From home birth to VBAC to an unplanned epidural, 7 real Singapore mamas share their natural birth stories.
In part 1 on natural birth, we gave you the lowdown for getting baby down low naturally. Now we bring you the true stories of seven women (and one hubby!) who pursued a drug-free birth. “Dou-lah!” Ginny Phang recognises women have a lot of information at their fingertips; her goal is to help them understand how to “labour smart.” While things didn’t always go according to plan, these women all prepared for birth (both mentally and physically), and came out the other side feeling happy and empowered.
VBAC Victory: Long Li Yann, 34
Mama to Aidan, born in 2012 at 2.5 kg, and Zac, born in 2014 at 2.8 kg
In her first pregnancy, Yann took a hypnobirthing class at Four Trimesters and hoped to labour and deliver naturally, but her baby’s cord was short and around his neck, resulting in a stress-filled experience that culminated with an emergency C-section. Her second labour began with intermittent contractions that lasted a full day and intensified that night, and by 4am she felt she NEEDED an epidural. At 7 am she arrived at the hospital to find she was already 8cm along! She considered an epidural but eventually refused, feeling she’d already come this far without one. A nurse showed her how to begin pushing effectively to get the baby down lower, but she had no energy left at the end, thinking “He’s going to be stuck between my legs forever. I need a coffee.” She focused all her energy once more, and in three more pushes, the baby was out. You can read a full account of both births on her blog.
Tips? “I kept telling myself that every contraction is helping me to dilate and move baby down.”
Potty Queen: Samantha Van Norman, 37
Mama to Shaiya, born in 2005 at 3.5 kg, Tyler, born in 2009 at 4.8 kg, and Keira, born in 2011 at 4 kg
Samantha initially wanted all the drugs modern medicine affords us, but changed her mind after reading some articles from her husband (a chiropractor). She signed up for a Bradley Method class and eventually decided on a home birth. For the first two she had the support of a midwife and doula, but her most recent baby came so quickly, she delivered it herself. After soaking in the tub, she actually gave birth on the toilet! Her favorite place to labour for all three kids was on the toilet, leaning back on the cool, smooth surface. It basically mimics a birthing stool and is a great position that utilises gravity.
Water baby: Sarka Kocicka, 36
Mama to Alexa, born in 2013 at 2.9 kg.
A yoga instructor, Sarka was so terrified of giving birth, she wasn’t sure she wanted to get pregnant. Ultimately, she decided on a water birth and prepared by taking a class at Four Trimesters and by doing yoga. Once at the hospital, she laboured with the lights down, music on, knees on a pillow, and arms braced against the bed. Her husband applied pressure to her lower back. When the tub had filled, she assumed the same position in there. Her doula helped her avoid unnecessary manual checks from nurses (which can introduce bacteria). When it was time to push, the doctor flipped on the bright lights, and she birthed her little girl into the water (“She squirmed through the water like a fish!”).
Intriguing Info: Her husband got lost on the way to the hospital during very painful contractions. They are still happily married.
Hanging out at home: Abi Tranter, 37
Mama to Charlie, born in 2011 at 3.3 kg and Harry, born in 2013 at 3.6 kg
To prepare, Abi took a general parenting class at Mother & Child, and did yoga and meditation. After seeing a friend’s husband pass out during a video of an epidural, she also decided to take a HypnoBirthing class at Parentlink. Though her first baby was breech, her delivery only took 3.5 hours, and went so well she decided to have a home birth for her second. Her doctor took her through all of the worst-case scenarios to prepare. Her second baby was breech as well, but she read that inversion (hanging upside down) can flip babies. Her doctor was skeptical, but it worked after ten minutes. The delivery of her second baby went as well as her first, and she absolutely loved having the comfort of home for this experience.
Tips? “Having a doula is like having a translator”. When Abi became irritated with her husband’s attempts to soothe her, the doula was able to calmly communicate this to him and redirect his efforts.
Intriguing Info: Her first doctor said, “I’ve never seen a successful natural birth. People always go for the pain relief”. She got a new doctor.
Breech Bingo: MJ Davis, 32
Mama to Sullivan, born in 2014 at 3.3 kg
At 33 weeks, MJ’s baby was frank breech, and she tried every alternative option she could find to flip her: Spinning Babies positions, Hatha yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, and inverting her bed (ECV was not recommended in her case). At 36 weeks, though still breech, the baby was in a good position to deliver vaginally. MJ was already somewhat dilated and effaced, so she prepared for an early arrival. Yet by 41 weeks, baby was still hanging out and amniotic fluid was low. They swept her membranes. Nothing changed. They gave her a prostaglandin pill, which gave her three separate eight-hour bouts of false labour. The contractions measured very high but her HypnoBirthing training helped her manage them. Still no baby. A second prostaglandin pill did the trick, but her contractions were literally off the charts. She opted for an epidural, but it only worked on half her body. When contractions slowed, she was given Pitocin, and birth began in earnest. “My husband still feels so incredibly fortunate to have witnessed the breech birth. Leg, leg, body, arms, head. It was very cool.”
