Maternity impressions from the Himalayas

January 2012

After living for some years in India – at least the way I do – the little everyday’s challenges become eventually part of your routine; it is like having to get used to live with some kind of entity you have to deal with – weather you like it or not. Mainly it is all about stopping to complain and accept the things which you cannot change anyway.

However it looks pretty different once you have to go through all these situations with a little baby, especially if you are an extremely unorganized person as I am. Imagine this situation: The baby wakes up crying in the middle of a pitch black night during the chilly Himalayan winter.  According to the smell, the situation quickly becomes clear:

She has to be changed IMMEDIATELY!

The “surprise” is evidently oozing from all possible sides and for some reason the flashlight is not where it is supposed to be, so I try to find the light switch while stumbling over all kind of items which are lying on the floor.  In India most of the activities take place on the floor and I had completely forgotten to pick up several baby items, probably because I was too tired for that and had left it for later.

The baby cries harder, Mum gets more nervous and is shaking from the coldness which fills the room, but finally manages to find the switch – just to realize that the power is gone!

Okay, then Plan B: Candles!

The next mission is to find candles and matches in the dark. Then, light the wood stove to bring some warmth in the room – I also do not have much of a talent for lighting fire; if I was a sadhu, I would probably starve or freeze to death due to my poor fire skills.

Lighting

Have you ever tried to change a cloth diaper under candle light? I can tell you that it is no fun at all with a struggling baby and a flickering, dim light. Of course, there is no warm water available either, as the boiler is electric, too.  Anyways, somehow I manage to handle the situation and just when I finish changing the bed sheets and open the door to transport them out of the room, a miracle occurs: The electricity is back!

An organized person would probably store an emergency box for those cases near the bed. For some reason I never managed to do that. Due to all this action, the baby is of course wide awake and giggling happily – Mum wants to cry, but smiles at the short night and the long day which lies ahead.

In my opion in the West we have many silly complements and gadgets for children nobody actually really needs; but not having them might show that you are not a good parent, so the house is full of stuff you’ll probably never use. But I have to say that unless you are an Indian goddess with at least six arms, some of them are very, very useful! Many times I wished I had one of those baby seats where baby can sit, watch and play, while mom does something useful in the house with both of her hands.

Having a Baby in India also made me realize further cultural differences, of which I was completely unaware up to then.  The village ladies were shocked when they saw me going for a walk with a three week old baby.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy to walk around outside with such a small child? It is gonna get a fever!”

Winter during daytime here is actually really pleasant and I was also lucky to have some good baby clothes which my family kindly had sent me from Germany. By the way: Back there, we have a saying which goes “There is nothing such as bad weather, there are only bad clothes”

And I even heard that people in Scandinavian counties put their babies to sleep outdoors during winter when temperatures are below zero, because it is considered to be good for baby’s health. Well, different countries, other ways. In India, the baby should not leave the house during at least the first few months of her life.

Something's watching...

I was also criticized because I did not paint the baby’s eyes black with kajal. They say that this looks cute and is good for the child as well. …looks cute?!? I don’t know, maybe it is a matter of taste. I can’t help it, but whenever I see an Indian baby with this typical make-up which is supposed to keep the “evil eye” away, it reminds me of a sad panda bear. And if it was indeed good for health, then why are there posters in the pediatrician’s waiting room asking the parents to please not turn their children into sad panda bears?

But I also had plenty of great advices from the village ladies. From time to time they would visit us in our house, normally exactly then when I was taking a well deserved afternoon nap. Then they would watch how I breastfed my child giving me all kind of tips. A really nice one was: “You have to drink a lot of milk! More milk you drink the more milk the baby gets!” 

When the babies get a little older, then people have the habit to stop you on the street and greet the little one on mommy’s arm by gently slapping the babies face or pinching the cheeks – baby usually does not like that very much.

