The past 9-10 months seems so surreal, the pregnancy, delivery to confinement, and yet the real challenge really begins with the arrival of the baby.
All along we didn't think we would like to have a baby since we enjoy the DINK lifestyle, travelling and playing as often as we liked. When I hit 31 we somehow decided to try for a baby and if we don't have one when I reach 35 (associated high risks), so be it. There, I got pregnant the year before (2008) but it was an ectopic pregnancy. Rested for quite a few months (also due to busy work schedule) and tried again early 2009. Yep and was pregnant in Apr 09.
Was fortunate that I didn't have morning sickness, just fatigue. Thought it was going to be a breeze and got complacent. Ate whatever I fancied and disregarded the facts that I have family history of diabetes and high blood pressure, above 30 and slightly overweight. At the 5th month check-up, failed the routine test, had to go for Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT) and tested positive for gestational diabetes. To keep blood sugars in check, was put on a special meal plan which restricted sugars and carbo/starch and light exercise regime; otherwise there would be serious complications affecting the foetus. Was naturally upset about this condition and my moods flunctuated along with my blood sugar readings. Thankfully for hubby who was really supportive and encouraging for the remaining months of the pregnancy.
At week 32, the gynae told us that I was supposed to be induced at 38 weeks, we were quite taken aback since it wasn't mentioned before. But due to implications of gestational diabetes and hypertension, it was the best option for both mother and baby. At the same time, we felt rather relieved that there was a date to look forward to, rather than waiting for it to happen. We could start planning everything already!
At week 36, was 2cm dilated which according to gynae, good sign for smooth natural delivery.
So came 15 Jan, checked in the hospital very early in the morning. The nurse checked my vitals, monitored fetal heartbeat, made preparations and all. At 8+, went into the delivery suite and started the drip to induce labour. Around 9.30am, the senior nurse asked me if I wanted epidural as the doctor was on his round. If I didn't take it then, he might not be available immediately the next few hours and I could actually opt for lowest dosage. Initially I was quite adamant about not having epidural, but after hearing the nurse's advice, decided to just go for it in case I really couldn't stand the pain later on. Anyway, since I wasn't in any pain at that point, I was in good position and right frame of mind to administer the 'happidural'. I had to assume a curve position. The sensation was quite weird, no pain for the injection since there was local anesthesia. It felt like somethine being hammered into my spine though.
By the time the epidural injection was completed, it was close to 10.30am and my gynae came by to check on me. I was 4cm dilated and she broke my waters. For the next 2hrs, quite uneventful... could feel the contractions but was manageable. But by around 1pm, couldn't stand the contraction pain and asked to increase dosage for the epidural. Thank goodness I decided to go for it. By 2.30pm, I was fully dilated and ready to push. By then, was quite numb already so just push when the midwives asked me to. It sure was tough, no wonder they call it labour. By around 3.30pm, could already see the baby's head crowning and the midwives quickly informed the gynae. But she was busy elsewhere and I think I waited some 30-45mins for her. Was quite unhappy over the wait but there wasn't a choice, was there? The midwives called her a few times already. She came in around 4+, and I gave one final push (with episiotomy), baby was delivered! Finally!
By the time I was stitched up, baby was already cleaned and handed to me to initiate suckling and bonding as I requested for total breastfeeding. Thereafter, I was pushed to my ward. Over the next 2 days of stay, baby would be brought to me for breastfeeding periodically. For daytime, he could room in with me and night time I could request the nurses to bring him back to the nursery so that I could catch some sleep. The service rendered by the nurses were really top notch and that made my stay at the hospital quite pleasant.
By 3rd day, was really to discharge as baby was given green light to go home!
Now, to the start of my confinement. Nobody forewarn me that confinement was going to be tough! Had engaged a confinement lady from Malaysia since it is a norm (supposedly necessity) to have an experienced helper to nurse the mother to good health (the body is weakened after labour and delivery) and take care of baby as well.
But seriously, is confinement or having a confinement lady really necessary? Yes, I believe in lots of rest especially the initial period after labour, but once the mummy is ready and well rested, she should be able to continue her daily life be it 10 days or 30 days, depending on individual.
Initially I thought that it was a good idea (coz of the above reason) but after a week or so, I realised that having a stranger in my house literally taking control over my life and even invading into my personal space is so not my nature. Felt loss of privacy and freedom and hated the restrictions and someone checking me out all the time (even when I was doing personal stuff like internet shopping, home massage and breastfeeding).
Towards the end of 2 weeks, I couldn't handle the stress of confinement and having a confinement lady anymore and to save myself from slipping into depression, decided to end the confinement in 3 weeks. Thereafter, although it was a handful to take care of the baby due to my inexperience, I felt so much more at peace and happier.
Talking about confinement practices, there are some restrictions which I'm doubtful about the rationale. The practices are said to pass down for generations; are they really practical in our modern times and environment context given that we live in the tropics with such high humidity and not to mention the temperature has risen over the years. I was practically sweating all the time due to the practices! Are we following practices blindly just because the ancestors did so?
These are the practices to follow:
- Can only drink warm red date herbal drink, no water.
- Must sit down to eat and drink, cannot stand.
- Must wash face and hands with cool boiled water.
- Must use warm herbal water to wipe body or bath. Wipe body daily, bath only once a week. Start to wash hair after 10 days, thereafter once a week, must blow dry immediately.
- Must wear slippers, cannot barefoot.
- Eat food cooked with lots of ginger and sesame.
- Drink tonic soup before bed time 2nd week onwards.
- Cannot help baby change nappy or bath coz cannot touch tap water.
Well, it was a not so positive experience and if I have known, would probably engage day time confinement lady or do confinement on my own and follow some of the practices selectively.
Anyways, like I said, this is just the beginning. Will try to share some of the challenges taking care of the baby slowly... that is another story altogether.