The last days of 2017 had babies rushing over each other to be here before 2018 began. This is one that did a Christmas crossover – barely.

The birth of Mikayla Atara Dsa

With the unpleasant, unfulfilling and unavoidable (supposedly) birth of my first daughter due to her breech presentation, I was determined to do everything I possibly could to never go through that again. And when we got pregnant in March 2017, I broached the subject of natural birthing and Birthvillage to my husband Shaun. He was quite skeptical and I had a horrific 9 weeks of morning sickness, so I said let’s think about it for now. I kept sharing birth stories with him and I kept getting inspired by the Birthvillage team and the power in each of the mothers who birthed at BV.

Once our 20 weeks scan was done, we had our first Skype appointment with Priyanka, and it was an eye opener. First of all, it was over an hour long, we had never experienced such a long talk with any of our careproviders ever. She went through the previous birth, discussed what we could have done differently, and what I need to do now to have a natural birth: lots of walking, eating right and not talking to too many people about it! I was pretty good with the first two, but the talking… we had opposition from all sides. And that made us doubt ourselves too.
We came to BV for the Lamaze classes in September, and that was when Shaun was completely convinced. And I felt completely justified in my choice to birth at BV.

My biggest fear was that this baby too would be breech and I would have to have another C- Section. At my gynaec appointment in Chennai at 33 weeks, my careprovider there told me that the baby was breech! At every scan I had been told baby was head down… my midwife had told me it was head down and I was shattered with this news. I had a complete breakdown and it was my midwife who really calmed me down, and told me to just get a scan done the next day before freaking out any more. At that scan, I found out that baby was in fact head down and my careprovider was wrong!

We came to Cochin from Chennai at 35 weeks; my mother, daughter Akira, Shaun and I. Our weekly consultations began, as did the fantastic workout classes with Donna. We settled into a routine and I was doing great. Amma’s yummy cooking, lots of time to read, spending time as a family, and no work stress! All we had to do was wait for the baby. My due date was December 23 and on the 15th I started having contractions every morning at about 5am for a few hours. But then it would stop. Every day it got stronger and for longer, but would still stop after a few hours. My midiwfe said ‘it’s like a car engine starting up, a few tries and then only does the engine get going’. So we waited. And waited. After a week of waiting we were all frustrated. We were advised to just go out and keep busy, plan something to do every day and not just sit around waiting. That was the best advice we ever got! We spent a day in Mattancherry, next day we went for a story telling session for kids… it was absolutely fantastic to spend time together as a family on holiday.

My due date came and went, and the contractions continued without developing into anything. Prodormal labour- we had a name for what it was, but nothing else was happening. The next day we decided to go to Lulu supermarket and stock up on supplies. I had contractions all the while, but we managed to finish our work. It was Christmas eve, so we got all the presents ready for the next day. My midwife advised some remedies to help me relax. Shaun and I went for a quick but lovely date at Crowne Plaza. I came back home and tried to sleep, but it was tough with the contractions coming all the time.

At 3a.m. we went to BV and Priyanka and Donna were both there waiting for us. I knew we were not in full labour, but I just had to have them check and tell me what was happening. The pain was too intense. They both checked me and the news was that I was 5cm dilated and 90% effaced, and baby was way down – great! But my cervix was still posterior – Damn! So I came back home and tried to sleep, but it was impossible. Later that morning, on Christmas day my mucus plug came out. All through the day we had Christmas wishing and contractions in between! We didn’t tell anyone of course, and they were getting more and more difficult to bear. Finally at 5pm, I said we need to go to BV. If I waited any longer I was worried I’d be screaming in the cab all the way there!

And again, my midwives were there, waiting and smiling. The news was that the cervix was moving towards the front, and I was 6-7cms dilated. And so, it began in earnest. I climbed the stairs two at a time, squatted, walked, lay down on my sides, did lunges and finally got into the birthing pool at about 10pm. The water felt so insanely relaxing. My water broke there and I was getting a little light headed and woozy. So I had to get out and lie down for a while. That was the most difficult for me as I was getting spasms in my gluteus muscles, and I couldn’t get up as my head was spinning if I did. The water a bit too relaxing and the 3 days of no sleep had caught up with me.

