A Mother is Born

Posted by Channel 6
June 12, 2012
Successful Team Work

Dawn’s early light creeps in through the windows. I glance up from the bathtub and welcome the morning. A few hours later, I am having a conversation about the traditions of the Amish in Northern America. Occasionally, I sip cool litchi juice, and someone leans over to give me a back massage.
No, this is not the recounting of a five-star spa experience. My surroundings are fairly humble and the five people surrounding me have been there about eight hours now, with more to come. The time in the tub and the friendly chats are regularly interrupted by contractions. Each time, I squeeze the hands of those nearest and breathe through the rush. When it passes, I pick up the conversation, or take little naps. When so instructed, I sit in water, on a large ball, or on a birthing stool. Or experiment with a variety of positions that harness gravity, along with all the potential of the human body. This is labour, au naturel.
Why choose to undergo childbirth without medication, you may ask. That was my reaction as well, initially. Scheduling a Caesarean section seemed the practical thing to do: set a date that suits everyone; do it pain-free. Come pregnancy, however, those views began to change.
As first-timers we explored the options, visiting well-known hospitals, speaking to those who had recently given birth, gathering information as we went. What we learnt was troubling. Parents routinely waited long hours to see their gynaecologists, despite having made appointments in advance. When they got to the doctor, it seemed as though she wasn’t really listening. Information, when it came their way, could be alarming. “Your baby’s umbilical cord is wrapped around its neck!” or “Your baby is drinking amniotic fluid!”
Our exploratory hospital visits were not encouraging; while their birthing suites were alluring, their statistics were not. They talked about “pain-free” birth, but were less than forthcoming about the possible effects of medication on mother and child.
Then we chanced upon Healthy Mother, one of India’s few natural birthing centres. A friend had given birth there and raved about it. Our parents were sceptical, as was the extended family, which has its share of gynaecologists. “What, my child, are you going to give birth in a bucket of water?” my great-aunt exclaimed. But her eyes were twinkling. She came around over time, and so did everyone else.
They saw how our visits to Healthy Mother strengthened our conviction. We felt cared for by a team that saw us on time, nurtured my pregnancy based on our needs (and the baby’s), and did not rush us through medical check-ups. One of the highlights was the opportunity to take their six-week Lamaze course. The anxious couples in this class soon turned confident with knowledge about the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care. Our family learnt (through our enthusiastic after-class phone calls and e-mail summaries), about much more than stereotyped breathing techniques; their knowledge increased their confidence too.
And was the natural birth full of pain? Yes, there was pain. But there was so much else: freedom of movement, a sense of control and a deep recognition of what the human body is capable of. Above all, the sheer joy of being fully present when a group of women, whom you now consider friends, along with your stalwart husband, all work with you to bring a miracle into this world. At 6.20 pm on a sunny summer day, a mother was born.
— Suchitra Shenoy

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