Fourtrimesters Birth Videos
Find out more about HypnoBirthing:
Fourtrimesters Birth Videos
Find out more about HypnoBirthing:
What do birth and boxers have in common? Nothing. However, if you have attended my classes, you might have heard about this timeless birth story of Bentley the Boxer.
Having had boxers since I was 13, this breed holds a special place in my heart. We had Max the father, Sam the middle girl, and Lucky, the son of Max and only survivor of the lot, hence his name.
When I was still living with my parents, the father and son team would be pulling a 5 month pregnant me for a walk, making me look like I was riding a chariot without the chariot itself! Lucky, the defiant one, would always sleep at the foot of my bed instead of his designated mattress in my parents’ room. Once my brother came into my room in the middle of the night, he bit my brother with the intention of protecting me!
When I moved back home for a short period after giving birth, Lucky still slept with us. Now that made 3 in a single bed! Lucky had a soft spot – he needed human contact whenever there was thunder. So when Kieran was less than 6 months old, my mom found Lucky sleeping alongside with Kieran for comfort during the stormy afternoon!
So by the time I met Bentley the boxer, I was unfazed… until he knocked me over onto the couch with his enormous size – blame his Australian genes! So whenever I went to Aileen’s house for our prenatal sessions, the first thing I needed to do was to sit down before I get knocked over.
I was at the barber’s at Holland Village waiting for Kieran when the phone rang. “Ginny, does surges feel like menstrual cramps?”, Aileen asked. I asked a few questions and said it sounds like she was in early labor, and as I was on the way home, I told her to call me whenever she needed me to go over.
Halfway through my dinner, Andrew was on the phone panicking “I can see the baby’s head!!!”
”Where is Aileen?”, I asked.
‘She on the toilet seat!”
“Get her off the toilet seat! I am on my way!” as I grabbed my house phone to call for a taxi. It’s a weekday evening and Aileen lives in the East. Because of peak hour traffic, what would usually take 20mins would take me 45-60mins to get there.
By the time I got the her place, Andrew had his family deployed and they all waited anxiously for me to arrive, lined up in 2 rows leading to the stairway up to their room. Although I have never been married, it sure felt like I was walking down the aisle!
As we were getting ready to be transferred to the hospital, Andrew and Aileen were recounting their 45min birth story to me. When I asked Andrew to get Aileen off the toilet seat, he managed to get her in bed in the all fours position just as baby was coming out and landed in the safety of his hands. At that moment, Bentley the boxer came into the room, in a frenzy from the smell of blood and the birth of the baby. Not knowing what else to do with his newborn in his hands, Andrew turned to Bentley and bit him!!! Bentley got a shock and whimpered out of the room. Andrew quickly passed his daughter to Aileen and closed the door!
Whenever I share this story in class, everyone will be holding on to their seats waiting to hear what would happen next as Aileen still holds the record for the fastest birth of a first time mom at Four Trimesters. And at the end of it all, the class will burst out in laughter!
This morning, Bentley the boxer passed on. Even though he is gone, he lives on in this birth story and in the hearts of many parents who have heard about and laughed in delight of good ol’Bentley!
Condolences to Aileen & family. This birth story is printed with permission from Aileen.
Born in the Caul
36 hours before I was supposed to leave for an impromptu vacation, Sabrina calls me at midnight to inform me that she thinks she is in early labor. Still out under the moonlight looking for her missing dog, I encouraged her to go home and rest.
I woke up in the morning jumping out of bed panicking that I must have missed her call, only to realize that she still hasn’t called, so I dialed her number, labor was still inconsistent she reported. An appointment with Dr. F.M Lai at 1pm showed that she was only 3-4cm dilated, so they decided to go home first to get some lunch and pack up before heading to the hospital. An hour and the half later, Jeff calls me to inform me about the nature of her surges, 5 mins apart but climbing in intensity. We agreed to meet at Mount Alvernia Hospital, with me traveling from the East, and them traveling from Seng Kang, in the pouring rain.
3.45pm They arrived at the hospital and Sabrina is 7-8cm. I arrived 15mins after they did and Sabrina was clearly breathing down but her water bag was still intact. Jeff went down to get admissions done, and the nurses were bustling around prepping the room for delivery. As for me, my eyes were on the CTG machine as it was not picking up a good trace of baby’s heart rate. I gently asked Sabrina if she could move from a sitting position to an all fours position, which could help with the tracing. As I lifted up her blanket, not having smelled any whiff of amniotic fluid which I am so good at detecting, I was caught off guard to see baby’s head already crowning. I then realized that for that split second, only Sabrina and I were alone in the room!! I reached over to bell the nurses to no avail. Sabrina was in her own world, following the flow of her body. With the next breath, baby’s head emerged fully with the waterbag still intact. Instinctively, my body took over with ease, placing one hand under baby’s neck just in time to catch Sabrina’s next breath, baby slipped out into the world into my hands. Baby started crying whilst still veiled by the waterbag. At this point, my body having experienced many births before, simply took over and reacted much faster than my head, where my hands reached from baby’s belly, where there was a hole in the waterbag, lifting the veil as though it was a t-shirt, over his head and place baby onto Sabrina’s arms immediately. Sabrina, superstar that she is, was calm as ever and she readily welcomed her baby into her arms. First birth, less than 2 hours of intense labor. HypnoBirthing rocks!
