Category Archives: parenthood

Covid 19 and A Shift in Support

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So beautiful yet capable of causing havoc in the human body. The SARS-CoV-2, or SARS Coronavirus -2.

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We are currently in a state of emergency in Ontario in response to the Covid 19 worldwide pandemic. Many countries are on lockdown, with their borders closed in an effort to control the pandemic. This has been in effect since the beginning of March, and Ontario announced these measures on March 13th, 2020.  Luckily for me, it was a week after I had returned from Malaysia, and it did not affect my return much apart from my flights being rescheduled, route changed and delays at Vancouver airport on my last leg home to Toronto.

My father passed away on February 19th, 2020 and I had to return to Malaysia at short notice, as the funeral was arranged for the 22nd of February. I had 4 days to get home, well actually 3 as Malaysia is ahead by 13 hours. It takes about 2.5 days to fly home, due to the time difference. To my amazement, I was able to get a flight on the same day that I heard about my dad’s passing. My mum called at 3am, crying on the phone, and my mind just went into autopilot. My dad’s death was unexpected and sudden. Yes, he was ill with dementia that had progressed to dysphagia and he had to be tube fed, but I was planning on visiting them in June, 2020.  Anyway, I had booked my ticket at the normal price by 5am. I was pleasantly shocked. By 12 pm, I was at Pearson International and my flight for Kuala Lumpur via Hong Kong was at 2pm. The airport was quiet, almost deserted. At the boarding gate there appeared to be only a handful of passengers waiting. We boarded quickly, the plane was virtually empty- 2 passengers in business class and another 20 something in coach! We all had 3 seats to ourselves to stretch out on.  It was a weird experience and an omen about what was about to transpire.

Moving on to the present, I am providing doula and sleep coaching  support virtually, as the government of Ontario could not say if we were essential workers in view of the lockdown. I am supporting one family in person in a “nanny” capacity at the moment. I have been supporting them since January, and both my clients and I are practising strict social distancing, with minimal outings for essentials that we cannot get on line or delivered to out front doors. We have masks and gloves for when we do have to go out.  I do not use PPE when supporting them. I do wash my hands a lot, and my phone gets zapped in the phone soap (https://www.phonesoap.com/products/phonesoap-3-phone-uv-sanitizer) to kill off any bugs when I enter their home.

How does virtual postpartum doula support work? Usually being present physically to help out new parents with breastfeeding support, meal prep and light housework, reassurance, maintaining the calm, I now had to do this virtually. Of course, the meal prep, housekeeping and other chores could not be fulfilled and went out the window. Technology has definitely helped with the other roles, having me at the end of the phone when clients needed questions answered was vital. I am also able to observe breastfeeds via video calls ie face time, messenger to WhatsApp calls.

Here is what I offer virtually   https://www.cherryblossomdoulas.ca/virtual-postpartum-services/

I am hoping to be able to train postpartum doulas again later in the year, when the government tells me I can resume training. In the meantime, there are quite a few CAPPA faculty members who are offering virtual trainings, mostly in the US. I have decided not to carry out any virtual trainings at the present time as the Association of Ontario Doulas will only accept doulas who attended an in person training as members. Membership with the AOD is vital for a newly trained doula, it connects the new doulas with other doulas, and crucially, gives them the opportunity to purchase liability and general commercial liability insurance at a discounted price. They have also secured a group pricing for medical insurance if members need it.  CAPPA has been in touch with the AOD and we are waiting for their reply as to whether they will approve our virtual training platform for getting membership for new doulas trained this way.

I currently have no availability for in person support for the rest of the year, and possibly into next year. I do have colleagues that I work closely with and the doulas I have trained in the past that may have availability, so please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any support. I am also doing a virtual New Parent 101 webinar in conjunction with Thornhill Doulas and Petra Nobel. This  is a 3 hour course that covers all things newborn baby, new parents, tips and tricks, baby and parent sleep and a lot more. Learn more from the link below.

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That’s all from me for now. I think I will talk about sleep in my next blog. Keep safe everyone, even if lock down rules are loosened and more services and facilities are allowed to open. Be cautious, wash your hands, wear a mask if you have to go shopping, stay healthy, and don’t forget to breathe…. when it all becomes overwhelming, stop and take a deep belly breath, and sigh it out in a loud ahhhhhhh and repeat until calmness returns.

