My Birth Story: Birth of Baby A!

This is part 2 of my birth series, where I share my pregnancy journey and my birth story. If you’ve not read part 1 yet, you can do so here: My Pregnancy Journey (And Why I Kept My Pregnancy A Secret)

Right when I was approaching 37 weeks, on April 16, at about 10-11pm, I experienced my first contraction. 😅

While a full-term baby can arrive anytime from 37 weeks, we were only expecting Baby A to arrive starting from Week 38 since most moms give birth in Weeks 40-41. As I had not experienced any Braxton Hicks to date, I thought that it could be Braxton Hicks, but suspected that they were real labor pains when they refused to go away! 🤣

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On April 17, as my contractions became more frequent from once every 1-1.5 hours to every 10-20 minutes by late afternoon, I went about the day as per normal with Ken: first to our routine gynae checkup, then final shopping for birth items, then meeting our agent to sign the cord blood banking contract for Baby A, and then finally dinner.

Throughout the day, I kept moving my bowels, which I knew was a pre-labor sign. (In total, I moved my bowels 7 times each on April 16 and April 17, and 3 times on April 18!)

At about 11+pm, as Ken and I were watching Maleficent on his laptop, my contractions started to get quite uncomfortable, after which I said that I wanted to rest.

April 18, 2019 – THE Day!

At 1am, as it became undeniable that these weren’t Braxton Hicks, I told Ken to pack the hospital bag as I was very sure that Baby A was coming today. He immediately jumped into action while hiding his excitement and nervousness. 🤣

I then labored by myself in the bedroom, using different laboring positions. I found standing while using my bed as my support, and sitting on the toilet, to be most helpful for me. I used a contraction app to monitor my contractions, and as the night went on, they progressed from once every 10 minutes to every 4-5 minutes.

Knowing that hospitals tend to time moms once they admit into the hospital and intervene in the natural birth process when they don’t hit the dilation target of 1cm per hour (which is actually an outdated guideline), I made sure to wait until I was well into labor before we set off.

At 5am, as my contractions became 2-3 minutes apart, I told Ken, “This is it, it’s time for us to go!”

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My Birth Story: Ken and Celes, before going to hospital

At the lift, before we set off!

Reaching the hospital (2-3cm)

After what felt like eternity (even though it was a short cab ride), we reached the hospital. Ken did the check-in while I was directed to the delivery room.

At this point, I was 2-3cm dilated. 10cm is the point where the baby gets delivered. I was offered the epidural but refused as I wanted a drug-free birth.

My Birth Story: Delivery Suite

The delivery room, where things are about to happen!

My Birth Story: Ken and Celes, at the hospital for delivery

A quick shot before things get serious

The nurse then read my birth plan, which was basically an outline of my preferences for a natural birth (no enema, no epidural, no episiotomy, etc.).

I was then strapped to the CTG machine, which the nurse said would only be for 30 minutes as my doctor had approved my request for intermittent CTG monitoring so that I could labor freely in different positions. Being strapped to the machine meant that I could only lie flat on my back, and I noticed my contractions, which were initially coming quickly at every 2-3 minutes, began to slow down to every 5-10 minutes, something which I already knew would happen as lying flat on your back is one of the worst ways to labor.

Reaching 4-5cm

When the nurse did not return after 30 minutes, we decided to call her back in to remind her to unstrap me as my contractions felt much worse on my back. This time, she wanted me to be on the machine for another 20 minutes, which frustrated me as my readings were normal.

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The nurse finally unstrapped me when we called her back in 20 minutes later. I jumped right back to a standing position, swaying while using the hospital bed as my support, with Ken supporting me by my side.

My contractions soon returned back to their 2-3 minute frequency, becoming stronger and more intense. Soon, they were spreading from my abdomen to my lower back. My entire lower back became very, very achy, and we had to keep rubbing it in-between contractions to ease the ache.

Forty minutes after I was unstrapped, I had my bloody show, an indication that labor was imminent (warning: graphic image below).

My Birth Story: Bloody Show

My bloody show! (I’d subsequently have another round of this before I give birth)

One hour after my bloody show, I asked the nurse to do a cervix check. I had reached 4-5cm dilation! By then, I was feeling quite exhausted, and wondered how much longer it would take.