The whole scene was so bizarre. In a moment where everyone should have been in the room – for some reason, no one was around – and when I attempted to get everyone, from pressing the nurses call button repeatedly.. to calling her husband and the Doctor, I somehow could not reach anyone. It was as though fate has determined that this moment was meant to be.
I reflected upon the birth as a good omen – to have a baby be born onto my healing hands and to be born in the caul, how much more auspicious can it get? It was the blessing I needed before leaving for my 10 day fast at Koh Samui.
Making my peace as a Doula
I jumped out of bed by 5.30am, showered, put on my make-up and quickly planned the schedule for the rest of my day. The plan to take the day off looked promising – the plans to accompany my son for his swim lesson, head off for a morning breastfeeding consultation, and take the rest of the day off by having lunch with my son and friend, followed by trial pottery lessons just to do something different together for Kieran and I, Kieran going for his martial arts class, dinner with friends, attending Ajahm brahms talk and finally, a salsa dance social at Union Square. Excited about the day ahead as I was once again, going to attempt to take the day off after my morning appointment.
And the story always starts with my phone ringing, Jo was on the line and says that she is in early labor. However, because the nature of the surges were haphazard, she’ll keep me updated. That’s usually fine except that this is Jo’s 3rd pregnancy and that I’ve only met her yesterday for the first time and for the first prenatal, her birth plan was not done and she hasn’t had the chance to read up about whether she wants a waterbirth, home birth or just an active birth. Most of all, the doctor and the nurses at her hospital of choice has yet to be informed. Her doctor only called me personally a week ago to inform me that she is referring Jo to me.
Experience got the better of me, so I quickly had my breakfast, prepared my vegetable wrap to take along with me as part of my labor food stash, contacted all the relevant people (that being the doctor, the midwife in-charge of waterbirths at the hospital and the delivery quite staff to inform them and arrange for a possible unplanned waterbirth. Then because I had only met them yesterday, I had to print their birth plan and checked with her husband if he had some of the labor tools such as a rice sock ready, in case he needs me to supply anything else. On a personal front, I had to register Kieran at his new swim school, fortunately the class today was within walking distance from my home and where I would get a cab as well, so I quickly made my way there. Just as I was done, her husband called to update me on her progress and I said we should meet at the hospital. Jo refused as she felt that she would not be able to make it through the car ride to the hospital without any support so her husband asked me to go over to their place instead and we go to the hospital from there. I called for a cab and headed over.
One look at Jo on all fours holding on to the gym ball under the running shower, I felt instinctively that we had to go soon and wanted to see the nature of her surges before we made a move. So I quickly asked her husband to bring over the draft birth plan we worked on and asked him to hand write the points that we discussed the before whilst I observe Jo to see how she was coping with the surges, if her vulva was bulging, if her anus was dilated and if there was any more bloody show. With each surge, I coached her on her breathing so she would focus more on her breathing instead of losing it during contractions. I told her husband to grab two towels for the car in case her waters broke and to take her clothes so we can dress her as we had to get ready to transfer to the hospital soonest. I texted the midwife in charge of waterbirths at the delivery quite to inform her that we were going to go in soon.
But we had a problem. Jo would not and could not move. Contractions were 2 mins apart and she started to feel like she needed to push. Usually, when a client commits to a hospital birth, I make it a point and even take pride in the fact that I will do whatever it takes to get them there. However, this time, the situation was different. I had to think quickly. Do we force her to move and get her going to the hospital OR since she can’t move, do they want to go to the hospital? In a situation like this, I would ensure that they make a move and go to the hospital BUT I wasn’t too confident that we would be able to make it in time and the possibility of Jo giving birth in the car was very real. So I explained the situation to her husband and decided that we should go. Jo still could not move and did not want to move.
Thoughts race through my mind. The hospital staff are all anticipating her arrival and her doctor even called me up personally to refer Jo to me, my reputation and relationship with the doctor and the hospital is at stake here. OR do I call the doctor who does homebirths to see if he will take on this last minute case based on complete trust in me and my judgement and if he can come over right now so that Jo, who had 2 traumatic births, can finally achieve the birth of her dreams?
Whilst the possibility of risking the relationship with the Doctor and hospital was at stake, Jo’s needs topped the list in nano second. I left Jo in her husband’s care and went to call Dr. F.M Lai who does homebirths, asking if he could come. He said yes, and I gave him all the details he needed and rushed back to attending to Jo who was in distress. She was pushing hard, and I coached her to keep blowing with each out-breath. Then I had to call the paediatrician to ask if she was willing to take a last minute case and be on standby, and she said yes. Next I had to contact the hospital’s midwife. At this point, I was without hands. Her husband had to connect the ear piece to my ear whilst he found all the numbers and called/ smsed on my behalf.
