Julian C., A Birth Story

The birth story that never got published, until a year later. Because life as a mum of three is so full of life and love. For photos of the birth, hop on to https://vimeo.com/176589079

Three is the Perfect Number
We thought we were done, but we were not. Soon after Xandrea turned 2, I began toying with the idea of adding another little one to the family. Somehow somewhere, something felt missing in the puzzle. Like a call remained unanswered, or an explanation remained untold. Whenever I envisioned the future, I have always imagined having three grown-up children – with the youngest a boy, tall spotting glasses. Whenever I watched Ewan and Xan playing, it always felt more fitting if there were one more sibling to join in the fun.

We were skeptical at first. It just didn’t seem practical, what with the rising cost of living. With both kids all grown up and rather independent now, we could finally go for a movie or lunch date on our own  – uninterrupted! Travelling has become easier too. Yet we couldn’t stop talking about it. There was still space in our hearts to nurture another child. It took us almost a year of contemplation before we decided to give fate a chance and try for two months. What are the odds, right? If it happens, great. If not, we’ll move on.

The stork has been watching us closely. We fell pregnant on the 2nd month. Destiny or miracle? We’re not sure but we do know that three is indeed the perfect number for us.

Growing Julian
The pregnancy was full of uncertainties to begin with. It wasn’t the happy, glowing and all-things-great kind of pregnancy that I have had with my second child. From falling sick and family issues to the challenging search for a doula and photographers for birth and newborn, nothing seemed to come within my grasp easily. Circumstances had me switching from one doctor to another, with the third and last one just two days before I went into labour.

It was hard to stay positive. If there was one thing I have learned in this pregnancy, it was to relax and just enjoy the journey. There was a constant voice coming from within, telling me to “Just let it go. There’s no need to plan so much. Everything will fall into place eventually”. And it was with that mantra that I surrounded my mind and soul with, in preparation for my labour and birth.

The Wait
Myth: Subsequent babies come earlier.
Truth: Baby will come when baby is ready, no matter the order of pregnancy.

Both my older children came within the 38th to 39th week mark. When there was no signs of labour by mid 38th week, the jitters set in. The Husband’s leave has begun, the summer holiday has started and my doula and doctor were leaving for their vacation soon. As again, I felt the need to take charge and be in control. There must be something that I could do. From DIY acupressure and climbing the stairs, to eating pineapple and spicy food and doubling the intake of raspberry leaf tea and dates, nothing seemed to bring on the real deal but only prodromal ones comprising constant practice surges and bowel movement. It was a very trying, emotionally draining period.

Then I decided I have had enough. No more putting my life on hold for uncertainties! I finally threw in the towel and decided to plan my days as if I were not pregnant. Breakfast? Sure. Playdate? Why not. A fun day out? Let’s do it!

4th July 2016 ~ The Day Before
I woke up feeling really tired despite a good night’s sleep. The Husband was working and I was in-charge of the children and their meals for the day. I took things slow and easy throughout the whole day, bringing them to a nearby store for some groceries in the morning. After lunch, they had their free play with the neighbour’s son while I took a long, deep nap on the couch. It was much needed. When the Husband declared that we were having dinner out, I was relieved and ecstatic. That night, I was woken up with an urge for a bowel movement that couldn’t be ignored. After that, I couldn’t go back to sleep and stayed awake almost the whole night dealing with some period-pain like cramps and very mild surges with intense, downward pressure.

5th July 2015 ~ B-Day
I remember waking up that morning contemplating if I should cancel my breakfast date with Julia. It was to be my treat for her upcoming birthday. Not wanting to spend yet another day lying around and obsessing about going into labour, I got changed and whispered to the Husband that I had been experiencing weird surges with intense pressure around my cervix the whole night. He thought nothing of it and went back to sleep.

Breakfast was uneventful with on and off surges that had me stopping to focus on them. They were still mild and very manageable. I drove home after that to join the Husband and children for our trip to Kidzania. I spent half an hour with them before moving on to the next plan. “Please watch out for your phone, just in case I go into labour today,” I reminded the Husband before leaving to a nearby spa for a pre-scheduled post-natal massage. Upon entering the massage room, tranquillity set in. I told the masseur, “Press any points you want and don’t worry about putting me into labour. I’m so done with being pregnant!” to which she smiled and said in her very pleasant Thai-accented English, “Baby will come on his own, Ma’am”

I made my way back to Kidzania. All was still normal as I queued up at McD’s for my lunch. After that, as I waited with the kids for the activities – and as if on cue – the surges kicked in again. It was getting more intense and I took the opportunity to practise the surge breathing which helped tremendously. It was 2.13pm, I could still walk and talk, and was very much still myself. Not entirely sure if it was a real deal or false alarm, I decided to time my surges for the next one hour.

