What Nobody Tells You About Childbirth

So, it’s been a little over a month since I gave birth to the cutest, chinky-eyed baby girl and had a successful  water birth to remember. A lot of people have been quick to offer their thumbs-up to such an unconventional birth. One might think that I’m this super-“strong” or crazy woman; but believe me, nothing could be further from the truth!

I wasn’t at all like an Earth Momma in tuned with my “inner goddess” nor was I ever so confident of my strength or my self-awareness that I could say I felt power instead of pain. I read somewhere Jessica Alba spoke of her birth this way, “It was Zen. I wasn’t screaming at all.” Whutt?!

"Aguy, aguy, aguy!"

“Aguy, aguy, aguy!”

Me? This is what this post is for. I’m here to tell you what it really like. In the early stages of labor, I asked him already if we could just go for a Cesarean. During transition, I was screaming shamelessly and pressuring my midwife if she could help me “hurry things up”. Hello, what can she do?! Whatever poise I possessed went out the window during birth. Thankfully, we had a great birth photographer who knew how to seize “opportune shots” and made me look really fierce haha! Thank you, Isabell!

"Ate Lornie, anong birth control option ang okay?", I asked in between pushes.

“Ate Lornie, anong birth control option ang okay?”, I asked in between pushes.

Now, pregnancy and birth weren’t all pain. There were many fleeting, strong emotions that grabbed me, and there were so many, many important realizations. It was a journey. One that I know I’d never regret because it gave me my precious Emma. But the learnings I’d definitely keep and remember, if not for another birth (can’t believe I’m saying this), then at least to help another birthing Momma.  Here goes:

  1. Prepare beyond labor and birth. Most focus all their time, attention and resources on preparing for labor and birth, but completely negate post-partum. I remember feeling so heavy and extremely uncomfortable during my last trimester that I was so confident I could do anything after birth. In fact, my husband was inviting me to go to the beach and I said, let’s wait for me to give birth and we can go anywhere. Ha! What I completely overlooked was POST-PARTUM PAIN. The body aches from the toll of labor (which felt like I had come from a boxing match), the pain of vaginal tears, stitches, hemorrhoids, uterine contractions on top of sleepless nights and continuous infant-carrying. Maaan!!! Being a woman is sooo hard! About ten days after birth and of going through such pain, I was frantic and going into depression. I was crying in the shower because of constant pain that I didn’t expect. I went through CS with my firstborn and I thought a natural birth was supposed to heal much easier. Now, I didn’t take into account that healing down there where it’s moist and had to go through pee and bowel movements would simply take time. Why am I telling you this? Because if you’re pregnant, prepare for this as well. Things don’t stop at birth, whether it’s CS or natural. You have to give your body time to heal. Pain will force you to rest, and that is exactly what you need to be doing. What can you do? Pray for patience through the pain for it really has the power to strengthen us. Then get good post-partum care, rest, keep yourself dry and clean and rest some more. Pour water when peeing and even during bowel movements to help ease pain, take Ibuprofen (but clear with your Doc first), and change underwear OFTEN. I heard this from other Momma friends, and I can now tell you the same thing: It does get better.
  2. Don’t be afraid to lose yourself. I had to learn this during labor. Child-bearing (and child-rearing) is all about giving. The more we hold back out of fear, the more it’s going to be difficult. The most important revelation for me was this: Just as we give a big part of ourselves while nurturing another being inside of us, I believe that God gave a part of Himself to each one of us, too. Creating us may have been easy for Him, but His “investment”was His own self. In His image and likeness after all. And what better proof than Jesus Himself? He gave Himself for us so we live a life reconciled to Him. And what birth taught me is that blood needs to be shed for new life. Sacrifice is part of love. But looking at my sweet baby, I know it is pain not without its reason or rewards. And I know I’d go through labor and birth again for any of my children; just as I know God created us even as He knew we would sin and choose to live in rebellion against Him.
I surrendered many times that night. And I praise God He caught me, strengthened me, LOVED me.

