Oh, how I’ve been looking forward to writing our birth story for nine months.
As I mentioned in my pregnancy story, my firstborn was born prematurely, and so being pregnant wasn’t met by just pure unadulterated elation. Rather, I battled fear and all sorts of doubts. From my capability to “complete” a full nine-month pregnancy course, to being healthy enough to ward off all sorts of threats of infections (which could lead to a premature birth again), to being able to birth naturally after having had a CS with my firstborn, I was just racked with all sorts of debilitating fears. Being with my OB-Gyne also didn’t help. I consulted her because she was Head of the Perinatology Department in a well-known hospital, but while I understand her attention to all sorts of possible threats to our pregnancy, she was always quick to point out all that could go wrong. I felt scared every time I went to a check-up with her as there was this feeling of doom-and-gloom, and a general lack of warmth and emotional support. I was just another high-risk pregnancy case, it felt like.
Now, early in the pregnancy, I already had an urging from God to go for a water birth. I wanted to do a VBAC for sure as I wasn’t too keen on having another major operation, and I didn’t want to labor in a hospital, where it meant I would be by myself strapped on a bed, and with a schedule I have to comply with. Pressure naman!
My last birth was a big lesson to us on God’s love and faithfulness, and it brought our family closer than ever. I was very excited at what this new pregnancy would teach us. And so, I wanted to birth naturally–God’s way. I wanted to do this His way, by His own terms, on His own time. I opted for water birth because I wanted the comfort and relief of warm water during the most difficult time of labor–which is transition (when the baby would come out).
Praise God we found Shiphrah, a birthing home in Taytay, Rizal, founded and run by missionaries and midwives, which opened my eyes completely to the “natural-ness” of birthing. Its midwives gave me a new perspective on birthing—that it wasn’t an illness and that every pregnancy, every birth are different, and my past wasn’t necessarily going to dictate my current pregnancy. Besides (free) prenatal care, they offered emotional support, encouraging me in my battle against fear. And I discovered just how important the mother’s state of mind is during pregnancy. It practically dictated my and baby’s health. I mean, for one thing, stress attacks the immune system which would leave me vulnerable to more infections. So, really the one big lesson is to go towards where fear is not encouraged, and where I felt more supported and cared for.
God is the reason why I’m writing this entry now. Because of Him, we have experienced pregnancy in all its stages, vulnerability that ultimately left me completely dependent on Him, a beautiful birth experience that transcended all of my expectations, and now a mesmerising baby girl who takes my breath away each and every time. I owe big thanks to my husband who acted as my doula, my co-laborer who showed such love and self-sacrifice during the long hours of labor. Thank you to my midwife, Ate Lornie who was very patient and encouraging with me, and to Isabell Steinert who was always willing to offer her hands and arms for support. She is a birth photographer and all credit goes to her for all (save for the first one) photos in this entry.
This is our journey. This is the water birth story of my sweet baby Emma.
Due date: May 10, 2016
May 12: I started feeling heavy pressure on my puson (lower abdomen), like baby is bearing down. By 1pm, I had my bloody show. I got so excited, I thought for sure this was THE day. From that afternoon onwards, the pain on my puson was already getting more and more regular. By the time evening came, our app told us to go “to the hospital”. So, we texted our midwife, Ate Lornie and she said to wait for contractions, for my stomach to get hard and painful in regular intervals. 4AM, no stomach-hardening going on but the pain on my puson was more regular. So Ate Lornie gave me the go signal to go to Shiphrah. Upon arriving, she asked if I wanted an IE. I relented and was disappointed to find out I was only at 3cm. By 1pm that day, the regular intervals became more intermittent so we just went home, and decided to rest. However, I knew deep inside that my body has already begun its rigorous work ahead.
