My wife has been waking up in the middle of the night for toilet breaks for many nights. Her frequent trips to the toilet rarely nudges me off my deep sleep, and she is not bothered to wake me up. But on a Saturday morning, I am awoken by her. I squint at my phone and it is 5 o’clock in the morning. I ask her what is the matter. She replies that she has been waking up since 4 o’clock due to mild pain and probably, contraction. She also complains that she bleeds a lot.
Few hours earlier, my wife insisted that we went to the hospital for a check up. She had not felt any contraction but she felt that our baby moved less actively, and that the baby hardened her body quite often. My premonition said that it was not the time yet because there was no contraction. But I was worried that there was a slight chance that our baby started to poo inside. I remembered asking our gynaecologist during our last check up how could we tell whether a baby started to poo inside. She answered, we would not know. So after a Friday prayer and a quick lunch, we went straight to the labour room. Two sensors were strapped on my wife’s ballooning belly and her condition was monitored through two graphs for 30 minutes.
There was no contraction at all, but our gynaecologist asked us to see her. She did a vaginal examination on my wife and the opening was only 2 cm. She assured us that there was nothing to worry about and asked us about our plan. The due date was on the coming Sunday, but I could tell from the way our gynaecologist talked that she was expecting my wife to deliver at a later date. We decided to skip our 40th week appointment on Monday and she booked us to be admitted to the labour room on the 29th. My wife left the clinic disappointed.
I look at the blood and tell her that it could be another blood show. It is normal for a blood show to occur after a vaginal examination. I try to calm her down but she insists that we go to the labour room again, few hours after our frustrating first trip. Being a good husband, I relent. It is almost Fajr so we agree that I go to surau first for prayer, then have a quick breakfast, and admit to the labour room.
When I come home, my wife tells me that the contractions are getting a little bit heavier. We start to panic. I go for a quick shower, grab baby’s bag, and mum and dad’s bag that we already packed, and start driving to the hospital. I know this time it is real. My wife wants to go straight to the hospital but I insist that we have breakfast first because it will be a long day. We stop at a stall, buy two packs of nasi lemak and kueh and go straight to the third floor, the labour room. My wife start to breathe heavily.
My wife is admitted to the labour room. The same procedure that my wife went through few hours earlier is conducted. Two sensors strapped on her tummy, with graphs to monitor her condition. But this time, one of the graphs is off the chart. Lots of peaks in short intervals. The contractions are real. One of the midwives does a vaginal examination. My wife is already 4 centimetres dilated. My wife is starting to grunt in pain whenever a contraction happens, which comes every two minutes or less. Whenever a contraction happens, I would be by my wife’s side, offering my hands. It does not ease her pain but it helps her a lot.
I offer her nasi lemak but she is sick of its smell and taste after only the first bite. I put the nasi lemak far away from her. She might be sick of the sight of nasi lemak but I am getting really hungry. Whenever there is a window in between contractions, I would rush to the corner and enjoy the nasi lemak. It takes me a while to finish the nasi lemak as the window is getting narrower and narrower.
In the midst of pain, I have to leave her to register downstairs. While I am away, she keeps texting me to come up. Fortunately,the registration process takes less than 15 minutes.
When I am back in the labour room, I can tell that my wife is in real pain. She is clenching my hands harder. She is gritting her teeth fighting off the pain. Then, she makes a request which I strongly turn down. She is asking for an epidural injection to ease her pain.
When our gynaecologist, my wife and I discussed about the birth plan few weeks earlier, we came to agreement that we did not want any pain reliever which included epidural. We could foresee that she might request for it during labour, and she reminded me to say no.
I assure her that it is only 4 centimetres and she is a lot stronger than this. Despite the fact that we have no prior experience, I believe that my wife is progressing well. I keep telling her that she is doing great. She is in pain but she does not let a squeal out of her mouth at all, let alone scream.
Few moments later, another midwife does another vaginal examination. To our delight, my wife is already 8 centimetres dilated. This all happens within an hour or so. It becomes more painful as the dilation is getting bigger. My wife clenches my hands with one hand, and pulls my head towards hers with another. It is unbearable to see her suffer. I put my lips close to her right ear and whisper that she is doing great.
She asks for epidural shot once again and I refuse.
I ask the midwife when our gynaecologist is coming and she tells me that she is on her way.
Few minutes pass by and our gynaecologist is still nowhere to be seen. My wife is getting tired. I never let her hands go. I will never understand the pain that she is going through but I know it is excruciatingly painful.
My wife says that she feels like defecating. I call a midwife and she asks my wife to hold it. It is only 8 centimetres and there is a risk of severe tear and her pelvis to dislocate if she starts to push now.
The midwife does another vaginal examination and she does not say a word. She just smiles. In the midst of the frantic atmosphere, I am a bit lost.
It all started on one fine morning in September. We had been trying for quite a while and my wife was delighted that she had not had her period for six weeks. Before I sent her to work, she performed a pregnancy test at home and the result was negative. She went to work disappointed. Few hours later, she called me from office asking me to accompany her for lunch at KLCC. She said she wanted to eat at the food court.
