Our Birth Story

Our Plan

Finding out we were pregnant was such an exciting moment for Jerome and me. Right away, we started planning for our baby’s arrival, we became even more mindful of our food intake and exercise routine, and we prepared ourselves to become parents (sort of—because no one can really completely prepare for this!).

Since the first trimester, I have been eating well and avoiding sugar and junk food. I actually lost a few pounds then. We wanted to watch what we eat so that our baby won’t be too big and we can have a better chance of normal delivery. I practiced and taught prenatal yoga and it was such a pleasure to be with a community of pregnant women! Sometimes I would dance Sayuntis (sayaw ng buntis—a belly dancing routine for expectant moms). It felt empowering that somehow, I know I was doing something for my health and my baby’s well-being while she’s still in my womb.

Towards the beginning of our third trimester, I started writing our birth plan. I wanted a normal vaginal delivery. I wanted a gentle birth in a hospital setting. I wanted to labor spontaneously in a not-so-brightly-lit room with my own music playlist in the background. I wanted to be able to bring my yoga mat and exercise ball, and dance if I want to. I wanted to feel the contractions and just use my breath to get through them. I wrote that I did not want any pain medication.

I asked our OB, Dr. Ghea Mata-Carillo, and our pediatrician, Dr. Jessa Sareno, if we could do those I wrote above and allow my husband to stay with me during both labor and delivery. One, so that he can be my birth coach, and two, so he could also record the whole event from beginning to end. I wanted to have Unang Yakap* documented by video, especially our baby’s breast crawl from my belly to my chest. I wished to make our video an educational material for our medical students and hospital staff. My doctors, being the supportive friends that they are, said yes to all my requests.

We had a big challenge though, our baby was breech right from the very first ultrasound. She remained in frank breech until the third trimester. We began preparing ourselves that we might have to undergo CS. Good thing that as we were nearing term at 35-36 weeks, after a lot of prayers and doing yoga poses that could help baby turn into cephalic position (I will share more about this in another post), we found out that she turned head-first already. And so we could really try for a normal delivery!

On our 37th week check-up, Ghea reminded me already about the signs of labor and what to watch out for. She gave me instructions to call her right away if any of the following happens: rupture of my bag of water, bloody show, strong and regular contractions.

Term pregnancy, check! Labor, we are ready!

God’s Plan for Us

But labor did not come. The holidays have come and gone and I was already full term, but still no signs of labor. We had weekly check-ups with Ghea and on my 40th week, we found out that I was already 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced. Since our baby’s ultrasound tests were normal and she was doing well, we decided to continue waiting and praying for spontaneous labor to start.

Come our 41st week, there was still no progress; I remained in the latent phase of labor. So Ghea, Jerome and I decided it was best to proceed with labor augmentation after weighing the pros and cons of waiting some more versus helping my body go into active labor. A big part of me really did not want to be given medication for labor, but we prayed about it, and it gave us peace of mind to be admitted in the hospital already. After all, what was most important for us was our baby’s safety.

Our day started early on January 15th, Sunday. My sister-in-law Tong, and her boyfriend Glenn, went to our house to fetch our bugoys: Floki, our pug, and Hodor, our bully. They were going to stay with them for a few days while we were in the hospital.

We then went to Maria Reyna Hospital light-hearted in a sense; perhaps all Jerome and I were thinking about was that we were one step closer to meeting our daughter. I was given an IV line with oxytocin. We settled into our room and I had the freedom to move around, do yoga and dance.

Later that day, the contractions began, so I was brought to the labor room. But they were not strong enough to make me give birth already. We continued until the next day.

January 16th, Monday, was a day of unpleasant surprises. Our stay-out helper could not open our front door, so Jerome had to go back to our house. I texted him to hurry back to the hospital because my contractions were becoming stronger and more frequent.

On his way back, the rain started to steadily pour hard. Some roads he passed were already flooded. When Jerome arrived back at the hospital, the only parking space near the delivery room was a reserved slot so the guard told him that he cannot park there. He had to park somewhere else, though farther from where I was in the hospital. But it was a blessing in disguise since an hour later, the flood went chest-deep in that area where he initially wanted to park our car.

After a few hours, multiple Facebook posts showed how bad the flood was in many areas of the city. Even my OB could not leave her house. And my pedia could not leave the hospital. All because of the unsafe roads at that time. The first floor of our hospital was flooded too. The emergency room, the pharmacy, the records section and all of the patients’s rooms in the first floor area were dreadfully affected. We prayed then that I will NOT give birth until Ghea can come safely for my delivery.

The following day, January 17th, the rain and flood have subsided. Ghea came to check on me and our baby. We thanked God our baby was doing well, but sadly though, my labor still did not progress. My oxytocin drip was already at maximum but my contractions were waning. Furthermore, my cervical dilatation remained at 4-5 cm and it has been like that for more than 48 hours.

