With almost two solid years of obstetric and gynecology training, I knew the medical management of labour like the back of my hand. I knew how to induce and stop labour. I knew how to augment labour. I knew the danger signs and emergencies which can take place. It was almost my second nature when I worked at Slim River.
However, when I experienced labour for the first time on that fateful 31 December 2013, I seem to have entered an unfamiliar world. I entered the labour room at about 3ish that evening and had all the necessary prep done. My gynae ruptured the membranes at about 4ish. It is from here onwards to which I felt like I had no clue what was going on. Y’see, normally we’d use a partogram to guide one’s timing of labour and when the need for medications or when labour has taken too long for a mother. My gynae had warned me he would take things slowly but I really did not expect the pace to which I was put into. Augmentation started a few hours after rupture of membranes and from there on I was left to contract and dilate pretty much the entire night. The medical side of me started worrying about fetal distress since it’s such a long labour and I was regularly glancing at my baby’s heart rate from the monitors. Thankfully she was doing quite well given such long hours of continuous strong contractions. My epidural had some hiccup issues where by I started feeling some pain in the wee hours and needed a top up to alleviate the pain.
I was fully dilated at about 7 the next morning and normally in a government setting , this is when you need to start pushing and you’re given a rough estimate of about one to two hours to pop the baby out. Surprisingly I was left to continue contracting without pushing so that the baby’s head could descend further naturally. I actually only started pushing at about 10:30am when my gynae finally arrived. Given the nature of the epidural and the complete loss of sensation, I had difficulty pushing her effectively. I ran through all the techniques I knew in my head and all the advices I had given to dozens of women during my working days at the labour room. It’s one thing to know them by heart but oh-so-a-whole other thing to actually do it. The epidural medication was turned down a notch to help me feel what’s going on. The moments after that were a total blur. I started feeling really strong painful contractions and because of that, I started acting weird… just like my patients were. Sometimes the pain gets so strong you feel like you can’t push and you want to just straighten your limbs to alleviate it, but you kinda have to push, or no baby’s coming out (as I would nag my patients). After two hours of pushing and some help from my gynae, little Chloe breathe her first breath at 12:46pm on New Year’s Day.
After the whole ordeal and thinking about what happened in that labour room, I was pretty overwhelmed with embarrassment and guilt towards all the women I had seen as patients in the past. Yeah, we talk about empathy and trying to understand what the patients go through. Oh I did that. I understood it was painful (no secrets there), I knew it was difficult, but when you truly experienced it yourself, it’s a whole different level of understanding. I felt like I wanted to turn back time and apologize to the women who refused to push in the wee hours of my on call nights and all I wanted her to do was push to save myself an unnecessary C-section. I wanted to say sorry for the times I felt selfish towards them when what they were going through was truly difficult and painful.
The best part was after everything has settled down and I was cleaned up and waiting to be transferred to the ward, Adrian looked at me and asked, “And you wanted how many children again?”