Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Inspiring Quotes from Maria

Mummy Maria had a successful VBAC in July this year.

Be inspired by some words from her VBAC experience:

"I have to deliver my baby in the most natural way possible – because that’s what I was made for."

"IT WAS THE MOST WONDERFUL FEELING EVER. I am finally a mom who experienced it all."

"It was 22 hours of excruciating pain, AND I WILL DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN."

Maria Luzviminda Barcega's Birth Story

5 July 2016
Baby weighs 3.3kg
Exactly 40 weeks

I didn’t experience labour pain during my first pregnancy, so this VBAC is literally my first pregnancy. In my first pregnancy – I was so afraid of the pain that I already asked for epidural during my 2cm dilation. I progressed till 6cm and after 14 hours of labour (lying down, half body numb waiting for the next thing that could happen) the doctor decided I am progressing slow and should undergo emergency caesarean operation.
We wanted to wait some more, but when the doctor told us we are risking the baby then we opt for CS. I tell you what, my body didn’t agree to it and once they laid me down on the operating table they said I was hysterical so they had to put me to sleep, and the rest as they say is history. I have given birth to my very pretty, sweetest angel – Ysobel.

Am I a good candidate for VBAC? This was my first question, my doctor said yes but to tell you honestly even the doctors cannot answer straight as nobody can really tell, well there are some medical items that you have to pass for example your stitch wound from your last CS operation should be more than 2mm (which you can only find out on your 38th week), your baby is not too big (but my baby is big and I still decided to do it), of course you don’t have pregnancy complications that really requires CS such as high blood. Or the position of the baby is not right. But in my opinion (this is me saying it without medical background ok) it is only you who can decide if you want to do it and if you will stand by your decision and do everything for it to be successful.

How did I prepare? Besides physical preparations such as walking (lots of it), and pre-natal exercises. I prepared mentally and emotionally, I prayed a lot! Pain is only in the mind they say – I have a very low pain tolerance and that’s what I prepared for conditioning myself to think that pain is a matter of thought. Besides, I read somewhere that that’s what epidural does – sending something to your brain to disable the thought of pain. And no matter what, I have to deliver my baby in the most natural way possible – because that’s what I was made for. Bear a child and bring it to the world. So whether I like it or not, painful or not – I have to do it. No choice. So I better do it right!

My birth story. My due date was 5th of July and up to the night of July 4 I am not feeling anything, not much discharge (I was looking for the mucus plug) and no pain at all. I was a little worried cause I don’t want to be induced (remember I am hoping for the most natural birth possible). So around 12:30 of July 5 – I woke up with a sharp pain in my back, the pain that will wake you up but still tolerable. It come and goes, so I said maybe its contractions and I have to monitor the timing. I didn’t wake my Gerald up just yet because like me he would need the energy in case I am in active labour already.  The interval is within 4-5 minutes already by 3am and the pain is getting worse. But as what we have agreed (me and hubby) we will labour as much as we can at home! No medical interventions, no nurses to ask you if you want gas or epidural to help you in your pain. Plainly at home, if I feel like the head is coming out then that’s the only time we will go. But the pain is terrible and by 7am I can feel that urge to poop which they say is the sign that she will soon come out. So I took a bath (took my time) because the hot water helps lessen the pain, and asked my hubby to bring me to the hospital.

Around 8:30am – we are already there after 10 minutes or so the doctor arrived. Dr. Paul Tseng of TMC not to mention a very handsome guy and such a gentleman, asked me to rate the pain and I cannot because I don’t have a comparison since I didn’t felt the pain in my first pregnancy, so just to answer him I said 6 (because 5 for me is tolerable and 6 is pass that point). And the nurse said, according to the monitor I am already 10/10 in pain. So my doctor had to check (VE) and I was surprised when he said I am already 6cm!!! And so me and the hubby exchanged look and in our minds “this will be fast!” (and so we thought)

Delivery room: Pain, pain and pain. I danced, I sang, I hugged the giant yoga ball. I prayed. I danced, danced and danced and danced (as it is the most effective pain reliever for me) but dear Lord it is so painful. And my hubby cannot stop laughing of me dancing wearing a hospital gown (as he said he can see my butt) and I don’t care!! I just want the pain to go away and proceed pushing. And it was like that till I reached 8cm.

8cm – at 11am. I told my Gerald I wanted to give up and take epidural already, and then he said no! We can do it, so he said all the pep-talks he could for me to realized that we have come so far. But my progress is so slow and all because my water bag is still intact and I don’t want the doctor to burst it (remember most natural way). So we waited, and bear the pain.

Until 2pm3pm4pm I am still 8cm! 430pm we decided to ask the doctor to burst it and I progress to 9cm. Then at 730pm, I am still 9cm, so the doctor said I might need to take epidural to relax the cervix so it could finally open up to 10 and I can push! My God after hours of pain you want me to take epidural when I am already 9cm! But who would say No! So we did. And at around 9pm, finally I am 10cm dilated. I slept, oh yeah! Finally.

