Friday, March 3, 2017

the birth of baby tara: part 2

now before i continue i must give a huge shoutout to my bestie nazya hyder, who i think got a minute by minute update of my entire labour. i sent her a screenshot of my contraction times over a span of a week and she patiently told me every time that it wasn't it until it was and she said once you hit 7 minutes go to the hospital. of course on 'THE' night her phone died and her husband whatsapped me exactly this, 'naz told me to tell you that if it continues for the next 45 mins (contractions?) to head to the hospital.' and true enough it was time...

so i don't know what it's like in a malaysian delivery ward but let me paint the scene of what its like over here. there is an observation room, which is the first place you go to time surges, check how dilated you are and whether you are on your way to have a baby, this is also where most of the time you are sent home (me, twice). since 3rd time was a charm i was admitted to a room that was bloody far from this observation room. same floor but different wing. the good thing was that we had our privacy and i could labour as i chose; in my own clothes in a dimly lit room with russian red in the background. the bad thing was that i had to walk to the observation room every 3 hours, which became increasingly difficult to do with my surges coming every 5 minutes.

when i was admitted i was 1cm dilated and after 3 hours i was at 3cm. we were progressing well but my surges were only 50%, which freaked me the eff out because what the hell was it going to be at 100%...i would soon find out. i stayed at 3cm for awhile but my surges were very intense and during my second trip to the observation room i requested to labour in the private room next door because (1) i couldn't walk anymore (2) there were 6 beds in the observation room and i wanted to cry as loud as i could without anyone judging me (3) i did not want to labour next to another couple that ordered nasi goreng, how in the world a lady could eat nasi goreng in the middle of labour is beyond me.

i must say that listening to the relaxation cd every other night helped me tremendously. my mind was probably the strongest it had ever been and since all my focus was on my breath i hardly noticed the 12 hours go by. i kept my sugar levels up with dates and stayed hydrated with sips of water, which became more and more difficult to do because of the discomfort of a full bladder and peeing during a surge. (nazya also told raymond to force me to keep taking sips of water)

it almost seemed as if i went from 3cm to birth because i can't really remember what happened in between. i remember crying towards the end because of the intense pressure on my perineum and butt area and because of that pressure i had to hold myself off the bed because i just couldn't sit on my bum. why didn't i lie on my side you ask? because every single position hurt like a motha. so towards the very end i thought 'fuck, how much longer is this going to be and if the pain is going to get any worse i may probably die' but now i know that when you feel like that, the baby is ready to come out.

because during my last check 2 hours ago i was only at 3cm the nurse did not expect me to be at 10cm when i was, so when i was bawling my eyes out and moaning and groaning (birthing makes you make the weirdest sounds. i swear i sounded like a donkey) she asked me if i felt like i needed to poop and i said yes. she then proceeded to remove my pants (yes, i wore pants. duh!), turned me onto my side and i could feel a gush of liquid coming out of me, i only knew it was blood because my husband said full of panic, 'is it normal for there to be so much blood?' and then it was the nurse's turn to panic as she immediately ran out of the room to call in more nurses. you'd probably think i freaked out too but i was thrashing like a whale from the pain and before i knew it a senior nurse said, 'it's time to push'.

hypnobirthing tells you to breathe your baby out but if i breathed my baby out i'd probably still be in that labour room with my legs in stirrups. i'm here to tell you that you literally need to poop your baby out. when it was time to push i remember screaming my head off, then on the second time they told me not to shout and to focus all my energy on pushing the baby out. it took me 4 pushes i think but she shot out and was caught by dear dr aswin. and just like that all the pain was gone.

i fell in love with her immediately.

i got my birth.

i must say that i also wanted to experience a natural birth with my husband. it brings your relationship to a whole new level and my husband was the best birthing buddy i could ever wish for. he was calm, he kept reminding me to breathe and when it came to the point where i thought i just couldn't do it anymore he helped me cross the finish line. he was in it with me and i fell in love with him all over again.

i have never felt more powerful.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

birth of baby tara: part 1

three years ago i birthed my twins via an elective cesarean (you may read the story here) as it was the safest option for all of us and as happy as i was with the entire experience and recovery i couldn't help but feel a slight tinge of disappointment because my body didn't get to go through a natural birth. i really thought that jade and leo would be it for us but the universe had other plans and we were blessed with another angel.

i learnt of hypnobirthing from a few friends of mine years ago and i have always been intrigued by what it was all about. could there really be such a thing as a painfree birth? during my first pregnancy i didn't find any hypnobirthing courses so i jumped at the first opportunity when i found out about the second pregnancy. i signed up when i was about four months, which was very early but since we live in jakarta and the courses were offered in kuala lumpur,  i had to make do while we were in KL during the children's school holidays.

in a nutshell hypnobirthing is really about bringing your baby into the world in the most gentle way as possible, focusing on your breath and being emotionally prepared for anything that may happen during birth. nowadays, we have so many options that allow the mother a 'comfortable' birth but many of us don't realise what exactly these options are made of and how they affect the mother and baby. epidurals for instance if not administered properly may leave the mother with backaches and migraines for the rest of her life, or not knowing how much to push resulting in vacuum or forcep deliveries, and the list goes on and on. i also feel that 'pain' will be felt in one way or another, one just needs to decide whether you'd like it before or after the birth.

