The Birth Story of Nuha Zahra


InshaAllah I will try to be more diligent in posting birth stories of Yaqyn Birthers. Today’s story happened in 2010 when I was still under the great Doula Ginny Phang’s tutelage. It was very special to me because Nuha’s mother is a good friend and I am forever grateful to her for letting me be Ginny’s back up.

Her labour took a very long time and her bag of membranes had broken many hours before she finally went to the hospital. Had she been under a gyn/ob who wasn’t supportive of her choices, she would have sooner been cut up (c-section) as there was a point in time at the hospital that her labour didn’t ‘progress’. Read on to find out what happened in the end:

*Reprinted with permission from:

I had two EDDs given by two different gynaes. The first gynae I went to set my EDD as Oct 30. Dr X at TMC brought forward my EDD to Oct 26. My final gynae, Dr Mary Rauff, took Oct 30 as my official EDD.
Nuha was born on Nov 5 at 12.23am. She missed her Daddy’s birthday by 23min. Going by the official EDD (Oct 30), she was a week overdue. Had we stayed on with Dr X, I would have most probably been induced for labour.

As I mentioned before, I had a very pleasant pregnancy. I was extremely happy (almost all the time), I was positive about everything, I didn’t throw up, I didn’t have headaches or backaches or backside-aches. The only discomfort I had was when my pelvic bone, in its enthusiasm in preparing for labour, began separating as early as my 20th week. Apart from that, I really had the perfect pregnancy. I ate well but didn’t put on too much (oklah, 12kg in total), I could walk for kilometres during job assignments, I happily snorkelled for hours in the Maldives. I was blessed.
I bet Nuha, too, was extremely happy in my tummy – which probably explains why she was reluctant to come out into this world. I started my maternity leave on 25 Oct, just five days before my EDD. I didn’t want to waste my precious leave during pregnancy because I was certain I wanted to spend as much time with my babe as possible. I extended my leave further and took two months of unpaid leave. This would give me an uninterrupted six months with Nuha, thus establishing breastfeeding and attachment.
Oct 30 came and went. My tummy just got bigger and I became more restless. I looked out for any signs of tummy discomfort that could possibly be Braxton Hicks but nothing happened. In an attempt to kickstart labour naturally, I did lots of walking, squats and stair-climbing. Still nothing. As promised in my birth plan, I was due for my membranes to be swept at 40.5 weeks or Nov 3.
On the morning of Nov 2, I woke up at 9.45am and thought I peed in my sleep. My panties and pyjama pants were wet. Finally, I thought, I’ll be going into labour. I called Adil who was at work and excitedly asked him to come home. I then SMSed Ginny (doula) to inform her about my wet pants. She told me to get lots of rest and try to sleep. Sleep? You kidding me? I was too excited about seeing my baby for the first time.
I showered, checked my hospital bag and put aside the clothes I planned to wear to the hospital. Before this I had planned on labouring at home as long as possible but my waterbag bursting did not present the most ideal situation. I was tested GBS positive which means that my baby might be at risk of being infected by life-threatening bacteria once the waterbag is gone. Most doctors recommend that the mother be administered antibiotics 12 hours after the waterbag has burst to prevent the baby getting infected. I read up and figured that the baby should be safe for at least 24 hours. This means the latest I should go to the hospital would be 9am the following day (Nov 4).
I put on a sanitary pad and waited for the contractions to come. Nothing happened. Adil came home at 11.30am with chicken rice and ice kacang for me. I ate with gusto, keeping in mind that I’d need the energy to push later.
We returned to our bedroom after lunch, switched on the aircon, put on some nice music and pulled the curtains to darken the room. I tried to sleep. But as the hours passed, I couldn’t help but worry about the lack of contractions. My sanitary pad was also dry. By 4pm, I was becoming very restless and felt like I needed to get out of the house. I also felt like eating some hot fluffy chapatis.
So at 5pm, Adil, my mum and I went to Geylang Serai Market to feast on some chapatis. Alas, the stall was closed so we did some tudung shopping instead. That cheered me up somewhat. Shopping never fails to cheer me up.
I started feeling some random contractions at around 9pm that night. I felt quite relieved but the contractions were not regular and it didn’t look like I was going to give birth anytime soon. By then, I knew that I couldn’t escape the antibiotics the next morning.
Contractions came and went randomly throughout the night. By 1am, Adil and I decided that we should go to the hospital at 8am because GBS is scary. We woke up at 6am, showered, prayed and left home. My mum had already left for work. I kissed and hugged my father goodbye like I was going to war. Very emotional.
I had one final request before going to the hospital. I wanted a McDonald’s breakfast (yes, I was greedy and wanted to eat all the time). We had a leisurely breakfast and called Ginny again to tell her we would be going to the hospital. Are you sure, she asked. I said I needed the damn antibiotics because GBS is scary. She asked if I’d been steadily leaking water. I said no, the only time water leaked was yesterday morning. After much discussion over the phone, we came to the conclusion that my waterbag was most likely still intact. It leaked but did not burst. Hurrah!
I was ecstatic because it meant I didn’t have to surrender myself to the hospital. I could go home. I finished my breakfast in high spirits and walked out of the McDonalds in East Coast. And that was where it happened. Right there at the carpark. My waterbag burst. This time for real. It was like water gushing out of a pipe. I was so stunned I just stood there like a kid who peed her pants. I turned to Adil and said: “Okay, our 24 hours (to get the antibiotics) start from now.”
Much to my father’s surprise, I was back at home two hours after “going to give birth”. I took a nap at 10am and was awakened 45min later by mild contractions. I tried to pass the time by reading a book. I had beef noodles for lunch and Awfully Chocolate ice-cream and cupcake for tea. Adil pampers me.
My contractions were not getting any more frequent by 9pm that night. We Skyped with Ginny and she taught me how to do belly lifts to speed up labour. We also decided to go to the hospital by 4am no matter what happened because I needed antibiotics for the GBS.
I went to bed but barely got any sleep. I was frustrated with my body. Why aren’t my contractions coming faster than they should? At 4am, once again we showered and left home. This time both my parents were home. I kissed and hugged them like I was going for war. And this time, there was no more coming back home. This time it was for real.
