Deciding on what my very first, official blog entry would be was quite a task. I took notes for weeks, maybe even months. It had to be meaningful, interesting, and relatable. I mean, with all the current events, my options were endless! But in the midst of all the COVID-19 uncertainty, the ongoing police brutality, the protesting mayhem, lack of presidential discretion, and Tik Tok mania, one thing has remained constant for me... I absolutely LOVE being a mommy.
Mommyhood started for me this time last year. June of 2019, I was in the 3rd trimester of my first successful pregnancy. After experiencing a couple of miscarriages, I was still very much afraid that something could/would still go wrong. I was shooting up insulin (for the first time in my life) three to four times a day to treat my then Type II diabetes (who knew pregnancy hormones jacked up your blood sugar levels?!). I had unofficially finished my last day at the worse job I had ever worked, the nesting phase and my already, self diagnosed OCD was on 100, and it was getting harder and harder to navigate the public transportation system of London (I was unable to drive and in London, that's quite alright). Meanwhile, I was happily rearing my irritable, erratic, bitchy days (hallelujah!) as I entered those I-just-can't-get-comfortable days. Getting sound sleep was a thing of the past, my hips were burning, my lower back was beyond aching, and although they didn't swell, my feet were agonizing from the extra weight. And oh, did I mention I was approximately 4100 miles away from the epicenter of my family and friends in the states? Despite all of this and the endless doctor visits, I was feeling quite alright thanks to acupuncture, the wonderful practice of hypnobirthing, yoga and of course my patient husband. I was also very much holding on to the mystery of my pregnancy as I wasn't 100% sure if "Twinkle" was a boy or a girl (and my husband was holding on to the secret, minus a few vague slip ups).
You see, I truly needed all my "extras". Every hypnobirthing lesson, yoga class, and acupuncture session helped balance out the stress diabetes imposed on my pregnancy. From the very beginning, my pregnancy was coined by terms like "complicated" and "high risk" with any chance of a water birth (my true desire) being out the window. Diabetes and stress impacted my pregnancy so much, that towards the end, Twinkle's measurements were below par, particularly the blood flow levels and growth rate. Twinkle was being considered small, in the 10th percentile to be exact (per UK standards) and this didn't make the doctors comfortable. This was also quite puzzling as they say most pregnant women with diabetes (particularly with gestational diabetes, which is NOT what I had) give birth to rather large babies. But I have to admit, my entire pregnancy often left the NHS diabetic specialist nurses and consultants (doctors) baffled as I wasn't text book with my approach to my pregnancy. I had also been a bit of a rebel, not following every piece of advice they recommended. I owned this as my pregnancy and I, and my husband most times, had the final say. Believe it or not, during one of my last doctor's visits, one of the consultants asked to take photocopies of my unique birth plan as she had never seen one like it before. This took me back a bit as I wasn't sure if I should feel honored or unsure about the competence of my obstetrics team. (Sidenote: Although a very good system, this supports how antique the NHS can be at times with their approaches and methods, but what's to expect from a free healthcare system? They do a tremendous job with what they have). But anyway, since Twinkle was measuring small, they had begun the talk about inducing labor... at 37 weeks (again, another normal standard in the UK as they consider 37 weeks full term)! This really hurt my spirits as I was hoping to have as natural of a birth as possible, in spite of my circumstance, and to me, inducing labor was not natural. So after accepting that induced labor wasn't a matter of me failing and convincing my husband that waiting a few days would be okay, we stood firm on pushing for a delivery date in week 38. I just trusted that, if my baby was growing on the small end of the spectrum, time was crucial as growth and development in the womb is still very much critical in the final days. So after a safe compromise and a self-requested membrane sweep (an inducing method that doesn't require medicine), we were due to report to Hillingdon Hospital on June 18th to have a baby.
On the morning of the big day, I woke up with a nice blend of calm and nervousness. Was it due to my mandated "me" time that included a nice warm bath the night before? Was it all my hypnobirthing practicing? Was it my acupuncture session a few days prior? Was it the countless prayers? Who knows?! I just knew that by the end of the day (or next, you can never be sure), my life would change in a significant, wondrous way. So as instructed, I called the Labor Triage nurse that morning to find out when to report to the hospital. Needless to say, the 10AM assigned time didn't matter because after my final pregnancy trip to McDonald's (don't judge me!), a trip to the market to get snacks, and my husband's procrastination (a mask for nervousness on this particular day, if you ask me), we finally made it to the hospital during the 11AM hour.
