After a pretty ideal birth at the Austin Area Birthing Center for Miles, I was a bit nervous about what to expect in Penang at a hospital. An anxiety attack when I visited a friend in the labor ward here added further to my concern. Turned out, it was a wonderful experience, one made by excellent staff and doctor. Here’s how it went down (with a slight warning for medically-graphic content):

I started having painful contractions the day after my due date, 12/26 in the evening after dinner. They weren’t regular or even super painful, just different from the B-H contractions I had been having consistently for weeks. We watched a movie, then went to bed. I was up almost every hour, not in pain, but to pee or roll over. In the morning, I was still feeling something every 15 min or so, but we went on with our plans and got a lot done: walk to the market and back (maybe 2 miles), swim in the pool, I cooked 2 soups for the week, a few hours out running errands, then back to put Miles down for his nap, having but basically ignoring the contractions the whole time. Putting miles to sleep in the afternoon is my job, and while he spent a half an hour climbing into and out of my lap for stories, I was pretty sure labor had started.

After he was asleep, I started timing the contractions. They were consistently 5 min apart for an hour, so we texted Dr Narinder to let him know what was going on, and warned Suzi that we might need her that night. I tried to rest while Tim took Miles out to play. We had dinner, put Miles to bed and tried to enjoy some time together. At this point the contractions were definitely there, and I sent another message to Narinder with an update. Our massage lady came and I enjoyed a half hour foot massage, and Suzi arrived. We got the bag out. By 10pm, I decided to lay down and try to rest, even if sleep was not possible.

By 11, I could no longer take the contractions laying down, a worry since I had to do almost my entire labor with Miles standing up, which was exhausting. I had a snack and tried to drink lots of water. By 12, I was feeling nauseous after each contraction, and making lots of runs to the bathroom. The contractions were 3-4 minutes apart. I started talking about going in, so we called the doctor. He said when we we ready he would come in and we could do an assessment. I wanted to do as much as possible at home, but was still nervous about the hospital logistics, especially the 2 hours they needed to fill the birthing pool if I wanted a water birth. At 1am, we told Suzi we were going, grabbed the bag and started out the door. Unfortunately, I chose this time to finally throw up. Vomiting during contraction equals one forceful expulsion, and luckily I made it to the bathroom. We were in the car in 15 minutes, and luckily didn’t have to worry about traffic. It was extremely hot and muggy after a thunderstorm.

We arrived and walked around the building to find the emergency entrance, or any entrance that wasn’t chained up. There was, as I feared, some confusion at the reception counter while we checked in. I was asked several times how far along I was and offered a wheelchair every time I had a contraction – no! Just let me upstairs! Finally we me it up and into the room with the big inflatable birthing pool. Dr Narinder arrived and I got hooked up to the fetal heart monitor. Baby was doing well and he commented on how my contractions were short (only 20 sec) but very strong. Next for the internal exam. After what happened with Miles, I was prepared to not be dilated at all. What we found: baby very low, fully effaced, 3 cm. with the exception that my water had not broken this time, this is exactly where I was on first exam with Miles! The end of early labor. Time to check in and start filling the tub. 1:45am.

Tim and I spent the next 1.5 hours going to the car, checking in, coming back into the room, all very slowly while stopping every 2-3 minutes for me to handle the contractions, all standing up, leaning on something. I was really tired at this point and made a “joke” to tim that i just wanted an epidural so i could take a nap. He said that was like being in the airport and making a joke that you are a terrorist with a bomb. It was the last time i mentioned drugs. My water broke, then the real fun started. Now this really hurt. I threw up again, causing the dr to get a little concerned – I really don’t think most people puke so much. The pool was almost full and I really wanted to get in. The pain was bad. A exam revealed I was at 7cm-time for the pool! Moving into transition. 3am.

The water was hot but I immediately felt better. Tim was behind me with a wet towel full of ice. Dr Narinder went to get his bathing suit on – I guess he was getting in too! I had about 20 minutes of contractions before I started feeling the urge to push. I loved how the doctor didn’t check just said if I needed to push, go ahead and push a little. I did a little for a few contractions, then Narinder said “that sounds like crowning”. He checked and said, “yup, you’re ready” and got into the pool with me. On to pushing. 3:30am.

I chose to push the baby out while leaning my upper body over the side of the tub and my lower body in the water. 4 contractions and she was out, behind me. Tim announced, “it’s a girl” and we heard a few small sounds while waiting to cut the cord. I got to hold her in the pool for a few moments before getting up and walking to the bed to deliver the placenta. Time of birth: 3:40am, Malaysia time.

All in all a great birth experience. I had no tearing and very little swelling. Hazel came out a little cheese ball, covered in vernix. The apgar score at birth was 8 (she was a bit blue and quiet) and went up to 10 at 5 minutes. She nursed well 10 minutes after birth, and she stayed with us the whole time. I feel so lucky to have had the birth experiences I have. And if you are reading this from Penang, I strongly recommend the services of Dr. Narinder and Island Hospital!