Li Yen's amazing journey of struggles and faith to meet her rainbow baby.
I first heard about homebirth and HypnoBirthing when I interviewed Wai Han for an article in the New Straits Times in 2010. Before meeting Wai Han, the only concept I had about birth was the tremendous amount of fear and pain that all mothers-to-be have to encounter. I was inspired by the amazingly empowering experience she had when she birthed her children.
My journey towards motherhood was pretty rocky initially. I had 2 miscarriages in the first trimester within 8 months prior to conceiving Kyra. The miscarriages were challenging episodes I had to go through first: the loss of hope, the disappointment, the guilt, the grief, the changes in the physical body and the perseverance to try again were amongst the many twists and turns of this roller coaster.
Expecting a Rainbow
I found out that I was pregnant with Kyra in February 2015. It was bittersweet because the joy I had was tinged with fear as a result of the previous miscarriages. Even though I had gone through numerous sessions of emotional release therapy and energy healing, there were remnants of that deep, dark fear.
After the first trimester, I was a lot calmer and the entire pregnancy was a breeze. I kept myself active with my usual routine of tai chi and walks in the park. My confidence that the growing baby was in good shape increased with every movement I felt inside my belly. I was already in love with her!
My EDD was 14 October 2015 so I was already prepared for Kyra’s birth since the beginning of October. I waited and waited while everyone around me including the vendors in the wet market started asking me, “When is your baby coming out?”
12 October - Rehearsal
I had mild surges at dinner time. My husband, David and I went out for dinner and then to the night market. The inexperienced me was exhilarated! I was so happy that finally something was happening and that I will be seeing my baby real soon. When I returned home, I messaged Wai Han and she asked me to relax and go to sleep. I woke up the next morning disappointed to find out that it was a false alarm and that they were just practice surges.
20 October - Show!
I noticed that there was some pinkish membranous discharge (birth show) when I went to the bathroom at 7am. I excitedly announced to David the news and he asked me to take it easy. I started having mild surges at about 10am and it continued throughout the day.
21 October - Water!
David went to work as usual in the morning while a girlfriend, Soo Lan came over to accompany me for a few hours till he got home. David came home at about noon. At lunch time, my HypnoBirthing Childbirth Educator Bee Ting popped by to check on me. She told me that I was experiencing early stages of labour and advised me to rest as much as possible. After Bee Ting left, a friend Yen Him called and said that she wanted to drop by to have a chat. At about 4pm while we were chatting, the membrane broke and clear amniotic fluid gushed out continuously till there was a puddle on the floor. I just stood there in shock at the amount of fluid that was released. I felt blessed that Yen Him was around at that time. Having someone around helped me to stay calm. David went to teach his classes that evening because Yen Him was at home to accompany me. I just rested and drank as much as I could the entire night. Only trouble was that the amniotic fluid was still leaking so I had to put on a pad and change it every few hours. I was anxious about the constantly leaking waters. Even though baby was moving as usual, I couldn’t really sleep that night. There were irregular surges throughout that night.
22 October - Cesarean?
Soo Lan accompanied me to see my obgyn, Dato Sivamohan in DSH at 9am. He did a VE and found that my cervix was still closed. Baby’s heartbeat was strong. He advised me to do a cesarean because my cervix was closed and my baby was still not engaged even though the membrane was already released. He told me that he can induce me and wait for 4 hours but it is just going to be a waste of time based on his experience. He said that I can’t give birth naturally and that it is maybe due to the shape of my pelvis and had something to do with my height. I am 153cm in height. Not exactly a petite person. He gave me till 10am to decide if I wanted to do a cesarean that afternoon as he had another procedure scheduled in the Operating Theatre then.
I left his clinic feeling very upset because I wasn’t understood by the doctor I trusted. I had the impression that he was a pro-natural doctor from my previous appointments with him. He was even comfortable with the fact that I wanted to have a home birth during my previous visits.
I went over to Bee Ting’s house and she immediately advised me to seek a second opinion. She refered me to Dr Paul Ng of Pantai Bangsar. After waiting a long time at his busy clinic, David and I managed to see Dr Paul at 6pm. Dr Paul examined me and asked me to get admited into the hospital that evening. He said that I am able to birth naturally but would need induction of labour. We told him that we would like to think about it and will come back to the hospital the next morning if we decide to go ahead with induction.
My mum came over that night to be with me. I prayed that the surges will get stronger so my baby can be born naturally. At this point, I was open to the idea of going to the hospital should the need arise. The surges started getting regular that evening from being 10 minutes apart to about 5 minutes apart. Mum and David took turns to be with me throughout the night. Again, I couldn’t sleep because the surges were going on the entire time.