Back onto the CTG machine

At this point, the same nurse wanted to strap me down with the CTG machine again. While she said that it would only be for 30 minutes, she again did not return after 30 minutes, which annoyed me as my contractions were getting extremely strong at this point. They were also significantly more painful lying flat than in other positions.

After 45-50 minutes, we called her back in to get me off the machine. When the nurse refused to take me off even though my vitals were completely normal, and she also refused my request to do another cervix check even though I suspected that I was getting near delivery, I began to get irritated with this nurse, who was quite condescending in her tone. I felt trapped, like I was hindered rather than being supported in my birth. I knew that my labor was going to stall if I continued lying down, and I didn’t want that to happen.

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Reaching 10cm and Feeling My Waterbag

At this juncture, I requested to go to the loo, where I labored by myself in privacy. For the next 20-25 minutes, my contractions quickly increased in intensity, to the point of being excruciating. I also felt a huge weight descending near my rectum area, as if I was moving an extremely large poop.

After a huge, extremely intense contraction, I reached below and felt a bouncy surface. My first thought was, Wait, is this my waterbag?!?! …And if this is my waterbag, does that mean that Baby A’s head is just beyond my fingers???? I quickly called Ken in to take a look, and he immediately called for the nurse.

This time, a different, much nicer nurse came in (the previous one had ended her shift).

“We think we can see the waterbag???” Ken exclaimed.

The nurse quickly took a look and said, Mdm, I need you to get out of the bathroom now!!”

Delivering Baby A!!!

Everything from the 10cm mark was a blur. Once the nurse (the nice one) saw my waterbag, she started shouting at me to get out of the bathroom (LOL!!). 🤣

She got me back on the bed where she quickly did a cervix check and said, “Congratulations Mdm, you’ve reached 10cm dilation — you are now ready to give birth!!!”, which was like music to my ears. In my mind, I was like, Yes, I’ve been waiting for this moment!!!

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(Image: Giphy)

They quickly set up the bed for me to labor on it (I used the hands and knees position, using the headboard as my support), pressed the emergency call button for my doctor, and prepared the necessary labor equipment.

Reaching the 10cm mark, the contractions (they call them “surges” in hypnobirthing) were excruciating. It’s the kind of pain where your brain goes numb because all your nerves are flooded with pain, and there’s nothing you can do but to surrender to it. The redeeming factor is that you aren’t in pain the whole time as there is a gap in between contractions to recover, though this gap gets very short toward the end.

My contractions were about a minute long at this point and were coming fast and furious (about 30-40 seconds apart), and they would come even faster (about 20-30 seconds apart) as I entered into full-on birthing mode.

With each contraction, I would focus on breathing down my baby (vs. pushing which is actually not something we need to do). And with each increase in pain, I kept on going, knowing that (a) this pain was fully normal, and (b) I was getting closer to my baby.

After 10 minutes, I reached a point where it was excruciatingly painful — it felt like someone was trying to pry open my vaginal canal with all their might using their fingers, except that no one was doing that!

This was when I realized, Wait, this must be the “Ring of Fire!!!”, which gave me new-found energy to go on!!

My doctor entered the room at this point, minutes before I gave birth. I soon heard Baby A’s crying, and the nurses quickly passed her to me for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. 😊

Baby A was born encased in my waterbag, a phenomenon known as an en-caul birth and apparently happens in less than 1 of 80,000 births. It is considered good luck in many cultures, and I hope this means Baby A will be blessed with lots of good luck in her life! 🙂

In total, it took me just 1.5 hours to reach from 4-5cm to 10cm dilation, and I feel that this was possible because of all the research and preparatory work I had done leading to my delivery. My labor would have easily stalled if I had simply followed the typical processes administered to me, and if I hadn’t stood up for myself (and with Ken’s help) when I did.

My placenta was delivered a few minutes later. I would breastfed Baby A for an hour in the delivery suite before she was weighed/measured, and we were wheeled into our hospital ward for recovery. ❤️

Positive Pregnancy Test

The start of our pregnancy journey 🙂 (July 2018)

My Birth Story: Celes & Ken at Narita Airport, Delta Lounge

Midway through our pregnancy, at Tokyo Narita Airport en-route to US, Atlanta (I was with Ken on a work trip). I was five months pregnant here!

