I had always hoped to be able to have a home birth whenever it was my turn, and Eric and I were overjoyed when we found out in January this year that we were expecting. I came across Cochin Birth Village by googling ‘midwife India natural childbirth’. I had no idea at that point how much of a good thing I had stumbled across. We had our first call with Priyanka some time in my second trimester, and I loved her strident, confident approach. ‘Eat right!’, she barked at me on the phone. ‘Exercise for one hour every day! And no strolling, okay? Walk FAST! Sweat! Climb 200 steps! No – 300 steps! Eat cucumber and radish! And salad leaves! Lots of salads!’ I loved how she was treating my pregnancy as a training programme for my life’s biggest athletic event. But it turned out that that’s exactly what delivery was.

My midwives attitude enabled me to cast off other people’s worries and doubts about pregnancy being a delicate time and to really enjoy myself and my body. I grew confident that my body would tell me what it needed and what was too much for it, and it did! At this point, Eric and I were also doing a lot of reading about pregnancy and childbirth and coming to realise just how good a path we had stumbled upon by staying away from a hospital setting.

Soon, my husband and I were in Cochin in September to await the baby and to spend one last month of pre-child togetherness. I had taken my midwives earlier salad leaf advice so seriously that she now instructed me to fry bananas in ghee, put cheese in everything and drizzle ghee on all meals as I had to gain more weight and needed to add more calories .However, I also had to climb 500 stairs a day now.

Our due date was the 9th of October, but I was sure that the baby was only coming around the middle of the month. I had done so much reading that I had a very clear—too clear—notion of what my labour would be like: It would be a breeze! I would quietly breathe my way through some merely ‘intense’ (not painful, mind you) contractions and then I’d do some calm pushing and hello baby. Instead, I learnt that labour is a journey where you don’t get to the next station until you’re ready for it.

It began slowly, with some supremely mild cramping that continued over two days, stronger and more frequent in the nights. Now that the hour of reckoning was drawing near, I’ll admit that I had begun to feel nervous about the impending pain of birth. On the third evening, these cramps were stronger—they were far from excruciating, but they were certainly uncomfortable. Eric comforted me through the night by reminding me to relax and to breathe, and I felt a little helpless without him. This was frightening to me, because I knew I had to experience all the sensations of labour on my own. The contractions died away in the day time and returned the following evening. This night, the 6th, we decided that Eric should sleep in order to conserve his energy, and there was no reason both of us should be sleep deprived. Being forced to deal with the contractions on my own that night turned out to be a boon, because I had no choice but to calm myself down and teach myself to breathe through the discomfort.

Labour is a game, though, it seems, and the rules change each time you’ve mastered the old set. By the next evening, the contractions were more intense, coming sometimes every five minutes, sometimes every twenty. However, I had lost the tools to deal with them, and I was no longer their master.Our midwives had us come into the centre that night, although it turned out that I wasn’t very far along (about 3-4 cm). This visit nonetheless did me a world of good, because Priyanka saw my fear and talked me through it. I hadn’t recognised it myself until that point. She reminded me that until I was ready, my labour would drag itself out, and that my job was to step into the pain and welcome my contractions instead of cringe from them. Being around my midwives who were so quiet and capable, calmed me and readied me for the next step. I went home and slept as much as I could through the contractions of the following day. I would wake with the pain and then fall asleep as it passed, over and over. I doubt I’d have had the strength to push my baby out if it hadn’t been for those hours of sleep that the midwives insisted I get.

The last night, the night of the 8th, the contractions began coming much stronger and faster. I felt restless and unable to sit, stand, walk, lie down or pretty much do anything except groan and sway. My water finally broke at about two in the morning, and it was 3.30 am on the 9th by the time we made it to the centre. My midwife checked me and asked me to name a number I’d like to be dilated to. Not daring to hope for a 10, I said ‘8’. Priyanka laughed and responded, ‘Okay, I’ll give you a 7’. At this point, I had no idea whether this meant it would be one hour or five before I could begin pushing. My midwife asked me to facilitate the baby’s descent by walking up and down the stairs and rotating my hips each time a contraction hit. Eric walked with me, sometimes rubbing my back, sometimes letting me lean on him through a contraction, sometimes letting me snarl at him when he tried to comfort me. It was a little under an hour before I felt the overwhelming urge to push, and Priyanka encouraged me to go into it.

I didn’t yet know what she meant, but I pushed into it anyway, and that’s when I finally began to understand what delivering a baby really was. It felt like there was a power or a current running through me, and it was my job during each contraction to push myself to reach that power, after which the power would simply take over and carry me along. There was no more pain or discomfort, only sheer physical effort, and it was beautiful! I felt strong and happy, knowing my baby was close, and I felt my husband’s love for me through all of this. He held on to me from behind and when he could tell that my strength was flagging, he would squeeze all his own strength into me. It could have been twenty minutes or five hours, I wouldn’t have known at that point, but my midwives sat there, encouraging and unflappable, smiling and urging me to push, and I knew that everything was right with the world. At one point, my midwife asked me to reach down and feel my baby’s head, and that was just AMAZING! It was right here, all soft and warm and almost in this realm. Touching her gave me another rush of energy and, a few pushes later, out whooshed my daughter. After that was a blur of this soft, warm, slippery and wet baby lying against me, Eric’s arms around the two of us and the strong, sweet smell of her amniotic fluid enveloping everything.

I now want to rush up to all my women friends and tell them about how they can enjoy the experience of birthing their babies instead of admitting themselves into hospitals. I want to tell them all how strong and powerful giving birth to my daughter made me feel. I am so very grateful to my midwives and everyone else at Birth Village for creating this space for women and urging them to give birth in this true way, supported by people who love them and surrounded by kind, encouraging, wise women. Thank you SO much!
Bv notes
Here is a couple who would have researched pretty much everything about birth
Where this mum scores is her honesty about her fears , her challenges and trusting her midwives wholeheartedly in labor.
Her smile just while her baby was being born earthside is quite strong in our memory.
Her husband the perfect foil despite a long tough labor never stopped motivating her at all
Fabulous team work!!Congratulations again!!!

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