Four inspiring mamas share their unique Singapore birth stories (water birth, C-section, epidural and drug-free/Doula-assisted).
No matter how much you prepare for birth, mama, you’ve still got to expect the unexpected. Below, four Singapore mamas – fabulous writers all! – perfectly demonstrate the range of birth experiences that can all ultimately result in happy, healthy babies. Whether by water birth, C-section, epidural, or through five days of drug-free labour, from forgetting to find out the sex of the baby (!), to coming to terms with unplanned emergency surgery, these inspiring birth stories show all we can do is simply make the best of a truly amazing, life-changing experience. Please note that the photos accompanying each headline are examples, but not these actual mamas; some have chosen to share their photos at the end of their stories!
I had a water birth at National University Hospital (NUH) with Dr. Chong Yap Seng as my obstetrician. I chose him because many friends had delivered with him, and he is known for being supportive of natural childbirth. Between him, the EMmA Care team, a water birth option, and NUH’s Baby Friendly designation from the World Health Organization, it felt like the right choice. I wanted to try for a med-free birth and knew that having the right people around me, plus a big bath of water, would up my chances.
Giving birth in water not only helped with relaxation but also gave me freedom to move around. I could change positions frequently without needing assistance. My husband was next to me the whole time, sitting just outside the tub and providing comfort, but I still had space. Our amazing nurse midwife, Kelly from the EMmA Care team, was always in the room with us. She balanced providing care and comfort with giving us space.
NUH did a great job of providing a relaxing, less clinical environment for the birth. They turned off the lights in the bathroom where the birthing tub was and relied on dim light coming in from the hospital room. They offered a CD player and aromatherapy machine, neither of which I opted to use, but it was nice to have them as an option.
When the baby was born, Dr. Chong immediately placed the baby on my chest and covered us with a towel to stay warm. We spent about ten minutes oohing and awwing over the baby’s cute little face when we realised we didn’t even know if we’d had a boy or a girl! I lifted the towel, exclaimed that we had a girl, and we proceeded to cut the cord. I then handed her to my husband, and Kelly and Dr. Chong helped me to the bed. Once we were all settled in, and Kelly helped me initiate breastfeeding, they left us alone for an hour to rest and have family time. I had not expected this beautiful, perfect hour of family time. My daughter and I were cosy under a few blankets, and my husband was calling our parents back in the US.
It really couldn’t have been a better experience and I would opt for a water birth at NUH again.
-Adrienne, mama of Ruby
Throughout my first pregnancy, which came two years after an intense war against infertility, I was determined to achieve the birth that I had envisioned: a gentle, natural process with minimal intervention and, hopefully, sans drugs. My husband Jimmy and I signed up for HypnoBirthing classes, where we learned how to breathe and all about the essential oils that would speed things up. We practiced the different labouring positions. Every night, I would lie in bed and read to the baby, and then drift off to sleep while the HypnoBirthing affirmations played on in the background.
We had a plan.
Unfortunately, so did Murphy and that pesky law of his.
I ended up leaking amniotic fluid in my 37th week of pregnancy and landed in the delivery suite, hooked up to machines. It was clear that my little man had no intention of vacating his watery suite though, given that the contractions were intermittent and lacked intensity. But my obstetrician gave strict instructions that I had to be admitted because of the leakage and prescribed an antibiotic drip to prevent infection, as well as Pitocin to speed up labour.
His direction was clear: I had to deliver within 24 hours of my water bag leakage.
In the delivery suite, the baby’s heart rate fell drastically several times. Each time, the nurse would apologetically perform a vaginal examination on me with a worried look on her face, just to ensure that there was no cord prolapse.
After the fifth incident, the doctor decided that the baby was in distress and that an emergency Caesearean was necessary. By this time, we were exhausted (it was 3am), and the constant warning beeps of the heart rate monitor were wearing us down.
Thankfully, there was another emergency C-section happening at the same time so we didn’t have to waste time waiting for an anesthesiologist to arrive at the hospital. I was stripped off, shaved (urghs) and prepped for the surgery with no sense of dignity at all. Everything was about speed and faster, faster, FASTER.
After the epidural was administered, the curtain was drawn at my chest. Jimmy appeared by my side and the surgery began.
To say that it’s bizarre to have people tugging – none too gently, I might add – at my insides while I was conscious is an understatement.
And then, shortly after 4am, our son was born. With his cord around his neck, which was why he could not descend and was in distress.
So yes, the birth went nothing like we had planned. It was everything I didn’t want. A Caesarean, however unpleasant, was necessary in our case and I have accepted this as our birth experience.
From the very beginning of my pregnancy, I wanted to go as natural as possible when it came to labour. But as my due date approached, I started feeling conflicted, and nervous. As a first time mother, I didn’t know what to expect, how bad the pain might be, whether I could tolerate it. So, I decided to simply follow my feelings when the day came.
It was 5am on 15 April, 2014, and I didn’t feel so good. Although my contractions were very smooth, my gut feeling told me I should get to the hospital.
I arrived, and after a check-up the nurse told me there were signs of labour and I was dilated to 1cm. She advised me to stay at the hospital, but I decided to go home as I could barely feel any contractions.
