Choosing Your Birth Team

I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a great birth team to make your dream birthing experience a reality. In my own water birth story, I shared the names of the people behind that unforgettable birth, but I wasn’t able to expound the roles they played in each stage of my pregnancy, and birth. I intentionally did that as I believe they deserve to have their own write-up as well.

Your OB-Gyne

There are so many factors you have to consider in choosing your primary health care provider for your pregnancy. In my first pregnancy with Matilda, we were still based in Davao and I didn’t get the chance to actually choose an OB. We just went with who had an open clinic at the time we went to the hospital.

With my second pregnancy, knowing in my heart I wanted a gentle birthing experience this time around, I made an effort to ask people in my circle, on whom they would recommend. At the top of their list was Dra. Menefrida Reyes, and I am just so blessed I decided to go for her.

Here are some of the major considerations before I chose my OB (and Pediatrician too).

1. She/He had to be a follower of God.

2. With clinic schedule on a Saturday – only time Joey can accompany me.

3. Had to be practicing in a reputable hospital that is Mother and Baby-friendly.

4. With good experiences from previous patients.

5. Low rate of recorded CS

6. With a reasonable Professional Fee.

7. Patiently answers questions during check-ups and does not rush the consultation time.

9. Provides mobile number in case of emergency.

10. Conservative in terms of treatments and medical interventions.

11. Respects the birth plan/preferences of the couple.

12. With a positive outlook, in general.

13. Goes to the clinic on-time.

14. Lastly, one who would be open on having Matilda with us during Labor.

These are just what came to mind as of this writing. Dra. Reyes being able to perform water birth was just a big bonus. I actually didn’t know of it and decided to go through it, until I was already under her care. I was originally set on having a Lamaze Birth.

I have fond memories of my prenatal check-ups with Dra. Reyes. Her very warm personality was what drew my family close to her. We felt secure knowing she waa truly concerned about me and the baby, and not just doing her job for profit. She is really very compassionate.

During my labor and delivery, Dra. Reyes patiently attended to my needs. She was very calm and encouraging and I never felt pressured in any way. It was a great deal that every single detail in my birth plan was perfectly honored as well. She also prayed with me, and for me through the difficult parts. And together, we all rejoiced in the blessing of Tulip Mileina’s life through a successful water birth.

I really have nothing but nice words to say about Dra. Reyes, and if you’d still ask if I would recommend her? Of course, it’s a BIG YES!

Your Baby’s Pediatrician

Matilda being born in Davao also had to switch Peditricians when we moved back here in Manila. Her current Pedia is practicing at Cardinal Santos Medical Center and could not cross over to St. Luke’s for the birth of our second child.

I have a really high standard in choosing my child’s doctor. It had to be someone I could completely entrust my child’s well-being. This also means that we have the same views when it comes to child care which includes the most important aspect of all, that is breastfeeding.

Nearing my expected date of delivery, I still haven’t chosen a Pediatrician. Ideally, you’d want to meet him/her at least once before you give birth. This is to discuss your preferences on how your baby will be taken care of after the birth. Some of which include Unang Yakap, Delayed Cord Clamping, Breastfeeding, Immunizations, Newborn Screening, and all other tests.

Upon meeting Dra. Reyes on my 38th week, I asked her recommendation for a Pediatrician. She only gave me one name, it was Dra. Maria Luisa Manlapaz. I haven’t heard of her before, but Dra. Reyes said she is good. Because I trust Dra. Reyes, I scheduled a meeting with her. Her clinic schedule for that week was already full so I settled to have it on my 39th week instead.

On the day I was supposed to meet her for the first time, my labor has finally started. I was thinking of just informing her secretary about it but Dra. Reyes gave me her personal number so I can contact her directly. Without thinking twice, I sent her a message informing her of my current situation and that I would really appreicate if she can be present for the birth of my child. I wasn’t expecting a reply at all but I was so surprised, she immediately answered back with a, “Yes, of course, I will be there”. I was so happy and I felt relieved knowing that we’ll have her present during the birth of Mileina.

While on the tub, I think I was around 8cm at that time, I met Dra. Manlapaz for the first time. Like Dra. Reyes, she too had a very warm personality and a follower of God as well. She stayed with us through that very difficult part of labor and personally took care of my baby after she came out of the water. She was the one making sure that baby is dry and warm enough to be with me while we wait for the cord to stop pulsating.

