Nadiah's healing birth after grief and loss
Birth story – Part 1.
Hana Safiyyah’s birth story began long before she was even conceived. I had just came back from a ‘grieving trip’ after having lost my 69 day old son, who passed away under the care of his babysitter due to unknown reasons (we refused post mortem). I wanted to conceive again. My first-born daughter was already 3.5 yrs old then. I was longing to hold another baby in my arm. Rightly or wrong, I wanted a ‘replacement’ for my late son – asap.
After a few months of trying, strangely enough, nothing happened. It was odd indeed for us, as we have been very blessed to conceive at every occasion that we ‘intended’ to, praises be to God. I took it as a sign from the Almighty that I needed to take my time to grieve.
As I grieved, I looked back at every single thing I could have done better to give my late son, Haziq, a better start in life. See, the pregnancy alone was already, somewhat complicated (he was diagnosed as an IURG case at 28 weeks gestation). His birth was induced (tablet, then Pitocin) at 37 weeks as I was told that he might not survive natural contractions if he were to come later (yes, I had put all my trust in my care provider then). At birth, while I was determined to take epidural, for some funny reason, I refused the so-called happy drug when it was offered to me in the labor room. I felt like I cld take the pain. Surges came, I breathed in the ethonox gas and was given pethidine without much say. The VEs, were excruciating, needless to say, conducted by a merciless nurse to ‘speed things up’ even as I cried in pain asking her to stop. After 8.5 hours of induced labor, I gave birth to a 2.6kg boy in a typical hospital birth setting – lying down on my back, legs open wide, all high from drugs, with about five strangers ‘cheering’ me on as I pushed. As soon as Haziq was delivered, he was taken away from me due to breathing difficulties and spent the first five days of his life in the NICU before we were allowed to go home.
At home, we noticed frequent spit ups and choking during feeding time. Only after he passed away, we learned from (a few) Paedtricians that those are signs of lung problems (he probably wasn’t ready to be out in this world when we ‘forced’ him out). What happened to my son at the babysitter’s, was beyond my control, I thought to myself. But I can make better decisions about my pregnancy and birth to give my child(ren) a better start in life – and so began my quest for a healthier pregnancy and gentle birth.
I must give credit to Atiqah Ramli, a senior from my high school who published her hypno-homebirth story on her FB page around that time. From there on, I was introduced to hypnobirthing and the Gentle Birthing Group on FB.
We finally conceived about a year after my son’s passing. While the first 15 weeks really took a toll on me (as with my previous two pregnancies), I made sure I took good care of myself; I didn’t miss my daily supplements and had home cooked meals as much as I could. I tried to avoid stress and be in a happy state as much as possible. I also read birthing related books (as opposed to pregnancy books in the past) including Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, The Good Birth Companion, Better Birth, and Hypnobirthing, the Mongan Method. I was on Facebook a lot, not to view friends’ daily updates, but to read updates/research posted on the GBG page. J I watched many natural/orgasmic/ hypno birth videos that were on YouTube – many sent me to tears. Also got to know about hypnobirthing classes, and finally managed to attend the course in my final trimester taught by Nadine.
Further, this time round, I really ‘shopped’ for a gynae. We wanted to make sure we welcome our child into this world as gently and as naturally as possible, the way God had designed the birth process to be. We finally chose to go with Dr. C from Pantai at 20 weeks after seeing three other OBGYNs, following recommendations from the many happy mums on the GBG. I was sold during my first visit, with two other gynae’s remaining on my interview list. ;)
I went to my 40th week checkup with no signs of labor. I even attended my brother in law’s aqad nikah on my EDD – feeling like a whale. I was starting to feel a little anxious from all the questions from concerned friends and family; at the same time tremendously relieved that there was no pressure from my gynae to induce labor – contrary to my past two births. Dr C said he’d give me two weeks before recommending induction. I kept reminding myself to keep calm; that our child would come when she’s ready; that there is a time and place for everything; kun fayakun.
One beautiful Sunday morning, 8 days past my EDD, as I went to the loo at the hotel (on our secret-overdue-babymoon getaway), I saw some red spots on my panties. I was ecstatic – finally, a sign! I didn’t tell anybody though; not even hubby. Soon surges started coming sparsely – accompanied by some slight diarrhea. I sent a text to Nadine asking her for tips to speed up labor without going panicky. She responded that I should just calmly ride the waves. So I kept going about my day without saying anything to anyone. We even had banana leaf lunch at Bangsar as my surges came every half an hour or so.
When we got home, I suggested to hubby that we move our stuff to my mom’s, which was about 5 mins away (as we were going to spend my confinement days there). I packed our stuff through the surges, then about 15-20 mins apart while hubby made a few trips back and forth to send our stuff. By the time all of us settled in, surges started coming closer together. Whenever they came, I stopped doing my chores (unpacking, mostly) and swirled my hips to help baby decent; nervous but excited at the prospects of seeing adik.
After I finished unpacking, I decided to enjoy a long hot shower; it may after all, be my last chance to enjoy a long shower in a while. When I was done, hubby had just finished performing his Maghrib prayers – and I told him, “I think it’s time to go to the hospital.” My contractions were roughly five mins apart then.
