It's been just over three months since I was admitted to Matilda to give birth to my first baby (and also since my last proper sleep). Kenzo was born on 5th April 2023 via ventouse vaginal delivery, which means my obstetrician used a soft plastic suction device to gently pull him out by the head at the end. More on that later. I detailed my experience pretty thoroughly below, so feel free to skip sections depending on what you want to read!
My early labour began on the weekend before the birth, on Saturday, 1st April. With my due date being on 7th April, I dismissed the period cramp-like early signs as Braxton Hicks. I carried on as normal, having lunch out, even getting my favourite prenatal massage at Grand Hyatt's Plateau Spa, before having dinner at the steakhouse with a nervous hubby. The cramps started becoming more regular, coming at 13-15 minute intervals.
This continued into Sunday, 2nd April, when I was able to relieve the cramp pains somewhat with a long swim. I had lunch at Rajasthan Rifles, which is where I realised I had "the show". I was told to go to Matilda by my OB for a CTG (cardiotocography) to check on baby's heart rate, and I found out there that I was 1cm dilated. I was sent home as it was still too early to get admitted.
On Monday, 3rd April, the cramps intensified slightly, but the pain was still completely manageable. Let's say around 2/10 on the pain meter, At my biweekly OB appointment that morning, I found out I was 3cm dilated. I was still in denial, getting my nails done and having dinner with some girlfriends at Flower Drum. That night saw a lot of tossing and turning, and the next morning, 4th April, hubby decided to work from home because he "had a feeling" it was going to happen that day. I spent the day dawdling around, reading, baking a cake, and hanging out with the dog. The pain got to a point where I had to grit my teeth and grip the table really hard to get through a contraction, and at around 5pm when the contractions were 6-7 minutes apart, we finally decided to drive to the hospital.
Once we navigated the windy, foggy roads up the Peak to get to Matilda, it felt like we were checking into a hotel. We went immediately into the delivery room, where a midwife checked my dilation (~4cm), gave me some hospital clothes and an iPad menu to order dinner. A belt was strapped around my belly to monitor my and the baby's heartbeats as well as the contractions, and an IV was inserted into my wrist (which hurt way more than the epidural to come). My water was also broken manually with what looked like a long hook. I felt oddly calm here, no real explanation for it other than I was just focusing on the present rather than all the possible outcomes. We really wanted to have the baby on the 5th April (something so cool about the numbers 5.4.23) and I asked for the walking epidural so I could sleep for a few hours.
The anaesthetist was such a lovely person who made me feel completely at ease, and I barely felt anything - just a few pricks from the local anaesthesia. We waited until one contraction passed, and he went to work quickly. Epidurals can be administered as long as the patient can still manage the pain and stay completely still, and once beyond that point is when it's said to be "too late" to receive one. According to my OB, the epidural can be administered anytime right up until the head of the baby is crowning. The sensation of the epidural once applied is so strange, like cold water being poured down your spine. The contraction pain gradually eased until I could only feel the pressure of them. I managed to get some sleep, and then the midwife came in to check on me a little after midnight and said I was fully dilated at 10cm! The epidural sped things along at warp speed because I guess it made my body less tense and me calmer (another reason why you should opt for an epidural, ladies).
So at this point I'm more than a little overwhelmed that my cervix dilated 6cm in the space of a few hours, and that it was actually time to give birth to a living human baby. The midwife on call told me she could already see the top of baby's head (what?!) and could even feel that he had a full head of hair. She told me to do "practice pushes" so I could get the feeling of how it would be like when my OBGYN arrived later on. It honestly is just a lot of awkward positions and all shyness out the window at this point. After around 30 mins of getting the hang of it and "getting the baby out and around the bend" (whatever that means), my OB was called in.
A walking epidural needs to be topped up around every 45 minutes, which is crucial to know because you may want to remember to top up before the heavy pushing starts. You need to push with every contraction, and I'm not gonna lie, for someone who hardly works out, it was pretty tiring (but to hubby's amazement, I still didn't break a sweat).
The baby's heartbeat started dipping towards the end of the hour, and the room got palpably tense. My OB told me she wanted to avoid a c-section - and I remember thinking, holy shit, there are women who get to this very point where the baby's head is literally a quarter out already and STILL get a c-sec?! hell no! we are pushing this baby out!, and she made the decision there and then to go for a ventouse delivery. With the final contraction, she used a plunger-like object to pull the rest of the baby out as I pushed, which did the job. The epidural was wearing off at this point, so I remember the feeling of being stitched up, so I asked to top up one last time.
The whole delivery took about an hour from start to finish. Not flawless and "to the plan" that I had envisioned in my mind (as in, something along the lines of a rom-com movie birth scene), but they rarely ever are. I think mine still went pretty well, as I had very minimal tears and bleeding, and overall had a relatively quick and mostly painless birth.
AFTER GIVING BIRTH
Baby Kenzo started crying almost immediately, and the sound felt so surreal to me. Our paediatrician had to come in due to the dropping heart rate issue from before, so she cleaned him up and did a quick check before passing baby to me. I remember my first thought being, he is HUGE, and his head is SO LONG. He came out at 3.4kg when the sonogram measured him at 2.9 the day prior, so that was definitely way off. His head was also overstretched like one of those Cone Heads because of the ventouse suction, but it went back to normal in the next few hours.
We spent four whirlwind nights in one of Matilda's private rooms, where we quickly learned the ropes of caring for a newborn with the help of the amazing midwives. Regarding the situation down south, it's not great. You'll be given a cocktail of anti-inflammatories and painkillers to dull the pain some, but nothing will prepare you for the pain of your first post-birth sneeze. We bought the Matilda peri bottle, which is used both for cleaning your wounds and diluting pee, which really really helps ease the pain of using the bathroom. Also expect a sh*t ton of blood. You'll also be wearing special pads and mesh panties, and I advise you to ask the nice housekeeping aunties for more so you can stock up on it before you leave the hospital.
Breastfeeding was honestly a breeze for me at this point in time (which would soon turn into a waking nightmare and the lowest point of my life in abooout 2 weeks, but that's a story for another time), and I was producing tons of colostrum from day 1 and milk from day 2. We passed the baby to the midwives overnight to be fed formula (that I brought from home), which I highly recommend because this is the last good sleep you're about to get for about 2 months from personal experience. Others, maybe even more. Once your milk comes in fully, it's game over for sleep. Ask all the questions, get as much sleep as possible, order the bolognese from the hospital menu, remember not to pre-invite friends to the hospital because you're just gonna feel torn up and overwhelmed, and just relaaax and enjoy your baby for those few days.
Drop me a message on IG or Threads @furellie if you're an anxious mama to be, and considering Matilda for your birth! xx