They woke me up to ask me to tell them if I am already feeling the urge to push, and I can’t feel anything, so they said they already lessen the epidural and I should feel it already. So I said to myself I wanted to feel the “pushing” and asked them to turn down the epidural off. And its painful, but what the heck this is it! I am pushing. The nurse gave me an impromptu push lessons and it was good. 2 pushes – ah she’s not going out. 3rd push – she called the doctor. On the 4th to 5th push – Doctor looking at my Gerald - Gerald gesturing in my open legs – “do you want to see the head?” Confused and hesitant my Gerald did and I saw a very funny “what’s that” face from him when he saw the head. He said seeing the hair felt gross, hahahaha! 6th push – yey!!! She was out!!!

Gerald cut the cord – and he looked like he was about to faint. Thank God he didn’t. He deserved to do it for all the pain, scratches and quick punch he got from me. He is my best support ever! I cannot do it without him.

They put Laura in my chest, and directly latch. IT WAS THE MOST WONDERFUL FEELING EVER. I am finally a mom who experienced it all.

It was 22 hours of excruciating pain, AND I WILL DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Regina's Birth Story

13 May 2014
VBAC with epidural (39w 5d)
Baby 2.47kg

21 June 2012
First birth with emergency C-section (37w 4d)
Baby 2.985kg

My first birth was a C-section not because there was a life-threatening situation but because, according to my gynae, I would be too tired after waiting for so many hours. Being inexperienced, I went to hospital soon after my water bag burst, despite having read that I could wait, because I had called the hospital and the staff asked me to go in. My contractions started on the way to the hospital, where I spent the night.

The following morning, my gynae came and suggested epidural to relax my cervix so that it could dilate faster. I trusted her judgement and agreed even though I had wanted a drug-free birth. 18 hours after admission, I had dilated 6cm. It was around 8pm then and there were probably around 5 people including my gynae in my delivery room. She advised me to get a C-section so that I wouldn’t become too tired. One of the nurses said, “You should listen to your doctor.” Today, I know I might have had a natural birth had I waited longer and not blindly trusted my gynae.

After the birth, my gynae said that my future births would have to be C-section. I was not told this beforehand! It took me a while to come to terms with what had happened.

At the beginning of my second pregnancy, I went online to research about having a normal birth after a C-section. To my relief, it was possible and I was a good candidate for a VBAC. However, I could no longer go back to the gynae who delivered my first child. I searched online for a gynae who would be supportive of VBAC and discovered to my disappointment that there are very few. In fact, I found only one. So I went to this gynae. It was uneventful except near full term when he mentioned a scan to see the thickness of the C-section scar to determine if I could still try for a VBAC. He had never mentioned this scan before. Fortunately, from the scan I was still suitable for VBAC.

I read as much as I could about the labour process, and positions to adopt during contractions. I also joined a VBAC support group on Facebook. There are many stories of doctors who say that they are open to the idea of VBAC at the beginning of a pregnancy, but start to discourage mothers from trying for one in the third trimester. This is true even in Singapore. It really helped to read VBAC stories regardless of whether they were successful, as they prepared me to keep an open mind and gave me tips on how to avoid another C-section. My plan was to labour at home for as long as possible, not take epidural, and keep mobile the whole time. However, things did not turn out entirely the way I wanted.

My second labour lasted 22 hours, starting with my amniotic sac leaking at 2.30pm. I spent 17 hours labouring at home. When I reached the hospital at around 8am the next day, I was 4cm dilated. The nurses kept telling me that I had to inform them early if I wanted epidural. Because my baby’s heart rate dipped every time I had a contraction, I was not allowed to take the monitor off. I was confined to the bed lying on my side. My husband had to massage my lower back to relieve the pain with every contraction.

The pain increased in intensity and I took to shouting! Then I found that pushing relieved the pain. A nurse came to give me entonox to try to give the baby oxygen as his heart rate still dipped with contractions. The gas helped me to follow the urge to push. By then I was 6-7cm dilated, and from previous experience I thought I still had a long time to go before the baby came out, so I wanted to give in and take epidural. But the senior nurse, seeing that I could still cope, said to wait till my gynae arrived.

When the gynae arrived I was 8cm dilated. He said my baby’s heart rate dipped due to head compression during contractions, and that was normal. I don’t know if he knew that I mentioned taking epidural, but he told the nurses to give me epidural and left the room. The anaesthetist pressed something on my entonox mask to increase the speed of the gas, which was a great relief! I had spent the whole night working through contractions and eaten very little for breakfast so the gas was a great refresher. After administration of the epidural, two nurses came in with the gynae and they began setting up to prepare for delivery. The gynae said something that sounded very strange: “I am going to help you.”

The pain had reduced and was replaced by a strong urge to push. The baby crowned with the first push. Vacuum was used during the third push. It was painful; the epidural had not fully set in yet. And the baby was out. He had meconium on him. Gynae injected oxytocin to induce delivery of the placenta, and stitched up some tears.

