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The Darkest Light

Author: Kanya D'Almeida

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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.
10 Episodes
Every year, 25 to 30 women in Sri Lanka commit suicide during pregnancy or within one year of delivery. According to Sri Lanka’s Maternal & Child Morbidity & Mortality Surveillance Unit, the country reported nearly 450 maternal suicides between 2002 and 2018. Despite these startling numbers, maternal mental health continues to be a hugely under-researched area of public health in Sri Lanka—we do not collect national-level data on perinatal mental health, and perinatal psychiatry is no...
A Lot of Hand-Holding

A Lot of Hand-Holding


Radha and Serena first met on Zoom. Serena is a doula and Radha was her first client in Sri Lanka. They had a whole plan: to get Radha through an unmedicated labor, and a spontaneous vaginal delivery. When Radha’s waters broke ahead of schedule, they had to rethink their plan, reframe their vision, and really double down on what they wanted—and didn’t want—in the birthing process.There was a lot they couldn’t control and decisions that weren’t in their hands but they were sure about one ...
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?
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 mor...
This, Too, Shall Pass

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.
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 o...
Sorry, No Questions

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 Questi...
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 ...
Smiling While Pushing

Smiling While Pushing


In the pilot episode, The Darkest Light host Kanya D'Almeida talks to her mother about what it was like to give birth in Sri Lanka a generation ago—in 1983. Their candid conversation is interspersed with Kanya's own birth story, from 2019.The two women gave birth just 30 years apart, but their experiences were so different they may as well have taken place in different centuries.
How many of us can say that our birth stories are truly our own? How many women in Sri Lanka can look back on their births and say, with absolute certainty, that their voices were heard, their choices were respected, their bodies were listened to, their needs were met, their consent was sought, and that their birth experience was their own?I don’t know many. After nearly 3 years of collecting stories from women of all walks of life, I have very few examples of what I would call sovereign birt...