Thursday, November 26, 2020

My Birthing Story: I Gave Birth During A Global Pandemic

Expecting and giving birth during a global pandemic is one experience I'll never forget. I still remember the mixed feelings R and I had when we first found out that we're expecting. As much as we were thrilled to have a little one of our own, we couldn't help ourselves worry about the looming coronavirus. Everything became different now with the new normal. Medical checkups felt more like mission impossible or being at the setting of the movie Contagion. Baby shopping was all limited to online. And there was also a lack of social interactions with one's support group. The lack of trips outside also limited my physical activities that led to Sam's extended stay of 40 weeks and 4 days. And with no sign of her coming out, I had no choice but to be induced.

I was scheduled to be induced on Friday morning after my last prenatal checkup confirmed that I didn't dilate any further. Stuck at two to three centimeters, I had to head to the hospital (St. Luke's Medical City, Quezon City) that same afternoon.

I headed back home first, had lunch as usual, and watched a few shows before going to the hospital. Yes, I was slightly nervous, but I was confident that things will be fine.

My heart started to pound faster when we reached the hospital lobby. The place was busy! R and I had to manually answer health declaration forms before entering the hospital. The security lady in charge was nice though as she put our bags on the side of the main entrance door and assisted us until we reached the lifts.

The maternity area is on the second floor and is just a few steps away from the elevator. The nurse stationed by the entrance quickly assisted us and asked for my records. After confirming my details, I was brought to a monitoring room to check the progress of my labor. I stayed there for about an hour or so while waiting for my OB-GYN. R, on the other hand, was just outside the maternity area waiting for me.

I was transferred to the HRPU or High-Risk Pregnancy Unit (upon my request) for induction after confirming that I was not progressing with my labor. It was only then when R could finally head to the admission desk to get us a room. [Note: Many husbands opt to stay in the waiting area. We decided to get a room earlier so that R won't be exposed to others unnecessarily. We found out that the room rate is more expensive if the patient himself/herself is not yet in the room. There was also a minor hiccup with the food included in the room as the staff initially didn't want to give R food as they insisted that it's just for patients and that he had to pay extra for his. Whether or not the patient's in the room, food should be given as it is included in the room rate.]

The HRPU is almost the same as the labor room (which is ward type) but offers more privacy. Each unit is separated by walls and sliding doors (which the nurses hardly close) and equipped with a small television with terrible picture quality. There's only one bathroom which is shared by all units. 

Aside from privacy and more social distancing, getting an HRPU allows you to bring personal items, unlike in the labor room. Since both do not allow companions, having one's phone with you is a great option. At least you can talk to your loved ones (to calm you down) while waiting for your little one's arrival.

I was aiming for natural vaginal birth so I kept reminding the nurses not to schedule me for an epidural until I ask for it. I was confident that I could go without it as many moms describe labor pain as a combination of dysmenorrhea and LBM. It didn't sound so bad. And when I found out that I was in active labor around 6 p.m. and didn't even feel the contractions, I was sure that I could do it without getting pricked in my spine. 

But things got a lot worse by 9 p.m. when I progressed to four centimeters. The pain shot up from none to a seven or eight! I had to drop everything I was doing and concentrate. And at 1 a.m., I had to wave the white flag and ask for an epidural. I regretted not asking for it earlier as it took about two agonizing hours before the procedure was done. 

I clearly remember everything that happened in the operating room. I had to hunch my bareback as they insert the needle in.  A cold sensation filled my body once done. I couldn't stop shivering for an hour! (This is one of the side effects of epidural.) They also put in a catheter before I got wheeled back to HRPU.

I fell asleep soon after and woke up two hours later to labor pains. I didn't know that epidural only lasts for two hours. I needed an extra dose to keep the unbearable pain away. 

At 6 a.m., my OB-GYN checked on me and told me that I was stuck at seven centimeters after 16 hours of labor. We had no choice but to have Sam delivered via cesarean to avoid complications. I have to admit; I was disappointed with myself. I thought my body could do it. But one has to be ready and prepared too for the unexpected.

Soon, the anesthesiologist went to my room to give me another shot. This time, it was a lot stronger as I couldn't feel my lower extremities. It also made me shiver even more.

Around this time, R was in touch with my OB-GYN who explained to him what will happen. And since he had his swab test done (and had negative results) before delivery, he was able to accompany me in the delivery room. [Note: We brought PPEs for him but St. Luke's prefers husbands to use the ones provided by the hospital.]

Things got blurry after that. All I remember was that I was wheeled back to the operating room with the giant lamp on top of me. I struggled to get to the operating bed/table and had people help me. The anesthesiologist was beside me and assured me that everything will be okay. She was singing beside me and told me to rest for a bit. And that was when I fell asleep.

I woke up with R beside me, filled with worry. I was shivering the whole time and didn't look too good. As much as he wanted to see Sam right away, he couldn't leave my side as he wanted to make sure that I was okay. 

Sam was pulled out a few seconds after I woke up and hearing her first cry made me tear up a bit despite being all dazed from the anesthesia.

I got my "unang yakap" (first hug) after they cleaned her up and had our first ever family photo. 

We are now parents. We are now a family of three.

Sam and I got wheeled to the recovery room soon after where we spent five hours. The room was warm and lined up with several beds with other moms who just gave birth. There were no partition walls or curtains too. But we were too tired to worry about the virus then. 

After being checked by both OB-GYN and Pedia, we got the go signal to head to our room where R was waiting. 

We barely slept during our 3-night stay at the hospital due to a series of doctor and nurse visits. But we felt safe. The nurses were also very helpful in assisting us, first-time parents, with Sam. The lactation consultant also gave great tips on how I could breastfeed Sam properly. Take advantage of this while at the hospital as they're not very responsive once you get discharged.

Sam had several other tests during our stay that include newborn screening, blood typing, and hearing tests. Results will be available online through St. Luke's e-Health Hub. Newborn screening results take about three weeks to be released.

I, on the other hand, was monitored for possible infection or complications. I was given antibiotics and pain killers during my stay. I also had to take those medicines for a few more days after getting discharged. And it was effective! I didn't experience any bothersome pain after the surgery.

Fast forward to the present; we are now one-month postpartum. It has been a crazy experience. But it is something R and I will cherish forever.

Additional notes:

Unlike before, CS patients usually stay in the hospital for five days. But with the current situation, it has been shortened to three days (and two days for normal delivery).

Expect long lines at the billing department. Best to request for your running bill ahead so that you can review the different charges before heading down. Also, prepare all the necessary documents to avoid delays. There's an option to pay your bill too online. But the system was down when we were about to pay.

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