Thursday, 22 October 2015

Our new baby...

So today is almost 1 month since our new baby's arrival. I wanted to write sooner know how it is. We're settling into a routine of sorts now so am grabbing a quick moment to write whilst C is at work, K is at kindergarten and our little one sleeps. Just a warning, I will be writing details of the birth...

So 21st September was my 31st birthday, it was quite a quiet one being so very pregnant. It was half term so K was off school and him and me went for ice cream in the morning. Then we all went for lunch with C's mum and partner followed by a rest at home before me and K went to a friend's house for a swim. C made a delicious casserole and roast potatoes for dinner which is such a treat. You can't get gravy granules here - I actually brought some back with me from the UK but once it's gone, it's gone!

On the 23rd I invited a number of girl friends out for lunch partly for my birthday and partly since the baby was due at anytime. It was so nice to get out the house and as always when I've not see anyone for a while, I felt nourished by the company of so many beautiful smiling faces. My due date was the following day and we all knew that the next time I saw then, my baby would be here.

The evening of the 23rd at around 10.30pm I felt a shift downwards in my belly and upon visiting the loo, found that my waters had broken. As this was exactly what happened with K's birth (even the same time of day) I wasn't afraid but rather excited that it was starting. I called my midwives and told them that it was only just beginning and that we'd call when we needed them. Then I called C's mum and told her that C would bring K over when we needed to but that he was fine to stay sleeping for the time being. 

C and I watched a TV show and at 11pm my contractions started. By midnight we decided to try and get some sleep as we both thought the labour was likely to be long since K's labour had gone on for over 25 hours. So C fell asleep but I found it too difficult to as the contractions were coming every 10 minutes and they were more painful when I was lying down. I had read a book called Active Birth which had helped me realise that I needed to stay upright and walking around as this was the best way to help baby come whilst being less painful. Since we were planning to stay at home for the birth and had no access to pain relief I kept on my feet and remembered the breathing techniques for the contractions. The next 3 hours were spent walking up and down the stairs to the toilet, breathing through the contractions and trying to rest a little in between (haha).

By 3.30am things were getting painful and I was feeling the urge to push so I woke C and told him that he needed to call the midwives. He called them both and they said they'd come within half an hour. Then he called his mum and let her know that he'd be bringing K to her hours soon. 

At 4am the midwives arrived to find me naked except for my underpants, covered in sweat and losing my ability to stay in control of the situation (a perfect time for them to be there). Whilst they got me dried, C woke K and took him to his mum's house. I'll never forget his excited little face when he heard the baby was coming. The midwives got the bed ready (we used K's bed as he sleeps downstairs) and they checked to see how dialated I was. I was so surprised to learn that I was 7 centimetres already (10 is when you can start pushing). We realised that this baby was coming much faster than K did. This next stage of the labour was the hardest, when you feel the urge to push but you have to stop yourself and breath through those urges. I was sat on the bed and my midwives helped me by breathing with me and keeping me focused. Since I had been meeting with them since the start of the pregnancy I felt a great deal of trust in them which of course, you need in such a vulnerable state.

This next hour and a half seemed to pass quickly, C made everyone tea and I was regularly made to drink tea or water depending on how I felt at the time. When I was at 10 centimetres and was allowed to push, I could feel the baby making its way out. It hurts so much but I was determined not to lose myself to the pain and a few strong pushes with the next few contractions got its head out. The next push got the body out and we met our second son. He was born at 5.43am on his due date, less than 7 hours after my waters broke. The sun was just coming up and music from a nearby temple had just started playing. 

Just minutes after his birth

C's first hold of his new son

My angels, the most amazing midwives

The next few hours passed in an adrenaline fueled daze, he was cleaned and dressed after we had had some quality skin to skin time, the placenta was birthed and stored in a bucket to be buried in our garden with a hibiscus bush planted on top of it. I showered and we all had another cup of tea. The midwives stayed until around 9am making sure we were alright. It was so amazing to see that a straightforward birth like ours used only the barest minimum of equipment. They made me some makeshift post partum pads out of cotton wool wads and gauze which I used with an Eco Femme night pad underneath. Baby was put straight into a cloth nappy. It felt good to still uphold our eco conscious values even in such a situation.

