Exploring the untold stories of birth and motherhood in Sri Lanka. Pushing back against stereotypes and stigmas of the "perfect mother". Challenging dominant cultural narratives about women, labour and child-care. Questioning medical and obstetric birthing practices. Searching for grassroots reproductive justice in South Asia.
Are Traditional Midwives History?
There was a time when birth was spiritual. When birth attendants possessed knowledge of traditional ayurvedic medicines and practices. When the care of pregnant, laboring and postpartum women was provided by people who felt like family.
What happened to birth in Sri Lanka? And what happened to the women who were once at the center of this story and now exist almost entirely in the margins?
In our efforts to modernize maternal healthcare, what became of our traditional midwives?
Obstetric Violence: Sri Lanka's Silent Epidemic?
Have you ever heard the term obstetric violence?
It’s when a person experiences pain, intimidation, fear, humiliation, or loss of dignity at the hands of a care provider during pregnancy, childbirth, or the immediate postpartum period.
It includes intentional acts of emotional, verbal or sexual violence; obstetric practices like unnecessary episiotomies; a lack of compassion or empathy towards a laboring person; or a lack of consent for obstetric interventions.
Obstetric violence occurs much more frequently than you might imagine. Often, women are not even aware they’ve been victims of it. That’s because it’s one of the most under-studied and under-reported aspects of gender-based violence in the world.
Here in Sri Lanka, it might best be described as a kind of silent epidemic in our maternal healthcare system.
This, Too, Shall Pass
Imagine raising your daughter in a household with FOUR generations of women.
How would you navigate the opinions, expectations, history and needs of not only a grandmother, but a great-grandmother?
What if you had some unresolved questions from your childhood—how would that shape the kind of mother you want to be? Is it possible to make peace with your own parents, while becoming a parent yourself?
In this episode I talk to Wathmi about how she passed through all these challenges—and more.
It Started With the Loneliness
When Chathuri first experienced postpartum depression, she had no idea what it was, or what was happening to her. For months she couldn't stop crying, couldn't eat or sleep, and didn't want to be around her baby. The experience impacted her so badly she decided she would never have another child.
Six years later she gave birth to a baby girl. When those old shadows of depression started sneaking up on her, she knew she had to do something different this time around.
Tune in to Episode 4 of The Darkest Light to hear how Chathuri fumbled her way through postpartum depression—and came out on the other side.
Sorry, No Questions
Imagine if your doctor scheduled you for an induction without telling you. Imagine being chastised every time you asked a question during labor. Imagine being rushed in for an emergency C-section without fully understanding why.
In Episode 3, The Darkest Light host Kanya D'Almeida talks to a woman named Ameena about her relationship with her OB-GYN, her battle to avoid an induction, and how she dealt with the unwritten rule that many hospitals follow during labor and delivery: Sorry, No Questions.
A Tale of Two Hospitals
In Episode 2, The Darkest Light Host Kanya D'Almeida talks to a woman about her experience giving birth in a public hospital in Sri Lanka.
Kanya compares her guest's story with her own experience of having her baby in a private healthcare facility. Only a tiny fraction of Sri Lankan women have the privilege of opting for private maternal healthcare—just 5 percent nationally. Over 94 percent of babies are born in government facilities.
The differences—and similarities—in the quality and level of care both women received is what inspired this episode, "A Tale of Two Hospitals".