At noon, I arrived at KLCC. She told me to meet her at Harrods. I wondered what was she doing at Harrods because we had never been there. Perhaps, she wanted to buy some macaroons. I went inside and could not find her, so I called. She told me she was waiting for me at Harrods restaurant. It was unusual of her but I did not find anything amiss, yet. I was wearing slack pants, Manchester United jersey, and selipar jamban, with messy uncombed hair. I was very underdressed, and felt out of place. Needless to say, my shabbiness raised a few eyebrows.
When she saw me looking like a hobo in an expensive place, she just smiled. We had normal lunch and normal conversation. Then, the waiter started to frequent our table asking for my wife. I was sensing something suspicious. Minutes later, the waiter brought a slice of cake to our table. I told him that we did not order any cake. Then I looked at the plate carefully and it read,
“WE ARE HAVING A BABY!”
I was overwhelmed. I looked at my wife and she just smiled. She nodded saying it was true. I was speechless.
Few more midwives come in and do the final preparation. All of a sudden, my wife starts pushing. I am still lost. After few pushes, I ask one of the midwives whether is it okay to push. She smiles and tells me that my wife is already 10 centimetres dilated. Despite being in the labour room all the time, I am the only one who feels left out. Everybody, including my wife knows that my wife is already 1o centimetres dilated after the midwife does the final vaginal examination. However, our gynaecologist is still not here.
Our gynaecologist arrives. Her bubbly character instantly lifts up the tense mood in the labour room. She praises my wife that my wife’s progress is so smooth. In less than two hours, the dilation goes up to 10 centimetres from 2.
She puts on her scrub, gloves and boots. She takes her position and quickly assesses the situation. She is clearly surprised that my wife is very close to deliver our baby. She expects that our baby will come out by noon, the earliest. She asks my wife to push harder.
I leave my wife’s side a short while to catch a glimpse of the progress. I can already see our baby’s hair. I immediately return to my wife’s side and whispers to her of her progress.
Our gynaecologist informs us that our baby’s heart rate is low, a lot lower than she likes. I quickly glance at the monitor and the fetal heart rate reads 70 beats per minute. She suggests that we vacuum our baby out. My wife quickly convinces her that she will try to deliver normally. Our gynaecologist respects my wife’s request and gives my wife two minutes. If there is no progress, she will vacuum our baby out. We just nod.
People say that it is a lot more painful if vacuum is used. I guess that serves as a motivation for my wife. My wife takes a deep breath and pushes as hard as she can. She repeats this for few times. Alhamdulillah, before the two minutes are up, my wife and our baby make a lot of progress. Our gynaecologist is happy with the situation and tells us that vacuum is no longer needed. However, she will have to perform episiotomy, a surgical cut in the muscular area between vagina and anus, to prevent worse tear.
I am there to see every moments unfold. I can now see our baby’s head. It may look a little bit rough but our gynaecologist grabs our baby’s head with both hands and starts to pull her out. Once her head is out, a lot of fluid deluges out of my wife’s vagina and at the same time the rest of her body slides out smoothly.
Our gynaecologist holds our baby and places her on my wife’s tummy, but our baby is neither moving nor crying. The colour of her head is so faint that I start to worry. But my worry is quashed when moments later, the labour room is filled with our baby’s loud cry. I am brought down to my knees and tears start to flow out of my eyes. I can not believe that I am now a father to a beautiful baby girl. As cliche as it may sound, but the feeling is surreal. A feeling and journey that I will treasure for the rest of my existence. It is probably the best feeling ever, yet.
I brush my wife’s hair who is now also sobbing in happiness, and maybe due to the pain too. I hate to admit this, but according to my wife, I sob a lot worse that her, to an extent that our gynaecologist asks my wife whether I am okay. I do not have anything to rebut the claim, but it is a tear of happiness and joy. A joy that only a parent can comprehend.
It is the when the time stands still and our princess, Adlea is born.
As with our birth plan, our gynaecologist hands over a pair of scissors to me to cut the umbilical cord. Bismillahirrahmanirrahim, I cut the umbilical cord, disconnecting our baby’s dependence on my wife.
Our baby is handed over to the midwives to be cleaned while our gynaecologist starts to stitch my wife up. She is complimenting my wife that everything goes so smoothly as she stitches the episiotomy cut. There is no other tears other than the episiotomy.
Once cleaned and wrapped, our baby girl is handed over to me. I hold her. I can not believe that the person whom I am holding is one of my own. I retreat to a couch and recite azan and iqamah to her ears. I hug and kiss her as tears still stream out from my eyes.
Two hours and seventeen minutes from the time of admission to the arrival of our baby girl may be slightly longer than it takes for Dennis Kimetto and Eliud Kipchoge to run a marathon. But the whole process happens a lot quicker than that. From the time the first vaginal examination to the delivery, it probably takes less than ninety minutes. And it only takes roughly seven minutes for our gynaecologist to deliver our baby.
All praises go to Allah the Almighty for easing the delivery of our baby girl, Adlea.
Also to my wife, who is a fighter, who consistently wakes up in the middle of the night to pray, who goes to bed to Mufti Menk’s lectures, who recites Surah Maryam almost every day, who is so generous with charity, who drinks coconut water, eats lady fingers, consumes virgin coconut oil as labour is near, who carries our baby girl for thirty-nine weeks and six days.
I love you, and I love our baby, without measure.