 

It’s been a while…and volunteers needed!

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It’s been a while…and volunteers needed!

It’s been a while since I wrote anything on here. I have decided to start blogging again as I used to enjoy doing it. I have been pretty busy with the business and work and so the blogging  got pushed aside.

Since I last penned anything on here, I have become a CAPPA Certified Childbirth Educator, joined CAPPA Faculty and started training postpartum doulas, took the CAPPA New Parent Educator training Teresa Maskery, took a CAPPA approved working multiples training which I hosted, Kimberly Bepler came from the US and we did training at CSI, Spadina- Birthmark allowed us to use their space. I also embarked on a sleep consultant’s certification with IPHI- International Parents and Health Institute, training with Mar De Carlo, and her holistic science of sleep method. I am hoping to be a certified maternity and child sleep consultant by August, 2020.  It is for this qualification and certification that I am seeking some volunteers. If you are pregnant and experiencing challenges with sleeping, if you are a parent of a baby, toddler or older child and want some tips on helping optimise sleep for your baby please get in touch with me. Email me at suyindoula@gmail.com. You don’t have to be in Canada to volunteer! Sleep consults, optimising and coaching can be done remotely and virtually. I have consulted with clients in Jordan and Taiwan recently.

In other news, I have trained 6 postpartum doulas, since the beginning of 2019.  Andrea Lorenzo, who did her postpartum workshop with me at the beginning of September, 2019 has just gained her certification from CAPPA, and is now a CAPPA Certified Postpartum Doula. She has worked really hard, been so conscientious and is a great doula- a big shout out to her for achieving her certification within 6 months of taking my training. Awesome!!!

 

This is a picture of the 4 postpartum doulas who did my workshop in September, 2019. Andrea is the one by the white board.

I will be blogging about Andrea soon, I interviewed her on why she wanted to be a certified postpartum doula.  A lot of doulas do not certify, as the doula profession is not regulated here in Canada. They feel they do not need to certify. I will ramble on more about this in my blog about Andrea.

This year will be my 2nd recertification with CAPPA for postpartum doula, which means I have been a doula for almost 8 years.  I have been privileged to support many families and have transitioned them into parenthood.  They welcomed me into their homes and trusted me with their babies and I have had such great experiences working with them. I am truly grateful to have a job that I love.

Here are some pics of my little clients, I have their parents permission to post their pics.

 

I have attended about 2 births a year for the last 6 years too, being a birth doula. This too has been rewarding. I don’t tend to take on many births as I am predominantly a postpartum doula and my schedule is pretty full. Trying to fit a birth in and being on call can be difficult. Therefore, I only do 1-2 births a year.

Back to today! I have decided to blog every week, and more often if I have time. I will be using this platform to reflect on my week, like a form of journalling. I feel like the time is now, for some self care and reflection!

I hope you have enjoyed reading and if you know of anyone who can benefit from holistic science of sleep coaching, please get in touch via my website http://www.cherryblossomdoulas.ca  or email me at suyindoula@gmail.com.

Thank you for dropping by…… more to come in the days and weeks to come!

 

 

 

 

 

Sitting the Month – The Chinese Confinement Period (CAPPA Article Contribution)

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As a Malaysian postpartum doula of Chinese origin, a large proportion of my clientele are Asian (Chinese). I have supported quite a few Asian clients who observed the traditional practice of sitting the month or Zuo Yue Zi or Zhor Yuit. I am sure a lot of postpartum doulas are aware of this tradition, but if you aren’t I will share with you briefly what this involves and share a few recipes with you.

This cultural practice is meant to allow the postpartum parent to recuperate and recover form the birth of their baby. They are supposed to rest and do very little, and not leave the house for a month. During this time, the postpartum parent is said to be in a ‘cold condition,’ giving birth has caused them to lose a lot of heat. Moreover, their pores are said to be open and they are predisposed to getting chilled. In order to protect and improve their health, a diet of ‘warming’ foods is vital and avoidance of cold water is important so that their bodies return to one of equilibrium – not cold or hot. Cold drinks are also forbidden for this period.