My Birth Story: Celes' 5-Month Pregnancy Bump

My 5-month bump. Baby A basking in the sun! 😊

My Birth Story: Celes' 9-Month Pregnancy Bump

My 9-month bump 😊

My Birth Story: Breastfeeding post-birth

Right after she was born: Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding ❤️

My Birth Story: Ken, Celes, and Baby A post-birth

At the hospital ward

My Birth Story: Buchup as a newborn

A few hours old 🙂

My Birth Story: Buchup as a newborn

Hello 🙂

Buchup Week 1

1 week old

Buchup Week 2: Mama & Papa Kiss

2 weeks old

Buchup Month 1: Sleeping with Papa

1 month old

Buchup Month 2: Smiling

2 months old 🙂

Buchup Month 3

3 months old

Buchup Month 3: Taking a peep

Taking a peep 🙂

Buchup Month 4: "I'm So Sweet" Sweet-Pink Top

4 months old ❤️

So Far (Sep 2019, 5 Months Post-Birth)

For the same reason as why I kept my pregnancy a secret, we didn’t share the news of Baby A’s birth until after we were discharged. As much as others were excited to see a new baby, I felt that our priority should be to focus on our role as first-time parents, not to deal with guests. This allowed us to really familiarize ourselves with Baby A’s needs, and we only started having guests at the end of her first month.

As we didn’t have help (we didn’t hire a confinement nanny as I didn’t want to deal with more taboos and we didn’t want a stranger in the house, and we don’t have a helper), Ken took six weeks of leave and we jumped onto the vertical learning curve and a crazy roller coaster ride right after Baby A’s birth. It was truly tough managing between exclusive breastfeeding without help, taking care of a baby as first-time parents, post-birth recovery, along with housework, but somehow we survived. 😅

It’s been 5 months so far, and it has been an extremely tiring yet rewarding journey. Tiring because Ken and I have to work while taking care of Baby A, and we don’t have help, and I’m exclusively breastfeeding which makes it extra tough as I’ve to be with her at all times for her feeds (I’m latching rather than pumping). We also had to move house when Baby A was 2-3 months old, so we had to look for a new place, pack everything, and then unpack everything in our new home, and it was pretty insane how we managed this while taking care of a newborn. Nightimes are crazy due to multiple night wakings, ranging from 4-6 times (usual) to over 10 times a night (sometimes). We refuse to sleep train and we know that sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone that she’ll hit at some point. ❤️

While it’s tough, I’m happily doing all of this (even if it’s extremely tiring sometimes 🤣). I enjoy each day that I spend with Baby A, along with her little quirks (she loves to clutch her little hands together), her smiles (she has a cute little dimple on her right cheek at the same place as mine), and her laughter. I love latching her, watching her grow, and seeing her little drunken smile after her feeds. She’s the sweetest baby and she loves interacting with us, along with smiling and laughing. Ken and I celebrate each time she achieves a new milestone (she just started rolling over a few weeks ago, and now she’s beginning to crawl!). Severe sleep deprivation is definitely an issue, but somehow you just have to roll with it and move on.

Right now, my biggest challenge is getting uninterrupted time to work, since most of my time is spent on baby care. Ken has been working part time for the past few months so that we can take care of Baby A together, but even then it is tough as we are both working and we take turns to care for her throughout the day. In the rare moments of free time that I have, it’s to quickly poo/pee, prepare my meals, shower, wash the dishes, buy groceries online, and research stuff related to Baby A, and there is usually little to no time left for work. Running live courses is not possible for the moment since I need a stretch of uninterrupted time (3-4 hours) for each live session (plus months to prepare my content), and neither are podcasts as I ideally want 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time to edit my episodes. So I’ll probably be focusing on article writing for the time being, and I hope that all of you guys will be patient with me as I find a way to get back to creating regular content at PE.

Buchup Month 4: Laughing with papa

With papa ❤️

Buchup Month 4: With mama on the bed

Buchup Month 4: With mama on the bed, smiling

With mama ❤️ 🙂

To Pregnant Moms-To-Be

If you’re pregnant or are planning to get pregnant, know that this is your pregnancy, and it’s up to you to do what’s best for you and your baby. There will be many people who will try to tell you what to do, usually out of good intention, but this advice may not be correct or useful. Educate yourself so you can make the best decision for yourself. Block out naysayers if that’s what you have to do to protect yourself.