It was great to be able to breastfeed Joseph minutes after he was born. He was very alert. In the month after the birth, I had to endure pain from the tearing and at the tailbone. But that was just a temporary inconvenience. I am glad I avoided another C-section!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Natalie's Birth Story

On 30 June 2013, Natalie had a natural, drug-free VBAC. After having gone through a harrowing emergency C-section experience that left her feeling 'like a failure', she was determined for history not to repeat itself. She armed herself with birthing knowledge and listened to her body, trusting it to take the lead this time round. With the courage to follow her birthing body and a woman's birthing instincts, and a supportive gynae, she got the VBAC she wanted. 

This is her story.

30 Jun 2013
VBAC without epidural (40w5d)
Baby 3.4kg

6 Oct 2010
First birth with Emergency C-section (41w3d)
Baby 3.6kg

Asked to induce
I had always wanted a natural birth so I was very disappointed when my first birth ended in an emergency C-section. When week 41 passed and there was no sign of baby coming out, I was asked to go for an induction. I had 2 induction tablets and dilated to 3cm. The gynae burst my water bag and put me on drip to induce.

Offered epidural
Initially I did not want an epidural but the gynae says this might be the reason why I am dilating so slowly. Hence I took epidural and waited. I thought that everything will go well after that. I further dilated 2cm in 9hrs after I burst my water bag.

Gynae did not want to wait
I failed to progress more than 5cm dilation. Although there was no sign of baby in distress, the gynae did not want to wait. We asked him if it was ok to wait but he says no point since already waited for 9hrs and no progress.

Gynae said baby is big
As new parents without much knowledge, we can only trust the gynae since we did not wish to take the risk of baby passing motion in utero. The water bag had burst too and gynae was not really giving us much advice on how long can the baby stay inside the tummy with the water bag burst. Gynae said the baby is big so. Later after delivery he said that my cervix is sharp angle. I did not quite believe him because I am a big size so if my petite friend whose baby is heavier than me can have hers naturally, why can’t I? He had never informed me about my sharp angle during pregnancy. Why only now? I feel that he just does not want to go back home and return again after midnight – overtime for him. I am really bitter about this although I try to tell myself that my baby is healthy and even if I managed to dilate to 10cm, there might be still some other complications.

Gynae say impossible to try natural
I had my 2nd baby when I was staying in Perth. This time I wanted to try for a VBAC. As I am not familiar with Perth, I decided to have my baby in Singapore. I read up on VBAC and found my gynae – Paul Tseng. I did not wish to go back to my previous gynae as he had told me that it is impossible for me to try natural and that my next birth would be a C-section. I do not believe him anymore.

Discovering other birthing options
Australia is a very pro-natural country for child birthing as compared to Singapore. They have many different methods of birthing (home birthing, water birthing, midwives etc) I attended a prenatal yoga course and this must be the best thing that I did. At the end of every lesson, they would discuss topics on child birthing. After listening, I was very certain that everything was wrong for my first birth that resulted in emergency C-section. If only I had more information back then.

Determined to stay at home as long as possible
For my 2nd birth, equipped with all the information, I was ready to try for a VBAC. I try to eat lesser and healthily to keep my baby smaller. Paul told me to go to the hospital only when the intervals between my contractions were strong (1 min every 4 mins) or if my water bag burst. Now that I know babies don’t come out so fast, unlike on TV and I don’t dilate so fast. I was determined to stay at home as much as possible. Despite Paul been pro-VBAC, I am still not going to take any chances. I strongly believe that if I go to the hospital too early, there is a chance that they will say I fail to progress if I stay there for too long. Baby monitoring will also hinder my movement and make it harder for me to dilate. Nurses might check dilation frequently resulting in water bag burst and they may psycho me to take epidural.

Natalie’s Birthing Journey

28th June
Morning - Mucous plug came out. Contractions was 30s every 9mins. I was worried as I am not sure if I should go to the hospital. I did not.
Afternoon – Contractions disappear after a nap. They are false contractions.
Night – Contractions came again around 10pm. Intervals of 10mins and 15mins. Last longer(90s) and much more painful than the contractions in the morning. I was able to sleep while I was having contractions so I guess they are fake since I can still sleep else my pain tolerance is very high.

29th June
No more contractions in the morning and afternoon.
Night – Contractions started at 10pm. Mucous plug and diarrhea too. I was able to sleep so I suppose it is not the real thing.

30th June
Morning - Woke up at 2am feeling great pain and not able to sleep. I was timing my contractions from 2am to 4am. It was getting very painful. I was wondering why fake contractions are so pain. I had bad diarrhea too, keep running to the toilet. The intervals are not consistent still so I thought they are fake. It was about 1min every 4min or 5min. There were also longer ones every 7 or 8 mins. 
I was moving around a lot every time during my contractions. Making sure I am in positions that will help me to dilate faster and relieve the pain.
 4am – Pain got worst. Something is not right. I was having contractions every 2mins when I was getting ready to go to the hospital. Oops!

