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!

 

 

 

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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.

keep-calm-and-trust-life-7

Pregnant in India

April 2011

I was really glad that I found a modern, private hospital with a good reputation in Almora. The clinic is run by a gynecologist and her husband, who is a pediatrician. The waiting room is always full, even the hall is crowded, which is partly because the women come in company of their husbands, children, sisters and mothers-in-law or even with all of them. Many are from remote villages and have to travel a long way for their checkups. As you have to take off your shoes before entering, you can approximately tell by the amount of sandals piled up, how many hours you will have to wait.

When it was finally my turn, I informed the doctor that my pregnancy test had turned out positive. She frowned and asked me skeptically:

“…and you want to have that baby?”

“Of course!” 

I replied, feeling a bit angry inside because I perceived some kind of prejudice towards a western woman getting pregnant in India.

I was lead to another room where I got an ultrasound scan to make sure that everything was fine. I guess the staff was not used to have men witnessing the procedure; they seemed pretty surprised when I wished to share that moment with my husband. The doctor confirmed that all looked okay and for the first time I saw the little peanut-shaped being that was growing inside of me on the screen. The thought that me and all of us looked just the same in the beginning of our big journey crossed my mind.

LIFE REALLY IS A MIRACLE !

The weeks passed and somehow I still couldn’t believe that I was pregnant. I didn’t feel any different physically and was eagerly waiting for any typical sensations or pregnancy-related symptoms people always talk about. But nothing of that ever happened. I never felt nauseous, did not have swollen feet, back aches or strange cravings. The only thing that I felt during a couple of weeks in the beginning of my pregnancy was that my breasts felt again the same as when they were starting to grow in puberty and in the last month I didn’t sleep really comfortably anymore. That was it, nothing really annoying. I was still me, with the difference that an immense sensation of happiness invaded me every time I thought about the baby. I was going to be a Mum! I admit that sometimes the latter thought scared me a bit. Again a new chapter of my life would open, with new challenges and responsibilities.

But I trust in life; life knows better, come what may!

In India, same like in Europe, women usually wait until past the third month to announce their pregnancy openly. But while western women may wear nice pregnancy clothes showing proudly their growing baby bellies and celebrate welcome-baby-parties, in India women keep it hidden as well as possible to protect mother and child from bad energies and of course from the evil eye of jealous people. Actually one might think that there are no pregnant ladies on Indian streets, but the truth is that under a saree the tummy is barely visible and you have to be in the right angle to be able to tell.

When the news spread that we were expecting a baby, each and every village woman would stop me to give me some advice. Mostly they reminded me that I should cover my belly better or told me how much to walk, what to eat and what to avoid. One advice was to drink only warm water, as cold water would make the baby feel cold. I know they meant well, but it was becoming pretty annoying and I got really good in smiling while imagining that I was invisible and all the blabla was just passing right through me.

Once I went to town to buy some basic baby clothes, as I did not have anything. The saleslady asked me how old the baby was and when I told her that it was not born yet, she was shocked and refused to sell my anything, because it would bring bad luck. “You buy something when baby is born!” She said. Great, so my baby would have to stay naked until someone with some clothes would show up? I just went to another shop and asked for clothes for a newborn.

I never had any pregnant woman I felt close to near me. None of my friends had children and when my sister was pregnant I was already living in another country and so I lived her experiences only from a far distance. Internet turned into my most consulted adviser. For my gynecologist my questions and the information I gathered were pretty irritating. My experience here with doctors generally is that they don’t like it very much if they are asked questions or the cause or even the name of a disease. They are used to village people who barely ask why, but just swallow the medicines prescribed.

My belly was growing well, but in my opinion it was not really big. We don’t have large mirrors at home and I mostly saw my belly from above. When I look at the photos now, I have to say:

MAN, I WAS HUGE !!!!

Time had come to start dedicating some serious thoughts to where and how the child would be born.