Home Birth Story of the Month:
Having been a gymnast in my younger days, anything that requires flexibility tends to come easier for me than others. So when my Yoga Instructor challenged us to do a spilt, it was almost a piece of cake for me. However, like everything else in Yoga where you get “pushed to the edge” during the poses, she challenged and guided me to improvise the pose and do a proper yogi split and stretched my ligaments which caused quite an intense discomfort. My fellow yogi mate – who incidentally is also my ex-client and now a very close friend who hypno-birthed her second child at home – turned to me and asked “Is it painful Ginny? I am finding it very painful.”
I found it interesting that this comment came from her and it made me think about Hypnobirthing mothers who report that they did not experience pain during the labor, only intense discomfort. In a similar fashion, when I was doing the split, I felt the same way. It’s not that I don’t feel anything, surely I do (and all the labouring mothers do!!!) but I did not perceive it as pain. Intense discomfort yes, but certainly not painful.
That same evening, when I was sitting with my good friends having coffee whilst waiting for our monthly food book club to get-together, my phone rang. Tjis was on the phone, reporting to me that Karlijin’s labor has finally started. Coming from a country where home-birthing is a norm and having had her first baby at home in Holland, it was only natural to Karlijin & Tjis to have another homebirth.
The one thing that stood out when I met Karlijin and Tjis for the first time were colors. They radiated as a couple, and Karlijin literally “wore” her talk. Little did I know until later, that Karlijin kept a birth ritual, something so rare and unheard of yet so essential in our modern times. Although I am very much labeled as a “banana” – yellow on the outside and white on the inside, and more or less very “modern and westernized”, not having much to do with local customs and rituals. I have, also in my line of calling, noticed the importance of rituals. In my observation, it seems to me that everything that nature has intended from the time we are pregnant, is a ritual to help us and our bodies to adjust to becoming a mother. A woman who goes through labor, even if it is a trial of labor, has more acceptance and less of a shock into her transition to a mother as opposed to a mother who has an elective caesarean where one moment she is pregnant, and the next moment, she is a mother. Mentally she knows it, but emotionally and on an unconscious bodily level, it’s different altogether, making it seems as though labor itself is a ritual not just mark the birth of a baby but also the rebirth of a mother each time around.
Karlijin’s daily ritual was to sew when her older son Luuk, was in school. She set out the task to prepare the baby’s room and embroidered baby’s blankets and such. This was her way of bonding and connecting with baby, something second time or more mothers often “forget” that they are pregnant because they are busy with the old kid(s).
So by the time her practice surges came, she was ready. And like any second time or more mothers, even though you have gone through it once before or even more, you never really know when you are in labor. After having practice contractions on and off for a week, Karlijin finally went into labor after she found that she was already 4cm dilated when she visited Dr. Lai’s clinic in the morning and had her membranes swept in hope to get things started.
7th July 2009
Tjis called to inform me that Karlijin is in labor and that contractions were every 4mins and that she was already 4cm dilated this morning when she was at Dr. Lai’s office. So I said that i’ll take a shower and come over.
I arrived and your parents were in the living room. Karlijin was sitting on the sofa and contractions were strong enough to have her focus on them whenever they came yet she kept herself busy and helped me organize the things to set up for the homebirth.
After the logistics were taken care of, I suggested to Mommy to go into her own space to relax instead of sitting together with us in the living room getting distracted so that it’ll help the contractions to pick up. Interestingly, from my observation of having attended more than 250 births, laboring women no matter where they come from, have several similarities, one of it would be the need to “purge it all out” verbally and “distract” themselves before they would be willing to go into their own space yet it’s their own space within that they need to access to in order for labor to progress. Karlijin finally decided to surrender to the process and take a shower.
Even though I have had the privilege of attending births for close to 6-7 years now, there are still a group of women whom I would allow to “intimidate” me because of their confidence in their ability to birth their way, naturally. Karlijin was one of those women. Yet time and birthing wisdom has always shown me, over and over again, we are all universal. When I allowed the thoughts in my head to run its course or run wild rather, and tuned into my gut instincts and my heart, I was one with her.
Karlijin’s contractions has picked up considerably, progressing from 4 to 2 min intervals and definitely much stronger. There were no other physical signs such as her waters breaking or more mucus plug but I was not concerned because that’s quite normal for a second time or more mothers. She was in the bathroom leaning over the basin counter with each surge. Instinctively, I rubbed her back and got her more drinking water.
Noticing that my phone was not getting a good reception, it suddenly occurred to me to give Dr. Lai a call and leave him Daddy’s house and handphone number in case he needed help with directions. I am secretly pleased about my *instincts* as Dr. Lai called right after he received my sms. He arrived shortly and he set up the equipment. Karlijin measured 5cm dilated with your head at station zero. All is looking well and Dr. Lai left.
Noticing that Karlijin was beginning to look very flushed, I asked Tjis for a bowl of ice and applied iced towels on her face which she liked a lot.
Knowing that despite the fact that Karlijin only measured 5cm dilated, once her waters break, labor will progress very quickly, I asked her to visualize waters breaking. Karlijin later said that she found that suggestion very helpful.
This is the part I love – notcing the subtle differences that means so much more than what it seems. After two surges where I noticed Karlijin’s knees bending with the surges as if she were bearing down, her waters broke and her waters were clear. Great sign J I asked Tjis to take my phone and call Dr. Lai using the house phone for me to update him. As there wasn’t much waters, I wasn’t sure if her waters leaked or broke so I said that I’ll him in 10mins to update him again.
Karlijin’s surges were definitely more intense as she grooved with the rhythm of the surges. I asked Tjis to come over to help and apply ice cold towels on her head as I crouch over to rub her back and monitor her progress in case she delivers before Dr. Lai arrives. All good.
Dr. Lai arrived and with his usual demeanor, there was no rush to do anything at all, everything was at Karlijin’s pace. Karlijin was 8cm dilated and decided to labor and birth on the bed. We trusted her lead to follow her body, with Tjis guiding her on her breathing, wiping her face and offering her drinking water.
At 10.05pm, Takae slipped out into this world and into Karlijin’s loving arms and Tjis’s happy and excited presence. Welcome sweet child!
As I was leaving after a postnatal visit with Karlijin, I found her mother sitting at the verandah, sewing.
This birth story is written by Ginny Phang and reprinted with Tji’s & Karlijin’s permission as she awaits two more homebirths in the next month and a growing number in the months to come.
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