|Our little 'buddha' baby - babies truly live in the present. They don't live in the past nor the future. If uncomfortable, they cry. If hungry, they eat. If sleepy, they sleep. Once satisfied, they stop crying. There's a lot to learn from them.|
Pre-pregnancy and Maternity check-up
I think we’re quite blessed in the sense that everything comes very smoothly for the pregnancy. I think earlier in 2016, both of us went for a major health check-up to ensure that all of us are healthy. After that, it took maybe 3 to 4 months before it happened. My wife’s breast started feeling very tender and sensitive (that’s usually the first signs) so we bought some pregnancy test kits to check it out. How I came to know of her pregnancy is more interesting. One day, I think I was doing some work when my wife popped in and showed me the results of the pregnancy test kit. I was actually quite stunned by it because I don’t know what it means. We scrambled to read the instruction manual and that’s when we knew we’re going to be parents soon.
Throughout the whole pregnancy, my wife don’t have the usual pregnancy symptoms like back aches or morning sickness, so it’s a relatively enjoyable journey for her. As her belly gets bigger, more and more stranger started to rub her belly. If we could charge a penny for the rubbing, we could probably be financially free by now. I did my fair share of feeling the baby’s movement by touching the belly at different points, feeling all the flutters, the rolls, the twist and the turns, the murmurs, the wave, the pops and the kicks. I love talking to the belly, reminding my son inside that there are two people in the world who will always love him, and telling him we’ll meet him soon and please not to cause so much pain to his mother.
But there’s a ton of things to worry about, like choosing between a private and public hospital, which gynecologist, what kind of birth and so on. So we dive in and did our literature research about the various options and realised what deep shit we got ourselves into! Lol!
We went around ‘shopping’ for hospitals by visiting the various maternity wards of public and private hospitals. Our initial decision of going to private hospitals eventually changed to public hospitals, after hearing horror stories of babies being premature and have to be warded In neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and having to pay a few thousands per night. It can amount to a fifth of a million dollars if something bad happens. This becomes the beginning of what I call a fear based pregnancy journey. It seems that everything is based on fear.
Ultimately we settled for NUH under a senior consultant (Prof Biswas, if you want to know his name), thinking that the cost can be kept affordable should there be a need to go NICU, by downgrading to a lower class ward. It’s quite far from our home and it takes about an hour ride in general, but we treated the check-ups like going on a date. We knew each other in NUS way back when we’re still studying (I’m in Engineering and she’s in Arts). We like Indian food so we always go back to the Engineering faculty’s canteen for their cheap and delicious Indian food. In fact, that’s the part that we most like about the whole check-up routine, plus the fact that we have weird stares from students as my wife’s pregnancy started to become more obvious. I think both of us look like students except for her ballooning belly. Since there’s a discount for staff, the stall owner selling drinks had been giving some slight discount for my wife whenever she bought drinks. A student can’t be pregnant right? Haha!
But the whole check-up is just waiting and waiting and more waiting. It’s a little like army – you rush to wait and then you wait to be rushed. The consultation takes maybe 10 minutes tops, while the waiting can be up to 2 hours if you’re unlucky. Since both of us are self-employed, I often wondered how people manage to take so many leave from work to attend all these check-ups. Due to the nature of my job, it’s good to be able to accompany my wife on such check-up dates, so we re-framed the whole waiting game altogether – instead of wasting time waiting for our turns, we are spending our time together.
During the visits to the gynecologist, there’s usually an ultrasound scan too to see the baby’s development. Here, we can take black and white ‘pictures’ of our son at different stages of the pregnancy and also hear his heartbeat. The first time I heard his heart beat, it was such a magical experience. That little ‘alien’ is actually alive and is living inside my wife! But it always sounded the same, and I wondered aloud to my wife if there’s a stock video and stock heart beat soundtrack that they play to all mothers every time. Hmm… that conspiracy theory remains to be tested.
Test for genetic defects
I’m not young anymore, and so is my wife. Though there are a lot of celebrities’ couple having birth in their 40s and 50s, I knew that the chances of genetic defects are higher due to poor egg and sperm quality. That’s why I was quite worried about all the major developmental test during the maternity check-up. I think I told my wife back then that we have to remember this moment in our lives, especially when our son failed his exams or committed some mistakes. Why? Because once upon a time, we were contented and overjoyed with him just by being healthy and fine.
Contentment is a relative thing.
Parenting is a journey full of worries. I think it’s good to experience this. I guess on a broader level, our parents must have felt the same way towards us too. Being a parent makes me more appreciative of all parents, particularly my own.
|Tiny little fingers. You never know great joy until you had held a soft living thing who trusted you so much that he fell asleep in your arms.|
We started watching a lot of you-tube on the birthing process. Most of it was found by my wife as she prepares for the birth mentally. We learnt of the continuum concept (there’s a book on that) which strikes a resonating chord in both of us. It’s amazing how a little research can do wonders in preparing ourselves for the actual event. It was also the first time I read books about pregnancy and how a husband can support a wife during the actual birthing. Tons of material are out there, and we both decided to skip the antenatal classes because we think it’s a rip off after looking through the slides shared by Frugal Daddy.