His first feed 
Then time for a nap

Once we were all settled, the midwives left with one arranging to return later in the day to see how we were getting on. Then me and C tried to doze a little, something neither of us quite managed. At 2pm C's mum and partner came bringing K to meet his new brother and an enormous carrier bag of chrysanthemums and roses. It was so lovely to see K and to introduce him to his little brother. They stayed for an hour of so before heading home taking K with them for a sleepover to give us time to settle with our new son.

The brothers meet for the first time

Celebratory flowers for our gorgeous second son

We spent the rest of the day resting and enjoying this new being who had come into our lives. There were quite a few moments of us both gazing in silence and wonder at him.

We named him Ari (long 'aa' pronunciation) which has many meanings, my favourites being 'rain bringer' in Arabic and 'we have seen/found someone to care for' in Yoruba. I like short names, K's name is Kai and I love how the names compliment each other.

I'll have to sign off now as he is stirring. This is our birth story for A and I am still in a state of shock at just how wonderful the birthing experience can be with the right frame of mind and with midwives who are with you from the start. I feel proud to have had no drugs and to have enjoyed the luxury of being in my own home. I wish more women had that chance.

I'll be back soon to catch up on this past month.

With love, Laura.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

June onwards...

So, as mentioned in my last post, I returned home from the UK on the 2nd June. I had a wonderfully weird few days, adjusting back to life, settling back into our house which didn't feel like mine anymore (cue me rearranging the contents of the fridge, cleaning this and that etc) and of course, getting over the jet lag. There was an air of excitement in those first few days, I had packed a number of gifts and treats for C & K, so there was an almost Christmas-like feeling as new toys and special foods were enjoyed.

On the 6th June, just 4 days after my return, me and K came home after a kids birthday party to find messages from my aunt, uncle and sister letting me know that my Grandma had died that morning.

I'd not lost anyone close to me before and I was surprised by the initial force of emotion that struck me like a blow to the stomach. I've been interested in psychology for some time and was aware of myself processing the news and actually found that I felt gratitude very quickly after the initial sadness and tears. After all, I had spent a wonderful couple of days with her just a few weeks before, laughing, sharing stories and enjoying one another's company. This precious time spent with her wouldn't have happened had I not become pregnant as we had not planned to visit until the end of the year. It was her time, her body was old and tired - how lucky I was to have been one of the last to see her - how can you be sad at that?

The following couple of weeks were spent keeping in contact with my family.  It wasn't possible to go back for a number of reasons so I did my best to offer what support I could from afar. I made a puja each morning (an offering of fresh flowers, incense and a mantra) to show my love and to wish her spirit well as it made it's journey to wherever it is that spirits go.

On the morning of her funeral, 2 weeks after her passing, I visited the Matrimandir to reflect upon her life as well as say farewell. It's a place I don't visit regularly but like to when if feels important to or if I need guidance. I felt quite emotional walking through the gardens and up into the main chamber. As I sat in the cool, white, silence, a beam of sunlight entered the top of the chamber and struck the crystal at the centre of the room and sent rainbows swirling around - something I've never seen before and which felt ethereal in that environment. It was also the first time I've ever been totally alone in there for a few minutes. There has always been a minimum of 2-3 other people inside when I have visited, often more but for 3-4 minutes it was just me and the rainbows. It was wonderful.

I gathered a few flowers from the gardens on my departure and made a special puja once I got home.

frangipani, hibiscus, oleander and bougainvillea

A little while later I received the most precious item from my grandma's house, a bear for her unborn great grandchild. She gave each of us grandchildren a bear when we were born and had continued the tradition with her 5 great grandchildren. I couldn't bare the thought of this child not having a bear from her and was delighted to receive one in the post from my uncle. It's now sitting in our crib awaiting it's new owner.

