My labour started at 3 AM on Saturday and ended at 8 AM on Tuesday, totalling 77 hours. I had an easy pregnancy with no complications. I could never imagine that giving birth would turn out to be such a difficult task.
I was due on Valentine’s Day, a cute due date to tell people about. A few weeks before it, I started getting nervous: my doctor recommended to induce at 41 weeks the latest. I wanted a natural birth.
I read about how to induce labour naturally. I walked more, exercised, went up and down the stairs. I ate sour pineapples and drank raspberry leaf tea. On my due date, I met with some friends in a cafe. A waitress looked at my bump and asked when I was due.
“Today,” I said.
“Wow. Are you going to give birth right here?”
I didn’t find that funny.
Back at home, I felt an urge to do something. So I cooked—a lot. I spent the rest of the day standing on my feet and cooking. Before going to bed, I was bouncing on a birth ball while watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. Looking back at how much I did that day, I should’ve slowed down. I think it triggered contractions, but my body was not ready to give birth yet.
After contractions started, I spent the first day at home. They were not severely painful, but I couldn’t sleep. I waited more than twelve hours for a 4-1-1 or any other consistent pattern. It seemed to be getting there, but then contractions would grow apart and start all over again. I decided to go to the hospital with my husband to check what was going on.
I was only one centimetre dilated. The doctor offered to induce me, but I refused. I stubbornly wanted a natural birth. I asked for a membrane sweep (quite a painful procedure) and went back home after I got it.
It did work, and in a few hours, contractions started growing stronger and closer. They were painful. It was hard to walk.
Once it looked like a 6-1-1, we went to the hospital again. I was two centimetres dilated after more than 36 hours had passed. This time I stayed in the hospital.
I vaguely remember what was going on after I was admitted. Doctors and nurses came in, each one of them promising to deliver my baby. Then their shifts would end, and they would leave. New ones came and said the same thing, but they also left after 12 hours.
I agreed to get induced, but was against an epidural. The hospital staff kept on increasing Pitocin, which made my contractions worse and worse. I was screaming, crying; I was calling my mom, who had passed away, for help. I was so exhausted that I kept on passing out between contractions and waking up when contractions came back. They were just a few minutes apart; it was hell. I was still dilating very slowly.
My water broke on Monday. I was sitting on the edge of the bed, drinking broth, and suddenly felt like a balloon popped inside me. The water was green, and I was told that the NICU staff would be on standby once I started pushing. They said it was important that the baby cries when she’s born. I was hoping she would.
An IV fluid catheter was not put properly into my vein, and it got out. My hand got swollen; it looked enormous with all the liquid in it. Nurses kept on trying to find a good vein, which I didn’t have. My husband joked I was a pin cushion. Apart from all the pain, I lacked sleep and food. I hadn’t slept since contractions started; I was on a liquid diet in the hospital. I finally gave up and asked for an epidural. I should’ve done it earlier.
With severe contractions, I had to sit still somehow while they administered the epidural. It hadn’t kicked in yet, but I already felt relieved, smiling, and made a joke. I told the anesthesiologist he looked like Adam Driver. He really did.
I don’t remember any midwives but the last one—curly hair, an accent that I couldn’t figure out, another promise to deliver my baby. Early Tuesday morning, I was only six centimetres. I thought it was time to talk about a caesarean. Somehow, at 6 AM, I was 9.5 centimetres. We waited a bit; they put me on my side. I was ready at 7 AM and started pushing.
Pushing was the hardest thing of all. I had no energy, no strength left, but there was no turning back. The room was full of doctors, nurses, interns—15 people at least. I was pushing for more than an hour when a doctor said they might have to use the vacuum to get the baby out. When you push under epidural, you don’t know how to use your muscles because you don’t feel anything. I got scared and pushed harder. In half an hour, my baby girl was born. I heard her cry.
We spent another two days in the hospital. The printed picture on the door of my room read: “Shh, quietly healing”. Nurses were coming in every few hours to check on me, to check on my girl. While I knew that’s how things were supposed to be, it didn’t give me time to heal quietly. I was so tired that I was falling asleep every chance I had. I was afraid to fall asleep with a baby in my arms. My husband didn’t sleep all those days either. He tried to nap in an uncomfortable sleeper chair. If I get rich, I will donate money to the hospital to replace those.
A NICU resident came to tell us that my daughter couldn’t go home. She had to stay for another five days for antibiotics. Due to prolonged labour, my placenta got infected. My baby seemed fine, but they had to treat her just in case. I got my dose of antibiotics too. I cried. Every time they mentioned the NICU, I cried. Emotionally it was unbearable: to go through so much and not able to take my baby home.
Being a NICU parent is a hard thing. I slept very little; I was pumping every two to three hours and spent all day with my girl. I didn’t feel tired when I was with her. But once I got home, I barely dragged my feet.
My daughter had jaundice. I was holding her in my arms and singing (ironically) “Yellow” by Coldplay. My husband was working on his laptop in the waiting room. We ate horrible takeout food or cold tasteless lunch from the hospital cafeteria. We hoped every day that something would change and they’d let us take our daughter home earlier.
The day the three of us finally went home was sunny and warm. I was so happy. Before giving birth, I believed that if I were positive about it, if I were not afraid, if I were ready to take all the pain coming, then I would have an easy delivery. It didn’t work that way, but I still think it helped. It’s good to hope for the best, but be ready for anything coming. If the above sounds scary, I promise you, it’s nothing compared to holding your child for the first time. It was all worth it.
Words by Tatiana Yoon