The surges were one minute long each, though inconsistent in time gap ranging between five to 12 minutes throughout that one hour. I sat down and waited for my children to complete their activities there. When the surges became more uncomfortable, requiring my full attention to get through them and attracting curious stares from onlookers, I called the Husband and told him it was time to go.

On the way home, I texted both my doula and back-up doula as well as photographer to pre-empt them. It was around 4pm when we stepped into our apartment. The Husband gave the children a quick shower and whipped up some dinner for them while I took a hot shower and did some last-minute packing. I could still manage a bump selfie in the bathroom. For memory’s keepsake. The surges that rolled in after that had me kneeling on the floor – with my eyes closed and arms around a gym ball – to get through them. They were now three minutes apart. I no longer bothered checking my beeping phone anymore. Both my children chuckled at the sight of their mum hugging a ball on the floor. They came over and started messing around me, asking “What are you doing, Mummy?” and “Mummy is sleeping on a ball hahaha!” I couldn’t bring myself to answer them anymore.

I stared at the Husband in the kitchen after each surge, waited and waited wondering what was taking him so long. When I could no longer take it anymore, I asked him, “Can we go already?” to which he replied, “Oh you want to go already?” I mumbled, “Yes, any longer I will pop out here.”

The Husband took a quick shower while the kids made their way to the neighbour’s just two doors away, excited for their very first sleepover. We thanked our neighbour for helping us with our children and made our way to our car. As the lift to the carpark opened, a long and intense surge came, holding me stationary for a good one minute while I hung on tightly to the lift bar. A couple who coincidentally rode the lift with us panicked upon seeing my reaction and started helping my Husband with the things he was carrying and waited for my surge to be over before walking to our car with us. After loading our things in the car, they wished us all the best. I will always remember the little encouraging words from the lady that very moment – “Good luck, it’s worth it!”

In the hospital
The 10-minute ride to Al Zahra Hospital felt like 30 minutes, with road humps adding to the discomfort. I reminded the Husband to go slow when he started speeding. A surge came as we reached the hospital and stopped his car at the entrance of A&E. He suggested that I should get down first and make my way to the Admission counter while he parked the car. At that point of time, I could no longer bear being alone without him. We walked a short distance together, hand in hand, as another surge came and we stopped to focus on it. By then, the surges were two minutes apart. Hoping that walking will help to get things moving along quicker, I declined a wheelchair and walked to the labour ward slowly, as we surfed through two more surges, with both times on the floor with my arms around my ball and his hands giving my hips a counter pressure.

While waiting to get my name registered, I once again knelt down in front of the labour ward reception to get through another surge. It was 5.30pm when the midwife led me to the labour room and requested me to lie down on the bed for a CTG monitoring. I knew what lying down would do to me, so I knelt on the bed with my arms around the ball instead. They couldn’t get any signal in that position and suggested for a vaginal examination instead. Desperately wanting to get into the birthing pool soon, I agreed to it. My heart leaped in joy when the midwife shared that I was 8cm along. “I can see the head already,” she added, which raised my hope that it won’t be long now. Little did I know that false hope was to become the stumbling point of my labour.

We walked to the Hypnobirthing suite, which also housed the only birthing pool of the hospital. The water was running, the room was dimly lit with ambience stars and the clock showed 6pm. Without further ado, I got into the pool and let out a sigh of relief. I felt better immediately.

As I sunk into my own zone, the events that happened after that became bits and pieces of puzzles put together. The Husband called my doula and photographer to update them on my progress. I remember hearing Dr Amber’s voice as she said hello to me and “I’m glad I met you two days ago.” Having known that my previous doctor would leave for her summer holiday earlier than expected, I switched to Dr Amber just two days before.

Then my photographer arrived, followed by my doula shortly after. I was labouring as quietly as possible, consciously reminding myself to keep breathing love and oxygen to baby. It was a change of work shift and my existing midwife was replaced by Bethany, whom I would be forever grateful to for the outcome of my labour and birth eventually. Sweet-looking and respectful with an empathy for her clients’ needs, she made the whole experience worth remembering.

At one point, I started feeling pushy, like a big bulge was making its way out of my cervix. Erin guided me to hum instead. At each surge, the Husband would give me counter pressure on my hips while Erin took care of my sacrum. These helped greatly. My knees were feeling tired from constant kneeling and though I’ve tried changing positions to sitting upright, it didn’t feel as comfortable as kneeling. Erin kept feeding me with water throughout.

