Lil’ Miso – Week 37 to Week 39

image1 (1)Week 37
* Full term – yay! Considering the signs of early labour experienced on week 34, I was relieved to have reached this stage.
* Yet another prodromal labour that seemed real enough that I wanted to call my neighbour to look after the kids. It happened at 8.30pm when I suddenly jumped up from the sofa needing the toilet for a bowel movement. Regular surges coupled with stomach upset continued throughout the night until the wee hours of the next morning, afterwhich the former stopped but the latter didn’t. It turned out to be a tummy upset – practice labour.
* The experience left me exhausted as I half slept the whole night. Emotionally drained too.
* Continued going for my prenatal yoga class and swimming. The weather is becoming unbearably hot.
* Friends started becoming anxious for me, asking now and then if baby is here.
* My photographer Emma shared her schedule with me – she will be busy on the weekend of week 38 so hopefully baby comes after that. Meeting my doula for our second prenatal appointment tomorrow too.

image2 (1)Week 38
* Most thought subsequent babies come earlier, right? Not true. Both E and Xan came at 39 weeks and 38+5 weeks respectively. So naturally I would think that action would kick in this week.
* When nothing happened after 38+3, I began feeling jittery. It didn’t help when concerned and excited friends started buzzing me, asking if I have popped.
* We tried to take things into our hands by trying out natural induction methods – DIY acupressure, eating pineapple and spicy food, taking evening primrose oil, doubling the intake of raspberry leaf tea and dates, walking up the stairs, visualisation etc.
* It was really hard to get it off my mind. Then the Husband started his 3-week leave, making me even more stressed out thinking that by the time Miso comes, I would have his help for fewer days. Then my second doctor dropped the bomb – she brought forward her vacation by a few days at the very last minute – leaving me with no doctor, once again. I was more relieved than upset actually, simply because I didn’t want her to be there when I am in labour.
* I ranted and cried for a day, then decided to let things be and come what may. Since it has been this way throughout the pregnancy, I might as well embrace this to the fullest.
* I decided to stop putting my life on hold and live my days as if I wasn’t pregnant, planning activities ahead and doing stuff I usually do. I treated myself to an oh-so-expensive prenatal massage at SensAsia. It was too short but soooooo good I slept like a human that night.

image3 (1)39 weeks
* I summoned up the energy to cook nasi lemak and invited Cassandra and her girls over for lunch.
* A day before my doula’s cut-off date, I got in touch with my back-up doula, Erin to run things through with her.
* Even my birth photographer Emma was getting anxious for me. Though hired unofficially (meaning she will come if she’s free and vice versa – playing by ear), she was very eager to be there for our special moment. I told her to go ahead with whatever plans she has and we’ll see how things unravel. I no longer had the energy to control things and was playing lots of   come-what-may by then.
* After making two calls to Al Zahra (and telling my sob story that I’m 39 weeks+ now with no doctor), I finally managed to score an appointment with Dr Amber. After meeting her and having her go through my birth plan, I could finally let out a sigh of relief.
* On the night before I went into labour, I woke up with an urge for a bowel movement and after that, couldn’t go back to sleep. I had a restless night of tossing and turning around, with surges that were mild like Braxton Hicks but with intense, downward pressure.
* Having planned the next day with back-to-back activities, I decided to go on with my plans of breakfast with Julia, followed by another prenatal massage and bringing the kids to Kidzania.



Lil’ Miso – Week 29 to Week 32

Week 29
* After all the major events came and went – CNY, E’s birthday and International Day – I took the opportunity to rest and relax.
* Miso’s movements in the belly became even more pronounced. I felt like I have known him/her forever. He will be the first to wake me up in the morning, and last to say good night before I retire for the day.
* So glad I managed to capture his/her amazing movements on video!

Week 30
* We flew off to Malaysia for a week’s getaway. Well, I wanted to be part of my company’s anniversary event too. My third time flying in this pregnancy.
* I managed to skip going through those airport metal detectors throughout both ways.
* Despite flying Business Class while the Husband and kids were in Economy, Miso seemed aware of the change in surroundings and moved a lot throughout the flight although I got to lie down.
* We went for a one night’s stay at The Shorea, Seremban. The trip made me realised how much we have missed being close to nature. The environment was so relaxing. Looking out at the view from the Villa we stayed in, I visualised and recorded it in my brain as a calming scenery for our birthing day.
* This wasn’t planned but we decided to go for a last-minute maternity shoot while in Malaysia. Both E and Xan had theirs taken – and although I was saving up for the actual day birth photography – I couldn’t resist the temptation of having these memories embedded in Miso’s baby photobook. It was booked and done in less than 24 hours. I will share the photos once they are ready.
* I binged and ate out all the time while in Malaysia. And I realised one thing – it’s rather hard to maintain a healthy diet there. Needless to say, I gained quite a bit of weight by the time we got back.

