It’s 3 pm and I’m still in my pajamas. In fact I think I’ll be in my pajamas for the whole of today since there is no real reason for me to change out of them.
You see baby Chiong has arrived and is now 5 weeks old. Currently, her favorite thing to do, besides pooping, sleeping and drinking milk, is to shriek like a banshee until someone picks her up and cuddles her.
So I spend a lot of time, rocking in my nursing chair, while cuddling my newborn and trying to do something constructive.
Sometimes I read a book or I research things to do with a toddler and baby in Seattle. Other times I get some retail therapy (thank you Amazon!) or simply mindlessly scroll through my Facebook news feed.
Today I decided it’s time for me to get back to writing. I’ve sadly written very little over the past year. 2016 was challenging for me with regards to writing as I was stretched by the amount of changes happening in my life. Now that baby Chiong has arrived and things are going back to some semblance of normalcy, it is time for me to resume my commitment to writing.
So I’m starting this off by introducing our littlest Chiong and writing about her birth story.
Due to various complications, I had a scheduled c section instead of natural delivery. In some ways, I found this to be comforting. When I had Zoey four years ago, it wasn’t the best experience because I wasn’t prepared for my waters to break and her to arrive so early. This time round, although I had some Braxton Hicks contractions as early as 34 weeks, I didn’t go into labour earlier and so was able to arrive at the hospital on the scheduled date in a calm state of mind for the surgery. Even though we had to check in really early in the morning, I did not feel nervous and was very relaxed. Another big difference was that Irene could be with me during the delivery. I feel this was something we missed out on in Singapore and while I understand the reasons for it (it was an emergency C-section) I do wish she had been present in the operating theatre when baby Zoey was born.
The preparation process in the US is quite different from what I experienced in Singapore. Both times we opted to have the baby in the hospital with the best neonatal unit available. Our rational for this is if there are any complications during the birth, at least the baby will have access to the best neonatal care right from the beginning. In Singapore, this is of course, KKH. In Seattle, this was at Swedish First Hill. The delivery suites in both hospitals are comparable. Although we only used the delivery suite as a staging area prior to the c-section, I could clearly see the facilities available were fairly similar. It is the people and methodology that makes the difference here.
After checking in at the hospital, we were shown to a room to get ready. It was here that I was introduced to the first difference. A nurse tried to set IV plug and couldn’t get it in. While this is not the first time it has happened to me, it happened a number of times in KKH as well because I have tiny veins, the number of attempts resulted in some major bruises on my arms.
She was apologetic, but continued to try. Whereas in Singapore, if the houseman cannot set the IV plug within a couple of tries, they normally call for an anesthesiologist to come. Eventually they did manage it, but not before exhausting a number of points on my arms.
When we entered the operating theatre, this was where I saw the second difference. I was surprised to see the room was smaller than the one in KKH. I’m not sure if this is because of space constraints in downtown Seattle, but the room was half the size of the one in Singapore. It was also not as cold. Later we found out from the nurse that they keep it fairly warm for the baby.
Once I was on the operating table, the anesthesiologist struggled to hit the spot for my spinal. She tried for a good 15 mins before a more senior doctor stepped up to do the procedure. I was determined to remain in a calm and relaxed mood for the delivery so surprised myself by not being upset by this. Perhaps it was the anticipation of meeting the baby Chiong soon and finally finding out if Zoey was going to have a brother or sister. It kept me looking forward.
During the surgery, I appreciated having Irene to hold my hand and talk to me. Because of my prior surgeries, the doctor had a more difficult time while opening me up and reaching baby Chiong. It felt like forever before the pushing on my tummy started. I remembered feeling like I couldn’t breathe when they pushed baby Zoey out of me. This time it felt slightly easier. As I turned to Irene and told her I felt the pushing, we heard a small cry and little baby Chiong was lifted over the curtain. I got a brief glance before she was spirited away to the warmer. I didn’t actually get to see whether she was a girl or a boy and only found out later when she was brought over. We had been told prior to the surgery that once baby was checked, she would be returned to us for skin to skin contact. Several minutes went by and baby Chiong was still at the warmer, I asked Irene to go over and check it out. Turns out baby had trouble controlling her breathing. In fact she was forgetting to breathe every few minutes. So instead of being able to have skin to skin with me, she was being kept at the warmer while they called for the neonatal specialist to come check on her. Eventually she was taken up to the NICU for observation while I was still on the surgery table.
Irene followed her to the NICU while they started to patch me up. So there I was on the surgery table, worrying about baby Chiong when I was informed that while they were opening me up for the surgery, there had been a minor issue with some adhesions on my bladder. This warranted a urologist to be summoned so the whole surgical team stopped working and were standing around waiting. Since there was nothing I could do, I started sending messages to my family and friends to inform them that we had a girl! Yes, strangely enough they allowed me to have my phone with me during the surgery and I was happily texting away while my body was still cut open. This was actually a good thing as Irene could send me live updates from the NICU and assure me that baby Chiong was doing fine. This made a huge difference as I remember feeling so lost and sad while I was in the recovery room in KKH, not being able to see what was happening with baby Zoey.
Fortunately the urologist came along soon enough and after patching up the “small” hole, my gynaecologist sewed me up and I was finally transfered back to the recovery room. Within an hour of me being back in the room, baby Chiong was brought down from the NICU and we could finally begin bonding.
Even though there were a number of hiccups during this birth, I felt more in control. This is partly due to the doctors and nurses who continually communicated to us what was happening. Each step of the way, they kept talking to me, asking if I was feeling OK and constantly reassured me. Comparatively in Singapore, I often felt like I was kept in the dark. I remember the doctors worked in silence during the surgery and didn’t really talk to me. After I was moved to the recovery room, the nurses wouldn’t tell me what was happening next and they kept me there so long which meant I was separated from baby Zoey without knowing what was happening to her. This time round, Irene was with baby Chiong the entire time and because I had my phone with me, I knew exactly what was happening. While there were more complications, I am overall much happier with the care I received here.
A few other interesting things about giving birth in the US.
Once the baby is in the room, she is never taken away for any reason. While in Singapore they take baby away for baths, vaccinations, hearing tests etc, here everything was done in the room. In fact baby Chiong had a tracking device tagged to her leg that would set off an alarm if she was removed from the area of our room.
You are assigned a day nurse and night nurse each day. This nurse takes care of you and a few other patients in the same ward. Unlike Singapore where a group of nurses take care of a group of patients. Having said that, I felt the level of care I received both in Singapore and in US are comparable. The main difference is the methodology. I much prefer the US methodology of clear communication and transparency, but will say that the healthcare professionals I have met both in Singapore and here have been fantastic. I didn’t feel any discrimination against us in Singapore and didn’t feel any here either.
Another interesting thing is a photographer comes to take newborn photos for you before you are discharged. The photo session itself is free and you only pay for the photos if you like them. We ended up liking a number of the photos and did purchase the whole gallery.
Vicky Maya Chiong was born on the morning of Wednesday, 18 January 2017. Her name Vicky means Victory, Maya means Love.