In active labour
I was bleeding when I went to the toilet in the hospital. Nurse confirmed that I was in labour. She checked and I was 6cm dilated. Nurse was very rough when checking; I was so scared my water bag will burst. She even told my mum (my husband is overseas) that VBAC was very risky and my uterine will rupture. I was quite irritated with her because if I have not warned my mum before this she will probably be very scared. Luckily I told my mum much earlier that Paul said there is 1% risk and I have already signed the indemnity form.

Birthing ball and birthing stool sped things up
I was plugged on the CTG and had to take laughing gas for the pain. I did not take epidural. Within less than an hour I was 8cm dilated. I was still worried that I will not dilate to 10cm so I asked the nurse to remove the CTG so that I can at least lie on the side and not on my back. She was quite unwilling but allowed me to do it later. There was no progress during the next dilation check so I requested for birthing ball and birthing stool. She was not very experienced as she had to make me get up to the bed again before she can check my dilation. I was quite irritated because my contractions were coming very fast and I had to wait for the contraction to subside before climbing back into the bed again. I was 9cm dilated. The birth ball & stool definitely sped things up.

Luckily they change my nurse after this as it was time for them to change shift. The new nurse was able to check my dilation when I was on the birthing stool. She told me to push since I am quite near 10cm and advised me to push on the bed as it will be much easier. I was sceptical but since already 10cm so might as well. It will be easier for Paul to deliver too. Paul had not arrived yet.

I asked the nurse how long I need to push before baby can come out. She told me an hour. I really feel like giving up on hearing this. I wanted epidural if it is going to take another hour but I guess it is too late so I did not bother to ask.

Baby's head after a few pushes
My mum said she saw the baby’s head after 3 to 5 pushes. That really gave me the encouragement to go on. Paul finally arrived and after 2 to 3 pushes the baby was out. It was less than an hour! Paul’s voice was very encouraging and it really gives me the strength to continue.

A natural, drug-free birth
I am very glad as it takes only 3hours after I reach the hospital to deliver my baby. The pain was bearable and I had no medical intervention or epidural. No drips and no catheter. The experience is so much better compared to my first. I was also able to directly latch my son in the delivery room. No shivering and no vomiting. My cervix was not acute angle afterall.
Giving my body time to dilate
I personally feel that I made the right choice to stay as long at home as possible. If I had gone to the hospital earlier (on 28th June), either they would have sent me home or I would not have been able to wait till 30th June to fully dilate since that will be almost 3 days in the delivery ward. No stress from the nurses and unnecessary medical interventions too. Home is definitely more relaxing and less stressful.

For hundreds of years, women have been giving birth without any medical intervention. I do not see the reason that any of these are necessary especially if I am not having any medical complications. If I had gone to the hospital earlier, I will have insisted on a drug free natural labour too.

I was told that my first birth was a failure because the baby is not ready to come out (no contractions at all) and we forced him out. The end result is a C-section.

Please note that the above are my own views based on what I read and heard. They are not been medically advised by doctors so please do your own research. You need to know yourself and your limits well and what you are doing is not posing any risk to you or your baby. If there is any point of time that my baby or I are in danger, I would not have hesitated for medical intervention. Please do not insist on trying natural if there are already signs that things are not going well. You still have to trust your gynae. 

Natalie shares some tips based on her own experience

1)  Epidural before you are 6cm dilated will increase chance of C-section to 70%. You are not able to move around after having epidural, dilation can happen much slower. It might also cause baby to be in distress. Lying on your back will block your baby from going downwards due to the position of your tail bone. If you can bear with the pain, don’t take epidural.

2) One Australian mummy took 40hrs to dilate at home. Dilation varies so some people can take days to dilate.

3) Never ever let them burst your water bag. Do not let the nurse check too frequently in case they are too rough and burst your water bag. Even if burst, you still have 24hrs to deliver the baby. Gynae just have to give you antibiotics to ensure the baby does not get infected.

 4)     Never induce your baby unless medically necessary. Chance of C-section is much higher after induction as it might cause baby distress and failure to dilate.

 5)     Week 41 is not late. I am allowed to wait till Week 42 and he will then check to see if I can wait till Week 43.

 6)     Moving around dilates faster. Do not lie on the bed like what you see on TV.

 7)     You are allowed to consume food when trying for natural. I was not allowed to eat for my first birth. I was so tired and hungry by the time I was told to go for emergency C-section. My mind was too weak to even want to wait any longer.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Joanne Yau's Birth Story

27 Sep 2011
VBAC with epidural (38w5d)
Baby 2.515kg

3 Apr 2009
First birth with C-section (EDD) 
Baby 3.19kg

From the get-go, I had wanted a natural birth. But I guess I was ill prepared for it because I was slightly overweight and didn’t read up on what to expect during a normal delivery. I ate outside food daily. Home cooked meals were rare. I didn’t exercise much.

Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes

Coming from a family with a history of Gestational Diabetes (GD), I was diagnosed with it when I was 28 weeks along. The endocrinologist and gynae frowned upon my weight gain and put me on insulin injections twice daily from 30 weeks to delivery date. That’s on top of the painful pricking of blood three times a day to check the glucose level.

Insulin weakened uterine muscles

By 40 weeks, there were no signs of labour, not even BH contractions. Then, my No.1 disengaged from my womb at the last minute. The reason to date is unknown. This made the success rate for induced birth only 25%. Because of gestational diabetes, the gynae told me (only much later when I was pregnant with No.2) that the insulin injections weakened my uterine muscles to the point that they couldn’t contract. I had to be on insulin drips if I wanted to attempt an induction.

2 days to C-section

The gynae didn't want to wait beyond 40 weeks because of increased risk of stillbirth. Neither did my husband. I was given a mere 2 days to prepare for the C-section. Even though the hospital records said “elective C-section”, I considered it “emergency”. Postpartum period was most horrible. Well-meaning folks who tried to comfort me said, amongst other insensitive things, "C-section babies look more beautiful than babies who passed through the birth canal."

Last chance at natural birth

Believe it or not, I got pregnant with my No.2 because amongst other intentions: I wanted to experience a last chance at having a natural birth. People listed out plenty of arguments why I should go through another C-section.

"You need to work hard for VBAC"

I read reviews about Dr Paul Tseng who is pro-VBAC. However, my husband preferred not to change gynae because he has all my medical history. Agreeing, I went back to see Dr LC Cheng. At the very 1st consultation, I told him I really want to attempt a VBAC. He gave me a photocopied newspaper article (I still have it today) headlined: "You need to work hard for your VBAC". He told me, in his usually relaxed attitude: “We can try. But there are no guarantees in success.” His words encouraged me and I decided to stick with him to the end.

Controlled diet

No.2 was growing well and healthy in my womb. At around 24 weeks gestation, my gynae advised me to start my controlled diet and I started with no qualms at all. Expectedly, I failed the glucose test again. The shock and sadness that used to weigh me down previously was then replaced with resolute desire to fight this war against GD again.

I started off this pregnancy weighing 52kg and gained a total of 6kg at the end. Compared to No.1 pregnancy: 58kg and 10kg gained in total. This was a vast improvement. The controlled diet I started since the 1st time I was diagnosed with GD is till now, a significant part of my life.

"Give me a fighting chance at VBAC"

At the beginning of my 3rd trimester, Dr Cheng seemed to hint at me at the possibility of a repeat c-section (RCS). Unlike in the past when I agreed to everything with no questions asked, I told him to at least give me a fighting chance at VBAC.

Guidelines for attempting VBAC

He gave me 3 guidelines to attempt a VBAC delivery:
1.  The birth weight for my #2 cannot be more than that of my No.1.
2.  I’ll have to take a pelvic bone Xray test at 37 weeks to ensure my pelvic opening can expand enough to have my #2’s head pass through safely through my birth canal.
3.    Inducing labour is not allowed as it will stress the body, thus increasing the risk of uterine rupture.

Of the 3 guidelines, number 1 should be easily attainable given my controlled diet since I was 6 months pregnant. Number 2 depends on my genetic makeup which I have no control. Number 3 is the hardest I guess. If my #2 doesn’t want to come out, I have no control, again.

There I had it, 2 strikes out of 3. From the beginning of the 3rd trimester till the very end, thoughts of RCS kept hanging in my mind. I was more mentally prepared this time round for a RCS though a VBAC would really be an icing on the cake. I started praying, fervently for God’s will for a favourable result for guidelines 2 and 3.

My diet plan worked, only too well.People around me commented on how fit I was. The severe retention on both feet during my No.1 pregnancy was nowhere to be seen. Best of all, I had no need of a single insulin jab! The painful pricking of fingers was reduced from 3 times a day to 2 times on alternate days. If I ate the same foods that gave me good glucose readings, I did not need to retest again. The same endocrinologist whom I saw since my 1st pregnancy, Dr Kelvin Tan, praised me for my efforts as I achieved HbA1c of 5.2% and wrote a very favourable report about me to Dr Cheng. That’s 1 down.

The pelvic bone Xray test done at 37 weeks produced a better than expected result. Medically, there isn’t any reason why my baby can’t come out easily through the birth canal. That’s 2 down.

Praying for spontaneous labour

I began to pray more fervently than ever for the spontaneous labour which eluded me in the past. A fantastic group of mummies who were pregnant at around the same time as me reminded each other to get the raspberry leaf tea and start drinking it from 37 weeks onwards as it’s known to kick start labour naturally. I also started walking more in the evenings after work, often bringing my elder son for a strolls and to the playground. A very important exercise I did especially when visiting the washroom was the pelvic floor exercise.

