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Maternity Matters

by Pushpa Raghuram
(Bangalore,Karnataka, India)

It was around 4 p.m. Making herself comfortable on her favorite beanbag Janaki was sipping her hot ginger tea and reading the weekend news supplement. The article ‘Home Delivery’ drew her attention. “Pizzas or provisions? Would they deliver them without charging extra?” was her idle thought.

The article took her by surprise. It highlighted the concept of delivering babies at home, which was becoming popular with mothers-to-be in America. It spoke about the unforgettable moment of bringing progeny into the world. Delivering at home sweet home, made it even more pleasurable.

What was new about the concept? Janaki remembered her grandmother’s house, which had a room in the corner reserved only for the purpose of deliveries. The blessed room had a big cot, a “wide had-been sofa” and only partial ventilation. The tiny room had witnessed many childbirths, including Janaki’s 36 odd cousins, her siblings as well as her own.

Her mother used to narrate stories about the deliveries in that room passionately. Even after decades, Janaki could recall all the minute details. The corner room had a window. The rack kept below the windowsill was filled with an assortment of jars, bottles, tins filled with various curious concoctions for consumption by the mother, during her post-natal period - Lehyams; garlic powder; fresh beetle leaves which was mandatory for the mother to chew along with slaked lime and areca nut after every meal; oil for body and hair massage; dal and turmeric powder instead of soap for scrubbing the face; sambrani, a herbal powder used for inhalation and drying the hair of the mother and the child after a hairwash.

Janaki’s mother also spoke highly about the simple midwives, who lived a block away and had a strong sense of belonging to the families residing around. They rushed to help women undergoing delivery pain, for a paltry sum. The mother was confined to that corner room for two months to prevent exposure to any type of infection. The pleasure / pain the mother enjoyed, during the post-natal period was unfathomable for Janaki. Her mother always added that delivery meant ‘Birth of a child, and a rebirth for the mother’.

Janaki’s grandchild wanted to know once, during a family get-together, where her mother was delivered. Janaki was immensely pleased to talk about it. This was her chance to go back to her first pregnancy and post-partum period. The delivery was in a well-known missionary hospital of the capital Bangalore, which was fondly called the air-conditioned city of the South. The hospital was established many years ago, in a sprawling area of 10 acres. The room in which she had spent 10 days after her child’s arrival was spacious, spic and span. The nurses who were on rounds every now and then, had time to exchange greetings and ask about her wellbeing. They were really dedicated to their profession and spread positive vibes among the inmates of the hospital.

The garden around the hospital had neem, eucalyptus, gulmohar trees, hibiscus and various other flowering plants as if to endorse Bangalore’s title as the Garden City. The hospital ambience had impressed her a lot. Janaki went on and on.

For her it was knowledge sharing. But for her children, it was time to think about traveling back to their cities, their home and their activities. Janaki had to stop her narration with a sigh and bid them good-bye. At that point of time they were only thinking about the place they had to reach.

Time and place - these words took her back to her astrology course, that she had attended a couple of years ago. The lecturers had taught her that a person’s life always revolved around the time and place of birth. These details were essential, especially when casting the horoscope of a person, and pinning down the corresponding position of the nine planets. The cause of the movement of the planets and their effect on the person throughout his life intrigued her, especially when she heard of childbirth among her friends or relatives.

Niru, her colleague’s daughter, had decided her child’s time and place of birth, after deliberating with her family. She had surveyed the Silicon city of India, high and low to find a High tech hospital to deliver her baby.

One such hospital had displayed a big list of consultants right at the entrance. The PR Manager met Niru - the mother-to-be and took her on a guided tour of the hospital - consultation corners, a Lamaze studio, deluxe rooms, a food court to supply diet food, a neo – natal department to take care of the health of the infant. Awesome! Niru jumped with joy on finding an ideal combination of best clinical facilities and assurance of hospitality under one roof.

Bangalore, the IT capital, had become by then, a coveted place for medical collaborations. Premium birthing care units mushroomed in most localities of the city.

After a couple of weeks, everything went off as scheduled: registration, admission, and the delivery, as per the time desired by the mother-to-be and her near and dear ones, and she was discharged after 5 days of delivery. Janaki could only raise her eyebrows. Her colleague could have gotten the horoscope of the child cast before it was born, since time and place were pre-fixed and not pre-ordained like earlier times.

