These posts will try to outline the differences and similarities of my experiences giving birth – as well as what to prepare and expect. Hopefully, by documenting whatever I remember – I can be better prepared for number 3 (hah!) or help someone else with their birthing experience and the choices they can make (or should be able to make).
Part 1 will share my birth story with J – our attempt at having a natural birth and our experience at Cardinal Santos (August 2012 – San Juan, Metro Manila, Philippines). Part 2 will share our birth story with I – our scheduled cesarian section and our experience at Mother Seton (October 2014 – Naga City, Camarines Sur, Philippines).
Cardinal Santos + Natural Birth
Our pregnancy with J was quite normal (less risky than our second). It was also our first and we had a whole list of things on our Birth Plan (you can check out our birth plan here: https://www.thespiralsun.com/javys-birth-plan/) that we prayed would be followed. We hoped for a natural delivery (non-medicated, lamaze, with Tom by my side) and prepared for it by attending the class of Chiqui Brosas-Hahn (You can read about her classes on her blog here: http://chiquibrosas.blogspot.com/). I highly recommend taking her class for parents-to-be (we would have taken it to prepare for number 2 as well, if we were in Manila) whether they are leaning towards natural, normal (normal here would still be medicated with epidural) or a cesarian section. She made us understand better the whole process of giving birth and the labor I’d experience before the baby comes. The information was just as useful for Tom as it was for me. Being a coach is no joke, and I’m really glad he was there and ready when we went into labor.
We were blessed with an OB-GYNE that understood our request for a natural birth. Dra. Amy Perfect0-Estrella had no qualms about our Birth Plan. With her approval, we felt we were really doing the right thing. Shaving pubic hair? She said she really does not do that – she isn’t a hair dresser. Hahaha! I love her. But really, find a doctor that you can talk to and feel comfortable with.
And our choice of hospital – Cardinal Santos – was great (perhaps because I feel at home there). Before giving birth, we were allowed a tour of the delivery rooms. Because we opted for a natural birth, we were to use the birthing room. The birthing room is like a normal hospital room, with space to walk, a large yoga ball, a big tv and a place for your companion to relax. Yes, your husband or partner is allowed to join you as you go through labor (make sure you have your certificate from your birthing class though!) since it is a private room.
Heading to the Hospital
I started getting contractions past midnight of August 15 (I was due August 14). By 2 in the morning (thank God it was an ungodly hour – no worries of traffic or giving birth along EDSA) I was on the second floor of Cardinal Santos, being checked by the residents if it was time. They checked my blood pressure, did an internal examination and then hooked me onto a machine that measured my contractions.
They said I had strong contractions but it wasn’t time yet. We had the option to go home and come back later that afternoon. Given that a typhoon was expected to come that day and we had to wait for a room (and of course, the traffic) – we opted to wait for a room and get ourselves admitted. We had all our things with us and we were ready to stay for the long haul.
Every few hours, doctors would come in and check on me. They would get my blood pressure, try to find the baby’s heart beat, ask about my contractions. They ask the same questions all the time actually. At around 5PM that afternoon, Dra. Amy said it was time to go into the birthing room.
Tom and I enter the area where the delivery rooms, operating room, birthing room are. I am in my hospital gown and Tom is made to put on scrubs.
To prepare myself, I need to clean up (meaning, I had to poop everything out of my system so that I don’t push anything other than my baby). They give me enema (it was my first time), sticking something up my butt. The details escape me, but I remember being told to hold it for a certain amount of time (perhaps it was only a few minutes, but it felt like forever). It was an awkward feeling – but yes, when I was given the go signal, I made my way to the bathroom and let it all go. Apparently, you do not need to go through this if you are going to have a cesarian section.
Birthing Room / Labor Time
Tom and I move on down the hall to the birthing room. A nurse keeps us company as we wait for Dra. Amy. The flat screen tv hooked on the wall was on the Food Channel the whole time (about 5:30pm to 1am).
After having my second child, I appreciated more having the option of a natural birth:
– You can have your husband by your side the whole time (well, my husband is calm – perhaps it’ll be a different story if he were panicking). Not all hospitals allow you to have a companion while you go through labor. Some hospitals will allow you to have your companion join you when it is time for the baby to come out. It depends on the hospital and the doctors as well.
– You don’t have anything attached to you (no IV), allowing you to move freely – especially when you need to change positions because of labor pains. It makes it easier to walk to the bathroom too.
– You can have ice chips.
– You can go pee (no catheter! YAY!).
– You go at your own pace (and this is where I must give it to my OB-GYNE – Dra. Amy was there the whole time, coaching, talking, making us feel better).
Of course that means you feel everything as well. But, that’s another story.
At a certain point though, Dra. Amy felt something was amiss. Our baby’s hear rate was going down. In a matter of minutes, I had oxygen given to me, an IV on my left hand, and was being prepped for an emergency c. section.
At this point, contractions were getting a bit stronger – but being strapped down, I just had to deal with it. I was now surrounded by a team of doctors and nurses – all trying to make me feel better while waiting for the anesthesiologist (that also felt like forever).
Oh wow. And when she came. She talked to me in the gentlest voice, made me turn on my side and all of a sudden all the pain went away (even when she stuck the needle up my spine, I didn’t feel a thing!). Like magic. And I was like, “So this is why people want the drugs”. I felt no pain, but was pretty much aware of everything happening around me. It was 2 in the morning and the operating
room was a buzz with people and bright lights ready to welcome our little J.
