I woke up from a contraction after having dreamt my water bag had burst with a bloody show. That was the first of my contractions. Thinking it was probably Braxton Hicks, I ignored the series of them. Until they kept coming throughout the day had I asked a friend who'd just given birth not too long ago what labour contractions felt like. She said it felt like diarrhoea cramps. That was the kind of pain I was having. Yet, having no other symptom of labour, I thought maybe I had eaten something bad the day before and tried to go to the toilet.
Evening came. I was still having these contractions. While having dinner with my husband, Jian, I thought to time them. At first they were 5 minutes apart, each 30 seconds long, but growing 1 minute long later. Soon, they started spreading out to 10 minutes apart, 15 minutes apart, then 30 minutes to later, 1 hour apart.
"Can't be labour, they should be nearer and nearer together not further apart," I thought to myself.
We decided to watch it throughout the night and on till the next day. Should these contractions keep happening, I'll call my doctor. After all, I didn't want to be the woman that called my gynae for every single little thing.
True enough, during the night my contractions got more severe, but they still were an hour or more apart. I prayed, asking God if these were true labour contractions, I'll have some kind of obvious symptom.
Day of Eden's Birth
Morning came and I passed a bit of dried blood. Told my husband, this is real now. Go get us some breakfast and I'll get ready and call the gynae. As Jian was out buying bananas, I passed my mucus plug. Called the gynae and the nurse told us to head down to the hospital and he'll meet us there.
Once there, I was sent to the waiting room and the nurse hooked me up to a CTG scanner. Every time that I would contract, Eden's heartbeat would drop. And through every contraction, Jian would be there to hold my hand as I tried my best not to dig my nails into his skin. Bet he's glad I made sure to cut my nails earlier in the morning.
"We don't like the looks of this. Maybe we'll get you to turn to your other side and see if that helps your baby better," said Nurse.
It didn't. Eden's heartbeat continued to drop every time I contracted, then brought back up again when I'm not. The nurses kept monitoring me, and each time that they would come in, they'd tell me I might need to go in for an emergency caeserean. Gynae finally arrived after 30-45 minutes.
"Why is your baby so naughty? You're having a healthy pregnancy, no water is leaking from out of you, why is this happening?"said Gynae as he stripped me off the CTG scanner and put the ultrasound scanner on.
"Ah! This is why!" said Gynae as he pointed out how a bit of Eden's umbilical cord was pressing around his head.
"You have two options now. One. Either we go in to an emergency caeserean, or two. We put a pill in you to help your cervix open," Gynae stated.
Now. This is the bit where it got interesting. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I wanted as natural a birth as possible. In my head, I would do a vaginal delivery and do it without an epidural. I even bought an EPI-NO and practiced with it. When the nurses kept coming in to mentally prep me for a possible caeserean, I was shocked.
"Surely things aren't getting as serious as needing an emergency caeserean!" I thought.
Yet, each time the nurses kept coming to check on me, it gotten more real. On one of these checks, a nurse had to see how far my cervix was dilated. As she checked me, I started to contract. It was the craziest sort of pain ever. I don't have any other words to describe it but that it hurts. Insanely.
During the time before Gynae arrived, in the midst of all my contractions, I overhead the patient next to me telling a nurse how this was her third pregnancy, and how her first 2 kids were both delivered via emergency caeserean. That really comforted me.
"Okay. Maybe an emergency caeserean doesn't sound as wild as I imagined it in my head. If she have had 2 of them, it must be common enough," I reasoned to myself.
The second time I had my cervix examined for dilation by my gynae, I was sold. The pain was way too excruciating. I cried like a hysterical mad woman. To further seal my conviction, the nurse as if understanding the dilemma I was facing, casually remarked: "You know ah, if you choose a vaginal, we will have to keep checking your cervix like this."
"I choose caeserean! I choose caeserean! But, let me go pee first!" I yelled out.