After cutting the cord, she borrowed our baby and checked on her in the room, while I deliver the placenta and clean myself up. It was just 5-10 minutes when she came back to remind us we had to move quickly as baby is already rooting, a cue that she already wanted to breastfeed. This made me really happy that she was very concerned about a good start in breastfeeding. Kudos to Dra. Manlapaz!

She gave me a go signal to go home the next day as long as baby is okay. She also allowed all vaccines to be given 12hrs after the birth, as it was my personal request to delay everything concerning tests and vaccines, if possible. She, too, was very happy about us using cloth diapers and told me this is a great way to monitor the baby’s urine output. Isn’t she the BEST?? I just love her! We are really aligned with everything! I am very thankful that Dra. Reyes recommended her to us.

Your Doula

If it’s your first time to hear the word Doula, let me give you a brief explanation about her.

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period. – DONA International

There are so many reasons why every mother should get a doula. I would like to share with you my own personal reasons, for you to have an idea.

1. I wanted to have a Lamaze Birth the first time, but I failed due to so many external factors. I needed more evidence-based information, and a one on one prenatal session with a doula can provide me with that.

2. My birth plan wasn’t followed because I had no strength physically and emotionally to fight for it. A doula will act as your voice, your protector, who will try her best to ensure that your birth wishes, as long as it is safe, will be honored.

3. A strong physical and emotional support is vital to achieve a natural birth. Though Joey was with me, I needed someone else who understood and knew how to cope with the pain. A doula is the perfect person to encourage you and guide you through it.

4. Admittedly, I have a very low tolerance for pain. With the help of a doula, she can coach you how to use that pain to your advantage, to bring about a better (and quicker!) birthing experience.

5. To have a natural childbirth wasn’t an option for me, but a necessity. Having a doula around would remind me of this, during times I feel like giving up.

6. I find comfort in knowledge but, good birthing books are expensive and hard to find. If you are bookworm like me, your doula would normally give you free access to her library, as part of her services.

Ms. Velvet Roxas, is someone I admire and respect in a whole other level. She was the person who opened my eyes to the reality of infant and child-care, specifically, breastfeeding. I learned so much as I had my training, and it changed our perspective and whole lives, as a family ever since. Like her, I have taken breastfeeding as an advocacy, which I also share frequently here in my blog.

Because I know her personally, her beliefs and stand on many areas involving mother and child, it was so easy for me to decide on getting her as my doula. In fact, I informed her of my desire to get her services even before I had my first prenatal check-up! That is proof enough on how badly I wanted a natural birth right from the start.

There are very few doulas here in the Philippines, and Ms. Velvet, who I jokingly call “Madam V”, (others call her “Diva Velvet”) who has a very bubbly, BUT strict personality, is the only one who is DONA Certified. She is also the very first mother who have given birth in the water at Asian Hospital, 8 years ago. (Asian Hospital has no waterbirth facility anymore). It’s not because of her great credentials that I got her as my doula. It was mainly because I know she has a big heart and that her life revolves around mothering other mothers. I understand her and I believe we get along really well that’s why it wasn’t a difficult decision to have her on my side. I actually needed her (very) “strict” side to guide me through those difficult moments, because she can actually scare me at times! Side note and trivia: On my 5th month, we attended a seminar and there were so much food at the venue. She was checking on me if I was eating sweets!! She was my food police! (Madam V, please don’t get mad at me for this! I love you! Haha!) Which I truly appreciate as I know she only wants what is best for me.

I owe Ms. Velvet a big part on the success of my water birth because she armed me with so much information, and she was with me the entire time. She also patiently answered all my questions and checked up on me once in a while. During my actual labor, she stood beside me, fed me, took care of me, bathe me, and literally carried me throughout the toughest times. God used her mightily as an extension of His blessing.

Your Birth Photographer

I love taking photos in general, and the birth, for me, is a celebration of life that needs to be captured in the lenses of a camera. Originally, I had planned to get professional services from trained birth photographers/videographers, however, I found their rates quite too high and we just could not afford it. It was a blessing that Dra. Raissa Paje-Bayawa, a new Pediatrician friend through Ms. Velvet, who just actually wanted to be there to observe the birth, offered to capture the photos. And the result? Well, just like a PRO! Thanks again Dra. Raissa!