The roads and highways were deserted as we drove to the hospital. It was a very pleasant early morning drive. We reached the hospital at 4.30am only to find that every single delivery suite was occupied except for one (which wasn’t equipped for waterbirthing). The hospital staff assured us that they’d move us to the water birth suite as soon as it was available.
Like a good girl, I got into bed and obediently gave the hospital staff details of my labour thus far. I got raised eyebrows and frowns when I told them my waterbag had burst 18 hours ago. A female doctor did a VE and I thought I was going to die. It was the most painful thing ever and I hated her. She said I was 3-4 cms dilated. Ginny was happy and said some encouraging stuff. I wasn’t paying much attention because I was busy thinking murderous thoughts of that doctor who just treated me like a cow in a James Herriot story.
At Ginny’s coaxing, I tried to get some sleep but felt like an invalid on the bed. So Adil slept on the bed while I slept on the armchair. Hanani came to take Ginny’s place at 9am. We yakked like I wasn’t labouring. The woman in the water birth suite finally gave birth and I got to switch rooms. While waiting for them to clean up the suite, I chatted with Hanani at the corridors. By then I could feel my contractions getting a tad stronger and coming more regularly, about 15min apart.
By 10am I was settled happily in the water birth suite that I wanted. I changed into a pretty pink pyjama dress which I’d bought specially for labour. Adil set up his laptop and played our favourite songs and a slideshow of happy holiday photos which he had prepared. My ION Orchard scent was placed by the bedside.
At 1pm Adil and Hanani tried to persuade me to eat some lunch. I normally love Delifrance quiches but that day, I really had no appetite. I could still yak a lot though. I chatted with Hanani happily and watched Wheel of Fortune on TV, solving the puzzles before the contestants and shouting out at the TV.
At 2pm, I had another VE. It was extremely painful and I wanted to kill that doctor as well. I was dilated 5cm. By then I was getting quite tired. When is this ever going to end? I dilated 2cm in 8 hours. That’s an average of four hours for every cm. At this rate, I’d have to wait another day before I give birth. Ginny asked if I wanted to speed up my labour and I agreed. So I was put on pitocin.
Once the pitocin was administered, I could not sit down and yak happily anymore. Each time a contraction came, I stood up and swayed my hips. In hindsight I do not know why I did that. But at that point of time it just felt like the most natural thing to do. Hanani applied some hot compresses to my back and that really helped with the pain.
At around 4pm, the contractions became markedly more painful. I asked to go into the tub. I had another VE, this time by Dr Rauff herself. It was a gentle VE and I was grateful. I was 7cm dilated. I was taken off the Pitocin and went into the water.
The water was a welcome relief. I swear I felt less pain in the water. By around this time, I don’t really have a clear memory of what happened exactly. Events became rather fuzzy. I remember the dark bathroom and being in the calming, warm water. I remember being told to breathe through my contractions and Ginny asking me if I wanted the water to be a little warmer. I also remember the nursing staff coming in often to adjust the fetal monitor belt around my waist. That was a nuisance because I really just wanted to focus on I breathing through each contraction. Somehow, once real labour kicked in, I became pretty quiet and just wanted to be left alone.
The next four hours were a blur. I remember getting out of the tub at some point, putting on my new fluffy bathrobe and then sitting on the toilet. I think the toilet bowl was my favourite place when I was labouring. It felt a lot more comfortable sitting there, I don’t know why. Hanani snapped some pictures of me labouring and weeks later when I looked at the camera, I saw some shots of me on the toilet and Adil sitting across me and patting my tummy. He was talking to my tummy and trying to reason with the baby to come out faster.
I think at some point the nursing staff realised that the pitocin was causing distress to the baby. They took me off pitocin and also got me out of the water because they needed to monitor the baby’s heartbeat better.
I don’t remember what time that was but once out of the water, I remembered being in extreme pain whenever the contractions came. They forced the oxygen mask on me which made me feel suffocated and didn’t make me breathe better at all. Someone should destroy that thing. I wanted to go back to the jacuzzi tub or toilet bowl that has become my ‘sanctuary’. But that was not possible because they needed to monitor the baby.
The odd thing was even at this time, my contractions were still coming every 10 minutes or so, like it did 12 hours ago.
I think I had another VE sometime then and I was 9cm dilated AND the baby was not in the optimum position. I no longer had the energy to resist my VEs or think murderous thoughts of the doctor who did it. I was just tired and I wanted the whole ordeal to end. At that point of time, had someone suggested cutting me open to get the baby out, I think I would have readily agreed.
Back to the story. I was suffering on the bed and Hanani was at my ear asking me to recite some du’as. I tried repeating after her but I think I was just mumbling some mumbo jumbo. Amidst my daze, I overheard Dr Rauff, Adil and Ginny speaking in hushed tones by the door and I heard words like “fetal distress” and “emergency caesarian”. My heart sank. What is happening to me? Why isn’t the baby coming out? Must I really have a caesarian after all those hours of labour?
I didn’t realise this but according to Hanani, at this time, she asked Adil to make one final plea to the Almighty. So Adil made some du’as over my tummy and believe it or not, I suddenly felt the most painful grinding sensation on my pubic bone. I don’t think there’s an English term for it but in Malay, we call in ngilu. It made me want to clamp my legs together and bite down my lip. I remember repeatedly telling Hanani that I felt ngilu. I think Hanani said something like, “Dee, the baby is turning! Alhamdulillah she’s turning!”
Minutes after that, I felt the urge to push. The nursing staff encouraged me to do so and so I pushed and pushed as hard as I could while lying on my side on the bed. But it was just plain uncomfortable pushing on the bed. So I appealed to Dr Rauff to allow me to get back into the water. Please, I said. She said okay.
So at about 9.30pm, I got back into the jacuzzi tub and started pushing whenever a contraction came, which was once every 10 minutes. Even the doctor found it odd.

