How the GBG Began
By Ruth Miller
How did the Gentle Birthing Group start? Well that takes me back to being pregnant with my second child in KL in 2008. After getting pregnant, and with my second trimester energy I set about finding out about homebirths and water births. I was lucky enough to be involved in the IBU Family Resource Group, where the majority of mums were interested in doing things naturally. However I soon found out that home births and water births were not common place in KL, and to my disappointment I realised it was going to require a little effort!
So after a visit to one of the hospitals where I was proudly shown the stirrups on the bed and the view of the twin towers, and another visit with someone who told me there was no way I would get a waterbirth in KL, something stirred inside.
I was very fortunate a few weeks later at a party, to meet Joanna Cheryan, who I realised felt the same way as I did. She was willing to work together with me on this project. Around the same time, on the advice of some other mums, I went to see Dr Choong at Pantai Hospital Bangsar. Both of these people inspired me to start a campaign in KL to change the climate of birthing. Dr Choong had always wanted to deliver babies in water, but he felt that the drive had to come from the pregnant mums speaking out, only then did he feel the hospitals would listen.
So from there, started the Gentle Birthing Group - there were 5 people at our first meeting (including Nadine Ghows) and everyone was very keen to be involved and see the change happen, so that we could birth our babies naturally. A survey was put into action to find out how over 100 pregnant ladies felt about birthing, and there were many letters and documents sent to the head doctors at a few hospitals. Thanks to Dr Choong's vision and impetus, Pantai were the ones who took it seriously, and Dr Jeyanthi who was head of administration at the hospital took a serious stance in trying to persuade the other doctors that this is what women wanted. Dr Jeyanthi spent a lot of time and energy pushing this through and eventually they conceded to allowing us to import a birthing pool and to train the staff at the hospital in water births. We were also very fortunate when Dr Narinder from Penang came down and shared his experience of water births, which helped to smooth the way at the hospital.
My personal story resulted in one awesome birth. Because I was the first person to use the birthing pool at the hospital, they weren't keen on delivering in water, but I was allowed to labour in the pool. I honestly don't think I could've done it without drugs if it wasn't for the water, and when I was asked to get out of the pool I was so relaxed it only took a couple of pushes before she came out, so I was happy with my experience.
When I last visited KL, I discovered that Pantai now has two purpose built pools in their delivery suite! The Gentle Birthing Group continues with great gusto thanks to Joanna, Nadine and all the other members, and so many more women are now birthing how they want to birth.