Standing just next to the running shower, with Jo grabbing on one hand and my other hand massaging her back intensively crouching over, I was getting drenched which I found very amusing. Amusing because even after attending 200 over births and always knowing instinctively how to protect myself and my clothes, this was the first time I was getting a wet shower with my clothes and make-up on after all these years! When we talk about waterbirths to the doctors and the nurses in a new environment, one of the common questions asked is if the doctor/ nurses have to go into the pool to deliver the baby. And I always say never, well, this time around, I am wrong.
Her husband at this point who busy with all the logistics, giving road directions to the doctor, getting hot water ready (what hot water is for? I dunno, but my guess is watching many too many Chinese drama series of how there would always be hot water at a birth), grabbing all the towels, protecting the bed, spreading towels on the floor so nobody slips and falls etc… he was busy as a bumble bee!
At this point, Jo was screaming the HDB block down.. and kept saying I cannot do it, I cannot do it. With a firm but loving voice, I told Jo not to waste her energies by talking, instead coached her with breathing and blowing, until the doctor arrives, with my fingers and toes crossed tightly. I caught a baby before I left for my 12 day vacation recently, which is something I do not do as Doulas do not do anything clinical unless it’s an emergency situation, interestingly, for that hospital birth, no one was around and the nurse bell even stopped functioning but that’s a different story altogether. Point being, this baby was to be delivered by the doctor.
Finally, her husband announced that the Doctor has arrived. A sigh of relieve and a huge smile came from me. Josephine was fully dilated, a point she has never made it through drug-free before with her previous 2 births. Head was low and sitting there, now she was free to push. Within a few pushes, her perineum was stretching and she started saying “its too painful”. Not having birth her previous babies before without assistance, Jo was losing confidence again. “Push through the pain” I said firmly and reassuringly. There is no where else to go, there is no help for assistance available, this is a homebirth, as you have requested. So work with it, push through the pain”. And she did.
Her husband was like a newscaster at this point, cheering Jo on whilst video-taping the entire birth. “A lot of hair!””The head is crowning” The Head is out”… A big smile flashed across Jo’s face when I told her that baby’s head is out, and with the next contraction, she just had to give one push and the body would slide out.
Baby was born and Jo burst into tears, unable to believe all that was happening. We slowly helped Jo to sit down and passed baby immediately into her arms. Even though this was her third pregnancy, this birth experience was all new to her, and she needed this experience to know that she CAN do this and more importantly, to heal from her birth trauma of her previous births. A healing circle – the rebirth of a mother and father all over again.
Reflections from the Doula:
“Even though I only met Jo & her husband less than 24 hours ago from her birth, a bond of trust was formed immediately. This birth experience gave me a split second opportunity to rethink my role as a Doula when I had to make the call between getting Jo to the hospital or arranging for a home birth. The choice was clear. My client’s interests come first, this is after all, their birth experience to keep and not mine. Whilst I risk the relationship with the doctor and the hospital, the satisfaction and healing that it provided for Jo made the decision the right decision.
As for the rest of the day, I did take the rest of the day off and the highlight of the day was at my favourite Australian Monk Ajahn Brahm’s talk and he said: “It’s the intention, and not the result.” At that point, I made my peace with my decision and my calling.
After the birth, I sat on the floor next to Jo’s bed and we were sharing about motherhood where she started asking me about the struggles as a single parent, the perception of how I was well-off because I live in a landed property etc.. I was tearing silently in my heart and feeling misunderstood. If only people knew and understood the struggles I go through as a single mom, how I put myself on the line emotionally, physically and spiritually to man the fort as a mother, as a woman, as a doula, as all that I am, and often wonder in tears and weariness, when will this struggle ever end? I once again quote Ajahn Brahm “It’s not about what job you choose to do, but HOW you choose to do the job.” Every moment, I choose with all my love and good intentions. I choose to Doula with a warm heart because birth matters, one birth at a time” ~ Ginny
Number 2 of the Number 3s
Number 2 mom expecting her number 3, Janet had less than ideal birth experiences for her previous births. It was as though the Universe was beckoning her to awaken into consciousness through her coming birth, she found me last minute through word-of-mouth. Throughout the HypnoBirthing classes and preparation for her birth, I was not at all worried about Janet being able to do it although a drug-free birth and breastfeeding successfully would be a new experience for her even though this is her third experience. There was something coming together for her on an energetic level, and a sense of underlying certainty that she was going to have the waterbirth that she envisioned.
The big day came and Janet was feeling impatient. She was used to being induced, making her births very fast and efficient. This waiting around and waiting for labor to naturally pick up was all so new to her. Kept busy with her two younger children, she was unable to progress from early labor to active labor until her children went for their nap. Almost immediately, her neocortex switched off and she went into la-la-land. Jaren called me to ask to meet at the hospital.