because i had a cesarean birth, i was even more adamant on birthing my baby completely au naturel because emotionally and psychologically i suffered for a long time. i took the longest time to emotionally bond with my babies, i absolutely hated breastfeeding, i was depressed for at least a year and a half and though i could walk within the first couple of days after surgery my lower abdomen will forever be numb and dead.

the first decision i made was where i was going to deliver tara. first i was set on flying back to kl but after weighing children's school, our living situation, husband's work and flying all of us back here, i thought let's not be silly i will birth here and the only person who will have to do the flying is my mother for when she has to take care of me. after we decided on the country of delivery we had to look for a doctor, so i asked around and was recommended the ever-so-calm, ever-so-gentle dr aswin. from the moment i met him i knew that he would be the perfect doctor for a natural delivery.

after that was sorted i continued listening to my relaxing scripts every night before i went to bed and really just waited for baby tara to come. i had my performance in between and life continued as normal. i ate much healthier this pregnancy, i drank a lot of water, i didn't gain much weight and my body did not retain much water either. no swollen anything right till the end.

since i had the twins at 36 weeks i never experienced surges of any kind, braxton or real. so when the braxton hicks first started i got all excited and started timing. of course they tend to stop if you stand up or have a glass of water so that really never got anywhere and i kept thinking to myself come on, when is this labour going to start and when it does when will i know.

we made 2 trips to the hospital only to be sent back with a tightly shut cervix. but when the labour started oh i sure as hell knew. on the 23rd of dec, after many days of chor tai tai and gin rummy with my family, my sister decided to spice things up and we watched magic mike, seeing that it was still early on in the day we moved onto kabhi khushi kabhi gham in the evening and by the time shah rukh khan was kicked out of the house i was in excruciating pain and had to waddle my way up to my room to cry on my bed because i didn't want to look like a weak ass. in my mind i was already thinking, 'if it hurts so bad already how am i going to handle the next 12 hours?' so i called up raymond to the room and said that i think it's time this time.

the surges kept coming as we headed to the hospital, which was a good sign that this was the real deal what wasn't very good was having a surge while you went through potholes or speed bumps, no, that was not very good. we went straight up to the familiar labour ward and went to the observation room where they hooked me up to a machine to monitor my surges, heartbeat and baby's heartbeat for 30 minutes. i kid you not, within minutes of walking into the labour ward i heard a little bit of moaning and a newborn cry. i was like, 'whoa, no indian drama screaming? these women are hardcore!' little did i know i would be the yelling indian drama 12 hours later.

to be continued...
as an avid cold water bather i was surprised at how comforting warm water was...

Sunday, September 25, 2016

if you knew me...

when i left sutra dance theatre in 2009 it left me empty. i had been there for most of my life, sixteen years to be exact. i was only 24 years old in 2009, young and completely clueless with what to do with my life. i got a job and realised almost immediately that getting a job meant nothing unless you were really good at it and how can you be good at it if you don't love it. so i thought, perhaps i should apply for a masters in performing arts. that's what people do right? when in doubt, study. but i got married instead. i was 26 years old.

some say that 26 is a young age to get married, some say that if you miss your window you'd have to wait till your late 30s, someone will always have something to say. marriage is really all about luck. you can spend 8 years dating and still not know who your husband is because marriage changes people or sometimes it doesn't but marriage is hard, sometimes harder for some but never easy.

about five months after i got married, Ramli and i did an odissi tour of cuttack, antwerp, hague, amsterdam and utrecht. we were accompanied by live musicians and had a wonderful time. i danced better than i did before (i was told). i felt great but i still did not know what to do next. i did not want to go back to the dance company and i did not know how to move forward. i was still very much stuck.

many people will tell you to open a dance school, they'd promise to send their children to your school and they will tell you all sorts of wonderful things and sometimes even make you believe that you should. but i knew better and i knew that i couldn't commit to a dance school because at this age i still wanted to perform, i wanted to dance, that much i knew.

i wanted to evolve, grow and dance new things but i did not know where to start. that's the thing about being in a dance company from such a young age, you think that this is all there is to know. you get comfortable, you perform so much, you dance so much that after a while you dread and complain about the next show, you take it for granted, you become somewhat disillusioned because all you hear almost everyday is how great you are. when i was there every second of every day was filled with dance, be it teaching, rehearsing, planning, touring, travelling, ironing a saree, it was almost an addiction. being so busy that you could barely think. i missed out on family holidays, friend's birthday parties, weddings, even watching other performances. when you are busy like that and suddenly you are left with nothing to do, it can kill you. you can't help but feel useless. i mean all those 16 years that you spent dancing and you leave with nothing.

i did not know what to do but i was certain about things i did not want to do. i did not want to perform items that i had learnt before, i did not want to teach items that i had learnt before, i wanted to own my own items, i wanted to be my own dancer, i wanted to dance on my own.

