words KARMAN TSE
photography RUI LIANG
make up YUAN SNG
The last time I saw Serena Adsit, she was six months into the pregnancy of her second child. A girl. Her firstborn, Evan, is eight years old. He was home-birthed, she told me. As will her daughter — any time now, I imagine.
Shortly after our last interview in July, she asked if I might be interested in a story about home birth and something called “spiritual pregnancy”. Now, I’m not a mother. I barely qualify to be a plant parent. But I know this is going to be an interesting and edifying conversation for so many of you mums, first-time mums, soon-to-be mums, aspiring mums. And if you know me, you’ll know that I will have a conversation about spiritual anything, any time.
So, we did it. And I’m so glad we did. I was so fascinated by every word Serena had to say about it that I could hardly wait to type this up and send it out to you. As you can imagine, this is not the sort of thing you can wrap up in five minutes and three paragraphs. It’s a long read that delves beyond pregnancy to motherhood. For that reason, I have split it up into a two-part story.
Without further ado, here is Part I of our chat.
I must confess, I’m a complete ignoramus on the topic. Let’s start with the basics: What is home birth — for example, what does it entail, how does it feel, what made you decide this is for you?
Serena: A home birth is a drug-free, natural delivery that’s carried out at home or at a birth sanctuary with the support of doulas and your OB-GYN. This option feels more safe and natural to me as opposed to being in a hospital with all these machines and people. If it’s medically necessary, I’d be in a hospital in a heartbeat, but I don’t see uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries as needing medical intervention.
With my son, Evan, the active labour was so short that my second doula and my doctor arrived only a few minutes after he was born, but I felt completely safe and secure in the hands of my primary doula Ginny.
Evan arrived a little early so we didn’t have a lot of supplies like old towels and sheets prepared, but we made do with what we had, so I feel you don’t actually need much to have a baby. We had an oxygen tank just in case, but that was about it.
Eventually, after labouring around the house and in the shower, I had Evan at the foot of my bed leaning against my then-husband, with my doula catching the baby. My doctor arrived just in time to help me to the bed with baby on the breast, and stitch up the tears, while my doulas helped with the placenta and delayed cord burning. For that, we used a gentle candle flame instead of metal scissors, and we made beautiful placenta prints onto A3 paper, which I framed up and still have today. It’s Evan’s little piece of artwork to show for his coming into this world in such an intimate and beautiful way.
I’m planning a home birth for my current pregnancy as well, but this time I’d like to have the baby gently in the water. We will set up the inflatable birthing tub in my bedroom where I’ll be labouring, so everything will be in one space and I’ll be in a familiar environment.
The act of birthing is very primal and guttural. Mothers go into a zone of full concentration and might when delivering. This time, I’d like to be able to relax more into it and transmute any sensations of pain into something more pleasurable, if possible. You want to stimulate as much oxytocin as possible. I will also gather the team sooner in case this baby comes early, too.
Where does one look for a good doula?
Serena: There are a few companies in Singapore that offer these services along with pre-natal classes, rental of equipment and placenta encapsulation. I put my complete trust in the ladies from Four Trimesters because of the level of care they’ve provided me — they have always gone over and beyond for me. If you’re not comfortable giving birth in your own home or at the hospital, they also offer their birth sanctuary as an alternative option.
Is home birth an expensive or affordable option? How does it compare with going to the hospital?
Serena: Barring the pre-natal care of the OB-GYN, I think the price range of a home birth is about the same as a hospital delivery, depending on the room you choose and any intervention needed for the birth.
Do you have any recommends on books for mothers-to-be who want to learn more about natural home birth?
Serena: There’s a bunch of books out there, like Spiritual Midwifery and Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin, and Hypnobirthing by Marie F Morgan. I’ve also found lots of books for the variety of crunchy mums out there. (“A crunchy mum” is the quintessential term for someone who is willing to go against the “norm” to do what is best for her child, from pregnancy and birth, to breastfeeding, baby-wearing, vaccines and solid foods.)
You said something that really got my attention: “The spiritual aspects of pregnancy”. What did you mean by that?