So this was how my pushing went: The doctor and nurses would look at the contraction monitoring machine while I sit there in the water. Once my contraction came, they would cheer and shout for me to push as hard as I could. So I pushed and pushed like my eyeballs were going to pop out. Long and hard. They could see the baby’s hair peeking out but then the contraction would go away and the baby would slide back in. By the time the next contraction came 10 minutes later, the baby would be back in its original position as though I never pushed at all.
So this pushing business went on for two hours. I remember this part very clearly because I really had to work very hard. I remember wondering if it was possible for my eyeballs to shoot out from the sheer force of my pushing. Anyway, I was getting tired and Dr Rauff could see that this pushing thing was going nowhere. So she asked me if I’d like some help. What kind of help, I asked. She said that she can hold the baby’s head in place with a vacuum in between contractions so that the baby won’t slide back up. But I’d still have to do all the pushing work myself. I agreed immediately. So for the last time that night, I got out of the jacuzzi tub and obediently climbed back into bed.  I never imagined myself giving birth this way, with both my legs splayed open, surrounded by my husband, my doctor, two doulas and at least three nursing staff. All these women and one man cheering me to push and counting 1, 2, 3, 4….as I pushed and pushed. Thanks to the vacuum which held her in place, the baby crowned after two contractions.
No wonder people call this moment the ‘ring of fire’. I felt like I was being burnt and stung under there and for a split second, I actually wanted to stuff the baby back in. The only thing that kept me back was an even greater desire for this whole ordeal to end asap.
Nuha fully emerged after some pushes and belted out a string of loud hearty cries.

She was put on my chest, which was uncomfortable because my head was positioned lower than my body at that time. I looked up and just stared at her as she cried and looked back at me. I don’t know who was more relieved at that time – me or her – that the birth was over.
I put her to my breasts and she latched on like an expert. It was apparent by then that I have an extremely lazy uterus. My placenta refused to emerge so I was put on pitocin again. But by then I was back to my happy, chirpy self. As Dr Rauff stitched me up, I told her about how my mother took 40 hours to give birth to me and it seems like I’ve come full circle.
Nuha was checked and weighed right there in the delivery room where we could still see her. She weighed a healthy 3.87kg. My parents were shocked when they heard this because they were expecting a smaller baby haha. I wasn’t surprised because I ate a lot of cookies during Hari Raya. All that butter and sugar had to go somewhere.
So was I happy with my birth experience? Definitely. Considering how slowly my labour progressed and how my contractions casually came 10 minutes apart right til the end, I could have easily ended up with an emergency c-section. Labouring in the water brought huge relief and even though I gave birth on land, I had no regrets trying for a water birth.

Will I try for a water birth the next time? Yes I will. When will that be? Not anytime soon, insyaAllah🙂

Fertility Awareness Method

This is my current read:

I am always looking to upgrade myself, and this time I have taken an interest to learn more about fertility awareness. Just halfway through reading this (very) thick book, I have learnt that:

1) Cervical fluid (keputihan) is not always a bad thing. It can indicate fertile/non fertile periods.

2) Luteal phase (the period between post-ovulation and menstruation) is not affected by stress and largely remains an average 10-16 days in most women. If you have an average cycle that is long (longer than 28-30 days), it means you ovulate later than the textbook 14th day. 

3) What point no.2 means is that if your normal cycle is longer than 30 days, and if you are pregnant, your estimated due date based on the obgyn pregnancy wheel should be moved later and adjusted accordingly. 

4) While I have had difficulty conceiving my first two children, I have now learnt that I may not have ‘true/clinical’ infertility, but in fact I have had very little pockets of ‘fertile windows’ that I have failed to observe and make use of because of my irregular periods. The best way to understand your body and your cycle is to start charting your waking temperature and observing cervical fluid. 

5) I have to chart my own cycles for at least 6 months before I can start teaching others about fertility awareness. I have since started, but will need at least a couple of months to be able to see a pattern. 

6) Fertility awareness method (FAM), if understood correctly, can also be used as a pregnancy prevention tool.

7) FAM is not the same as the rhythm method.

8) How can charting help? It can help identify if one is ovulating or not, and if so, when.

9) For those trying to conceive (TTC), charting helps to eliminate a part of the invasive medical tests you have to do to check if you are truly infertile or simply missing your precious fertile windows.

MashaAllah, I have learnt so many new things I thought I already knew before this. And this is just half of the book. Chat me up if you’d like to find out more about FAM.

Meanwhile, back to the book! 📖

– Hanani

Listening to your pregnant body

How do you listen to your body?

I’ve often been asked this question by clients and students alike. And those who have ever attended my talks would know that my favourite quote would definitely be ‘Listen to your body!‘.

For example, when they ask me if I think they’re drinking enough or walking too much or whether they’re eating adequately or resting enough, I’d say (after some bits of advice): ‘…most importantly, listen to your body!’.

“But I don’t know how to, I don’t trust my body!”

