The Birthing Dilemna

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Where has May gone?  Time just seems to be flying by and before we know it Baby #3 will be here.  We found out we were expecting again when we were just in the process of deciding if we should move to Malaysia; in fact Paul was visiting Malaysia at the time.  We went back and forth about if we should still move and in the end decided that babies are born all over the world and we shouldn’t let this “new development” change things.  Well that was easy to say when we were in Canada, but in fact we have found that birthing can be very different across the world.  In Malaysia birthing is very medicalized with very high rates of intervention and caesarian sections in cold, surgical settings.  The hospital in Ipoh that I have been visiting has a 47% c-section rate, apparently because of the small statute of Asian women.  As an outsider looking in and as a firm believer in natural childbirth methods, it is hard for me to rationalize that God made an oversight when creating Asian pelvises that half the women are incapable of bearing children naturally.  I’m sure as I write this blog, my bias and feelings on birthing are crystal clear.  In Canada, there is certainly a push towards more natural births from the generation we were born into and many could argue that we still have a long way to go.

Just a warning, if you are male and haven’t recently had a baby, you will probably find this a little tedious.

Baby #3 3D ultrasound – 30 wks

I have been seeing an obstetrician here in Ipoh since we arrived and although it has been a different experience from the midwives I used in Guelph, it has been fairly typical.  They do an ultrasound at each appointment here and you get the feeling that the doctor is calling the shots and they are not used to the pregnant women wanting to be so involved in making decisions.  But it has been okay.  Paul came to my last appointment and we had been meaning to visit the maternity ward at the hospital to see where I would give birth.  So off we went to the maternity ward dragging Ella and Gavin and what a surprise we got.  I was expecting it to be older and more institutional than our hospitals at home, but I was expecting a similar setup to Canada.  I probably can’t describe well enough what it looked like, but basically it was a large room with 6 beds with curtains to be drawn between the beds and a nursing station in the middle.  This is where you would spend the first half of your labour.  After that, you move to a delivery room, which is still not a room because it still only has 3 walls and a long curtain and opens up onto the large first stage labour room.  This is where you would give birth.  All of a sudden the 47% c-section rate made sense because how could anyone relax enough to give birth in this setting, out in the open, without any privacy. Needless to say, it was an emotional rest of the day as my easy plan of having the baby in Ipoh came crashing down.  We considered coming home to Canada for the birth, but did not want Paul to miss out on the birth or the baby’s first few weeks.  We thought about driving to Kuala Lumpur (2.5 hours) or Penang (2 hours) when I go into labour and delivering there.  But we were worried about having a baby on the side of the highway.

So we have come up with a plan and it may not be ideal, but it is one we are comfortable with and seems to be the best option.  I will have the baby in Penang, here in Malaysia (2 hour drive from Ipoh).  Because Penang is a larger city, the hospital facilities are similar to Canada and you get the elusive private room for labour and delivery. From 37ish weeks I will stay down in Penang with the kids, renting a condo.  I will call Paul when I go into labour and he will come from Ipoh.  I have met with a great doctor there who is very progressive and natural focused, in fact he was the first to assist with a waterbirth in Malaysia.  We still have to work out who will watch the kids when I go into labour and work out some other details, but at least we have a plan.  In Penang they have an International Women’s Association for expats and on a whim I had sent them an email explaining my situation and asking if someone with young children could suggest a babysitter/nanny we could use when I go into labour.  This evening I got an email back from a Canadian women living in Penang who just had her fourth child that brought tears to my eyes (could this be from pregnancy hormones???).  In addition to giving me great information about doctors and hospitals in Penang, suggesting her part-time maid/nanny, she even offered to watch the kids for me when I go into labour.  Amazing to have someone reach out and offer to help a total stranger.  So we have a plan and I am feeling pretty good about it!

The Weekends

One of the downsides of Paul’s job here is that they work every other Saturday.  It makes the weekend feel really short to only have one day off.  What do we do on these precious Sundays?  Well normal people would rest and relax at home, but if you know us well, you know that is not our style.  So we try to plan an outing every weekend.

Last weekend we visited Kellie’s Castle where a wealthy Scottish rubber plantation owner build a castle in the early 1900s.  Ella really wanted to see the princess in the castle, but alas we could not find her.  The castle was built using materials from India and would have been quite spectacular if it had been finished.IMG_7697 IMG_7733

After the castle we stopped off at the Sam Poh Tong Cave temple in Ipoh.  Ipoh is set among “jungle clad limestone cliffs” (Lonely Planet) and there are many Chinese cave temples built into the cliffs.  The temples are actively used for worship and a site of pilgrimage for many Chinese-Malays.IMG_7762

This past weekend we spent the weekend in KL (Kuala Lumpur) and had a fabulous time staying at an amazing hotel with great views of the iconic Petronas Towers.  We did loads of walking all over the city around Chinatown, Little India and the business district and are paying for it now!  And of course we did lots of shopping as it is so exciting to see familiar Western stores like Toys R Us, the Gap, Chili’s restaurant.  We also managed to swing by a hospital maternity ward there to compare to Ipoh and were reassured to see a maternity wing just like you would find in Canada.IMG_7837 IMG_7798

KL is a large international city with lots of expats and sometimes when we are in KL, we are a little envious about how easy life is there.  You really could pretend you are living in any Western city and have access to drool worthy things like libraries, Western shops and restaurants, gyms with childcare facilities, etc.  We make ourselves feel better by convincing ourselves we are getting a more authentic Asian experience living in Ipoh where we are forced to do without such things.  But secretly, when I see all the events and activities that are offered for KL expats, I am jealous and wonder what life would be like if we lived there.  It was a nice weekend away and will probably be our last before the baby arrives.

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