When Janet came out of the car, she was still calm and composed so when Dr. Chong Yap-Seng asked me how much time he has before he needs to be there, I said no worries, he has time, and as usual, I’ll keep him updated. By the time we walked from the main entrance of National University Hospital to the delivery suite, I texted Dr. Chong to start making his way to the hospital, labor was accelerating very quickly. The usual fanfare of prepping the room, admissions etc.. were all taking place as Jaren and I quickly set up the birthing room, watertub and the other comfort measures that we needed. Janet’s waters released when she was sitting on the toilet seat, and we quickly moved her into the tub after. I called Dr. Chong to ask him to come NOW. As Jaren was filming the process, I held on to Janet, coaching her to focus on her breath and to breathe calmly and slowly, allowing her perineum to stretch. The medical officer then signaled to me that baby’s head was crowning and I asked Jaren if he still wanted to deliver his own baby and he said yes. In the next few breaths, baby swam out into Daddy’s arms, enveloped immediately into a world of love and spirituality as Deva Premal’s music filled the room, tears filling our eyes and love warming our hearts.
Number 3 of the Number 3s
She was getting impatient and BIG, yet because she was the number 3 of the number 3s, I knew she was definitely the next and was willing to wait and let baby decide and I gave her the suggestion of doing belly lifting. The night after belly lifting, she called me just when I reached home, after clocking another 10 hour work day and we decided to meet at the hospital. As discussed beforehand, and having had a drug free birth with a Doula before, she did not want to labor in the tub.
She was in smiles when she arrived, looking radiant and beautiful as she always has and very much aware of whatever that was happening. Still in early labor at 3cm, I slowly coaxed her to get into la-la-land (labor land) by spraying aromatherapy, dimming the lights and strictly no music as per her instructions. She started getting curious about using the tub, so I filled it up, leaving it as an open option in case she changed her mind. Labor started picking up and she decided to give it a go, a little apprehensive at first as the tub was too big for her during her last birth. We got her comfortable and the water did wonders as it relaxed her even more and the intensity of her labor picked up. We helped her out of the tub and she was breathing down in no time. I called Dr. F.M Lai to ask him to come over and as fast and reliable he always is, he was with us shortly. As Julie’s head and arms emerged, one could tell that this was a big baby and 4kg later, Julie was placed in Mommy’s arms.
Quick, happy and “easy” , her husband said that this birth was the calmest of all 3 births. Yay! Mission accomplished.
Last but not least…..
Sakinah contacted me early in her pregnancy, having heard about me from her friends who have had cesareans before. It took them 5 years to have this baby and this moment was long awaited for. It is such an honor to watch her blossom through this journey, making the changes necessary from changing doctors and hospitals just so that she can have a water birth – the first ever in her Malay community of friends. Even though she took Hypnobirthing, pain associated with childbirth has been deeply ingrained in her mind. From early labor on, she kept saying how painful it was and would burst into tears from time to time. Surges were intensifying at home, and as they felt comfortable, they stayed home as long as they could. When the surges started coming every 4 mins or so, I gave parents the option of moving on to the hospital to settle in or staying home a bit longer before going. They decided to go.
4cm dilated. We settled in the hospital and when she was ready, we moved to the tub. Sakinah was made up with a heart of gold and courage of steel as she labored with each breathe. Coaching her constantly, Shaff & I were working hand in hand, reminding her to breathe a breath for baby; a breath for her; a breath for Shaff and a breath for Allah, and with every exhalation, she would shout out “ALLAH!!!” In between moments, tears would flow, yet she would find the love and courage somewhere within and carried on, one breath at a time, focusing on one surge each time. We worked closely with Deborah, the midwife in-charge of waterbirths, who was cheering us on all the way.
Dr. Mary Rauff made in just in time when Shakir was crowning and with 2 big breaths, Shakir slipped out into this world, born in the water and placed on Sakinah’s arms as both parents burst into tears of delight and sheer joy, and as Shaff posted on his facebook status “My whole life I have been waiting for you.” We all waited so long for you dear baby as tears flow into my eyes as I recall the beautiful moment when you were in Daddy’s arms with him singing prayers for your blessing. You were so attuned and silent, taking in all of God’s blessings and the aura of love.
Thank you all for having me there as part of your journey, as I dedicate my life to serve God, in every single one of you. Love, Doula Ginny
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes!
The chant went on. I stood there at the end of the fire lane, eyes locked with the participant who is about to attempt the fire walk, beckoning her with one arm to walk towards me, and my other arm out-stretched as a barrier to break her state after her walk as her feet gets hosed down. Not having done the fire walk before nor crewed for Anthony Robbins “Unleash the Power Within” seminar, the only reference point I had was the mental birth visualizations of one of the trainers demonstrating the role I was taking on during the rehearsals we had the day before – that is, to stop the fire walkers at the end of the 3m burning coals and break their mental state. We only had half a day to train for this, as we role-played the scenes the day before, conditioning it into our nervous system mentally, emotionally and physically. But nothing truly prepares you for the real thing. As nervous as I was, completely S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-D out of my comfort zone, I tuned out the doubtful voices in my head and tuned into the mental state of certainty. One after another, they came towards me.
By the time it was my turn to walk the blazing hot coals (648-1093 degree celsius), there was hardly any room for doubt and uncertainty, I just had to do it, there was no other way. I clapped my hands in rhythm to my chant “YES! YES! YES! YES!” and stormed across the burning coals, unscathed with NO blisters. The power of mental visualisation!
