The most common reaction we regularly received from friends and relatives who found out that Xan was born at home was…yes, the big-eyed, you-must-be-kidding “WHAT?!”
While we feel that the experience certainly does not equal to an achievement as it is rather a personal preference towards what we felt was best and most suitable for our baby, I would like to share some of the questions we frequently got asked about homebirth – based on my own experience:
1. How does the full course of a natural, drug-free birth feel like?
It was tiring, trying yet empowering. Definitely worth every second. I’ll be forever grateful for this experience and the chance to know what my body and I are capable of. I’m not “keng” or “hebat” as some of my friends claimed; any woman can manage a natural childbirth provided that they are equipped with the right knowledge, healthcare provider and emotional/moral support. I was told that giving birth is a no brainer, and after experiencing this, it indeed is. There’s not much you need to do or prepare; just follow your body’s and baby’s cues. There were times when I felt it was a bad idea, that I couldn’t go on anymore. There were also times when I wished I have taken an epidural and get over it but believe me, when you’re in labour, such thoughts are momentous and before you know it, the next surge takes over your focus. Don’t look at the clock, stop keeping track of the time. It makes labouring a lot easier. Eliminate the negative and horror stories during pregnancy, and associate yourself with those who have positive experiences to share. Do your homework – learn up HypnoBirthing techniques and always remember that when you’re calm and positive, the contractions are a LOT easier to manage, your cervix will open up more easily and your baby will make his/her exit smoothly.
2. Was it painful?
If you told you that painless childbirth is possible, would you believe me? It is indeed possible, with proper breathing techniques and visualisation. Frankly, for Xan’s birth, it was 80% discomfort and 20% pain. Discomfort in terms of the intense downward pressure. You’ll feel as if you are losing control of your body and a big poop is trying to get out of your body but it seems to take forever. It’s a good sign if you feel this because it means you’re very close to having your baby in your arms. Don’t control your body, let it be, let go and see its wonders unfold. Pain only occurred when I stiffened my body and clenched my jaws. My birth companions’ assistance in giving me the counter pressure massage (where they place both their hands on my hips and squeeze at each contraction), the encouraging words and constant reminder to relax helped a great deal.
Knowledge is power; being prepared and confident reaps desirable results. Note that fear and anxiety cause pain. When you fight against your body – instead of working with it – you experience pain. Failure to progress seeps in. But when you work with your body – breathing in at each contraction (tummy breathing, not chest), trying various positions, carrying out HypnoBirthing techniques, staying calm, positive and confident – you are not only making the process easier but also helping your baby to transcend. Loosen your jaws, shoulders and pelvis. Vocalize (not scream or yell but rather do low toning), hydrate, snack, go to the loo and maintain your focus.
3. Was there an attending doctor?
No, we had an unassisted childbirth. The plan was to have our HypnoBirthing educator, Wai Han, to be there too but she decided to leave things to us at the very last minute. I quote her “My instinct told me that you guys were doing fine, so there’s no need for me to be there. And I was right!”
4. What does your husband work as? Is Christina a nurse, midwife or someone with medical background?
My husband is an aircraft engineer by profession. He’s definitely not a human doctor but is sure good in giving medical assistance to sick aeroplanes 🙂 Most of all, he possesses the skills of confidence, trust and calmness required in the perfect birth companion and father-to-be.
Christina is a childhood friend of many years with a background in Human Resources. In fact, she has just graduated with a Masters in Human Resources recently (congratulations!). Aside from my husband, I needed someone whom I could trust and be comfortable with during labour and couldn’t think of anyone more suitable for this role other than her. She proved to be the right choice!
5. Who smacked baby’s bum?
Ouch! Imagine having your bum being whacked the moment you enter Earthside! Not a very welcoming experience huh? Nobody smacked Xan’s bum (because I’ll be whipping theirs if anyone did!). Even at hospital births these days, this is no longer a practice (as far as I know), although they still carry out the mucus suction procedure. For Xan, I ensured that her head was tilted to the side for the mucus to flow out on its own.
6. Who helped you to remove the placenta?
My body! My placenta came out on its own approximately an hour after birth, after four contractions. It was akin to eliminating a big and slimey blood clot during our monthly menses. Many of us are unaware that our bodies are capable of expelling placenta on its own because in hospital births, we are usually too occupied with baby’s arrival to notice what happens to the organ that nourishes our baby for the past nine months. Doctors usually remove it by giving an injection and tugging the umbilical cord.
7. Won’t the chlorine in the birth pool water harm baby’s eyes?
The water used in the birth pool was not specifically filtered or whatsoever. We just used the same tap water you use to drink, bathe and wash. Yes, the water may contain chlorine but in very small amount because it is from a free-flowing source, unlike swimming pool where chlorine is more concentrated and intentionally added where the water is contained within the pool only. Plus, baby’s skin is covered by vernix, a waterproof essence.
8. Won’t baby drown?
No. Babies breathe with their placentas, not their lungs like us, up until their skin touches the air upon birth. That is why it is extremely important to ensure that baby is fully submerged in the water during waterbirth, before being swiftly lifted into the air.
9. Who cut the cord? How?
My husband did…proudly! We waited until the umbilical cord stopped pulsating and turned pale (an hour plus) before tying both ends with dental floss (you may opt for shoe lace or Ikea food bag clamps too but dental floss is more gentle on baby’s skin). Then using a pair of sterilised scissors, we snipped it off. Just like that.
10. What made you decide to give birth at home?
Explained in details here.