'Horror stories' lead to some women preferring DIY births

PHOTO: 'Horror stories' lead to some women preferring DIY births

KUALA LUMPUR - A number of mothers, traumatised by horrendous hospital births, wrote in to the New Sunday Times recently to share their experience and to support the five "DIY-mums" featured in this paper last month who gave birth on their own at home.

"I was induced without my knowledge, drugged, manipulated, violated, humiliated, degraded, had my wishes disrespected, and bullied into having a C-section -- twice. So when I read doctors saying interventions would not happen without consent, I found it a glaring misrepresentation.

"I strongly believe the medical industry takes advantage of mothers' vulnerability, continuously perusing medical procedures (instead of lending) emotional support and believing that birthing is an innate ability that belongs to women and babies," wrote one Maria Zain.

After her C-sections, she was told to accept she could not birth.

"I was told my pelvis was perhaps inadequate, I couldn't dilate quickly enough, I was not strong enough to push, I couldn't wait it out and basically, if it weren't for medical assistance, I would never be able to have children.

"The doctors made me sign a document to say if ever I got pregnant again, I would have to have a repeat C-section and have my tubes tied. It was 'protocol', they said, because I would rupture and die if I went into labour on my own."

But two years later, she caught her third baby, on her own, in the bathroom at home.

"The birth was so gentle he wasn't even perturbed, while I realised I hadn't ruptured and died. The 101 doctors I had met had warned me I would."

And 19 months later, she caught her fourth child, again in the bathroom.

"Larger and heavier than his three siblings, he is testament to how wrong medical standards predict birth outcomes. Had I succumbed to ob-gyn standards -- he would never exist. I would never be able to hold him, name him, nurse him or clasp his hands as he takes his first steps," she added.

What changed things for her?

"I discovered the beauty of natural and unhindered birth. My births were not flukes; they were safe emergences based on intuition and a lot of education on my own."

A mother of two in Subang Bestari shared how her first hospital birth left her traumatised:

"Being vaginally examined every few minutes was not a comfortable experience for someone who had been sexually abused since young. Neither was being drugged as I had to struggle to keep awake while pushing my baby out."

So for her second pregnancy, she did some reading and found a book written by obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, titled Chilbirth without Fear, who wrote that "fear is the cause of a whole lot of complications for both mother and baby".

"It opened a new world for a fearful mother like me to know that childbirth can be painless if the mother has no fear. I knew I would feel safe in my own home and my baby could benefit from the happy hormones.

"Yes, some mothers need obstetricians or midwives to assist them but I preferred the loving company of my family and close friends. I got into my birthing pool at 9.30pm and my baby was out by 10.58pm. It was the most spiritual experience. I believe this is how birthing is meant to be -- without drugs, invasive monitoring, and people yelling at me when to push."

Expatriate Danielle Sweetman wrote that she believes hospital procedures in this country don't allow mothers to have easy and comfortable birth experiences.

"My own experience of birthing my son here three years ago was traumatic and has given me the passion to support my fellow women in having gentle births.

"I have come across many who have had births where the attitudes of the hospital staff have shamed or frightened them; where they were manipulated into following a course which resulted in a difficult birth or C-section; where communication was absent and consent not requested for procedures done to them or drugs administered to them," said Sweetman.

Some mothers, she said, chose to give birth overseas, because they had heard too many "horror stories". "Mothers can have easier births and I believe this can be done in hospitals but the maternity system here needs to change in order to facilitate this."