Just 5 years late but I finally got down to writing my first birth story. Part of the reason is that I was still not ready to talk about it to anyone apart from close friends. It was traumatic, to say the least. Alhumdulillah I was not handed the short end of the stick like many others and I am not comparing my story to theirs but it was bad for me and I suffered for quite some time as a result.
My pregnancy was smooth. I had nausea, was vomiting most of the time, tired…. textbook pregnancy symptoms. Come 2nd-trimester baby was growing well, all my scans were good, I was feeling good and energetic. Everything was perfect and there was no reason to worry. The day my pregnancy completed 29 weeks it was my brothers birthday. We went out for dinner in the evening to celebrate. The next day was a Friday. I stood up from the bed and felt a trickle of fluid down my inner thigh. I ignored it thinking that it was normal.
In the late afternoon I got up from the sofa and the same thing happened again. This time it was a lot more than a trickle. I panicked and told my mother who advised that this didn’t sound normal and we should see a doctor. I immediately went to the hospital. To my horror, the doctor confirmed that the fluid was amniotic fluid and they had to admit me.
There was a chance I could go into labor if I lost more fluid. There was a chance I had already lost a lot of fluid and they would have to deliver the baby. There was a chance of life-threatening infection to the baby so they had to load me up with antibiotics. There was a chance the baby could die inside the uterus so they had to monitor her movements. There was a chance the baby might not survive outside of the womb because the lungs were not mature and they had to give me steroids. The baby was only 1.7 kgs, the baby if delivered now would have to stay in the NICU for a long time.
What had happened? Why did this happen? Did I do something? Was it my fault? Will I lose this baby before I even get to know her? Will I ever get to know her? Will I ever be able to hold her? How can I make it right? Is it because I don’t pray? Am I being punished?… All this and more kept going on and on in my mind while I was being pricked and prodded, strapped and examined, discussed and questioned day in and day out.
I would not sleep for fear that she might stop moving and I will miss it. I started binge eating so that the baby may gain weight. I was scanned and it showed that I lost a significant amount of fluid but I had stopped leaking any more fluid so hopefully the tear had healed. The same week I was admitted, I had the first board exam of my residency. I was prepared but my doctors wouldn’t discharge me before the exam so I took short leave (your doctor allows you to leave the hospital for a few hours and come back) and went to write the exam. My doctor only allowed it after a lot of negotiation because (1) I was a doctor and would know when I need help (2) I would be surrounded by doctors during the exam and that too ER doctors (3) The exam center was literally a five minute drive from the hospital that I was admitted in.
Once that exam was over and I was back in the hospital, I had nothing to take my mind off the depressing questions circling my brain. It was Ramadan too. I prayed and cried. I would spend nights sobbing uncontrollably and sometimes a woman in the neighboring bed would peek and tell me that everything was going to be okay in Arabic. Within a week I shifted into a private room and that comfort was gone too. Days were spent waiting for the night and nights were spent waiting for dawn. My family would visit me every evening and that would bring a smile to my face. But then I would be alone again at night and the darkness would take the shape of my biggest fear. Losing Manaal.
Nothing anyone said or did comforted me. I knew when the doctors, who knew me personally, would lie to my face. The hospital was depressing me beyond measure so I decided to be discharged against medical advice. I went home but had to go to the hospital for CTGs (monitoring of babies heartbeat) every other day. It was still not that bad. I was surrounded by people I loved and who pampered me. I still had insomnia but I was better.
Within a week insomnia and waking up from a nap panicking that the baby is not moving caught up to me. I went and begged my doctor to deliver the baby as I was about to complete 34 weeks and that was the original plan. The baby had gained weight Alhumdulillah and things were looking good. I was admitted to be induced on the eve of Eid ul Fitr. The first time they gave me medicine for labor pains, I got contractions, was in agony the whole night, but by morning they had worn off and the induction failed. This happened 3 times in total 12 hours apart. I had spent 2 days in the labor room. 3rd day the doctor said something about a C-section. They “swept” the mucus plug twice (stripping the membranes of the amniotic sac from the cervix using fingers. In case you are wondering, yes it is painful). Then another doctor said she would rupture the amniotic sac artificially and that she had a high success rate.
