4.30am. I pressed the wrong button when the phone rang. The line got cut off. With one eye opened, I redialled and Lula was on the receiving end. “My waters has broken Ginny.”
It was only the night before when I was on the phone with Hugo and Lula about the last minute plans to have a homebirth instead of a hospital birth as planned because of the discrimination against Mexicans all over the world. Not having been back in Mexico since they moved here to make Singapore their home months ago, they have been discriminated against in several incidences and did not want to go through that stress at the hospital. And before Hugo ended the call last night, his last sentence to me was that as a Hypnobirthing Dad, he has spoken to Santiago to hold on inside whilst we prepped for the homebirth.
It usually takes time for labor to start after the waters have broken, with that in mind, I went back to bed. I contacted Dr. Lai in the morning to get his approval for a homebirth as I rushed to the pharmacy to buy whatever supplies we needed and headed for their apartment. Dr. Lai was a little concerned as baby was in posterior position during the prenatal scans but otherwise, there were no contradictions to not allow a homebirth.
Lula was in the shower when I arrived at about 10am. Even though her breaths were short, she was coping well, so I went ahead to get all the logistics prepared such as waterproofing the bed and ensuring that all that we needed was there before I settled outside the shower with Lula. Surges were about 5 mins apart and intense. Fetal heartrate was excellent.
I knew Tia was home when I was given the dettol to sanitized the bathtub. I caught a glimpse of Tia preparing food in the kitchen. I often read in birth stories about the tradition of a family member baking a birthday cake when a woman goes into labor, and when the cake is ready, comes baby. As the aromas of the food filled the house, in my head, like water for chocolate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Like_Water_for_Chocolate), I felt transported back in time. Here I am, in a modern apartment, yet it feels like I am in Mexico. Tia is feeling anxious. Why was Lula taking so long? Hugo, fortunately was calm, reassuring Tia more than he needed to with Lula.
“I am ready Ginny, I am ready to have this baby.” Lula wanted to know when Dr. Lai would come and asked me how long this was going to take. I said I don’t know how long she is going to take, and in fact no one knows. But what I do know is that she looks like she is doing well and we’ll just wait for it to progress even more. How would I know that she is fully dilated?, she asked. I said I’ll know because she won’t be talking to me and asking me these questions. Lula alternated between bathrooms so that there was enough hot water to keep going as she found being under the shower very helpful. She was doing well and soon enough started to feel that she needed to have a bowel movement and would give it a go. After two attempts she was finally convinced that its baby moving down, and not bowel movements.
Back in my head, I felt like a chef in a Mexican kitchen, like water for chocolate. Just observing Lula labor, I knew it was not time yet. It wasn’t about what the clock indicated, it was about observing her body, like waiting for the gluten in the dough to develop.
Dr. Lai came during lunchtime and confirmed that Lula was progressing well at 6cm, with baby’s head relatively low and her waters were still clear. Baby seems to be in OA, which is a good sign. He left and said he’ll be back at 5pm. As usual, I’ll keep him updated over the phone.
Not having planned for a homebirth, let alone a water birth, we needed to boil more water to keep the water temperature ideal for labouring and birthing in water. When the tub was ready, Lula went in with Hugo’s assistance but it seemed clear that she preferred the shower, nevertheless she stayed in for a bit before coming out and using the showers again.
After a while, I felt that we weren’t progressing as much as I had anticipated and encouraged her to come out of the shower to try other positions instead. Lula was all for it. Lula started praying. Call upon your mother, I said silently in my heart as I felt like I could feel the presence of others in the room. Call upon your ancestors to help you sweet child. Instinctively I felt that Tia should be in the room as she was the only one representing the Mexican community back home where Lula would have been surrounded by her large extended family.
Both tired and hungry, we managed to squeeze in some fruit juice and cut fruits for her, and after trying a few positions on land where she clearly fell deeply asleep in-between surges, she decided to lay on her side. The surges started intensifying shortly after she moved into that position, labor picked up from the monotonous rhythm. Whilst I am not musically inclined, my ears are well verse in the moans of a labouring mother. Regardless of race and nationalities, I find the music of the labouring mothers universal. The moaning notes indicated that Lula was bearing down. Only covered with a large towel, I lifted the towel to take a peep and my suspicions were confirmed with more heavy show. I was pleased at her progress and notified Dr. Lai via sms. Fetal heartrate was still good.
Lula asked me to help her with her breathing, to demonstrate to her as we exchanged words in both Spanish and Mexican, with Hugo translating whenever necessary. I moaned along with her. This was the time when things got really strange. As Lula was moaning, there was a loud moaning in the background. This time, I am no longer in Mexico but in a Tibetan monastery. With each moan, came another moan, like a Tibetan chant. For a moment in time, I thought it was my mind taking me places, playing tricks on my good ears.
“Tia, gracias!!!!!” shouted Lula. The chanting stopped.
I encouraged Lula to move to the tub, in hope that the water will help her to progress even faster in the squatting position. She was clearly bearing down by this time and surges were about 2 mins apart. I smsed Dr. Lai to come now as I felt that she was ready, like the dough baking in the oven and rising. As she was bearing down, I could also see the base of the bladder. Santiago, where are you? Tia’s finally in the bathroom with us, busy snapping away and getting everything we needed.
Dr. Lai arrived and a vaginal examination confirmed that Lula is fully dilated and Santiago’s head is just sitting there. She went back into the water and tried bearing down in various positions. “Just help me Dr. Lai to get Santiago out!” Lula asked. Dr. Lai asked if she would like to deliver on land instead and we can help with fundal pressure, Lula consented before changing her mind, insisting to me that she wants to birth in the water. I said to her that I’ll go whichever way she wants. I then asked if she would like to go onto the bed first to have a vaginal examination done whilst she is bearing down, so Dr. Lai can tell whether her bearing down is progressing, and we can always move back to the water. She agreed.
Once on the bed, Lula started screaming at the top of her lungs when Dr. Lai was checking her. “Get your hands out of me and let me do my job!!!!!!!!!!!!” as the surges came. In-between surges she would be apologising profusely to Dr. Lai, and when the surges came, she would start screaming again. “Ginny, I am not doing it the Hypnobirthing way” as she rattled on and on. By this point, I could not stop smiling, and just short of breaking out in laughter. I had to ask Lula to stop talking and focus on resting before the next surge comes yet she would continue rattling on and on. Santiago’s head was now visible, with Hugo and I applying fundal pressure and Dr. Lai encouraging her. At one point, we asked Lula to place her hands to feel Santiago’s hair. Tia was busy filming and snapping away – her first time witnessing a birth.
“Stop the fundal pressure” ordered Dr. Lai. Santiago’s head was out and Dr. Lai placing his finger in-between his neck and his cord to protect Santiago. I reminded Lula that it’s just one more surge as Santiago slid out into this world at 4.19pm with his umbilical cord entangled all over. Once untangled, Santiago was placed immediately onto Lula’s arms, skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart.
An hour later, after a refreshing bowl of Mexican chicken soup, we woke up Mexico at 3am with news of Santiago’s birth via Skype and later, his birth was even announced on the radio. Welcome into this world sweet child, the blessings of the swine sure made this homebirth a possibility!
This birth story was written for Hugo, Lula and Santiago, and reprinted with permission.