Week 31
* It’s amazing how a getaway can do to the mind. I was going on and on in circles regarding my birth photographer and doula search but as soon as I came back, everything became clearer. This was the week where things started to fall into place.
* The birth photographer hunt didn’t fall through again due to lack of commitment from the one I initially thought has been finalised. Others I have found were either not available during my birthing time, too expensive, or did not understand the beauty of physiological birth. I figured that everything happens for a reason and I should go with the flow. So I made an unofficial deal with one of the more committed and accommodating photographer – that we will play by ear when my birthing day comes. If she’s available, great. If she’s not, it’s meant to be. No on-call, no strings attached. This arrangement seems to go down better.
* About my doula, I’ll tell more later but let’s just say everything is falling into place nicely.
* Got a preloved play gym for Miso. A nice and very new one.

Week 32
* Eight more weeks to go! We are almost there. Miso’s clothes, diapers, carseat-stroller, bathing essentials are all ready. I’ll just need to give them a good wash and we will be ready to welcome Miso.
* Came back from Malaysia with a care pack – a gift from dear Nancy comprising Sophie the Giraffe, Mustela skincare, a mocassin and a Bio-Oil stretch mark oil. Also some gorgeous onesies from my sister. Not to forget, a brand new Stokke Tripp Trapp chair for Miso from my company. We are so blessed.


Happy Birthday, dear Faith

A letter to a beautiful baby girl of a dear friend whom I have had the privilege to witness her birth exactly a year ago:

Dear Faith,

You’re one today. It doesn’t feel like a year has gone by. The memories of the day you were born were still vivid in my mind. I will always be grateful to you and your mommy for the honour to be there and witness the beautiful moment.

Your mommy and I were pregnant at the same time. She was two months ahead of me. We used to chat online everyday, talking about our hopes, fears and dreams. We attended the Hypnobirthing course together. I still remember guessing that you were going to be a Leo, but your mommy’s gut feeling was more spot on.

You were so comfortable in your mommy’s womb that you stayed in there for 42 weeks. The day came when your mommy followed her instinct and checked into the hospital on Sunday, 2nd Sept 2012. The next morning, I reported for work, took the day off and drove to the hospital. It was around 10.15am by the time I reached Pantai Bangsar.

Upon arriving at the labour ward, I walked passed an elderly man who carried a resemblance of your mommy. He was pacing up and down, and seemed nervous yet excited. I didn’t know then that he was your grandfather. Seeing my belly, the midwives thought I was in labour and was surprised to know that I was actually there to be your mommy’s birth companion. I was then 28 weeks pregnant.

Your mommy greeted me with a big smile. Your grandmother was standing next to her. We were all ready for the day, ready for you.

For the first two hours, I sat next to your mommy while the surges came and went. Your mommy was still chirpy, sipping some honey lemon drink every now and then. We were chatting non-stop about everything and anything while I timed each surge. The surges were still irregular but their intensity was gradually increasing.

The doctor came in shortly after and gave your mommy a VE. Her water bag broke and things picked up after that. When she went silent to get through each surge, we both knew that active labour had set in.

We put what we have learned from the Hypnobirthing course to good use; she tried out some positions – leaning against a chair, standing up, walking. I whispered words of positive affirmation, and kept reminding her to drink, snack and empty her bowels. Back in my mind, I was worried about making her uncomfortable with my constant reminders and light stroke massage. Was I too rough? Did I sound naggy? What else could I do? In the effort of managing surges, your mommy selflessly put aside her discomfort and kept asking about my well-being. I was really touched. In all honesty, I did not feel tired at all throughout the whole labour and birth, not until I have reached home that night. I have longed prepared Xandrea for this day, telling her what to expect – that we have been given the honour to support your mommy and be there for your arrival. She was accommodating throughout.

Your mommy was very, very strong. She rode the surges steadily and refused any forms of pain relief or interventions. She wanted you to be safe. You were kicking actively throughout, as if excited that you’ll be seeing the person who carried and nourished you for the past 10 months soon. Your mommy took on one surge at a time. She laboured silently and calmly.

By 6pm, she has reached 10cm dilation but your head has not descended. The doctor came and gave her another two hours to breathe you down at your own pace. At this point, your grandmother came in and provided much needed comfort and encouragement to your mommy. Your mommy napped deeply in between surges, holding tight to your grandmother’s hand. A mother’s true love for her daughter and granddaughter.

Two hours later, the midwives came in and guided your mommy to push. Your head began to make its appearance. The doctor was called in. Everyone got busy for your debut. Your grandmother teared seeing your mommy’s courage and perseverance. When the doctor announced that he might have to “vacuum you out if your mommy didn’t push“, her protective instinct rushed in. In just two pushes, you were born – so quickly that you caught the doctor offguard!

Your mommy laboured for 10 hours. You were a very beautiful newborn with healthy pink skin and gorgeous lips. Your mommy cuddled you and you gave out a loud cry to announce your arrival. You both had an intimate, skin-to-skin bonding time before the midwife wheeled you outside to be cleaned and weighed. A bouncy baby girl weighing 3.2kg! Having been reminded by your mommy to keep an eye on you, your grandmother and I followed you. Your grandfather grinned from cheek to cheek upon seeing you. Your grandmother watched the midwife clean you. Both of them stood there to admire you for a long while before your grandmother went in to accompany your mommy.

