumbs up for them!
(Picture Courtesy of The Enabler)