Shaun was there throughout right by my side, holding me, pressing my lower back, carrying my weight, feeding me dry fruits, chocolate and coconut water, talking strength to me every minute. He never wavered in his support and was really my pillar of support. His only wish was that the baby be born at least one minute after midnight. He felt that the birthday would get lost in all the Christmas festivities every year. So we all had an eye on the clock, wondering when it would actually happen.

Once I was 9cm dilated, it was time to get ready to push. I had no idea what that meant until I actually had to do it. I could feel this strange new sensation, never felt before. My midwives told me to stop letting the energy go out of you with exhaling, use that energy to push down. I just could not understand what they meant. I was in a trance, I was present – yet I was not. And through it all was the pain. At one point I said I can’t do it. And Priyanka took my hand and looked in my eyes and said, “Yes you can!”

Donna went to get me her famous black coffee and suddenly I knew what they meant. When I bore down with all my strength, something was happening! Once I felt that, I was not able to stop. I just HAD to keep going. I wolfed down the coffee (the first hot coffee of my life) and just squatted to push. Priyanka asked me to feel the baby’s head at one point, and the state I was in, I didn’t feel anything, and I didn’t care at that point. I just had to push. Something had taken over me, and I was not in control at all. In a couple of pushes, the head was out! Then my midwife said I need to get on my hands and knees. I managed to get up and turn over and in just another couple of pushes the rest of the baby was born!

At that moment all I felt was pure power, I DID IT! I was just looking at my midwife and saying it over and over again. I DID IT!

Donna, Shaun and our little daughter were behind me, and I couldn’t even see. I was just filled with a sense of wonder that I had actually done it! Soon I had her in my arms and Shaun next to me and I felt utterly complete and content. Mikayla Atara Dsa had arrived at 12.15 a.m! my midwives say that my hips were made for birthing – the baby was 3.8kgs and my second stage of labour was so fast and there was so much room in my pelvis. I needed just 3 stitches and that was because I had to travel back to Chennai in 2 weeks.

The post-natal care was so warm and personal. We were present at the baby’s first check up, we had never been a part of that at the previous institution birth. Donna and Bincy made home visits, and it felt so nice to be so cared for. I am so grateful to Priyanka, Donna, Bincy, Ginju and the rest of the team at BV. They are truly angels who do amazing work with such kind and good hearts. I will really miss them, and I wish we were planning more babies just to be a part of this family again!

To be honest, I’m not a fan of the mainstream healthcare system. When Usha brought up the idea of a natural birth, It sounded beautiful, but I being the male species needed further convincing. And boy, was I convinced!
We left Chennai a month early and settled into our temporary home at Ernakulam. We had never spent so much time away from work and it was fantastic to spend good quality time with ourselves and our little girl. December has been a season of bonding.

Usha had been having contractions for a week and through most of that we just chilled, strolled through Jew Town and fort Kochi. Usha had been keeping a fairly good discipline with her exercise and food regimen, she was very reassuring and kept my sails calm though out.
25th December D-Day. Will it be a Christmas baby? Will this kid curse us for playing Christmas carols on its birthday? So many questions… My wife sits in a warm tub, I wipe the sweat off her brow with a cool cloth, she holds onto me and rests between contractions. I feel like I am her strength and will see her through her pain. As she soaked in the tub, her water broke. All I remember after that was that each contraction was a beast in itself, she was handling it well. I wondered if my words of encouragement could even be heard at the moment. I remember telling her that this was her orchestra and she had to let go and embrace every bit of the music. She nodded in pain, she remained focused.

There was a moment that she said “I can’t do it!” to which the midwife and I started to beat the war drums on her. “You can and you will! You are a warrior! Scream and push, Full power Usha!” Our baby was on the way out, I was on cloud 9. I felt helpless that I wasn’t able to share my wife’s pain. I was so relieved that the labour had progressed so quickly after her water broke. My wife seemed in a trance and I went around her to receive my baby.

It was truly the strongest emotion that had taken over, I can only describe it as raw and cosmic. Pop!Out little girl was born and was placed straight in my arms. She was beautiful! I could not keep it together, for all the strength and beating of war drums over the labour, it was my turn to surrender emotionally to nature’s finest moment and, I’ll say this, the overwhelming sense of staying human through it all – for I couldn’t smell a institution

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