Twice a month or so the governmental nurses come to the governmental school, which lies just in front of our house to do routine check ups and provide vaccination for the local kids of several ages. I think that the method for weight control is really funny: They hang the kids into some kind of cloth and then hook the bundle onto a butcher’s scale. Sometimes they would make the kids swing in it and they really love it! I always wondered though, why most of the local ladies who brought their children there were always carrying some kind of leafy stick in their hand. I first thought that they did so because of some superstition, like the evil eye. Later I found out that the plant is actually a stinging nettle, used to threaten or punish the children in case of misbehavior. I have touched those nettles accidentally and my skin burned for several hours! Not nice!

From the Western side I had to hear many times that we were spoiling our child too much, because we let her sleep with us in the same bed. I had the thought that maybe Western kids are actually more spoiled because they usually not only have their very own bed, but even their very own room! But seriously, what better than having your baby sleeping next to you? If you breastfeed, you just turn around and plug it directly onto the source and that’s it – no need to really wake or stand up, wander to another room, take the baby out of bed, etc…

And it also makes my favorite part of the day happen:

Opening my eyes in the morning to see first of all this beautiful, innocent, little person, who somehow managed to make her way into this crazy world right next to me….

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A place where cats eat dogs

Image

Yes, I know. The photo to this post is a bit tough. Sorry about that… just try to focus on the beautiful Himalayan Magpies feasting over the dead body…

The victim’s name was Shankar and he was our second dog, which ended up as a leopard meal. None of our dogs got actually older than 18 months.

When I first came here, I had no idea about the existence of those big cats in the area. I first knew about them, when one of the two friendly dogs that visited us regularly in the guesthouse, didn’t show up anymore. When I asked the owner about the dog, he shrugged his shoulders and just said

“Oh, this…. leopard taking!” and then smiled.

Wait a minute… WHAAAAT? LEOPARDS?

I assailed him with questions and he smilingly assured me, that leopards only attack at night, from time to time they kill dogs, a goat or a young cow and NEVER eat people. Ok, this was good to know.

The guesthouse had a nice big garden bordering to a slope that lead down to the forest. Its inviting fireplace was just waiting for a bonfire party. Together with the other guesthouse residents we decided to get things started. On this mellow summer evening, everyone would cook something different to create a little international buffet.

We were sitting happily around the fire enjoying delicious food creations. Someone was playing the guitar and the atmosphere was pretty idyllic, when I suddenly heard a strange noise.

“Guys, what’s this sound? Who is sawing wood in the middle of the night?”

The music stopped. Everybody paused for a moment to listen. Then out of sudden the dog started barking like crazy and raced straight into the kitchen to hide under a shelf behind the door. No need for words, just a couple of looks and everybody understood: “LEOPAAAARD!” All of us jumped up and dashed also to the kitchen, which was the nearest shelter.

There we were; 8 people and a shaking dog, cramped into a tiny space, listening so hard to the sound of the leopard that we could hear our own breaths.

About 30 minutes passed until we finally declared the party as over. Everybody felt uneasy and ready to go back to his room. The sound was still somewhere out there. Our room was on the upper floor, the only way to go there was crossing the big garden, passing the slope. Great! All of us upper floor guests went up as fast as possible, followed by the dog, who had decided to spend the night in our room.

Lying in my bed, I felt as if I had drunk at least one liter of black espresso coffee. My eyes were wide open and I just couldn’t stop listening to the leopard sounds that were moving from one side of the slope to the other, while the dog was trembling under our bed, whining from time to time.

indian-leopard

And there was something more that kept me from falling asleep: I had to pee really badly! Maybe at this point I have to explain that many of the guesthouses here have a shared outdoor bathroom, which in our case lay on the other side of the pretty long porch. Not even in my dreams I would have left the room in this situation! I will tell you something pretty embarrassing: I came to a point when I almost cried, because things were getting really painful… as an emergency solution I emptied the waste bin and peed in there. I guess most of you would have done the same. Well, if you’re a guy, you might have used an empty plastic bottle or something like that.

