Last year in December, actress and host Nadiah M. Din welcomed her third child, Ezhaan. The 32-year-old, who is married to French national Bilal Jeanpierre, has since been open about sharing her birthing experience on social media, including her prodromal labour (often called ‘false labour’) as well as her birth plan and choice of labour position. The couple are also parents to Nahyan, four, and Inaaya, who’s nearly three.
In an exclusive interview, Nadiah tells The Weekly more about what has changed since her first pregnancy, why women should discuss their birth plans with their doctors, and her best parenting advice for new mums and dads.
Nadiah M. Din (ND): Prodromal contractions are very different from Braxton Hicks, which aren’t as intense. Prodromal labour leads you to think that you’re going into active labour, but then it doesn’t happen and your contractions suddenly stop. The intensity can drop, and the duration from one contraction to another can become longer, before stopping altogether.
On the first day it happened to me, I checked in with my gynaecologist, and was already 4cm dilated. My contractions came on every half an hour, then 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, and subsequently, every two minutes. I assumed I was already going into labour but later felt the intensity decreasing after a trip to the restroom. I didn’t remember my previous active labour being as painful. Somehow, I managed to go back to sleep, and when I woke up, the contractions had stopped. Then it happened again on the second, third and fourth nights.
ND: I would say to not rush to the hospital. In some cases, mums-to-be rush to the hospitals, even though it isn’t the real deal. When you go to the hospital too early, medical interventions or vaginal checks can fuel your stress levels, which can interfere with the potential real labour that can otherwise occur.
Personally, I knew when my actual labour had started when the contractions were so painful that I couldn’t walk. But again, it differs from mother to mother — I think my pain threshold is quite high. Mothers whose pain thresholds are low can consider contraction trackers or mobile apps that track the patterns. They may also recommend whether you stay home or whether it’s time to pack your stuff and head to the hospital.
ND: I wanted this to be the best birth experience I could ask for. For my first delivery with Nahyan, it was a stressful situation and I had an emergency Cesarean delivery (C-section). And for my second delivery with Inaaya, I managed to do a VBAC (Vaginal Birth After Cesarean) but had a second-degree tear.
Previously, I didn’t do much research about positions that could help with labour, so I went for the regular option of lying on my back. But with the third birth, I didn’t want to have a tear, as I wanted to be stronger this time, especially with having to take care of two other children.
When I read about the all-fours position, it was indicated as one of the best birth positions because of the pull of gravity, which helps ease the pushing. It was the best decision I ever made. And I think doctors in Singapore are quite open to it. I’ve heard of friends and relatives going ahead with other positions. But mothers-to-be should definitely discuss with their gynaecologists what’s best suited for them. I made sure to speak to mine and she helped me achieve it.
ND: I went through a VBAC for the birth of my daughter. The reason why I wanted a VBAC was because it made so much sense — I wanted to recuperate faster and be stronger right after birth. I didn’t have a good experience recovering from my first birth with Nahyan. The C-section was really painful and the wound took a long time to recover.
I couldn’t get up by myself to breastfeed my child, couldn’t squat, laugh, or even cough. Recovering from a VBAC is just a lot easier. I saw how some of my friends were back on their feet just days after a vaginal delivery.
ND: I gave birth at the National University Hospital (NUH) and my doctor was Professor Citra Mattar. She was very receptive when I said I wanted a birth plan.
But I do believe many, if not most, hospitals offer birth plans and I feel that every woman should have an opportunity to plan the kind of birth they want, be it a vaginal birth or a C-section. A gynaecologist’s position in this is very crucial. When a woman can’t proceed with the type of birth she wants, that for me, is a number one cause of stress. And stress during birth affects the labour process, including dilation. I hope everyone gets to meet the doctor who connects and works together with them.
Birth is a very sacred experience, and one that should be experienced with utmost dignity, love, compassion, and of course, empowerment.
ND: This pregnancy was totally different compared to my previous ones. Surprisingly, I was a lot more energetic. It could be because of the supplements I consumed, from natural herbs to honey and dates. If there’s one thing I would tell mums-to-be, it would be to eat lots of dates during their pregnancies. Dates actually helped me in the softening of the cervix and aided with dilation.
Emotionally, I felt more empowered and was truly in control during labour. In my birth plan, I wrote that I didn’t want any instructions from my gynae and mid-wife to push. I wanted to listen to my body. So instead, all they did was calm me down and motivated me, telling me to push whenever I was ready. It was an empowering birth, I must say. I was also much stronger physically. Funnily enough, when the midwife came into the room a few hours later, she said that I didn’t look like someone who had just given birth.
Sadly, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, my family members weren’t able to visit as they did before. It was just me and my husband this time around. I had to take both Antigen Rapid Tests (ART) and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, and my husband had to do the former in order for him to stay the night. There were definitely more restrictions. But it was alright since I recovered pretty quickly and went back home just one day after giving birth.
ND: They’re adapting very well and love their sibling so much, especially Inaaya. She never stops kissing him every day and night. Nahyan is a little more reserved, but he loves him nonetheless. I know that and I can see that.
ND: Not every day is going to be easy, especially at the start of your parenting journey. But at the end of the day, it will be very worthwhile. There are moments when I lose it as a mum, but at the end of the day, when I look at my children and put them to bed, I cry to myself because they are God’s gift to us, and they are our responsibility to take care of properly.
I will say you’ll need to have a lot of patience, but also enjoy the journey. Because not everyone has the opportunity to be a parent, so we’re grateful for this. There are a lot of people out there who have been trying to conceive for many years or have to go through various procedures
As for the best advice I’ve received, it’s to be best friends with your kids, and I think this is really true. We have to be stern, but at the same time, be the kind of parent who is fun, and whom our children can talk to about anything. They need to be able to trust us.
I can’t wait for my kids to grow up and see what kind of secrets they’ll share with me (laughs).
ND: On social media, we often portray things that are all beautiful and rainbows, but we don’t really showcase the simple struggles of getting the kids to sit down and eat their food without distractions or resolving petty arguments amongst siblings. Or to cope between showering the children and cooking at the same time to make sure lunch is served promptly. Then there are also instances when parents argue while trying to make things work within the household.
ND: We cleaned and sanitised the home extensively. We have cats, so I really made sure the place where the baby was sleeping was free of fur before he arrived.