“Don’t worry, be happy … be safe!”

“Don’t worry, be happy … be safe!”

Publication info

Suniti Neogy, CARE India

‘It’s normal Zeba! There is nothing to worry about!’ I was told this repeatedly in the last 4 days and I tried to believe that there was really nothing to worry about. It was four months since I had i had my period and was hopefully looking forward to be a mother. Knowing of my pregnancy, everyone in the house was very happy. I was 20 years old and  pregnant for the first time after three years of marriage which was quite uncommon in my entire extended family. Every  other woman who has wed in our family was blessed with a child within a year. My father in law’s two brothers and their families also live in the extended household and though confined in the house, we women share food, laughter and our time together. Everyone was happy but deep inside ; I felt there is something to worry about.

Things were fine untill I began  having discharge. I was already in the fourth month, and when I told this news to my husband Saddam and to my mother in law, she said that ‘it’s normal,’. Two days later the  discharge was accompanied with blood stains. She again said, ‘this happens quite often and there is nothing to worry about’. My mother is law is 48 years old and is well known as Sufia dai, a traditional birth attendant (TBA) and her work as a TBA adds to our family income. She has never had any training, yet she is very well sought for delivering babies in and around our village, so I thought that my fears were baseless and there was really nothing to worry about. Two more days went by and the blood stains kept increasing from droplets to darker stains. I felt weaker than before which i attributed more  to fear than the bleeding. My husband tried to pacify me by reminding me that my mother in law is an experienced woman and so I should not worry. Everyone in the house seemed to believe that things were okay. I had been in the village for the last three years yet had never gone out of my house. On the night of the fourth day, the bleeding was intense; my mother in law was worried now. We waited for the morning. She sent for the arrangement of a vehicle to take me to a local doctor. I was in severe pain and before the vehicle arrived, I had a miscarriage. Somebody informed Mamta didi, the Anganwadi worker of our village Sarai Mihir, Barabanki. She was shocked to know that I was pregnant as it was not reported to her. I was bleeding profusely and felt very weak and hence was immediately sent to the doctor. In my fading consciousness, I could barely hear Mamta didi and my mother in law talking about me. I wanted to hear that there was nothing to worry about, but I knew they were all very worried and so was I.

It was two months since I lost my baby and when Mamta didi called me for the newly formed mothers’ group meeting facilitated by CARE at the Anganwadi Centre and to my surprise, my mother in law accompanied me to the meeting. This was the first time I had stepped out of my house to attend a meeting. We met Neelam didi there who asked the Mamta didi to recap the last meeting's discussions and learnings. Neelam didi spoke with me very lovingly and said that as a member of the woman’s group, I will learn safe practices and will not have to bear the kind of the pain I suffered. I heard woman sharing about their health, their pains, their happiness, I saw them talking about the danger signs for the mother and the newborn through picture cards. I kept thinking all the time, that if I only knew this earlier, I would have not met this fate. We would have recognized the  discharge and bleeding as a danger signs, and would not have avoided it. I kept attending every meeting and  learned so much. Two months later, I was pregnant again as I could recognize the symptoms of pregnancy. I happily shared this with all at home. ASHA didi Anita came home to meet me which made me feel so special. I was registered at the AWC and was asked to visit the sub centre with my husband. My husband was also invited to be a member of the men’s group facilitated by Amit bhaiya and it was such a blessing. The first day when he came froma meeting, he was very quiet. I kept asking him what happened but he did not say anything. I was worried he was angry and would not let me go to the mother group meetings anymore. But one day he said, ‘I was so wrong. I thought that having sons was very necessary; I thought women are meant only to make children and look after their husband and home.’ It was easier for me to share the same feelings when he shared his. We started talking about what happened in both our meetings. There was so much to talk about between the two of us. He told me all about their discussions related to the anatomy of women and men and health issues discussed during his meetings and I told him all about mine. He came with me for a check up at the sub centre. I got myself registered and was given an ANC card. Both of us observed me gaining weight around my stomach. I could see concern in his eyes and liked it so much. He could come with me for a check up only once as he has to go to work but someone  from home always came along with me. I could see that other women from my extended family also liked going to the meetings and the sub center for my checkups, after all they too had restrictions on mobility which was gradually easing away!

It was a cold winter evening when I had to be taken to the hospital. A vehicle was arranged. My husband, my mother in law and the ASHA didi were next to me and I this time I knew I don’t have to worry.  My mother in law requested to be in the labour room as she was herself a TBA and was allowed. I had a normal delivery and I was happy to see my mother in law taking care of the newborn and following all of what we had learned at the mother’s group meeting. The baby was wiped dry and was put to my breast almost immediately after birth. The doctors also complimented our behavior and told me that I am lucky to have such good mother in law. My baby was weak and so was I. My husband volunteered to give skin to skin care to my baby and it brought tears in my eyes to see my husband Saddam hold my baby Arkan close to his chest. The doctors said that it was such an unusual scene in the hospital and they were happy to see it. I felt proud when I heard them praising my husband and my mother in law to the fellow pregnant women and their husbands. Knowing that my mother in law was a traditional birth attendant; she was offered to take a TBA training to which she happily agreed. She said she would share the healthy behaviors and practices with mothers and newborns where-ever she would go.

Zeba talks in an animated way, “I tell you didi, I am so lucky to be married in this village. I have followed everything I and my husband learned at our meetings. My mother in law who was completely against institutional delivery, took me to the hospital. My baby is nine months old now and has got all the vaccines on time.” She showed me the ANC / immunization card with details of the dates of all the services given to them. Zeba smiles and says, “I will make sure that nobody in my entire family goes through the ordeal I had during my first pregnancy. With the support from my mother in law, I will share my experience with other women in my community and I am sure they will be as happy and safe as I am today.”