This birth story is written by birthing Mama, Aarti Mehta.
She birthed at the amazing #Sanctum which is a natural birthing centre in Hyderabad, India who's mission it is to 'to effect change in bringing Healthy and Safe Natural Birth practices in India, One Mother-at-a-Time'.
The Mother's journey
From Pain To Power
From feeling powerless to taking charge -
First Birth: C-Section in April 2017 at 40wks+5 at a leading private maternity hospital in Bangalore.
Second Birth: VBAC in August 2019 at 42wks+1 at The Sanctum
We got to know about The Sanctum in the Lamaze classes we took during first pregnancy. Brushed off the idea to travel to Hyderabad instantly at that time. Why?
I guess we were overconfident that with knowledge from books, support groups and Lamaze classes we will be able to navigate the very commercial medicalized birth system that exists currently.
That pregnancy was eventful with a fractured foot, GDM, SPD pain and an IUGR scare. We changed 2 doctors and finally found someone who was willing to wait at least till 40 weeks with GDM.
(It's quite common in our medical system for women with GDM to be induced at 38 weeks)
At 40wks+3 (2 days before my scheduled induction date). I consulted Dr Vijaya over the phone for some advise on how to manage the induction in the best possible way. By then I was pretty convinced that an induction at a hospital is unlikely to lead to a normal delivery.
At the end of the call she asked, if my husband would be willing to drive me to Hyderabad next morning and I was sure that he won't. With a heavy heart I ended the call and accepted my fate.
After delivery I consoled myself
-that I carried my baby till 40wk+5
-that I did not need to take insulin even though doctors did not believe in my resolve to manage it by diet and exercise
-that I escaped being forced into taking steroid injection at 32 weeks
Postpartum Recovery was difficult. I used to wake up every day feeling as if I were run over by bus at night. After visiting a few doctors I concluded that I need to re-build my strength from scratch and so I got started after my daughter turned 8months.
After about 6months of diet, exercise and focusing on myself I felt better. And at that time I got on Skype with Dr Vijaya for a preconception counselling.
I was determined not to get GDM again, hence maintained a good diet and exercise regimen.
I shared the news of my second pregnancy with Dr Vijaya when I was 20weeks and we met her in Hyderabad at 28weeks.
Other than Pelvic Girdle Pain / SPD from 8th week onwards, I did not have any other issues through out the pregnancy.
We set our base in Hyderabad from 36 weeks onwards. Prenatal Yoga, Prenatal Aerobics Weekly appointments, keeping our toddler engaged and some sightseeing occupied our days and weeks that we were there.
Each Prenatal Aerobics used to give such an endorphins boost! I felt sweaty but energized after each class.
Early Morning Prenatal Yoga was calming and meditative.
As weeks passed, the messages/calls started flowing in about "what is the news" !
Crystal's wisdom kept me in my tracks and not take any stress of social pressure.
I had increased my physical activity as weeks passed by. There were days when I would do yoga in the morning, aerobics in the day and a 45min walk in the evening. No signs of labor but I felt great about my body's ability!
At 41wks+3, a scan was advised. Everything looked good and we accepted Natural Induction as the next step. Three days of Natural Induction with a very very slow progress, we then accepted Medical Induction at 42 weeks.
We had blind faith at The Sanctum team. That is the reason we travelled from Bangalore. So that we have a care provider we can trust.
And that is what we did! Just went with the flow.
The progress was still slow through the day and just when my confidence started to break by evening, Dr Vijaya's tiger mom attitude and words took me out of that slump.
I continued laboring through the night with support of Erin (our Doula), Kiran, Nurses and my husband. Managed the contractions by staying well hydrated, changing positions, deep breathing and back massage.
By morning I was exhausted, weak, nauseated and hopeless to continue. My husband tried but could not get me out of that zone. And that is the EXACT time when Dr Vijaya's Prowess was seen to be believed! She gave me a mocktail of tough love and motivation to go on. Above all, she showed blind faith in my ability just like I had in hers. The next few hours were the final test of my determination for VBAC.
We went through many manouvers over the next two hours with everyone supporting me through each and every contraction.
One final Internal exam at about 11am with a big grin and high five from Dr Vijaya - "Aarti we are at 8 cm!"
But I was again out worn out and doubting myself. I'm moved to the toilet seat to get a hot shower before the final leg of the labor marathon. The shower doesn't happen but what takes place is beyond my comprehension. With each contraction I feel an unimaginable pressure and strong urge to push through my butt. The pain intensity is highest at that point. And I instinctively squat several times at each contraction. I hang on to my husband, looked into Dr Vijaya's eyes and Erin continued to massage my back. I felt disconnected from everyone, could not hear anyone and just squatted and grunted for a while which seemed like eternity to me!