i continued going for performances, watching, wanting, wishing that it was me on stage, thinking that if it were me i could have done it better, wallowing in self pity and allowing myself to make excuses for myself. i told myself that i would dance after i got pregnant, i told myself that i would dance when the time was right, i would dance when i was ready because emotionally i wasn't ready. i was still caught up in all the wrong things, why i wanted to dance, where i wanted to dance, what i wanted to dance. i also knew that i didn't have anything to dance and until i had my own items i would just have to sit tight and wait.

two years after i got married, we were blessed with a set of twins. wow, you're so lucky, two at one go, i always wanted twins, do twins run in your family, are they natural, wow you're so big, wow you're so small, and the list went on and on. i always wondered why everyone had to have something to say. if you don't know me, heck even if you did, you don't need to say anything. just a simple hi and wish me well and move on but as always i smile and nod.

just before the twins turned 1 my husband said that it was time for me to start dancing again. i must add that this wasn't the first time he has said this. he used to relentlessly irritate me by telling me not to live in my past glories and used to bug me with why i wasn't dancing. now i look back and i am so glad for his constant nagging. funnily enough, he met me when dance wasn't a part of my life and the first time he saw me dance was after we got married.

so this time, instead of focusing on why i wasn't or couldn't dance and also just to prove him wrong, i moved out the sofa from the tv room, got some full length mirrors installed and transformed his man-cave into my studio. i sat down and wrote down what items i wanted commissioned, who to commission them from, wrote down some ideas of what i could do with my new basement space and started recording 15 second videos on instagram of me sitting down and dancing, it wasn't much but it was a start.

one of the ideas i penned down was to have weekly or fortnight movement classes with rathi. i knew that i needed to get the body moving again and who better to teach me. after i sent that message to her i received a phone call and it changed the both of our lives. she told me that she had just left sutra dance theatre and that we should meet. she said that uncle joseph gonzales had asked her to choreograph a piece for their Tari festival in 2014 and that we should work together and come up with something.

how do you plan for something like that? the timing was right and it was fate. we created rehab through lots of talking, crying, sharing and we performed it not once, but again and again and again. in 2015 we heard of another dance festival organised by sutra foundation and bilqis hijjas asked rathi to contribute and once again rathi pulled me in and we created return. to come back as individuals with our own piece, our own message was a huge feat for the both of us. we all know how bridges tend to get burned once you leave the academy but when you do things right and have the best intentions, nothing will get in your way. i truly believe that.

it was also such a blessing to have collaborated with gerard mosterd  and parterned Raziman Sarbini of ASWARA. i was thrown once again into a completely different ocean but i took it on and managed to swim. it also wasn't easy for me to come to terms with the roles of wife, mother and dancer. my life as a dancer was when i was single and time was my own. now i had to really make sure that my rehearsals were efficient, food was prepared beforehand and everyone's needs were met so that i could guiltlessly attend my sessions.

we performed return again for temple of fine arts' Shantanand Festival combined with rehab and then i left for jakarta. i remember people used to ask me whether i would continue my dance once i moved to jakarta with a smirk on their face. as if expecting me to say no, but i would always reply, why not? if i get the opportunity i would most definitely love to dance wherever i am. knowing fully well that i needed to ensure that my family would be settled before i started looking for opportunities.

last year, my dearest friend sean ghazi wanted me to present a solo odissi performance at his space, Bobo KL, to which i agreed but early on this year i turned him down. however, my friends who knew me knew that i would be capable of performing pregnant. not having limiting thoughts i agreed to the proposal and am now preparing for a performance that is a mere 4 weeks away.

'bloom' has been a long time coming and if you have come this far reading this post you will understand how far i've come since leaving my dance school seven years ago. i've spent years constantly thinking and picturing how i will perform my first performance independently. performing pregnant was not how i imagined it at all, but life happens, and i so happen to be pregnant.

women all over the world continue their lives during their entire pregnancy. they work their 8 to 9 hour shifts, they continue with their household chores, the very same way i continue with my life.

should i have given up this opportunity to dance because i am pregnant? i sure don't think so. i have been dancing for as long as i've been alive and i know what i can and cannot handle. my doctors have given me the green light, i've been careful with my diet, i've started pilates to help correct my posture and strengthen my muscles, i've seen my chiropractor everytime i feel unaligned.

but you don't know any of this because you don't know me and yet you talk as if you do...

if you knew me, you'd know that from a young age i have always wanted a family. even ramli knew how much i wanted children. they have and will always be my utmost priority. which mother knowingly puts her children in danger? i know my body more than anyone and the last thing i would do is do something that i'm not strong enough to do. i am already a mother. you know how protective mothers are. mothers know best.

if you knew me, you wouldn't be saying what you're saying. if you knew me, you wouldn't doubt me.
if you knew me, you would wish me well. if you knew me, you'd be happy for me because if you knew me i'd be happy for you too.

but you don't. you don't know me at all and to be honest i'm glad i don't know you either.