We lived in this guesthouse for almost a year while our own house was under construction. A couple of months after the bonfire party there was an incredible uproar coming from a gang of monkeys that had occupied our roof. I was busy cooking lunch, but I stepped out to see what was going on outside. There I stood, like numbed, with a wooden spoon in one hand and my mouth wide open; I couldn’t believe my eyes: A huge leopard was sprinting down the hill at about only 30 meters away from me! He was amazingly beautiful! And he was also tremendous! I always thought that they were about the size of a big dog, but what I saw outmatched all of my imagination! That meant that the theory that leopards only come out at night, was proved to be nothing but rubbish!

My latest leopard story dates to about one week ago. This is a village area and from time to time stories come up about leopards attacking women while working in the fields down in some valley or while cutting greens from trees for their goats. Last week a woman got killed at 3 km distance from our place. Apparently she was mentally challenged and went out to the fields by herself in the middle of the night. According to the sayings of some locals, what was left of her looked more or less like the mortal remains of our poor Shankar.

Babaji, once met the forest ranger, who explained to him that there are about 20 specimens roaming through this area. This is not a small number! Anyway, I think that one has to be very, very unlucky to end up as a leopard’s dish. Most of the locals who lived here for life never even saw one.

One thing I admit is that I like to be accompanied by a dog when I go out. Don’t get me wrong, I really love dogs, but still it comforts me to believe that the leopard will prefer the animal to a chewy human.

A nameless child & more cow pee

October 2011

While in the West parents already know which name their child will have while it is still nestled in mommy’s womb, in India babies are born nameless and it is considered very inauspicious to even think about how it will be called. It was a bit strange for me to cuddle this little no-name person I loved so much and to call her just “baby” or “little one”.

The name giving ceremony, called Namkaran (Nam = name, karan = to make), usually takes place eleven days after the baby’s birth. It also marks the day of the end of mother and child being impure, after the ceremony, of course. A pandit (priest) is called to perform a sacred ritual; he purifies mother and child and then suggests auspicious names according to the date and time of birth. Hindus believe in the power of sounds and to each person’s birth chart there are corresponding syllables. This auspicious sound shall accompany the name bearer throughout his journey of life and attract good luck.

The proud Baba-Papa was really busy for some days: he had to build a terrace so the guests could sit comfortably in our garden, to find fire wood for the cooking and organize the village catering company; which consists of a bunch of villagers who turned up in the morning of the Namkaran with their enormous pots and cooking spoons which look rather like weapons of war than kitchen tools.

According to the Indian sense of punctuality, the pandit arrived three hours late. Nobody seemed to really bother. Same as in other social ceremonies Indians did not really care that much about the happening itself. The first Indian marriages I attended for instance really surprised me: In our culture the wedding party attends the marriage ceremony keeping quiet and at least pretend to pay attention, forming part of the event in some way. Here, people come around from time to time, to take a peek at the ceremony, walk around, talk on their mobile phones or merrily chat with each other in loud voices. Maybe that is so, because Hindu ceremonies can last pretty long.

Outside it was a bit chilly and the ceremony took place on in our living room. The first thing the pandit did was to draw a square with some kind of white powder on the floor and instructed me to sit in the middle of it together with the baby. I was not allowed to step out of the mark until the puja would be over, otherwise I would contaminate the surroundings.

Then he drew a yantra with sandalwood powder and curcuma and placed a lump of cow dung besmeared with ghee in its center. There were also severel other items, like a coconut, oil lamps and a lot of incense, but to my amusement the piece of cow dung enjoyed most of the attention throughout the ceremony. I had to pull myself together not to grin as I pictured a cow pie being worshiped during a baptism in a Christian church. After I found out that a pile of cow dung might represent the obstacle removing elephant god Ganesh, in case there is no appropriate image of him available.

Another thing that made me smile was that the pandit had told Baba to cover his had and in his hurry, Baba took the first thing he found, which was a green hat in Tyrolean style.

INDIA INDEED IS DIFFERENT!

The ceremony lasted about two hours and I observed with devotion and concentration the pandit’s movements backed with beautiful sacred chants. Everything was really mystic and nice; the only thing that irritated me was that from time to time we were sprinkled with a liquid, which I correctly guessed was of course: COW PEE.

Then the pandid handed me a glass and grinned “Drink! Medicine!”

