Emmett’s Birth Story

This post is so last year. It was in my drafts, unfinished until now.

Having heard about how second babies arrive earlier than their older siblings, I had my hospital bag packed and ready to go when I hit 36 weeks. On a Sunday at 39 weeks, I was out for breakfast when I was hit by crippling contractions, so bad it hurt to walk. I staggered home and took a shower, thinking that THIS WAS IT. Turns out it was a false alarm and I spent the entire day on standby. 

At the next checkup, the doctor said that the baby’s head was already engaged and the contractions helped the baby move down further but I had no signs of labour. I was a green-eyed monster, commanding the baby to come out whilst being taunted by birth notifications, one by one, in the WhatsApp group chats. WHY WASN’T THIS BABY COMING OUT?! BEING SO PREGNANT IS NOT FUN!

Two days before the baby came out, my mucus plug did. It was a lot of transparent discharge. 

D-Day

40 weeks, 1 day. I was out to get lunch when I felt my insides cramp up. My tolerance for pain is moderately high, so I waited for it to subside before going home for a shower and making sure everything I needed was in my hospital bag. After that, I latched Elise to sleep. Before leaving, I kissed her cheek and felt a huge pang of sadness because I knew that the next time I saw her, she would no longer be my only baby. I called my husband who was at work to meet me at the hospital. 

I took a cab down to the hospital and realised that my husband was NOWHERE to be seen. Strange, considering his workplace was nearer to the hospital than our house. I decided on a regular Ultimate from Coffee Bean as The Last Drink to sip on while waiting for him. On hindsight, the caffeine helped in ramping up my energy to push. The contractions were about 15 minutes apart. He arrived at the hospital 30 minutes later and made me help him with a phone call for work.  -_- 

At 4:30pm, we went up to the delivery suite where we met the most obtuse patient service associate ever. 

PSA: When is your EDD?
Me: My EDD was yesterday.
PSA: So what’re you here for today?
Me: (I have) Contractions? 

Duh, what else would a pregnant woman go to the Delivery Suite for?!

I got ushered into the delivery suite (by the way, private and subsidised patients at NUH use the same delivery suite) and the midwives hooked me up to the CTG, inserted the IV line and checked for dilation. I was already 5 to 6cm dilated. HA! Take that, Miss “What’re you here for?”! I opted for laughing gas like before and whenever the contractions came, I grabbed the mask and breathed in the gas like a druggie. The short lived effect even with constant inhalation means that the pain is felt. Perhaps I didn’t do it right. 

6pm
“This baby is going to be out by 7pm”. I predict.
The pain starts to get unbearable. I tell the nurse to stop putting her fingers in to check for dilation and she tells me that it’s not her fingers stretching my cervix but the baby’s head.

640pm (!? Can’t remember the exact timing, but it was indeed before 7pm)

Pop. The baby is eerily silent in contrast to Elise who came out wailing her lungs out.   

It wasn’t until I heard the baby give a soft cry that my husband told me that Emmett was born with nuchal cord x2. This means that the umbilical cord was looped around his neck not once, but twice. My husband was shell shocked, but the midwives told him that it’s a common occurrence.

The gynae on duty stitched me up. It was a minor first degree tear and I could walk the moment I reached the ward. I rejected Panadol because the pain was non-existent. It did hurt when he latched and the lochia gushed out.

That’s the story of how Emmett came out. Natural without epidural. 

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Number 3

No, it’s not a baby. Today, Elise will be undergoing her THIRD repair operation. In textbook model cases, only one operation is needed to remove the eye and insert a plastic round implant to replace the eyeball. Note that there is currently no procedure that can let her regain vision in her right eye, so everything is largely due to aesthetic reasons.

To recap, the first operation went pretty alright until discharge started leaking from the right eye and it was discovered that her implant got exposed.

The second operation to repair the exposed implant was a failure. She couldn’t open her eye even after the stitches were removed and it was all bloody.

The following week, a third operation was done. When her stitches got removed, the entire plastic ball popped out. The doctor advised us to leave it alone. Since then, she’s been functioning well without it.

Which brings us to today. The surgeon intends to do a fat graft to extract fat from her bum to place in her eye as the plastic implant obviously doesn’t work. Fat grafts in children have shown to work better as the fat somehow expands to fit the empty socket rather than shrink, which is what happens in adults.

Is this all necessary? The surgeon told us that we could wait to avoid her getting traumatised but it is a surgery that will have to be done anyway, so I prefer to get it over with. I’ve asked what will happen if we don’t do the surgery. As she is still very young, if there is a gap in her socket, the bones may not grow properly since there is nothing to support them. I decided to go ahead with the surgery.