I surrendered many times that night. And I praise God He caught me, strengthened me, LOVED me.

3. Peace does exist. Pregnancy and birth have been pre-designed. While my mind filled with all sorts of what-if’s and possibilities, a steadfast stillness filled my heart. Peace does precede and follow even during the difficult stages, but overthinking and worry did make things complicated and harder to manage, simply because I was fighting design. But learn to distinguish God’s peace and guard it. When I found that I’m tired from flailing and fighting, that same peace waits for me. And I have the option to choose to TRUST the peace-giver instead. And I rediscovered the feeling of patience through the pain, of His love that never leaves us even in the midst of calamity or pain. But I cannot manufacture peace. True, authentic peace. When His peace comes to me, it’s different. Steady, firm, undeniable but not overpowering. Sure, graceful but not pushy. Which is how I know it’s not from me. It’s from Someone greater and Someone who cares, because this break is exactly is what I need.

We printed and laminated key Bible verses and posted them on the wall so we can draw strength as needed.

We printed and laminated key Bible verses and posted them on the wall so we can draw strength as needed.

4. Husband has a very important role. This is the reason why I opted to birth in a birthing home rather than a hospital. I wanted my husband to be with me during labor. I knew I would need his support in there, as I needed it in other areas of my life. His constant reminder for me to breathe, his massages, his hands (which I squeezed and battered painfully) practically enabled my pushing, and his emotional support post-birth helped me get through it all with my sense of humor still in tact. Even if you would birth in a hospital setting, hubby’s role still is important as the journey doesn’t end at birth. Ask for help and involve him.

Loving security

Loving security

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He is my rock.

5. It’s a can-do. Some women say birth is a must-do, like some sort of item to check on a bucket list. But it’s more than that. This is what we’re designed to do. Birthing is something we really, truly can do. The way our bodies were made, its size, its capability to handle pain (and believe me, we can handle it), its ability to heal–all are part of the grand design of motherhood. It’s not just a mind-over-matter thing. We can really physically do it. Kaya siya.

Now, given all that, was natural birth something excruciatingly painful? From my own personal experience, no. The body prepares and eases us into it until mind, body, heart are all ready to give birth. So by the time my baby is ready to come out, I’ve just been waiting for it and fear of pain has no more hold on me. It did bring out strength that I didn’t know I possessed, but I say this without pride. On the contrary, natural birthing humbled me. It literally brought me down to my knees, surrendering to my God who gave me the faith that He is in complete control. I went into it weak, yet supernatural strength was lent to me, and with it, I gave birth to new life. Praise God for this miracle! It’s incredible to be made a part of it.

What a miracle!

What a miracle!

The Water Birth of Emmanuelle Rae

Emma

Emma

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.

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Laboring in each other’s arms

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.

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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 loving doula

My loving doula

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.

With my husband. Ate Lornie pouring down warm water on my back.

Holding on to my husband. Ate Lornie pouring down warm water on my back.

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.

Intense!

Intense!

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.

Resting between contractions

Resting between contractions

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 birthed while on my knees, then they just asked me turn around when the baby came out.

I birthed while on my knees, then they just asked me turn around when the baby came out.

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!”

The look of success!

The look of success!

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!

My healthy baby girl

My healthy baby girl

The look of love: My boys when first saw her.

The look of love: My boys when they first saw her

Pregnancy Without Fear

Four years ago, I gave birth prematurely to our son. He was born only at 30 weeks. His story is one that my husband and I will always remember to be a milestone in our life as a couple, because it really took us to a whole new level in terms of our journey with God, and in our marriage.

Our family rose above it unscathed. Our baby grew healthy without any complications, and our bond as husband and wife has been strengthened, so this one thing I know for sure: The one takeaway from that whole experience should NOT be fear.

Fast forward to four years later, we are pregnant once again. I knew it’s going to be another journey. And eight months into it, I can say it again, “Whatta ride!” But this time, a mission has been tugging at my heart. This is not just some journey where I will simply be a passive participant. Rather, this pregnancy will be used to teach me, and hopefully other mothers too, that we have to kick FEAR out!!!