Once they were ready, they allowed Tom to enter the operating room. He had his camera ready and documented the birth of our first child.
It must have taken about ten minutes. I heard them say “Cord coil.” Ah. So that is why his heart rate was going down. Thank God we did not push to have a natural birth. We heard J cry. He was taken to me to latch. And then we had our first family photo! YAY!
After that, I must have zoned out.
Recovery, Rooming-In, Breastfeeding, Diapers
I was brought to the Recovery Room after the operation (and must have been in there for about 8 hours). I’d wake up once in a while and see a nurse or doctor hovering over me with Javy, latching him on to feed. At around 10am that morning, I was brought back to our private room.
Because I had a cesarian section, I was still hooked onto my IV and had a catheter on. I was not allowed to sit up or stand just yet. J was roomed in with us (you have the option of having him stay at the nursery too) and was able to meet family and friends that started coming in even before I came back from the recovery room.
Every so often, doctors and nurses come in to check on me and the baby. What I appreciate now (because of my experience giving birth in another hospital for our second) is how much effort they put in helping me breastfeed. They did not just encourage me verbally – they really helped me get a good latch, they were patient with me as I tried to figure out how to hold the baby (they even held the baby for me when I was still made to lay flat) and they did this the whole time I was in the hospital. For a first-time mother (who felt like she had nothing coming out of her breasts) it made a huge impact and probably helped me to keep trying.
My mom and Tom were on diaper duty. I have to admit, my husband knew how to hold our new born with much ease. I was a mess. He held J like a pro.
By late afternoon, I was allowed to sit up. The next day, I was allowed to stand (good bye, IV and catheter!), walk to the bathroom and take a shower (there is also a debate as to when you should actually get up, and when you should shower – but I did the next day).
We opted to have J circumcised already. I am all for tradition and culture – but we felt that there could be other rights of passage for our sons. Dra. Amy circumcised J on his third day. We were told not to touch it and just let it heal on its own (just keep it clean). In about a week, it looked like it had healed well.
By Sunday, we were allowed to go home. I had passed gas and had made poo (yes, they make sure your organs are working before they let you go home) and thus, was given the go signal to head home. You have to make sure you have the clearance of all the doctors for yourself and for baby. On our last morning, Dr. Tiu (J’s pediatrician) came to check on him – gave us instructions on what to do with him (no manual – so truly, everything he said was gold and we took notes like eager students) and told us to come back next week.
The whole check-out process is something my husband had to deal with. Make sure you have all your papers (Phil Health, etc.). He used a credit card and cash to pay for everything. Take into consideration your credit limit and the amount of cash you can withdraw at a time/in a day. By noon time of Sunday, we were ready to leave the hospital.
What To Bring
Different hospitals would have different things available for you – these are the things that we brought to Cardinal Santos that made our five day stay comfortable.
1. Clothes for yourself – You won’t need to be in the hospital gown the whole time.
– Bring clothes that will allow you to breastfeed easily (especially whatever it is you will go home in)
– Bring sweaters (it gets cold in the room)
– Underwear that you won’t mind getting soiled (or adult diapers – I ended up doing that the second time around)
– Nursing Bra (well, I ended up not wearing a bra most of the time)
2. Blankets, Flat Sheets, An Extra Pillow – Like I said, it gets cold in the room. Your companion would have a nice bench to sleep on – so the sheets, blankets and pillow are really for him or her.
– Toothbrush and toothpaste
– Soap / Bodywash and Shampoo
– Hand Soap (although the hospital provides you with a bar of soap too!)
– Lip Balm (it gets real dry in the hospital)
5. Hangers – It could be useful for towels or clothes
6. Receiving Blankets – The hospital will provide a receiving blanket – but if you’ll be there a few days, you can always bring more.
7. Clothes for Baby – The hospital will have everything ready for your baby but you’ll need to have clothes for when it is time to go home.
– Tie-sides are most convenient when they are very small. Onesies are cute (and they cover your baby’s belly button) but sometimes it can be scary putting it on such a tiny person (it was scary for me with J but I felt like a hustler with no fear when it came to I).
– Socks and Mittens
– A Beanie / Hat
8. Plates / Bowls / Mugs / Utensils – This really depends on the amount of people you have coming over to visit you. I have a huge family (and friends who are really like family to me) and we all love to eat. Sometimes they’ll come in time to eat the hospital food that is meant for me (but of course bringing something to eat as well).
9. Dishwashing Soap, Sponge, Kitchen Towel – For washing and drying the plates and all.
10. Snacks and Instant Coffee – There is a water heater in the room that will save the day for you and your companion while waiting for the baby to come out. Instant coffee for them and something healthy for you. Since friends and family may visit bringing food – it would be good to note that the nursing station has a microwave you can use as well.
11. Chargers for your gadgets
12. Paper towels, Tissue, Wet Wipes – These things always come in handy.
13. IDs and Important Documents (PhilHealth, etc.)
You really don’t need to bring much – but since we felt we may be there a while, we came prepared with all these things. The blankets and sweaters were most helpful. The hospital provides the basic things you’ll need (alcohol, diapers, cotton buds,etc.) – but really, it’s part of the package you’re paying for. The unused items will be sent home with you to use (what do you do with a box of surgical gloves?).
What should you expect in your room? The regular rooms would have a refrigerator, a water heater/kettle and a television.
I was looking forward to giving birth there again with I, but God had other plans. You can read about our experience at Mother Seton here : https://www.thespiralsun.com/giving-birth-mother-seton-hospital/