The same way I rehearsed for the fire walk is the same way to rehearse for the birth that you want. Play it over and over and over again in your mind until you truly believe that it is gonna be this way or no way. Feel it, breathe it, hear it, sense it. When you get to that state, your EASY, SHORT, RELAXED & COMFORTABLE birth is truly yours to own. I have seen in so many times in the mothers I am privileged to work with. It is possible!
And in case you are wondering, when it is my turn to have another baby, I am definitely having a home water-birth and I already have a collection of visual images from my experiences supporting women at their births, of how I want my glorious, orgasmic birth to be.
Own Your Birth Experience.
Written by Ginny Phang.
What Clients Say:
I usually get swamped with emails after a newsletter has been sent out, here are some of what client’s do say…
You were my doula at Thomson Medical Center on Sept 13 when my son was born. We had a successful VBAC although there was some vacuum assistance at the end. The baby was posterior and it was a long hard labour but I did have a vaginal birth in the end. That VBAC was really important to me and was such an important factor to the birth of my third son, just 4 weeks ago. I want to thank you for all the birth education and helping me achieve a successful vaginal birth then because it did so much to help me in my recent birth.
I’m living in California now and I had difficulty finding an OB who is really supportive of me having a vaginal birth because of my C-section history. I managed to find a midwife who was confident to help me birth at home. We had a beautiful homebirth and everything went quickly and smoothly. It was the best birth experience I had of my three sons. The conditions were perfect this time and the baby was in the right position, the contractions were bearable and dilation was quick at the end. I attribute much of the success of this birth to what I had learnt from the last birth with you. I had such vivid memories of my last birth experience in Singapore and that really gave me confidence this time round.
I want you to know that what you had done as a doula went further than just the birth you supported 5 years ago; it did so much in helping me this time in my homebirth here in California. Thank you.
Once again I find myself relating to what you have written: “….Hypnobirthing mothers who report that they did not experience pain during the labor, only intense discomfort..”
Just this afternoon I was telling my husband “…I think my menstrual cramps feel even worse than my labor pains!!!” and I found myself missing being pregnant!!!! And recently I keep meeting people who are in their early pregnancy… it’s this universe thingy….. I want to be pregnant again!!! ;p
Since school reopened for term 3 about three weeks ago, I have been feeling stretched like a piece of dough being rolled out to be cut into pasta noodles. A few minor adjustments paved way for major changes on the personal front, mostly being extremely proactive in my 8 year old son’s life. Thus is the journey and the life of being a parent, and a mother. It is constantly evolving, taking you places beyond your wildest imagination and stretching you to the point where you never even knew existed. Such is the beauty of parenthood, I say this with my eyes rolling backwards. Who are you kidding?
I kid you not. The late nights spent getting work done, researching on schooling options and methodologies as well as teaching curriculums; the mornings and evening spent on family time and coaching him on schoolwork; the afternoons spent on meeting clients and doing all work related stuff; plus the lack of sleep.. I was knackered yet I stayed awake at every possibility, avoiding what was most important.
For a long time now, I’ve always felt that my calling and I lead parallel lives. How could it not be? As I quote Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet, “Work IS love made visible.” True to itself, my clients have been calling me, mostly feeling anxious as they reach the last leg of their pregnancy, the most challenging point where they are so close yet so far away, as they wait for D-day. As I reach out to them and reassure them, I hear myself telling them what I needed to hear for myself as well.
“Instead of distracting yourself, sit with your feelings instead. If you are feeling frustrated, uncomfortable, anxious, scared, just tune in to those feelings and let it all come out, let it all flow out. If you keep trying to distract yourself from those feelings, they’ll keep coming back coz like little children, they want your attention. So tune into them, meet them eye to eye and embrace them with love, kindness and compassion. There’s only so much you can do, the final leg is truly letting go and surrendering to the process. Birth is truly a meditation. You are not living in the past surges you already experienced, or the surges that have yet to come. It’s about meeting ONE SURGE AT A TIME with your breath. ”
Stretched out like dough and on the verge of tears, I stopped running to listen to the voices in my head and tuned into the feelings in my heart. There was a deep longing within, to reconnect with my sanctuary within. I took out the Muslim prayer beads that was given to me by a client about 2 years ago. Until now, it was always left in my drawer as I never quite knew what to do with it. But today, my heart knew. I sat down, with the prayer beads in one hand and tuned into my breath.
Breathing in, I am calm
Breathing out, I am peace
Breathing in, I relax
Breathing out, I let go of tension
Breathing in, I am living in the present moment
Breathing out, I am living in a wonderful moment
99 breath beads later, I am home.
Babies, I am sorry to have kept you waiting. I am home and I am ready to be there for you, with the whole of my heart, my presence and my love, and with my prayer beads in my hand.
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.
4.30am. I pressed the wrong button when the phone rang. The line got cut off. With one eye opened, I redialled and Lula was on the receiving end. “My waters has broken Ginny.”