Besides, it’s not the surgery but the post recovery wound care that affects her the most. She’s only just regained her appetite after recovering from cough, and everything is going to go down the drain again.

She’s at an age where she has started to elaborate and use full sentences to describe her surroundings and feelings. Even after so many operations and “staycations” at the hospital ward, the guilt never goes away. 🙁

We’ve been disappointed and disheartened and have questioned the surgeon on the multiple failed results. We don’t doubt the surgeon. He has decades of experience. I’ve asked him why he didn’t go ahead with the fat graft, but he was reserving it as a last option as it would leave a small scar at her back. Sigh. We all hope this will be the last op.

A Lesson on Looks

Elise has had her prosthetic eye in for slightly less than a year. After her follow-up in January, we were told that the tissue below her prosthetic eye had eroded due to abrasion and insufficient moisture. I was supposed to put in eyedrops for her as many times a day as possible. She would run away from me whenever I tried to touch her eye and I failed to fulfil this necessary criteria. 

It wasn’t a wound that would heal by itself, thus Dr Ganga suggested that an operation be done to cover up the gap. He warned that there might be a need to do a skin graft off her back if the donor tissue wasn’t enough to cover the gap. I agreed almost immediately because the hole would only continue getting larger with repeated contact from movement. The boring name for the procedure Elise underwent is “Scleral Patch Graft for Exposed Orbital Implant”. Don’t Google that if you’re squeamish. 

The operation went well and the donor tissue was enough to patch up the 5mm gap in her eye socket. We spent the next two nights in a 8-bedder ward. She vomited and ran a fever, yet she refused to take Paracetamol orally.  The Paracetamol was also to help her combat the pain from the operation. Eventually, the nurses gave her Paracetamol via intravenous drip. -_- 

The worst part was when the nurses tried to change her eye dressing. It was a necessary yet traumatic experience for her as the wound was fresh and her entire eyelid was stitched shut and swollen. To prevent her from struggling, we swaddled her with a bedsheet. My dad held her legs down. A nurse held her head down while another tried to wipe her eyelid and apply medicine.

“No, no, no, no! Go away! Go away! Help! 엄마! 公公!No, no, go away! 아빠!”, she tried all she could to get herself out of that situation by pleading with us to stop, calling for each of us to save her. She gripped my hand for support. The hand which failed to rescue her from fear. It was impossible to adhere the tape for the eye shield onto Elise’s face which was dripping with perspiration and tears. 🙁

For about 10 days after the operation, her eyelid remained stitched shut to aid wound healing. At its worst state, it looked like someone socked her in the eye. It was all red and puffy like a goldfish’s. For a breather, we brought her down to the playground opposite our house. She enjoyed herself but there were a group of children aged about 8 to 10 years who were extremely curious about her appearance and started gossiping. They even went straight up to scrutinise her eye. URGHHHH. Even after I told them she’d injured her eye.

She felt rather self-conscious and down about it. My dad decided that there was nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about and that night, we brought her down for a walk. Another group of children. This time, they accepted the explanation, included her in their games and she healed a little inside, only to get it broken the next evening when she spotted a friend she frequently hangs out with. She called out for her friend, who saw that her eye wasn’t quite the same and hid behind her helper. Elise tried to engage her, showing a toy she had, but that failed too. I couldn’t take it and grabbed her away to play with something else. Secondhand heartbreak. 🙁 

Fun fact: Some adults can be idiots. At the mall, a stranger asked us, “Why is her eye like that?”, only to be shushed by his female counterpart who had about a hundred times more EQ than him. Some people think through their asses and talk without a filter. I snapped back, “关你屁事!(lit. None of your business!)“ but he was too far gone. At the bus interchange, a helpful uncle chimed in with his useless advice, “There’s a temple near Sheng Shiong, you should bring her there.” By that time, my social meter was reduced to negative and whatever I replied would have possibly sparked a physical fight. 

Two days ago, she had her stitches removed. It still looks like she has her eye closed because the swell has yet to subside and there’s discharge which constantly leaks from the wound and has to be cleaned. The wound needs about 6 weeks to heal so we can’t slot in her fake eye just yet. It’s a conformer like what she had last year. Post-op care has been a struggle (holding down her limbs, holding her head in place, cleaning in between her tightly clamped eyelid, prying open the eyelid to drip in medicine). Just this evening, her conformer popped out as I was cleaning it and we decided to leave it until tomorrow morning. 

At her teacher’s encouragement, we sent her back to school today! Her classmates are still too young to care about appearance. It’ll be a while before she looks like this again, but soon! The sad lesson is that how you look determines how you are treated in the world.