The Chinese diet is a combination of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ and neutral foods. Ginger, Chinese rice wine, sesame oil, red dates(Chinese jujubes, usually dried), dried longan-a tropical fruit, dark green leafy veg, adzuki beans, black beans are all ‘hot’ foods.

‘Cold’ foods are lettuce, cabbage, cucumber, mung beans, most root vegetables ( as they grow underground where it is dark and cold) and anything raw- think salad items.

Consequently the Chinese postpartum diet consists of mainly ‘hot’ foods with the addition of meat- chicken mainly but pork ,beef and eggs are also eaten. Seafood is not eaten as it’s thought to be s cold food as it comes from the sea which is cold, and also toxic for the recovering postpartum parent. Nothing cold or raw is to be consumed.

In addition to a specific diet, the postpartum parent is also not allowed to touch cold water, or wash in water that has not been boiled with ginger skin and then cooled ready for use. They are not allowed to wash their hair as their pores and joints are said to be open following birth, and that would cause them to get chilled. They may not feel any ill-effects immediately, but the Chinese believe that it will cause arthritis and other problems in 20-30 years time.

In modern times, I have not looked after any Chinese postpartum parents that have followed this practice completely as they have found it very difficult not to shower, bath or wash their hair for a month! I usually advise them to ensure they have a hot shower/bath, and that their houses are adequately heated, and if washing their hair, to dry it immediately with a hairdryer.

I would like to share with you a tea that I make for my clients. It’s called red date tea. This is drunk throughout the day in place of water.The red dates (jujubes) are said to be warming and will replenish the heat that was lost in labour and birth. In addition, it is said that it is also good for replenishing and nourishing the blood, thus improving blood circulation. This can lead to better liver and digestive function, balance of inner body energy (Qi) and improved immunity. Goji berries are a known for their antioxidant qualities. How wonderful is that? You can get the ingredients from most Asian grocers or traditional Chinese medicine shops.

Before you make and drink this tea though, please check with you healthcare provider as there are some contraindications if you are taking certain medications. References for the ingredients of this tea are given at the end of this article.

Red Date Tea

15-20 red dates, stones removed

1/4 cup of dried longan

2 tbs of goji berries

6-8 cups of water

 

Put all ingredients in a bowl and soak for a minute or two then rinse in a colander.

Combine all ingredients and water in a medium – large pot.

Bring to boil, then simmer for up to 25 minutes.

You can add sugar to taste but I don’t for my clients, as the tea has a mildly sweet flavour from the dates, longan and goji berries.

The tea can be served with the ingredients or without. I personally like to serve it with the fruit as it’s pretty and also adds fibre with is beneficial, especially if my clients slightly constipated or have haemorrhoids!

Keep tea in a flask so it keeps hot and drink throughout the day.

Ginger, eggs and chicken feature large in the dishes that are eaten in the postpartum period. If you follow confinement practices strictly, a chicken a day should be consumed by the postpartum parent. Though this practice is difficult to adhere to.

With this in mind, I would like to share 2 simple dishes that I cook for my clients- ginger fried rice and chicken with ginger and sesame oil.

 

Ginger Fried Rice

1 cup cooked rice that has been cooled, or left over rice that has been stored in the fridge in a covered container overnight.

Thumb size piece of ginger- peeled, thinly sliced and julienned

1-2 spring onions, cleaned and sliced thinly on the diagonal.

1-2 eggs

1-2 tbs of cooking oil

1tbs sesame seed oil

1 tbs soy sauce- optional

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat wok/large fry pan over medium heat.

When oil is hot, fry ginger until it turns golden brown and is fragrant.

Break eggs and add to the pan, stirring as though making scrambled eggs.

When eggs are nearly cooked, add the green onions and fry for another minute.

Turn heat down a little, add the rice and stir continuously until rice is evenly heated and fried in the ginger, egg and onion mix- about 5 minutes.

Season with soy sauce if using, salt and pepper.

Turn heat off and drizzle sesame seed oil over and mix in.

Serve whilst still hot.

You can serve this as a side to the ginger chicken in sesame oil dish.

