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A drug-free, love filled birth story (Part 3)

On June 23, Sunday, 2012, I woke up with an unexplainable urge to clean the house. I was due to give birth anytime now, so with my very pregnant belly, I marched right up to the most disorganized part of the house—the bodega (dum dum de dum).

Like a madwoman, I started clawing at all the stuff of yesteryears that have piled up in that closet. Books, cassette tapes, wires—-lots of wires—CDs, the occasional embarrassing photograph….they all ended up in piles by our feet.

By the time the closet and all its shelves were emptied, dusted and swept, and all of the things inside them organized and kept, it was late in the afternoon. I went into the bathroom and to my surprise; there it was…my bloody show. (To the uninitiated,   bloody show is the coming off of your mucous plug, which is what serves as the “cork” of your cervix during your pregnancy.)

In my opinion, the most exciting thing about giving birth is that no one, not even the most sophisticated means of science can actually predict your due date. Isn’t it amazing that only our Maker knows the exact day of our birthdays? But just so you don’t pop in the middle of say, taking a shower (although I’m sure this has happened before) there are signs to help you know that the hour is fast approaching.

Some of these signs include: 1) Nesting or the sudden strong urge to clean the house 2) A bloody show and 3) the mother-to-be’s intuition.

All three of them happened that day.

Me: Hun. I really think I’m going to give birth tonight.

Dondi: Are you sure, hun? I give it Wednesday at the earliest. Or even Friday.

Me: Nope. It’s tonight.

Dondi: But I’ve got a meeting tomorrow. (Of course, he was kidding.)

Later that night, as we got ready for bed, I suddenly felt like getting a foot massage, something that mothers and pregnant women know to be a strong way to help induce contractions. And something that I never wanted during my entire pregnancy until that night.

Yup. I was almost positive the baby was on its way.

At about 11pm, I felt the first waves of contractions. Very mild, nothing to get excited over. I went back to sleep. At 1am, I woke up to another series, stronger now. Strong enough for me to nudge awake the sleeping figure beside me.

As instructed by Pammi, he switches on the Contractions Application on our phone and started to time them. When they began to reach 30 seconds each, at about five minutes apart, I told Dondi that it was time to go to the birthing center.

In the flurry of activity, I adamantly told Dondi to bring Boopy, my black dog along with us. I don’t know what I was thinking except that his fur looked mightily comforting and that this would surely help when my contractions grew stronger later on. Dondi thought I was crazy but agreed, anything for a laboring wife, I guess. So, with my contractions growing stronger by the minute, I busied myself preparing Boopy’s food and water dish, another mentally questionable side effect of a woman about to welcome a baby into the world.

Of course, we ended up bringing Boopy back home but my contractions pressed on. They were stronger now and unquestionably painful but I could still close my eyes and doze off for a few minutes before the next one began.

At around 4am, we reached Shalom Birthing Center (We left our house at around 3am with Dondi driving intentionally slow). Pammi arrived a few minutes later garbed in hospital scrubs. I felt bad for having to wake her up at such an hour and had to remind myself that nurses were used to this kind of thing. I dragged myself very slowly to one of the delivery beds where they checked how dilated my cervix was.

“Oh, it’s still a long way off. You’re only 3cm dilated. You may not give birth until later today or even tonight.” Said a very cool Pammi.

Not until tonight?  Thinketh I, my eyes probably growing as huge as saucers. I honestly didn’t know if I could handle a full day’s worth of more contractions. Can’t the baby come out now? Obviously, God had other plans. Very uncertainly, I removed myself from the delivery bed and wondered what I would do with myself until my baby was ready to pop out.

Thankfully, Pammi offered for us to stay in her home up until I was ready to give birth. We all piled up in her blue 4×4 and made our way to what was going to be my sanctuary until it was time for the baby to pop. I took note of the two cute shitzus that welcomed as at the door. With Boopy gone, these two looked that they would make good alternatives. Pammi took us to a spare room, gave us new sheets and a blanket. Before closing the door, she popped her head in and smiled, “Now get some sleep, you two.”

Get some sleep?! With my contractions getting longer and coming at even shorter intervals, I couldn’t even think about sleep. Dondi gratefully dove into the bed and left me to fend on my own.

Now is probably a good time to discuss how contractions feel.

It’s been described many different ways by many different women. Accounts vary from feeling like menstrual cramps cranked up to the hundredth power to a ton of bricks falling on you lower abdomen.

I shall try my very best to describe exactly how they felt to me. The most accurate description that I can think of is, at its’ most intense, a train slowly running you over starting from your lower pelvic region all the way to the tip of you upper body. I don’t mean to scare you but, yes, that was how I imagine a train would feel.

Which brings us to the question, but how on earth was I able to take all that pain?

Was I made of iron? Nope.

Instead, I can give you two reasons how I was able to take all that pain.

One, the Bradley Method taught me to visualize what was happening inside of me, that my uterus was contracting itself to push my baby out. Since the uterus is the largest muscle in the body, of course the sensation that it brought about was a very powerful one. Knowing what was happening inside me and knowing that each contraction was actually an ally and not the enemy helped a lot. Each contraction, no matter how long and drawn out they would get, was a step closer to bringing my baby out into the world.

Weird as it may sound but each contraction did not grieve me. Painful as they were, they actually excited me….My baby was coming out.

The second thing that strengthened was prayer. Everytime a contraction hit, I lifted the pain up to the Lord. Lift, lift, lift. I prayed for grace, I prayed for strength, I prayed for the health of my baby. I prayed, prayed and prayed. It was all I could do, really. I can safely say that the power or prayer was severely tested and proven for me that day.

