Friday, December 13, 2013

10 Steps to a Hollywood-Style Birth (not for the faint-hearted)

In Hollywood, from 'Honey i think its time!' to a plump, pink baby takes only 20 minutes
                 The mom smiles cheerily, wears make-up and looks fabulously delicious

Dear daughters big S & little S (I know, I know, I need new names for you two on this blog)

I'm no octo-mom, I only have you two babies. But I've learnt a thing or two about birthing babies these past two years. As I begin writing this blog post, you, my big bold older one, are 19 months old and you, my teeny tiny vulnerable younger baby, you are just 10 days old. Am not sure how old you both will be when I finish writing this, since managing a newborn is quite the distraction and I keep leaving this post mid-sentence to meekly address either of your demands.

I write this because you are both girls and some day you might want to have your own babies. I'm sure we will create so many memories in the next few years that I will completely forget my birth experiences very quickly. Therefore, here is my story as I remember it vividly.

Contrary to all the horror birth stories you must have heard about, I am very happy with my birth stories. I am thrilled to report that I did have a Hollywood-style birth this time around. Sure, even the 'easiest' birth is ridiculously hard and leaves you feeling like something the cat dragged in but I believe that a good birth story is rare and can be immensely empowering to the mother and the person who listens to the story. 

Thank you, my babies, for being so co-operative through my pregnancies and births. You were both marvelous!

Here are my two cents on how to have that elusive Hollywood-style birth.Everything below assumes a healthy mom and a normal pregnancy with no complications, of course. (insert disclaimers galore)


When you know what you want the world will conspire to get you there. Try to envision the actual birth itself. Do not shut your eyes in fear. Visualization is half the job done. 

What is your ideal scene? A natural drug-free birth? A birth with minimal pain? A combination of both? A c-section? 

I was pretty clear that I did not want any pain medication. I am TERRIFIED of medication, especially the epidural, a cocktail injected into the spine to numb you waist downwards, and was mentally prepared for any amount of pain. 

Of course, the first time around whenever I said I wanted a "natural birth", people looked at me like I was one of those nut jobs who wanted to birth in a fragrant blue pool full of lotus flowers, incense and dancing mermaids. 

Maybe I was truly naive about how much pain labor involved the first time around. But I was fine. I survived. As a result, the second time around, I did have a feeling of 'been there done that' confidence. I am proud that I had two completely natural drug-free births. If I can do it, you both totally can. I have experienced how pig-headed and stubborn both of you are about getting your way so don't kid me about being scared. Na-ah!

If you want a natural birth, read Ina May's books. She is a midwife whose mission is to reduce the fear of birth in the U.S.

Exercise in pregnancy is all about focus on gravity, balance and movement. Anything you do should work with these three principles. Don't push it...listen to your body and exercise till you feel great, not till you pass out or something.

First trimester - Goal is to survive morning sickness and the fatigue that comes with being pregnant. Listen to your body, rest and exercise only when you really feel like it

Second trimester - Goal is to feel great and ensure you have increased flexibility and endurance. Think yoga, pilates, swimming

Third trimester - Goal is to have energy and  get your baby in the right position. Think walking and squats. The idea is to 'walk the baby down' so he/she settles head down, ready for 'blast-off'.

Also- sweep and swab floors in the third trimester. Full on desi style. Crawl on all fours. While you're at it, go on and rock your belly to make sure baby is head down and in anterior position. Sure it looks hilarious to anyone watching but it works.

Enough people, including your doctor, best friend and mother-in-law will talk about eating healthy. You can google 'pregnancy nutrition' (if google exists when you read this) so am not going to go on. 

It all comes down to colorful vegetables and fruits...what I'm calling 'rainbow food'. Steel cut oatmeal. Dates in the last month. 

Through both my pregnancies and births, I relied on the power of sisterhood - women telling women what works.

If you have a woman friend who lives nearby and actually even remembers what her birth was like and has sage advice for you, great. I hired a doula (sort of like a midwife who helps you manage pain through water therapy, massage etc.) to help me with the pain.

If you want me, I will most willingly be there for you and help you through your big day. I want to give you the freedom and space to decide whether you want me there or not. 

In all this, am assuming you will have a great husband (partner...whatever) who will be your rock through the pregnancy and beyond. Your appa and the doula helped me through both my labor experiences and were simply superb sources of support for massages, emotions, confidence boosts, forbidden snacks, water and just plain eye contact. 

HEY! Reality check, girls. Even the best laid plans go awry when we are talking labor and delivery. Think of a back-up plan and be open to a complete overhaul to Plan A

My Plan A was to 'embrace pain'. Second time around i.e. 10 days ago, I was experiencing 3 days and nights of early labor and my pain was getting so intense at 4AM on Monday morning that all my best laid plans flew out of the window.

My Plan B therefore, as narrated to your appa, was to "have the baby ANYHOW, just take this darn pain away or I'll kill you!"  I remember telling your appa to "take me to the hospital, give me the epidural, cut me up and get this baby outta me". 

Thankfully, I had the baby very quickly and there was no time even for an IV hook-up, let alone an epidural. Some babies will have a complex journey into this world though so DO NOT beat yourself up if your birth does not go according to plan. It's fine. Move on.

HAHAHAHAHHAHAA! This one's a joke because labor is so involving, there will be no time to be self-conscious. 

I have to say this because I know some women who feel that labor is undignified. The same women believe that a c-section is much cleaner and more dignified than a natural birth. Seriously?! We are talking MAJOR surgery here. Embrace the amazing body you have and marvel at how powerful nature is.

Story time: my water broke at the end of the elevator of my building as we were rushing to get into the car. I was in so much pain, I couldn't even walk. I had to literally crawl to the car...on all fours, from my doorstep to the kidding. My neighbor saw me and must have thought it was some Indian religious ritual I was performing on all fours.

I think the body has a mind of its own. Just go with the flow and listen to what the body is telling you. 

I was sure I was going to give birth in the car because I started pushing on the way to the hospital. And when baby decides to get out, there is nothing that will hold that determined baby back. Yep, am referring to you, little S.

This is no time to gingerly parallel park or save 5$ on parking. Yes, this is your ultra-savings-conscious-immigrant-desi-mom actually telling you to go ahead and splurge on valet parking. 

I must also tell you that when your appa pulled up in the hospital driveway and the valet asked "Valet parking, sir?",  he yelled all excitedly, Hollywood-style, "Yeah man, she's pushing!!!"

Since I had labored entirely at home and was ready to give birth in the car, it was no time before little S was born. My water broke at 7:18AM at home, we reached Prentice Women's Hospital at 7:30AM and you, little S, were born at 7:54AM with a flurry of activity all around

I was fully conscious, alert and thrilled to be done with the pain. And happy beyond belief to finally meet you!

I know this sounds frivolous and petty. Calm down. Hear me out.

Last time around, when I gave birth to big S, I thought packing any sort of make-up was a symbol of vanity. I decided that giving birth was such a huge and momentous event that make-up was a silly thing to even think about. I therefore, did not pack any and looked AWFUL in the pictures. 

This time around, I said vanity-shanity and packed some basic make-up. I actually wore lipstick and kaajal a couple of hours after giving birth and felt amazingly refreshed and energized. And I LOVE the pictures we took as a family.

Oh before I forget...I learnt this the hard way the first time around. Remember to pack some tasty treats for the nurses who take care of you postpartum. You might be just another woman in the postpartum ward to the nurses but once you offer them Hershey's Kisses, they surprisingly show up to your room to check on you more often and are just NICER to you. 

Life's little lessons learnt. Good luck!

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