My worst guess turned out to be true, as I could tell by its smell:

IT WAS COW PISS DILUTED WITH MILK!

But I am really proud to say that I managed to do it!

I DRANK IT!

And not only once, I had to drink two times five sips of this special cocktail! My mind came up with some useful information to get over it: Most of the ayurvedic medicines contain cow urine and even in the West many beauty creams have a component called urea, which is actually nothing else than uric acid.After my purification I had to sit in our room where the guests would visit me and the Baby to congratulate. They offered presents or pressed some money into her little fists. To bless her everybody applied a red tikka on her forehead and after only half an hour my little girl looked like postmarked all over her tiny face.

It had been a long, tiring, but happy day for all three of us which eventually ended without having chosen any name for her. The pandit had suggested five names. Four of them absolutely not pronounceable for the European part of the family and the fifth one very old fashioned. But the pandithad told us to take our time and not to worry. Any name starting with the sounds NI, NA or YU (by the way which names start with” YU”?!?) would be fine.

After another couple of days we found it and so she was named her “NITYA” – which means “ETERNAL

Sprinkle, sprinkle, little star…

The next morning after our daughter was born I found myself in the kitchen making coffee. Actually I was full of energy and felt great. Our neighbour already had heard about the good news and stepped in for a visit.  When he saw me in the kitchen, his eyes became big like saucers.

 “What are you doing in the kitchen?!?”

he asked. With the coffee maker in my hand I answered with a grin

“Coffee!?!”

He asked me for a small plastic jug and said that he would be back in a minute, dashing out of the door. Indeed, he came back pretty quickly and immediately started to sprinkle a liquid from the jug with the help of a leafy twig not only over me and my coffee, but also all over the place.

“What is it?”

I wanted to know

“Cow urine. Purifying!”

he said.

He also told me that from now on I was not to enter the kitchen and that I had to stay in my room for the next ten days.

Right, I forgot!

Women after giving birth or while they are having their period are considered impure in India, and so is everything they touch. I assumed that it was not a very good idea to ask him if he wanted a cup of coffee…

I shook my head and once more was amazed about the cultural differences: A perfect and beautiful little being just came into life through my body and I was impure, but cow piss was not?!?

cow2

I think that actually in case of confinement after birth the true reason behind it is to give the woman a real rest from all the hard work in an Indian household, to take care of her changing body and to get to know the newborn. Maybe one day women told men something about impurity so they would understand and respect that very womanly matter, I don’t know. Birth and its details are exclusively considered a ladies’ issue here, so people were pretty shocked when they learned that Baba was not only present during birth, but in fact received the baby with his own hands.

Menstruation, of course, is also a big mystery to most common Indian men, just to tell you that once I went to buy diapers and the shop keeper gave me sanitary pads! During these days of the month women are also not allowed to step into the kitchen and are supposed to keep a physical distance to others. On the last day she has to undergo a purification ceremony and wash her hair. In this case, too, I personally think that in the beginning women had the need to be with themselves to connect to their strong meditative energies that are part of the menstrual cycle. Somehow knowledge got lost, forgotten and manipulated and therefore at some point turned “impure”.  Maybe because men were scared of the unknown and the energies involved. But, even if it seems so, in the West it is not much better: Menstruation is considered nothing but an annoying monthly phenomenon. But the sacredness, wisdom and deepness behind it has mostly been forgotten.

Anyways, it might be nice for the new mother to get a total rest and in Indian families there are usually several females living in the same household or at least present after a child was born. They are allowed to step into the “polluted” room where mother and baby are resting and are there for all their needs.

Well, Baba and I were alone. Was I supposed to die of thirst if I needed a glass of water when Baba was not in the house, because I couldn’t step into the kitchen?!?  We managed it our own way and the house would be sprinkled anyways again and again with cow piss if visitors would come by; and like that it would be purified again! Problem solved!

Caminando por las huellas de John Lennon

Julio 2007

…me encantó Rishikesh y estaba encantada con mi Baba!

A ratos todo me parecía absolutamente surrealista, aún estaba pensando mucho en el trabajo.