June blended into July with only a slight reduction in temperature. K returned to kindergarten in the second week of July and all the parents in AV heaved a sigh of relief (9 weeks is a looooong time). My mornings were spent at work and afternoons started with a post lunch nap (too hot for anything else - even the fan blows hot air!) followed by groggily trying to get errands done. A routine blood test showed that my iron levels were quite low which accounted for the tiredness and lack of strength. It's pretty normal for pregnant women to suffer from this. the heart increases in size and the body makes an extra 50% of the body's blood for the baby. This set me on a mission to get my levels up and I started eating as much iron rich foods as well as food high in vitamin C (vit c aids iron absorption) as well as supplements. The next few tests showed no change which only increased my obsession. It has only been in the last month that my levels have gone back up - phew!

I was getting bigger by the end of July, here I am at 7 months pregnant and a lovely picture of C & K which I couldn't resist sharing!

One of the positive things of living in a very community minded place is the support you receive. We have been passed on so much baby stuff, from clothes to a pram for the first few months (not really safe to drive on the motorbike or carry the baby in a sling) to the most amazing crib which has been in circulation in AV for around 35-40 years. My midwife's children were in it and her co-midwife was in it, as was her 18 year old son. It was finally brought to our house (by C and the father of the last baby who slept in it) by motorbike. It was so nice to get it set up in a corner of our bedroom and start the 'nesting' process.

I also started sourcing all the items needed for a homebirth as given to me by my midwife. Buckets, gauze, old sheets and towels plus medicines for disinfecting etc. I was interested to learn that the small bucket with a lid that was on the list was for the placenta which is customarily buried in the garden with a plant or tree on top of it. It felt like a far cry from the medicalisation and sterilisation of the disposal methods used in a hospital. Needless to say we have a hole ready and plan to plant my potted pink hibiscus on top.

C's birthday rolled around at the beginning of August. His mum had K for the night and she paid for us to stay in a local high end hotel which has a swimming pool. It was a treat to have a night away, even if we were only just down the road from home. 

I started pregnancy yoga classes when the lady running the classes returned from her holidays. It's been good to do some yoga in a class. I had been practicing a little at home but I prefer to have someone to correct me if I'm doing a pose wrong. Also good to see/meet the other women who are expecting around the same time as me. It's nice to think that our kids will be likely to grow up together. 

C and I also attended some Watsu classes especially for pregnant couples. It's pretty much just relaxing in a warm pool and getting an idea of how a baby feels in the womb. Interesting though and like the yoga classes, totally free as we're Aurovilians.

Before we knew it, it was the end of August and time for my monthly bump photo - 8 month bump!

So here we are on the 12th Sept. It would have been my grandmother's birthday today and it feels fitting to get this blog of mine up-to-date. Our baby is due in approx 12 days. I stopped going to work on Tuesday but am still working from home, at least for the next week (the blessing/curse of the computer based job) and I am feeling really good although I feel like a time-bomb which could 'go off' at any minute. 

The women in my community organised a little 'baby shower' for me yesterday - nothing like the American baby showers but some food, a couple of gifts and just the chance to connect as neighbours and mothers in a way that I have never experienced before. I feel so very lucky to get to experience community spirit in the immediate sense but also in the wider community sense, the people who stop you for a quick chat when you do your shopping, the endless guesses of the baby's sex based on the shape of my bump or folklore from a multitude of countries. I'm not some anonymous pregnant lady walking down a British high street and it's humbling to feel such warmth from people here.

I'm going to sign off now as it's getting late here and I've been writing for 2 hours.

Will be back soon when our little one has arrived!

With love, Laura.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

I'm back! (Part 1 - back to the UK)

Gosh, has it really been so long? As always, I don't intend to stop writing, it's been an especially interesting time. There is much to catch up on so I'd best get started!

So, my last post was sharing my news of pregnancy and impending trip to the UK at the beginning of May. The end of April meant the beginning of the summer holidays here - 9 loooooong weeks of extreme heat, bored children and still trying to work is *fun* to say the least. Anyway, I had just one week of holidays before jetting off to the UK for my visit.