She did and I started having contractions once again. Thankfully because of the rupture of membranes I had dilated a little. They gave me oxytocin to start labor. The pain was unbearable but oddly comforting. Comforting because I knew that soon enough I will have that baby in my arms. I read Surah Maryam to help me through this time. My mother was by my side, crying and reminding me to pray for myself, my baby and my loved ones.
Within 2 hours I was in active labor. Praying that my baby is born healthy and won’t need admission in the NICU. While in labor I heard the baby’s heartbeat stop. The midwife pressed the big red panic button behind me which I could not see but I was very well aware of. A doctor rushed in while all the blood from my body drained. I could not think. The only thing I could say was “Is the baby okay??”. The doctor realized that the probe detecting the baby’s heartbeat had moved. Once back on we could hear her heartbeat again which was normal Alhumdulillah.
Then came the agony of her head stuck in the birth canal. I hadn’t eaten properly in 3 days in case I need a c section. I hadn’t slept in 2 nights. I was beyond exhausted. But I had to use every last bit of strength to move this baby out because I had seen so many cases of cerebral palsy after being stuck in the birth canal. I had to do this for my baby. The doctor helped me by giving me two episiotomies instead of one (a cut in the vaginal wall). Finally, she was out and she cried!!
Omg, she cried!!! Which meant her lungs were okay! She was pink which meant there was no compromise to her blood flow and her vitals (heart rate, breathing rate etc) were all normal which meant she would not need to be admitted in the NICU. I laughed, finally, for the first time in a month. All that misery, pain, depression, turmoil, anger…was forgotten. She looked up at me and I had found a whole new world, where pain and suffering do not exist.
Manaal means achievement, success, attainment. She is my Manaal. My attainment. My success at being a woman. She is my whole world.
I have tears in my eyes as I write this. Recalling all this has opened my wound once again. In fact, it’s a new kind of hurt. What if she had not made it. What if I had never gotten to know her. What if….what if…
The days that followed were difficult. Manaal was premature which meant a lot of things. She could not latch well to breastfeed. She would get frustrated at the breast which led to hurtful remarks like “maybe your supply is too little” (while I was effing dying from engorgement pain). She would be drowsy all the time which made feeding even more challenging. She was tiny and did not fit any clothes. She had jaundice because her liver was not mature enough.
She had to be admitted to the hospital for a week to receive phototherapy because her bilirubin levels (a pigment that causes the skin to look yellow) were dangerously high. She was pricked and prodded. Her heels had become sieves because of all that testing. When the levels were not going down they considered other causes for her jaundice which were mostly genetic and I started blaming myself. She wanted to be held by me and stay close but she had to go into the incubator to be given phototherapy day and night. She would clutch at my clothes when being taken away to be stowed there once again after feeding.
I read her first bedtime story to her while she was in the incubator. I had to feed her enough because the more she fed the more bilirubin she could get rid of through her poop. It depended on me. I would feed her literally every hour on the dot day and night. I would pump milk to prove to doctors and nurses that my milk was enough for her. I was enough for my daughter. We could do this together. Me and my warrior princess.
It took us 2 more weeks to bring the levels down enough for it to not be dangerous. 3 months to get rid of that jaundice completely. We persevered and Manaal got the hang of latching to feed properly. Within 2 months she had doubled her birth weight Alhumdulillah. I knew she was a fighter and she proved it. What followed was not always rainbows and unicorns but what happened is well behind us.
I still remember every detail like it was yesterday. The gripping fear, the tears, the severe depression, the rage…even the joy. Oh, the joy!! I am so blessed to come out of this ordeal with my baby in my arms, happy and healthy Alhumdulillah. I know people who have lost their babies before and after birth and I cannot even imagine what they go through.
This was my 1st birth story. I did not share this story for attention or to be dramatic. I shared it because I didn’t talk to anyone about how it affected me and it took me 3 years to recover from the psychological trauma it caused. I shared it to give strength to those going through something similar. You can do it. You are enough. BUT it’s always a good idea to confide your feelings in someone. Tell them how you feel about the situation and how it’s making you act. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it.
I had no idea my 2nd birth would be so eventful too or I’m sure I wouldn’t have even thought of having another baby. But this time around I knew that talking will be good for my mental health. No, talking to someone will not magically cure you, but it might help you find the help that you need.
Would you like to hear my second birth story? What’s your birth story?? I would love to hear your experiences ladies!!