Mientras que estaba sentada en las orillas del ganges, bañando mis pies en su agua sagrada, rodeada por alegres mariposas amarillas, me acordé de que en este preciso instante estaría sentada en mi oficina gris de Barcelona y que tocaría redactar el informe semanal. Con una sonrisa satisfecha borré esa imagen de mi mente observando como las suaves olas acariciaban los dedos de mis pies. Suspiré profundamente sintiendo una profunda gratitud por finalmente haber sido capaz de dejar ese trabajo que me tenía atrapada durante tantos años y que en realidad nunca me gustó.

Beatlesashram

Un día, Baba y yo estábamos sentados en el Last Chance Café a solas cuando de repente me preguntó:

“Ek puppy milega?”

Esto lo hacía mucho; hablarme en hindi y claro que yo no entendí ni papa. Pero ya había aprendido que “ek” significa uno y “milega”  posible. Estaba confundida…

¿Qué quería qué?

“Puppy” quiere decir cachorro en inglés; no tenía sentido, así que le pregunté:

“Puppy? Que quieres decir? Un perrito?!?”

Se rió y dijo:

“No perrito! Besoooo!”

…Bueno, supongo que esto fue cuando nos convertimos en pareja…


Era la época del monzón y no había muchos turistas. Descubrí lugares hermosos, pero la mayoría del tiempo simplemente no hacíamos nada y disfrutábamos de nuestro tiempo en la guesthouse, dónde ya formábamos parte de la familia del Last Chance Café.

Mi sitio favorito era y todavía es el Ashram de los Beatles. Se llama así porque el famoso grupo musical vino aquí en 1968 para abrirse a la meditación trascendental siguiendo las instrucciones del Gurú Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Cabañas de meditación

Parece que el recinto fue un pequeño pueblo autónomo en sus días de gloria. Tenía su propio banco y oficina de correos. Ahora solo quedan ruinas invadidas por la naturaleza, pero es pura magia pasear por este sitio en medio de la selva, dónde lianas e inmensas buganvillas se han apoderado de los viejos edificios. Es fácil imaginarse que aspecto debería haber tenido entonces, en los viejos tiempos hippies. ¡Parece de locos que John Lennon y Paul Mc Cartney estuvieron paseando por estos mismos senderos!

Los residentes de Rishikesh también lo llaman Chaurasi (84) Kutir (cabaña), ya que hay 84 cabañas individuales de meditación con un interesante diseño redondo dentro del ashram. También hay grandes edificios con  numerosas habitaciones dónde se alojaban los devotos y una gran sala de meditación cuyos muros lucen muy buenas obras de arte creados por gente de todo el mundo que pasa por allí, así que ahora se conoce como  “The Beatles Cathedral Art Gallery”.

Beatles Ashram Art GalleryLamentablemente todos los edificios han sido saqueados después del abandono del ashram. La gente se llevó todo que se podía vender o usar para la construcción: Barras de hierro, azulejos y hasta los asientos de váter. Pero en algunas habitaciones aún encontré pequeños tesoros en forma de viejas revistas y panfletos sobre retiros de yoga publicados en los años 70.

El espacio subterráneo de meditación es un lugar un poco escalofriante: Consiste en un estrecho y larguísimo túnel oscuro que da por ambos lados a un gran número de pequeñas cuevitas redondas de meditación. Murciélagos, ratas y serpientes lo han hecho su hogar y es realmente espantoso atravesar el túnel con nada más que una linterna. No me extraña que los sadhus cuenten tantas historias sobre fantasmas y espíritus que aparentemente residen dentro del Beatles Ashram.

Beatles Ashram RooftopLas azoteas de los grandes edificios son maravillosas, ya que ofrecen unas vistas espectaculares sobre el Ganges, especialmente durante las puestas del sol. Los mosaicos que cubren el suelo me recuerdan mucho a las obras de Antoni Gaudí. A través de una escalera uno puede penetrar dentro de los gigantescos depósitos de agua en forma de huevo, que son especialmente populares entre músicos y yoguis, porque la acústica y el ambiente dentro de esos huevos son fantásticos para tocar música o meditar.