It was only the night before when I was on the phone with Hugo and Lula about the last minute plans to have a homebirth instead of a hospital birth as planned because of the discrimination against Mexicans all over the world. Not having been back in Mexico since they moved here to make Singapore their home months ago, they have been discriminated against in several incidences and did not want to go through that stress at the hospital. And before Hugo ended the call last night, his last sentence to me was that as a Hypnobirthing Dad, he has spoken to Santiago to hold on inside whilst we prepped for the homebirth.
It usually takes time for labor to start after the waters have broken, with that in mind, I went back to bed. I contacted Dr. Lai in the morning to get his approval for a homebirth as I rushed to the pharmacy to buy whatever supplies we needed and headed for their apartment. Dr. Lai was a little concerned as baby was in posterior position during the prenatal scans but otherwise, there were no contradictions to not allow a homebirth.
Lula was in the shower when I arrived at about 10am. Even though her breaths were short, she was coping well, so I went ahead to get all the logistics prepared such as waterproofing the bed and ensuring that all that we needed was there before I settled outside the shower with Lula. Surges were about 5 mins apart and intense. Fetal heartrate was excellent.
I knew Tia was home when I was given the dettol to sanitized the bathtub. I caught a glimpse of Tia preparing food in the kitchen. I often read in birth stories about the tradition of a family member baking a birthday cake when a woman goes into labor, and when the cake is ready, comes baby. As the aromas of the food filled the house, in my head, like water for chocolate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Like_Water_for_Chocolate), I felt transported back in time. Here I am, in a modern apartment, yet it feels like I am in Mexico. Tia is feeling anxious. Why was Lula taking so long? Hugo, fortunately was calm, reassuring Tia more than he needed to with Lula.
“I am ready Ginny, I am ready to have this baby.” Lula wanted to know when Dr. Lai would come and asked me how long this was going to take. I said I don’t know how long she is going to take, and in fact no one knows. But what I do know is that she looks like she is doing well and we’ll just wait for it to progress even more. How would I know that she is fully dilated?, she asked. I said I’ll know because she won’t be talking to me and asking me these questions. Lula alternated between bathrooms so that there was enough hot water to keep going as she found being under the shower very helpful. She was doing well and soon enough started to feel that she needed to have a bowel movement and would give it a go. After two attempts she was finally convinced that its baby moving down, and not bowel movements.
Back in my head, I felt like a chef in a Mexican kitchen, like water for chocolate. Just observing Lula labor, I knew it was not time yet. It wasn’t about what the clock indicated, it was about observing her body, like waiting for the gluten in the dough to develop.
Dr. Lai came during lunchtime and confirmed that Lula was progressing well at 6cm, with baby’s head relatively low and her waters were still clear. Baby seems to be in OA, which is a good sign. He left and said he’ll be back at 5pm. As usual, I’ll keep him updated over the phone.
Not having planned for a homebirth, let alone a water birth, we needed to boil more water to keep the water temperature ideal for labouring and birthing in water. When the tub was ready, Lula went in with Hugo’s assistance but it seemed clear that she preferred the shower, nevertheless she stayed in for a bit before coming out and using the showers again.
After a while, I felt that we weren’t progressing as much as I had anticipated and encouraged her to come out of the shower to try other positions instead. Lula was all for it. Lula started praying. Call upon your mother, I said silently in my heart as I felt like I could feel the presence of others in the room. Call upon your ancestors to help you sweet child. Instinctively I felt that Tia should be in the room as she was the only one representing the Mexican community back home where Lula would have been surrounded by her large extended family.
Both tired and hungry, we managed to squeeze in some fruit juice and cut fruits for her, and after trying a few positions on land where she clearly fell deeply asleep in-between surges, she decided to lay on her side. The surges started intensifying shortly after she moved into that position, labor picked up from the monotonous rhythm. Whilst I am not musically inclined, my ears are well verse in the moans of a labouring mother. Regardless of race and nationalities, I find the music of the labouring mothers universal. The moaning notes indicated that Lula was bearing down. Only covered with a large towel, I lifted the towel to take a peep and my suspicions were confirmed with more heavy show. I was pleased at her progress and notified Dr. Lai via sms. Fetal heartrate was still good.
Lula asked me to help her with her breathing, to demonstrate to her as we exchanged words in both Spanish and Mexican, with Hugo translating whenever necessary. I moaned along with her. This was the time when things got really strange. As Lula was moaning, there was a loud moaning in the background. This time, I am no longer in Mexico but in a Tibetan monastery. With each moan, came another moan, like a Tibetan chant. For a moment in time, I thought it was my mind taking me places, playing tricks on my good ears.
“Tia, gracias!!!!!” shouted Lula. The chanting stopped.
I encouraged Lula to move to the tub, in hope that the water will help her to progress even faster in the squatting position. She was clearly bearing down by this time and surges were about 2 mins apart. I smsed Dr. Lai to come now as I felt that she was ready, like the dough baking in the oven and rising. As she was bearing down, I could also see the base of the bladder. Santiago, where are you? Tia’s finally in the bathroom with us, busy snapping away and getting everything we needed.
