My wife Rita, 39 years old, delivered a healthy normal boy child weighing approximately 7 pounds on 23rd Feb, 2002. She delivered at
home, assisted by a midwife and friends, and there were no doctors in attendance, nor was any medical drugs used. This is the story of how this birth came to be.
At the age of 38, it was said that Rita would have difficulties in conceiving because of her age. Since an ultrasound revealed two large
fibroids (size xxx) in the uterus, further complications were feared. Many friends told us to go to a fertility expert who would advise us how to go about this complex process. Luckily none of this was required and Rita conceived without too much trouble. I guess we were lucky.
After conceiving we went to a gynaecologist and told her about natural delivery. Looking at Rita's age, and the fibroids, she told us that she was "high risk" and home birth or natural delivery was out of the question. Lot of bleeding and complications were foresawn. She began preparing us for a C-Section. However, contrary to all the warrnings, Rita had an absolutely normal pregnancy. No morning sickness, no nausea, no discomfort of ANY kind during the entire pregnancy. No cravings, no swollen feet, no aching back – nothing at all. No bleeding, no cramps, no aches, no pains. She was attending office until the ninth month – and then too she stopped because she wanted the office staff to learn to manage on their own without her. (She is the Finance Director of our Software company). So – in other words, an absolutely normal pregancy. I guess we were lucky.
After all the problems with the first gynaec, we shifted to the second one. This one asked us to do blood tests. Everything was normal, except the haemoglobin, at around 3 weeks, was xxx. This was said to be low. The gynacologists asked Rita if had heavy periods or bleeding. She said no. Then she said you must have worms, and prescribed a deworming medication. We said, why not do a faeces test for worms instead. But she said they were not reliable and asked us to take the medication anyway. We did not agree. We took a
stool test and it showed no problems. So we put away the worm medication. But there were no worm problems. I guess we were lucky.
Anyway, looking at the low haemoglobin levels, she told us to take iron supplements. We refused this too, since we said that we will take only natural foods. She started taking Rajgira (amaranth) Rotis (bread) and dates, spinach leaves and other vegan iron rich foods. Until the seven and a half months of pregnancy, her iron levels were still considered low at 9.8. We were beginning to worry, until we read an article that haemoglobin levels of 9.5 were optimum for pregancy, and the fall in the levels was actually a healthy sign, indicating increasing blood volume. So she took no iron supplements at all for the first eight months. And though there was some amount of bleeding during the delivery, Rita did not have any problems due to her haem levels. I guess we were lucky.
Then came up the issue of the Triple Marker test, which she was supposed to take because she was a high risk for Down’s syndrome. I read up on the net that the test was not very highly reliable and it threw up false positives. If anything came up, it required an amniocentesis, which we were against. And finally the option was to terminate the pregancy. This was also not acceptable to us. So what was the point of taking the test. We refusted. The gyneacologist got more upset. But finally the baby was normal. I guess we were lucky.
The next issue was calcium. Since we are vegans, we don't drink milk. So we were asked to take calcium supplements. We refused again, at the end, there were no problems neither for Rita nor the baby. Nails, bones, all OK. Lucky again, I guess
After so many clashes, this gynaecologist also showed us the door, so we were without any doctor for a couple of months. Rita was active all the time, walking, doing gentle yoga, attending office - no problems at all. We did a couple of ultrsounds and it showed everything fine. We resisted all internal exams except twice in the ninth month.. I guess we were lucky again.
Finally we got the last gynaec, who was more open to us, though he too was a bit nervous about the iron. Finally in the eighth month, she took one tablet of organic ferric gluconate for seven days, and increased the quantity of steamed amaranth leaves. Within a month, her haemoglobin levels increased to 11.1 (we have the reports). The gynaec was happy. We too were happy because she took one tablet for seven days rather than three tablets a day for seven or eight months. I guess we were lucky.
We told this gynaec that we did not want an epiosotomy. He said that was most probably required because it was a first delivery, age above 35 extra. Rita wanted to deliver in a squatting position, since that was the best position, where gravity aided the delivery. The doctor agreed, but said unfortunately since he did not have the equipment for that position, Rita would have to deliver on her back. Finally, in the home delivery, Rita squatted, and there was no epiosotomy and no tearing of the perinium either. I guess we were just lucky.