Una vez queríamos pasar una noche romántica en uno de los huevos. ¡Era un desastre! Demasiado polvo e insectos, mezclados con los sonidos salvajes de la jungla, no me dejaron pegar ni ojo en toda la noche. Los residentes dicen que leopardos, tigres, elefantes y otras criaturas salvajes deambulan por allí y Baba dice que una vez vio una cobra de cinco cabezas!

¡Por suerte yo nunca tuve un encuentro de este tipo!

La única cosa que ví allí eran inofensivos pavos reales y gigantes pilas de excrementos, que me confirmaron la existencia de elefantes en el aérea.

Ahora el Beatles Ashram pertenece al gobierno. Antes había un vigilante del departamento forestal, que vivía en el viejo edificio de recepción y cuyo deber era no dejar pasar a nadie por razones de seguridad. Pero por un poco de baksheesh (soborno) te dejaba pasar. Por un poquito más de baksheesh incluso daba permiso para celebrar fiestas y jam sessions y por si no querías entrar en el juego de sobornos, otra alternativa era colarse por la parte de atrás.

No sé muy bien porqué y cómo, pero ahora el vigilante fue reemplazado por un sadhu que se llama Langra Baba (Baba Cojo). No tengo ni idea de que ocurrió y admito que desde hace mucho tiempo ya no intento averiguar razones lógicas en este país. Por un lado porque no suelo entender la mayoría de explicaciones que se me dan de todas formas, porque no tienen sentido y por el otro, porque a veces las cosas en la India simplemente SON y punto.


“EL TIEMPO QUE DISFRUTAS PERDIENDO NO ES TIEMPO PERDIDO!”

 – JOHN LENNON

beatles-at-rishikesh

A Himalayan Home Birth

October 2011

My due date was approaching. I tried to keep calm and to put aside all the expectations about my baby’s birth. I meditated as often as possible (which I admit was actually not too often, as I am one of these persons that finds a hundred excuses before eventually sitting down). Inside of myself was the only place I truly could find and feel peace.

One day suddenly something very revealing happened to me:

I JUST KNEW!

I knew that since always an ancient knowledge was dwelling inside of me: The knowledge of all the women who gave birth before me; ancestral women connected with nature, and above all connected to their own spirit. Women all over the world have experienced birth since the existence of mankind. I suddenly had the absolute certainty that I had given birth in thousands of previous incarnations, that my body and soul knew exactly what they had to do and that there was absolutely no need to worry about anything.

To some, this might sound a bit New Age, but well, this is what happened. After that I felt free and completely fearless, as if a huge burden had been taken off my shoulders. It was simply amazing!

embarazo

Sure, something might go wrong during birth. But only might, not will!

Unfortunately nowadays pregnancy and delivery are being treated like some kind of disease. It is not! Much of what we hear and the precautions we ought to take disconnect us from ourselves if we don’t take care. So, we mostly approach pregnancy and birth rather with fear than with joy and confidence.

Just think about all the movies where women are lying on a bed, sweating and screaming from the tops of their lungs during labour, while someone shouts at them “Push, puuuuush!”.

It does not have to be like that. If the checkups turn out fine, the mother is healthy and the baby is in the right position, there is not much to worry about. It is the most amazing thing a woman can go through, however the experience might be. Nobody can ever take it away from you, as only you really know what it feels like, because every pregnancy and delivery is unique.

My doctor had calculated the expected date of delivery for 4th November; I thought that it would be rather cool if the baby would come on 01.11.2011. But the baby did not agree with me. On the morning of 29th October I had sometimes pulling sensations in my abdomen. On my multiple internet researches I had read that some days before labour the body starts to prepare itself and it described this kind of sensation. That was probably it.

How are you supposed to know how something feels like if you never felt it before?

The sensation came and went from time to time all day long, but I didn’t pay too much attention to it. However, I realized that in a few days the baby would be born. In the evening, the intervals were every time shorter and I thought that maybe tomorrow or the day after I would be a Mum.