23 October - A Labour of Love
The surges were regular but wasn’t very strong. I was already mentally tired after not having any sleep the last 48 hours. A thought came to my mind: “Perhaps baby Kyra wants to be birthed in the hospital”. I decided to go to Pantai Bangsar to have a natural birth under Dr Paul’s supervision. At 10am, I was admitted into the labour ward. Cervix was already 4cm dilated. They allowed me to just relax to see if labour would progress naturally.
I had time to chat with the midwife who was very friendly and accommodating when I told her of my birth plan. It reassured me to know that the staffs of Pantai Bangsar were familiar with HypnoBirthing mothers. Dr Paul even agreed to allow me to have a lotus birth.
... and Struggles
At 3.30pm, Dr Paul decided to induce labour with 1/2 a Prostin pessary because the intensity of the surges weren’t getting stronger. After 30 minutes, the surges started getting more intense and more frequent.
David held me and massaged my lower back as I went through every surge. My mum was also there by my side encouraging and comforting me. I was in a trance from the intensity of it all. I could only focus on my breath in an attempt to make the best of every surge to bring my baby closer to me.
Bee Ting came to the labour room to give me support at 5pm and stayed with us till 8pm. I felt very blessed to have 3 wonderful people psyching me up throughout the way. I thought about women who go through birth alone and had newfound admiration for them. I wouldn’t have been able to sustain this process without drugs/intervention if left alone. I was too tired.
At 8pm, my cervix was dilated 6cm. I kept changing positions: sitting on the birth ball, walking around the room, arms around David’s neck while resting all my weight on him, resting on the side of the bed with legs on the ground. I ate and drank at regular intervals to keep my energy levels up.
The only thing I disliked about being in the hospital was the constant Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM) which means I had to stay still on the hospital bed for 30 minutes every now and then. It was very uncomfortable not being able to move while going through the surges.
By 10pm, cervix was dilated 8cm. I told David that I was about to give up because I was too tired to carry on. He reassured me that everything was OK and I can do it. In that dazed state, his words gave me strength and I persisted.
24 October - Rainbow!
The second stage of labour started at about midnight when my cervix was fully dilated. There were involuntary surges bearing down. I had the feeling that I wanted to pass motion. The nurses alerted Dr Paul to come to the labour room. I was asked by the nurses which position I would like to birth my baby. I chose to birth kneeling on the hospital bed while holding on to the headboard of the bed.
Finally, I could feel the baby moving downwards with every ‘push’ the body made. I just worked with the pushes while breathing down the baby. I was cheered on by Dr Paul and the nurses who were all around me. It was like being at the finish line at the marathon. I felt baby Kyra slipped out very quickly. Dr Paul caught her and placed her on the bed. I picked her up and held her to my chest while waiting for the placenta to come out naturally. I was very happy and relieved to be able to hold baby Kyra in my hands after waiting for so long. She was alert and looked around with eyes wide open. While I was admiring my newborn baby, Dr Paul proceeded to repair the tear with stitches.
After about 30 minutes, Dr Paul came to check on me. He lightly tugged at the umbilical cord to bring the placenta out. The nurses then washed the placenta to remove the blood clots and placed it in the plastic container I had brought. Rosemary powder was sprinkled all over the placenta to preserve it. Baby was then brought back to me so I can continue the skin-to-skin bonding with her.
Writing this birth story 2 weeks after the birth, I realized that birth is an event that cannot be planned. As much as I wanted a homebirth, I had to opt for a hospital birth due to the way events unfolded. I am glad I met Dr Paul who was very patient and allowed me to have a natural birth the way I wanted it. The nursing staffs in Pantai Bangsar were wonderful too.
A big thank you to:
Bee Ting – For accommodating David and me in the HypnoBirthing class despite our strange schedule. For being there for me when I needed your support and guidance especially in the labour room and for referring me to Dr Paul. Thank you for visiting me after the birth - the conversation we had especially about the birth review was very beneficial. I could reconcile with the disappointment I had about not being able to have the homebirth I had wanted.
Wai Han – For always being so kind to answer my numerous questions even when you were in holiday in Taiwan during the few days before baby Kyra’s birth. For sharing your experience and wisdom during the session we had in your house in preparation for the birth. David remembered everything you had shared regarding the birth positions, the massage techniques and to-do’s as a birth partner.
Pat Koh – For taking good care of me before the conception of baby Kyra and during pregnancy. For going through this roller coaster with us throughout this entire birth process. I am so grateful for your love and patience.
My mum – Being a mum myself now, I can truly understand that the love of a mother is truly unconditional. A mum gives a part of herself to her child before, during and also after the birth. It never ends. I love you for being with me throughout this journey of life.
My husband, David – You have shown me what love is through your actions in that 12 hours of active labour in the labour room. You did everything you could to help me feel better – the massages, the constant encouragement and just by being by my side all the way. I love you!
- Chim Li Yen (Oct 2015)
*A “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss.