Unlearning some common beliefs about birth


A traditional midwife uses a fetoscope to listen to the baby’s heartbeat
Pic courtesy of http://www.mcc.org

“Kenapa nak kena belajar dan ambil tahu tentang proses bersalin ni? Kan ni perkara fitrah, nenek moyang kita semua pun boleh buat…”

(Why do we need to learn and prepare about birth? Birth is natural and our ancestors could do it…)

Alhamdulillah if you have that thought in your mind! Positively it means that your mind is 50% prepped for birth, that you understand that this process is natural, and you are prepared to embrace what comes with it~!

However, understand that there is a lot of difference between the way our ancestors birthed and the ‘norm’ it is now… It was normal to birth at home then. It is not the norm now. It was normal to not have checks throughout pregnancy. It is not the norm now. It was normal to not be seen by the doctor. It is not the norm now. It was normal to receive your baby yourself (while the husband goes to look for a midwife). It is almost unthinkable now.

Point is, if a mother would like to have a natural and uninterrupted birth now, it would be more achievable if she learns to *unlearn* some things.

But first, the question: What happened along the way?

We have now been raised to believe that birth is safer in the hands of a trained medical professional (Well yes, for a highly risky pregnancy, but not for a healthy pregnancy, no). That is what we have been taught and now ingrained in our way of life. When it is time to birth, this thought, subconscious or not, will have an effect on our mental state during labour and birth.

Therefore, reading, preparing and studying about birth helps to undo some of those thoughts. Undo some practices and *unlearn* some beliefs.

Among some unlearning that we need to do:

1) Labour contractions are painful and have no purpose (They do have a purpose! To bring the baby down…)
2) Labour shouldn’t be long (A long labour is just a variation of normal)
3) We won’t be able to tolerate the pain (its definitely more painful if you have to lie down yes, but it shouldn’t be that way!)
4) We need to see a doctor to have a safe birth (doctors are trained for surgery. If you have a complication during pregnancy, then it is wise to get it checked by a doctor. If you don’t, then you’re better off seeing a midwife who is really the one who is trained in childbirth).
5) So many more!

Teach ourselves:
1) What every pregnant mum needs: good diet, exercise (lots of mobility during pregnancy), relaxation, good mental health, and have a good knowledge, info and guidance about birth from the right people.
2) Instead of spending on expensive monthly ultrasounds and doctor’s consultation fees, invest in a birth coach (doula), seeing a chiropractor, having a good yoga teacher and attending proper childbirth classes that teaches relaxation and breathing techniques (eg Hypnobirthing or Lamaze).
3) It is safe to birth in places other than the hospital (eg, birthing centre or home), and it is safe (and definitely more comfortable) to birth in another position other than lying down on your back.
4) Understand how birth works –  only then you will realise why contractions has a purpose, why breathing and relaxation techniques are important and why being mobile and upright helps!


Of the Rebozo technique and our traditional midwives

Last week, I attended a very useful doula sharing session at Fourtrimesters. Doula Catherine shared some useful tricks she learnt from a birth conference she attended in Cairns last year. We took turns practising it on each other. What do you get when you combine 10 sister doulas practising labour techniques on each other – lots of fun and laughter of course!

It wasn’t my first time hearing about the Rebozo technique, but it was definitely my first time trying it first hand. It didn’t strike me at first how familiar this is all supposed to be to me – that my own Malay traditional midwives practised this since 100 years ago. I didn’t realise this until I asked my next client if she would be willing to let me try it on her. Her immediate sms reply – “Is it like lenggang perut?”

Lenggang perut or swinging the belly has been a traditional practise in some clusters of our Malay community, typically the Javanese. Like the Rebozo technique, it makes use of a long piece of cloth or shawl (the mexicans used rebozos, the javanese used batik cloth) and when placed under the lying mother’s bottom or hip area, the cloth extends like two long arms. The midwife or doula will stand over the mother and pull the cloth right and left to swing the belly.

How is this helpful?
This technique can be done throughout pregnancy to encourage optimal feotal positioning. It is also useful to turn a posterior baby if done during late pregnancy.

The modern Rebozo (click on pic for original source)

vs The traditional batik cloth