Wednesday 17 April 2013

My Hypnobirth Teacher: Ms Di Bustamante

This is the second part of my previous post “Why Hypno-birthing Works”, featuring my hypno-birth teacher, friend and mentor Ms Di Bustamante, owner and director of Parent Link. 

Di, Owner and Director of ParentLink

Meeting Di for the first time at her lovely home one Saturday afternoon in September 2011, I have to admit that I was intimidated at hello.
  She spoke with calm certainty – not the I-know-it-all sort of way but reminiscent of people driven by deep convictions.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.  On the way home, my husband also expressed concern that we might feel ‘pressured’ with great birth expectations and would be up for disappointment if things don’t go according to plans. 

This initial apprehension however, quickly went away as soon as we started our first class.  She could have not stressed enough on giving back the power to women on how they desire to birth, of knowing one’s comfort level when it comes to medical intervention based on informed decision, of making sure the husband is actively involved every step of the way, and of building our confidence (understanding how our bodies work) in a very loving and affirmative way. Her passion to support expecting mothers achieve empowering and peaceful births that they dream of (and deserve!) is undeniable.  I had a very good feeling then that she will become more than just a hypno-birth teacher to me.

Di teaching our husbands how to do light massage

I was absolutely right!  A year and a half later after giving successful natural birth to my second daughter, she continues to be an inspiration as I advocate natural birth, breastfeeding and natural parenting.  In fact, one of the most profound things I have learned about parenting comes from her when she shared, “If you want to change something in your child, change yourself first”.   This stuck to me and constantly reminds me that whenever I see something in my girls that need changing, I need to look at myself first.

Her life story also resonates well to a professional turned work-at-home mom like me.  After spending twenty years in administrative management with ROLM Corporation, IBM and Siemens, she made a drastic career change after the birth of her daughter.  She had spent her pregnancies on bed rest and when she arrived in Singapore as a trailing spouse, she had time to research what had happened.  The knowledge propelled her to complete a training and certification as a doula and childbirth educator with Childbirth International.  Now, she is a Regional Liaison and faculty member of Hypnobirthing Institute.

I had the privilege of catching up with her and she shares her thoughts on hypno-birthing and natural birth:

1.       Can you tell us more about ParentLink and Hypnobirthing? 

ParentLink has been around since 1998, the first independent childbirth education centre and doula support organisation in Singapore.  

We currently offer classes in: 
Preconception Planning, Childbirth Preparation, HypnoBirthing, First Aid, Yoga, Infant Massage, Dunstan Baby Language, Conscious Parenting, and Professional Training: Infant Massage, HypnoBirthing, Water Birth

Our services include:
Doula support, Breastfeeding counselling, Pre and post natal massage including Jamu, Birth Pool rental and sales, Birthing Stool rental, Hypnotherapy, and free gatherings for parents for sharing of information and socialising

HypnoBirthing is a philosophy as well as techniques for parents to create a birth experience their baby would want.  5 classes of 2 1/2 hours each including the book by Marie Mongan, HypnoBirthing, 2 relaxation CDs and course handouts. Parents using HypnoBirthing techniques average 5 hours of labour, without the course the average is 12 hours.

2.       Why should moms go for natural birth? What are the benefits of natural birth?

In my classes, I request parents to reflect on the beliefs about pregnancy, labour and birth.  Rarely does anyone mention the baby.  The focus is on the mother's experience.  The baby is aware inside the womb - they are hiccoughing at 9 weeks, constantly tasting the amniotic fluid, seeing by 24 weeks, hearing by 20 weeks, babies are born with all 5 senses.  Human babies are born prematurely in brain development compared to other mammals.  The next two years a lot of connections are being made, synapses are firing.  How we treat babies at birth, how they are born, will cause different connections to be made.  Either fore brain connections (loving connections) or hind brain (survival connections).  

At birth, after the baby emerges from her body, there is a cocktail of love hormones secreted so baby is drawn to the mother and mothering instincts kick in.  That rush of hormones can only be described as euphoria.  If there is an epidural or caesarean birth, this reaction is inhibited.   

3.       How do you best prepare for a natural birth?

I think the most important is to learn to trust your body to what is was designed to do, birth easily without peril or extreme pain - like all our other body functions.  Mothers need to learn to relax and let go.  Fathers need to learn how to support the mother.