Upon arrival, I was taken to a four bed bay at the very end of the hall of the Labor Ward. Passing moms with uncomplicated pregnancies move about crushed me for about 2.5 seconds as I remembered my birth plan and my desire for as natural a birth as possible (I know, I know, who really gets to follow their birth plan to a tee?!). Entering the bay was overwhelming because I was immediately greeted with moans and groans of two other women as the midwife and healthcare assistant gave me instructions. They began to connect me to monitors (a big deal for someone who's never been a patient and was hyper-focused on a carefree labor), which instantly made me anxious and my blood pressure reading proved it. The midwife assured me that I wouldn't be connected to monitors the entire time and knowing that instantly lowered my anxiety. Once able to take some deep breaths, get settled, and repeat my hypnobirthing affirmations, my second round of saturations and observations were normal. Despite me now being calm and acclimated to my environment, Twinkle was presenting with some funky heart rhythms during monitoring. So again, I began to breathe and chant my affirmations as the midwife reassured me that everything was okay. After all the initial monitoring and checks, my midwife came in at about 2PM to start the induction process which was a matter of inserting a vaginal pessary loaded with prostaglandins. It was my hope that this, the membrane sweep I had had a week prior, my acupuncture session days prior, and all the other labor inducing rituals (yoga, teas, uncomfortable walks, etc.) would be all that was needed. I was praying no other drugs or medical interventions would be necessary.
The 2PM hour marked the beginning of a nice waiting period. One more heart rate check was done to make sure Twinkle was safe as I passed the time with walks (yes, even "complicated" pregnancies are allowed freedom, thank God!), trips to the toilet, food, and Netflix while my husband ran errands. Every now and then my midwife would check in to make sure I was okay as it seemed I was surprisingly handling things quietly, despite my timely, uncomfortable surges. She offered me pain relief a few times, but I would pleasantly decline. In turn, she offered me a yoga ball and I must say, I was elated! Soon the sun had set and the surges began to intensify just a bit, so I decided to lay down. While attempting to rest as my husband and I watched some tele, the urge to urinate hit me in an unexplainable way around the 10PM hour. I immediately, but carefully began to inch to the side of the bed, but trickles of wetness began to leak into my pants! Whoa! Wait! Was I weeing myself?! I continued to inch to standing, but the uncontrollable urge was mighty. I eventually made it to standing but as soon as I did, fluid came gushing down my legs and onto the floor! It was everywhere... a nice big puddle had formed just around my feet, my pants were soaked, and I was in a slight state of confusion! My waters had just broke, just like in the movies!
After that monumental moment, a mediocre, NHS hospital shower, and a wardrobe change, things began to take a turn. The surges were now more frequent and pretty strong, but I was stronger. Around the 2AM hour, during checks, the midwives again asked me if I wanted any pain relief, but I declined. I really must've looked uncomfortable because at this point, my midwife began to "sell" pain relief options to me as if she was a drug rep working off commission. She was fully aware of my birth plan, so she offered me options accordingly. I eventually settled on a buttocks injection that would ultimately ease the surges a bit which would then allow me to get some rest because "I would need it for when it's time to push". The pinch from the injection was minuscule compared to the surges. Once the injection was given, I returned to the bed and attempted to rest. I remember closing my eyes as I attempted to go to LaLa Land, but I'm pretty sure I didn't get any sleep. By this time, the surges were coming every 20-30 minutes or so and the pressure was approaching "go-time" territory. It was getting harder and harder to practice my breathing, chant, rock, squeeze, visualize, and sing through the surges (and by sing, I really mean moan). And in true Quiana fashion, I was trying to remain calm and quiet so I wouldn't wake my husband as he slept soundly next to me (no use in both of us being exhausted, right?). Soon, I was unaware of the time and out of control as the surges went from bearable with song to not even howling could save me. I had no choice but to wake up sleeping beauty as I calmly, but intensely made it known that it was time! My husband rang for the nurse as I grimaced and rocked back and forth. As a midwife approached our space, she helped ease me back to bed and suggested that she check my cervix. The pressure of her fingers inside me alongside of the surges was nothing I had experienced ever in life. Nonetheless, she remained gentle and within seconds, informed