It was Seema’s dream! She desired to give birth in a natural way, just how a woman is designed to give birth. She wanted her body to get what it truly deserves. Yes! It’s possible, even today.
Lessons From First Pregnancy
This was my second pregnancy. My first baby was delivered normally. By experience, I realised that normal birth isn’t really normal. During my first delivery I was induced. It was a medicated vaginal delivery and I was injected with glucose, painkillers and other stuff. My baby was vacuumed out of my body. All of this was done for questionable medical reasons. “How on earth is that normal?!” I thought. A little bit of reading helped me realize that what I really wanted was a natural birth. A birthing experience with no drugs or medical intervention. A birth in its purest form. This time around I was a woman informed.
Finding The Right People
I was determined to have a natural birth. All I needed to do was find the right people to help me achieve it. Easier said than done, actually! I came across The Health Awareness Centre in Worli, Mumbai headed by Dr. Vijaya Venkat. She educated me on the importance of having an alkaline environment in the body. This helps the body’s innate intelligence to release the necessary hormones and produce the crucial vitamins before conception and during pregnancy. Our body has an ability to heal and restore balance if it is supplied with the right nutrition coupled with rest and positive thoughts.
They introduced me to an organisation called Birth India which was spreading awareness about natural birthing in India, under the direction of Mrs. Ruth Malik. I borrowed her contact from a friend and spoke to her, sharing my experience of the first delivery. I expressed my desire to deliver naturally and requested her to help me with the right guidance to pull it off.
She lent a patient ear and asked me to share my email address so she could pass on the necessary information. I could experience her compassionate energy. I thanked her and hung up the phone and the next minute I receive a message from her asking for my email address. I was pleasantly surprised and immediately responded back. Then there was an instant ping! An elaborate email with a detailed list of all contacts related to natural birthing across the country.
I started reaching out to the gynecologists, doulas and midwives in Mumbai to share my birth plan. With Ruth’s consultation, I concluded that according to the current state of affairs, water birthing supported by an informed doctor and doula was the best bet. I was not considering a home birth and there were no midwives in the city at that time.
Someone who has already experienced labour pain knows that it ain’t easy. I managed it the first time around and I could do it again too, but I would not deny that I was extremely fearful. Even though I was so sure that I wanted to have a natural birth, I wasn’t feeling too confident. And honestly, the ability to take the pain is all about the mental make up. I knew my mental make up needed to change. I spoke to a very dear friend of mine who recommended that I read a book on Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan. This book brought about a shift in my thought process or I should say, it just changed me as a person. A wave of comfort and ease starting passing through my body as I kept reading each page and my confidence levels reached some unexpected highs. I started trusting my body, loving my body and focusing on rest. Basically just letting go; trusting my body’s ability to do what it has to and responding to my body’s instincts.
The Two Important Ingredients – Exercise and Rest
I can’t stress enough the importance of physical exercise in pregnancy, but choosing a plan that isn’t too exhausting for the body is important. And swimming tops the list. I went swimming every single day of my pregnancy right up to the D day. Every day I got surprised, concerned looks and eyes full of awe staring at this woman in full bloom entering the pool. I woke up at 7 AM every morning and swam 400 metres in 35 minutes every day. Swimming every morning gave me positive energy through the day and also helped calm my otherwise highly active mind.
I tried taking massages on alternate days. This really helped soothe my muscles. Also, since hypno-birthing focuses a lot on rest, this was a beautiful way to relax. Of course, this was supported by a rich diet high on fruits, vegetables, nuts and occasional gobble sessions. We need that too!
Pregnancy felt like a breeze. I sat on the floor most of the times, carried my 3 year old daughter, travelled whenever I wanted to and did everything that was against the norm. I was not sick, I was pregnant.
The Due Date Dramatics!
My due date was 25th December. I went in for a sonography in the last week and everything seemed fine!