May 13: My puson has been heavy the whole day, and there were intermittent pains. I still wasn’t sure if this was it because I didn’t get the “expected contraction” or tummy-hardening expected. Yet, my pain was real and by late afternoon, they were fast becoming regular so much so that I could expect them. By the time my husband arrived from work at 9pm, I was already shifting back and forth from sane conversations to weak-kneed-barely-can-talk states in regular intervals. He said later on that I looked different already. My tummy was still not getting “hard” as expected, but the pain was feeling a lot like “work”—I was thirsty after almost every contraction and was really tired. We started timing the painful contractions and they were 30-45 seconds in duration, with three minutes in between. Ate Lornie advised us to head over to Shiphrah. In between pain, I remember worrying that what if this was NOT the contractions at all? And the pain I was feeling was just a preview of what’s to come? What if I’m far off? Good thing the contractions came every three minutes as I couldn’t entertain those discouraging thoughts for too long.
We arrived at Shiphrah around 230am, and I was relieved to see Ate Lornie already setting up the pool, along with Isabell. While the two were busy, I felt every contraction bearing down on me. I was practically on my knees—the pressure was intense. Thank God there were breaks in between!
My husband was quick to envelop me in his arms so I could lean on him when the pain was building up. He massaged my lower back to help ease the pain. I let myself moan as I “rode” the waves of contractions.
I was desperate for sleep for I had none at all that day. But the contractions wouldn’t let me get a wink. Once the pressure starts, it was I could do to breathe deeply and not be overwhelmed. This continued for about three hours. Ate Lornie and Isabell took naps, letting me labor as I would like—moving around, lying down or holding on to my husband.
Finally, 6am found me on the bed. I was dead tired and I honestly didn’t know how else I could go on. I remember the verse that said, in my weakness, He is strong.
Then, as another wave came, I was grasping and gasping when suddenly something seemed to have popped inside, and I felt a gush. I removed my underwear and there was blood. We thought it was the water bag popping? Ate Lornie said it probably is. So she asked me if I would like to go to the pool. I nodded yes, just going by her leading.
As soon as I got in, I barely had time to enjoy the warm water when I felt the strong urge to push, like I have to poop something really big. And momentarily, I felt scared. This was new territory and who knows what kind of pain this will bring? I suddenly got scared of being torn apart, of pushing until everything bulged out. In truth, I was just so scared. Then I looked to my left where we stuck some verses on the wall, and again the message is the same: In your weakness, I am strong. Let Christ take over! Mike, my husband also proclaimed those verses, praying with me.
And so, with increasing abandon, I slowly rode the wave of contraction and just allowed myself to push. I felt a strong power within me and I gripped my husband’s hands as I roared and screamed while pushing. Mike and Ate Lornie continuously reminded me to breathe to give oxygen to Emma who’s well on her way down the birth canal.
My body gave its all with every push and I did it several times for what seemed like an eternity. To my surprise, no baby still. Ate Lornie asked me to feel inside maybe I could already touch her head. I tried, but felt nothing. She asked if I would like her to give me an IE and I agreed. This was the first time I wasn’t scared of one. The long labor and exhaustion gave way to my impatience. I just wanted to find out if we were near the end. To my relief, she said she felt baby’s head inside a balloon—apparently, my water bag was still intact! She encouraged me by saying that we’re very near.
After several more pushes accompanied by growling and screaming, I felt the ring of fire. Then, after that, I remember thinking, “I don’t care if I tore. I just want this baby out.” I also remember asking Ate Lornie if there was a way to “assist” me in pulling her out like a forceps or something. I felt desperate. She said very calmly that there’s a time for everything and that baby will come out soon enough. It’s a good thing to be surrounded by people who are calm and confident in nature’s way of birthing. Everything will come to pass in its own good time.
I remember praying, “Jesus help me.” And I also remember a prodding in my spirit to offer thanks and praise and so I whispered in between contractions, “Praise you, God for this. Thank you.”
After a couple more pushes, I felt baby’s head popped out and the rest of her body sliding out. All I could say was, “Thank you, God!”
My Emmanuelle Rae was born May 14, 7:11am weighing 3.2 kilos, to a Momma who has a faithful and mighty God. This was a VBAC, all-natural, water birth. All glory and praise belong to the Lord Almighty alone!