Two hours passed since I was last told by the first midwife about the sighting of baby’s head. I was getting demotivated, worrying why it took so long for baby to crown. I could still feel baby’s kicks inside, but not the significant downward movement I was hoping for. I reached my hand inside and felt a smooth and slippery bulge which I later realised was my waterbag. With tired knees and throat, we got out of the pool to change positions with the hope that it would get things moving quickly. As again, as a surge came, I dropped to my knees and hugged the birth ball.

Dr Amber dropped by for a second time to check on me. From sitting upright on the birth stool and birth ball, to standing up with my hands squeezing Erin’s arms and the Husband giving me counter pressure massage,  labouring without water seemed to take a toll on me. My knees were hurting and my back felt like it was going to break into half. I was giving up. As I managed a surge and saw Dr Amber walked out, I raised my hand asking her to wait.

Looking at the Husband for approval, I asked Dr Amber, “I can’t go on anymore. Can you vacuum the baby out? I’m so tired. I just want to sleep” to which I received a jaw dropping reaction from everyone. She sat down on the floor next to me and with a calm and reassuring voice, she said: “You have come so far. You wanted a HypnoBirth. From the sounds you’re making, you’re almost there.”

Bethany asked if I wanted a VE. Desperately needing to know how baby and I are progressing, I consented to it. She concluded that there was still a little bit of cervix left and waterbag has not broken. It was then I realised that the first midwife had given me a false hope. We tried sitting on the gym ball but it was near impossible as a sharp discomfort poked my back when I sat down on it. I decided to lie down on the bed to get some rest but the subsequent surges that came had me grunting and saying out loud, “I can’t do this anymore.” Dr Amber asked if I wanted help with rupturing the membrane but before I could think about it, another surge came.

It was to be my transition point. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to have my waterbag ruptured artificially. Bethany suggested to go back into the pool since I seemed to cope better in the water. Although the pool was just a few steps away, walking there seemed to have taken longer than needed as I was overcame with more surges and had to pause each time.

It was a huge relief when I immersed myself in the water again. Little did I know that the next surge was to be the final few surges that would mark the end of my pregnancy. It was the queen of all surges – very intense and very long that it left me breathless from the constant catch of breath to continue humming – so much so that my waterbag released and my baby’s head dropped to my cervix significantly, and then crowned. Realising that our baby is about to be born, I called out to the Husband and told him that our baby is crowning. I looked around the room for our photographer Emma, who happened to have stepped out for a toilet break. This was the moment I have been waiting for, and I wanted it captured in memory. Seeing me calling out for Emma, Erin quickly left to call her.

I could feel my baby’s head moving, as if checking out his new environment. At the next surge, I worked with my body and surrendered to its urge to push, but to no avail. Bethany asked if she could help to maneuver baby’s shoulder out and upon my agreement, preempted me to catch baby from my front once he’s fully birthed. Emma and Erin were back in the room by then. The next surge came and as I hummed and pushed with all my might, Bethany adjusted baby’s shoulder and his entire body slipped out. She passed baby to my hands underneath the water and I brought him up to my chest as I leaned against the Husband behind me.

They say that pregnancy is the only time you’ll ever fall in love with someone you’ve never met. I would now add that meeting your baby at birth is the only time you’ll finally learn what tears of joy is; a moment I’ll be forever smitten with.

So it’s a boy! Baby Julian made his debut 3.5 hours since we arrived in the hospital, five hour since active labour began. A bouncy bundle of joy weighing 3.375kg, measuring 52 cm in length. Covered in vernix, he let out a loud cry as if to announce “I’m here! Hello world!” He was so alert, looking around the room and listening to conversations for over an hour before he started nursing. APGAR score of 10/10 after five minutes. His placenta was birth 45 minutes later. We spent the next couple of hours skin to skin, marveling in his perfection and reminiscing our gratitude for a smooth and easy birth.

After the Husband left the hospital for home, I spent the night sniffing and gazing at Julian, thanking life for all my blessings. The past 39 weeks. The past five hours of active labour. Every single second of it.

Despite an unpredictable pregnancy journey, everything fell into place eventually. I couldn’t ask for a better birth. My post-partum recovery was fuss-free and better than I have hoped too. The tear was first degree, very minimal and didn’t require any stitching. I felt amazing, I could function like normal. Breastfeeding was a breeze. I was up and ready to rock the world again five days after birth.

Birth matters. Birth is beautiful. Birth is powerful. The only time in a woman’s life when we are tested to the edge, feeling so physically and emotionally challenged, only to emerge more empowered than ever.

AND THEN WE WERE FIVE.

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.

image5

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!

Love,
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 ~