Birth Village, Friday September 30th
A baby is born.
I am in Kerala to visit Birth Village, the only free standing birth center in India, which also provides all the facilities for water births, for lamaze childbirth education classes and prenatal workouts. Birth Village was set up 8 years ago by midwives Priyanka Idicula and Red Miller.
I am welcomed by Rohini, who is the secretary of the birthing home and also Priyanka’s sister. Usha Chechi and Rema Chechi (Chechi means Aunti) are in the kitchen preparing lunch and Ayurvedic melts. The place is quiet, it’s still early… The bell rings, Amy is upstairs waiting for her first consultation. Women come in and out all day to get checked, and listen to their baby’s heart beat *. They have access to workout classes, get bespoke pre and postnatal** advice and care. The couples are educated and reassured by the midwifes to be fully aware of their choices and make decisions with complete freedom.
Donna Mitchell, a midwife at the Birth Village says: «Birth here in India is filled with fear on both sides—women and medical side. So we give women information and support how ever they want to birth. There is no one correct way to birth but there is a way filled with strength, all our knowledge and intuition is stored in the limbic brain. We teach women to breath properly, to move with confidence in preparation for labor. We know that feeling the support from us and other moms is vital to a healthy optimal birth, pregnant women need to be naturally active and hear positive stories from womenfolk, to see birth as a common positive event. Women are smart, in India and in the rest of world, there will be an uprising from women coming from the trailblazers now who are respecting birth and birth wisdom.»
In India, like most countries, the government encourages institutional births and there is a high rate of c-sections, with 30% in government hospitals, and 50-80% in the private sector. Home births only take place where accessibility to hospitals is an issue. Public hospitals are free but women are birthing in very rough conditions. To have a room and a minimum of support, it’s between 25,000 rupees / about 350 euros (average wage is about 500 rupees per day in the state of Kerala) to 1,00,000 depending on the place and the birth, where Birth Village charges between 50,000 to 75,000 (for water birth) which include a bespoke and thorough prenatal care and postnatal care. However, giving birth outside of a hospital is rare and not always understood by the Mother to be`s family, as they assume that going to the hospital is safer and doctors will take care of everything. On the other hand, the midwives at the Birth Village teach women that they are in charge of their babies birth. Everywhere around the world, women have overlooked that we have given birth since forever. Unfortunately traditional midwifery is being lost, even in the most remote villages tribes are loosing their ancient knowledge.
Birth Village has a 97.9% of natural birth rate, with eight to twelve births a month. There is no use of any synthetic hormones, and the centre boasts a 100% rate for Vaginal Birth After Cesarian. In addition, they create a comfortable space for men to be active at the birth and they always welcome children. On top of all of these extremely encouraging numbers and conscious behaviors, the team also supports abused teenage girls and takes care of them until their baby is given for adoption, under the name ‘Tejus Home’, ‘Birth for Change’.
On my forth day at the Birth Village, I got a call as an observer and volunteer photographer at 10pm as a baby was about to be born. I rushed to the center, and a good smell of coffee was coming up the stairs, the birth had started. We filled up buckets of water for the pool, lighted candles and started to help Smitha go through her contractions. It’s her second birth, the midwives were a little concerned as she is a nurse and it’s sometimes harder for the medically trained to let go of their thoughts and really enter into the process. After an hour or so Smitha got into the water and her husband held and massaged her. The birth team encouraged the mother, that she had the strength to deliver her baby, and a few hours later she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy!
I was very impressed at the professionalism and commitment, empathy the staff had with the couples and I would highly recommend this place to all people that want a natural birth. The Birth Village is planing to expand its facilities to welcome more families. If you want to get in touch with Priyanka and her team, please go to:
Birth Village: http://www.birthvillage.in/
Tejus Home: http://www.lovebasedbirth.com/tejus-home/
* A shocking thing that I found that, is that you cannot determine the sex of a foetus due to the fact that some people abort the foetus if it’s a girl. This sad practice is known as female foeticide, if you want to find out more please read the essaye and film Save Our Girls by Dr Kamalroop Singh.
** Like in no other countries that I’ve been to, Postnatal care is still taken very seriously and the 40 days lie in period is considered has a must. Daily Ayurvedic massages, specific Ayurvedic medicines and belly biding will be given to the mother by someone from the family (or at the Ayurvedic hospital) to eliminate anything that may stop the Vatta -Air element- circulate in the body as it’s extremely high after birthing a child. The mother stays warm and well looked after.