Last year October, just when I thought I couldn’t miss my husband any more after more than 2 weeks apart (for my Master course in NLP Coaching) we met up in Nice Airport, France to big hugs and kisses. We proceeded to San Remo, Italy (across the border) to our temporary apartment whereby he’ll be giving his own training to his staff.
Unbeknownst to us, a miracle was given to us a few days after we met. Despite not wanting to have any more kids and taking steps to make sure it stays that way, the Universe decided otherwise. I have been using what is touted as the safest contraception in the world, Mirena, since the beginning of the year. Yet, no contraceptive is strong enough against what Nature intended.
I have shared my health woes that began after using Mirena and also after my thyroglossal cyst operation on my neck. So when I got ‘more ill’ from end November, I put it down to those issues again. Except when my period was delayed, I knew something else was at play. When the little white stick with the blue line appeared, my first reaction was tears. I have to be honest; at that point, the prospect of being a mother of 4 and being pregnant again was so far removed from my mind. I was focussing on expanding my coaching business and trying to decide where in the world our little family was going to move. I was also concerned about whether an extra mouth to feed was going to be tough on our family. My beautiful husband hugged me and said, “If we are meant to have this child, then the Universe will make sure we’ll manage somehow”. He made some other jokes about his strong ‘boys’ that made me laugh and we kept crying and hugging in the bathroom till the girls knocked on the door asking what’s going on.
I’m pretty sure this baby is our last and it’s quite funny how our first child also was a miracle baby. I was on the pill non-stop too when we conceived her to the shock of my gynae. So I hope now our family started with a miracle and has ended with a miracle. And having this miracle baby bestowed upon us, I thought I should fulfil my dreams with her. Dreams I’ve had for a while when it comes to birth and my life.
We decided that this is the best time for us to finally make a call about our new home location and after much ‘heffing’ around, we decided to call Malaysia our new home. Plus I’ve always wondered about what it feels like to give birth in water and always thought how sad that I’ll never get to find out since all 3 were delivered the traditional way, on a hospital bed after being induced.
I started my search in France, for a doctor who is able to deliver my last baby in water. I wasn’t too confident of finding one, as many hospitals in Asia are very keen to keep it ‘traditional’ and many are even keener to accept the suggestion of mums when they mentioned C-sections. So when I stumbled on the name of a Dr. Choong while doing research online, operating out of Pantai Hospital in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, my hopes were raised. I decided to make an appointment to see him in one of my earlier ‘look-see’ visit to K.L. I found him very, very personable, highly likeable and very funny and relaxed. I knew my search for a water birth gynae has ended before it really began. He was also very easy going and understood my wish to go as natural as possible and to fulfil my dream of giving birth to life into water, our first home. He is a big proponent of the natural and active birth movement and that heartened me.
I have always maintained that a pregnant woman is not ill so she should not think of her body as a frail thing. She should keep active and do things as per normal albeit with a little slight adjustment. I went skiing in the Alps in the early days, went for long walks with the kids and friends, travelled inter continentally many times for business reasons and went mountain hiking in Borneo at 6 months pregnancy- those were a walk in the park!
The toughest thing I’ve done in this pregnancy (like the others) was moving home. Not just into another neighbourhood (like baby no.2 and 3) but moving internationally, having to help pack my personal belongings and saying goodbye to dear friends was tough. Moving internationally has already been described as second to death in the stress factor, imagine doing that at 32 weeks pregnancy! I left dear husband and 2 cats to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur with 3 kids and a heavy bump. After a good 30 hours of leaving Emlingen, France, via Frankfurt and Singapore, we arrived in hot and humid Kuala Lumpur to begin our new life at the end of May. We stayed in a serviced apartment and I ran around the first 2 weeks like a harried woman setting up my new company, bringing 3.5 kids all over town.
June 1st saw us moving into our new apartment in one of Kuala Lumpur’s expat neighbourhood, with a beautiful view of the city and beyond. Everything was perfect except I was tired looking after 3 kids on my own, living in an empty apartment while waiting for our own furniture to arrive in the container and of course, dear hubby. He finally arrived just as I crossed my 37th week and he couldn’t have come any sooner! It was one of the best surprises I’ve had lately (he changed his flight a few days earlier). We got familiarised with the route to the hospital and we managed to have more chats with Dr. Choong about the impending birth.
For the first time, this pregnancy was totally different for me. I didn’t suffer from low blood pressure as I used to, no painful sciatica as I used to and certainly the lowest weight gain of all pregnancies. I was feeling the glorious sun light that my body has been craving (some of you may know I’m a big natural Vitamin D warrior) just by walking everywhere in K.L. Though the last 2 weeks before baby’s birth, I kept getting strong Braxton Hicks that were more consistent with labour contractions than false ones. 3 times before I decided to go into the hospital, I was having contractions that went from 10 mins apart (the time most hospitals/ob-gyns want you to admit yourself) to almost 3 mins apart that lasted for a good 45 seconds.
On Wednesday July 11th, I woke up to contractions that were again 10 mins apart. This time it was even stronger and I could feel my high threshold of pain not being able to ignore it. After a few hours, and the contractions getting closer together (every 3 mins) I decided to tell my husband we need to get to the hospital. We also called Chloe Lodge, our birth documentary photographer that the time has come.
I decided on hiring Chloe after being moved seeing the birth pictures taken by another expat birth photographer friend in the Hague, Natalie Carstens. For those mums out there, you know that you’re never really ‘there’ when it comes to your own babies’ birth. You are not able to see the big picture as you’re too busy breathing yourself calm or trying to work the pain of contractions away using whatever method you’ve chosen. Even if you’ve asked your partner to take pictures and the odd video (like I’ve had done before), if he/she is doing a good job as your birthing partner/coach, you won’t have many pictures to look at. And I really wanted to see what a woman goes through and look like at the point of her child’s entry into this world.