We called the parents who were having dinner at a relative’s house nearby. Hubby also made a call to the labor ward to let them know we were coming so they can get the birth pool ready. I filled up my water bottle with RRLT and honey for the night’s ‘battle’, and off we went. I attempted to remain calm but it was a tad difficult with hubby driving so fast with the hazard lights on. I was feeling fine but his driving was causing me to panic. :p
We arrived in Pantai Bangsar in about 25 mins (fr Shah Alam!). I was happy to see the birth pool all filled up when we got to the labor suite. See I didn’t have ‘enough’ time to persuade hubby to agree to a water birth regardless of how much I wanted one – I blame the engineer in him; but we compromised and agreed that I labored in water and have a dry birth; hence the birth pool. J
After I changed, I was strapped to the CTG machine for initial assessment. Dr C arrived just 5 mins after – and performed a VE – the first of only two VEs throughout my pregnancy and labor. I was 5cms dilated and Dr C said it’s a good time to get into the pool as I would need to come out when I was about 8-9 cms dilated. He didn’t even bother to look at the CTG reading; and just told Miss S, the midwife in charge, to get me off the machine and said “Leave this lady alone, ya.” – so we didn’t even get the full 20 min reading. I got into the water and listened to the playlist on my phone including the birth affirmations and Rainbow Relaxation.
The water was very soothing, I must say. I asked hubby to have the lights turned off and then kept my eyes closed as I breathed deeply with each surge. I was mostly in a kneeling position with my hands hanging over the birth pool, and sometimes squatting. Hubby handed me the RRLT for me to sip every now and then.
Time seemed to move very fast, it was suddenly 1.00am when I glanced at the clock on the wall. The only annoying thing about this stage of labor was Miss S really; she told hubby that I wasn’t supposed to eat/drink through labor; she asked me to stand up for a Doppler reading every half an hour (and I refused after the third time); she was talking to hubby about my past two labors and births (didn’t need to hear conversations about me while I am in the room!); she was in the room the whole time for no reason – just standing there, leaving us with no privacy! When Miss S left the room (for her break presumably), another midwife nurse came in and poured water on my back as the surges came – now at least she’s doing something helpful, I thought to myself.
At around 1.30 am, Miss S came back and asked if I felt any pressure on my bottom. I told her there’s some pressure, but didn’t think it wasn’t time yet. She requested to perform a VE to check my progress. As much as I hated VEs and was annoyed with her, I wanted to know how far along was I, so I agreed. It was such a difficult task, climbing out of the pool, as surges were coming almost every minute. I finally got out and laid down on the bed while Miss S did her thing down there. Miss S informed that I was about 8cms dilated. Based on our plan to have a dry birth, I was advised not to get back into the pool. I turned around to be in a kneeling position with my hands holding onto the head of the bed.
The moment I got out of the pool, all of the hypnosis I worked on earlier went out of the window; I just couldn’t relax/focus like I did inside the water. I was vocalizing a lot through the surges, keeping my jaw loose. Hubby was reciting short surahs from the Quran right next to me. Surges were coming very close together, with hardly any rest periods anymore. At that point, I was going out of my mind, thinking I could really use some painkillers right about then! Lol. Just when I thought I couldn’t go through with it anymore, I heard a pop and felt a gush of water coming out – my water broke! I knew the baby was coming then. Miss S asked me to turn around to be on my back, but I refused, and said (more like shouted) “tak nak!” ^_^
Despite the tremendous pressure on my bottom, I was trying very hard not to push, and kept breathing and vocalizing. Two other nurses/midwives came right about then. One of them kept telling me to hold my breath. “Puan, tahan nafas puan. Jangan push lagi. Puan, tahan nafas. Jangan push,” she kept repeating loudly, presumably because Dr C had not arrived yet. I couldn’t deal with them at that time and just wanted to focus on my breathing so I used both hands to cover my ears. Plus I wasn’t pushing really, but I felt every bit of Adik come through as I breathed out. Soon enough I felt so much relief - Adik must have come out already (I was facing the wall). I slowly turned around and there she was. One of the nurses put Adik on my chest immediately and nothing else mattered. I heard the midwife nurse announced the time: 2.10 am. Alhamdulillah!
Dr C arrived just a few minutes after while the midwife nurses were busy examining my vagina. One of them mentioned quietly that she didn’t think there was any tear. ^_^ I had asked for delayed cord clamping and so Dr C quickly told them to leave me alone while waiting for the cord to stop pulsating. Meanwhile, hubby recited azan on Adik’s right ear. She had her eyes wide open, so calm and alert.
About two mins after, the cord stopped pulsating and Dr C offered hubby to cut the cord. It was the first time hubby cut our child’s cord. We initially planned to wait for natural expulsion of the placenta, but changed my mind at that point, as I was too exhausted and without much energy left (last meal I had was lunch the day before). So we had a managed third stage of labor, thankfully without any complications.
We also asked that adik’s vernix not to be cleaned off of her. So there she was, just lying on my chest; and then she suddenly latched on to my breasts. I could even hear her swallowing liquid, subhanAllah. It was the most wonderful feeling in the world. See I didn’t get to initiate breastfeeding immediately during my previous two births (my eldest was cleaned and weighed after about 5 mins of skin to skin contact, and my late son, was brought to the NICU soon after birth).
Dr C apologized for missing the birth and left upon confirming that everything’s OK (I had some minor tears). Everybody left us alone while we waited to be transferred to the maternity ward; which by policy, meant 2 hours following birth (we finally were sent to our room at 5.30 am – only then they took Adik to be weighed and cleaned). Those three quiet hours were indeed the time we needed to bond with our newborn. We spent just one more night in the hospital for observation and left the very next morning.
I didn’t tell many about our plan for an all-natural birth (no induction, no drugs, no epi, delayed cord clamping, etc). I didn’t want to invite arguments/unhealthy discussions/unwanted judgments. My support system has largely been my husband, my ever so kind gynae who patiently answered any and all the questions/concerns we had as well as respected our wishes; and not to forget the kind mamas in GBG. Fact is, I am a better informed parent this time round, thanks to my support system, Nadine, the many books/articles/videos I read/watched to prepare for my little one’s gentle arrival. This is my story; and the beginning of our journey as a family of four (once again).