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     Volume 4 Issue 59 |August 19, 2005 |

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Slice of Life

Gentle Birth

Richa Jha

My daughter was put in my arms seconds after she was delivered. I had been having my private conversations with her ever since the dawn of that day when I'd felt the first contraction. I knew her well by then: I'd seen her in my dreams, and through the ultra sound reports; I'd felt her in her movements, in her responses to the way my moods swung, or to the music I played; I'd heard the rhythm of her beating heart every once in a while. I knew her well, I did. But most importantly, I knew she was mine.

My daughter was preparing for the most arduous journey of her life, a literal downhill task that she would have to carry with the resoluteness of an ant. She didn't know what lay ahead of her, couldn't comprehend what was happening to her. But it was different for me, for, having experienced it once- and you can never forget the so-called pangs of child birth- I had braced myself for the magic moment. We both agreed, my daughter and I, that we'd make it a gentle process for each other, for which it was important for me to relax.

Relax I did with concentrated breathing, with music plugged into my ears and fingers busy sending text messages to friends all around, and it worked. It had worked with my first-born, there was no reason why it wouldn't work this time. I delivered my baby, smiling, in minimal pain, seeing her mucous-stained body still connected with her cord intact. Could there be a more miraculous sight!

The Hubby, not quite sure of the role he would have to play there, flitted in and out of the room. The only demand I have made on him in our several years of married life is that he should be present with me when I am bringing our child out into this world. To give the devil his due, he unflinchingly followed the dictate on both occasions. Fathers before him, and after, have fainted, thrown up, and sought parallel medical attention in the delivery rooms! But The Hubby, the knight with his flashing camera lights, hasn't let me down.

He proved himself indispensable on both occasions. I needed him around as a source of strength, as a punching bag, and as a commentator to bring the action to me live! His presence inspired in me a confidence that everything was alright. The intimidating sight of five doctors and even more nurses all hunched up peering down my nether looked manageable after the reassuring nods from him that everything was on track. He even managed to smile through the gore and screams! But so did I.

The process of giving birth can be enjoyed, if you believe that it happens as much in the mind as it happens through the body. It is just a question of learning to flow with the changes that are happening within you. You see your pet delivering her litter, you feel it isn't all that bad after all; you see a human do it, you feel nothing could be worse.

I have been fortunate, twice over, to experience birth the way nature intended it to be. And for everyone who may be inclined to giving it a try, let me assure you, it is painless. If we must call a spade a spade, then yes, there is pain, but it is no more than what you'd feel when you're getting yourself tattooed, waxed, or pierced at the oddest of places on your body.

But again, I was fortunate in more ways than one. It was by sheer chance that I landed at a hospital that believes in allowing the baby and the mother's body decide how much time they need to deliver (so no artificial inductions until absolutely necessary); providence put me in the care of a doctor who allowed me the luxury of time, attention, and non-judgemental patience. It was my good luck that the hospital policies allow the husband to be in the delivery room all through. And by the grace of God, I did not develop any last minute complications.

My aunt says I, and indeed others like me who insist on giving birth the natural way, am a fool. With a plethora of safe aids medical science has to offer, why would one willingly go through the discomfort? She, as many others, is missing the point. True, it is almost unfashionable these days to willingly bear the pain, but it is not just that. It's all about feeling your child trying to work her way out, inch by inch, contraction after contraction through the birth canal. Personally, I've felt no joy or satisfaction even remotely close to that final 'push' which expels the baby out. This time, I actually felt her slipping out (a sensation I cannot easily forget) and saw her darting across almost a foot ahead right into the safe hands of a doctor! That remains the most enduring image etched in my mind.

It is easy to point fingers at the doctors with all the blame, saying they prefer to cut you open for reasons best not discussed here. But they will seldom do so unless you lead them to believe that you wouldn't mind taking the softer option out. Truth is, we all have in us the strength to cope with the pain, but our impatience and perhaps the fear of the unknown kills it for us; the tid bits of experiences of women around us cement notions in our minds about how it will be. And we've lost the battle even before we've embarked upon it.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the matter of personal choice. But unless it is absolutely critical, must we deny our unborn child her basic right to come into the world the way nature has designed it, just as we cannot deny her, as one friend put it, her right to mother's milk? Worth pondering over, isn't it?

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