March 2019, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first. Being new to this, we sort out advice from our friends about the best doctor. And without hesitation we booked ourselves an appointment with the clinic that apparently housed the doctor that delivered the most babies in a day in Singapore - 8 babies on average daily. (A little background knowledge, we live in Singapore and there are only 3 subsidized government hospitals in Singapore that have maternity & labour wards and only one of those is a Women & Children Hospital. These hospitals were affordable for many, but also would mean average service that includes long waiting periods, unassigned doctors, shared labour & maternity wards, etc. There are about 7 other hospitals however these were private hospitals which would accommodate to more personalized services such as preferred doctors, private rooms, etc). Hence, we chose a private doctor with a private hospital.
My pregnancy was a healthy one. We did have a little scare with a diagnosis of complete placenta previa but was cleared at 32 weeks and back on track with hopes of having a vaginal birth. At 37 weeks, my doctor told me that my baby was weighing pass 3kg and told me that by 38 weeks, the baby would be safe to be delivered.At 38 weeks, my doctor proceeded with tell me that my baby is healthy and all of his organs were looking strong and his weight is passing 3kg. At 39 weeks, he suggested a cervical check. He informed me that my cervix was hard and high and I was not at all dilated. Again my doctor said the same thing and added that a baby passing 3.5kg might mean a long and painful birth and he suggested getting induced would be best at 40 weeks. Week 40, my husband and I walked into the hospital and got me induced with the pill to ripen my cervix and Pitocin drip at a high dosage. After 18 hours of no signs of contractions, and a dilation of only 3cm, my doctor told me that he can’t guarantee I’ll go into labour in the next 6 hours. He wouldn’t allow me to pass 24 hours on Pitocin mentioning the risk of the baby and me going into distress. And said going for a cesarean would be a safe option. Sure I cried a tear or two, turned to my husband who I could tell was already tired and agreed to the cesarean. I had chosen GA (general anesthesia). I badly didn’t want the needle up my spine for the epidural. Within 1.5 hours, I was woken up my the operating team and was handed my beautiful son weighing 3.47kg. Second day of postpartum, I was up and walking. Even though my body was tired and my cesarean was hurting so bad, I refused to give into the pain and I decide any pain killers. On the 3rd day, I had to ignore the pain and start pushing my body to make more milk for my son. My son had jaundice on the 4th day. I didn’t understand why my body could make enough milk for my son and I gave into formula milk on the 5th day knowing that milk was the only way to clear his jaundice. Again I shed a few tears and moved on. My son was on mix breastmilk and formula milk. On my 7th day, I had to visit my doctor to check on my cesarean and he said I was healing well. Just like that I was discharged.
In those first few months of postpartum, I never realized how much I was bottling in. Soon enough it took a toll on me and I was showing signs of postpartum depression. I couldn’t accept my body’s incapabilities of birthing my son the way I had planned and providing my son with sufficient breastmilk. Fast forward to my son’s first birthday, my cesarean no longer bothered me and time spent with my son and husband made passing days so much easier. My husband and I soon talked about having another but I was certain I wasn’t ready. We talked and he suggested that I reached out to a friend of his who has had 2 cesareans and is trying for a vaginal birth for her third.
Before I knew it we were expecting our second, At only 5 weeks pregnant, I was already aggressively researching about VBAC. My birthing journey had begun there. I reached out to TOLAC & VBAC mothers, doulas and interviewed 3 doctors before deciding on the right one. Through this journey, I had discovered Hypnobirthing and that was my only criteria that my delivery team had to be familiar and fluent in. I had only one thing in mind - finding the best doula, doctor and hospital that would allow me to try every way possible before having to decide on another cesarean. All I wanted was not to prove to anyone or myself but to make sure that I had done every thing I could and even if I had another cesarean, it would mean that I no longer had to “accept it” but welcome it.
Keeping my body nourished was as important as keeping my mind healthy. I made sure to listen to at least 3 podcast episodes from The VbacLink and read at least 3 pages from Hypnobirthing, Morgan Method book daily. This was the key to me finally accepting my first birth. And the journey kept getting better when I started my hypnoborthing classes at 32 weeks. My doula had taught me how to relax and we did a few fear release sessions which was much needed. Most important of all, we went through my first birth and she provided me with materials to help me understand how a woman’s body work and how beautiful it is to let it birth on its own.
As I approached weeks 36 of my pregnancy, I decided on my own to avoid any doctor’s appointment from week 37 onwards. I didn’t need to convince myself that I had to do this to avoid stress but I wanted to welcome anything that were to happen and avoiding the check ups brought so much peace. I trusted my body to keep my baby safe and that was all I needed. On top of that, my doctor had signed off on my birth plan which was attached to my file and if I were to go into labour, the hospital had to follow it.
I constantly did my relaxing sessions every afternoon followed by spinning babies and lost of time spent with my toddler and husband in the evenings to increase the endorphins. I had all the rest I needed to ready my body for the final weeks.