That day the alcoholic midwife’s husband had come to visit and we were sitting in front of the TV watching one of those stupid Bollywood movies, that doesn’t make much sense.

Well, by the evening, those light contractions were getting every time shorter and I started to suspect that the baby was on its way.

The day I met the midwife she had talked a lot about the importance of an enema, which seemed to be an indispensable item she needed to assist me and that I had to buy together with all the injections and painkillers she had written down for me. I never had an enema administrated before and the thought of it made me shiver. I even had nightmares! Maybe this is why I suddenly had constantly the feeling that I had to go urgently to the toilet. So I was going in and out of the toilet without any success, while the men were sitting in front of the TV screen absorbed in the movie.

“Excuse me!” I said during one of my toilet walks

“Maybe it would be time to go and get your wife?”

So the midwife’s husband jumped on his motorbike to fetch his wife. I asked Baba to bring a bucket into the room, just in case. I really wanted to stop going to the bathroom: I didn’t want to have to tell my child some day something like

“Well, my child, you were born into an Indian squat Toilet…”

As soon as the guy left, the sensations became more intense. I call them sensations, because it was not really painful. I imagined them to become stronger and less bearable, but they didn’t. I had other type of cramps due to a bad stomach in other occasions that were much worse than what I was feeling at that moment.

Then, suddenly my body took over and did it all alone without my interference. I did not do anything by my own will, my body knew better, and so I followed its instructions and let everything happen. Mentally I was in some kind of lucid trance, which is difficult to describe.

I went to our bedroom. Baba kind of seemed not to know very well what to do and how to help me, as I told him to just let me be. Thus he went on watching TV observing me from the corner of his eyes. Suddenly I shouted at him

“Turn the stupid TV off and come here!”

I didn’t want to welcome the child with some hysterically screaming women and fighting Bollywood heroes in the background.

My body had adopted a half squatting position and I just had time to tell Baba that I thought that I could feel the head and a moment later he held the baby in his hands! Only about ten minutes had passed since my body had taken over control.

What better start into life could there possibly be than being caught by the hands of your own loving father?

Baba and baby

We sat on a blanket on the floor leaning against the cupboard holding our little daughter in our arms. There we sat, in silence, amazed, incredibly happy and were unable to take our eyes away from this perfect little creature that had just emerged from my body. She was not too small like the doctor had predicted and all was in its place. Everything was in perfect harmony!

One thing I could not exactly find out on google was where to cut the umbilical cord, but I had read that it was actually good to not do so straight away and that some people even kept the placenta in a pot carrying it around with the baby until the cord fell off by itself. Thus, I was not worried about that.

Some minutes later the midwife dashed into the house, sober and SHOCKED! An endless stream of words bubbled out of her mouth:

“Oh my god! What are you doing, why are you sitting, you have to lie down, what happened, you people, blablabla…”

Man, what was her problem? I looked at her blankly and shrugged, thinking that it was my good luck that she hadn’t come in time. She would most probably have driven me crazy! All was the way it should be, at least for us! She explained Baba how to put the threads around the cord and where to cut it and then she checked on me. That was it, her job was done.

After that I took a hip bath in hot water with brandy. I even had a small sip of the brandy as recommended by the nurse and I have to say that it really felt good. I didn’t feel tired or anything, but was more in a party mood instead. There I sat in my blue plastic tub filled with brandy-water, with a glass in my hand observing how she cleaned and dressed the little girl. After the men had each a glass of brandy and she drank the rest of the bottle.

Bringing a child into this world was the most enriching and overwhelming experience I have ever had. If I was able to do this, I was able to do whatever I wished in this world. It made me feel sort of almighty and immensely proud of myself.

Comment

I think I have not mentioned that some years ago I had to undergo a cervix operation. They had to cut out a pretty big piece. It was the beginning of a cancer caused by the HPV virus. I defeated the virus and the following routine checkups turned out fine, but I have been told that I might not be able to have children and that getting pregnant or carrying out a child would be very problematic. I just wanted to share this information to let women, who might be affected by the same problem know, that they don’t necessarily have to despair.