Poor Chloe had to wait a few days to get the ‘money shot’ as she jokingly calls it. After many hours of contractions on that Wednesday, by late evening, I was only 4 cm dilated and my strong 2 mins apart contractions had abated to barely there. Even with doing my Goddess Dance repeatedly, my cervix didn’t budge after increasing the contractions. The nursing crew decided to ‘call it a night’, Chloe went home and hubby had a night on the lazy boy chair as his bed. Thursday 12th July was spent trying to decide if I should go home despite contractions coming and going after more attempts to get dilation going through dancing. Dr. Choong decided that if nothing happened on Friday, I would walk home. I also decided to teach the midwives some different dancing moves that day to help expedite the dilation and to cheer them up. Friday afternoon, upon discovering that I had started leaking, we had a meeting to decide the next course of action. By then, I was getting a little tired from the yo-yo contractions. Despite my earlier wish, I gave Dr. Choong consent to induce me with PEG-2, a normal tablet inserted to soften the cervix. Since my 3 children came very shortly after just one induction tablet, I was convinced this time baby would also make an appearance after dinner.
By about 5 pm, the contractions came very strongly again every 2 mins. And induction labours are more painful I can tell you! I had to ask for Entonox (laughing gas) to reduce the feeling of pain (same contractions I could easily take 2 days earlier). Dr Choong came and told me the thing I’ve been wanting to hear- “You can go into the pool now Ar’nie”. For the next 4 hours, I sat, danced, whirled, moved and swayed in that pool with its hot water. Sadly, despite the contractions being strong, I was only 5 cm dilated. Again, by late evening, those strong contractions decided to disappear for the night. I must tell you that being in the water was definitely good for the pain as I felt it 50% less.
Saturday morning at 11am, Dr. Choong came back to have another discussion with me. It’s either I go home with 5 cm dilation and contractions that could come and go anytime (and rush back to hospital when it comes again) or we continue with another induction tablet. He did warn me that with induction, the likelihood of delivering in water is next to nil, as he has to monitor for the likelihood of complications. I was dismayed to find out but to be honest, despite being in the best of health and thinking of myself as a strong woman, the contractions of the last 3 days had me very tired indeed. Hubby and I decided to go ahead with another round of induction, as we didn’t want to be running out of the house in the middle of the night, maybe within another day. By 2 pm, the contractions had come back. We let Chloe knew she might be needed that day for real.
The thing about labour is every time it is different. Everyone, including me, expected a 4th baby to just ‘pop out’. My 1st one came after less than 12 hours of being induced and active labour was only 1.5 hrs before she made her appearance (@ 39 weeks). Yet my no.2 did a similar protracted day and half of labour contractions and only made an appearance 3 hrs after being induced (@ 38 weeks). No.3 was happy to stay inside till 40 weeks only to come, again, less than 12 hours after being induced and less than 3 hrs of active labour. There is no rule and certainty to babies’ appearances besides a confirmed Caesarean section. No doctor, no matter how good, can predict how a labour would go.
Just past 8 pm on that Saturday night, I told Dr Choong I’m feeling a stronger urge to push as contractions were coming ‘like crazy’. He decided to help me along by breaking my amniotic sac after discovering that I was already past 7cm dilated. I was pretty much attached to my ‘air champagne’ aka laughing gas by that point though I was pretty much aware of Dr. Choong making jokes to my hubby- jokes like this is the only time they don’t hear the chatty me much!
When I heard Dr. Choong contemplating about allowing me into the pool, I decided to clear my fuzzy head and told him in my strongest voice, with conviction, that I’m so ready for it and I will NOT hesitate to jump into the pool! Within minutes, all monitoring equipments were removed from me and hubby and midwives assisted me into the pool. I can feel myself almost jumping into the pool!
Aahhh…the feel of the warm water again helped to alleviate the pain. I can feel and see myself floating in the water and remember telling everyone I was ready to push baby out. I just let my body know I was ready to let baby make his/her appearance (remember, we still didn’t know our baby’s sex!) whenever he/she is ready. When another particularly strong contraction came, I let it be the wave that pushed my baby to shore. I can feel her head coming through. I took another deep breath and with the next wave, I pushed her body out. I can see Dr. Choong ready to receive her in the water. It all felt so smooth, almost balletic in its whole movements.
Having experienced both traditional ‘on a hard hospital bed, with both knees up to my chest’ and a ‘free flowing, deliver as you wish’ water birth, you know which kind I’ll recommend other mothers out there. I had no visible tearing as with the other 3, I felt no pain/pressure on my tailbone and my body felt naturally respected for the first time. It was truly a magical experience for a miracle baby!
Being the 3rd chronicled birth/pregnancy in the world occurring despite the use of Mirena, I hope baby Arièna Ayla would appreciate the special circumstances of her appearance. I dedicate this post and my deepest gratitude to the amazing and accommodating Dr Choong Kuo Hsiang, the friendly midwives/nurses at Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur and last but not least, my soul mate and patient birthing partner, Anders, without whom and his “strong Viking boys” baby Ayla won’t be here and I wouldn’t have been able to fulfil my dream of a water birth! 🙂
For those not squemish, here is a slideshow of my birth journey photos in all it’s glory. This is the face of a woman facing what some can term as a life-death situation, and yet one of life’s most magical and amazing experience. If you are moved, do leave me a message or if you have stories to share, I’ll be happy to hear from you!