 

Chicken with Ginger and Sesame Oil

 

4 boneless and skinless chicken thighs- sliced into 1/2 inch thick slices

1 boneless and skinless chicken breast- sliced into 1/2 in thick slices

3 in ginger root, skinned, sliced thinly and julienned

3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

2tbs dark soy sauce

1tsp cornstarch-optional

1 tbs Cooking oil

1tbs Chinese cooking rice wine

2tbs sesame oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Sesame seeds for garnishing- optional

 

Mix the dark soy sauce with the sliced chicken in a bowl, you can add a tsp of cornstarch to this mix if you wished.

Heat wok/ large fry pan over medium heat, add ginger.

Fry until fragrant, add minced garlic and stir, be careful not to burn the garlic.

Fry for about 30 seconds and then add the chicken, turning up the heat slightly. Cook the chicken, stir frying for about 5 minutes, add about 1/4-1/2 cup water, turn heat down and simmer until chicken is cooked through about another 15 minutes. Add the Chinese cooking wine, sesame oil, stir, taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Be careful as the dark soy sauce may be salty enough. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if using and serve! Bon Appetit!

I have used a photo from http://www.rasamalaysia.com as I can’t find a photo of my own for this dish, even though I have cooked it numerous times over the years!

 

I invite you to try cooking some of the dishes and making the red date tea. As I mentioned earlier, please consult your healthcare provider if you are taking regular medications before you start making the tea as there are some contraindications to certain medications. You don’t have to be postpartum to try them. It’s winter in Canada as I am writing this, and the warming red date tea would go down well on a snowy winter’s day.

Here are some links and resources if you would like to know more about the Chinese postpartum period.

Doing the month: Chinese postpartum practices

Article in MCN The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing · November 2006 DOI: 10.1097/00005721-200611000-00013 · Source: PubMed

https://embryo.asu.edu/pages/doing-month-confinement-and-convalescence-chinese-women-after-childbirth-1978-barbara-lk

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1913060/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jujube

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/jujube#downsides

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Longan

https://www.webmd.com/diet/goji-berries-health-benefits-and-side-effects

Soothing techniques for Colic

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The year was 1998. I had just given birth to my first child, Mitchell Alexander Jordan, born on the 2nd of June. I was a registered midwife in the UK and had been practising midwifery for 5 years. I thought it would be easy, I thought I knew all about newborns. I was mistaken!

Mitchell was a fussy baby. I don’t remember when the fuss started exactly, those first few weeks of parenthood passed in a blur. I know he was less than 6 weeks old, because the fussing and crying eased up after about 8 weeks.

We were told by doctors and friends back then that he had colic. He would scream and cry when he wasn’t carried, we could not put him down, he would not sleep on his own- we had a variety of sleeping surfaces for him. He had a Moses basket which is like a soft grass woven basket-like bassinet, a carry cot- which is like the bassinets that fit on top of your stroller carriage and he had a crib. For the first 6 weeks of his life, he co-slept with his parents, or no one would get any sleep at all. It was as though he needed to feel close to us. We had a futon mattress on top of a wooden bed frame, so it was a firm sleeping surface. He slept between us, whilst we perched on the edge of the mattress for fear of crushing him. We didn’t smoke or drink while he was sharing our bed, and the advice nowadays is to only have one adult bed-sharing with a baby.

During the day, he would fuss and cry, there didn’t seem to be any pattern, unlike some babies who would fuss and cry during the witching hour which was between the hours of 5pm till 9pm. This crying would go on and on, and we were almost at our wits end.

We tried everything to soothe him. He was well fed and growth checks would reveal that he was growing well- moving from the 50th percentile at birth to about 90th percentile by 4 weeks! We would sing to him, sway him in our arms, we would do squats in order to bounce him gently whilst carrying him- if I was doing this today, I would bounce him on a Swiss exercise ball. Well, I would bounce on the ball whilst carrying or wearing him. Friends who had babies before us, suggested Infacol- like the Ovol of today. The active ingredient being simethicone, which is not absorbed by baby’s gut but passed through, making the gas bubbles collate and therefore making it easier to pass- that was the claim. It was an over the counter medication specifically for colicky babies. We did give Mitchell some infacol, in fact he had a lot of it! We didn’t really know if it worked but we had to do something especially as all our other effort to soothe him did not seem to have any effect. Today, there is no real evidence that shows simethicone actually works!