I’d tell them that they are the best person to know what’s happening inside their own self, and most times a simple thought can influence the body’s state of healing (mind over matter).

Now I’m not trying to simplify matters, but truly, if we start paying attention to signs our body is giving us, we will notice that we know a lot more than we actually think – especially when it comes to our own pregnancy.

Take note of small changes – from your pee colour, stool colour, skin and nail condition, new sensations around the body, to your emotions – they’re all telling you something. If you feel something is a little off, pause for a moment and listen deep down to what your body is trying to tell you.

Earlier this week, a lovely pregnant lady, in a little panic, asked me if its normal to feel tightenings (small contractions of the uterine muscles) in the 2nd trimester which were really uncomfortable. While it may not require emergency medical attention*, it certainly means something is not quite right with the body so I asked her to look for clues like ‘what did you do differently today?’. Turns out she was fasting and that particularly hot day was taking a toll on her body. Her body was dehydrated and her muscles – the uterus especially – were signalling for her to get help. When she broke her fast and hydrated herself with water, her tightenings immediately stopped.

You’d be surprise at how simple this solution sounds in writing, but the truth is that not many people hear what their body is trying to say, especially when they feel their judgement might be biased by panic and fear.

When this happens, slow down, and ask your body questions – aloud works fine too 😀

Most of the time your body hurts to tell you something, not to attack you. It gives you a chance to plan a strategy so listen to it. Pay close attention and you will find the answer. And trust about what it is telling you to do. Because truly Allah has made our bodies very smart!

 And He has created you in different forms and different conditions. See you not how Allah has created seven heavens in perfect harmony, and has placed the moon, therein a light and made the sun a lamp? And Allah has caused you to grow out of the earth as a good growth. Then will He cause you to return, thereto, and He will bring you forth a new bringing forth. (71:14-19)

*Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, so please use good judgement to identify serious medical issues. The stories I share are suitable for the majority of healthy and/or low-risk pregnancies. Please do not ignore symptoms if you already have a pre-existing medical condition. Thank you!

** If you already tried listening to your body, but really can’t hear anything, sometimes a doula may just be the person to ask the questions for you. And we’re always happy to do so! ❤

Love, Hanani

If you’ve missed me, I’ve missed you more!

A very warm Salaam to all of you and thank you for always asking how I’ve been and how I’m coping with 3. To be honest, I have underestimated the break I needed as I try to regain momentum to start doula work again. I’ve promised some people that I will resume my classes in April or May, but its July and I’m nowhere near to setting a date yet (I am working towards it though!). I’m thankful for my group of first prenatal yoga class friends (plus some ex-clients) who seem to keep multiplying so I do get to keep my doula knowledge and skills in check, InshaAllah!

Speaking of knowledge-upgrading: Last January, I attended a follow-up Spinningbabies workshop for birth workers in Singapore conducted by Gail Tully herself. I got to bring baby Honeystar who was then barely 3 months old so that was good. It felt so nice to be ‘hands-on’ again after many months off physical doula work!

Practising side-lying release

Practising side-lying release

Last I met this lovely midwife was in Liverpool 2012!

Last I met this lovely midwife was in Liverpool 2012!

I am also happy to note that several new Muslim doulas have just gotten certified so our Muslim mothers will have even more choices now. Alhamdulillah for more gentle birth choices! Feel free to speak to me for a recommendation. 😉

And finally, my biggest project is still on hold: project Birth of Honeystar write-up! So many learning points to share that I’m unsure what to start with. Alhamdulillah baby Honeystar is now 8 months old – amazing how fast time flies!

My #2 and #3 - Rosebud & Honeystar

My #2 and #3 – Rosebud & Honeystar

These are my brief updates for now, just to let you know I’m still here. I’m available for contact, but preferably via Whatsapp please. InshaAllah, till next time! 😉


With Love and Thanks – Doula Hanani, Yaqyn Birth

A love letter for my midwife

Written in the style of (Thank you Kristen Tea for the inspiration!)


Dear Red,

Firstly I thank Allah for giving me the opportunity to engage you as my midwife!

Thank you for attending the birth of my third born, Honeystar.

Thank you for your continuous support throughout my pregnancy, labour, birth and postnatal period.

Thank you for your wisdom, guidance and knowledge.

Thank you for showing great respect to my pregnant, birthing and post-birth body.