Within seconds from returning from the loo, I was whisked up to the operating theatre in my bed. Everything happened so quickly. I recall trying my best to put my bravest face forward and not to cry out upon every contraction as they whizzed me past strangers in lifts and through corridors.
Moment I reached the operating room, my gynae was already scrubbed up with nurses and everybody buzzing about the room getting operation-ready. My paediatrician introduced himself to me as I signed a waiver and agreement to the surgery on the operating bed. My anaesthesiologist was puffing for air as he ran up towards me.
Gasping for breath he panted, "I'm getting too old for this!"
The entire surgical team laughed. I didn't find it too amusing.
As he administered 4 shots of anaesthetic in me, I remembered just being thankful it would be a GA and not an epidural as I went under. May be all the horror stories I've heard, but I'm still terrified of an epidural.
The raging pain from my belly woke me up.
"Wake up! You're in the recovery room now. Surgery was successful," trailed voices whom I assumed were nurses as I peered from my sleepy eyes.
"AAOOOWWW, I'M IN SOO MUCH PAAAIINNN..." I moaned as I clenched onto the bars by the side of my bed.
"Put your hands down," said nurses passing by me.
"But I'm in so much pain!" I managed groggily.
"We've put painkillers already in your IV. Next time you do a caeserean do an epidural, you won't feel the pain," Anaesthesiologist casually mentioned as he walked up towards me.
I grabbed his hand.
"Where am I? Where's my husband? And the baby? How's everything?" I wailed trying to manage the unrelenting sting in my belly.
"You're in the waiting room, your husband is with the baby. You know ah. For a 36 week old, I expected him to be much bigger," Anaesthesiologist said while returning my grip.
"Is it because he's a dwarf?" I asked.
"That is not in my profession to say. You ask your paediatrician," he replied coolly.
Back story. In the 20th week of my pregnancy, our gynae found out Eden's long bones were measuring short. His arm and thigh bones were only measuring 2+cm, while his feet were 3+cm. He told us that it's a 99% chance, he would be a dwarf. It was hard news to swallow and a really trying time. We had a second opinion who said the same thing and kept advocating to do tests since it's such a rare thing to have the 2 of us with no family history of dwarfism to have one. We did no such thing as these tests had risks of a miscarriage.
What made it harder was having family mention the word abortion.
The pain kicked in again and I clung onto the handle bars of my bed for relief.
"Put your hands down!" barked nurses as they wheeled me out of the recovery room.
After what seemed like eternity, going in and out of sleep, I was finally reunite with my husband.
"How's Eden?" was the first question I asked him.
"He's okay. But it seems like he's small. That's what everybody's saying."
"Do you have photos of him?"
"I hope not," Jian replied.
"He doesn't look like a dwarf though. Does he look like a dwarf to you?"
"Me neither. I don't think he's a dwarf at all."
My paediatrician then visited me.
"Okay. He cried upon birth, but it wasn't fantastic. He had to rely 100% on oxygen machines. He's a bit better now, relying on 80%, but we're no where out of the woods. He's really small too. We're all trying to figure out why he's so small. Basically, we have the captains of the ship looking at your baby."
"Is he small because he's a dwarf?" I whimpered.
Paediatrician looked at me confused.
"He looks proportional to me. What did Gynae say?"
"He said he was a dwarf in my 20th week scan."
"I don't think he looks like a dwarf. He looks proportional."
"Can you explain to us why is his face so red?"
"Yes, his face is congested isn't it? I believe he was already travelling down your birth canal when Gynae scooped him up."
"Oh! So I would have been able to have given birth to him vaginally?" said I, still hung up about not being able to have the natural birth I envisioned.
"No," he replied starkly before he let out the mortifying truth.
"What happened was that his umbilical cord was wound up around him that every time he was descending, it was strangulating him. That's why his heartbeat kept dropping whenever you were contracting."
"So he would have died if I'd attempted a vaginal?"
"He would have died if you didn't do what you had done."