Serena: To me, a spiritual pregnancy encompasses treating it gently, often with a meditative mindset and more importantly, without fear. There is so much literature out there about what you shouldn’t or cannot do during a pregnancy. While they serve to look out for mother and baby, albeit over-cautiously, I don’t prescribe to this fear-based conditioning. I navigate the journey of my pregnancies with my own research, common sense and intuition. As I said earlier, I also have a gentle home-birthing team supporting me, including my home-birth supporting OB-GYN, Dr Lai Fon Min from A Company for Women. This ideology follows through to the actual birthing and parenting.
How do you “connect” with you baby?
Serena: Without sounding too far-fetched and woo-woo about it, there are books in the market that teach you techniques to try to communicate with your baby. Most people I know who have read these books are so touched that it brings tears to their eyes, me included. Women are tasked to bring new souls across the threshold into this world, so I believe there is a special bond and connection that a mother and child share, even in-utero. While in a meditative and relaxed state, you can try to connect with your baby by imagining that immense joy and love you feel for your baby. Once that feeling is tangible, you can try to ask him/her simple questions and see if you get a sense of a reply.
Of course this takes lots and lots of practice, but since you have 40 weeks with bub, why not use that time to try? Even if you don’t know for sure that you’ve managed to connect, being in that relaxing state thinking about baby still does both of you good and eliminates any stress that you may have been carrying that day.
At what stage of your pregnancy can you start practising it?
Serena: The moment you have an inkling that you would like to be with child is when you can start trying to communicate with the soul of your baby! According to the book Spirit Babies: How to Communicate with the Child You’re Meant to Have by Walter Makichen, parents who want to have children have the souls of their future babies floating around them already, just waiting for the magic of conception and pregnancy in order to be born.
Why do you feel this spiritual connection is important, both for you and the baby?
Serena: When issues come up, being able to intuitively sense if it warrants concern or not is pretty important for a mother’s peace of mind and her ability to relax in her pregnancy. This is not the time to be under any undue stress. When I was 30 weeks pregnant, I was told my daughter had the cord around her neck (eek! but apparently it’s very common), and that she’s lying transversely on her side (oh no, this may hinder my preference for a home birth).
So, while consciously not letting any fears or stress creep up on me, I would try to communicate with my daughter to tell her gently to not play with her cord so much, and to
“Evan arrived a little early so we didn’t have a lot of supplies like old towels and sheets prepared, but we made do with what we had, so I feel you don’t actually need much to have a baby.”
slowly turn head-down, hands to heart, back to my belly and to stay there, so we still have the gentle birth we want. Practising this often becomes a daily affirmation and a manifestation I hope to see happen in reality. I would also pro-actively help the situation with daily exercises specifically meant to help her turn. So again, doing what I can, without letting the fear get the better of me.
Having a connection with baby and feeling like the both of you are working toward the same goal can make you feel more comforted with any issues that come up during the pregnancy. Of course, if I get the feeling that a hospital birth is something she’s telling me she needs, or is an idea that keeps popping into my head, I wouldn’t ignore it. Instead, I’d check in with myself to see what resistance I may have about a hospital birth and to try to honour that, if warranted.
You also talked about placentaphagy. For those who haven’t heard of it, what does it mean? Why did you decide to try it? What are the benefits, and what was that like?
Serena: Over the years, consuming one’s own placenta has become more acceptable and common although it still raises quite a few eyebrows. With the understanding that the placenta holds a host of hormones, the theory is that it has served mammals and ancients for millennia. It is supposed to replenish lost hormones and give the mother a boost of energy, postpartum. It is also said to decrease the likelihood of post-natal depression, enrich milk production, decrease the chance of iron deficiency and replenish essential hormones which results in a calmer mother.
I’m open to traditional practices so I wanted to try it. It definitely served us well when Evan was born as his dad and I were starving after the home birth and we didn’t have food in the house. We ate it, we survived and I’m grateful that my body is capable of growing something that could sustain us. This time, I’m planning on dehydrating and encapsulating the placenta so it will last longer. I’ve never been squeamish about our bodies so this makes complete sense for me to utilise.
Part 2: Home Birth, Mum Guilt & Self-care for Mothers
All views expressed here are Serena’s own, based on her personal experiences.
If you have any questions you’d like to ask her, leave a comment below, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.