We had a birth plan, jotting all the points that we want and do not want. We presented it to the gynecologist during one of the consultations and he signed on it. It was supposed to be scanned and sent to the records, but apparently on the day it wasn’t found. Thankfully, the birth plan was easy summarised by one principle - LESS MEDICAL INTERVENTION. All the rest of the points are just the details.
For me, it’s good because I know what my wife wants after our discussions, and I’m willing to guide her and give the necessary instructions to everyone in the fog of birth.
I was drooling in my sleep when my wife woke me up at 6am on 31st of Jan. It was the 4th day of the Chinese New Year and just the night before, we went to my in-law’s place for a good dinner. We could not have known that in another few hours, we will be having my epic journey to meet our son.
“I think my water just broke.” my wife said calmly.
I was rubbing the sleepiness off me while trying to process what the strings of sound means. My wife showed me the extent of the ‘damage’ while I took some kitchen towels to clean up a little. She told me she that she had been feeling really terrible throughout the night with the contractions, but she didn’t tell me about it. She had also been walking around to ease off the pain while I slept through all that like a baby. Oops :)
She called the hotline given by the hospital and was advised by them to head to the hospital once we’re ready. I told her to take a shower and go wash her hair while I packed our bug out bag to get ready to the hospital. Our bags had been lying on the table for nearly a week, while we waited anxiously for the expected due date to arrive on 28th of Jan. But it was a non-event, literally a no show. You cannot begin to imagine how anxious it was waiting for her labour to start. But I guess our baby will arrive not early nor late but exactly as he wishes to.
Thankfully the traffic was fine, and we reached the hospital in about 30 mins, because we hit the roads before the morning peak hour traffic began. My wife was squirming every now and then, but it’s still bearable enough for her to walk and act normally. I think most people have the idea that once contraction hits, we have to call the ambulance and be rushed straight to hospital immediately, but the truth is far from it. It’s a long drawn out process and technically we can eat a good hearty breakfast before going in to the hospital.
For those not in the know, the magic number is 10. What’s that? Once the cervix dilation reaches 10 cm, the gynecologist can come to deliver. Before that, you just have to endure the labour and contractions until it reaches 10 cm. When my wife came in at 730am, it was 3 cm. We’re admitted to the delivery suite at about 845 am. At 1130 am, it was 5 cm. Time flies for me while I’m there, but I’m sure my wife will experience time dilation because she was living moment to moment in between the regular contractions. I was massaging my wife’s back all the time, providing sips of water to her and giving all the support that I can give while she’s on her toughest journey of her life. That’s the least I can do.
At 330pm, the dilation was still at 3cm and we have to make a decision to inject oxytocin, a drug that augments the labour by making the contraction stronger. So far the pain was bearable but the labour process was still slow. There’s a timeline to rush because the water bag had burst and the baby might get into trouble after a long period (about 18 hours). We’re afraid that the use of such drugs will make the labour much more painful. This has the potential effect of creating a cascade of medical intervention. Oxytocin leads to more pain, leading to the use of epidural that will dull the pain and make it harder to time when pushing, which will then lead to foetal distress because of the prolonged and high intensity contraction and ultimately leading to c-section. That is an end scenario we do not want.
In the end, we opted for oxytocin, and within 30 mins, the pain level went up drastically. There are many medical professionals coming in asking if my wife wanted epidural or laughing gas, but I think she can take it and firmly rejected their offer. At the same time, I had to constantly caress and comfort my wife as the contractions get more intense, longer and more frequent. After about 1030pm, the pain level really shot up a lot and my wife experienced the final thrall of the labour process. It really pains my heart to see my wife in agony and pain. While we might not be able to avoid pain, we can certainly avoid suffering. Suffering comes when there is no meaning to the pain we’re taking, so I constantly encouraged her, held her hands tightly while she goes through her waves of labour, and reminded her that each pain will bring us closer to seeing our son. Once the meaning is understood, there is great capacity for us to withstand pain with meaning and without suffering.
The nurse checked that it’s about 9 cm dilation now and called the doctor, who came in around 11pm. And in about 30 mins, our son was out hearing his first cry to the world! It was such a surreal experience, and I’m very relieved to hear that my wife and son are fine.
That ends the first part of our pregnancy journey. I hope that reading this will give strength and courage to would be fathers. In the next post, I’ll let my wife share her experiences, before the last post about the financial cost of all this leading to the birth. Hopefully this would put the financial cost in the right perspective.