C and K planned to take a little holiday too, just a few days after I left, heading down to Kodaikanal which is a former hill-station about 8 hours drive South of Auroville. Each summer, Auroville youth (aged around 8-14) attend a nature camp there and a number of our friends were taking care of the kids so it seemed like a nice idea to tag along. Due to it's location, high in the mountains, the climate is much cooler and a perfect place to visit during the scorching summer months. It's also where C was born but that's beside the point...

On the morning of the 7th May, we headed to the snack bar for my goodbye breakfast - iddlies, vadai with sambar and coconut chutney. Delicious! 

The taxi to Chennai airport was booked for around 3.30pm so we had a few hours together whilst I gathered my last minute items. It felt really surreal to be leaving my family, even if only for a few weeks. The taxi arrived and we bundled the bags in the boot and one last hug and kiss to C and K and I was off!

Both times that I visited and then left Auroville (in 2008 and 2012) I left with a lump in my throat and this time was no exception. I kept reminding my self that it was only for 3 weeks, how good it'd be to see my friends and family as well as how my boys would be fine without me. I guess a part of me was nervous about doing the trip alone too, having never flown alone before. Still, the occasional reassuring kick from baby stopped me from feeling too sad and I took in the view whizzing past as we went on our way.

It was peak Jackfruit season so we drove past many piles of these gigantic fruits for sale by the side of the road. I'm not a fan of their taste but I love how they look...

Not my photo, just to give an idea of their size

We arrived at Chennai airport around 6pm, somewhat earlier than expected due to a rustic shortcut from the driver. Still, it gave me a chance to get my bearings, work out where my luggage would be checked in and settle down to a snack and a read of my book. I was once again struck by how much these past 2 years have changed me, I'm so much braver, sure of myself and it's a nice thing to appreciate, I started to look forward to the next few hours of travel and see it as an adventure.

Finally around 9pm, with luggage checked in, we all boarded the plane. We took off just after 10pm in the smaller of the journeys, landing in Abu Dhabi at around 1am. This flight was on a smaller plane and there was a big family with about 6 kids, grandmother, husbands and wives in the seats next to me and one of the kids kept moving from seat to seat and generally being a nuisance. Having been awake since 6am that morning, I wasn't feeling so tolerant but reminded myself that at least I wasn't needing to be responsible for anyone but myself.

We landed in Abu Dhabi and had just enough time to find the next terminal for the next flight at 3am. Then off we went in our larger, more comfortable plane. As luck would have it, my seat planning had paid off (I chose isle seats near the toilet, a tip I got online for travelling when pregnant) and I share a row of 3 seats with a chap who sat by the window and promptly fell asleep meaning I had an extra seat, pillow and blanket for the journey (the same location on the flight home reaped the exact same arrangement).

Finally, 7.30am the following day, we landed in London and I was home! I thought about how when we left for Auroville in Sept 2013, I'd not known when I'd be back. With face washed and freshened up as much as one can do during a long haul flight, I entered the airport and into a new world where I was no longer in the minority. In India, I will always be a tourist due to my skin colour and in a number of ways, I don't mind that but it was nice to experience anonymity again, not to be presumed rich, not to be targeted by beggars. To be just another face in the crowd.

I got my luggage and made it to my coach with a minute to spare and then onto the next past of the journey, 3-4 hours drive up to Nottingham to see my grandparents. The journey was spent taking in the grey and green landscape and dozing. I arrived around 2pm (I think??) and met my grandparents who got me home where I could shower, change and rest. It was so nice to see them again after two years and a few Skype chats. I slept so well that night!

I was quite jet lagged those first two days but felt better for Sunday, when we had lunch with my aunt, cousin and her children. One last day with my grandparents and I was off onto the next stop across to my grandma and uncle who like just over an hour away. I spent a lovely 2 days with them, joking and laughing with my grandma and enjoying my uncle's company. We even took a nice stroll through the lush green fields which I found so stunningly vivid and bright. These family visits are usually accompanied by C and K so it was a fantastic experience to have my family 'all to myself' for these few days.

Almost a week after landing I said my goodbyes and headed on the first of 3 trains on my way to Somerset - my home for a large portion of my life. As the train pulled away I felt quite strongly that I might not see my grandparents again. After all when you live in India and earn the equivalent of around £60 a month, it's not easy to plan regular trips. I felt lucky to have had this chance to spend some quality time with them all. Anyway, I shook such morbid thoughts away and thought instead of seeing my sister, nephews and friends and how much fun it'd be.

My two weeks in Somerset were a bit of a blur compared to the slower pace of the first week. For a start, I didn't have a steady place to stay so spent a few night on sofas but was lucky that an old friend of mine rents a house but spends every other month away working and when he is home, he stays mostly with his girlfriend, another dear friend of mine. This meant I had an empty house for a good few days which gave me some respite in between the visits, chatting and socialising which was ideal since I'm somewhat introverted and need quiet time.

First stop was my sisters, it was so good to see her, her partner and my two cheeky nephews again. They were happy with the hand-carved wooden swords I had a friend in AV make for them!

The next day was spent seeing my group of closest friends, I was so happy to see how I just slotted back into my little circle as if I hadn't really been gone for nearly 2 years. Here we are (my sister with the red hair). Seeing my friends felt like the biggest thing that I missed in a number of ways. I have a few friends here but it's not the same and nothing beats a good laugh and the chance to talk rubbish with people who truly 'get' you. I'm very grateful to these lovely ladies for that.

I also thought I'd best have a 'full English' whilst I was away. This is the Weatherspoons veggie version cos' I am classy, innit. 

Staying mainly at my friend's house meant a good 20-30 minute walk to get back into town so I did get plenty of exercise during my stay. This was quite a difference to life in India where I rarely walk anywhere preferring my bicycle or motorbike. It did me good though and I got to see a beautiful double rainbow for my efforts.

My walks also took me past some familiar places that somehow seemed more picturesque in my absence. Here is the beginning of the canal from the dock area. 

King's Square, next to the council offices.

The canal from above

I also spent a couple of nights at another friend's parent's house. They live just outside of Bridgwater and have a stunning house and garden. We actually had our wedding reception in their field. It was another lovely experience, waking up to this view, eating freshly baked bread, meeting their new tortoise, seeing the garden in full bloom and spending time with my oldest friend and his two kids who came down to visit at the same time.

I also got to spend a day in Bristol to see another very dear friend of mine and C's. I love Bristol for it's culture, diversity and graffiti! 

My friend and his 'wall of equations' as part of his studies :)

Nice bit of street art on our way to have dinner.

The night before I was due to fly back out, one of my favourite groups, Sheelanagig were playing at the Bridgwater Art centre. It was an opportunity not to be missed. As luck would have it, I entered a Facebook competition and won 2 tickets for the show! They have such a witty, foot stomping energy that it's impossible not to dance. We had such a fun evening. I've missed seeing regular gigs since moving away. There's not such a music scene here unless you live in a city so I've been starved of live music and enjoying a dance for too long!

The next day I was due to leave Bridgwater by coach at 1am. We managed to gather a good few people for lunch and it was such a lovely send off. 

Then it was time for goodbyes and a final evening with my sister. It was strange saying goodnight and goodbye at the same time since I was leaving while they'd all be asleep. Despite feeling sad I was also looking forward to seeing my boys again. We'd managed a few Skype chats but I just wanted to be home with them again. 

The journey home felt longer, I had been awake the whole day of the 31st May, travelled to London arriving in the morning of the 1st June and then landing back in Chennai at 5am on the 2nd. I left the airport dazed and fell into the taxi with my beautiful boys by my side who had woken at 2am to come pick me up. Here's the sunrise on my journey back to AV.

All in all, I had a heartwarming, joyful visit back home and one that I cherish for all the wonderful times spent with dear ones who I miss. It was also really good for me to have those 3 weeks apart from C and K. I think we all appreciate one another more as a result. It also assured me that AV is home to me now. Even if the average temperature of my first month back was 38 degrees, it's still home.

I'll be back soon with the next installment.

L xx

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The reason for my absence these past weeks...

Hi there, it's been an interesting few months and I've been so caught up in things that I've hardly been in the right place for communicating. Finally I feel it's a good time, we have a day off work as it is Tamil new year. It rained last night for the first time in about 4 months. There is a sweet, wet scent in the air, the morning sun is shining and I have some Banco de Gaia playing as I type.