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A drug-free, love-filled birth story (Part 1)

Disclaimer: I have no intention of judging women who choose to give birth with an epidural or other forms of pain killers. Every woman is different, all births are blessings, and every mother is a hero, with or without medication. I just wanted to  share my birth story.

How do you put into words one of the most important days of your life?

Most never do. I guess that is why God equipped humans with memory, or why men invented cameras, so that we never have to.

Oftentimes, words do not live up to the actual experience, even fail you. But I’ve learned that experiences are only valid, only really mean something, when they are shared with others.

So, I’m going to try.

June 24, 2013, a miracle happened to me. She came in the form of a dark-haired, wide-eyed feisty, little baby girl who came out of me screaming and crying into the world. Maybe there are some who are just a bit cynical and would say, “Oh big deal, a baby. You just became another one of the billion mothers in the world. Congratulations.”

I had the same sentiments….before I became pregnant.

I could go into all the little details of what I felt and what it was like to see and hear her inside of me for the very first time…but I won’t. Instead, I pray for that same joy to fill you in all that you are and in all that you do. Even for just one day.

But even that was not the real miracle. The life that formed deep in my womb from nothing into something was not the real miracle.

For me, the real miracle was giving birth not in a hospital as I’ve always imagined it to be.  Free from anesthesia or epidurals or other drugs that induce or sedate. It was feeling my baby move, inch by inch, slowly but surely out of my body and into the outside world. The real miracle for me was being alert and awake for every single, magical second of my child’s birth.

I was already 8 months along when I finally became convinced that I was taking the midwife option. I kept ping-pong-ing between that alternative and giving birth in a hospital. Alternating between feeling brave and then getting scared all over again.

I spent many hours a day poring through forums online, trying to learn as much as I can about giving birth naturally. Again and again, I kept reading the same thing: If you can and your body could, try to give birth without the drugs.

According to what I’ve read, (again, this is according to what I’ve read and could or could not be true) most of those who decided to go natural had richer and fonder memories of their birth while those who took the epidural route had the more traumatic or painful accounts of their birth. Being in control of your own body and your own birth, according to what most of the women said, made all the difference.

So I said go.

My first plan was to travel to Kalinga and give birth at the Abundant Grace of God clinic in Tabuk. But after awhile, the thought of traveling for 13 hours up with my 6 pound tummy and then back down with a newborn wasn’t something I could fully see myself doing. Georgia, the head of the clinic, suggested to connect me to a nurse that she knew here in Manila, who ran a birthing center in Antipolo.  That way I could give birth here and still enjoy the perks of going all natural.

That was how I met Pami Ellis, who is not only a missionary but also a certified nurse. She got in touch with me through email, was very thorough yet kind. She sent me a few links of how to prepare myself for a natural birth and just put me so at ease that I knew I was going to go through with it. That I could go through with it.

Bring it on.

My husband and I met her in a coffee shop the following Sunday. I didn’t know what to expect really, but when a tall and beautiful woman came through the doors and gave us a radiant smile, I have to admit, I was stunned. She definitely was one of God’s angels.

Gorgeous inside and out, missionary nurse Pami Ellis

Gorgeous inside and out and one of the leaders at Shalom, Pami Ellis

Pami told us all about the story of Shalom Christian Bahay-Paanakan in Antipolo. How it was birthing center supported by Action International Ministries.  How it was founded by Mavis Orton, a British missionary nurse called to the Philippines to start her midwifery ministry. How Mavis is now 80 years old and still helps with the births to this very day.

Pami showed us pictures of what a regular day at the clinic was like. On some days, there were so many births that pregnant women literally filled up and spilled over the clinic’s humble space.

Pregnant women, all in a row, leading up to the birthing clinic.

Pregnant women, all in a row, leading up to the birthing clinic.

Mavis, examining all those mothers-to-be!

Mavis, examining all those mothers-to-be!

It's a clinic and a home!

It’s a clinic and a home!

Now was I going to give birth at this clinic? Was I ready to rock it out with the best of these women? Labor on the floor if need be? Call me crazy (I’m usually thought to be), but, yes. I was ready to do so.

But God had a little surprise all planned out. As it turned out, I didn’t have to.

Amazingly, Shalom Bahay-Paanakan was moving to a brand-new and improved 3-level building just around the corner. Thank you to the donations and blessing of those who believed in Mavis’ cause, the little clinic that could would soon transform into a sprawling new space equipped with a lobby, birthing rooms, a laboratory, a recovery area and even a rooftop space. Even more amazingly, Pammi revealed that the new building would open their doors on June 15, 2013, a mere two weeks from my due date. God’s timing, as always, was impeccable.

When God builds....

When God builds….

The beautiful and beaming smiles of the Baby Catchers

The beautiful and beaming smiles of the Baby Catchers

Well, that's not too shabby. The new and improved Shalom with the hardworking staff.

Well, that’s not too shabby. The new and improved Shalom with the blessed and hardworking staff.

With a beautiful and caring nurse to facilitate my birth and a beautiful and brand-new building to give birth in, how else could I ignore the signs? God obviously planned my birth this way and who was I to say nay?

So it was set.

But  hang on for a minute.

Was I ready for the pain of giving birth without an epidural? Could I withstand the hours of actual labor? What was it going to be like to give birth outside of a hospital?  What was it going to be like to feel every single second of childbirth? These thoughts ran through my head every single day as my due date drew near.

Was I nervous? Oh, yes.

Did I have faith? It was all I had.

And as I was about to find out, it was all that I needed.

(End of Part 1.)

(Note: All pictures courtesy of Shalom. To see more of Shalom and what they do, click here.)


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