After having the delicious dinner your grandparents bought for me from Din Tai Fung, I stayed on for a while more before making my way home. I was very proud of you and your mommy. Excited that you are finally here. Grateful for the experience. Wished I had taken a photo with you then.

One year has gone by. Your mommy told me that you are growing up beautifully. I’m not surprised.

I hope that by writing this story, you will be able to read it when you are older and reminisce the day you were born with your mommy. You already did some good deeds while you were still in the womb: you brought your mommy and I together in a friendship that we will cherish forever. Your birth gave me courage and strength for my own labour and birth. I went on to have a beautiful and gentle birth with Xandrea. So, thank you so much.

You will grow up to be a wise and wonderful lady like your mommy. Always remember that your mommy loves you more than anything in this world, that you mean everything to her. Always honour her, always treasure her.

Happy 1st Birthday, Faith girl!

Aunty Joey

Xandrea C., A Birth Story – 10 FAQs

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.

Xandrea C., A Birth Story – Part #3 of 3

~ Continued from Part #1 & Part #2 ~

Labour is a brilliant design. Just when you’re about to give up, just when you think you’ve given all that you can, something incredible happens: it ends. That glorious head finally emerges, then a little body slides out easily and the room erupts.

Just like that.

Meeting Xan for the first time
Meeting Xan for the first time

My baby is here. Xandrea Chua is born.

Steve received our baby. It was around 8:10 p.m. He lifted her out of the water. I turned around from the kneeling position and cradled her.

It felt surreal to finally hold her in my arms. For months, I have wondered what she would look like. She’s beautiful, just like what I have always imagined.

Hello my baby girl. Happy birthday. We did it, darling girl! Mommy love you so much. You’re such a good baby.

Tears of happiness for my bundle of joy
Tears of happiness for my bundle of joy

Christina and Tian joined in the crying camaraderie. Xan opened her eyes, let out two short cries, and went back to sleep. Shortly after that, she began to nurse. Steve referred to the APGAR score chart and cross-checked her vital signs. All good.

Just to be sure, I looked in between her legs and called out, “It’s a girl!”

E came in five minutes later to check out his baby sister
Ewan came in five minutes later to check out his baby sister

Best evening ever!

We spent around 30 minutes in the pool before moving to the bed. Steve then called Teri, a friend and a mum who has homebirthed her two children, to ask what should be done to birth the placenta. After four surges – around an hour after birth – my placenta came out, just like that. The art of doing nothing.

He then contacted Dr Siva and gave him a run-through of the birth and both mummy’s and baby’s condition.

And Xan makes 4!
The placenta that kept Xan nourished for the past 39 weeks

Having missed the opportunity to cut our firstborn’s umbilical cord, Steve proudly snipped off Xan’s after it stopped pulsating.

You’re now on your own, baby.

Cutting the umbilical cord

My mum had a hard time believing me when I called and told her that I have just given birth. According to her, I sounded “too normal and energetic for a person who has just given birth”. I had to MMS her a proof of photo.

That night, I took a nice hot shower, blow-dried my hair, had dinner, cleared up the mess and stayed up late to chat with Steve and Christina. We talked about what happened over and over again. Best evening ever.

Newborn Xan and her godma, Christina

The aftermath’s euphoria

I had heard and read over and over that the moment you see your baby, the pain of labour disappears. While I was in labour, I had some insane thoughts. We will stop at two children, I will never do this again. I will totally get an epidural IF there’s really a baby #3. My friends kept saying that an all-natural birth is worth it but how the craze will this ever be worth it?

But it does disappear. It is worth it. And I don’t mind doing it again.

Most of all, I got my birth dreams: a smooth and easy labour of around five hours at 38 weeks 6 days. Xan is a better planner than me; she revised the proposed timing from 3:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., to 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., so that all the logistical details we have been worrying about would be well taken care of. How clever! And I was calm, the birth was gentle. Xan is safe and contented, and my tear is minimal with no stitching required.

Our little thanksgiving and burial ceremony for the placenta. We covered it with salt, sprayed some fragrance, put it in a cloth bag and sprinkled some flower petals before burying it in our garden.

The next day, we bought two slices of cake and sang the ‘Happy Birthday’ song to Xan.

Ewan is a dotting brother to Xan
Daddy’s first photo with Xan
Xandrea Chua, 9 days old on her supposedly EDD, 25 November 2012

Friday, 16 November 2012:

The day we took a leap of faith and conquered our fears;

The day my body did what it’s created to do;

The day I followed my instincts and gave my daughter and I a gentle birth.

No doubt the toughest work I’ve ever done in my life;

No doubt the most life-changing effort I’ve ever put in my life;

Yet worth every, every moment;

Which couldn’t have unraveled any more perfectly.

We had a beautiful birth.

I am healed.

There you have it, Xan. The day you were born.

~ Ends ~