At the end of Jan, I discovered that me and C are expecting our second child. It was unexpected but we're not unhappy about it as I always felt we had room for another in our family and although C always said 1 was enough, he is also happy. K will be almost 6 when this one arrives and we feel good about the timing. We're settling well here and this brings a new richness to our experience.

I found out early on, at just 5 weeks. My time and work at Eco Femme has given me a better insight into my body's cycles and changes during the months. We had to keep things quiet until 12 weeks as those first weeks are where the risk of something going wrong is most high. I'm not good at keeping secrets so became a little reclusive to get used to the idea and to bide my time.

I had just a little nausea in those beginning months, nothing much although I had none at all with K. Now at 4 months I am feeling good and have the beginnings of a bump starting (at the stage where I just look overweight!). 'Pregnancy brain' has kicked in and I'm very absent minded - it's quite a zen-like feeling. I'm constantly in the present!

The other big news is that we had planned to visit the UK as a family in winter but with this little one coming in Sept/Oct we decided that I would make a quick visit alone in May to see all my family and friends before coming back to have the baby here and to remain here for the next few years. I'm excited to visit after almost 2 years away. I will miss my boys who will stay here, but I think it's good for us to have a little time apart too and for the boys to have time together without me.

It's been interesting to experience being pregnant here. In the UK with K, it was straightforward, you go to the doctor and they arrange midwife appointments, scan dates, everything for you. You just show up at the right place and time. Here, it's another story. Luckily I have a friend here who is due to have her baby anytime now and she was my first confidant. She had her first child here and could offer practical advice on the first steps.

Now I've had some scans (quite a lengthy process of sitting around in hot waiting rooms in Pondy), got a midwife (an experienced woman who has delivered many babies here in AV) and am hoping to have a homebirth - a far cry from my first experience. It's important to me to make this experience different from my first, it'll very likely be my final pregnancy. Having K took so long, I wasn't calm, I wasn't working with my body and so it was tough. I am reading a book called Spiritual Midwifery which is about home-births in the 70s in a commune in the US. It's a good read, once you get past the 'far-out' hippy language used. There is sense in it and I hope I can apply it when the time comes.

Anyway, quite a long post but that's where my head's been at these past months. I'll try to be back soon with a more general update.

With love, Laura.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Holidays and the new year

Again, my blog took a backseat over the festive season and beyond. Our 3 weeks in Goa were spent with very little internet access which was bliss. I needed to disconnect from work and the usual communications. C and I had a difficult few months too which discouraged me from writing. Hey, we all prefer to write about happy things, right? We're back on track now and I've been glad to be home after our holidays. 

It's the first real length of time I've had away from AV since we moved here and to come back made me really see how much I view this place as home. The peaceful green, lush beauty of this place, mostly free from litter even surpasses the tropical holiday vibes of Goa. 

We spent our time in the North of Goa where C's dad lives. The beaches are lovely and we spent part of every day by the sea. 
Christmas day sunset

We stayed at C's dad's house for the first 10 days as he had to go away on some business which helps lower the cost of our trip plus allowed us the use of a kitchen and his motorcycle.

We visited a waterpark (to K's joy),

and moved to a nice place called Lotus Inn for the second part of our holiday. We'd stayed there before so knew we'd have this lovely pool to enjoy.

I spent a little alone time at the Anjuna market looking at all the stalls and picking up a bargain or two.

We also spent some quality time with C's dad which was wonderful as we've not seen him in 2.5 years. He and K really got along well. Then it was time to say goodbye and head back to our sleeper train to Chennai.

Since we've been back, I've been on a bit of a health kick, lots of fresh fruit smoothies and salads (it's the best time of year for fresh local produce and it's wonderful). We've all been cycling more as well which can't help but make you feel good. We have some truly lovely shaded forest cycle paths running the length and breadth of Auroville. I'm working hard but still loving what I do and the baking side business is still going well too.

For now I'll close, sorry it's been so long but I'll be back soon with more updates from here. Until then here is a lotus to brighten your day.