Dr. Lai arrived and a vaginal examination confirmed that Lula is fully dilated and Santiago’s head is just sitting there. She went back into the water and tried bearing down in various positions. “Just help me Dr. Lai to get Santiago out!” Lula asked. Dr. Lai asked if she would like to deliver on land instead and we can help with fundal pressure, Lula consented before changing her mind, insisting to me that she wants to birth in the water. I said to her that I’ll go whichever way she wants. I then asked if she would like to go onto the bed first to have a vaginal examination done whilst she is bearing down, so Dr. Lai can tell whether her bearing down is progressing, and we can always move back to the water. She agreed.
Once on the bed, Lula started screaming at the top of her lungs when Dr. Lai was checking her. “Get your hands out of me and let me do my job!!!!!!!!!!!!” as the surges came. In-between surges she would be apologising profusely to Dr. Lai, and when the surges came, she would start screaming again. “Ginny, I am not doing it the Hypnobirthing way” as she rattled on and on. By this point, I could not stop smiling, and just short of breaking out in laughter. I had to ask Lula to stop talking and focus on resting before the next surge comes yet she would continue rattling on and on. Santiago’s head was now visible, with Hugo and I applying fundal pressure and Dr. Lai encouraging her. At one point, we asked Lula to place her hands to feel Santiago’s hair. Tia was busy filming and snapping away – her first time witnessing a birth.
“Stop the fundal pressure” ordered Dr. Lai. Santiago’s head was out and Dr. Lai placing his finger in-between his neck and his cord to protect Santiago. I reminded Lula that it’s just one more surge as Santiago slid out into this world at 4.19pm with his umbilical cord entangled all over. Once untangled, Santiago was placed immediately onto Lula’s arms, skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart.
An hour later, after a refreshing bowl of Mexican chicken soup, we woke up Mexico at 3am with news of Santiago’s birth via Skype and later, his birth was even announced on the radio. Welcome into this world sweet child, the blessings of the swine sure made this homebirth a possibility!
This birth story was written for Hugo, Lula and Santiago, and reprinted with permission.
16. The “f” word
Almost as vulgar as the “f” word, is the word “father”. If there are TWO important concepts you should know as a single mom, the first would be that EVERY child has a father.You know that, but your child does not understand that esp when he has not met his father or his father had not played an active role in his life. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and think of it as a fairytale, its there but its unreal and beyond grasp.
For many years now, Kieran will go around saying that “he doesn’t have a father” and trust me, as a mom, there is nothing more painful than that especially when you understand the damage it does to him on an emotional level and one of the underlying causes of the power struggles that we have. Whilst I truly don’t think he deserves being acknowledged as the father, nothing can change the fact that he is his biological father. Only during the Family Constellations weekend that I attended last October, did I realise that for Kieran to acknowledge that he has a father, i would have to do so first. So swallowing a gallon full of pride and resistance, I acknowledged that he has a father by digging out a really old picture I had of his father and I and displayed it at home, in full view of everyone who comes by.
17. If you have nothing good to say, don’t say anything
The other important concept that I swear by till today it to NEVER, i repeat, NEVER speak ill of your child’s biological father, no matter how much he has hurt you. That’s between you and him, not your child, so don’t pull your child into it. When your child is older, your child will be the judge and should be given every opportunity to meet your ex if he wants to. This is something I have managed to keep to for the past 8 years. And if i have to speak of his dad, i will only share good memories I had with him. And if i have nothing good to say, then don’t say anything.
18. the other Men
Now that the man is out of the picture… or rather, literally, on a picture on my wall, what about men and role models that the ‘single parenting or raising boys’ books usually talk about? Well, the theory goes that if a child in a single parented family has positive role models around him, that should suffice. BUT what the books fail to mention is how difficult it actually is to find consistent positive male role models who would genuinely care about your son’s (not theirs) welfare. Eight years on, I have not found one, and unless you have a bloody good suggestion that will work, then share it with me coz’ I am tired of empty promises and non-constructive suggestions.
19. Buy One Get One FREE
Yes it comes in a package, take it or leave it. And hey, it certainly takes more than BALLS to date a 2-1 package. especially someone like me, haha! And whilst I don’t have any suggestions as to how to find positive male role models for my son, I also have none when it comes to dating. Some say you should not introduce the man until your relationship with him is stable, some say to introduce him right from the start so you know whether the relationship will work or not. I have only done the latter and all I can say is that it has been insightful. Whilst I have not settled down with “the one” yet as there is none at the moment, every relationship has brought me closer to what it can be by showing me what it can be like, and what I would like to avoid, ultimately bringing you one step closer to yourself.
20. It takes a village to raise a child
Whilst it may sound depressing, it really isn’t that bad altogether. Men aside, the next best thing you can do for yourself apart from establishing a very strong support network to support YOU, is to establish a Parent-led team for your child. Quoting Margaret Mead“it takes a village to raise a child”.
I got the idea of a Parent-led team from a book I am currently reading – The Minds of Boys by Michael Gurian (http://www.gurianinstitute.com), just in time when I am looking to hire someone to come in 3-4 times during weekday evenings to sit with my son and coach him on his homework since my lifestyle is so unpredictable, which in turn is really unfair to my son.