LOVE TO ALL!

 

 

 

The greedy doctor, the village midwife and the nurse

October 2011

There are many curious things for a Westerner in Indian culture, and pregnancy is not an exception. For instance, a pregnant woman shall not visit a temple after the 6th month of pregnancy. I am still not sure why, but I read on the internet that it is just in case she might go into labour there. She should also not witness any eclipse, enter an empty house or cross a bridge at night. It is said that they are more vulnerable to attacks of evil spirits and negative energies, which of course are not beneficial for the mother and her unborn child.

 

It is also strange for us that the Indian law prohibits doctors to reveal the gender of the baby. Sadly daughters are usually not as welcome as sons. But with some baksheesh the doctor might hand you a pink or blue envelope containing a prescription, telling without saying a word. Baba and I of course didn’t care at all if we would have a boy or a girl, but still I was really curious and tried hard to find out by myself observing intensively the screen during ultrasound scans, but, of course, without any success. The village ladies kept on telling me with a big smile that I was carrying a baby boy, probably thinking that hearing that would make me happy.

I still had not made up my mind about the delivery. I found out that a really fantastic lady called Parvati from the village, who I already knew since some time, actually was a midwife. When I first met her, I liked her straight away. She has those vivid and at the same time loving eyes and even if we had some communication problems, because my Hindi was not an awful lot better than her English, we laughed a lot together and I felt a nice connection. She has helped to bring about a hundred babies to the world. I asked her if she wanted to assist me having the baby at home and she was more than happy to do so. From time to time she came to our house to touch my belly, smiled and said:

“Sub tikhe (all is well)!”

I loved the idea of having her with me when the baby would be born.

But then… my ignorant mind came into play and bombarded me with all those what-if-questions.

More I read on the Internet, more insecure I became. I was not one of those twenty year old Indian girls who might just pop out a child. What if there were complications or if I needed medical help?

Then, one day, I went to a routine checkup to the doctors where she told me that my baby was too small, that probably a cesarean would be necessary and that we needed to induce labour as soon as possible. My due date was on November 4 and there where still a bit more than two weeks to go. I was in shock! I had considered before having the baby in that private hospital. It was clean and modern, but expensive and loveless. We were approaching Divali, which is one of the most important festivals of the year in India, comparable to Christmas in the West. The doctor looked at me stony-faced and asked:

“So, would you like to deliver the child before or after Divali? As you understand, me, like everybody else, I want to celebrate the festival with my family” as if talking about an item I would receive by UPS.

I still couldn’t believe my ears and just reacted hearing me say

“Before Divali”

“Okay, we’ll show you your room and expect you here on 24th October. You can call me anytime”

Back home I calmed down and could think clearly again. Wait a minute… if the baby was too small, why would I need a cesarean? I felt great, the baby was in the correct position and moving like always. Maybe this woman just wanted to get some extra money from a naive foreigner? And a cesarean would save her time and in addition bring her a bit of extra money. Did I really want to spend the holidays in that hospital room while outside in the city all the fireworks were exploding? I listened to my heart and it clearly said that the baby was simply not wishing to be born yet and that it would decide by itself when to come to this world. Baba shared my opinion:

“This is bullshit! Hospital not good!”

A couple of days after I tried to call the hospital to inform them, that I had changed my mind, but nobody picked up. The doctor’s cellphone was switched off. Really comforting!

SO NOW WHAT ?!?

There was a third option: The Indian wife of a German guy I knew was a retired trained nurse and midwife. For a bit of money she would assist and make me a list with all the medicines and things I would have to buy, just in case. This sounded to me like a good compromise; the only inconvenience was that unfortunately she was an alcoholic.
So I had the sweet Indian midwife with ancient village knowledge, which would cost me a new saree, the money-grubbing gynecologist I would spend about 40.000 rupees (500 Euro) for and the alcoholic nurse which asked 5.000 rupees (60 Euro).

I guess that out of fear of the unknown, I opted for the middle way:

The alcoholic midwife,

praying and hoping that she would be sober when the baby would be ready to come to the world.

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