What is colic? Back in 1998, we were told that it was a spasmodic pain that he was experiencing in his gut. It was possibly caused by gas. It did look like he was in pain, crying,arching his back at times, pulling his knees up to his chest. At times he was inconsolable, but at times he was not. Hence the term spasmodic.

Today, research and studies show that colic is not a medical condition as we don’t really know what causes it! It follows the rule of threes. According to The American family physician – a baby has colic if they cry for more than 3 hours a day, for more than 3 days a week and lasts for more than 3 weeks in a well fed and otherwise healthy baby. (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2004/0815/p735.html)

This fussiness and crying has no apparent cause and can be frustrating for parents, as most parents would want to know why their baby is crying in order to know how to soothe them.

It is thought that colic may be due to baby’s immature nervous system and that it’s all part of normal development. All babies go through this to a greater or lesser extent. (http://purplecrying.info/sub-pages/crying/what-is-colic.php). Most babies’ colic resolves by 12 weeks of age.

So what works to soothe your ‘colicky’ baby?

I like Ronald G Barr’s first principle of soothing which is, Some things work some of the time, but nothing works all of the time. We have to remember that infants are not like machines; they are not predictable, and they do not have an “on-off” switch for crying or for soothing.(http://purplecrying.info/sub-pages/soothing/common-features-and-principles-of-soothing.php)

So don’t beat yourself up if everything you try doesn’t seem to help. Or wonder why rocking your baby worked yesterday, but today it’s not helping at all.

Trying to recreate a womb like atmosphere for your baby will be soothing to them. Swaddling them firmly and safely, holding them close to you, baby wearing, swaying from side to side, shushing near their ear, sitting on a bouncy ball or doing squats whist holding your baby may help soothe them. These methods work because babies are reminded of a time of safety and contentment whilst still in their mothers’ womb where they were safe and had everything they needed.

Here are some other soothing methods :-

Wear your baby, in a wrap or sling, making sure that you are wearing your baby safely. Having baby close to you, and with their head against your chest and listening to your heart beat is soothing and comforting.

Take your baby for a car ride. The vibrations and motion will help soothe baby. Ensure your baby is in a rear facing car seat.

Rocking your baby in glider or rocking chair whilst holding them close to you is comforting. As is using a swing or baby bouncer that is age appropriate for your baby. Ensure you use the safety harness when placing your baby in a swing/bouncer.

Using white noise- either from a white noise machine, a vacuum cleaner, fan, extractor fan in the kitchen or hairdryer. These noises are soothing to baby as it mimics some of the noises that they constantly heard whilst in the uterus.

Sing to your baby, babies love being sung too, using a higher pitch also tends to comfort them.

Give baby a warm soothing bath. This will help calm them.

Breastfeed your baby if you are breastfeeding. The sucking will help release a hormone called cholecystokinin that is both soothing to baby and parent.

Use a pacifier, once again, the sucking will produce the same calming hormone.

Try putting baby skin to skin. Babies love being close to their parents, and skin to skin contact is comforting to them.

Making eye contact with you baby and talking to them calmly, even when they are fussing will tell your baby that you love them even when they are fussing and crying.

It may take a while for your baby to calm down. You may need to try all the methods mentioned above, to find one that works for your baby. Sometimes you may be unable to soothe your baby, but understanding that this is ok, will help you through these challenging times. Remember that if your baby is otherwise well and growing well, they sometimes fuss or cry inconsolably for no apparent reason. It’s part of their growth and development. It is important to remember that while many of these suggestions will work most of the time, nothing will work all of the time.

If the crying or fussing is getting too much for you, hand baby over to another adult to look after while you have a break. However, if there is no one at hand to help, place baby on a safe surface like their crib or bassinet, ensuring no harm will come to baby if you leave. Go into another room and have a short break and a few deep breaths before returning to baby. Sometimes babies who have been held and jiggled and cajoled in attempts to try to soothe them get a little overstimulated, and putting them down, may miraculously comfort them, and they stop crying.