4.       Caesarean section births are on the rise world-wide, why do you think this is so?

There are many reasons for this.  Electronic Fetal Monitoring is done routinely in many hospitals and this is only 40% accurate.  That means that 60% of the caesareans due to fetal distress were not required.  Unfortunately, there are still some doctors that schedule caesareans due to their holiday schedule or desire to be home for dinner or not to have to wake up in the middle of the night.  Some mothers do not understand the challenges they will face after surgery - having a newborn that will need to feed every 1 1/2 to 2 hours whilst they are trying to recover.  The WHO states that only 12 -15% of all labours require interventions.  That includes all interventions, not caesareans.  In Singapore the public hospital section rate is 33%.  Way over the recommendations. Private hospitals no longer publish their statistics.  

5.       What do you think are the common myths/ misconceptions on birthing?

That it is so traumatic and dramatic that women must be anesthetized to get through it.  That hospitals are safer than home births. 

6.       My doctor’s nurse actually told me that Epidural (anesthesia, most popular form of pain relief during labor) must be one of the greatest inventions of the 21st century.  What is your take on that?

In some cases this is true - usually women that have had their labours induced or augmented.  However, doctors fail to inform parents of the risks involved and women routinely think this is a normal, natural birth.  Labour is powerful, yes, but it is the only physiological function we have that requires us to be drugged.  Animals are not drugged - what is it that makes us so different?  Women are duped into believing our entire lives that childbirth is something to be dreaded and feared.  Many women are now trying to take back their body and is ability to labour without peril or extreme pain.  We need to educate our daughters and sons that this is a normal, lovely, empowering experience - bringing a baby into the world. AND, I find it very entertaining that women are told throughout their pregnancy to stay away from drugs and the moment they head into hospital to birth they are asked - are you ready to be drugged now?

7.       Induction of labour is commonly done nowadays when pregnancy goes beyond 4 days from EDD (estimated due date).   What advice do you have for mothers who are confronted with such proposal?

With Di at a Small Business Group Workshop
Seek a second opinion from a doctor that does not routinely induce.  As long as mother and baby are fine, leave it alone.  Inductions lead to more interventions including drugs, suction, forceps and caesarean births.

8.       If you have to define birthing in one sentence, what would it be?

Birth is a normal, physiological event that women's bodies were designed to do; it is glorious and amazing.

What a great way to look at birth!  We are so blessed to have Di around!  Thanks Di!

Crossing paths at a Small Business Group Workshop

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Learning Kindness From Pain

I was ‘attempting’ to sort out my burgeoning inbox.  I think each time Yahoo! increases mailbox capacity, they thought of users like me who rarely deletes messages and believes that the search box is the most important organizational tool.  So while I was going through my files, I came across an email I sent out to my closest friends four years ago.

It occurred to me that despite having shared so many things about my pregnancy and labor in my blog, I have never shared this ONE thing.  Maybe that’s the thing, we are fast to share happy and glorious events of our lives but are reluctant for the non-glorious ones.  Who wants to remember them anyway?  

Until I read my letter again and I felt humbled…  and a certain kind of pride and of understated strength.  We are our experience.  Each line on our face speaks stories of our lives.  So after much deliberation of whether I should post a personal letter of mine, I realized that the reason why I started this blog in the first place was to inform, better yet inspire even at least a single soul.  I am grateful others have shared their stories, I am passing it on.

Coincidentally too (some would refute that there is no such thing as coincidence, such the book as Celestine Prophecy), a cousin’s wife just had a similar experience as mine.  I am reminded that we have more similarities than differences than we’d like to think.  After all, we are all part of this journey together. 

22 May 2008
(At home in Singapore)

Hi Everyone!

I have some sad news for you guys this time. I would say sad instead of bad for the reason that bad only means bad if nothing good can come out of it. At least, that's how I choose to look at it.

I have always believed in intuition, especially in a woman's intuition. It was intuition that led me to believe that I might be pregnant just one week after our Italy trip. It was also the same intuition that gave me the suspicion that the absence of associated symptoms like morning sickness, nausea or vomiting was just too good to be true. Either I'm in the most tiptop shape of my life or something was just not right.