I believe that all these people were divinely appointed by God, so that I could experience the birth He has planned and designed perfectly for me. Truly, by His grace, He gave me the chance to meet them all so that together, we can glorify Him alone. Indeed, this birth was orchestrated beautifully, not for my personal benefit, but for Him! All Glory and Praises to our King!

My Birth Team

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Left to right: Myself an hour after the birth, Dra. Maria Luisa Manlapaz, Ms. Velvet Roxas, Dra. Menefrida Reyes, and Dra. Raissa Paje-Bayawa.

Tulip Mileina’s Water Birth

There was a part of me that was in denial upon finally confirming we are having another baby. Well, we agreed to try for another one when Matilda turns 2, so, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find out we are expecting again. However, because it happened so fast, (in just over a month of trying we already conceived) the trauma from my first birth held me back from rejoicing in the blessing of another child.

You see, with Matilda’s birth, I thought was already well prepared. We even attended a birthing class. With a good birth plan, I honestly thought we would manage. On the contrary, almost nothing was followed in that plan. Initially, we wanted to have a Lamaze Birth with no medications. My former OB agreed to it, even signed it, but things just weren’t under our control at that time. I was immediately given an IV, got hooked to a fetal monitor the entire time, and food and water were restricted. Because of too much exhaustion, I gave up at 7cm and asked for an epidural. It led to more complications as I developed a fever, my blood sugar went up the charts, and the numbness hindered me from feeling any contractions at all. This eventually resulted to longer labor and almost caused me a C-section. Matilda came out healthy and normal, but the trauma from all the interventions created a deep wound in my heart. Nevertheless, we still praise God despite all that. He is good for He allowed me to have a normal and safe delivery.

This time around, I wanted a redeeming birth for my second child. I prayed to have an OB who will not just agree to my wishes, but someone who has a great record at following through as well. Because I was friends with Ms. Velvet Roxas, who happens to be a Doula, (I met her through a Breastfeeding Counselor Training) I asked for her help in choosing the right OB for me. She immediately suggested I get Dra. Menefrida Reyes from St. Lukes Q.C. knowing she is a very good OB, and follower of Christ like me. And because I really wanted to have the Lamaze Birth I have been dreaming of, I also got Ms. Velvet as my doula.

Two months passed and preparations had to be made. First, I had to decide what kind of birth I wanted. Either a lamaze or a water birth. I chose to have a water birth, only if God would allow it. Ms.Velvet then asked me to start reading Birthing books, do prenatal exercises and eat a healthy diet. I also watched videos of different types of births and I also joined the group Gentle Birth in the Philippines, to learn from other mothers. I followed the advices that I believed would help and made sure I was not just preparing physically, but psychologically and most of all, spiritually as well.

I think, with every pregnant woman, it’s normal to be anxious, it’s normal to be scared. After all, childbirth is really painful as described in this verse:

John 16:21, “Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.” ‭‭

What helped me get through is the faith I have knowing God would not give me anything I wouldn’t be able to handle. He is my source of strength and in everything we do, we must exalt and glorify Him.

As my estimated delivery date came near, I became excited to experience childbirth in a very different perspective. We waited patiently until October 28, 1am, 39 weeks and 4 days gestation, I started feeling mild contractions. The pain was close to having a dysmenorrhea, only it would begin and end in a short while, and it radiates through your lower back. It was then I started timing the contractions and they were 10-15 minutes apart, with a duration of 40-50 seconds. I tried to relax and sleep as much as I can, but the anxiousness of the upcoming delivery started kicking in.

At around 3am, I got up and packed some food to bring to the hospital. I started thawing my fresh buko juice that I froze a few days ago. It would be my replacement for an IV line. The electrolytes in buko juice helps to restore energy which I will need during active labor. I also gathered last-minute items that we will be needing like some snacks for Joey and my daughter, Matilda.

After making sure everything is ready, I started heating up some aromatherapy oil. I used the Rose essential oil as it is good for circulation and is also a natural analgesic. I also sent a message to my doula and OB to let them know that true labor has finally began. This was only the point where I woke Joey up to let him know that I am already in labor. I didn’t wake him up earlier knowing it’s going to be a long day ahead and he needs to rest as well. Before I settled down to sleep, I dedicated a prayer to the Lord as I surrendered to Him everything He has planned in advance for this birth.