Miracle birth

Thinking back now, it could be the raspberry leaf tea, or the exercises, or the non-insulin injections. I don’t know. I got my spontaneous labour at 38w5d! I am thankful to God till today for the miracle birth He has granted me. Out came my beautiful baby boy born so tiny at 2.515kg I regretted controlling my diet so much.

My husband didn’t manage to see my No.2 come out of me, what a waste! The birth was so beautiful and surreal that when he came out, my tummy suddenly shrunk from being round to flat. I didn’t cry, but I remembered thanking Dr Cheng and his team for the umpteenth time for helping me achieve a vaginal birth.

Feeling great

Postpartum recovery was a lot easier for vaginal birth compared to C-section. Dr Cheng came by my ward the next day. I told him I was feeling great. He said, “Much better than C-section, yes?” Undoubtedly yes! I took a few painkillers for a few days due to my womb shrinking back to original size. By the 2nd week, the pain was all gone. 

Today when I look at the super active 9.3kg toddler who is almost literally an Energizer bunny, I am still amazed at his mode of delivery given the unimaginable odds stacked against me.

No.3? Drug free with hypnobirthing

If I had a RCS, I would have stopped at 2 already. But now my husband and I are undecided whether to go for another one. If in the unlikely event I get pregnant with #3, I’ll not just attempt another VBAC, but will do it drug-free with a hypno-birthing doula. That is for certain.

(Joanna Yau is happy to connect with other mothers working towards a VBAC. Kindly email May to be linked up with her.)

My labour story

5am: Woke up with tightening and cramp pain. Leaned against the wall for support. Instinct tells me this could be it. Started timing contraction intervals. 5min! Used deep breathing techniques to manage pain. Drank Milo kosong and felt slightly better.

8am: Had a burning urge to call gynae clinic but interval fluctuate between 5-10min so decided against it.

10am: Bloody show! Decided to call gynae clinic and nurse told me to straightaway go labour ward. Grabbed packed luggage, daily necessities and rushed out of home.

10.30am: Reached labour ward. Nurse told me to remove all clothing, jewellery and wear a pink gown while they prepared a bed for me. Hb went to attend admission procedures. Got a drip due to gestational diabetes. Totally no food until evening thank God I ate some fishball noodles. Hooked me up to contraction monitor. Interval remains 5min. Bb heartbeat between 120-160bpm which is normal. No signs of distress. Tested blood pressure which returns normal. Did a hurting like hell VE check: 6cm!

12.30pm: Hb went out for lunch. Gynae came to labour ward and broke my waterbag. I asked him isn't he inducing labour by breaking waterbag. He said I'm already in labour this is not inducing cos inducing isn't allowed for VBAC. He and all the nurses kept asking me whether I wanna pain relief. But I think my pain threshold is high so declined the offer. Gynae said bb poo inside my womb. 1st sign of fetal distress.

12.30pm-2.30pm: The contraction pain intensified so greatly after waterbag burst. Had a feeling I'm not progressing well. VE check: 7cm. Worse, every time I'd contraction, bb heartbeat dropped. 2nd sign of fetal distress. Decided on either gas or epi.

2.30pm: Epidural administered. Slight pain upon insertion. Moderate numbness set in not soon after. Started to have severe shivering and bit of headache. Blood pressure monitor attached to me all the way. 1 time dropped v low at 70, causing panic. Hb came back for awhile and left to pick up elder boy from CC. Catheter inserted in bladder.

2.30pm-6.41pm: Everything started going fast and furious. Contraction continued to peak to 1-2min at alarming levels but all I felt was an urge to poo. Felt totally relaxed. Epi reduced to 1ml per min from initial 10ml-11ml. Nurse was happy with my progress and transferred me to delivery ward. Watched tv, slept, friendly chat with nurses and listened to songs to pass time. Dilated the remaining 3cm during this period.

6.41pm: Fully dilated and bb engaged! Nurses and me called hb to witness birth to no avail and decided not to wait for him anymore cos bb poo inside me again. Gynae came and praised me for not using up the epidural anaesthetic. Encouraged me to push whenever I felt a contraction.

6.56pm: Few strong pushes and bb was out. Felt a tremendous sense of relief! Placenta expelled in pieces and gynae removed a fair bit, leaving the rest to my womb to expel the remaining portions. Stitched me up due to a minor cut while pushing.

7pm: Hb finally arrived with elder boy (crazy traffic jam) and managed to at least witness the weigh-in.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pressured into Inducing

Two years on and the stories I hear are still the same:

Women being "gently" pressured towards induction for non-medically threatening reasons like "a few days over due date".

And the storyline that unfolds from there on is all too predictable and familiar:

Mom isn't prepared for induction. Mind isn't prepared for induction. Body isn't prepared for induction. Baby isn't prepared to come out.

