I was in a baking frenzy that night. On the menu were Mike’s favorite lasagna and Milo cupcakes. My final act was a 15-minute whipping of cream to top our midnight dessert.
Then I bled. It was time. I turned into the bubbly 12-year-old me who was told we were going to Ocean Park Hong Kong.
“Babe, it’s time!” I jolted.
Mike was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed like that young boy just told that he can climb the tree.
We thought we could still afford some sleep to recharge for labour during the day. In a few minutes, I started feeling the surges.
Mike excitedly ran through his list of “Things-to-do-when-Joanna-gets-into-labour” pinned on his wardrobe door. This was his shining moment.
Call our doulas.
Prepare the bed.
Switch on the GoPro.
Play my birthing playlist on Spotify.
Fill up the tub…
I’ve never thanked Carousell enough that night for good deals like the exercise ball where I slumped my body every time surges came. I’ve been told that it would feel like menstrual cramps, but much more intense. I thought, “This is really it.”
Five weeks prior, I had an emergency check up. I was told that I was going into preterm labour. Doc asked us to get our bags ready and issued us an admission letter for the hospital.
Mike, in his ever re-assuring positivity, said “Well then, we’ll meet Baby Peanut sooner!” I cried when I got home that day. It was a combination of active hormones and fear. I asked God to calm my heart and to bring me back that peace that I’ve enjoyed most days of my pregnancy. Then there was peace.
We agreed to still pray for a full-term baby. We were no longer worried about going to the hospital but we wanted to still appeal to God about our desire to birth at home. We blasted a message to our closest friends and family to pray with us.
Andre Miguel, our precious first born, came out on his due date - in our home, in our tub. Mike caught the baby and cut his umbilical cord. We had a lovely team of two ladies named Leila and Janelle, doulas at Four Trimesters, and our OB-GYN Dr. Lai. We prayed for a short labor. I said, “Anything below four hours would be nice.” In the end, it was about two hours from the time I had the bloody sign to the time Andre gave out a cry.
Our birth story was a very special experience for us. For myself, it taught me several things:
1. That every birth experience is special.
For me, the different birth methods are like the different ways of entering a building. You can enter the main door and take the stairs. Or take the elevator. Or take the ramp. Or even have a crane take you from the ground floor to whichever floor you wanna go. Whichever way it is, we end up in the same building. We are all mothers.
2. That birthing is a major test of obedience.
We first had to obey God to keep the baby–no matter what. Then we had to obey to keep ourselves healthy. Then we had to obey to honour our marriage by making decisions together every single step. Then we had to obey to put faith over fear and pride. If we had to go to the hospital for the safety of the baby and myself, we should. Obedience precedes blessings. I believe we were blessed with the birth we desired only after we obeyed to leave our fears behind.
3. That we can birth anywhere, but not in fear.
I used to fear birth. We had to prepare spiritually and physically for our home birth and we started the process by believing that God rejoices with every birth. If so, we shouldn’t fear it. Rejecting fear also made sense in the physical sense since a lot of the pains felt during the delivery is due to fears. Fear tightens the muscles resulting in a more difficult time to “push” the baby out. I had to meditate on God’s word everyday to crush my fears.
4. That God’s timing is perfect.
At 34 weeks, we asked family and friends to pray that the baby stays inside me until full term. By 37th week, when it’s already deemed safe to birth the baby, I prayed that he comes out already because I was getting too heavy. I just felt it was inconvenient to have him stay inside longer. Oh, how fickle I was! God clearly knew better than we do, and he deals with prayers the way He ought to–answers them or rejects them for something better. André came out at exactly his due date and it couldn’t be a more perfect timing.
I’ve been told that my labour and its length is rare. Giving birth on your due date only happens to 5% of pregnancies according to statistics. This can easily make me feel that “I’m more blessed than others” or take pride in the fact that I’ve worked harder to prepare for my dream birth. It took me over a month to share about our birth experience because I had to let God deal with my heart first. Why did I experience that kind of birth? Pondering upon this over sleepless nights, baby blues, and intense postpartum pains reminded me that I am on equal footing with all other mothers. Yes, there is an opportunity for us to prepare our bodies (e.g. healthy routines), mind (e.g. a birth plan), and heart (meditation) for birth, but the rest is still all up to God. And he’s got a purpose for the kind of birth that He lets us experience.
P.S. Whenever I watch other mothers serve their families tirelessly and without complaints after long hours of grueling labour, my spirit gets reproached for complaining every so often about the challenges of early motherhood. I have an even higher regard now for all the moms who endured all kinds of pains before, during and after birth for the love of their child. You, Moms, rock!