At week 40, I constantly had daily calls from the hospital. They wanted me to come in and have myself and baby checked with monitors. I gracefully declined and told them my baby is moving and is active and I am showing no distress. Days passed and I reached 40 weeks 4 days. I felt my body going into practice labour and my husband and I decided to send my toddler off to his parents, knowing that I needed a quiet and peaceful room to labour in. He had conditioned the room with dimmed lights in a comfortable temperature with the diffuser running calming essential oils. Having my affirmations hung by the curtains and soothing music for me to relax to. The practice labour came on and off for the next few days and at 41+ 1 at 230am they started to build.
My husband was sound asleep when it started. I feel like I wanted to labour quietly, so I went to take a very long and war shower. At 430am, I had already started to time my surges. They were 3 1/2 minutes apart lasting for 65 seconds. I was getting harder for me to relax through the surges, so I went on my fours and rested my upper body on the birthing ball.
I didn’t realized I had woken my husband up and as soon as he saw how different I was, he called my doula. With the surge timings that I had recorded on an app, he provided them to my doula and she said that if I was moaning and unable to talk, he should make his way down to the hospital. This was already 630am on a weekday and morning traffic was about to build. We live about 25 minutes away from the hospital. But morning traffic in Singapore from the suburbs to the city can get very unpredictable. He had blasted the meditation music in the car and safely got us to the hospital where my doula was waiting for us.
The valet did offer me a wheelchair but my body instinctively did not want to sit down, so I listened to it and as hard as it was, I walked 2 flight of stairs to the labour ward slowly. There, the L&D nurse had asked my consent to check my cervix and have a wireless CTG placed on me for 20 mins (which was all in my birth plan). I was 1 cm dilated with high and hard cervix and baby being at -2 station. As soon as the 20 mins was over, they had removed the CTG and allowed my doula and husband to nest me in the room with however I wanted. The lights were dimmed, no monitors, relaxing music and my doula had rubbed calming essential oils on me. At 830am, I decided to take a long warm shower. That was the only thing I felt could calm me down. Went back to swaying on my birthing ball on fours till about 1030am when I told my doula I wanted the nurse to check me again. This time I was I was 1 cm dilated with soft cervix and baby being at -2 station. I felt defeated. I honestly felt like my labour was going too slow. My surges were strong at 2 1/2 minutes apart lasting for 55-65 seconds. I didn’t think I could go all the way to 10 cm. I had begged pleaded and cried to both my doula and husband to give me the epidural. They were amazing and kept me distracted with massages and hypnobirthing script. I finally asked for gas which I knew deep down would not help with the pain but it would somewhat help me relax easier. I was given the gas at 11am and it truly helped me rest between surges. While resting, my doula was reading to me a script about the hot air balloon and that was all I kept thinking about as I breathed through my surges. At 1230am, I felt my body telling me to lie on my side and I let it. That was when my doula looked down and saw hair. She said, “Is that hair I see. I see hair. That’s hair! Im getting the nurse.”I remembered hearing her running in her flip-flops out the room and shouting to the nurse, “We need you here! I see hair!”. She came back with a nurse and the nurse immediately grabbed some gauze and placed it on my perennial telling me not to push. Again I instinctively moved my body and lie on my back. I saw my doctor and another nurse rushing into the room. They were putting the gown and gloves on the doctor but I had grabbed my doula and husband’s neck, and I felt like I needed to take in a deep breath and breath out. And I did just that. My doctor turned around all ready in his gown and glove but my baby was already out. My doula said loudly to my husband, “Take her! Take your baby!” My husband took my daughter from between my legs and I hurriedly took off my dress. I was crying as my husband handed my baby over to me. As my daughter laid on my chest, my husband did a prayer on his knees and said a few prayers next to me. My skin to skin with my daughter was undisturbed. I did not allow the birth of my placenta to be assisted so the doctor and 2 nurses left the room and let me birth my placenta on my own. Again I didn’t push. I felt so much joy holding my baby, I trusted my body and I only had to breathe out my placenta. The doctor and nurses were called in and my husband had another privilege of cutting the cord. With barely a 2nd degree tear, my doctor gave me 5 stitches. My doula left us as my husband had his skin to skin with my daughter.
I was able to walk immediately after the 5 stitches and I was high on my birth. I was inactive labour without any epidural. I had birth my baby unassisted without any episiotomy, forceps, vacuum or doctor tugging my baby. I had birth my placenta without the help of oxytocin. My husband and I got more than 2 hours of undisturbed skin to skin with dimmed lights. It was beautiful. With hypno birthing, my daughter came in this world peacefully. She was aware without any drugs in her and she was not crying. All because I trusted my body to provide my baby a safe birth passage.
I truly believe modern medicine has made things convenient and conditioned our minds to depend on it, making us lose trust in what our bodies are naturally capable of doing. With doctors and hospitals evolving over the years, we have forgotten to seek help from the community (mothers & doulas). If any expecting mothers, be it first time moms, TOLAC moms or Vbac/Vba2c/Vbamc etc were to ask me how I did it, I would say advice them to trust the process, give the mind a chance, trust the body and especially trust your baby. As for modern medicine and doctors go, they are there for emergencies. If your body can wait 20 minutes, than its not an emergency. I hope my story helps expecting mothers and gives hope and as well the courage for them to reach out. Every birth should be one’s own.
Birth Story shared by Shikin Isk
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