Expectant mothers are divided when it comes to this ongoing debate. Ellen Whyte speaks to three women who share their experiences
By The Weekly | April 2, 2015
“I GAVE BIRTH TO MY SON IN A BATHTUB!”
“I discovered I was pregnant just a month after we were married,” shares Isabel Ling McKenna, a 30-year-old veterinarian from Kuala Lumpur. “We hadn’t even been on our honeymoon yet! We were living in Australia and we’d planned to have a wedding dinner in Malaysia, then go mountain climbing, so it was a bit of a shock.
“I spent most of my pregnancy in Australia. I went for the usual checkups, read up to learn about pregnancy, and I also saw a midwife and an antenatal teacher who gave me lots of support.
“A lot of what I read offered conflicting advice, so it was hard to decide what would work best. We moved back to Malaysia just before the birth, which also narrowed my options.
“In Australia, home births are quite normal, and I decided I wanted to opt for that even though I was moving back here. I’ve always hated needles, and my sister had a bad time in hospital. I wanted to be in control of my own body.
“At 30 weeks all the tests showed that everything was looking good. If there had been a problem, it would have meant the hospital for sure, so I was relieved. The only problem was that we couldn’t find a midwife or any sort of medical support. The doctor I asked was not supportive of home births at all.
“Despite that, the birth was wonderful. My mucus plug came out a week before my contractions started.
“On the day, the boiler wasn’t working so my husband Jed and my mum filled up the bath by hand. I sat on my exercise ball, visualising a soft open cervix and my baby descending as I’d learned in Calmbirth classes in Australia. When I got in the bath, I felt so good. The warmth of the water soothed the contractions and made everything feel right. There was only one moment in transition when the baby was crowning that I almost panicked. But my family was around me, supporting me, and I felt alright again.
“Jed caught our son Zachary Francis McKenna at 8.38am; the birth took less than four hours! It was all a bit fast and I think that if I do get pregnant again, I’d like to sit back and enjoy it more next time.”
Hayati gave birth after 12 hours of contractions! (Photo: Song/Picture This)
‘I HAD MY BABY IN MY BEDROOM!”
“When I fell pregnant, I went to see my mum’s gynaecologist,” shares Hayati Muzaffar, a 30-year-old IT Marketing Executive. “Everyone kept telling me how painful childbirth is but that it’s all worth it.”
“In my 20th week I discovered hypnobirthing and The Gentle Birthing Group on Facebook. I went to some meetings, did my reading, and decided on a home birth. I wanted my child to be born lovingly by his own parents at home, rather than in a foreign environment. I also wanted a labour where I wouldn’t be told what to do.
“My husband Mu’aaz and I went to hypnobirth classes and bought a kids’ pool. When my labour started, we set it up in the master bedroom.
“The birth itself was really easy. It was a very enjoyable, empowering and spiritual experience. I did it without pushing and I didn’t tear at all. I think the bath helped a lot because it’s comforting and I lost all sense of time. To me the birth felt quick but it actually took 17 hours from start to finish. There were 12 hours of contractions and five hours of active birth.
“Of course, if there had been a special circumstance during the labour, we’d have rushed to the hospital that’s just 10 minutes down the road.”
Jane, pictured here with her husband and two kids, Kyson and Xinfaye. (Photo: Song/Picture This)
“I GAVE BIRTH IN HOSPITAL, ON MY OWN TERMS!”
“When I delivered my daughter Xinfaye, I relied totally on my gynaecologist,” says Jane Wong, a 39-year-old 3D Computer Animator from Ipoh. “Having an episiotomy (a surgical cut made in the vagina during childbirth) was my ultimate fear. I knew it’s not always done in the West but my doctor said that Asians are built differently and made me have one.
“I couldn’t feel a thing when Xinfaye was born. But afterwards I couldn’t move for 10 days because of the tearing, and for a whole year I couldn’t do my gymnastics. I was a mess.
“When I fell pregnant with my second child, Kyson, I was terrified. Then, a month before the birth I found out about hypnobirthing. It was a complete revelation. I attended a class conducted by Madam Soo (a certified hypnobirthing practitioner) and we were given the contact for a doctor who doesn’t do episiotomies and who would support me in arranging for a birth plan.
“Ideally you should take hypnobirthing classes over a period of time, but Madam Soo gave me and my husband an accelerated course. However, as there was little time for us to prepare for that, I decided in the end to have a water birth in a hospital. My new doctor was really supportive.
“When my contractions started and we went to the hospital, the birthing pool was under maintenance, which was a shame. However, everything else went well. I felt no fear or pain. Being able to move around was also a real blessing. I ended up giving birth while kneeling on the bed with my back to the doctor.
“When it was over I thought, ‘Wow, that was easy! Is that all?’ I was just amazed. Because I was so relaxed I only had a tiny tear. It took me zero time to recover. I felt great and I could concentrate on looking after my baby.”
This story first appeared in The Malaysian Women’s Weekly’s February 2013 issue.
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There are currently two private hospitals that offer water birthing:
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