Giving birth to our first child was a wondrous journey as I am sure it is for most women, and so I have given a more in-depth description of this. For the following seven pregnancies I have attempted to keep their descriptions short, but this is not to say they were any less significant.
Girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl, boy. This is the order of our eight children.
September 1973 in Brisbane, Australia – after a ten hour labor – It’s a girl!
After the usual period of morning sickness from the 8th week to the 12th week was over, I started to have the feeling of well being that comes with a healthy pregnancy. I was twenty years old and had been vegetarian for the past couple of years. I visited a doctor for check-ups throughout the pregnancy but in those days Western trained doctors knew very little about vegetarianism. Other than endlessly trying to give me iron tablets even though my tests for anemia were fine, he told me little else about being pregnant. I had to investigate at the bookstore for myself. I read every book and article I could find on being pregnant and I especially liked reading a book by Shelia Kitzinger, an English midwife. She was not only a respected midwife who specialized in home deliveries but was a vegetarian who had given birth to twins and breast-fed them for two years or so. I was impressed!
For most of the pregnancy we lived on a farm just outside of Brisbane while my husband commuted daily to University to complete his final year of Architecture. On the farm we had a large variety of fruit growing which I ate fresh off the tree daily. I cooked miso soup and home made bread each night on the large old wood stove. I chopped wood daily for the stove, hand washed our clothes, tended my flower gardens and went for long serene walks over the property becoming very familiar with all the resident birds and animals. I also practiced mantra meditation daily. It was a very healthy, mellow pregnancy.
Towards the end of the pregnancy, we moved back into the city as my husband had to complete his thesis. As I had not experienced any health problems throughout the pregnancy, I was determined to have a home birth. The only problem was there were no practicing homebirthing midwives in Australia at that time. Search and ye shall find! A couple of weeks before I was due to give birth I found a young English midwife who had just moved to Australia and was agreeable to helping me.
For most of my pregnancies I gave birth on the exact day I had calculated as ten months from conception. So at midday on the tenth of September, the due date, I started having contractions twenty minutes apart. I was very excited. I finished cleaning the house and prepared the bedroom for the birth. I then rang the midwife with the good news. I telephoned the university and they broadcast the message over the loud speaker in the lecture room my husband was in. Woops!
By late afternoon, the contractions were every ten minutes accompanied by a niggly backache. At night fall I was a little hungry and suggested we all go to a vegetarian restaurant nearby. The midwife checked everything was progressing well. I was only one inch dilated and the child’s head was not yet engaged properly.
I was feeling a mixture of excitement that I would be giving birth sometime that night, as well as a deep feeling of peacefulness. We arrived at the restaurant in a happy mood and placed our order. We were all seated on floor cushions around a low Japanese type table, and I still vividly remember the feeling as the baby moved down onto the opening cervix. I nearly hit the roof. Immediately the contractions started coming thick and fast every two minutes. No dinner for anybody that night! They helped me back to the car and for the ten minute journey I squatted on all fours, breathing rapidly and noisily from the upper chest with each contraction. So this is what labor is like heh! We reached home and I was on that bed in a flash. I spent the next two hours experiencing the hardest work I had ever done. But even amidst all this I was noting the different stages and experiences according to what I had read in my books!
The final stages of labor are very intense but my overriding concern was to make it as easy as possible for the child. It is doubly nice to have some gentle mantra meditation music playing now. When the midwife told me it was now time to put all my effort into pushing with each contraction I felt relieved and excited. It was an amazing feeling giving birth.
Ten minutes later our daughter was born at 10:10pm weighing 7lbs. My husband cut the umbilical cord. After some long hugs from me and giving the child a feed, the midwife gave our newborn a gentle bath and the baby fell asleep almost immediately. Approximately 20 minutes after giving birth I delivered the placenta as well. Feeding the child and squatting over a bucket helped to make sure the placenta was safely delivered.
After some cleaning up, the midwife left, probably hungry and tired, but I felt so energized I could hardly sleep for hours just staring at this little bundle. The next morning I rose early, bathed, and began cleaning up properly after the night’s events. I had to hand wash all the sheets as we didn’t have a washing machine. Our little daughter woke a few times that day and peacefully breast fed. By the end of the first week I had so much breastmilk that I had to wrap towels around my chest when I was in the house.
I went to the local hospital for the recommended six weeks check up. My womb was in good shape, I was recovering full steam ahead and our little was putting on lots of weight. So don’t let anybody tell you vegetarian mothers are anemic and produce sickly children. Vegetarian women have been giving birth to healthy children for thousands of years.
