“So this is love
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I’m all aglow
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings,
And I can fly
I’ll touch every star in the sky
So this is the miracle
that I’ve been dreaming of
So this is love.”
— Cinderella (Disney, 1950)
It’s amazing how time flies! My darling little prince is now almost four months old, and the love I felt when he was placed on my tummy still grows each and every day.
The past fifteen weeks were indescribable and overwhelming – so many thoughts and emotions are coursing through me, and I just feel so muddled right now. So now, I’m just taking everything one day at a time, getting to know this wonderful blessing bestowed upon us… And this is the story about how he came to this world.
My entire life, I have been scared at the thought of giving birth. I was scared of the pain, and I was scared of dying while giving birth. My father’s mother died giving birth to him, and something my mother said became ingrained in my mind: “Nasa hukay and isang paa pag nanganganak ang babae, pero pag binigay niya buhay niya para sa anak niya, dederetso siya sa langit. (One foot is in the grave when a woman gives birth, but if she gives her life for her child’s, then she’ll go straight to heaven for sure.)”
So when I found out I was pregnant, I studied birthing topics as if I’ll be taking an exam after the supposed 40-week period. In my pursuit of knowledge, I became confused and more scared, so I tried searching for people who can help me understand birthing. I learned about doulas and chanced upon Irina Otmakhova’s (Conscious Birth Manila) website where I learned about her workshop on Hypnobirthing and Fetal Positioning Techniques. This workshop changed my perspective about childbirth. Before, I was dead set on getting an epidural, and even considered a voluntary C-section. By the end of the day, I was 90% sure that I want a medication-free birth. A couple of months after that, Irina became my doula.
So for this birth, I had a doula, studied Hypnobirthing (Hypnobabies 6-week self-study course), adjusted my diet to what was specified in Hypnobabies, and did my best to exercise. I kind of failed in the physical fitness area. By the time I found a prenatal yoga class in our seventh month, I was placed on a fourteen-day bed rest due to spotting and contractions. When that period was over, I just shied away from physical activity, except for one pre-natal yoga session in my ninth month with Yogini Sonia.
T I M E L I N E
4th November — Irina came over in the morning for our second pre-natal session. Here, she taught us birthing positions, and some exercises to help with the waves (contractions) where we used rebozo and birthing balls. She also e-mailed me an acupressure manual for pain management and stimulation of labor. We even discussed the next appointment with my OBGYN where Irina will accompany me, and rounded up a couple of questions to bring up regarding my Birth Plan. We ended the session with a rehearsal of the birthing time, summing up all the techniques she taught us.
After the pre-natal session, my next goal for the day was to show our new maid the ropes around our apartment. My mom also arrived on the 2nd of November to keep me company whenever Ralph (my husband) is at work. After dinner, Ralph and I went to the grocery to stock up on food, and to purchase last-minute items in our Hospital Bag List.
Back at home, we went about our usual bedtime routine after updating the contents of our hospital bag.
5th November — Around 1 A.M., just as I lied down in bed, I had an urge to pee, so I went to the bathroom. Then I didn’t get the sleep that I thought I was going to get.
Bloody loo. Bright red blood. A lot of it. My heart became frantic, and I shakily called Ralph to show him the blood. I messaged Irina and my OBGYN, then off we went to St. Luke’s. Everything felt so surreal at this point, and I kept asking myself nervously, “Is this it?”
We went to the Delivery Room so I can get checked, and we went under a Fetal Stress Test monitoring as we waited for the resident OBGYN. After the tests were done, we found out that I was only 1-2cm dilated and my pressure waves (contractions) were irregular, timed at 60-90-second durations and 10-15-minute intervals, so we were sent home.
It was quite disappointing. After going through that whirlwind of emotions, I was surprised that I felt sad that it was not time yet. It was already 5 a.m. by the time we reached our village, so we grabbed some early breakfast before heading home. I spent the rest of the day at home, timing my irregular pressure waves, and just went about the day as normally as I could. Around 10 a.m., the waves stopped until around noon, and they were intensified when they returned.
When we went to bed at 10 p.m., the waves were so intense that I could not sleep anymore. Problem was, their intervals were still irregular.
6th November — I continued attempting to sleep through the night. The waves are still intensifying, but still 10 to 15 minutes apart. It reached to the point, around 3 a.m., where it all felt too painful and all I thought about was, “When are we going to the hospital? I think I will need an epidural.” Ralph and I were waiting for the intervals to be 4-5 minutes apart. We were also updating our OBGYN, but she was not replying. At 4:30, I vomited and I was feeling worse since the waves were so intense.
