Thanks for visiting! I am shifting the conversation on birth to this new website Born In Bombay. You will find this post and more over there.
On the morning of 9th June 2015, just before Rob left for work, I got a call. It was Lina, one of the amazing midwives of JustLink Health Services whom I have gotten to know over the last couple of months. I was pretty sure I knew what the call was about. The call that I’ve been anxiously been ‘on call’ for for the last few weeks.
Two amazing mamas in their final weeks of pregnancy have given me the honour of photographing their baby’s births and mama number 1 was experiencing some surges.
“It could be early labour, but no need for everyone to go in just yet. We’re on our way and will update you when we know more.”
So I got out of bed and got myself and my camera bag ready to head out the door any moment. I waited for about an hour and then Lina informed me that Shivani hadn’t had any more surges so I could get on with my day.
And so I did, still knowing that anything could happen. This was the sweetness of being ‘on call’.
Later that evening, around 6pm, Lina messaged to say that Shivani was having surges again so this might be it. I headed back home, started working on dinner, ate and then waited.
Rob came home and found me laying on the ground with my phone at my hand. He sat next to me and ate his dinner and then the call came from Alli, another midwife who would be assisting at the birth and who lives a couple of streets away from us in Bandra.
“Tina, come now. She is 4-5cm dilated.”
“Oh, I gotta go!”
Rob was definitely more nervous than I was. For some reason I was confident I wouldn’t miss anything. It was already about 10:30pm so most of Mumbai’s maddening traffic should have died down by now and it should take us about 20 minutes to get there. Rob has huffing and puffing to get me out the door STAT. It was quite a sight to see.
I reached Alli’s place and we waited for our taxi who seemed to be going round in circles trying to find us. Alli, who is an incredibly experienced midwife, seemed a little unsure of us making it in time as this was Shivani’s second birth and they tend to be quicker than the first. That made me a little nervous and I implored the taxi driver to get us there fast.
Thankfully, I was right about the traffic and we reached in about 20 minutes.
The house was quiet when we got there at 11pm. Lina was out in the living room with Shivani’s older daughter Janvi and her husband who greeted us as we entered. Lina was busy crocheting a pink hat as Janvi was convinced it was going be a ‘baby sister’ (although they encourage no wearing of hats for newborn babies as there are many benefits to not having any barriers to the mother-baby connection).
I got my camera ready, checked my settings and nimbly walked myself to the dimly lit birth room where Shivani was in an inflatable pool filled with water and calming music and chants played on the speakers. Nhing (another midwife extraordinaire of JustLink) was kneeling beside the pool, checking baby’s heartbeat and encouraging Shivani through her surges.
This was my first birth ever but I’ve been reading so much and have watched so many birth videos, that it honestly felt like I’d experienced a hundred births already. I was a little nervous about getting good photographs but the experience itself seemed familiar.
Over the next two hours, I made myself as inconspicuous as I knew how, and photographed as quietly as possible. My introverted self was truly in her element.
Around 12:45, the midwives did a check to make sure all was okay and announced that the baby was crowning and it might do it well if mama changed position as baby’s heartbeat was dropping a little bit.
Soon after she did, Shivani breathed down and baby’s head made an appearance. Baby wanted to see everyone first thing so decided that it would come out heading facing up – occiput posterior, in medical terms. This position happens in about 10% of labours and as the baby’s spine is facing the mama’s spine, it can make labour quite painful for mama and Shivani did beautifully in this situation.
A few surges later, out came baby, Shivani reached down to pick the baby out of the water with Nhing’s help and Janvi, who was there all along announced, “Baby brother!”, just as he took his first breath.
Everyone was excited, Shivani’s mother banged a plate in the kitchen to announce the good news and baby, who seemed exhausted from the journey but oh-so-happy to be cuddling on mama’s chest was perfectly calm and contended.
Born at 1am on the dot on 10 June 2015, Arin was my first little client as a Birth Photographer and I am so honoured that I was there to experience his first moments outside the womb. His birth has strengthened my conviction to tell these stories and to use my gift as a photographer to tell the world this:
Birth is beautiful.
Birth is a miracle.
And we must do everything in our power to give women everywhere the right to not only have safe births, but gentle births. Empowering births.