While some women breeze through their pregnancy, have a quick labour, and then enjoy a blissful period of bonding and breastfeeding with their newborn, others like Veronica, are not so lucky. This is her story.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
When Veronica first found out she was pregnant, anxiety and hesitation were but some of the tumultuous feelings that washed over her. Finding out about her pregnancy coincided with a job offer that Veronica was very excited about – but one that would require her to travel often. Like many modern, career-oriented mums, Veronica faced the eternal struggle – career or motherhood? After much deliberation, this brave mum left her job and committed herself to her pregnancy.
Unfortunately, the pregnancy was difficult from the start, with Veronica experiencing bad morning sickness, mood swings and depression. “I wasn't ready to become a mum. I was unhappy with sacrificing so many things; my job, career, future, and my body,” she says, adding, “I found myself getting very emotional during my pregnancy.”
A Fiasco with Dog Ticks
To make matters worse, Veronica soon experienced quite the scare when her two dogs – a husky and a poodle – picked up ticks at Bishan Park, which soon turned into a full-blown infestation in her house.
“One night, after coming back from Bishan Park, I saw a tick crawling on the wall. I understood, from having a pet shop before, that when there is one, there’s more. I also found one on the back of my ear. I was so freaked out and really started worrying about whether this was going to cause problems for my baby,” Veronica explains.
The next day, Veronica visited her doctor and asked for a blood test. Her gynaecologist advised her to stay calm and explained that ticks in Singapore – unlike in the US – do not carry viruses. “Don’t worry, you’re fine,” he told her.
To be safe, Veronica called in pest control to wipe down the house, and she stayed away from it for a month. “It was really bad, even after a month we still found one or two ticks,” she recalls with a shudder.
Wanting a Natural Birth
While all of this was happening, Veronica attended prenatal classes to prepare herself for the birth. She decided – from the information she received at these classes – that she wanted a natural birth, without painkillers, and ideally a water one. Little did she know how badly she would need the painkillers during her excruciatingly long labour.
Come Out, Baby!
At the 40-week mark, despite being due, little Lauren seemed rather reluctant to enter the world. At this point, Veronica talked to her bump and said, “Okay, Mum wants to go for pet expo. Since you’re not coming out now, you stay in another week okay, so Mum can go?”
As if she understood, Lauren stayed in another week, and showed no sign of wanting to come out.
At the end of it, a checkup told her that her water bag levels were low and the
doctor advised that inducing labour might be a good idea.
Insistent that she wanted as natural a birth as possible, Veronica tried natural ways of inducing the baby. She began doing 20 squats daily and climbed Mount Faber every morning and evening. She attended dance and Zumba classes, drank raspberry tea, ate pineapples and even tried intercourse. Unfortunately, nothing worked.
Finally, while Veronica was shopping, she suddenly felt a pain. “I was so happy, hoping it was finally time. I managed to walk home and have dinner. I timed my contractions, which at the time was only happening every twenty minutes, and I knew from my lessons that that meant it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, so I waited.”
An Endless 36-hour Labour
At 4am that night, the contractions started to come every five minutes, and at this point, Veronica thought it would be best to check herself in. When she got to the hospital, the nurse told her she was only dilated 0.5cm.
Thus began the longest 36 hours of Veronica’s life. Twenty hours in, she was still only 4 or 5cm dilated. By this time, contractions were coming every one to two minutes and the pain was almost unbearable. “If I had to describe it, it feels like putting your fingers at the door of your car and letting the door smash repeatedly on them,” she says. Veronica was also running a fever, which made everything feel a lot worse.
When she could no longer take the pain, Veronica gave up on the idea of a natural birth and allowed her medical professionals to hook her up to a drip to induce labour. Finally, when she was 9cm dilated, her gynae said it was important to have an assisted birth – which essentially means that her doctor would force the birth canal open, causing a good amount of tearing to the vagina. The pain was worth it when little Lauren finally came sliding out.
Unfortunately, happiness was short-lived as her baby was running a fever
and had to be rushed to the NICU.
Lauren’s jaundice levels were also very high and while most newborns with jaundice require only three photo lights, Lauren needed a whopping eight.
Jaundice and fever were not the only things Veronica had to contend with. Because baby Lauren had to stay a month in the hospital due to the jaundice, Veronica developed painful breast engorgement, which soon progressed to mastitis because she didn't have her baby with her to feed on her milk. While she used breast pumps to relieve herself, these simply could not keep up with the amount of milk she was producing.
“My husband saw me suffering, and he talked about how formula is fine, but I really wanted to give my baby breast milk, I felt like that was the best thing I could do for her,” Veronica says. To top it all off, when Lauren finally came home from the hospital, she was so used to drinking from a bottle that she rejected Veronica’s attempts to breastfeed. “I became very depressed because I really wanted to give my baby breast milk and I had a lot.”
Mastitis and Associated Problems
Experiencing mastitis is every new mum’s worst nightmare. Veronica’s sleep was disturbed from the pain and she needed to constantly pump her milk, to the point where her entire mini-fridge was full of her milk. Even then, her breasts did not get completely drained. The pain was beginning to drive her crazy.
Veronica’s breastfeeding experience created a passion in her to help other mums on their difficult breastfeeding journeys. A strong advocate for breastfeeding, she started a postnatal healthcare business, Schöne mama, which specialises in helping mummies with breastfeeding related problems like lack of milk or engorged breasts.
“I have a favourite quote, by Amy Spangler, who said, ‘While breastfeeding may not seem the right choice for every parent, it is the best choice for every baby’, and this is something I truly believe in,” says Veronica.