Then I hear the words "birth stool" and I felt shocked am I really that close to the Grand finale!
I had thought of pushing to be the most difficult but within a few pushes on the birth stool, after 24 hours of laboring, our 3.5kg healthy baby boy arrived!
The experience has left me empowered to feel that I can do anything! And who did that magic to empower me? Dr Vijaya and The Sanctum team!
A woman needs a birth team, mine comprised of my husband, midwives, a doula in the foreground and our Nanny and my Mother in law in the background who took care of our toddler.
The father's journey of VBAC
From being husband to being Birth Partner
Leap of faith:
We had our first baby through c-section because of our modern medical system's heist (let's leave it at that for now) and for our second pregnancy we were determined to try our best for a natural birth. We packed our suitcases and with our 2 year old toddler moved to an airbnb in Hyderabad (a completely alien city for us) during 36th week of pregnancy. It was very rough on all of us to get uprooted and that pressure cooker of questions from everyone made it even more difficult. But we told ourselves over and over again: we are here to give ourselves the best shot by being with The Sanctum.
From 36th week onwards there were series of sessions of aerobics, yoga, lamaze etc. Every week's consultation session with Crystal or Dr. Vijaya was a fresh start of the week with great vibes in sharp contrast to last pregnancy's doctor visits where we were scared and poked everytime with tests, scans and were told how sensitive things were and how careful we should be. Aarti was doing jumping jacks now at 40weeks!
At 41wk 3days our go to plan was to start with natural induction but even after 8 hours per day of hard work for 3 days, we reached end of our 42nd week without rhythmic contractions. They were coming and going. At 42.1 weeks, pitocin drip was started and then started the last mile run. After 14 hrs of hard labor, dilation was still only 4cm. Baby's head position was not optimum. She was in haze and was finished physically. Almost raised the white flag when she got to know about the progress.
Second wind :
At Sanctum, they don't give up on you even when you do. She was suggested to try out different positions during contractions. With no energy to even standup she cried in my arms and said that she is about to faint and can't go further. But with the belief that second wind is around the corner, she took the first step and eventually finished the full circuit of positions in close monitoring of everyone and that too while going through sharp waves of contractions. Second wind came from her belief in everyone around her and the stamina she gathered from all those trainings sessions.
Third Wave :
By the end of this circuit of positions white flag was out. In energyless whisper in my ear she said "I am done. Second wind is gone. Can't continue". And I agreed. The third wind was Dr Vijaya. She sat next to an exhausted Aarti and asked her to look into her eyes. She caught hold of her soul and with her words made Aarti stand up again. She told her that next part is going to be the toughest and will make sure that she will see her on other side. This followed by squats and positions with Dr Vijaya working with Aarti with Rebozo, her eyes and words. I was in tears to see Aarti go through this part but it was a mystical dance of a possessed body of mother in labor, and her midwife. The last maneuver that Dr Vijaya made Aarti do was a rare masterpiece according to other midwife and doula in the room. It was a woman in labor in almost a backward tilt position during contractions. After all this, Aarti and I were 100% done without a doubt. And then Dr Vijaya told that baby is in great position now and we should get ready for final stage and actually the hardest in the book : the pushing.
Victory lap :
Though it's the hardest stage in the textbook labor but I knew by now that with the support we have in the room it will be the easiest. Aarti was taken to the shower and room was getting ready for the last stage. Again while pushing on the toilet seat Aarti's eyes were just in Dr Vijaya's eyes again and soon only last few pushes were required. We had a beautiful birth on birthing stool in front of mirror with my wife in my arms and baby coming out. We just laughed and cried for a few minutes and soaked in the moment.
Special thanks to :
Dr Vijaya : When she is around you can feel her control and you jump when she says jump :) . You want her to tell you what to do.
Crystal : She can make decisions for you and you will know that decision is right because during her consultations she will ask all the right questions and will get to know mother well physically and mentally
Kiran : She is the horse power of the center. Usually the first responder during day or night and can be always seen with one mother or another. I don't think she sleeps :)
Erin: Our doula who is from US and moved from Cambodia for a while to intern with The Sanctum. She was like Aarti's 4am friend who is a great listener and is always there for you. If The Sanctum is run by midwife, she was the mid-husband during our birth :) as Aarti's second full time partner during whole labor.