We had to undergo a cesarean section.

I quietly cried while Ghea discussed our situation with Jerome and me. I was really devastated that I would not be giving birth vaginally. I was still bargaining with God with thoughts like “but I watched what I ate”, “but she’s just the right size for me to push out”, “but I exercised!”, “but I can breathe through the strong contractions!” But Lord!!! But please. But… Please…

After the final decision has been made, Jerome led Ghea and I in prayer, and we lifted everything up to God. And my heart calmed down a little.

In about a couple of hours or less, we were already in the operating room with our doctors and the whole birth team. I was really frightened (I have never been sick enough to be confined as an adult and this is only my second hospital admission—my first was 3 decades ago for drinking palamig on a public provincial bus line!), so I just watched Jerome as he set up the tripod and talked with the people at the OR. He and Jessa were discussing where to position the camera because we still plan to do Unang Yakap even if we were undergoing CS.

Prepping for the operation

I remember that I was still quietly crying while staring at the big round OR lights and even while our anesthesiologist’s calming voice gave me instructions on what to do as he gave me the anesthesia. But the mood in the OR, as it seemed to me, was somehow light and unhurried. And that made me brave. I prayed and thought to myself, God is in control, everything is going to be okay.

I focused on Ghea’s reassurance that we’ll be meeting our little baby Tala soon. I trusted that Jessa will take great care of our baby when she comes out and I looked forward to when she will put our baby to my chest. I found comfort in our anesthesiologist’s words when he reminded me that he was just there if I needed anything. And to draw strength, I frequently glanced at Jerome’s excited face.

What happened after is now quite a blur. The next thing I remember distinctly is Jessa putting our baby girl on my chest. And of course, I was crying again! But this time, my tears were of joy and relief and simple pleasure to see our precious little one pink and crying (the doctor in me vaguely doing an APGAR score in my head, haha). How wonderful it felt to hold her for the first time!

Meeting my daughter for the first time

God’s Faithfulness

I thought I had a great plan. But God had a better plan. And in retrospect, Jerome and I are glad that His prevailed.

We did not realize it until after Tala, our baby girl, was in our arms—that God prepared everything for us way ahead of time.

Imagine the scenario if we had it our way—it’s scary! What if we insisted on waiting more that Sunday morning instead of following Ghea’s advice to be admitted already? What if I went into spontaneous labor on that dreary Monday when the rain was hard? What if we could not leave our house to go to the hospital because of the flooded roads? What if I gave birth at home, without Ghea and Jessa, with just Jerome and me?! What would have happened to our dogs if they were not safe with my sister-in-law and remained in the first floor of our apartment when the muddy flood water came in knee-deep? How would it be like for Tala’s first few hours or days of life staying in our dirty damaged house with chest-deep flooded streets outside?

We thank the Lord for His presence and provision amidst our ordeal. That before the heavy rain and flood, He secured us in the hospital already, our dogs were safe with Tong, our car was parked in a space where it did not get submerged, and Jerome was able to safely come back to the hospital right away.

Also, we believe that it was really God’s plan for me to undergo CS after all. First, so that I can feel first-hand how it is to undergo a major operation and relate to new mothers who gave and will give birth the same way. Second, so that we can make a video and photo documentation of a complete Unang Yakap in a CS setting (see photos below), instead of in a normal delivery because there are already a handful of those. Third, so that I can experience the challenges of breastfeeding for a first-time CS mom, and in turn, share with others how to go about them. And fourth, so that once more we will feel the power of God’s love and protection.

With the proud Daddy

With this post, we thank our friends and families who prayed with and for us during our pregnancy and until Tala’s birth. We also thank our doctors, the nurses on station 3A, and the delivery room staff of Maria Reyna Xavier University Hospital for taking the best care of us! Special thanks to the nurses and midwives who assisted me to my bathroom trips and kept on encouraging me throughout my labor. To my beloved college roommate and now kumare Dr. Ghea Mata-Carillo; her mom and my dear Tita, Dr. Corazon Mata; and of course, to my inspiring friend, breastfeeding mentor and colleague, Dr. Jessa Sareno—THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Thank you also to our amazing anesthesiologist who wish to remain anonymous.

And thank YOU, dear Reader! We would love to hear from you too.

Our Awesome Birth Team

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

*Unang Yakap

Steps of the First Embrace: Essential Intrapartum and Newborn Care in a Cesarean Section.

Outlined by Dr. Jessa Sareno as it appears on her Facebook timeline


By Raissa Paje-Bayawa

Raissa is a first-time mom and her new experiences as a mother inspires her to share stories with other parents. She is also a pediatrician and breastfeeding counselor practicing in Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines. She dons another hat as a yoga instructor for kids, pregnant women, and postnatal moms.

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