August 1975 in Hong Kong – after a four and a half hour labor – It’s a boy!
Despite having a toddler to look after and my husband being away on business for six months of the pregnancy, I felt very robust. I experienced less morning sickness than the first pregnancy but probably more tiredness for the first three months. My husband had been doing a lot of business in Hong Kong as well as studying, amongst other things, the Chinese martial arts Wing Chun. So it was decided we would move there.
With our young daughter, I flew to Hong Kong to join my husband, four weeks before I was due to give birth. This was my first airplane journey and definitely my first journey outside of Australia. From the minute I walked off the plane in Kowloon, I was fascinated with the east.
I had brought with me a birthing pack that I had prepared containing clean small towels, sheets, sharp scissors, and clamping scissors. I had prepared them a couple of months earlier by placing them in a large tin and heating it all in an oven on a low temperature for a few hours. Afterwards I allowed the tin to cool a little before sealing the lid on tightly. I was looking forward to giving birth to our next child.
My husband had rented a place in the countryside near a farming village located near what was then the border of China and Hong Kong. There were a few English speaking people nearby but they worked in Kowloon everyday. So I spent my remaining four weeks of this pregnancy investigating my new surroundings, going for long walks in the nearby rice fields and making some friends with the villagers. I also had to work out how to buy food at the local marketplace that had all their signs written in Cantonese. But being vegetarian in a Chinese society is very easy. Trays of freshly- made tofu were produced daily and the vegetables were picked twice a day for maximum freshness. The Chinese people have a natural respect for and a long tradition of vegetarianism and were only too happy to help me find interesting ingredients.
At midnight just before the calculated day, I started having contractions. After about one hour I woke my husband and together we set up the room for the birth. I placed a plastic covering on the bed with clean sheets and a towel on the top. We got out the birthing kit and broke the seal on the lid. Everything looked fresh and clean inside. Labor progressed quickly and just before dawn at 4:30am our son was born. I knew as he was being born that he was going to be a big baby and he certainly was – over 10lbs. My husband did a lovely job of delivering him.
Shortly afterwards my husband went back to sleep but I can never sleep after giving birth. I am too excited. So I took our newborn son wrapped in soft clothing out onto the veranda and as I sat and watched the beautiful sunrise over the rice fields I gently sang God’s Names into his ears as he peacefully slept. What a lovely start to a day. Later in the morning I woke our daughter up and after showing her her little brother, prepared breakfast for everyone. I was starving.
My husband had to go to work early that day but some of the village women came to visit and they brought me a brew that they had been preparing for me ever since I had arrived. It was a traditional soup that is prepared during the last couple of weeks of pregnancy by cooking Chinese dates and large slices of ginger together in water. This brew is reheated everyday and by the end of a few weeks is a black broth. I drank this everyday for a couple of weeks. It renews the mother’s strength and helps return the womb to its normal size and position. The Chinese ladies taught me not to eat or drink any cold foods for a couple of weeks after giving birth. No watermelon, oranges, or similar cold foods. All the foods should warm and nourish the body.
January 1979, Gold Coast Australia – after a three and a half hour labor – It’s a girl!
We were now living back in Australia beside the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean and the long white sandy beaches. I went swimming everyday throughout this pregnancy and felt very healthy. I was also doing some daily hatha yoga asanas (poses) during this pregnancy. I practiced four poses for the first six months and continued two of these poses until the day before labor. Hatha yoga not only helps prepare the body for labor, but alleviates some of the minor aches and pains of pregnancy. Ask a yoga teacher about the following asanas I did:
*Tadanana (palm tree pose)
This is a standing asana and is useful during the first six months of pregnancy to keep the abdominal muscles and nerves toned. It also strengthens your legs to help carry the growing weight of your womb.
*Marjariasana (cat pose)
This is a kneeling pose and is also good for the first six months of pregnancy. It strengthens your back for carrying the child. You will experience less backache in the last months of your pregnancy as a result.
*Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose)
This is a sitting pose and can be practiced all throughout pregnancy. It assists women for labor and is a preventative measure against hernias and helps relieve piles. It also increases the efficiency of the entire digestive system. Fantastic for your pregnancy!
*Poorna Titaliasana (full butterfly)
This sitting posture is my top most favorite asana while pregnant. I would sit in this pose whenever I could throughout the final months of pregnancy, not just when I was doing the yoga asanas.
