When Sharad and I decided to start a family, our search for an obstetrician began even before we got pregnant. Having heard how quite a few of my friends were driven into medically unnecessary cesareans, we knew of the horrors we could encounter during pregnancy and labour. But we were still optimistic since we were going to visit one of the best maternity hospitals that boasted of world class care. Boy, were we wrong! From doctors demanding unquestioning compliance to those that almost drove me to a miscarriage, we had had it all in the first 6 months. It was quite clear to me where all these experiences were leading. We did find a nice doctor eventually, but by that time my hope for a normal delivery had dwindled even though I was going through a perfectly healthy third trimester. 

But I must have desired a normal birthing experience ardently enough to attract a Yoga therapist/healer/doula into my life who suggested that I explore the possibility of going to a birthing center in Goa. That set me on a path that due to many coincidences, determination to have an empowering birth experience and a powerful support system in Sharad, landed me in Goa, the land of sun and sand. And also home to Goa Birthing Center. Corinna's warm, cheerful and confident demeanor gave me new hope. Two phone calls with her was all it took to convince me that her birthing center was the best place for the kind of experience I so dearly wanted. At the same time, we were lucky to get accommodated for our November birth since that was a very busy time at the birthing center. 

We had friends who thought us crazy for going this unconventional route and family who worried whether we might not be erring in forgoing hospitalization. There was also the matter of my husband needing to take a month and a half away from work. And the matter of arranging accommodation in Goa. A preliminary trip to Goa ironed out many kinks and set the stage for our odyssey. A month before my due date we left for Goa. We rented a quaint little cottage in Assagao that was minutes away from Anjuna beach. It was also minutes away from the birthing center. A wireless internet connection enabled Sharad to telecommute. Long walks morning and evening, roadside bargains, scooter rides, French bistros, friendly neighbours and fresh, clean air - the fortnight leading up to my labour day was like a second honeymoon.

I first met Corinna at the birthing center. Consultations with her were relaxed and reassuring. Taking Yoga and pre-natal classes along with people from so many different countries was a unique experience. It brought a sense of solidarity knowing that all these women, some of whom had travelled from other countries, were there for their births as well. I remember declaring at the end of our last pre-natal class, "OK, so now we can all go into labour!". And guess who went into labour that very day? I started getting pre-labour contractions when I returned home. We carried on at home until the next day which was a Sunday. We were in touch with Corinna all this while. Sunday night I called her to say that I wanted to come to the center. 

Around 11 PM, we reached the center where Corinna had meticulously prepared the birthing room. Candles, crystals, soothing music, dim lighting inside and light rain outside added to the relaxing atmosphere. The birthing room is just like a well furnished bedroom so one feels right at home. I felt embarrassed thinking that I had come to the center too early since the contractions were not quite strong then. But Corinna put me at ease. Then Sharad and I decided to take some rest. We slept until I was woken up an hour later with the sound of something uncorking and felt a gush of warm water. This got the labour going and there was no looking back. Corinna was there throughout, sometimes being the invisible pair of hands that conjured necessary paraphernalia out of thin air; at other times taking the front seat, helping me with sound breathing, reminding me to breathe (yes, labour can make you forget that!) and overall being a solid support.  

It is said that women don't remember the pain of childbirth. While I don't remember the pain of childbirth, I do remember everything else about that night vividly. It was a textbook case of labour where one step led to another naturally with no intervention. The contractions grew stronger as the night wore on. I used various means that brought comfort - birthing ball, birthing stool, walking, sipping water, massage and conscious breathing. Amusingly, the toilet seat turned out to be a comfortable place to sit out the contractions. It did occur to me during the transition (arguably the most excruciating phase of labour) whether this Spartan way of going without pain medication was for me. But this thought melted away with judicious use of sound breathing and some EFT tapping. This debilitating thought was replaced by a sense of empowerment that I had won out against extreme pain. Sharad was present by my side the whole night, massaging me, soothing me, helping me with breathing and being the strong pillar of support that he is every day of my life. 

There was no induction, no intentional water breaking, no cervical stripping, no shaving, no mobility restricting IVs, no intruding examinations, no incessant monitoring of blood pressure or fetal heart rate, no episiotomy, no vacuum suction or forceps delivery and no panic of any kind. It was amazing to see that if labour is left to proceed at its own pace without "speeding it up", potentially just a doppler can see you through the whole process. And it did. I must also note that Corinna, Sharad and I were the only people present in the room all through labour and delivery.

Early morning, I started to feel the urge to push. Pushing contractions carried on for nearly 2 hours, at the end of which I asked Corinna to check how far we were. This was the first and only internal examination I was given at the center and that too when requested. This was way better than being constantly poked and prodded for dilation etc. as is commonly done in hospitals. She checked and noted that the baby was right there and few pushes were all that were needed. At this time, we saw Corinna at her super efficient. Gloves, towels, hot water, scissors, cord clamps, sheets, gauze and what not appeared in an instant, out of drawers I didn't know existed in the room. In the next few seconds, she was ready, gloves and all, to catch the baby. I remembered her telling us once how in all these years she hadn't missed a single baby, she had caught them all. Now I could see why. 

Ocean made his arrival at 7:21 AM - wide eyed and alert. Corinna said, "Cry for me". He cried for a few seconds, then got busy sucking his thumb and smacking his lips in between. His cord was cut by Sharad a good 10-15 minutes after his birth. When brought to the breast, he suckled hungrily and then dozed off. Corinna examined and weighed him. The luxe bathtub had been painstakingly filled up for a possible water birth. Ocean chose to arrive on dry land (the bed). So the tub was used to bathe him and to move him around in the water. Ocean seemed perfectly fine floating in the water, held in Corinna's strong hands. I had a small tear from pushing which was taken care of right there. I was feeling a bit weak. A whiff of Rosemary oil gave me enough kick to get up and take a shower. We returned home at 9:30 AM, that is 2 hours after the birth. 

Months of wait was over - we were home, we were together and we were ecstatic. Corinna visited us at noon, just in time for Ocean's first diaper change. Over the next 2 weeks, her regular visits trained us in many aspects of newborn care. My sister-in-law arrived soon after the birth. She ensured that I ate well and regained my strength quickly. Recovery, if it needs to be called that, was a breeze. There were no dietary or mobility restrictions. There was no pain. The few stitches from the tear healed in no time. 

There's something about Goa - the vibe sets you free. Whereas in Bangalore I was constantly caught up in numbers from this medical test or that, in Goa I found the inner strength that liberated me from over analyzing. A lot of mental peace came from positive consultations at the birthing center. Until the eve of my labour day, we were scooting around the lanes of Goa on our rented two wheeler - something I couldn't have imagined doing cooped up in our apartment in Bangalore. When in Goa, we also came across Naiade, a friendly professional photographer who offered to do photo sessions for us for various occasions, including labour. We couldn't have asked for a better option. So now not only do we have a magical story to tell, we also have photos to show for it. 2 weeks after the birth, we returned to Bangalore with fond memories, a sense of pride and a baby in tow.