Janaki’s ruminations took her to Ramaa another friend, whose son was an NRI. Ramaa’s son and his wife decided to have their child delivered at their birth – place, which happened to be Bangalore. He visited many hospitals virtually, chose one that met his requirements and fixed an appointment with the CEO of the MNHTF (Multinational High Tech Facility) online.

His requirements were:

Number 1: His presence during the delivery.
Number 2: He wanted to cut the umbilical cord to bond better with his child, at 9 past 9 a.m., on 9.9.09.
Number 3: He wanted a luxury suite, with the number 9.

He was obsessed with his lucky number 9. This new birthing center was like a boutique hospital, catering to its clienteles' every whim and fancy, including emotional counseling, the craft of parenting, and stem cell banking. After paying premium price with his plastic money, Ramaa’s son got everything he aspired for.

The package deal included: pick up of the mother-to-be from her villa in the gated community in the southern part of the concrete jungle to the MNHTF, consultation and delivery charges, stay for a period of two nights and three days, diet for the mother, TLC (Tender loving care) for the baby, a portfolio of mother and child photographs by a professional photographer and of course a ride back home in a high end car, with a sticker: Baby on board, pay attention!

Janaki pondered about his lucky number nine! Would it influence the positions of the nine planets in the child’s horoscope?

Janaki folded the supplement and picked up the home delivered magazine Shankara Bhaskara. She involuntarily remembered Adi Shankara’s verse from centuries ago “Punarapi jananam, punarapi maraNam, punarapi janani jaTare shayanam, iha samsare …”

Janaki cleared all the maternal matters she was thinking about from her mind. It was time for her to take her favorite place. It was 6 p.m. She switched to Shankara channel to listen to devotional songs and prayers. ‘Bhaja Govindam, bhaja Govindam, Govindam bhaja mooDamathe……..’ rented the air.


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Jan 07, 2015
Interesting Read!
by: Latesha

Professor Pushpa! No matter how long ago this article was published, its points are still interesting and relevant! I am launching an American study abroad project that will travel to India this month (January 2015). The project deals with Health and Community and the undergraduate students will learn about MCH or Maternal Child Health, which is a major buzz these days as women oscillate between comfort levels of being a great parent and a brilliant professional. I hope to find out how the students compare the experiences of women in the US with women from around the world as well as their own child birth. Indeed, there is nothing new about increasing the level of comfort of being a parent, starting at child birth using a midwife. Take Beyonce for example; she rented an entire hospital in NYC to have her first born. Sure plenty of people ranted over this, but in many ways, this hospital was her own little corner in the room she used to birth her child. Just ask Janaki's grandma!

Anyway, the more I delve into the realm of public health, the more I appreciate articles like this! Thanks!


Oct 10, 2013
by: vimala ramu

A good narration ideal to be stored in archives for the information of the later generations.

Oct 09, 2013
The New age Births
by: ramakrishna.H

The new age births:
Dear Pushpa Raghuram,
Nice to see your column after a lapse of a few months.In your inimitable style you ave takenus on atrip of births from abygone age to day withall the sights,sounds and smells asociated with the arrival of the new born. you should have perhaps brfought out the preference for giving birth in a foreign country for the new born to attain the Moksha of of foreign citizenship rightaway.

Oct 05, 2013
Nice one
by: Prakruthi N. Banwasi

Hi aunty
All your articles take us back on a personal journey n remind us of dusty memories... Ppl in general r trying to savour others reactions to an experience by adding stuff to make it unique rather dan enjoy experiences that enthral dem
Reminded me of d room called 'kattale koNe' only for deliveries in our ancestral home

Oct 03, 2013
Birth--then & now
by: Navaratna Laxman

Changing perceptions on this tender theme of MM are beautifully brought out chronologically-- everything can be manipulated with scientific advancement, but not the future of the chjld!

This too measures up to your signature impressive style---Congrats!

Oct 01, 2013
Birth Pangs
by: Sridhar

The difference between the childbirth in the olden days to the present is beautifully brought out. It makes me wonder whether all the modern facilities are always required. I am curious to know how the midwives of the olden days, compare to the present day OB & GYN specialists. The timing of the birth to suit the planets really sounds comical. Once again the narration is excellent. Once you start to read the article you arrive at the end breathless.

Sep 30, 2013
by: nuggehallipankajaAus

So,after a long time I am reading Pushpa's article.!
Pushpa,Ihave always liked your writing,and await it eagerly. As usual,this article of yours makes good reading, with subtle humor,and appropriate reminiscences. Keep it up.

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