As it was a busy week in the hospital, all the single suites were taken up and I had only a double room available to me. This means, Jian could not stay over in the hospital. It was an arduous night of feeling loopy from the meds, not being able to see my child as I was in recovery and hooked up to a drip with a catheter in me, and not having my husband by my side. The lady sharing the ward with me on the other hand, had a normal delivery and the nurse would wheel her baby in every few hours for a feed. I have never experienced the pain of longing to this extent before.
Day After Eden's Birth
As soon as any nurse should come attend to me, I would immediately ask them when my tubes could be out. I knew that so long as I had them in me, I couldn't get up to see Eden.
"Upon Doctor's orders can I remove these things."
"Okay, when is he coming?"
"In the morning."
Morning finally arrived and my gynae came around.
"So small! Your baby. So small!" said Gynae as he re-enacted himself taking Eden out of me, mimicking Rafiki carrying Simba up on Pride Rock in Lion King.
"Are you hungry? I'll get them to give you some soft foods, you haven't eaten the whole day yesterday."
"Okay. But can I go see my baby?" I pleaded.
"Yes, of course. Nurse, take out her drip and catheter and make sure she gets to see her baby."
"Is it gonna hurt?" I asked Nurse when it's time to remove my catheter.
"No lah. Not pain one. Not pain at all," she assured me.
"Are you sure?" I questioned unconvinced.
"Yah, put in more pain than take out. Pain when you put in?"
"I don't know. I was under when they placed it in me."
"Not pain one. I show you. Not pain one," she repeated.
Moment she tugged on the catheter, I let out the loudest cry I've probably wailed throughout this entire episode in the hospital (and that includes contracting when the nurse had her hand in me to check how much my cervix had dilated).
"You lied to me! IT HURTS!!" I hissed.
She stopped, and left the catheter in me halfway.
"No lah! Not pain one!" she kept chanting.
"TAKE IT OUT ALREADY! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? TAKE IT OUT! TAKE IT OUT!" I snarled.
She pulled the entire tube out of me. I managed a huge sigh of relief while wrestling with the smarting throb.
I heard the visitors from the patient beside me giggling from behind the curtains.
After I've composed myself from the traumatising event, I asked the nurse if I could finally see my baby.
"Mm.. No lah. Better you eat first and pee. You eat first and pee then better to see your baby," said Nurse before she left me to attend to other patients.
"Jian, please go ask another nurse for a wheelchair. I really want to go to see Eden."
"Better yet! I know where I can get one! I saw one sitting outside at the lift lobby!"
Jian returned with an orange sporty looking wheelchair. Honestly, more go-kart than a wheelchair. Amused and impressed, I hopped off my bed and clambered into it as quick as my gash would allow me.
Eden's the most beautiful thing I ever laid my eyes on when I finally got to meet him. He responded immediately to me when he heard my voice. I had so many emotions stirring within me, I could not stop the tears from running down my face.
The immense feeling of almost losing your son and the joy of seeing him alive and even managing a smile was the most gripping thing ever. I kept thanking God how wonderfully amazing His creation was, and couldn't (still can't) believe how this wonderful child even came out of me.
Since his birth, Eden has been fighting the odds in survival. He's gotten off his breathing machines in 3 days, and could completely breathe on his own. He overcame jaundice too within a few days, and has been steadily putting on weight. He's even out of the NICU within a week and out of an incubator within days! We still face issues with his inability to produce platelets because he's so tiny, but he's growing so much by the day.
God has been very merciful throughout this time. We're very thankful for the people He has placed about us, banding together to support us through prayers, gifts and help in this great time of trial. Eden has a long way to go in recovery before he can come home with us, but we know that God is faithful and will continue to be faithful to us.
I couldn't be prouder when somebody left a comment on my Instagram feed saying: "Hey lil man, you're a radiating testimony of God's goodness!"
I'm just in wonderment that God would choose to use our little son in a manner like this for His glory.