The idea of a Parent-led team is to get a group of people to be involved in parenting your child. Now, to get someone to commit to coming in once a week is already hard enough, ask Kieran’s Godpa and he can attest to that… however, with Skype and the wonders of the internet, logistics and spacial issues should not be an issue.
Without realising it, I already do have some members on Kieran’s Parent-led team. Kieran’s Grand-aunt is in charge of his religious education, ensuring that he turns up for catechism, attends mass with him, and reads him the Bible. My wonderful housemate, who unfortunately is moving back at the end of this month, has been loaning, reading and coaching him on homework whenever I am not around.She just said to include her in this team so they can chat via Skype or meet up once a month or something… Being a literature teacher from New Zealand and teaching at Julia Gabriel Singapore, its great exposure for Kieran.
So if you are reading this, and may be interested, we have OPEN positions for exposure to “nuclear families” so Kieran can experience what it is like to immerse with a family with both a father and a mother; male role models where when time permits, you can bring him out for sports or a man-to-boy testosterone time; music exposure (apparently helps to improve Maths by leaps and bounds as it uses the same side of the brain); and/ or just outings with kids since I work weekends; or anything else you can think of ie. using computer for creative design etc..
21. Don’t be pai-seh
If there is one other thing that comes useful, be thick-skinned and always ask for help when you need it. I did an interesting experiment last year when I had to rope in a team of helping hands to help me out last year when I was stranded without a live-in domestic helper for 6 weeks after breaking up with my boyfriend. This also had to happen at a time when a few of my family members were hospitalised so the help I got from them was very limited.
I emailed a group of friends living nearby, both locals and foreigners and to my surprise, it was the foreigners who all responded almost immediately to lend a helping hand, from single friends who had less family obligations and babysat whenever i had to work weekday nights or stayed over when I had to attend births, some even being on “stand-by” when I am on stand-by for my clients, to a close friend living in a huge house and 4 kids offering to ask her helper to come by and babysit or even coming over herself with her toddler when the other kids are in bed. Wow wow wow. I heard from a local family two weeks later…
A few learnings after this incident:
(a) My friends are truly my extended family, which is also the reason why I am very selective, protective and loving towards them. When the going gets tough, you truly see who your allies are.
(b) I think its very “asian” to not dry your dirty linens in public, hence not coming out in the open about being unwed (its unbelievable how many are incognito); with a mindset that when you need help or have problems, it should be kept within the family. Sweetheart, its time to break conformity! Be thick-skinned, be bold… ask for help!!!
22. Stability amidst the chaos
By now, you might have noticed the influx of people streaming in and out of your lives.. because finding a few committed people is really hard but making do with bits and pieces everywhere is a lot more realistic. Adds variety as well! However, kids need some form of stability and routine, so with my almost totally unpredictable hours and lifestyle,its really unfair for Kieran.And that is why, a solid domestic helper and support from friends and family are crucial for me, so that whether I am there or not, his life goes on.
So who is the oak tree? YOU!!! And your child needs to know that, that you are available and there for him no matter where he is. And if you can’t be (i have limited access to my phone when I am at births or with clients), there had better be a reliable back up person he can call on.
23. The other “f” word
Trust me, it can get very stressful just coordinating the number of people around a child’s life. My friends can attest to how stressful i get when my domestic helpers in the past cannot get their act together as it adds to the list of things i need to manage and worry about. And now, you’ll also understand why my tolerance level is very low as some may say, because I have high expectations. I do expect the person to do their job WELL, and if they don’t, they are out of the picture or at most in my case, if they don’t and it becomes a necessity, they stay on the picture literally.
So the other “f” word, fortunately, is to remember to have FUN, F U N, FUN!!! Its easy to get carried away by logistics of getting things done and accomplished. Participate in being a human-BEING, and not a human-DOING. Just the other day, I was having lunch with my housemate and she was sharing with me about her night with Kieran when I was away at a birth. It sounded as though she was talking about someone else’s son as he shared with wonderful adventures at school with her – golly, i felt like a brick just fell onto my head. It made me miss him so much yet he is always there, its ME who is not present and who has lost sight of what is important in life. Kids – they are your teachers, truly!
Now that I have given you nuggets of information here and there, how does it all fall in place? How does one be a mother, a daughter, her own woman, a partner, a friend, a professional???? Firstly it takes time to get everything together; Secondly, it takes to get use to it and balance what you want and don’t want; Thirdly, be fluid and make allowances for changes as nothing is truly constant; Fourthly, master the art of bouncing back whenever you fall off the bandwagon. There is NO other way truly but bounce back on track, another valuable life skill. Its all easier said than done I can assure you, having lived through it and still living it. Life’s a journey, you need the destination to provide you with the direction, but it’s the journey where you truly grow, upwards, downwards, sideways, contort.. I trust that you’ll figure it out even if it means going in circles sometimes.
25.Last but not least…
It is important yet challenging to live in the present, however it is also important to remember to “Hold on to your dreams…” Who are you? What are your dreams as a person? What is the purpose of your life?
Wanna know my dreams? I’ll tell you when I get there…
This is for Kieran, my family and my friends – without which, I DO NOT want to even imagine what life would be like.. I love you all, very very much!