Asha Liza Manoj is a Nurse who works in Surgery. For her first birth, in an institution, she had a C-Sec performed on her, without her consent. When it was time for the second, Asha, who hails from Kanjirapally, was very sure that she wanted more of a say in how her body and her baby were treated during birth. A woman who was extremely strong in her faith, which helped her hold on strong to her inner core, and allow baby Joel to flow out naturally, in the rhythm of her body. Aided at every moment by her husbad Manoj Mathew, who stood by her unperturbed, and rock solid – with not a hint of fear or hesitation at any point. Faith works wonders, and greatly helps in birth too!
“When I had my first baby in May 2012, I was induced before any contractions set in and just 3 hours later, even without waiting for any contractions to set in, they took me in for a Caesarean. I was not asked about any of this. They spoke to my relatives who were outside, and got consent from them. I’m a nurse, and saw how they were preparing me for surgery, but even when I asked specifically, they kept telling me it was for other tests…! I knew what was going to happen, but I was helpless – I couldn’t protest to the people around me, and had no access to my relatives.”
“After my first baby was born, I searched with much determination about VBAC possibilities in India. I came across information about Birthvillage in 2013, and kept it in my mind. In 2017, when we started to plan for our second child, I contacted Birthvillage. I was working in Saudi at the time. It was such a relief and a blessing to hear the lead midwife at BV respond to my inquiry for a VBAC with positivity. Everywhere else, the professionals would tell me ‘let’s see…or – we can’t promise anything, or – we can’t say anything for sure.’ But here, they gave me confidence with their evidence based approach – and told me, if you are willing to put in full effort and stick to a healthy diet, do your exercises, and keep your body fit and healthy, we can definitely support you in every way we can’. In March 2017, I came to Kerala from Saudi Arabia, and kept in touch with Birthvillage via Skype calls. I followed everything that they advised and it all started to give me more and more confidence in my body and my own ability to give birth.”
“When I was 36 weeks we came to stay in a place at Vytilla, not very far from the birth centre. My husband was 100% supportive and committed to this decision of natural birth. We attended the birth education classes together, and I started my workout classes at the centre. Donna’s workout classes were so amazing! Initially I was not able to move that much, but over a few classes, her energy and her rhythm helped me to fully enjoy and move my body. For a little while, all of the questions and comments around me – people who were in the family and friends, expressing their feelings and concerns about VBAC – caused a small amount of disturbance and even negativity, or doubt in me. That was when we decided, with the full support of our midwives, to go to the church at Vallarpadam (this is renowned for pregnant women to visit and seek blessings as childbirth draws near), and pray for this birth and this baby. I have always relied on my faith in Christ throughout my life. And when I went to the church at Vallarpadam, my confidence was greatly restored, just by that one act – I felt more relaxed and confident. These thoughts were a great help and comfort to me – relax, trust in your body, trust in God – do all that you can, and leave the rest in God’s hands.”
“And so, even when I reached 40 weeks, I had absolutely no tension about the date. For me and my husband, we felt if all was well, ‘let the baby take its own decision about when to come to the world’. My husband so calm and quiet, and he was very consistent and disciplined about taking me every day to Subhash Park, where my elder one would play and have a good time, and we would take long walks. We were on the 14th floor of an apartment building, and we would walk the stairs every day – some days we have walked up all 14 floors!
When it was 40 weeks and 4 days, just after we finished the walk at the Pak, and I got into the car, I felt the waters break. The contractions were very very sporadic, in random timings. We called the centre and were advised to rest as much as possible. The whole night passed with very irregular contractions. And the next morning, I had no contractions at all. But by the time it got to evening, they started again, again initially irregular. I had a very strong back pain, and I feel that the contractions were not that hard, it was the back pain that was harder to handle. We waited till they were coming at 5 minutes apart – which we was all clearly explained to us in the classes – and we reached Birthvillage at the point where the contractions were 3 minutes apart.
“ As soon as I got there, my midwife was waiting for me with a calm and peaceful smile – and this wiped away any little anxiety that I may have had. I remember feeling such an immense relief at that moment. The next few hours were so different from whatever I have seen in my career as a nurse. It was like I was surrounded by people to whom I was as special as someone in their own home. Never have I experienced this in a healthcare setting. My husband set up a small prayer altar and lit a candle. As the contractions progressed, I tried to find relief in the birth pool, but very soon felt like I wanted to labour out of the pool. My husband helped me as we climbed up and down the steps at the birth centre to help the baby descend. And when I felt like my energy was being depleted, I got some delicious hot coffee from Donna. And soon the pushing stage began. I had never experience contractions in my first birth experience – and thought that it would take a long time….but I was surprised at by the time the baby came out all I was doing was one long push and the whole baby was out!
“I have to mention a few more things –
1. My baby’s weight was 3.5 kgs. He was a healthy baby. But for my first child, the weight was 3.6 and this was one of the reasons that the healthcare team had told me as the reason for a C-Sec. But for this one, there was only a 100 gm difference, and I was able to have him naturally. It made me start to think about the reasons we are told for emergency procedures.
2. Donna’s energy exercises – and breathing exercises – they really prepared me for birth. When I was at home in the initial phases of labour, I was not able to follow it properly, but as soon as I got to the centre, and heard her saying the same phrases and the same movements, I could immediately do it.
3. I feel the diet that I followed was very important – salads twice a day, and following all the dietary advice that I got from Birthvillage.
4. I really have to highlight the bath that I got at Birthvillage before I was discharged. I don’t think that is done anywhere else – it was so good…a great relaxation for the mind and the body, and I have to especially mention the dedication of the Chechi who gave me the bath.
5. When each birth story is posted, at least some people will think – why should they post these stories in such detail? But the kind of confidence and courage that reading all the details of the birth stories on the Birthvillage Facebook page, gave to me – is something I cannot describe fully. Even when my labour started, so many thought and doubts flooded into my mind – at that time I would go back to my memory of reading other birth stories, and many of them gave me insight about different things I was experiencing. Each of the stories was so helpful to me.
6. The staff at Birthvillage and their dedication – no matter how much I write or talk about it, it will not be enough – especially Ginju and Bincy were a great help to me.
7. Lastly, having my husband by my side throughout, and seeing him cut the cord of our baby, the fact that he got a chance to do it, even though as an individual he is not very in touch with these kinds of things – that was a magnificent experience for both of us. It’s a moment that I can never forget in my life.

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