Ritika Ramesh chose Water Birthing - Giving Birth, the Gentle Way
A big thank you to Rithika Ramesh for opening up and sharing this intimate experience with us. We hope you are as moved by it as we are by her incredible story.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough to see a non-human animal give birth, you would know firstly how rare it is to actually be able to see it. The mother-to-be instinctively seeks solitude to bring her little one/s in to the world. The first few hours are always spent with the mother and new borns in close contact with each other. The mother never leaves their side for days sometimes.
Humans are the only animal on the planet who seek hospitals and medical attention for this process. Rightly so sometimes; but if left to her own devices, most women would instinctively know what needs to be done while giving birth. Her body and mind have 9 months to prepare for the show. But ask most people who have given birth about the experience; you may hear very polarized answers and many of them associate negative emotions with the whole process of it. Though it changes very quickly once the baby is out since a whole new set of hormones take over, making them forget what it felt like just minutes before that.
I had been vegan for over 6 years when I found out I was about to bring another human in to the planet. (Yes, I know not very compassionate of me to bring one more person to exploit earth’s resources, but I’ll save that for another day) I have always been a sort of person who was wary of the medical fraternity. Humans have been giving birth since giving birth. I knew I had to find a way to make this transition for the baby from the womb to the planet gentler. After a bit of searching I read up and attended a small discussion on ‘Water Birthing’. Those two hours were enough to convince me that is what I wanted for me and my baby.
A water birth is very simply one that happens when the baby is born inside water. The mother usually spends time inside the water while going through the surges of labour eventually allowing the baby to enter the water as he/she is born. The baby’s oxygen right from the beginning has been taken care of by the umbilical cord as the baby grows in its own water which is the amniotic fluid. Even after a mother’s water breaks, the umbilical cord is still doing its job and the baby only takes in air in to the lungs after he/she comes in contact with the air. This means that the baby is still able to receive everything he/she needs even if they are born in water.
A bit of research to equip myself to answer eager questions from family and friends, my next task was to find a doctor who would support me in my endeavour. It sounds like a project mostly because it became one. I already had found two midwives who would assist me through the transition of labour. I had to then find a doctor who “allowed” water births. This is not as easy as it sounds, okay I am joking it sounds like I was searching for moon dust. In a hospital set up you are not allowed to do as you please, especially when you are giving birth. The medical fraternity has made the rules very easy on themselves when a woman is in labour whereas the human physiology and logic might say otherwise. Just as an example, a woman in labour is not allowed to walk around, she is made to lie down and strapped with a belt that listens to the baby’s heart beat while in 99% of the cases being intravenously fed hormones to quicken the process. Ideally if the mother wants to she should be able to walk around allowing gravity to help the baby descend towards the birth canal.
Water Birthing was not my only moon dust, the other problem was and still is, that I am vegan. I know us vegans are a rare breed (that is why we need to breed more!), but I also knew that I would probably be the first vegan mother that the doctor would have encountered. This meant I had to find a doctor who I trusted but also who was comfortable enough to trust me to make that choice for myself. In Mumbai, it is not hard to find most things these days (except vegan butter and cheese) but there are a few water birthing facilities available to us. A quick survey and a few trials later I settled on my doctor only in my 7th month of being pregnant.
*Quick Tip: Do not stop at one doctor if you are not comfortable. You can change your doctor even when you are in labour. That is your right.*
I’m sure you already get the idea that my birth story is not what you have been shown in the movies, but I’ve kept the best for the end.
When the time came for the big show, I was in no hurry to get to the hospital unlike what you would otherwise be made to believe. I had my midwife come over to my place and I walked around my complex, walked down sixteen floors twice, listened to music, had warm showers, ate what I felt like and allowed myself to really experience what was actually happening. I was at home for a good twelve hours before I left for the hospital only to get stuck in rush hour traffic which meant instead of a forty minute ride it took me two hours to get there. All the while going through intense surges of labour and telling my husband, whenever I was back to my senses, to keep calm as he manoeuvred through by-lanes in the hope that we would get there faster.
Into the tub I plonked immediately and it was the most calming feeling ever. The lights were dimmed, music I love was being played and I did what anyone would do in that atmosphere. I slept off. Only to be woken up multiple times by my husband and midwives to remind me that I was doing something else that was also very important. After what seemed like a couple of hours (but actually eight more hours) our daughter came out in the water. I lifted her up and kept her on me where she intently listened to a sound very familiar to her, my heart beat, for the next half hour. She was calm, quiet and had a very serious demeanour. A lot has changed now though.
Q: Isn’t cow’s milk absolutely necessary while you are pregnant and breast feeding?
A: Cow’s milk is not necessary at any point in a human’s life. Contrary to popular belief and customs, cow’s milk and its derivatives are unnecessary even when a woman is pregnant or lactating. A proper diet high in whole plant-based foods meet all the requirements.
Q: Why water birth?
A: I wanted to make the entire process more gentle on me and the baby. The water reduces chances of a lot of interventions on the mother and baby that are otherwise considered normal in the course of giving birth. My aim was to have an undisturbed birth the way nature intended it to be. It is a very safe option if you have had an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Q: Do you need to use filtered water?
A: No. The baby very rarely swallows the water. Regular tap water was heated to a certain temperature and was used in the birthing pool.
Q: Can I opt for a water birth after a Caesarian Section?
A: Yes you can. You can choose to try for a vaginal delivery inside or outside of the water even if you have had a Caesarean Section birth before. Speak to your doctor or find someone who will be willing to speak with you on that.
Q: Can I opt for a water birth if the scans show the baby has cord wraps around the neck?
A: My daughter had the cord wrapped around her neck twice when she was born. We were told this in our 38th week scan and also told that it was completely normal and did not need any intervention. In 99.9% of the cases, the baby will not choke because technically the baby is not breathing yet until she/he has made contact with air. The cord wraps can be managed very well while the baby is on its way out with practitioners who know how to handle it.
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