Tips? “Don’t be afraid of a breech baby. Find a doctor comfortable and practised at delivering breech babies. A friend of mine had a VBAC breech baby because labour went so quickly they couldn’t do the C-section!”
Intriguing Info: Despite the fact that Plan A never materialised, MJ came away completely satisfied. “Because each intervention was given time to play out, I continue to feel positive about every decision down that path. It felt very much on my terms. Now I can’t wait to do it again.”
Home Delivery: Elisa Bartolo, 42
Mom to Maximillian, born in 2008 at 3.6 kg, Sophia, born in 2011 at 3.8 kg, and Baby Bartolo #3, due any day now!
Anthony Bartolo, 45
Australian, husband of hypnobirther Elisa, with a partner’s perspective
Elisa took HypnoBirthing because she wanted to be active in helping her baby arrive; it seemed quite unnatural to her to NOT feel anything (and she hates needles). Labour began a week early with some leaks, but she took her time getting to the hospital. The hospital wanted to induce her with Pitocin, but she was afraid. After nurses shared their own experiences of still delivering naturally with Pitocin, and promising her a low dose, she consented. “They removed the fear for me.” She had intended to breathe the baby out according to her training, but when everyone started encouraging her to PUSH—she did. It caused second degree tears and swelling the size of a baseball, leading to an extra night in the hospital and trouble walking. She calls the birth “amazing”, though. “He shimmied up to my breast to nurse, totally alert”. She laboured at home with baby two, progressing so quickly that she went to the bathroom and had intense contractions that she recognized as transition. Unable to speak, she worried she would not get her husband’s attention until he walked by and she managed to call out to him. He got in position, she relaxed, and the baby almost literally fell out. It sounds super easy, but she said you break a sweat with the effort of the mental concentration required. (It still sounds super easy, and yes, I am quite jealous.)
Tips? “Eliminate all fear associated with the process. Believe you can turn the pain off, and you can. Practise and train to do this! Remember that during labour, you’re in a highly suggestive state. If you don’t want anyone to tell you to push, put it in your birth plan.”
Intriguing Info: Elisa used HypnoBirthing to manage the pain of getting a small cavity filled at the dentist. She breathed through the drilling, went to her “happy place,” and used imagery to “turn off the pain like a faucet”.
When Anthony heard Elisa wanted to give birth without the benefit of drugs, he was incredulous. But he attended HypnoBirthing class with her anyway. He was most concerned about his position at the delivery, trying to advocate for his wife without upsetting the hospital staff concerning interventions. He made sure they had good communication with the doctor so that if a procedure came up, they wouldn’t have to debate it. He knew an experienced doula would be a big help in navigating the hospital system. Anthony realised the power of HypnoBirthing for Elisa when their first baby arrived. They were the calmest folks in the room. “HypnoBirthing allows you to get into an appropriate state of mind, without fear. It was good prep no matter what kind of birth you have.”
His tip for the partners of prospective hypnobirthers? “Words matter to women…. Choose the right ones”.
Happy HypnoBirther: Jennifer Jasensky
Mom to Vienna, born in 2011 at 3.9 kg, and Ryan, born in 2014 at 4.3 kg.
I wanted to deliver drug-free due to a bad epidural experience with my first baby. I read Marie Mongan’s HypnoBirthing, The Mongan Method and Ina May Gaskin’s Guide To Childbirth to prepare, practised a little, and engaged the services of a friend training to be a doula. Despite all this, I knew I wasn’t really ready. As much as I wanted a drug-free birth, I didn’t really think I could do it. But I did! I rocked on a birthing ball as I laboured, enduring each contraction while my husband repeated my five favourite HypnoBirthing affirmations over and over (and over and over, poor guy). I got deep into my “happy place” imagery and inhaled the scent of my favorite stuffed bear from home to get on top of each wave of contractions. I loved the imagery my doula used, of painting a canvas in a certain colour with wide brush strokes. After I was dilated 5cm, I laboured in the tub until the baby was crowning. You can read an in depth account at my blog.
My tips: Read stories of successful natural births and avoid negative stories as you approach your due date. Find a doula who makes you feel confident and safe. It makes all the difference.
There you have it, mamas: every natural birth is different, and in fact everyone defines “natural” differently. Study up to make informed decisions, surround yourself with a good support base, and take comfort in knowing that we all simply do the best that we can.