me that I had dilated to 7 cm and that it was time to head to my delivery suite! What the what, this was really happening! I began to feel my body fill up with emotion and adrenaline. So much that, after what seemed like forever, when my midwife from the delivery ward arrived, I asked if I could walk down to delivery. However, she and my husband insisted that I be wheeled down instead, and let me tell you, it's a good thing they did! I'm certain my petite, but obviously strong midwife pushed me through the halls at what felt like 100MPH! From this moment on, things happened faster than anyone had planned for. After a strong, yet burning urge to wee (who knew that childbirth involved so much urinating?!), I quickly realized that I didn't need the toilet, I needed to start pushing! So to prevent Twinkle from ending up in the toilet, I squeezed my pelvic floor muscles tightly (see, pregnancy yoga came in handy), and literally waddled to the bed. By now the pain was intense, but oddly, still bearable. There was absolutely no time for the nurses to connect me to any monitors because Twinkle's arrival was minutes away! My husband was now at my side, nervously encouraging me as he rubbed the skin off my hands (I mean, not really, but that's what it felt like!). I was in obvious pain by now as I was now opera singing with every surge. The surges were sparing me no mercy. I was offered nitrous oxide to help ease the process as my body wanted to do nothing else but push. For a brief second I considered the offer (for no other reason than to experience the feeling- remember this is a judge free zone!), but thankfully my husband interjected and declined on my behalf as he was confidently aware of my wishes. By this point, I was unable to speak as the surges had completely consumed me. I vaguely heard the midwives telling me to push and after about three or four rather peaceful pushes, Twinkle entered this big world and I hadn't realized it! I was in a trance, completely overwhelmed with life! Once Twinkle was in my arms, I was immediately mesmerized! I was holding the most beautiful little human being I had ever seen! My heart was full and I felt complete as we were finally able to meet our unknowing baby boy (well at least he was unknowing to me). He was already amazing to me. Helpless, yet strong. Sleep, yet full of energy. Calm, yet radiating. It was all so unbelievable... a different kind of love story. Meanwhile, I was feeling great, I would even use the word energized. I was joking around with the midwives, walking about the room, and reminiscing with my husband. Even my blood sugars went down instantly after a natural afterbirth process (boy was seeing my placenta a sight!). I typically hesitate to brag on myself but on this day, I was proud of myself. My husband was proud of me and I was proud of him. Even one of my doctors came in to congratulate me as she was in shock at what had just transpired.
Baby Boy was indeed small weighing 2.55 kg (approximately 5.6 pounds), but he was perfect and peaceful. Holding him felt natural and enjoying our skin to skin time was priceless. When it was time to settle on his name, I had yet another out of control moment. Throughout my pregnancy, I had been collecting names and thought I was pretty set on Oliver Amos. But he looked nothing like an Oliver nor any of the other 10 or so names I had jotted down. What would we call him?! I was too in love to care until my husband calmly suggested, "what about Ace?" He instantly had my attention. I had only ever known one other Ace in my lifetime and Ace seemed to be a solid name. It was important to me that Baby's Boy name be rare, meaningful, and of importance. Within minutes I found myself sending friends and family pictures, letting them know that Twinkle had arrived, that he was healthy, and that his name was Ace Gamaliel. There was no hesitation. It was natural. "Well, I guess his name is Ace Gamaliel," my husband chuckled. I couldn't do anything but smile.
As a matter of fact, I can't do anything but smile at this very moment because writing this has put me right back on cloud nine... a true nostalgia. You see, I chose to share this story because it was yet another time in my life when I was supposed to succumb to challenge and disadvantage. There were loads of moments throughout my pregnancy, labor, and delivery that were very yucky, scary, uncontrollable, and draining but the overall process was absolutely beautiful. I chose to trust my instincts. I chose to trust my non-traditional professionals. I chose to trust my spouse. And most of all, I chose to trust God. I didn't want diabetes to intimidate me. I didn't want to be textbook.
Because of this story, I am stronger. Because of this story, I am wiser. Because of this story, I am healthier. Because of this story, I have new, solid friendships. And because of this story, I can proudly say that I had the most amazing birth story I've ever heard.
Cheers to mommyhood (and a special shout out to all my mommy warriors)!!!