We often use soothing techniques when babies are already fussing and crying. However, there is research that show that using these soothing measures prior to baby becoming fussy helps prevent the fussiness from happening, or at the very least makes the crying less severe.

This is the second principle of keeping babies calm; soothing can work preventively if the soothing activities are applied when the infant is not crying rather than just in response to crying.

Lastly, remember that colic issues will not last forever. At around 12 weeks, most babies would have have outgrown this phase of development and the inconsolable crying and fussiness comes to an end. Please consult your paediatrician if you are concerned or if your baby is fussing and crying because they are unwell or sick.

Disclaimer

This blog is written by a nurse, midwife and postpartum doula.

This blog does not take the place of the advice given by your paediatrician. It only covers colic like problems in infants who are otherwise healthy and are growing well with no prior conditions or concerns.

Labour and Childbirth… some of my thoughts

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I am a true believer in all women having the labours they want and want to experience, some want it all natural, with a doula, birth coach, midwife, whale music, water birth, hypnobirthing, some want all the drugs available, an epidural at the first contraction and some choose an elective caesarean section. One of my personal favourites was the Entonox or Gas and air as it was called in layman terms. I am not sure how widely used this is in Canada.

My role when I was a midwife was not to judge but to support what each individual client wants and needs. women also need to understand that sometimes, things don’t go to plan and many did come in with a birth plan.  Another one of my roles was to monitor the mother’s and baby’s wellbeing whilst in labour and watching the progress in labour, trying not to think about the medical model of labour, but keeping it tucked in the back of my mind. In my 6 years as a practising midwife in the UK, I have attended a variety of births, normal cephalic, high risk, breech presentation, premature labour, twins, quadruplets, the sad stillbirths the late terminations for abnormalities and many more… of course I did not experience everything and I still have a lot to learn when I gave midwifery up after my 2nd child was born and I felt I could not do a good job as a midwife as I was constantly sleep deprived and my children and family always came first. I felt I did not have much left to give women and their families going through such an amazing time, and so decided leave the profession. 

Childbirth is still something that can only be deemed normal in retrospect. We really cannot predict that everything will go as planned.  We sincerely hope that a normal and healthy pregnancy will result in a smooth labour and birth of a healthy baby but occasionally, babies do get distressed or labour does not progress for reasons like there may be cephalopelvic disproportion. It could even be something like the umbilical cord having wrapped itself inconveniently round the baby’s neck, the baby’s body, and the baby get distressed with each contraction. Whatever the cause, we don’t want these things to happen but they sometimes do. We have a duty to educate women about these possible events, not to scare them but to prepare them for things that may go awry. This way, if any of these events happen, then they will not be so traumatized or shocked and feel like the perfect labour and birth was denied them, or they were robbed of the wonderful experience of a normal birth.

I feel sometimes like my friend Katie Clinton puts childbirth is portrayed as the 2 extremes of the serene amazing natural birth (which does happen) and the horrific ones where everything appears to have gone wrong. In reality, most people fall in between these two extremes.

Finally, another friend has shared her experience of childbirth and parenthood, and I especially like the bit at the end where she says, I have had 12 years to experience being a mum, it’s not all about the labour or birth, it’s so much more.

LK Koay posted this on one of my posts

Suyin, fr young I saw how childbirth was being portrayed on tv and I grew up being afraid of all the pain, screaming and the propped up legs. To me, it’s painful, messy and unglamorous. I almost didn’t want kids! 

When I got pregnant, I cried. Tears of fear. When the 1st child’s due date loomed near, I told my doc n hubby that I want it as painless as possible n I wanted C-sect. 

On the day my water bag broke, the 1st request I made after the hospital settled me in a labour room was…. “where’s the anaesthetist? I don’t want to feel pain!”. When I realised the pain I felt wasn’t a stomach ache from wanting to visit the loo, I panicked even further that the most important person has yet to arrive! And I’m not talking abt the obstetrician! Anyway… overall birth experiences I had were wonderful. I felt almost no pain and I didn’t go thru what I saw depicted on tv. I had good birth experiences if you ask me. I wasn’t traumatised. I’m glad I did it the way I want, rather than what I should have done because others do it naturally to feel ‘how it feels like to be a mother’. I had so far 12 years to feel how it feels like to be mom anyway.