27 March 2010


Active Labour - Meeting pain with calm

Baby Daen was conceived 9 months ago, but his birth has been 2 years in the making.

Way back when I was pregnant with Vera, I was already planning to give birth in a different way.

We've all grown up with these images of delivery : the woman, screaming in pain, gripping her panic-stricken husband, the midwives shouting commands of "one-two-three push!", the doctor resorting to epidurals and forceps to "get the baby out".

Many women just accept that the pain and the upcoming "ordeal" was the price to pay for having a baby.

But my pain threshold is SO low. I can't even endure pre-menstrual cramps and would take painkillers at the first sign of it. Instinctively, I knew I needed an alternative way to deal with the birthing process when the time came.

I learnt about Hypnobirthing from a dear friend - the way to a drug-free, painless natural birth with significantly shorter labour. She had successfully utilised the technique and gave birth within 4 hours of reaching the hospital. Hmmm...all you had to do was condition your mind and learn a few relaxation techniques to have a gentle birth? It sounded too good to be true.

We were still not fully convinced, but we decided to give it a shot.

Ian and I attended classes diligently to learn more about this technique.

For the first time, we watched videos of women in labour that were so different from the televised images we have become accustomed to. These women were in labour but they looked like they were sleeping! Some did not even make a sound as their babies emerged! Some even squatted and passed their babies out into their own hands! It was surreal, but oh so natural.

When complications arose with Vera, my plans for a hypnobirth were shoved aside and what took place was a C-section that was so traumatic for me that I swore I'd never give birth again if I had to have one.

So when Daen came along, the choice was clear. I had to have a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesearean).

Problem is, very few doctors out there are comfortable with letting women do this. There is a 1% risk of uterine rupture due to the surgical cut of the previous Cesearean if a woman pushes too hard during the next delivery. If that happens, an emergency C-section is necessary and a supposedly normal baby could come out with severe complications.

People offered well-meaning but cautionary advice.

"I think you better have a c-section, it's safer,"

Doctors asked me: "1% risk is quite high you know, are you prepared to put your baby at risk?"

I needed help to believe in a VBAC. But I knew of no one who had had one. On internet forums, there were hardly any moms sharing their success stories.

Luckily, Ian was supportive right from the start. And we found our wonderful doula Lauren. And we got Dr Paul (one of the handful of gynaes in Singapore who supports VBACs) to be our obstetrician.

So I picked up where I left off and diligently continued preparing for a hypnobirth. With help at home looking after Vera, I was able to devote time to conditioning my mind, re-programming it to think in a whole new way:

1) That there is no such thing as "pain".
2) That the body itself knows how to birth a baby vs WE needing to instruct it to.
3) That there is no such thing as "pushing", only "breathing".

Determined that this time, I was going to get the birth I want, I tried my best to zone out whenever people shared their stories of how they couldn't endure the pain and had to ask for painkillers or gas.

And when the time came, everything just fell into place. All my years of controlled breathing during my choir-singing days and my experience with slow breathing as a diver finally came in handy.

I breathed like there was no tomorrow.

Early Labour - Focused on breathing, breathing and breathing

With the help of my oh-so-calming doula Lauren and my cool-cucumber hubby, I laboured in the comfort of home for 6 hours before heading to the hospital.

I was afraid that the change to a clinical environment would slow down my progress but I needn't have worried. Once we got there, Lauren made sure that I did not have to speak to any nurses nor deal with any admission paperwork whatsoever.

Towards to end, I did lose focus when the surges became too intense. But Lauren always assured me, "You're doing beautifully," Those three words were all it took to keep me going.

Final Stage - Getting intense as baby bears down

I continued to labour on the birth ball, on a birthing stool, and even in the warm water tub.

And it was true: When the time came to push, I didn't have to. My body did it for me, on auto-pilot. It was like it had taken over from the mind. And after about 8 times, it birthed my baby out - into the hands of the midwife - even before Dr Paul returned.

At no point did I ask for gas or drugs. And because of that, baby Daen came into my arms so alert, and I was perfectly conscious to have and to hold my baby - straight from my womb, his umbilical cord still attached.

Straight from womb to arms, fully alert and calm

I had waited for this moment for 2 years. The emotional release was so overwhelming I burst into tears for a good 10 minutes.

I did it!

Sometimes in life, you just have to take a leap of faith and believe. We are so blessed and thankful that everything turned out just the way we wanted:

Au naturel!

Thank you all for following us on this amazing journey and for all your well-wishes! We will be leaving the hospital today and heading home to show Vera her little brother.