So Mom's body is tense. Because her mind is tense. It goes against her natural instinct of giving birth to her own baby.

She starts to doubt her own body's ability to birth her baby.

And when mom tenses up, her birthing muscles tense up, and the cervix can't dilate. AND NO AMOUNT OF INDUCTION MEDICATION CAN UNDO THIS.

What happens next? Mom is told baby is in danger due to long labour, Mom feels helpless and tired and disappointed with herself. By now, she just wants the ordeal to end, so "whatever you say doctor, if you think I need a c section now, then so be it."

Mom comes out of the c section traumatised, but tries to convince herself that she did the best thing for her baby, and that her baby is healthy is the most important. All attention is now on the baby and mom is left wondering what she had just put herself through. She feels scarred (literally and psychologically) and in most cases, feels the anti-climax of the birth she never experienced.


Moms, start educating yourself about the birthing process. Learn the techniques to get the natural birth you want. Do not "leave it up" to your gynae to dictate what's best for you.

Despite what you have been taught at hospital pre-natal classes, that casually tell you about various pain relief options as if they are the norm, find out for yourself alternative ways of pain management that are drug-free and effective.

I am sure there are many out there who are simply resigned to "screaming it out" and "enduring until cannot endure" when the time comes. And if cannot then "no choice" ask for epidural.

You have a choice.


Like a triathlete preparing to run a marathon trains for months. Like a gungfu master who spends hours each day training his mind. Like a diver practises a new way to breathe underwater.

It is possible if you set your heart, mind and time to it.

You can call it hypnobirthing, gentle birthing whatever. It's about a technique of breathing that needs to be practised daily, and mind conditioning.

Because only if the mind is fully relaxed can the body fully relax. And only if the body relaxes can the cervix dilate, and the birth passage expand to allow baby out. The concept is that simple.

Of course not everyone is a suitable candidate for a VBAC. But if you are, as confirmed by your gynae, do prepare yourself well for it.

So you can fully enjoy the empowering experience of a natural birth.

May you have a successful VBAC!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lin's Birth Story

1st May 2011
Natural tear, drug-free  

I have always expected that I would give birth naturally. I had this constant fear of childbirth though, as we grew up hearing horror stories and seeing images on TV.  Everyone around me was telling me that it was going to be very painful and I should opt for epidural. It was even more scary to me as I had zero pain tolerance.

First Birth

My first pregnancy went on smoothly. Baby was growing well. I went to a gynae recommended by a friend. I trusted the gynae and did not read up much. As my weight ballooned, I grew apprehensive. I asked the gynae whether my baby would get too big. He told me there was no correlation between the mother’s and baby’s weight. He even said that eating durians was okay. As I had cravings for sweet stuff, I happily ate carbohydrates, durians, cakes and desserts. Only in the last stage of the pregnancy did he tell me that my baby was overweight.

“Just Go With The Flow”

When I told him I was worried baby was too big for me to birth naturally, he said, “What’s there to worry? Just go with the flow.” He meant that if I could not birth naturally, just go through Caesarean. No big deal. To him, it was a surgical procedure he performed every day.

Impending Induction

When I was almost due, the gynae gave me a ‘grace period’ of 3 days. Why 3 days? It was just a magic number, his tolerance level. I was so stressed the week before the EDD as I knew I had to be induced if birth did not start spontaneously. I knew that induction usually led to C-section. No matter how much walking and exercise I did, there was no sign at all. I was tense and cried every day.

Just 1cm More But...

Finally 2 days after the EDD, we admitted to hospital for induction. Big mistake. After 20 hours of induction plus epidural, lying in bed waiting for the dilation, my cervix dilated to 9cm and stopped progressing! The nurses came in for the VE every hour. I developed fever, maybe due to the side effects of epidural or the frequent VE which caused infection. I asked for more time for the cervix to be fully dilated, as it was just 1cm left. The gynae said, “Well, you have to bear your own risk if you want to wait further.”

Devastated and Disappointed

So I was not given a choice. I cried while being wheeled into the OT. I came out devastated and disappointed, and with a painful wound on my tummy. The recovery was painful and breastfeeding was challenging. I was not even able to carry my son for the first few weeks.

Yes, my boy was big, 4.1kg, but I still don’t believe that that was the reason for the failure to progress.

This Time I Want a VBAC

For my second pregnancy, I wanted a VBAC badly and started to read up. People around me were not supportive of VBAC at all. You'd think that women would understand how important the birth experience is to a mother, but no. I was quite affected when a mum told me that it was no big deal to have c-section again since I had my tummy ‘cut’ once. Another mum told me, the scar was just like a zip. “Go for elective Caesarean and you could be in control.”

Making Changes

I went through the forum looking for mums with VBAC experience. I knew I had to make a few changes if I wanted to have a successful VBAC. That was when I got to know May, and she gave me very sound advices:
1)               I had to change my gynae to a pro-natural doctor, who had experience with VBAC. I got to know from a few mums that Dr Paul Tseng is a very good doctor and all had natural births with him.
2)               I took a hypnobirthing course, as it would help me have a gentle birth, which was essential for VBAC.
3)               I engaged a doula for labour support.