Thank you for being gentle, patient and kind.

Thank you for the monthly (and then weekly) prenatal visits to my home and spending an hour patiently discussing my concerns or just chatting.

Thank you for taking the time to reply to all my phone and whatsapp queries.

Thank you for including Raizan in as many meetings as possible even if this meant having to come to my home after office hours.

Thank you for giving me evidence-based information for my decision-making and then respecting me in my choices.

Thank you for guiding and preparing me on the possible scenarios and necessary backup plans.

Thank you for trusting in ‘nature and the divine’ which happen to be aligned to my Islamic beliefs.
*note: the thing that struck me most about Red was her ‘setting an intention’ to everything that we want to do. That is in essence the basis of our Muslim practice, as the hadeeth goes – Innamal a’maalu binniyyaat (meaning: Actions are dependant upon their intentions).

Thank you for being respectful of my ‘labour space’ and allowing me to freely move and choose my positions.

Thank you for the sacral massage during labour which magically reduced the intensity (not kidding!).

Thank you for not doing any unnecessary interventions.

Thank you for ensuring that the environment was safe for Honeystar to come in to.

Thank you for not rushing the baby or me and allowing me to take a one-sec breather before letting me pick up Honeystar myself.

Thank you for the newborn checks done after we had time to bond as a family.

Thank you for the postnatal visits.

Thank you for the constant reminder to respect my post-birth body and let it heal properly (Indeed! Recovery has been quickest for this birth).

Thank you for doing what you do! Thank you for giving women like me the option to birth safely and comfortably at home with family.

Thank you Allah, for choosing Red to be my midwife!

(And not forgetting my other midwives: AbangH’s – Jacqui, Rosebud’s – Amelie and Honeystar’s assistant midwife – Amy. Thank you for all the love!)

IMG_4376.JPG With Rosebud & Honeystar’s midwives

IMG_4234.JPG Freshly birthed

IMG_4290.JPG Weighing Honeystar

Sneak peek – birth supply kit!

Deja vu! It was only less than 16 months ago that I prepped the same things for Rosebud’s birth. The last time, they were packed in an IKEA box (which I still have!). This time round I decided that a bigger, translucent and less flimsy box would be better for everyone, InshaAllah.

What’s in there?
Basically there are the essentials to contain the ‘mess’ (contrary to popular belief, there’s very little mess in a home birth!) like plastic sheets, underpads, trash bags, towels, sheets and containers. Then there’s the baby stuff like diapers, clothes, socks, hats and blankets. There’s items for mummy too like disposables, sanitary napkins and soothing labour items like hot socks and massage oils. Other miscellaneous important things include my gyn/ob’s card in case of a hospital transfer, thermometer and flashlight. My midwife will be bringing her own birth kit (the medical stuff) on the birth day itself.

The things I’ve prepared above are for a land birth. For those having a home water birth, you’d need more stuff like extra plastic sheets and towels, pump and water thermometer. And of course the pool itself!

So when DH overheard all the hustle and bustle of me putting the kit together, he jokingly remarked, “You’re making me nervous!”. Lol… Well, actually I kind of am too myself 😊. But nervous is good, it makes you prepared, InshaAllah! I hope I’ve covered most things~ Allah help me, InshaAllah… Ameen~

Yesterday’s random fb post

Random pregnancy post tonight:

1) Several days ago, when I picked and chose AbangH and Rosebud’s newborn clothes to be washed for baby Honeystar, I seem to subconciously pick out more of the blue-coloured outfits and wraps! Confident ke Honeystar will be a boy?

2) Also several days ago, I told my midwife that I am “…confident Honeystar’s head is still high”, only to be met with her wide-eyed response of “…nooo!! She is just *this close* (makes small gap indication with thumb and forefinger) to the middle of the pubis” from her after palpating the belly. Similarly the next day, I confidently told Cik Nor, my pre/postnatal massage lady, that baby is “…still high!” only to be met with the same response as my midwife. “Baby is already in a ‘prostrating’ position (ie occiput anterior), ready to come out! Be sure to stay more at home ok”, she said. Allahhh…. 😅 Whenever you’re ready, baby… 💕

3) I am 37+6 weeks today, Alhamdulillah Mohon doa semua~ And I seek your forgiveness for my wrongdoings! Please keep me in your prayers ok 😘