During pregnancy the body secretes a hormone which makes the joints more flexible than usual and I felt doing the yoga asanas really improved my body’s ability to carry and deliver the baby easier. I practiced these four asanas during my future pregnancies as well.
I have since learnt a simple meditation that can be practiced at the end of doing the asanas. Sit in a comfortable pose like the Vrajrasana or lie down on your bed with supporting pillows. Breathe in and out gently and begin to focus on your breathing. Watch the breath as it enters and leaves your body. Your breathing should be entirely normal.
Now as you exhale quietly say the mantra – Gauranga (pronounced Gor – ung – ga). Draw the sound out with your breath. Breathe in slowly and repeat the mantra again as you slowly breathe out. Do this for about five minutes and you will feel very peaceful and relaxed after your hatha yoga session. After the seventh month of pregnancy, your child in the womb will be able to hear the mantra and also directly derive the same relaxing benefits.
I went into labor around 9am on the due date. By 12:35pm I had given birth to a little girl weighing 6lbs. We named her Vrndavan which means a forest full of flowers. The next few weeks were very busy looking after this darling little girl and the two other children. Plus I had to start home schooling our first daughter three weeks after the birth of her sister. Two months later I started cooking the evening meals for a vegetarian restaurant our friends owned and from this the local Government asked me to conduct weekly vegetarian cooking classes as part of their unemployed youth programs. The teenagers really appreciated learning how to cook cheap but healthy meals and they became very interested in vegetarianism.
May 1981, Sydney Australia – after a five and a half hour labor – It’s a boy!
We had moved to the big city smoke – Sydney. But fortunately we lived on the north shore just near the beautiful Sydney Harbor. By the early 1980’s there was a network of professional homebirthing midwives in Sydney. When I became pregnant with our fourth child I contacted one of these midwives and attended regular check-ups with her as well as a local doctor. I didn’t experience any health problems during this pregnancy. On my due date I started having contractions at 2am. I waited a few hours before telephoning the midwife. She arrived at 6am and my waters still hadn’t broken even though I was having contractions every 10 minutes. I was almost fully dilated so the midwife broke the waters herself. Immediately the contractions started coming faster and stronger. The baby was head-first down but turned around facing my backbone and thus causing a lot of back pain for me. Towels placed in boiling hot water and rung out with gloved hands and then placed on my back really helped with this back pain.
May 1983, Sydney Australia – after one and a half hour labor – It’s a girl!
By now my husband was traveling a lot to Bali, Indonesia on business and was due back three days before I was due to give birth to our fifth child. But he missed his return flight and the next flight out was not to arrive in Sydney until late in the afternoon of the expected birthing day. I had been attending check-ups with the same midwife who delivered our last child and had a trouble-free pregnancy. By now I had two children to home school, two younger children to look after, and I helped in my husband’s business, but out of all my pregnancies, including the first one, this was my most healthy one. I think it was all the exercise!
A little after midnight on the due day I started having contractions every 10 minutes. The whole house was quiet with the children asleep so I prepared the bed with plastic sheeting and clean sheets and towels. I then prepared breakfast for the children and placed it in the refrigerator. By now the contractions were stronger so I telephoned the midwife at 12:30am. By 1am the contractions were very strong and I knew the midwife who lives an hour away would not be able to make it in time for the birth. I woke up our eldest daughter, Lalita, who was 10 years old, and asked her to help me. I could not walk by now so I crawled up onto the bed and instructed her how to help. Ten minutes later I gave birth to an 8lb. healthy girl.
Lalita cut the umbilical cord. Twenty minutes later the midwife arrived and helped me deliver the placenta. Lalita made me a drink of hot sweet milk which I really appreciated. After the midwife cleaned up, Lalita went back to sleep and I lay there with my newest daughter fast asleep in my arms. The other children woke in the morning and ran in to see their little sister.
I stayed in bed the whole day. I knew I was starting to get old now! My husband arrived home late in the day to the excited arrival of all the children. What a day that was! We named our daughter Sundara which means beautiful.
April 1986, Sydney Australia – after a four hour labor – It’s a boy!
For my 6th pregnancy I decided to give birth in a hospital for two reasons. (1) Homebirthing midwives now cost a fortune (2) All the books warn of the possibility of excessive bleeding after birth with the fifth child onwards. So I chose to go to a hospital nearby that had birthing rooms that looked just like cozy bedrooms.
