When Noushadya found out she was missing her periods in the month of May last year, she took a home pregnancy test. To be extra sure, she took it twice and then we informed our parents. To confirm the pregnancy, we visited a nursing home at Ambasamudram. And that’s how we had embarked on the one of the most exciting and challenging experiences of our lifetimes : our first pregnancy.
The visits to the nursing home and doctor for scan and consultations were long because of the waiting time. Apparently, this particular doctor had a lot of mothers visiting her for consultation because she has கைராசி viz. Auspicious hands. Noushadya and I would like to believe that we are quite rational, so we wanted a stronger reason to consult her. A friend from VKPuram had also recently delivered her second baby normally there – after approaching a couple of other hospitals which had recommended caeserean section for her. Also, because a lot of women around were recommending this particular doctor, we thought there must be some good reason behind it. But we couldn’t have been more wrong.
One of the worst features of the current medical system is the lack of education and information prevalent around a healthy pregnancy and normal childbirth for a majority of the women. At the nursing home we visited, there was no education about diet and nutrition. There were very few suggestions about the kind of exercises needed to be physically fit to endure labour. Noushadya was discouraged from even operating a sewing machine, a hobby she had recently developed prior to the pregnancy.
While we had access to knowledge about pregnancy, the same isn’t available to the majority of the women in the country. Fear mongering is rampant, as we came to know from women from the village near the farm. C-section procedures are imposed without the women being informed and educated about her options. India has high prevalence of c-section procedures (almost one in four according to certain media reports), whereas WHO recommends this percentage to be around 10%.
The most cringe worthy part of conversations with people was when some of them said that they hope that a boy child be born. It is an indictment of our patriarchal society that after so many years of educating the girl child, that such things are said without any remorse.
Noushadya and I embarked on the new compassionate lifestyle at the farm to protect ourselves from this economic system where profits are the primary objective, and not health. Because this life objective is now deeply engrained in both of us, it was obvious to us that we wanted to look for an institution with whom we could have more meaningful and enlightening discussions about pregnancy and childbirth. During this search, we came to know about Birth Village, much prior to even planning for the pregnancy. We read stories and experiences of couples who had a beautiful experience at Birth Village. We met a couple, Meena and Naresh, who had given birth at Birth Village. Listening to their experience convinced Noushadya that she had to give birth there.
After we had a couple of consultations with Priyanka Idicula, the lead midwife and founder of Birth Village, we were confident that we would be in safe hands. During the consultation and child birth education classes that both of us attended, we learnt a lot of things that are not usually spoken about in our circles.
Pregnancy is not a medical condition. Yet, the entire medical system around pregnancy has been organized to treat it as one. Women should not be needed to undergo childbirth in gloomy hospitals. Women need loving care and attention of an experienced person(s), the warmth of a house or a beautiful room that they feel comfortable in during labour. Pre-natal yoga and exercise classes help the body prepare for the painful experience of labour. Women should be prepared well in advance for the kind of medical interventions for the various kind of complications that may arise during labour. Medical interventions such as episiotomy, forceps, vaccuum, caesarean-section, should be used on a case to case basis upon informed consent rather than a last-minute recommendation pushed onto a woman. The father can play an intimate part in childbirth by being present during labour and delivery. It only increases his bonding with the mother and the child. The mother does not need to endure one of the most painful experiences of her life alone.
We stayed at Kochi for 4 weeks prior to the expected due date. Noushy’s amma accompanied us and was of great help in preparing us for the arrival of a new person in our lives. Other than attending the workout classes, Noushadya and I went on long walks daily. The neighbourhood that we rented a house in was a residential area, had plenty of tree cover and had a football ground nearby which doubled up as a walking path. We made a few canine and feline friends. One of the neighbourhood cats took a liking to us and was a regular visitor inside the house. Being away from the farm for the first time after 3.5 years felt a little disconcerting. My appa took on the mantle of running the farm in my absence; so, I had nothing to worry about. Anusha, my sister, travelled all the way from Mumbai to give my parents company. I spent some time managing the online store that we had recently launched and the rest of the time reading books. We tried to keep ourselves busy and our minds off the impending labour.
Closer to the expected delivery date, Noushy started getting a little anxious. Our visits to Birth Village had shown that the mother’s and child’s vitals were normal. Her labour contractions finally started on 28th January, a day after the EDD. Labour duration can vary anywhere between a few hours to 72 hours. Only on 30th January evening did Noushy start feeling them every 5 minutes. We called Priyanka up and checked when we should come in. In 4 hours after calling her, Noushadya started feeling very long and intense contractions and we left for Birth Village around midnight.
Contrary to what the western medical system encourages women to do i.e. lie down on the bed, the midwifery system encourages to walk around and assume positions which would aid childbirth i.e. squatting, swaying hips etc. Noushy’s grunts and screams when the baby was almost ready to come out into the world were so loud and primal. It was like seeing a new version of her. Within 4 hours of reaching Birth Village, Noushadya gave birth to a baby girl in the wee hours of 31st January. The rush of emotions, especially joy, fascination and relief, that washed over us when we first saw our baby together are hard to describe in words. After some skin to skin with our daughter for some time, Noushy got a few stitches done for the natural tear by a midwife Annie. The smiling and warm nature of all the women at Birth Village was soothing and super supportive.
Being there in the delivery room with Noushadya has brought a new found of love and respect for her. In the modern world, men don’t get to experience any thing as primal as this in their lives. Every father should get to experience childbirth along their spouse / partner, is what I hope.
We have named our daughter Vanya, which means Protector of Forests in Sanskrit. We both loved the name the moment we heard it, while we were browsing and brainstorming names. We hope she takes inspiration from our lifestyle and propagates environment conservation, forest regeneration and sustainable living. Our proximity to a forest, Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, makes the name even more relevant.
Please do explore Birth Village, if you are expecting parents 🙂