Finally, D Day arrived. 23rd Feb- the exact date that was calculated, as per conventional calculations done the moment we knew she was pregnant over nine days ago. Around 12 midnight Rita woke me up, saying she was feeling contractions. They were coming at irregular intervals –10, 13, 8 minutes apart etc. By about 5 am they were coming 5 minutes apart. All this time, Rita was walking around slowly, doing her breathing exercises taught during Mrs. Nutan Pandits pre-natal classes etc. She was smiling between contractions – she did not feel any great unbearable pain, and did not yell, scream or cry. The breathing was helpful, it distracted her attention from the contractions. At 5:30 am, our friend Rashmi Palkiwala, who helps women having home births, arrived. We sat Rita in a pool of lukewarm water and she found that also to be comfortable. At 6:30 am the midwife arrived and shortly thereafter Mrs. Nutan Pandit, who had also come down from Delhi especially for the birth, came too. To this team, my mother and myself also added ourselves to do whatever we could, supporting, comforting Rita. Some time later, Gayatri, my brothers friend, who was studying to be a homeopath, also came to help out and stayed until the birth. Rita’s sister Namita came for a few hours and supported her too, and her mother came over also but was sitting in the hall because Rita told her to stay out and not get nervous.
We put some aromatherapy oils (suitable for relaxation) and made the room cosy by drawing the curtains, putting soft lights and playing a music cassette of the Gayatri Mantra. All these small touches each did not seem to make any significant individual difference, but all of them contributed to the environment.
The midwife was a poor lady, quite old, approximately sixty five years. She was un-educated and spoke no English. She had no medical training. She made a living cleaning people’s homes and sorting onions and potatoes on a farm. When my mother saw her, she almost fainted – she looked like a servant woman.. However, all our fears were misplaced. She was HIGHLY skilled and very experienced having aided hundreds of women. Every time Rita had a contraction in the squatting position, the midwife would massage her hips and back. This felt so soothing, so comforting, that Rita almost did not feel any pain. She did not even feel the need to do any breathing exercises. When the contractions started, she called the midwife and she just took it easy since the pain was so much eased by the midwife’s massage. Rita later said that the midwife had magic in her fingers. What skills! I think the doctors and nurses could learn this technique from her and provide pain relief without drugs to women who wanted it! And the tragedy is, in our country, her skills are not valued.
All the time, the midwife, Rashmi, Nutan, My mother, myself and Gayatri were around Rita. We were embracing her, massaging her, comforting her, pouring our affection and support on her to the best of our ability. The only thought that struck me was that if Rita was in a hospital, she would not have got so much of affection and support, but would have been largely left to her own devices.
At around seven thirty or eight o clock, Rita threw up the little orange juice that we gave her to drink. Mrs. Nutan Pandit said this was a sign of transition, so the birth could be any moment, or in an hour. We were not looking at our watches and there were no clocks in the room. Mrs. Pandit said clocks in the labour room were a bad idea. At around nine o clock or so there was still no sign of the baby. Rita was getting tired by the squatting and pushing. After having walked around for the first seven or eight hours of labour, now her thighs began to pain and she was not comfortable walking either.
Rita was talking to the baby all the time, telling him everything was going fine, and now she requested baby to come out, because she was getting tired. But nothing happened.
Nine o clock became 10 o clock. By now I was getting nervous. Mrs Pandit was saying that transition should not take so long and the baby should have been there. She was suggesting that we start thinking about taking Rita to the hospital. I was drained and tired. Since Rita could not squat any more, she sat on the floor, and leant on me with her legs spread in front of her and tried to push. The contractions were coming fast and furious. But nothing was happening. The baby’s head could be seen during the contractions, when the midwife pushed her thighs apart, but it receded immediately after the contraction. The midwife said that the baby had only six inches to go, before it was out and told Rita it was all in her hands. We had no fetal heart rate monitor since we felt that it would un-necessarily panic us if the birth rate went down. So we had no idea how the baby was doing. The midwife did not also do internal examinations – she said it was not a good idea, could introduce infection – so she did it only once I think or maybe twice, at our request. All she would say was that Rita was doing fine and that the birth would happen when it was time. She was calm and unpeturbed.
Somewhere at that time Rita’s waters broke. The midwife said, now the birth will happen anytime but we were getting increasingly nervous. Rita was getting more and more tired by the pushing. At around 10:30 even Rashmi started saying it may be a good idea to go to the hospital. We still decided to wait for 15-20 minutes. This was a very anxious time. Nothing happened until 10:45 and then we all lost our nerve. All of us, except Rita and the midwife, that is. Rita was still able to smile in between contractions even at this time. She did NOT want to go to the hospital. But at 10:50, we decided to go to the hospital.
The midwife said, do not go now, because if you do, the baby will come on the way. But we decided to go anyway.