Know that your baby’s birth is the start of a long journey ahead — once he/she is born, you will be on a never-ending cycle of feeding the baby, changing diapers, baby bathing, wiping drool, and easing baby to sleep for a few years, unless you’re lucky enough to have a helper. Taking care of your baby will be an around-the-clock event, at least until he/she sleeps through the night (which can happen anywhere from a few months old (rare) to three years old). If you’re breastfeeding, your baby will be feeding almost all the time initially (for the first weeks/months) as your supply adjusts to meet her demand and she goes through multiple growth spurts, and this is completely normal. You’ll be severely sleep deprived as you struggle between post-birth recovery, your baby, and day-to-day duties, so have as much help ready as possible. Get help ready by your third trimester, so that you’ll not be caught surprised by an early birth.

If you’re planning to exclusively breastfeed, read up as much as you can before your baby is born. Join breastfeeding groups on Facebook. Go for courses that are wholly on breastfeeding so that you will know what to do once your baby is out. Have a list of qualified lactation consultant contacts ready such that you can engage them right after birth if needed (some can visit you at the hospital, so call and check in advance). Have all these prep work ready, because feeding starts right after your baby is born and happens every 1-2 hours whether you’re tired or sleeping, and you’re not going to get much down time in-between feeds.

For us, we didn’t get proper support at our hospital which caused us to have an extremely rough start with breastfeeding, and it was through sheer grit and perserverence that we pushed through with exclusive breastfeeding in the end. In Singapore, only 1% of babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months[1] compared to the global figure of 38%[2], and having been through the process, I can understand why — there is just very poor support at the social and systemic level here, despite it appearing otherwise. The knowledge for breastfeeding is lost in my parents’ generation given that almost everyone raised their children fully on formula milk, and many Chinese parents give terrible advice on breastfeeding to moms my age (most of them think that formula milk is superior and breastmilk is “diluted,” and that Chinese women have insufficient breastmilk). In hospitals, some nurses are quick to suggest formula-feeding rather than try to help the mom with breastfeeding, and even the hospital magazines and post-birth goodie bags that Ken and I got from our hospital were filled with formula milk ads! The plastic cover of Baby A’s Official Health Booklet from my hospital, which we need to use for her health checkups, is actually a full-page ad for formula milk, which I thought was in poor taste!

If you’re planning to have a fully natural birth, be sure to read up on the cascade of interventions at hospitals,[1][2][3] and to learn more about the typical hospital processes that hinder rather than aid birth.[4][5] Read up on the pros and cons of each hospital intervention, so that you can make an educated choice when the time comes. Read up on hypnobirthing; this will help you manage your birth when it comes, rather than being caught in fear and then picking whatever solution that is presented when it may not be the best for you.

Also, get everything in place as soon as possible, preferably by 35-36 weeks. A full-term pregnancy is 37-42 weeks, and most moms give birth between 40 and 41 weeks. Based on that, Ken and I planned for a birth timing of 38 weeks, thinking that we were playing it safe. Well, Baby A came out right when I hit full-term, and we honestly felt like we were hit by a truck for the first few weeks as we were not fully ready!! 🤣

Once your baby is born, the wheel starts spinning, and you need to be ready at all times for all her feeds, her needs (which will be mainly food/sleep in the first few weeks, as you will see). You’ll realize that a simple minute in your life used to a fleeting moment that you blink and forget, but when you have a baby, it can be the difference between life and death as your baby escalates from slight fussiness to full-blown, hysterical crying that rocks the entire estate, and you have to stop everything you’re doing and race over to tend to her. This has basically been our life in a nutshell for the past few months. 😅🤣

What’s Ahead

Since I sent out my last newsletter on Baby A’s birth, I’ve received hundreds of emails and well wishes from you guys!! From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you for all your well wishes, and your support all these years. Thank you for following my work, and for taking the time to write me a message. It means the world to me. I’m not able to write a personal note to every single one of you, but know that I’ve read your well wishes with much love and gratitude.

I have many ideas on what to write next, but at the same time I’d love to hear from you. What are you interested to read at PE? What would you like me to cover next? I have some topics brewing from during my pregnancy, and I’ll be writing about them in due time as I make time out in between baby duties and self-care.

In the meantime, I hope that you are doing well. I’ll be posting new stuff real soon! 🙂

This is part 2 of my birth series, where I share my pregnancy journey and my birth story. If you’ve not read part 1 yet, you can do so here: My Pregnancy Journey (And Why I Kept My Pregnancy A Secret)

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