The idea of giving birth in water is not new. It has been happening for many years across the US and Europe. Probably perceived as something that hippies would do back then, today, birthing in water is as normal a choice as buying a sedan or a SUV in those continents. In India, though relatively new, water birth ought to be recognised as a valid birthing choice.
Rithika Ramesh with her newborn, Raya
Read and research
For me, it started much before we even thought of having a baby. I attended an informal meet-up where a Polish woman and her Indian husband screened a video of her water birth. That meet-up was my introduction to water birth and midwifery. Midwives have existed in India since ages but because people see hospitals as a safer, cleaner environment, the profession is dying a slow death. Nurses and aayahs who support women while they are in hospitals or clinics, have replaced them.
But the midwives I met were not the usual sari-clad, middle-aged Indians. They were not even Indian. They were equipped with degrees in midwifery and had helped women in many countries before finally settling in Mumbai. After I saw the calm water birth home video, I went home and looked up some more. It was a peaceful, serene birth unlike what we are subjected to by the mainstream media of women shrieking their lungs out strapped to a hospital bed.
Doubts and debates
Of course, there were the usual questions like 'Doesn't the baby need air to breathe as soon as it is out?' and 'Is it okay to use water from the city's water supply, what if the baby swallows it?' But there is enough material online and enough babies born in water to calm any possible fear you might have about the process. The babies come from water, so, they don't feel the need to breathe unless they are pulled up in the air. Only in very rare cases do they swallow the water.
The warm temperaturecontrolled water is very relaxing for the mother and baby and much less of a shock than pushing it out into air with hundreds of hands waiting to grab, clean, wrap and feed your child. I'd made my decision. My husband thought I was mad. My family had long given up on me.
When we found out I was pregnant, our real research started. I knew that there were three or four places that had water birth facilities in Mumbai. I appointed Lina Duncan and Nhing Castillo of Justlink Health Services as my midwives. It was important for me to find a doctor and a hospital that would be comfortable working with midwives and shared their ideas of a natural, drug-free birth. Dr Ameet Dhurandhar, who has experience of multiple water births, was my doctor.
When the day came, I went through most of the labour in the comfort of my home with my husband and midwife by my side. She kept the doctor in the loop throughout the day and decided when it was time to get to the hospital. Once at the hospital, I sat in a tub of warm water while going through the contractions, all the while being guided and supported by my midwives and my husband.
I was given the freedom to stand, squat, kneel and sit in the birthing pool allowing gravity to help me birth the baby. The entire experience of birthing a child puts the mother in a trance and the warm water only helps the mother further. When my baby was born, she was calm and peaceful as I pulled her out of the water and lifted her to make her listen to the familiar sound of my heartbeat.
Lessen the pain
Since this was my first pregnancy, I have nothing to compare the experience against. But I have heard from two-time moms who have birthed outside and in water, that the water birth is a far less painful experience. That's not to say you won't feel a thing, but when there is an opportunity to reduce that pain, why not take it? After all, who doesn't enjoy sitting in a warm tub of water!
Celebrity couples who had opted for water births
Jonty Rhodes and Melanie
The former South African cricketing star's wife, Melanie, delivered a baby girl last week at a Santacruz hospital through this method. In an interview to MiD DAY, Rhodes said that the country's rich culture prompted the couple to name their daughter, India Jeanne Jonty Rhodes.
Gisele Bundchen and Tom Brady
In 2009, the supermodel delivered her son, Benjamin, in her own bathtub. Apparently, she prepped for the experience with yoga and meditation, and later, reportedly, said that water birth didn't hurt in the slightest.
Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany
The actress who starred in A Beautiful Mind delivered her daughter, Agnes Lark, through this method at their New York City home in 2011.
The famous Baywatch star chose water births for both of her sons — Brandon Thomas Lee, in 1996, and Dylan Jagger Lee, in 1997. In an interview to Larry King, she reportedly said, "I gave birth at home both times — natural — with a midwife, in water, with nothing. Not even Tylenol."
Thandie Newton and Ol Parker
The Pursuit Of Happyness actress gave birth to two daughters in a birthing pool. While her elder one, Ripley was born in 2000, she delivered Nico in 2004.