I felt Informed and Empowered

Sumun and David Frady, a UK- based couple, have been in India for the last six years. They have two children, Ravi-Caleb, who is 11, and Luca, who was born in India this February. But, the difference is that while Ravi was born in the UK through a C-section after a difficult labour and after several years of marriage, Luca’s was a vaginal birth. Sumun shares her story with MINAL KHONA

Sometimes, actually make that most times, things never go according to plan. There is an ocean of difference between what one wants and what actually transpires. That is what happened with David and Sumun Frady. They married young but Sumun got pregnant 11 years after their marriage. Sumun recalls, “We were keen to have a home birth, which is possible in the UK. But, when I went into labour, the contractions were too quick and I was in too much pain. The condition was more to do with my pelvis and because the baby was in an odd position. To make matters worse, my cervix was contracting instead of dilating. The doctors said they wouldn’t recommend a normal delivery and my son was born via a C-section the next day. I was exhausted but calm. Interestingly, the medical staff there told me that the next time I had a baby I should not try to have a normal delivery. It was unusual for doctors in England to say that, as normal births are encouraged where possible.”

David who was present in the operation theatre and even took photographs, recalls, “We’ve been married for 22 years now. The first time we had planned for a water birth at home; it didn’t work. I was honestly surprised at how much pain she had to go through and there was the added complication of the baby in distress. The theatre was a calm place, they played her favourite songs, I was in scrubs too and it was much less traumatising than I was led to believe.” Sumun and David have been in India for the past six and a half years. They are currently based in Hyderabad. David is a freelance creative designer and photographer. Sumun enjoys her work as a full-time home-maker. Last year, she conceived for the second time after turning 40. Despite apprehensions of friends and family, they decided to have the baby here. Sumun says, “A friend of mine who knew about Indie Kaur [Director of Midwifery Services at Fernandez Stork Home] and Kate [Katherine Stringer, Senior Midwifery Tutor] and the midwifery programmes at Fernandez Stork Home suggested I speak to Indie if I was concerned about anything. When I called, she asked me to meet her for a chat. When I went to meet her and Kate and Dr Vinatha Puli [consultant obstetrician and urigynaecologist at Fernandez Stork Home], they asked me to share what had happened with Ravi’s birth. It was the first time I was speaking about my experience to medical staff so that they could tell me what they felt and take me through my options. They took notes and assessed medically what had gone on. Until I opened up to them, I hadn’t realised how painful it had actually been. There was definitely pain there and I got some healing by speaking to them. There was this lightness in my spirit afterwards. They reassured me that there was no reason why we could not try for a normal birth this time. When she said it was a possibility that I could have a VBAC (vaginal birth after Caesarean), I told my husband that I might just try having a normal birth.” David attended every meeting and was familiar with Sumun’s pain threshold. Indie, Kate and the team at Fernandez Stork Home had settled their doubts so he was comfortable with Sumun trying for a VBAC. Sumun wanted to have a VBAC as she believes that “having a C-section affects your mobility and it takes longer to heal”. She also wanted to overcome her fear of delivering naturally. She went into labour on the morning of February11. “My water broke and we went to Fernandez Stork Home. It felt like a rerun of what had happened to me during my first delivery and I was very nervous.

But I trusted Indie so much that I knew she would do what she needed to do. I wasn’t rushed and there was no grid for time. They put me in the water, and it really helped. Indie and Teresa [lead midwife at Fernandez Stork Home] kept emphasising that I should listen to my body. Teresa helped me regularise my breathing while Indie supported me to bear left or right as required. After almost two hours, I was able to lie on the bed.

It was exhausting and I chose to have an epidural. I got a break from the contractions. What I really liked is that they were all so respectful of my wishes. It dulled the pain, which was a big relief.” The labour was a rerun in more ways than one. Sumun says, “The baby’s position was not right this time too. Even in Ravi’s case, he was in distress. But Indie and Teresa were with me and they knew what they were doing. The doula and Indie had me on my fours, and they rubbed my stomach with a scarf. They were trying to change the baby’s position via the spinning babies technique. Spinning babies is an approach to optimise the physical relationship between the bodies of the mother and baby, easing childbirth. My earlier experience had been an extremely medical one. This was so personal and non-medical. After 15 minutes of doing this, I was ready to bear down. I was close to full dilation and I could feel subtle contractions. They were talking me through the contractions. I felt so cared for, and that gave me the courage and confidence. I was on the verge of giving up when the head came out, and they prodded me on till the rest of the baby also came through the birth canal. I felt like it was a huge achievement. The labour had started at about 6 in the morning and it was now past noon. I was tired but relieved that I’d had a normal birth.” David, who was present the whole time, adds with a happy smile, “We had faith in their ability; I put my trust, my wife’s and unborn child’s safety in their hands. Indie’s gentle guidance, Teresa with her brilliant smile, comforting Sumun and encouraging her; and both of them giving Sumun the space she needed was very reassuring. The way they used a dupatta to turn the baby and their team effort gave me all the confidence I needed. I knew my wife and child were safe with them. She was made as comfortable as she could get and was relaxed. I could tell the team knew what they were doing. They had a work fl ow – procedures about monitoring things, asking questions and they were taking Sumun through the stages. The language used was so comforting, and very little formal medical intervention. They were attentive towards her body language; little signs that helped them take it forward. She was not rushed, we were there for six hours, but the only focus was on the process of giving birth. It was truly a miracle to see Luca being born. It was an amazing, beautiful experience.” Sumun is glad she met the midwifery team and doctors at Fernandez Stork Home. “From the experiential and relational side, it was a brilliant relationship I shared with the team from Fernandez Stork Home. Indie knew what she was talking about and the fact that I could trust someone was such a relief. She is very passionate about the way children should be born. They had even kept the operation theatre ready just in case I needed a C-section,” she recalls. Looking back, with Luca now a few months old, Sumun reflects, “Being a foreigner, having a baby in India and that too by normal delivery had to be a divine connection. God brought us together; He scripted it; I couldn’t have done this otherwise. Getting pregnant the second time in my 40s was a big surprise. At Fernandez Stork Home, though I met Dr Vinatha, the medical intervention was minimal. There was nothing medical and it was a very natural, normal, personal experience. In England, it is a lot more clinical. I believe that the midwifery programme at Fernandez Stork Home is so vital to birthing. They understand the whole process and the trauma that a woman can go through if she has had a painful experience giving birth the first time. I can’t speak highly enough of Indie; she has full belief in what they are doing and it was a confidence booster for me. I felt informed and empowered. It was a very valuable experience that will always stay with me.”

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