My suspicion was confirmed when my husband and I visited our doctor last Tuesday, 20th of May for our regular ultrasound check-up. The moment I looked up at the screen expecting to see an 8-week pregnancy stage, (pictures still vivid from the many books we have studied) and finding something else staring back at us, I knew something was definitely wrong. The placenta, yoke or sac has not grown in size at all after two weeks. It just suddenly ceased to develop and there was no sign of an embryo.

The inevitable was to happen. The doctor had to do an operation called "evacuation of the uterus" or "wash" and was to be done immediately to prevent progressing into an emergency case. That was the last sentence that registered in my mind even when she kept explaining why the operation had to be done blah blah… I was suddenly speaking incoherently, cutting her in mid-sentences and asking questions like "was it because I continue to be very busy at work, etc..?". It's the first thing any mother (or mom-to-be in my case) would ask. She reassured me however that the problem most likely started at the very beginning. It might have been a response to soothe a distressed lady but what's done is done and you make sense of it as you go along.

I would like to think that one of the strengths that my husband and I both share is a rational mind. With just the two of us in Singapore, making big decisions on our own have prepared us to meet challenges on a daily basis. No one ever does the decision alone. We would stay up late at night debating pros and cons till the obvious surfaces. Somehow this time however, the rational mind only helped us as far as accepting that there is nothing that we can do and that's the most painful thing.

The operation happened the following day, 21st of May at 12:30pm. I was to fast 6-7 hours before the operation so I ate my breakfast at 5:30am in the morning. I was very tired. I had to force food down my throat as I barely slept that night, tossing and turning, sobbing, thinking, reflecting, questioning, surrendering… and finally accepting with a  heavy heart.

As I was lying on the mobile bed being wheeled towards the operating room, I was surprised to find myself busy looking at the details of the hospital design, the warm beige paint on the wall, the unique way of how the bright lights were mounted sideways on the walls instead at the usual ceiling. From a distance, I observed the nurses scurrying around for their schedules wearing bright Crocs footwear (my sister is the Crocs distributor in our hometown). The architectural training of attention to details I had for so many years have kept my mind free from worry and my heart from ache.

This is when I realized that everything will be okay. It's all part of the human experience. You expand your heart and breathe it in. You open yourself to a wave of profound emotions and let it take you where it leads you. I remember on our wedding day, my dad in his speech gave this message to us "Be kind to everyone, everything else will follow. And if you try to understand everything in the grand scheme of things, kindness will follow". I have never fully understood the depth of those words till now.

Speaking of parents, hubby and I are always lucky when it comes to perfect timing. Everything about us is perfect timing, from the serendipity of our similar flight from Davao to Manila, to our settlement here in Singapore. So when this fateful event happened in our lives, timing again was on our side. My parents were in town visiting us and are still here to help me recuperate. After hearing the news, my dad despite busy schedule in Davao did not hesitate to extend for another week to accompany my mom and me. They just do everything together for as long as I can remember.

Alfred and I have grown closer than ever. I am truly blessed with such an intelligent and kind man. After the operation, he looked more haggard than I was. I could not forget when I woke up, he was at my side, held my hand and said "thank you". I was puzzled at first at his words, but somehow I knew what he meant. Now, we are excited to plan our next holiday trip in 2 months’ time. Spain and Portugal? Australia? States? UK? The list goes on…

I sometimes ask myself, maybe I should have waited after 1st trimester to announce the news. That would have saved me a lot of trouble explaining. But if I didn't, I would not have the chance to share a sad yet poignant story - a story of human experience that we share to one another, to learn from one another, and ultimately to become a person of empathy and kindness. I am indeed grateful that I have my friends. Thank you for sharing with me the happy and sad events of my life. The story of our lives continues hehehe...

Regards to everyone.


 Afternote:  UK WON!  Sharing some random pics of our 2-week trip =)
Overlooking Edinburgh, Scotland
Traveled miles and miles to get to the middle of nowhere, Scottish Highlands
View of our Country Inn, Scottish Highlands
Enjoying ice cream one fine cold afternoon, Lake District England
Remaining positive through it all - buying Peter Rabbit books (for future children) at Beatrix Potter hometown
At the famous London Tower

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