It feels like I have been pregnant for both nine years and nine minutes, but the newest Vine baby is finally here! It has been a wild ride of a pregnancy, and birth and the first month did not disappoint either. Read on to find out everything about what it’s like to give birth in India during COVID!
My water broke two weeks before the due date, just as AP called Biden as the winner of the 2020 election. I was not feeling any surges or pain, but my doctor and I had agreed to come in as soon as water broke to avoid infection. We had our hospital bags ready, our birth plan printed and ready and off we went to Cloud 9 on Old Airport Road. At that point, my husband was more nervous than me, as I was just grateful that it was the middle of the night and we were not dealing with Bangalore traffic. Once we reached the hospital, I was immediately taken to triage while my husband went to check us into the room. We paid for the Signature Cloud 9 package, which came with a beautiful suite for three nights. In the meantime, I was hooked onto the fetal monitor and the doctor on duty called my doctor, who got on the phone with me and laid out the plan, which was basically to wait. The birth plan flew out the window pretty much immediately, but I felt my wishes were respected at every point and everything was always clearly explained to both Josh and me. The nurses were amazing, so reassuring and gentle and helped me with everything from going to the bathroom, making sure I have enough to eat and holding my hand when I cried and puked, both of which I did a lot of! We were sure the baby would come any hour then, but he took 36h in total, so after the first night of my husband sleeping on the floor because he did not want to miss it, the nurses sent him up to the room to sleep until being called. I got my COVID test done immediately to make sure I can labor without a mask (the result came the next day so not very useful) and Josh was made to wear full on PPE, which made him look like a Smurf from a nightmare. Apart from that and the fact there is a no visitors policy in the hospital, it did not feel like we were in the middle of the pandemic. Josh was allowed with me at all times, except when I was finally whisked away for an emergency C-section, but he wouldn’t have been allowed in the OR even without COVID. Once baby Leo was finally Earth-side, they showed him to Josh for a moment before bringing him to me to recovery room where we spent three hours. After we got the all clear, we were moved to our room, where the baby has spent all the time with us until we were discharged two nights later. Again, all of the nurses and doctors were nothing short of amazing! In the Signature package, all sorts of different consultations are included, such as nutrition, physiotherapy, lactation etc. All of those were super valuable to feel more equipped to take care both of Leo and of myself after the birth. The food is exactly what you need, if not what you want- loads of daals, soups, fresh juices etc. My husband could not deal with so much vegetarian food and had our driver bring him lunch from outside- the hospital allowed him to come to the reception. Cloud 9 is a baby-friendly hospital, which means a big emphasis is put on breastfeeding. I found it extremely stressful the first day as I was totally loopy from the surgery, but the nurses were again very helpful.
We had no help aligned nor had we planned for any help. That was a mistake. I got hit by a bad case of baby blues a week after delivery and found it incredibly hard to cope. Luckily, at our one-week checkup our amazing pediatrician Dr. Nilesh at Cloud 9 gave us a number of the home care service they collaborate with called Portea, which employs professional nurses to help out with home care. We called them on Friday morning and we had a nurse come in by the evening! I cannot over-emphasize what an amazing help that has been. We were not happy with the first nurse, and they had found the perfect fit for us in a matter of two days and Domat has been such an integral part of making these first days not just about survival but bonding and joy as well. We initially wanted a night nurse, but due to COVID, Portea only provide 24h/day nurse support. I have never had live in help before and that took a bit getting used to but it was a small adjustment compared to how amazing it has been to have Domat here. She was with us for a total of six weeks, until I fully recovered from the C-section. I know for many expats the idea of live in help or confinement nurses seems foreign as it did to me, but take advantage of living in India and the amazing professionals available to make the transition to parenting easier!
I knew my baby blues were an issue when I Googled “how to leave your baby in the care of the state” at 4am 10 days in. I reached out to friends with babies who reassured me it is normal, happens to most women to a certain extent and it does get better. However, I wanted to make sure it didn’t spin out into full-blown postpartum depression without me having a support system in place. The first thing I did was contact my friend who is a psychologist and she suggested to get in touch with therapists at Therapeute.in, a platform that brings together various mental health professionals. I filled out the form with my issues and they connected me with Mallika, an amazing therapist who focuses on female mental health. She listens without judgment, provides a safe (Zoom) space for me to talk through my adjustments and gives practical assignments to help curb my anxiety.
The second thing I did was speak to my doctor at my two-week checkup. I was crying from the moment I entered the hospital and saw all the happy pregnant women, feeling guilty I was not happy. My doctor once again proved to be simply amazing. She reassured me the best thing I can do for Leo and for me is to ask for help, that I am already doing so much just by being honest about it and that it is extremely common for new moms to feel like that. The stigma around mental health in India is even worse when it comes to postnatal mental health because of such a strong emphasis on families and motherhood as the ultimate role. She said to give it six weeks, when the hormones usually level out and if I did not feel better by then we could look into medication. Knowing I had her on my side and I had options available was a huge relief. I am already doing better so I don’t think there will be a need for medication, but just knowing I was not dismissed and told to suck it up was helpful.
For something that is supposed to be so natural, breastfeeding sure does suck! Leo latched nicely immediately and there seem to be no issues with supply and demand but it was so painful at first and I was not sure how to hold him, my neck and back were killing me and he wasn’t gaining weight back. As always during my pregnancy, I knew I could turn to The Birth Home for judgment-free support. I do not have a big breastfeeding goal, such as one year or as long as possible, I always said I would give it my best try but not kill myself over it. Chetana, the lactation expert, was gentle, caring, non-judgmental and obviously a great expert. She has showed me different holds and positions, explained the proper techniques and also worked with me to establish doable goals- let’s try and reach six weeks first, then three months if it works etc. We also spoke to Augustine, the new Birth Home midwife, who has offered us great support. Knowing that we have established a great network of support and care both for Leo and for us as new parents made the world of difference. The Birth Home also has experts on sleep, baby wearing, cloth diapering and postnatal fitness, so do not hesitate to contact them with any issues you might have!