Mia applies color-correcting primer onto her moisturized face, while gazing into a circular vanity mirror.
"When I was giving birth to Max, I had a spinal catheter put in my back before my induction. That's basically a fine tube in my back, but there were no drugs in the tube. This way, they could administer the drugs quickly," she explains, moving her face side to side to examine her flawless-looking skin. Satisfied, she grabs a golden foundation for her tanned complexion.
"They put in oxytocin into my tube, which broke my water, and I was fully dilated after about six hours. God, those six hours felt like an eternity! I had also received epidural at this point, which is supposed to relieve my pain, but it still felt like a sharp blade was being stabbed into my cervix. I've been told that the feeling is like - what? - a simple period cramp. But no! For me, that's such an understatement. It felt much worse!"
Mia pauses momentarily to inspect her reflection closer. The foundation is lightly applied and pigmented, making her skin look vibrant. She reaches for her concealer.
"At one point, I felt like I was being cut open! Trust me, I know what that feels like - the most horrible pain ever! I practically jolted upwards and screamed, which surprised the doctors. They quickly increased my medication."
She adds concealer under her eyes, while staring off in an absent-minded manner. Behind those green, vacant eyes, she is reliving the experience.
"When I was ready to push, my baby's heart rate was falling too low. I was already 10cm dilated, so I could try to birth vaginally. However, the fear was that the longer I'm in labor with this problem, the weaker my little Max would get. I knew I had to be strong for him, I couldn't let my panic get the better of me. So, with all the courage and strength I could muster, I started to push and- oh my god!"
Mia sighs heavily, as she catches her breath. The beauty blender in her hand is shaking for a moment. Then she returns to smoothing her concealer with it.
"Oh my god... his head was too big! So, the midwife - Lisa, she's a very nice lady who comforted me throughout my pregnancy. She had been standing over me and she pushed down on my belly. She kept reassuring me that everything will be okay and that I needed to hang in there. If it hadn't been for her, I probably would've had a panic attack right there and then!"
Now Mia is dabbing setting powder onto her face. Her muscles feel looser and her body seems to relax.
"Then the doctor decided to give me an episiotomy, which is when they cut to the bottom of my vagina, and they cut it diagonally so that I don't tear down to my anus. Now that - truly - was the absolute worst pain of them all! Thankfully, I received an epidural when he did this - otherwise I'm pretty sure I would've blacked out a whole lot sooner."
Mia blows onto the tip of her brush, removing the excess powder. Then she adds warm-colored eyeshadow to complement her skin tone.
"The doctor had to do this when using forceps or a vacuum. For me, they used a vacuum which they attached onto my baby's head by suction. They used this to pull him out. God, it felt like a horrible nightmare! I was screaming at the top of my lungs because it was unbearable. I couldn't handle the excruciating pain. Eventually, I passed out in my pool of sweat from complete exhaustion. Max's head was a little misshapen, but he was safe and healthy and his head recovered after a few days."
Mia continues to blend and perfect her eyeshadow against the creases of her eyes. Sitting next to her on the bed and listening to Mia's rambling, without muttering a single word, is her friend.
The young woman eventually speaks up, her words trembling in fear.
"Oh my gosh... Mia... what the heck!?"
Mia glances at her friend, Aiko, who looks startlingly pale.
"What? You said I should share my birth story."
"Yeah, I said, share not scare! How am I supposed to go through this after hearing your horror story? There's no way I can survive that!" Aiko exclaims, as she stands up, holding onto her three months pregnant stomach. She feels her stomach swirling around and bile threatening to rise up her throat. "Oh gosh... bloody hell... What have I gotten myself into? Why didn't anyone tell me this stuff before!?"
Mia puts down her brush and stands up. She grabs her friend's shaking shoulders and she looks into her wide, brown eyes that are glossed with tears.
"Look, I wanted to be straight up honest with you. I didn't want to sugar-coat anything because this is the reality that I faced. It wasn't easy, but you know what? It was damn well worth it for my baby. I wouldn't trade Max for anything in this world."
Aiko's bottom lip is wobbling, as tears are spilling down her cheeks. She nods slowly. "I'm just... I'm just so scared, Mia. I don't know what to expect." She shakes her head frantically. "I'm not ready for this. Like... I started to bleed like a few weeks ago... and I thought I was having a miscarriage. But the doctors told me that it was first trimester bleeding - it was apparently normal. Even my cousins and co-workers told me they went through the same thing. I had no idea! Nobody warns you about this stuff!"
"I get that. There's a lot of things about pregnancy that I wasn't aware of and it hit me all at once. It's really... overwhelming," Mia says sympathetically. She wipes away her friend's tears with her fingers tenderly.
"You can expect to bleed a lot more after your pregnancy too - it's called lochia, I think. For me, it lasted for forty days. Another thing that surprised me was how much hair I was losing. Literally, clumps of hair would fall off my head - I was so scared that I was going to have bald spots! I fixed it though by changing my diet and hair care routine. And another thing-"
"I can't do this!" Aiko shrieks, as she hides her face into her hands. "I have the worst periods ever, Mia. You know this. I have to take those giant tablets for them! Heck, there were times when I fainted and couldn't move at all because they're that freaking bad! There's no way I can go through forty freaking days of my vagina bleeding. Mia. Bleeding!"
"Yes, but they're not-"
"And it's already bad enough that my hair doesn't grow, but I sure as hell don't want to lose any more of it!" Aiko interrupts, as she clings to her thin, shoulder-length, dark hair protectively. "And, on top of all that, I have to look after a newborn baby? Are you kidding me?!"
"But it's not-"
"I don't want to hear it!" Aiko yells, her eyes glistening with more tears, as she glowers furiously at Mia. "The more you talk about it, the more you terrify me! I just don't want to hear anymore..." She scrunches up her pale face, while her shoulders are hunched up. She sobs in hopeless dismay.
Mia sighs. "I'm sorry. I should have been more sensitive about your feelings. I'm just telling you what I know, so you won't be surprised if you go through it too. But pregnancy differs from person to person, so you might have an easy birth at the end of it! No matter what, I'll be there for you. You won't go through this alone."
She squeezes Aiko's shoulders reassuringly. "And, hey, you might only bleed for like two weeks! Plus I've heard that a lot of women with hair like yours-" Mia runs her fingers through her fine, dark hair. "They actually get thicker, fuller and healthier hair along the way. I bet you'll see yours grow so fast before your eyes! That's a special perk you can look forward to."
Aiko sits down on the bed, her mind spinning with everything Mia has told her. She looks up to see a warm smile light up the woman's tanned face.
"Don't worry, Aiko. You'll be fine. And you'll have the greatest gift at the end of it all."