Anvitha Pillai and Naveen Yadav
My tryst with Birthvillage started in April 2017 with our first appointment with Priyanka, and I knew immediately I was in the right place when my husband and I walked into a little unassuming lane, into a beautiful traditional home/birthcenter where the chechis would open the door with a warm smile and welcome you into a cozy dimly lit space that was radiating with positivity and warmth of newborn photographs, incense, a brass Villaku and a tall jar of cucumber infused water. Ginju, who ran administration, made sure we didn’t have to wait more than a few minutes to meet our midwife. This was important for us because we knew how even the best institutions would treat us as token numbers and make us wait for hours amid hundreds of dreary faces and and a vile aroma of disinfectant wafting out of their corridors.
Since then, every pre-natal appointment I’ve had with either of the midwives were filled with a certain kind of ease, an ease of talking to your elder sister rather than a medical practitioner/healthcare provider. Each time my midwife mustered up in me a deep sense of self and courage about my pregnancy. There were never any do’s or don’ts listed. Just a general sense of joie de vivre prevailed during my entire pregnancy because of how wonderfully these women formed my state of mind. I could confide in her and voice any fear I had. It was here where I learnt that decided to have a baby without medical interventions meant it was important to embrace this time period with a certain kind of conviction that you were not a patient and nobody at BV will treat you that way. Because of this, I had a fairly comfortable 9 months without any kind of discomfort and I was encouraged to continue working till the very end. I even travelled by flight week after week for my shoots up till the 34th week, gallivanting through the streets of fort Cochin every Sunday, took a trip with my girlfriends to Goa, even played basketball with wild abandon in my 9th month. All this while carefully maintaining a healthy diet which was of paramount importance.(of course, I had my occasional cheat day where I would tuck into a large pizza or cake).
What Priyanka did for me mentally, Donna did for me physically – with her absolutely smashing workout classes where we danced, stretched, yoga’ed and generally released large amounts of endorphins for the baby and ourselves. These classes took place every alternate day and it flummoxed quite a few of my neighbors when they would see me walk back into my apartment in a sweat and workout clothes skimming my growing belly.
I also have to mention the lamaze classes which were a complete eye opener and made us question the status quo about the medical system, the prevalent trends and how one can amalgamate the best of traditional wisdom with the latest evidence based research. Having my husband part of every single class and appointment made me feel like we are having this baby together, it brought us closer and cemented our bond even further. He was so committed in taking care of my every need and he felt calm and confident about D-day because of how well he was prepped by these sessions.
Fast forward to exactly 40 weeks later, It was a Tuesday, which meant me waking up to workout class and it felt like just another regular day. No sign of an impending birth. I was feeling energetic post my class, but extremely heavy so I pretty much pottered around the home the rest of the day, reading copiously and busy making plans for where we should go for breakfast the next day. As I was falling off asleep at 10pm, I was rudely awaken by a strange sensation at 1am, which felt like a contraction, but the skeptic in me was trying to ignore it as just false labour. But then again, it came back like an unwanted visitor, and that’s when I woke up my husband, Naveen and told him, this is a new feeling, and exactly like I was told, it was taking place in regular intervals of 15 minutes each with 45-60 seconds of pain. I wouldn’t say it was particularly painful, but it was very much manageable. So I tried to go back to bed. After that, it got a little more intense and regular and that’s when I decided I should call my midwife and keep her informed. She picked up the phone immediately and carefully guided us on what to do next.
Throughout our sessions, we were advised to labour at home as much as possible and come only when we cannot hold a conversation anymore. I took this advise seriously and told my husband that I didn’t want to rush to the centre in the middle of the night. I wanted to see how long I could bear it by trying some of the breathing techniques and moves that were taught to us in our classes. Between all that swaying of my hips, breathing, and several trips to the rest room, the sun rose and it was 9am before I realized an entire night had passed. I told Naveen, the contractions are now one of top of each other and I think its time we leave.
We had our suitcase packed in advance, and I remember telling Naveen that I wanted him to drive as calmly as possible and not get tensed. I breathed through them in the car and by the time I reached the centre, both my midwives greeted me with an easy smile, quickly checked how much I was dilated, (it was about 6cm) and then ‘poof’, I heard a sound, my water broke and that’s when I entered into a state of some kind of trance, where I only remember how sleepy I was feeling and I was asked to jump into the pool and to start pushing. Now that was something I wasn’t prepared for, as I visualized I had several hours before I could reach the pushing phase, so I was mentally not ready to meet my baby this quickly.
But as soon as I understood the midwives meant business when they were kept saying I was very close to the end, I decided that okay, I can rather fight the pain and extend my labour till tomorrow or embrace it and push my baby out in the next hour. The pool felt heavenly with the heated water comforting my back and muscles and I knew this is the place where I wanted to birth my baby no matter what.
When I decided to commit to the pushing, very quickly, the head of my baby started crowning. I was in disbelief when it happened. My midwife asked me to feel the baby’s head and I was shocked and in awe that I could already feel our kiddo transitioning to this new realm already. I pushed and pushed, and for a brief time, all I could see was some vernix and tissue coming out. This is when my husband fed me an entire glass of black coffee and some coconut water and I was feeling a bit more vigor. These last few pushes were definitely one of the most physically challenging feats I’ve done in my life, but the only difference is that with every push, I felt more stronger and invincible. I felt I was crossing a rite of passage with every push. My husband tightened my grip over my arms while I was alternating between squeezing my midwives hands, I was closing my eyes tightly, with my chin pressed downwards and roared the deepest, guttural sound I have heard out of myself and then sprang my baby into the world. The midwife caught the baby exactly in time and pressed him towards me and I was transfixed for a moment and Naveen who was holding me from the back just stared and we were rendered speechless.
It took a while for us to process this gift of life we just received and at the moment. Our baby boy met my eyes with a complete calm in his and didn’t make a single wail of help or cry, like I presumed. He looked content to finally meet his father and mother. That 15 seconds will go down to be the most sacred of our life, there is no photo or video of it but it is for us to treasure, and I can imagine Naveen and I gushing over that time fifty years down the line, when we are old and aged and still swoon over our little private moment.
A few minutes later, My midwife gave me a cup of hot chocolate and my placenta was expelled while chugging it down. I still smile whenever I think of that warm cup of cocoa. Naveen cut the cord himself in 45 minutes. My baby was born three hours after I reached the centre, and I went home that very night with this little cherub along with his placenta which we have now buried in my grandmother’s garden and soon, going to plant a sapling over it, so we always remember this tree of life.
As I sit down to write this on my 6th day since birthing my son, the wonder women at birth village continue to provide me with their amazing postpartum service with Bincy’s home visits and any kind of lactation support that is needed.
My midwives, were and will continue to be my angels. My soul sisters. They are now just divine in my eyes and I still cannot understand how to thank them, as it seems too simple a word for what and more importantly how they made me achieve the most satisfying birthing experience I could ask for