I realised soon after Xan was born that I was very daunted by the thought of churning out her birth story. I was worried that my words wouldn’t do the day justice; that my vague memory of the day would omit tiny but important details. I reflect on this day, and this story, each day. I have tried to begin this paragraph over a dozen times but my worry always gets in the way.
What the heck, here we go:
There must be a way…
Like most women, I once feared childbirth. The ‘pain’, what-ifs and what-nots. I used to follow the conventional route of submitting the decisions made upon my body and baby to the medical authorities. My first birthing experience – although supported by a very pro-natural, gentle obstetrician – left me traumatised. Epidural, episiotomy, vacuum, tear, pneumothorax, baby in NICU. One thing led to another; I was helpless and had no control over whatsoever that happened to me and baby. Post-partum recovery was not something I would ever want to remember. I was scared of hospitals.
I thought, there ought to be a way I can birth with confidence, without drugs and interventions. If my mum could birth all her five children naturally (with me almost in a taxi!) without any medical interference, why not me? There must be a way.
Then came this pregnancy. Then HypnoBirthing. Then we contemplated between homebirth and hospital birth. Then I became a birth companion to a friend and witnessed the full course of a hospital birth. Then it was homebirth – all the way. It seemed that to achieve an undisturbed, physiological birth, home was the most (and probably the only) conducive and suitable environment that could fulfill my birthing wishes.
True, I couldn’t wait to meet this baby, but more so, I needed this birth. I was bound to let my body do what I knew it was created to do. I was determined to overcome my fears and transform my birth story from ‘scary’ to ‘beautiful’.
The beginning of my labour of love
Friday, 16 November 2012 was the day when my labour of love begun. There were no dramas or exciting twists. No comedic spin. But this story gives a glimpse into the most empowering, wonderful, soul-shifting day of my life.
The shorter version goes something like this: woke up early, doctor’s check-up, moaned, whimpered, breathed, pushed, had a baby.
If you want the full story, read on. Allow me to introduce the key characters of the day:
► Steve – now referred to as Daddy. My pillar, my love, my everything. Greatest supporter, best mid(husband) I could ever asked for. The face that kept me going. My husband. Xan’s father.
► Christina – my childhood friend of 18 years, my best friend forever. An Angel sent from up above. We’ve been through ups and downs but nothing compares to this. Also self-learned photographer of the day. Xan’s godma.
► Tian – my ex-colleague-turned-good-trustworthy-friend. My two-year old’s daycare centre principal. Was seven months’ pregnant, her baby #3. Roped in last minute.
► Wai Han – our very kind and helpful Hypnobirthing educator. A childbirth extraordinaire who has had two homebirths herself as well.
My birth dreams were simple: I wanted a smooth and easy labour of around five hours, happening between 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., preferably after 39 weeks of pregnancy or whenever baby is 100% ready. I aspired to birth calmly and gently – and be in total control – riding one surge* at a time, with the outcomes of a safe and contented baby, and an intact perineum for me.
I got more than my birth dreams. My baby had a better plan. The power of mind and pre-birth bonding proved amazing.
* Surge = a HypnoBirthing term for ‘contraction’
Nothing I couldn’t handle
Our day began at 6:30 a.m. I was used to waking up several times during the night for the loo but things felt very different this time around. I was woken up by the urge to pass motion. As usual, I did the birth breathing – something which I have been practising at every bowel movement in preparation for this day – but nothing came out. Still groggy, I went back to bed. When the first surge rolled in, I thought it was just another Braxton Hicks, took a deep breath and reminded myself to keep giving love and oxygen to baby.
At 7:30 a.m., I had my first bowel movement of the day. We got our two year-old son, Ewan, ready for nursery and left the house. After dropping him off, Steve and I made our way to Damansara Specialist Hospital for a pre-scheduled doctor’s appointment. While waiting for our turn, I took a quick nap in between several mild surges that stretched from the front to my back. Nah, surely yet another practise labour. Nothing I couldn’t handle.
The ultrasound scan showed that baby’s head has engaged but she was slightly posterior. Water’s sufficient, umbilical cord and placenta in the right position. Seeing my calm expression, Dr Siva said “No, you’re not in labour now. Probably you will be in one to two days’ time.”
Steve sent me home. Bowel movement #2. I made a last-minute appointment to see my chiropractor in Bangsar. Perhaps some back adjustment would do me good and help baby get back into the anterior position again. Next was lunch with my ex-colleagues at Sunway, which was really fruitful as they made me laugh and relax in between enjoying my briyani chicken and fresh mango juice and managing surges. They were around 10 minutes apart and getting slightly uncomfortable. I called Steve and told him that it might be for real today.
Seemingly knowing that I was driving, there were no surges throughout my 15-minute journey home. Not until I got inside the house, changed, made myself some red raspberry leaf tea and relaxed in my ‘Sacred Room’ – the room where baby was conceived. Also my son’s playroom-turned-birthing room. Steve, who was home for lunch, asked if I needed him around but I remember saying it was probably still early on and I would call him if there’s any progress. It was 2:10 p.m.
I got comfortable in the Room. Marie Mongan’s birth affirmation was playing in the background. I whipped out my camera and started snapping photos of the surroundings. For memory’s keepsake. I smiled seeing more birth affirmation posters on the wall; I had just asked Steve to print them out last night. By 3:00 p.m., the surges became five minutes apart. I experimented with various positions: on all fours, rocking on my fit ball, standing up with my head against a chest drawer and lying down on my left. I visualised myself inflating a balloon as I filled my belly with a deep breath at each surge. I could no longer talk through them.
My procrastination got the better of me; I was still holding back from calling Steve. What if it’s yet another false alarm or the labour prolonged to hours after hours, like my first experience? My body was probably getting ready for the work ahead – eliminating the unnecessary – as I had the third and last bowel movement of the day. Unusual number of times for less than half a day.
I texted Wai Han, told her the signs and asked if this was for real. She replied, “Sounds gud! Ada progress.”
Then I texted Christina, told her that the surges have slightly intensified and she can make her way here after dinner.
I looked up and saw my birth goal board, and reminded myself to stay hydrated, loosen my jaw and empty my bowels. I summoned enough energy and walked to the bathroom. I tried to pass urine but couldn’t. I tried managing a surge while sitting on the toilet bowl but no can do, it was too uncomfortable. I grabbed some dates from the kitchen, gulped down two tablespoons of virgin coconut oil and went back to the Room before the next surge threw me to my knees. I hugged my fit ball and let out a long moan. It felt good.
~ Continue to part #2 ~