12 December 2016, by Tan Li Lin
At the beginning of my first hypnobirthing session, Yen asked me what I wanted my birthing experience to be. “Fast, smooth and profound”, I replied. I’m so glad that was exactly what happened. Lia was delivered in 3 hours, of which 1.5 hours of that was intense labour. Like I shared in my previous post ‘Birth Story’ (part 1 & 2), I was 3cm dilated when I went for my check-up (and then immediately sent to the delivery ward). My Gynae said that was quite unusual for a first time mother. Several people asked how I ‘achieved this’… to which I shrug my shoulders and say, “er… baby was cooperative?”.
Here’s what I did that I found to be helpful – at least, these would be what I’d repeat for my second pregnancy. If anything, #4, #5 and #6 would be what I’d highly recommend.
1. Eating Dates
Dates are proven to help dilation of the cervix. A study conducted churned pretty amazing results: “The women who consumed date fruit had significantly higher mean cervical dilatation upon admission compared with the non-date fruit consumers”. No idea why they are effective – I was told it is because they are high in nutrition – so I ate 6 a day. They make great snacks, are cheap, and help with constipation too.
2. Sitting and stretching on a fitness ball
I used a 65″ one from Adidas which I bought from a sports store. My Doula, Chew Gin, recommended using it for gentle stretching exercises because it helps to open up the pelvic area. The ball should be high enough such that your hips are higher than your knees. I’d sit with my legs open outwards and do some gentle stretching from side to side, or I’d bounce to intensify the stretch. It was much easier doing stretching exercises with the ball than on the bed/mat because of the added movement you get from the ball. We’ve also found it useful (and energy efficient) in putting baby to sleep since the bouncing does most of the work (while baby is in your arms, of course)!
3. Drinking lots of coconut water
I don’t particularly like to drink water – I drink lots of tea, so it was tricky during my pregnancy to cut down on caffeine while finding alternative drinks. My Doula Chew Gin advised me to drink up 2 coconuts a day to keep the fluid levels high. I’d bring my metal container to the nearby hawker and have the drink stall uncle fill it up with fresh coconut water daily. It was cold and refreshing, and it helped with constipation as well (the bane of my pregnancy).
4. Hiring a Doula
Pronounced ‘doo-lah’, this person acts as a birth coach. This was seriously the best move we made. Chew Gin was recommended by a friend (if you choose water-birthing in NUH you’re required to hire a Doula). Her sessions prior to my delivery covered what to expect, how the whole thing works, the different types of intervention/pain relief and the effects, and how to prepare yourself for a smooth birth. These were mostly theories and conversations, but where your Doula makes a huge difference is DURING your delivery.
Chew Gin joined us at the hospital the moment I was admitted, and camped overnight with us. She took care of me – ensured I had sufficient to drink, eat, helped me when I went to the toilet, massaged me and did some energy work to prepare me. When my labour started, she grounded me with breathing techniques to keep me focused or I’d have gotten carried away with the ‘pain’. When contractions intensified, she would suggest ways to flow with the process. When the delivery team announced a move to break my water bag to push the delivery along, she intervened and held the space for me to make a powerful decision – else I would have felt pressured into a direction I would later regret. All this while my husband was sleeping! That’s where your Doula is an angel.
As newbie parents, it’s REALLY EASY to get lost in the whole hospital experience. The medical talk and the pressure from (some) medical staff can really throw you off. You’re in absolutely NO STATE to make clear decisions (I could barely talk even). Chew Gin was like a pillar of strength, and her unwavering calmness really helped me hold the conviction that everything is okay (lesson #1 – DON’T PANIC!).
She supported us – both new parents and baby – through the next 1 month, teaching me how to breastfeed, take care of myself and how to get to know my baby. This was important because the nursing team taught me a ‘short-cut’ way of introducing breastfeeding to my baby which didn’t really help. Chew Gin’s guidance and presence was priceless, and she was always calm, assuring and empowering. I highly recommend considering engaging a Doula.
5. Attending hypnobirthing classes
The idea of hypnosis put me off at first, but I was willing to give it a go when I understood that it was more about ‘relaxation’ techniques to help keep me sane through my delivery. The truth was, I made up my mind to have a water-birth, which meant I get no pain relief in the process. I was scared sh*tless deep down inside so I signed up for hypnobirthing classes with Yen to deal with it.
I went from feeling scared, to feeling confident and ready. It’s really simple – our bodies are built to birth. Women have been known to give birth whilst in a coma. I learnt to step back and let my body do the work, and withhold my brain from messing things up with inner talk like “you can’t do this! It’ll be painful! You can’t take it anymore!!!” These thoughts still crossed my mind when my labour was its most intensive, but I knew to empower my body and baby instead of negative talk (which by the way, also comes from friends, family and media who go all lengths to CONVINCE you that birthing is painful).
I was really inspired by the videos of mums who, with these techniques and knowledge, birthed really quiet, calm and gentle births. I wanted THAT reality – not the noisy, pain-filled, dramatic ones we see on TV. Hypnobirthing involves and empowers the whole family (dad, mum and baby) in the birthing process, I felt more assured and confident with Ronald going through this with me. Yen was knowledgeable, so her nuggets of wisdom coupled with her conviction carried me through my labour even though classes had ended by then. Most importantly though, I learnt to trust my baby, that she knew what to do and she was fully capable of birthing herself – I just had to get out of her way!
6. Talking to my baby
External interventions aside, I’d say this was probably the most profound method of birthing naturally and smoothly. In the last month, I’d constantly tell baby to take her time to decide when she’s ready to come out, that coming into this world takes a lot of courage and I want her to make that decision when she’s ready. And when she’s ready, I will be ready to receive her. This conversation also prepared me(!), in giving her time to get ready, I was giving myself time to get ready as well. When she decided to transit into this world, she did it fast and was over and done within 3 hours. Hallelujah!
Last of all, it helped tremendously to have a partner who loves and supports the changing-me through the whole 9 months. He was my reason to tide through all the downs; he was my reason to enjoy my pregnancy (whatever I could!)
Disclaimer: Every pregnancy is different, it is advisable to consult your gynaecologist when in doubt.
Lin Tan is an Entrepreneur and an Executive Coach who dedicated herself to others and her career, until family changed all that. Follow her blog on www.ilovechildren.sg and journey with her as ‘life after 30′ opened up a completely new chapter.