We met our gynaecologist who exclaimed that since there were no signs of labour yet, we needed to exercise caution since I had a history of placenta calcification during my first pregnancy. He said that a membrane sweep might be required. I was extremely hesitant. I wanted labour to start naturally. I wouldn’t have it any other way! My husband made a call to the radiologist to gain more clarity on the situation. It was a Grade 2 calcification moving on to Grade 3 and since this report had a validity of one week, we could take a chance and wait. We shared this with our gynaecologist who agreed. He did an internal check and was happy to find that the baby’s head hadn’t come down yet and a membrane sweep wouldn’t help anyways.
It is important for pregnant women to know the general interventions involved during pregnancy, so they can make informed choices. My doctor and I always discussed all potential interventions like a team. He never made a big deal about the due date and my research helped me understand that the due date really doesn’t mean anything and that it’s definitely ok to cross it. I can’t thank my doctor enough for this. I had crossed my due date by now.
Medical Intervention When Necessary
There was another development. My iron levels were low. I wanted a drug free pregnancy and did not take any supplements throughout. My food was my drug. My last blood report revealed that the levels were not favourable for a water birth. The doc explained that it was risky to have a natural birth with such low readings and we would need to administer Pitocin post-delivery to avoid excessive bleeding. If not taken, the birth could put my body into a state of shock. This however would be given only after the baby and the placenta were delivered and would not interfere with the delivery. I was hesitant, but this time he put his foot down and said that he couldn’t take this chance.
I was really unhappy with this and spoke to a couple of midwives and a few like minded friends and discussed this condition. Most people said that since I was under a gynaec who has always been supportive of natural birth, it was important for me to surrender to my doc and let him function with confidence and trust.
It was 27th December, 2017. A regular day. Regular swimming sessions, shopping and other last minute drills! In the evening, I felt a weird discomfort and pain, but I let it go. I came home and told my husband, “Looks like tonight’s the night.” He took me quite seriously! He had no choice. However, the night just passed in anticipation like many others. The next morning, I started to feel some contractions. I wasn’t sure if they were contractions or just some kind of pain. I called my team, my doctor and doula, and explained what was happening. The asked me to keep calm and observe the pains.
That day happened to be a family lunch and I binged on my favourite Chinese food. I thoroughly enjoyed that meal, but something was up. These pains weren’t normal. I called my husband whose immediate response was to rush back home, but I resisted, suggesting that we should wait and observe.
The surges were erratic and untimely. I was perplexed and called my doctor to confirm if they were contractions. He just asked me to stay calm. I decided to take a nap in the afternoon.
I woke up after an hour and resumed my usual evening activities and played with my older daughter. By late evening, the contractions had begun to form a pattern with a gap of exactly 45 minutes.
I called the doctor again at about 8:30 PM and he said that I seem to be in labour, but it was early labour and I need not hurry to the hospital.
How could I hurry to the hospital?!? This was the first time I was going to spend a night away from my daughter. I wanted to put her to sleep, so she wouldn’t know I was gone. But the contractions escalated quickly and by about 9 PM, they had started coming every 15 minutes. My mom-in-law noticed my state and insisted that leave for the hospital. We were reluctant, but quickly got on our feet and were on our way!
We bid a difficult goodbye to our daughter and left for the hospital at about 10 PM. But the difficult part had just begun. My contractions were so painful that even the journey to the hospital was really tough. We reached the hospital around 10:45 PM and started the formalities of settling into our room.
By now I was juggling between sensations of peeing, passing motions, contractions and was unable to stand, sit or move. This was happening all at once!
My doctor reached quickly and did an internal check. He said that I was just 2 cms dilated.
The pain amplified and the contractions were 5 minutes apart and soon there was no gap between the contractions. It was constant pain and discomfort.
I started moaning in pain. And my god sent, angel husband massaged my back continuously. I was in so much pain and discomfort that I was unable to assume a proper position. Standing, sitting, lying down; everything was uncomfortable. And my husband continued to massage my back non-stop.
