‘Women feel they have no option but to give birth alone’: the rise of freebirthing

As Covid infections rose, hospital felt like an increasingly dangerous place to have a baby. But is labouring without midwives or doctors the answer?On the morning of 3 May, Victoria Johnson prepared to give birth at her home in the Highlands. One by one, her three children came downstairs to where she was labouring in a birthing pool surrounded by fairy lights, the curtains tightly shut against the outside world.Suddenly, she felt an urge to get out of the pool. “I stood up and it felt as if the weight of the universe crashed from my head to my toes.” Her waters broke – “all over the carpet, which wasn’t ideal” – and the baby started to crown. “Everyone was there, including both grandmothers on video call,” she says. “Once the baby was out, my eight-year-old son came over and said, ‘I’m so proud of you.’ And that was everything.” Continue reading…

What links line, bar, pie, scatter and spider? The Weekend quiz

From Carmen to cricket, test your knowledge with the Weekend quiz1 Who was the first named Native American on a US stamp? 2 Which archipelago is at the mouth of Galway Bay? 3 The Pythia was the priestess at which ancient site?4 Who died hours after the 33rd performance of Carmen? 5 Which dog has Pembroke Welsh and Cardigan Welsh breeds? 6 Where did the Joseon dynasty rule for more than 500 years? 7 Which portrait was stolen in 1961 as a protest against the TV licence fee? 8 When was English cricket’s summer of four captains? Continue reading…

My journey around India in 80 trains

Monisha Rajesh had a complex relationship with her parents’ homeland, until she saw all of Indian life played out on the country’s railwaySix-people deep, and growing by the second, the crowd tensed. A single knuckle pressed into my back and betel-nut breath filled my nostrils as a steady beat rose above the din. Against the peach pink of Mumbai’s evening skies, the commuter service curled into view, passengers hanging from the sides like moving livery. Braking with a wail and grind of metal, the train slowed into the station and I braced against the surge of bodies from behind. Like relay runners, they began to move before the train had stopped, reaching over my head at the same time as a torrent of polyester shirts and satchels thundered down from the open doorways.A slice of papaya in one hand my bag gripped with the other, I battled through elbows, meaty shoulders and thick plaits slicked with coconut oil. In the crush the papaya was knocked to the ground and my sandal came off, but I made it on board and fell sideways into a seat as the train jerked away from the platform. Wiping someone else’s sweat from my arm, I watched fellow travellers scrabble for handholds, adjust saris and pull out phones before relaxing into the ride with a mix of relief and pride. I’d survived my first experience on the infamous Mumbai “locals”. Continue reading…