As advised by my General Physician, we left for the hospital around 5:00 a.m. During the car ride, as I was listening to my Hypnobirthing tracks, I felt the waves getting closer together, and by the time we arrived at the hospital, they were 5 minutes apart, and I was 7cm dilated. The hospital staff could not believe that I was still walking around at that time and that I was not screaming in pain (and for epidural, as the nurse remarked).
B I R T H I N G T I M E
We were admitted to the Birthing Suite at 6:00 a.m. We still thank God every day that this room was available. The timing was perfect, and as we settled in the room, the cast was complete: my OBGYN, Irina, and Ralph.
I was hooked on the Fetal Heart Rate Monitor for almost an hour because my OBGYN was concerned that the heart rate of our baby slows down whenever there’s a strong wave. She let me off when she noticed that our baby recovers steadily after each wave. We then proceeded to the exercises that Irina taught us.
Since we were still waiting for my water bag to break, Irina coached me to do some exercises with the Pilates ball. I was doing the exercises when my water bag broke at 10:00 AM, and I felt a momentary calm. Then when the waves came again, they felt different – more intense. We tried different positions, but I was most comfortable lying down.
At this point, I was 8cm dilated and I was told by my doctor to “push only when I feel the urge”. The meaning was lost on me and I kept thinking to myself, “How do I know if I’m feeling the urge to push?” I could feel the waves coming up and I moan out loud when they come down, so they told me to produce another sound – a grunting sort of sound as I bear down. We went on like this for hours, and I just kept on wondering what the heck we were waiting for.
Eleven o’clock passed, then came noon. I was disappointed in myself because I felt like I was taking too much time. Around this time, I was already feeling tired because of lack of sustenance. My OBGYN was adamant that I cannot eat or drink during active labor, so I asked Irina to bring me ice chips to help sustain me throughout the entire process. I was about to bargain this huge detail with my OBGYN on my supposed appointment on the 11th, but, alas. Irina was encouraging me to switch positions, but I felt too tired already, and I just wanted to get things over with. An IV line was then attached to my left hand to help me, and a catheter was also inserted to drain my full bladder which was blocking the way.
I went about my business of pushing my baby out. I hoped that I will just expel him out, but I really didn’t know what to expect during birthing time. I was just trying to ride the waves as they came, and bearing down as they went while hanging on to Ralph’s and Irina’s hands. Ralph was also doing Reiki on my Solar Plexus to help boost my energy, and I’m so grateful that he did this. I don’t think I might have been able to pull through without that added surge of energy.
They told me that they could see our baby’s head already, I just need to exert more effort into bearing him down. I was told that he was in an oblique position, so it’s taking him a while to shape his head to go through the canal.
Even though I was being coached by the resident OB (rather bossily, I would like to add), I took my time, breathed in as I rode the huge waves. For one last time, I bore down with more effort, felt a little snip, and our little one came out at exactly 1:42 P.M.
A L E X A N D E R R A F A E L
I saw a blob of grey followed by a loud wail.
Slowly turning pink, nuzzling against my breast.
My little Alexander Rafael, looking both strong and frail.
Holding onto his father’s finger – his birth a beautiful tale.
Head-bobbing, he searched for my nipple while being assisted by the lactation nurse, and his cord was cut after it was done pulsating. I was momentarily distracted by the injection of the local anesthesia, and the administering of the stitches to my perineum. I was not too bothered by the Episiotomy since I agreed to let my OBGYN to call the shots on this procedure.
Our little family bonded, uninterrupted, for more than an hour. Since we were staying in the Birthing Suite, they only needed to clean us, we can rest in the room for our entire stay. Doctors came in, weighed and measured him, and administered the eye ointment. He was born 2.4 Kg. – a tad underweight, so his sugar was checked hourly. I was very glad that little Rafael never left my side.
Everything else that happened from that point was just a whirlwind of events for me. My mom arrived at the hospital shortly then took turns with us in taking care of her second apo. I struggled to get up every time because my stitches hurt. Breastfeeding was not easy since my nipple was flat, but we were blessed with a good supply of breastmilk (colostrum back then).
On the 8th of November, we were discharged from the hospital. I am still in awe at how we arrived in the hospital as two and came out as three.
H O M E
The entire experience was so surreal. Even now, I’m still getting used to the fact that this is my reality now — that I am now a mother.
As I decided not to go back to work so I can focus on our little family, I’m very happy that I get to witness every single day of Rafael’s start in this life. Every single day, I see him change, and every day I realize how blessed we are to have him in our lives.
Our gentle birth was just the best start to this new life we’ve just begun.
One thought on “Beginnings: My Gentle Birth Story”
My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “My Gentle Birth Story.” It’s a beautiful story and would be a wonderful fit for our upcoming series on birth stories. I think it would make a wonderful Youshare, because I believe other mothers around the world are curious about other mothers’ experiences and how birth experiences differ around the world.
If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to Youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.