A long pregnancy turned into a long labor, but the best part is that both baby and I were healthy through it all.
Giving birth during COVID times brought certain challenges. While I was pregnant, Hong Kong public hospitals implemented a rule that banned birth partners in the delivery room, as well from visiting after birth. Jonathan and I were preparing to labor at home as long as possible, knowing that I would be alone the rest of the way until I brought Remi home to meet his dad. This was not what we wanted by any means, but we had no choice. We grew hopeful, however, when the number of cases in Hong Kong went down, and things in the city began to open up again.
As I inched towards 41 weeks of pregnancy, I accepted I might be heading into (a potentially long and unaccompanied) induction instead of the home labor I had hoped for. At the same time, each day brought us closer to the possibility of Jonathan having permission to be present at the birth. We (not so) patiently waited for labor to begin.
We were overjoyed to get the news on Sunday evening that the hospitals had lifted the ban on birthing partners. We went out that evening to celebrate, and laughed that Remi was just waiting so his daddy could join! At this point I was a week past my due date and 2 days away from induction.
During the early morning hours of Monday, we got excited. I was having strong and consistent contractions for over an hour. We alerted loved ones and prepared for a full day event, but then things shifted. They turned out to be pre-labor contractions that came and went throughout the day. By the evening we were both disappointed to see no consistent progress.
Tuesday morning I was scheduled to have a cervix check to begin the induction process, but I didn’t feel ready for this yet. I knew my body was warming up to labor and simply needed more time. Our doula came over and we made a new plan. Our mission for the day was to release our disappointment, enjoy each moment, and distract ourselves from overthinking labor. Jonathan went for a bike ride to clear his head. While Corinne and I took a walk, I began to feel a new kind of contraction, deeper and lower. I continued my day without dwelling on it.
Later we visited a lovely and intuitive acupuncturist, Cecelia. I felt great after our session, including relief from the pelvis pain and tightness I’d been having for months. After a nice lunch out, Jonathan took me to the park where I could put my feet in the grass. We went out for a date night dinner and enjoyed the time with just the two of us.
Wednesday morning we went to the hospital to have my cervix checked. It was deemed ‘not favorable for induction’, so they performed a membrane sweep. We left the hospital to take a long walk, where I could feel the surges growing stronger, though I did my best to not focus on them. Back at the hospital, they monitored baby’s movements and confirmed that my contractions were progressing. This meant that the sweep was successful and I wouldn’t need induction! We asked to go home to allow labor to progress naturally. We spent the evening walking around the mall as I continued to feel deep waves come and go.
That night I was woken up by intense surges. For a while, I slept through them as best as I could. Eventually, they were quite strong and I woke up Jonathan to call our doula. Regular contractions continued into the morning. Corinne arrived and led us through practices to support my process. In between waves, we talked, laughed, and shared special moments. Around noon, the waves had progressed enough for us to go to the hospital. The ride over was eventful with an elevator out of service, lunchtime traffic in the city, and a young Uber driver who was flustered by my loud labor… but we made it there!
When we arrived, they checked my cervix and I was 2cm dilated, which wasn’t enough for them to admit me to a room in the delivery ward (for reference: 10 cm dilated = ready to push baby out). In Hong Kong, no one is allowed in the labor ward with you, so I elected to stay in the hallway with Jonathan and Corinne. This time was extremely uncomfortable as the surges were very intense and frequent, I was constantly nauseous, and there was nowhere for me to rest (not to mention the strangers sitting near me listening to my loud cries!). We continued to check in with the nurses, begging to be admitted. Several hours later, they conceded and I was brought to my own room for delivery.
I was alone in the delivery room to begin, while they prepped Jonathan to enter. The midwives helped me get settled in with a pregnancy ball, music, laughing gas, and an IV of fluids. One offered me a back massage while I rested on the ball. I ambitiously ate some dinner, but it didn’t stay in my stomach long. Jonathan soon joined us and took over. I requested the TENS machine which seemed to help along with the gas. At one point, the midwife alerted me that Remi had moved to facing up and assisted me in going to all fours so we could give him space to move. Thankfully this worked!
Soon enough the waves became extremely intense and painful without any rest in between. I was exhausted from labor, vomiting, and lack of sleep. This is what I imaged “the transition” to feel like, yet I was still only 2cm dilated. I couldn’t rest, couldn’t relax, and felt very tense from the constant pain. At this time I was most grateful for a midwife named Michelle who took special care of me, holding my hands through contractions and looking calmly into my eyes. After a couple hours of this pain, I wanted to change course. My body felt very depleted and I didn’t want to continue into another night without sleep, without much energy to push. So I decided it was time to intervene. I knew an epidural could help relax me and could possibly encourage labor to progress. We arranged for the anesthesiologist to come, and the team arrived an hour later.
I was grateful to finally have a bit of relief thanks to the medicine. The doctor then broke my water to help move things forward. I took some rest, while waves continued to pass frequently. After a few hours (around 4 am), the doctor checked my cervix and I was 3cm dilated. Since I wasn’t progressing much, we elected to begin pitocin (artificial oxytocin used for induction). My contractions picked up again and I felt a growing pressure. The doctor returned at 7am to find that I was fully dilated (!!!). She asked me to try pushing to see if I was ready, but decided to give me another hour. After about 45 minutes, I began getting the urge to push and started on my own. The midwives began prepping the area for delivery!
Finally I could take an active role in my labor. The midwives coached me through pushing, as Jonathan helped cool me off with a wet washcloth in between surges. The epidural took a good deal of pain away, but I still felt everything that was happening. After a few pushes, his head was visible and Jonathan was surprised to see it covered in hair! As I continued pushing for about an hour, my blood pressure was getting high. The baby’s heart rate dropped a bit and the doctor asked to intervene with forceps. I wasn’t thrilled about getting an episiotomy but Jonathan reassured me that it would be okay, and that I would heal. I gave my trust to the medical team to get my baby out safely and soundly.
Moments later his head was out, followed by another push for his shoulders and body. The nurse swung him around up and over my legs, and I saw his face for the first time with eyes wide open. She laid him on my chest, and I could feel his full weight. I felt a sense of peace, like coming home. His body on mine felt right, like we were meant to be together.
Once he was cleaned and back on my chest, holding my finger with his tiny hand, I said to him: Remi, “You were made from love, you are love, and you are loved” [- Elizabeth DiAlto]