From my first check-up with my OB-Gyne, I was immediately informed that I have to be on-guard for many different infections, that I had Myoma and even my online research told me one thing, “I was a high-risk pregnant case.”

On top of the possible medical issues, I knew from experience that another premature birth would mean having to prepare several hundreds of pesos at least for the hospital care. Though God has always provided, I can’t help but consider the financial burden.

Now, all these logically could lead to one thing: Me completely paralyzed with fear the whole nine months. Seriously. I could go there.

Thank God for a husband who continuously reminds me to relax, never fear, and to put our faith in God who has always, always cared for our family.

Being pregnant has also taught me to commune with God more, and one of His astounding revelations are:

Nowhere else in a woman’s life would she feel more that her  body is not her own than in pregnancy. I realize I am on a borrowed “temple”–my body, and as life grows inside of me, I realize I’m not my own. And right now, I need more than what I could give. I NEED to depend–on my husband, my body, on time, on a Higher power to make everything come together.

It’s overwhelming for sure, but it’s also humbling because I do what I can to take care of my body, my pregnancy, yet so much is not within my power. PREGNANCY TEACHES ME TO HAVE FAITH. Everyday. And somewhere in there, in that journey, I get a taste of what’s to come–like a kick coming from my belly, my husband and older child kissing my bulging tummy, a growing love for our unborn–and I get to enjoy something as difficult and so out-of-our control as pregnancy.

I'm able to smile and enjoy this pregnancy, and that's a gift in itself as well.

I’m able to smile and enjoy this pregnancy, and that’s a gift in itself as well.

What are the “lessons” there?

That we are not in control, but we can enjoy what we’ve been given. It is a blessing after all.

That as mothers, we need God so much. It is Him who gives, it is also Him who will care for us, for our babies.

I attended a childbirth class and it was mentioned that stress and fear have more a damaging impact on our pregnancies that anything else. It’s because of the hormone, Cortisol that is released when we are stressed or in fear. This article discusses just how this hormone affects our developing baby.

So, another lesson is that FEAR has absolutely no place in our pregnancy.

As a mom who’s had my experience, I will not lie to you–the battle against fear is very real to me. I face it every single day. And I had to make a decision every time–choose it or fight it. In fact, the reason I’m writing this post now is because we’ve reached an incredible milestone in our pregnancy–we are now at 32 weeks. The farthest we’ve ever gone. To me, it really feels like we just crossed a boundary. The boundary of this supposed limitation that the Enemy has been imposing in my head, telling me that we’re only up to this point.

Well, there is a bigger truth that my husband has been reminding me again and again: God is the one in control here. His plans and timing are perfect. Praise God for this man’s steadfast spirit.

It’s also been pivotal that we chose a midwife From Shiphrah Birthing Home, because their prenatal care goes beyond physical and medical, there’s an emotional and spiritual assurance that comes from faith in the Lord, and hundreds of actual birth experiences. During my moments of doubts and fear, the midwives were quick to tell me that I should not allow myself to be fearful for that is harmful. She checked me up, and steered me towards a place of peace–reassuring me that baby is okay, and that God is taking care of my little one.

Now, I’m approaching our 33rd week. I’m feeling that we’re getting closer and closer and I can’t help but feel excited. I’m looking forward to feeling the labor contractions, the popping of my water bag breaking, feeling my baby going down…I know it sounds crazy. But as God has taken me through this journey of Pregnancy Without Fear, so shall it be for my Birth Without Fear.

Pregnancy Without Fear

Pregnancy Without Fear

Looking forward to writing about our birth story soon 🙂 As for me and the remaining weeks, I pray that the lesson will not be lost on me. That no matter what happens, my faith will remain on our Provider, our Blessing-Giver for He is the blessing Himself.

Thank You, God for our baby and this pregnancy. May this child and our journey be a blessing to many.