I woke up around 6am, updated my doula to let her know the intervals. Contractions are now around 8-10mins apart with a duration of 50-55secs. She advised that Joey and I have contact to speed up labor as semen helps to open up the cervix. I woke Joey up around 8:30 and we followed her advise. Around 9am, I shed a bit of mucus plug. After which, I prepared breakfast and ate with Joey and Matilda. I had the urge to relieve myself after which was good as I didn’t want to poop while delivering the baby! I also then decided it was time to have a nice warm bath and settled that it was time to leave in a little while.

Awaiting the reply of my OB, I considered sleeping some more. I was trying, but I couldn’t. I was feeling anxious thinking if she could make it on time. I just prayed again hoping everything will fall into place. At around 11am, I sent her another message informing her of the progress of my contractions. Joey also felt that something was still holding me back into going to the hospital. He suggested we just have lunch at home first before we leave. I agreed, and at around 12 noon, we started eating but I have no more appetite for food. I still managed to eat a bit and I excused myself as I just wanted to lie down and rest. I was able to take a short nap and when I woke up, Joey and Matilda were both sleeping beside me. It was already 2pm and I just couldn’t take it any longer and decided to ask Dr. Reyes’ secretary whether there is any problem as to why Dra. Reyes is not answering my messages. She replied immediately and said Dra. Reyes is already there waiting since 11am! For some reason, upon reading her message, a strong contraction came. I started timing again and there it was, 4-5 mins apart with 1 full minute of duration. My body has finally surrendered when I found out my OB was already there.

I woke Joey up and said it’s time to go. Around 2:45, we were already en route to St. Lukes Global. Contractions are a lot stronger now and I am starting to moan my way through each of it. We arrived at the ER past 3PM and after taking my vitals and information, they brought me to the High Risk Pregnancy Unit, a separate part of the Labor Room to attach me to the fetal monitor and to perform an IE. A resident OB came in, did the IE and was so surprised to find out I was already 7cm dilated. She then asked the nurse to process my papers and ID tag right away so that they can bring me up to the Birthing Suite. 

Around 4:30, we were finally brought up to the suite and Dra. Reyes was the one who welcomed me. They were already filling the tub with water and I started to change into my sports bra and hospital gown. It was also that time when Ms. Velvet had arrived and immediately commanded me to stand up and walk. She caught me sitting on the edge of the bed and said labor will progress faster if I get up.

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With every contraction I felt my body become heavier. My knees were shaking a bit and I had to lean on something for support, or else I’d fall down and lose my balance. I guess I’m around 8cm dilated at this point already. Ms. Velvet offered to hug me as I let go of all my weight with each wave of contraction. I was already moaning louder as the pain intensified. Dra. Reyes then decided it’s time I go into the tub as she noticed I’m very uncomfortable already.

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Time check was around 5pm already. Joey held my hand as he assisted me in going inside the tub. The temperature of the water was at 37 degrees celsius. It felt warmer than that maybe because I was feeling cold. The warm water immediately gave some sort of relief from the pain. Ms Velvet was there beside me continuously offering me buko juice to drink and some honey sticks for energy.

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At this point, I am beginning to feel really uncomfortable. I was moaning, grunting, crying with each wave of contraction. I would hold on to Joey and my face would just wince every single time. I was given my first IE in the water and I was already 9cm dilated. There was still a “lip” of cervix left and after around 25 minutes in the water, Ms Velvet asked me to stand and sway my hips to position the baby better. I stood up with my legs shaking and held onto her the whole time. My own body weight was just too heavy at this point and I just wanted to sit down.

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After around 10 minutes of standing, my bag of water broke. It felt really weird to have something sort of pop from nowhere as water gushed over my legs. After this, I started feeling the urge to push. That 15 minutes of standing felt like an hour at that time. I was just too tired and I begged to be seated. I was given the go and I sat down on the water for another IE. This time, I was already fully dilated and all we had to do was wait for baby to descend.

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There, it started to sting. I feel like there is something slowly burning from within. It was indeed as if you want to poop something out but it’s just WAY TOO BIG to come through. It was painful on another level this time around. The pain from the contractions was beginning to be masked by the thing they call the “ring of fire”.

