Lakshmi Surendran & Nikhil’s story:
My friend and I were having a casual conversation over chai one evening when she asked me if we were considering having our baby at BirthVillage. It was not something we had thought about until that point. I was 5 months pregnant and not enjoying my pregnancy. Multiple reasons, but the main being, I was asked by my existing careprovider to do a partial bed rest, lest I’d go into premature labor (I’m not getting into the details here). For someone who works out regularly, this was a serious letdown, and giving it up was not an option. I could see it was affecting my mood and my physical wellbeing. Some other contributing factors were endless waiting at appointments and scans, very brief 5-minute window with the careprovider after these long waits, institutions playing on your fear, no real awareness on pregnancy, labor etc. (except whatever we were reading online). We yearned for a more personal experience with our care provider.
Once this thought took root in our mind, we started reading up on the concept of birth centers and BirthVillage’s testimonials on their Facebook page and website. Everything we read told us that it was a concept that suited us well and we would be stupid not to explore it. So, Nikhil and I set up an appointment and set out to BirthVillage, which was very close to home.
From the outside, BirthVillage looks like a regular two storied house on a discreet by-lane. You are welcomed inside by smiling faces of the admin staff – Ginju /Smija. The anteroom instantly puts you at ease. It’s cozy with dim lighting and aromatic candles, and its walls covered with baby pictures. After a brief wait, we were met with another smiling face – Priyanka (founder, and one of the midwives at BirthVillage). After a quick introduction, she asked us for all our reports and scans and went through them in great detail with us. She explained to us some of the terms and values in these reports which were not addressed before.
One of the very first things she asked me to do was to get at least 45 minutes of daily exercise starting at once, as inactivity could lead to Gestational Diabetes. I also had to make changes to my diet – get all my nutrients through healthy eating. That meant cutting out sugar, fried things and processed food. I could also travel, work and continue my normal routine. This session lasted for 45 minutess to an hour. Nikhil and I had a million questions which she patiently answered. We were about 90% sure when we left BirthVillage that this was the way we wanted to go.
Back home, we spoke to our families to let them know of our decision, and involved them in all our bi-weekly meetings with BirthVillage, just so that they are also at ease with our call to go the natural way. My folks went out of their way to ensure I ate healthy, even giving up some of their favourite evening snacks (bye, bye pazham pori ☹).
After we signed up, I started attending Donna’s workout sessions. She made us dance, stretch and meditate. She kept these sessions engaging by talking through it about the benefits of each stretch and how it would be relevant at the time of labor. She prepares you to embrace your contractions because that ultimately helps you to push the baby out. She teaches you breathing techniques to remain calm in stressful situations (Eg: when every other person you meet gives you advice on pregnancy). These sessions also enabled me to meet and interact with a bunch of pregnant women and share notes/ experiences etc. Overall, it was a fun 2 hrs which I looked forward to.
We also had couple classes (Lamaze classes), which were real eye openers, to say the least. Nikhil and I took home a lot of knowledge from these classes. We felt better prepped on what to expect during labor – signs to watch out for, action to be taken in a situation etc. after these classes. At every point, I felt that it was something Nikhil and I were doing together. I knew his presence during labour would be very comforting.
Fast forward to my 36th week of pregnancy, late on a Saturday night, when I suddenly felt a gush coming out. Surely, I was not peeing. It was my water breaking. We reported this to my midwife, who asked us to watch the situation and also get adequate rest and sleep. The very next morning, we went to BirthVillage to make sure everything was okay. After a full check, all seemed normal and thus began our wait for contractions .I had to ensure I ate well, engage in moderate activity and rest well.
When I felt the contractions kicking in strongly, that’s when I realized – Oh boy, there was no mistaking it. I knew right away that I was going into labor. Fast forward a few hours – my contractions were coming at 5-10 min interval. They thought I was ready to go to BirthVillage at this point. Both my midwives were already at the center waiting for us, as usual, with a smiling face. I felt an immediate relief seeing them as I knew I was in safe hands. My cervix was about 7 cms dilated by then. Not bad, I thought! In about 2 hours, I dilated to 10 cms. In my head, I was making great progress and I thought the baby was going to be out in an hour or two. But our baby had other plans 😉
My midwives encouraged me to move through various positions during contractions, from squatting to lunging to climbing up and down the stairs to lying on the bed. I leaned on Nikhil for support in various positions. Our baby was on his way down and I was to focus and push optimally with each of the contractions. I don’t think I was doing it right, because at one point, they sat me down and told me how important it is to ground myself so that my pushing technique could be spot on. It seemed like just the pep talk I was waiting for, for after that talk my pushes improved.
Donna gave me a hot cup of coffee which, sort of, woke me up. They made me feel his head to show how far down he was and how close he was to coming out. This encouraged me to push harder. A couple of hours later, when I began to doze off in between contractions, and my lovely midwives decided I needed some glucose to increase my energy levels. They also wanted me to get some rest without pushing. Once I had some glucose through an iv in my system and an hour of rest, my pushes got stronger and our baby’s descent accelerated. About an hour later, the li’l one’s head was out. The last few pushes were on my knees and hand, until the whole of him came out! He was out and I could hear him! I felt exhilarated. A plethora of emotions rushed over me!
Soon, I was lying in bed with this sweet li’l thing on top of me, and Nikhil beside me. Our li’l one seemed eager to latch on and we laid down for a while just letting all of it sink in. The in-house nurse, Bincy, was soon at work checking our vitals, giving me necessary medication and making arrangements for suturing. Once it was done, it was just the 3 of us for the rest of the night, with Bincy checking on us often. By the next afternoon, we were ready to leave with our son.
It has been 10 days now, and we have had 3 visits from Bincy. Just like my midwives, her presence is comforting. She patiently answers all our queries, gives us recommendations on various matters about post-natal care, checks on our vitals etc.
We had a similar experience with every person we interacted with at BirthVillage -the admin staff – Ginju, Smija and the chechi who came in to clean up late in the night after I created a bloody mess! 😉
Needless to say, we couldn’t have asked for a more personal care experience than at BirthVillage. Nikhil and I cannot say enough about how amazing my midwives were throughout the labor. They went all out to ensure that we had a safe and natural delivery.