I went home, trying to get prepared and tidying up since I knew I wouldn’t be able to clean anything for the next few days. Then, I ate a big bowl of Vietnamese Beef Noodles to store my energy to fight with whatever might happen during labour!
At 2pm, I returned to the hospital as my contractions started getting closer. By the time I arrived at Thomson Medical Centre, my contractions had gotten stronger, and I had started feeling tired. It was a strange pain in my tummy, coming up and down like big waves one second and then nothing the next. I kept my eyes closed and fought the pain, telling myself, it’s gonna be alright!
Then a voice cut through the commotion, pulling me out of my inner dialogue. It was a nurse, who gently said, “If you want an Epidural, you have to decide now, because if we get to 6cm, you’ll be too far gone to do one. What would you like to do?”
At this moment, I just said YES. I was already starting to feel low on energy, and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to push later on.
I moved to the labour room, and rolled onto my left side. The needle went straight into my spine on my lower back. For a second, I felt numb, and couldn’t roll myself onto my back. Two nurses had to help, and they just kept telling me, slowly, slowly…
I got my epidural at 3pm. I remember the labour room was cold and bright, and I could see all the equipment lined up, I could hear the bip bip bip of the monitor and I felt nothing in my legs. They were just numb and heavy; I couldn’t move them at all. I spent four and a half hours just chit-chatting with my husband and didn’t feel any discomfort. It was great!
At 7.30 pm my OBGYN Dr. Paul Tseng arrived, and after a final check he said “It’s time…”
The two nurses showed me how to breathe and guided my husband on what to do. I followed everything they said, as I couldn’t feel anything. I just heard them say “PUSH!”, so I tried my best to push.
My husband was very helpful pushing right along with me; he was louder than the two nurses when it came to encouraging me! I still remember him loudly shouting:
“I can see the head! Push baby, push push PUSH!”
After 15 minutes of great team work… voila! Our little Eric had arrived into this beautiful world, and since then, our life has changed for the better.
I am very happy with my epidural choice. And I’ve had no back pain up to this point (as I know some mothers experience this side effect). I’m pretty sure I will choose this method again for my second baby in the future!
-Trisha, mama of Eric
5 days of Drug-free, Doula-assisted labour
In the wee hours of the morning on my EDD, I began having contractions. After a few hours of irregular – both in duration and in intensity – surges, I called our doula. Since my contractions were not progressive and, ultimately, petered out late that afternoon, we took a “wait and watch approach.”
However, when the same series of events happened the next day and the next, our doula suspected that our baby might be malpresented and suggested I engage in a series of exercises to adjust her position to be more favourable. While I dutifully did the exercises, my contractions continued to be sporadic.
After nearly 72 hours of on and off contractions – some incredibly long and intense -my partner and I were tired and frustrated. Neither of us had slept or eaten well in days. Our doula came home on day 3 to give me a hug and provide some relaxation strategies, including taking catnaps in the bathtub. She also suggested that we make a quick visit to our doctor (Paul Tseng) to see what was going on in there (and to ask him whether I was at all dilated or effaced).
The next morning – once again, after a night of non-progressive contractions – I did go see Dr. Tseng who, sadly, told me that I was 0 cm dilated and 0% effaced. With my heart in my stomach, I asked him what I should do. He, too (respecting my wishes for a drug-free birth), advised me to relax as much as possible and to soak in my tub with the hopes that it would turn these sporadic contractions into the “real deal.”
I spent the rest of the day (more or less) in my tub. My partner practiced all the visualisations, massage techniques, and breathing exercises that we learned in our HypnoBirthing classes. While my surges did not fall into a predictable pattern, they became more manageable.
Late that night, I finally experienced progressive labour. And how! Within minutes, my surges were two minutes apart and nearly 90 seconds long. We grabbed our bags and rushed to the hospital (Thomson Medical Centre). An initial vaginal exam revealed that I was already 5 centimeters dilated.
Our doula met us directly at the hospital and guided us gracefully and knowledgeably through labour. Though I was 5 cm dilated upon admittance to the hospital, it took me another 12 hours to reach full dilation. She provided us with information as we made decision after decision and supported my partner. Most importantly, however, she served as our rock, reminding us to relax and to breathe deeply through the whole process.
When I was fully dilated and ready to push, our doula provided us with timely information and physical and mental support. Up, down, walk around. Stand up, sit down, squat. Birth stool. Much of this was because I hadn’t really slept in days and was seriously low on energy. I wanted to sleep, not push, but for six hours, a Bhangra and Bollywood-heavy soundtrack kept me motivated. The nurses could see a tiny circle of Baby’s hair – which gave me some hope – but I just couldn’t push past the perineum.
We decide I needed some help. I was ONE strong push away from birthing, but I just couldn’t do it. The nurses came in, the stirrups came out, and Dr. Tseng was called to help me deliver. I pushed for him once. He massaged the perineum. On the second surge, he put the vacuum on baby’s head and POP goes the baby! As suspected, she was malpresented!
Pooja, mama to A
Thank you so much to Adrienne, LiYann, Trisha and Pooja for sharing your stories. Would you like to share yours, mama? Let us know at [email protected]!