The driver was asked to keep the car waiting at the entrance of our building. My brother was asked to go and get the lift (elevator). Rita was just wearing my t-shirt all this while, now she put on a night-gown to go to the hospital and we got her slippers. We took out the medical papers and got the money ready. I was very nervous and thought myself unable to face the doctor. What would I tell the doctor, how would we explain why we stayed at home ten hours after labour started, until the contractions were 1 or 2 minutes apart, when we were told to come when they were seven minutes apart. Maybe he would refuse us. I thought I could not handle it. Gayatri said, no problem I will go. My mother got ready to go with her, bless her soul.. while I lost my courage. Rita put on her pantioes and her slippers. Mrs Pandit sat on the bed, with her back to Rita, saying her Buddhist prayters. Rita took one step towards the door – and then she had a contraction.
She squatted down, pulled away her panties and, aided by the midwife, gave one final mighty push. The baby came out, all in one shot, at around 11:00 am!! He gave one cry and then was silent. I just saw part of the baby since I was pacing around the room. I started jumping around in joy. Mrs. Pandit saw me jumping and concluded there was good news. She resisted the urge to turn and continued her prayers to thank God.
Rita immediately lay down and put the baby on her chest. The baby was still connected to the umbilical cord and the placenta which was still inside. Rita lay down for 10 or 15 minutes and the baby was quietly lying on her tummy, covered by a warm cloth. I have a photo (the only one I clicked during the whole 11 hours), of Rita lying on the floor, with the baby on her, wearing the t-shirt, and the night-gown she wore over the t-shirt to go to the hospital.
After some time the placenta also came out in one piece, without any massaging of the stomach or pulling of the cord. Rashmi then cut the cord (about half an hour after the birth, I think) with some sterilised scissors and then she tied it up with some sterilized twine. We sterilised the stuff at home by dropping it in boiling water for a few minutes.
The baby all this while was quiet and not making any noise. We cleaned baby up with warm water and then put on some light clothing on him. He was very alert, his eyes were open. I think he took a feed shortly thereafter and went to sleep peacefully.
Rita was also fine. She was a bit tired but overjoyed and relieved. I was overwhelmed, drained, tired, thankful and relieved. Mrs. Nutan Pandit and Rashmi too were happy and relived. The midwife said – “It’s a boy – I told you so, three months ago!”
Rita had no serious post partum haemorhage, but Rashmi was very concerned about the total amount of blood loss. So we gave her some Coriander juice, and then a mixture of tender coconut water, tender conconut, dates, figs, almonds, all homoegnixed together. Later we also gave her a glass of lettuce and coriander juice – all this for the blood loss.
After some time, we noticed that the umbilical cord was still bleeding. We cleaned it up but the bleeding did not stop. We got worried and called our family doctor. She said, just tie it tightly. We did, but again the bleeding continued at bit. At around 1:30 the family doctor came, and tied it properly. The bleeding stopped thereafter. The doctor checked the baby, and said everything is normal. She checked Rita, and her BP was normal too- it seems the blood loss was not excessive.
So, all in all, all’s well that ends well. Today the baby is a week old, and doing fine. So is Rita. So I guess, we were very lucky indeed.
Is it just plain luck, or is it something else?
Was it the fact that Rita has lived a very healthy lifestyle for the past six years has helped. During this period, she has eaten largely a vegan diet (no animal or dairy products). Approximately 60% of this was in the form of fresh raw fruits and vegetables and nuts. The Breakfast was only fresh fruits, lunch and dinner consisted of a huge salad, making up 50% of the meal. The other 50% was conservatively cooked vegetarian food – no deep frying, very less oil, no hot spices. Sometimes she had only a salad for lunch. Refined white Sugar was almost eliminated, as was refined white flour (white bread) and white rice. We used to have whole wheat bread and unpolished brown rice instead. Processed food was almost NIL, no alcohol, smoking and no tea, coffee or soft drinks like colas either. For the past six years she has not visited a doctor since she has not fallen ill, and has not even popped an aspirin or any other drug/medicine for six years. She took no vitamin or minerals supplements of any sort either. She is also leading a fairly active life with some amount of daily gentle exercise, like walking, and yoga, which was continued until the day before her delivery.
During pregnancy, she largely maintained her diet, only adding Amaranth (Rajgira) Rotis and some steamed amaranth leaves during the last month or so (for iron), and she tried to have a glass of vegetable juice on a daily basis. The only supplementation was Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid. During the ninth month, she took one tablet of a herbal iron supplement (Floradix+Herbs) for seven days only.
Did this healthy lifestyle have something to do with this whole thing? I wonder.
Finally, is it possible, that birth is a normal, natural process that proceeds normally and naturally in almost all cases, especially if the mother has taken care of herself. Is it possible that instead of saying “we were lucky” we should rather say, that, this is the way birth should be – simple, straightforward, not requiring any interventions and other complex procedures – rather a simple natural process ordained by God and Nature, that ends with the birth of a normal baby? You decide.