I began to push. It was close to 6pm then and all I wanted was for all of it to be over. I was tired and very much in pain, but never did it cross my mind to ask for some pain relief. I didn’t want to be numb. I just wanted to get through it and have my baby in my arms.

I was so distracted already. The pain is over my head as I anticipate every contraction that was about to come. No position seemed to alleviate the discomfort I was feeling. I could hear my birth team coaching me on how I should push, not by shouting and grunting, but by blowing. Blowing as if you are blowing a candle. It wasn’t easy and this was where Joey took over. While Ms. Velvet and Dra. Reyes encouraged me as they kept on reminding me I am doing a good job, Joey on the other hand knew me better. He had to get my full attention so I can focus. He was calling my name and kept asking me to listen to him and follow him. He was blowing and breathing in 10 counts and it was where I started to make better progress as baby’s head started to crown. The blowing helped to get baby to descend and we can already see her hair waving in the water.

I was on the verge of giving up. In my head I was thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?! Why is this taking soooo long??” But then, there’s no turning back. The head is already there! I just have to push! Ms. Velvet then asked Joey to pray. Joey prayed for guidance and safety in delivering the baby and that in all this, may it bring God all the Glory. That this birth is not about us, but about Him. Dra. Reyes was also praying on the side which really made me respect her even more. 

Two big contractions came while we were praying and finally, at 6:21pm, October 28th, Tulip Mileina was born. A water birth baby with one nuchal cord coil.

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At the sight of my baby, the pain immediately went away. We had our Unang Yakap as initiated personally by our Pedia, and waited for the cord to stop pulsating before cutting the cord. That was a good 10 minutes of extra blood, rich in Iron, that was transferred to my little girl. We had our first family picture together with her Ate Matilda who was very excited to see the newest addition to our family. After Joey cut the cord, Mileina was taken by our Neonat-Pedia, Dra. Maria Luisa Manlapaz, into the room to check on her and to keep her warm. She had her skin-to-skin contact with her Papa while we were waiting for the placenta to be delivered.

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I was given a shot of oxytocin to stimulate contractions and deliver the placenta quickly. That was around 15 minutes after Mileina was born. Right after the shot, I delivered the placenta in one push. That was the easiest part. And then the pool was suddenly stained with blood. Dra. Reyes had to make sure all clots would come with the placenta so she gave me an IE. Water in the tub was already being drained at that moment and my loving doula and OB helped in giving me a bath to clean me up from all the blood.

There was stinging from the tear I got and it had to be stitched, but I felt fine. I actually never felt more alive than I was before that redeeming birth. While I was being prepped for stitching, my baby girl had her first breastfeeding session. She was wide awake and was very hungry. She had to be assisted as she was clipping her lips, but other than that, she suckled like a pro. This was something new to me as Matilda was a groggy baby who didn’t want to be fed when she was born. I’m so thankful we had a good start this time around!

When all was settled, we were finally able to have dinner. I was so hungry and finished one bowl of arroz caldo, as my doula fed me. I was already able to stand and walk by 9pm when I had the urge to pee. It was a bit painful, but nothing like delivering baby.

That night, I was able to reflect about the difference of my 2 birthing experiences. If ever we conceive again, I’d choose this birth over my first one. Even though I didn’t experience the pain in the first delivery, this was so much better because right after the baby was born, the pain went away already. Unlike with my first where the pain came afterwards and I had difficulty in breastfeeding as well due to the epidural anesthesia that was given to me.

Having had the chance to feel all the pain of childbirth as how God designed it, I now have a different kind of respect for mothers who choose to have a gentle and unmedicated birth. It is indeed empowering and a true testimony that, not only God’s design is perfect, but also, that we, women, are capable and strong enough to give birth naturally. With the right information, a respectful and great birth team, plus proper preparation, you can have the birth that you truly want and deserve.

This childbirth experience is not for me to boast about myself, but it is about putting God at the center of it all. We prayed that this will give Him all the glory and with writing this, I give Him all that is due. My faith in Him made it possible to have gone through an unmedicated childbirth. I dedicate this post to my one true God, and His Son, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

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But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

Meet my Awesome Birth Team!

Doula: Velvet Escario-Roxas

OB-Gyne: Dra. Menefrida Reyes

Neonatologist-Pediatrician: Dra. Maria Luisa Manlapaz

Pediatrician/Official Photographer: Dra. Raissa Paje 🙂

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