Around midday, three days after the expected due date, I started having contractions. I finished doing the housework and prepared some meals for the children and as my husband was in the city and uncontactable (this was the era before mobile phones), I arranged for a friend to come and look after the children. Then I drove to the hospital. The staff were very polite and basically left me alone a lot, which is what I wanted. My husband and my sister arrived in the afternoon. The midwife gave me regular check-ups, and both she and the doctor came into the room for the delivery of our son at 4:37pm. He weighed 7lbs 8 oz. My husband cut the cord. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any excess bleeding after delivering the placenta and so I left the hospital early the next morning.
May 1991, Cebu, The Philippines – after a five hour labor – It’s a girl!
My husband now had a business in the Philippines and spent a lot of time there so I went with my children to live there. I had lived in the Philippines previously, when we only had two children, and I loved living there. The Filipino people are very nice even though the environment is very polluted and life there can be unsettling.
The first time I lived there in 1976, I accidentally burnt down our house and half a mountain. Next time in 1989, I arrived just in time for a military coup that had us trapped in the house for a couple of days while gun battles raged in the streets outside, and at week’s end left 79 people dead and 571 people injured.
This time all was quiet for the first couple of months, then a huge hurricane traveling at 240kms per hour hit the island we were living on and in just a couple of hours the whole island was devastated. 100 people had been killed and hundreds of thousands were homeless. Our house was still standing, but the basement was flooded and the roof had begun to lift at the corner.
Another family came to stay with us because their roof had completely blown away, as they watched, crouched under their kitchen table. My husband was doing business in Melbourne, Australia at the time and so I was there with six children and pregnant with our 7th child. The wharf and airport were both damaged, making it difficult for the government to send in help. My husband arrived two weeks later, when the airport was reopened to limited landings. Gradually life returned to normal, but we had no electricity or running water for six weeks.
I checked out the local hospital for giving birth but decided that I ran more risk of catching some infectious disease there than not. So I arranged for three midwives from the hospital to come to our house and help deliver our child. At 5pm on the due date I started having contractions so I sent one of our workers to bring the midwives. The labor progressed slowly for the next couple of hours and I became aware that even though the midwives were properly trained, they included local customs in their work which I did not agree with. Finally I started getting pushing urges with each contraction and as I was fully dilated I was told to start pushing. But unfortunately the baby’s head got half way through the cervix and then became stuck. I spent the next one and a half hours trying to push the baby out. The midwives were absolutely useless. They actually tried to force the child out by pushing down on my stomach which was so painful I thought I was going to die.
My husband left the room to prepare the car to take me to the local hospital and he then prayed to the Lord for help. While he was out of the room the child just slid out and was born in one pushing movement. What a relief. Our child was a 7lb born at 10pm on the dot. The placenta was safely delivered about 15 minutes later.
The whole time I was in labor we had continually played a tape of mantra music which included the mantra Hari Bol which means Sing the Names of God. The midwives who had never heard these mantras before that day, all spontaneously called out Hari Bol when our daughter was born. I thought that was very funny but also very sweet. We called our daughter Krsangi which means delicate one. Despite the long delivery for her, she was a healthy beautiful baby.
Our eldest daughter, Lalita, who helped me give birth to our 5th child was also present for this birth, and coincidentally, both babies were born on the 7th of May, but different years of course.
I was tired from this birth and rested for two days. My husband had to go to Singapore at the end of the week and then later traveled to Malaysia to set up home for our next move. Then one month after giving birth I packed up the house and flew over to Malaysia to join my husband there. We lived in Malaysia for the next four years and found it a very interesting place.
July 1994, Kuala Lumpar Malaysia -after a two and a half hour labor- It’s a boy!
No problems during this pregnancy either. For the birth I chose an Indian Hospital in the city just in case there were any problems because of the last birth. I went into labor at around midnight the day before the due date and after a short while I asked my husband to take me to the hospital. I didn’t know how fast or slow this one would be. But it turned out to be one of the easiest labors and at 2:22am our 7lb 11oz son was born without any problems. The Indian doctor was very friendly and efficient at delivering our son. I rested for the whole day before taking our newborn son home.
And that ends the stories of my pregnancies, all of which produced healthy children who have grown into strong, intelligent children. I escaped most of the common complaints of pregnancy such as: anemia, high blood-pressure, bleeding during pregnancy, hemorrhoids, heartburn, insomnia, oedema, stretch marks or varicose veins. And afterwards I breastfed all my children for an average of two years each. So please feel confident about being vegetarian and pregnant. It is actually natural and healthy in body and soul to be vegetarian both, for the mother and the child.