Dr Paul gave me good vibes at the first consultation. He said the reason that my cervix failed to dilate could be due to the size of the baby or the position. So we set the understanding right at the start. He did not promise me that I would get VBAC, but at least we could try. So I followed a strict diet to ensure that my baby did not get too big this time. I exercised regularly and practised hypnobirthing techniques.

I liked it that Dr Paul did not need to scan every visit to check that my baby was doing well. He would estimate the size of the baby and not worry me with the numbers, though one of the scans revealed that the baby seemed to be on the big side.

No Signs At 40 Weeks

On the 40th week, I started to panic, fearing it might be just like my first birth. There were no false contractions, no lightening, no signs at all. I went for the checkup with a heavy heart, as I was afraid that Dr Paul might ask me to fix a date for C-section. (VBAC births cannot be induced as it will cause undue stress to the previous scar.)

Dr Paul checked the heartbeat and the water level, and told me, “Okay, see you next week if nothing happens.” He estimated that the baby was around 3.3 – 3.4kg. He told me that he could wait for 2 weeks, but he would monitor the situation closely. I was so relieved!! That day, I put my heart at ease and went shopping and eating with my husband and son.

In Labour on Labour Day

The very next morning, 1st May 2011 which incidentally is Labour Day, I started to feel surges at 4.30am, It was a strange sensation I'd never felt before. I couldn’t sleep although I was very tired. So I walked around, timed the surges and tried to go back to sleep. By about 7am, the surges came fast and furious! My son woke up and looked for me. This distracted me from my breathing and the surges became unbearable. I called my doula, Manu, and she was so upbeat about it. She said, “Yes, this is it! I’m so happy for you!”

To The Hospital

We rushed to hospital, and reached there about 9am. Manu reached there about the same time. It was so comforting to see her, and she had a big backpack of stuff and a birth ball. I knew I would be taken care of. It was a pity that I couldn’t get the room with the water tub, as I heard that it was very comforting to soak in water, like natural pain relief.

Already 9cm Dilated

The nurse requested to perform a routine VE but I insisted that I wanted Dr Paul to do it.  Thinking back, I made the right decision, as Dr Paul was very gentle and I only had to do it once. I was already 9cm dilated! From then on, I just managed the surges, and breathed through every one of them. Manu kept reminding me to breathe deeply, as I was taking short breaths when the surges came.

Kneeling, Eating & Drinking
I changed to a kneeling position, to give baby more space to move down the birth passage. However, the kneeling position was very intense, and it took a lot of effort and strength to stay that way. I didn’t know how long I lasted in that position, but I had to turn around and lie on my back again. I ran out of energy as I did not have my breakfast. My husband kept me hydrated with water and Milo, and Manu made me oatmeal which was filling and so comforting. I was actually allowed food while in labour. (I was denied food and water for 24 hours for my last birth).

The Hardest Part

When Dr Paul came back again, I was told that they could see baby’s hair at the opening, but I had to push baby out. Dr Paul said, “This is the hardest part.” That was the time I followed the contractions and the sensation to poo, or push. I nearly gave up after many, many pushes, as the baby seemed to be going back and forth, but not out of the opening. Dr Paul was very patient and was with me the whole time, and gave me lots of encouragement.

We tried different breathing methods, lifting my legs, etc. For all the surges, I was so glad to have my hubby’s big, strong hands to hold on tightly to. It gave me the comfort and strength to pushed for almost 2 hours. Finally, I heard positive comments that the baby’s head was out. Dr Paul told me to stop pushing and just breathe.

The Ring of Fire

As I did, I could feel a burning sensation. I was thinking to myself, so this is the ‘ring of fire’. It lasted only 10 seconds, and then my baby was out.

Mind Over Body

Baby Alivia was placed on me with her umbilical cord still attached. She was gorgeous. I was so happy that I did it, without any pain relief, just pure mind over body, concentration and positive thoughts. I didn't have IV plugs on me, and baby was alert and could suckle immediately. The wonderful nurse who was with me throughout my labour, requested if she could weigh Alivia before her shift ended. She really wanted to know. She came back and announced, “3.85kg my dear!” and remarked how brave I was to birth a big baby naturally.

Fast Recovery

I had a natural tear (no episiotomy) and the stitching was surprisingly not as painful as I had imagined. The after-labour pain was manageable, compared to a C-section wound. I did not even need to take any painkillers for it. In less than 2 weeks, the wound healed completely.

It was such an empowering and amazing experience. My mother gave birth to 3 kids without pain relief and I thought women of that era were so strong and had high pain tolerance. It is actually just the fear of childbirth that make us think that we are less capable than our mothers. It was absolutely true that our bodies are made to birth the natural way, and it should be the only way.


- Lin