During the early years of Auroville there were an average of 12 to 15 home births annually: today there are about 30. At the age of twenty-nine, Hilde came to Auroville from Belgium in 1977 and has delivered numerous Auroville babies since then, more often than not single-handedly. The following is adapted from a write-up Hilde shared with Auroville Today, in which she tells about her experience.
Today I work pretty much with the same tools as I did when I started: a few pairs of scissors, clamps, a stethoscope, cotton, metergine injections, needles and thread, all sterilised by the Auroville Health Centre. My tools go into a small leather bag, which I carry on my motorcycle. There is also a small wooden box packed with homeopathic medicines : for mothers who choose a natural home delivery, the small homeopathic pills do wonders. I prefer not to use the allopathic arsenal. Every pregnant mother is assisted in her prenatal and postnatal period for follow-up care. If there are complications with the delivery that cannot be handled at home, I take the mother to the maternity hospital in Pondicherry.
Delivery by candlelight
By profession I was a psychiatric nurse, though during my studies I had done the necessary training in obstetrics. Soon after I came to Auroville in 1977, it became known that a qualified nurse was available. Me! The one person who was extremely grateful for my arrival was the pregnant midwife who was desperately looking for help and a replacement. My initiation into midwifery was delivering her baby! Before I knew it, delivering children was a full-time job. I would often find myself doing a delivery in the middle of the night by candlelight, sending the father out to fetch water. Many more deliveries followed. In those years I cycled out to expectant mothers and would often come back from a delivery filled with inner warmth from witnessing one more amazing gift of life.
After two years of working alone, I increasingly felt the need for more knowledge. A maternity hospital in the nearby town of Pondicherry accepted me as an observing nurse. Further skill was acquired when I attended a short course at a university hospital in Belgium, where I learned to stitch with confidence. In 1990 I had the opportunity to attend a workshop in Australia with Igor Tjarkovsky on under-water births, a technique which had fascinated me for a long time. The workshop and resulting contacts gave me the necessary confidence to deliver my first water baby in a tub placed in the middle of a hut. Since that time the small water tub has been part of my standard equipment, and mothers can make use of it either to relax or even for delivering. There is always a person at hand who heats water on a wood-fire and fills the tub to the exact temperature needed for welcoming the new-born baby.
Delivering two generations
I have worked with other Aurovilian midwives, all of whom have become dear friends. Sadly, none of them was able to stay in Auroville. Nowadays I find myself delivering babies to parents whom I delivered many years earlier, a truly amazing experience! Besides my work as a midwife, I often give advice to women from very different cultural backgrounds on a variety of health issues.
Happy events are intertwined with difficult, sad and painful moments. When things boil over, like nine new babies in less than two months, I must admit that it all becomes too much to handle. But then I also observe that the Grace helps out in many miraculous ways. And at the end it is always Mother who reminds me that she wants her new children to be born in the safest possible way. It was for that purpose she brought me here.