Tuesday was much similar, but there was definitely a more noticeable scurry of activity - lots of bags being packed & final plans put into place about what would happen if it all finally happened... And of course, lots of reassuring Megan that everything would be ok (it was basically a whole day of repeating the phrases "are you ok, darling?" and "I'm sorry, darling"). The contractions started getting a little worse through the night, and she didn't get much sleep at all (neither did I, for that matter), and when Wednesday morning came around, we sorta knew what was happening.
As much as Meg didn't want to admit it at the time, I think she knew that the baby was on the way, whether we liked it or not. We waited it out as long as we could at home - it was approaching the afternoon rush hour and a storm was coming in... the 5 km, 40 minute drive to the hospital was about to turn into a 2-3 hour stagnation of bumper-to-bumper traffic, so we fed the dog, (re)packed Meg's bag(s) and got in the car.
After what was a relatively smooth check-in at Makati Med, we got into the swing of things. Contractions were now getting very painful and were right on schedule. Although our room was quite large, the hospital was very strict about their two-guest-only policy, which meant that one of the mothers was left outside... As soon as our OB/GYN arrived, though, she was able to talk some sense into the staff and we were all able to wait out the last few hours together.
We handed out copies of our birth plan, as well as copies of the pre-check in forms Dr Henson had given us... Still, though, the nurses required us to fill out the exact same forms on arrival, and clad in our weird hospital gowns, we waited... Those gowns & booties, by the way, are one-size-fits-all, so if you're any bigger than the standard Filipino, you're going to have a bad time...
Megan's contractions started to heat up a bit later in the night, but somehow she wasn't making any progress at all on the dilation front. After days of contracting and nothing to show for it, we made the decision to intervene. We had originally hoped to do everything naturally, so it wasn't an easy choice to make. She was scrubbed up by the anaesthesiologist and an epidural was inserted into her back and Dr Henson broke the amniotic sac. I should point out that although there are heaps of massive, scary looking needles, the procedure was all done very quickly and looked nowhere near as frightening as people imagine. Afterward, she went back to having no awareness of the contractions, and we tried to sneak in some rest.
Around 1 am, something happened, and pain shot through Megan's lower back. Some element of the epidural hadn't fully worked and now all of her pain seemed to be shooting through that small window. Doctors rushed in and we were stuck with another difficult decision. There was still no movement, although the baby was now getting impatient. She was determined to come out, but there was something blocking her path. We didn't know it at the time, but our baby was face-up; for some reason she wasn't able to turn properly into the birth canal. Frustrated, worried, scared, desperate and exhausted, we made the call to have the Caesar.
It was a very strange feeling, helping to wheel Meg into the OR, and knowing that she was about to have our baby sliced out of her. Some sort of paternal instinct kicked in and I began assessing everyone in the room, giving them little nicknames, like Mr & Mrs Superfluous (we'd specifically stated that no one who was not medically essential should be in the room, as watching a white woman give birth apparently draws a bit of a crowd). It turns out they were the paediatric team, ready to receive the baby - I was the only one there that was unnecessary. Anyway, I scrubbed in, taking lots of photos (of course my camera was also allowed in), and stayed by Megan's head as she was lashed onto the bed. Watching the team operate on her was at once brilliant, but also terrifying. There's no doubt that they were extremely good at their jobs, but to watch it happen was surreal.
When the time came and our child's head made its first appearance, I was absolutely stunned... Dr Henson casually plucked her from the open womb, and faced her toward me. I couldn't speak - it was incredible. It was also totally not what I was expecting. In a flash, she showed me our baby, covered in fluid, vernix, and blood. It was certainly not the prettiest of things to see at that time! The doctor was moving our new baby over so that Megan could see, and all I could do was stammer "it's a girl". Meg had tears running down her face, and I was handed a pair of medical scissors. I remember cutting the cord was a lot harder than I thought it'd be - it turns out that it's quite thick and I wasn't feeling very strong at that time! The paediatricians cleaned up our baby, Dr Henson sewed up Megan's belly, and I stood around, waiting to be told what to do.
Eventually I was able to wheel the baby back into our room, to the expectant new grandmothers, announcing the arrival of our new baby girl - and no one believed me. Everyone (me included) had been expecting a boy for so long, that the fact we had a girl was fairly inconceivable. Eventually, though, everyone agreed with me & we started trying to get accustomed to the idea of having a new daughter/granddaughter. Megan was son stitched up & brought back into our room, where we all cooed over our new addition.
It wasn't until about 8am that I got an hour's sleep, with little Ava sleeping on my chest. I had no idea but apparently they'd done all sorts of newborn exams on her while we'd slept. We were awoken so that we could change from the delivery room to a suite on a different floor. After a lot of confusing questions and nonsensical answers, I worked out where we were being transferred to & packed our things. The grandmothers had gone home to feed the dog & reorg. Our next few days were pretty chaotic as we battled an army of residents who seemed to come in every half hour to check either Megan's or Ava's temperature & heart rate; sleep was very scarce as we were doing our best to commence breastfeeding. We had to continually tell our 'visitors' that we were fine & not to continually harass us. And then there were the (very sub-par) food & newspaper deliveries, as well as everyone else who seemed want a look at the whitey & the baby. Our team of grandparents was soon back with us, making sure we had all we needed & running defence for us.
Filling out our draft birth certificate was a lot easier than expected. As we'd planned to make Megan's surname the middle name of our child, we avoided a lot of stress. Many friends have told us of how the administrative staff have bullied people in to using the mothers' maiden name as the middle name of their children, fitting with the Spanish style of naming (as part of the Spanish invasion, they renamed the population with Spanish names, which are continued today). There were only two copying errors in our finished certificate, so after they were emended, we were right to roll.
On Saturday afternoon, we were finally allowed to head home. With final checks from our Paediatrician and OB/GYN, and taking care of our tab, we headed out the door. Getting our little one home for the first time was an amazing relief. We still have to get a gift for our amazing doctors. The hospital experience was not one I'm eager to repeat, but there were a lot of pleasant surprises which in some ways made it better than what an Australian hospital might've been. I guess we'll never really know, but for a third-world country, it could've been so much worse.