The doc by now had started preparing the tub for the water birth and there I was, howling in pain and my doc asked me to stop shouting and conserve my energy.
Another doc came in to check the baby’s heart beat and do an internal check and exclaimed, “The head is still up!” This was my breaking point, I didn’t know how long I could handle the tormenting pain.
I later on did share with my gynaec how these statements can affect someone in labour and need not be necessarily communicated to the person in pain.
I felt an urgent sensation to pee, so I went to the loo. From there on I refused to get out. By now, my doula had arrived. She asked me to come out, but I refused. I was feeling like pushing by now and did pass motions but my doula said that it was too early to exert so much pressure and that pushing too early could cause membrane tears.
I really, really wanted to push now! But she insisted that I come out. I did come out and sat on the birth ball. She massaged my back to relax me, but I ran back in, the urge to push/poop was coming on strong.
I was immensely dehydrated in the process and needed some juice, but I refused to let go of my husband. Labour pains can really make you lose your better judgement. With much difficulty my doula convinced me to let him go. She held on to my hands. Her energy was amazing. A divine sanction that relaxed me, I could surrender my pain to her as she patiently guided my breathing patterns.
This time my doctor came for a check up and he said it was time to get into the tub. My doula helped me change my clothes for the tub and I was still pushing now. I sipped some orange juice.
The doctor exclaimed that I better hurry up and get in the tub or else I might deliver on the bed. My husband and doula helped me walk up to the tub.
The water was relaxing because of its therapeutic nature and maybe because of the re-collective memory from the swimming sessions. Within minutes I pushed and the baby’s head was out. The doctor wasn’t even ready for such a quick delivery and started reaching out for his gloves.
“Seema, come on. One more push and you are done.” That was the best thing I heard all day! But surprisingly, I wasn’t really pushing. My body was responding to every call and with another push, the baby was out. It was 1 AM. I went from massive pain to zero pain.
My Heart In My Hands Yet Again
I am still dazed as I recollect the exact feeling of holding that baby in my hands. Our beautiful daughter made her way into this world!
We called her Rumi, a beautiful lady! And that’s exactly how she made me feel!
I breastfed her in the tub itself while the cord was still attached and we waited till the pulsations stopped and my husband gently cut the cord.
No induction, no vacuum, a natural tear, no episiotomy, nothing. Our natural birth was complete! My dream was fulfilled!
I didn’t much want to pay attention to the post delivery procedure, because my daughter stole my heart and captivated my mind!
I was made to come out of the tub and lie down on bed to deliver the placenta, which happened with ease. Then I was taken to the OT and administered Pitocin, as a bleeding precaution, and the minor tear was stitched up. All this happened while I continued to breastfeed my baby, I couldn’t stop looking at her and neither could my husband.
Soon we were brought to our room and my husband and I were left alone with this littlest new chapter in our lives, Rumi. We continued the journey of sleeping, waking, feeding, rocking, changing etc etc etc.
A thank you isn’t enough for all the people who helped me in this journey.
The Health Awareness Centre for instilling the belief in nature and its abundance.
My gynaec for letting me make my choices and making birth feel as non-medical as possible. My doula, Sanam Motwani, my bindass girl whom I could lean on in my highest state of discomfort.
Ruth Malik, my guiding star! Midwives Lina Duncan, Zoe Quinn, Alli Sullivan, Dr. Vijaya Krishnan who answered my questions whenever I was in doubt.
Yasmin – She said, “ Remember the word expansion.” A powerful statement that became an auto-suggestion during labor. She also told me that when in labor, I will have the energy of a tigress and that I will definitely achieve what I want. Such statements can do wonders.
My dear friends Raaga, Ritika, Mansi, Kanika who shared their positive birth stories and always stood by me with strength and inspired me to experience the most beautiful thing on earth for a woman, NATURAL BIRTH.