By Gayathri, Student (17)
[This is a very summarized passage on some of my experiences in Gudalur. If I wrote about everything I would be writing forever!]
During my O levels I was really fascinated by and interested in the “pregnancy and birth” section of Biology. Thereafter I understandably became more interested in the subject “Child Development”.
My parents suggested that I visit the Adivasi Hospital in Gudalur, Tamil Nadu. They had started the hospital years back and for them, it was like sending me to a second home.
Five weeks away from school, during one’s A levels would be unheard of in any other school, well thanks to the understanding teachers in Shibumi and all the very kind and tolerant people in Gudalur, this amazing trip was made possible!
Excitement was added by the fact that this would be my very first trip alone, even without my brother!
When I reached at 4 30pm I was warmly welcomed by a very worried Shyla Aunty. (One, of the 3 doctors in the hospital now) She thereafter introduced me to “Patti Aunty” , a midwife trainer from the UK. It took me quite a while to get used to Shyla Aunty’s very embarrassing way of introducing me as “The new midwife”.
Soon I was introduced to my room mate, who eventually became an amazing friend.
The very first delivery I saw took place the day after I reached. The mother’s name was Ammini and this was her fifth baby! Her contractions began early in the morning.
Throughout my stay in Gudalur, even if there weren’t any deliveries, my day was made by the 8-9am and 3-4 30p m classes that Patti Aunty took on midwifery.
Ammini Chechi was indeed quite a calm and funny mother. She wanted the warmth and comfort from the sun so spent quite a bit of her time during contractions outside the labour room. When her pain increased with the frequency of her contractions she surprised me by saying “I’ve given birth to so many children but the pain doesn’t get any less!”.
Until she finally delivered, for each of those hours before, I felt it wasn’t worth it. I wondered why, and continue to wonder, how so many mothers give birth to so many babies! The pain that they go through must be unimaginable. In the span of time I spent in Gudalur, seeing so many people in so much pain made me wonder why I ever complain.
When she finally gave the green signal that she wanted to push, the nurses transferred her onto the labour bed. She finally, actually, started expressing the pain she was in.
However clichéd this may sound-I’ll never forget the moment her baby was born. The first thing that surprised me was that her baby’s head came out facing downwards! The moment when its head turned was the most miraculous thing I had ever seen. Before it turned all the nurses patiently waited. It was like time really stood still. Nature had complete control, and man not interfering was so beautiful!
He was so new and so soft when he came out. I tried hard to clear the tears that began to obstruct my vision. I didn’t want to miss a fraction of those moments.
I thought hard as I looked at Ammini Chechi and wondered how she was so brave to bring so many babies into this world. It scared me as I thought of how vulnerable her baby was. It amazed me when I thought about how innumerable babies are born every day and all so sensitive. It fascinated me to think about how prepared they must be to survive.
For a long time I thought the most beautiful sight was a baby when it’s born, however, now, what can never fail to bring a smile on my face and tears to my eyes is a mother’s smile when she sees her newborn!
Once a baby was born without arms in the hospital. The family wanted to kill her and refused to take her home in the beginning. They asked the doctors if they could kill her and thankfully the doctor condemned the idea. Shyla Aunty even spent a long time talking to the family. The situation raised so many unanswerable ethical questions in my mind. First came the rush of emotion. How can they not want their own child, especially after waiting for 9 whole months? Then came the sympathy towards the mother who was only seventeen, my age! Then again how could they possibly wash their hands off this child? How is she to cope, especially considering her disability. Maybe the baby would be better off if they killed her; at least she would come into the world so unwanted and wouldn’t have to struggle with her disability. But killing is surely such an awful and cruel alternative!
During my time in Gudalur I also visited another hospital. Things were quite different there and it was an interesting experience. All the nurses were dressed in uniforms, unlike in the Adivasi hospital where one can’t distinguish a nurse from a patient and vice versa. The nurses in the Adivasi hospital tell the patients why and how they are going to do things before doing them, unlike in the other hospital. Then again I was in the other hospital only for a day and it would be inaccurate and unfair to make generalised statements.
One of the highlights of my time in the hospital was actually assisting the deliveries! The very first time that I had to wear gloves was both exciting and scary. I was allowed to support the perineum when the baby’s head was coming out and cut the umbilical cord! The sterility involved made me rather nervous but things I had learned in Patti Aunty’s class helped me understand why it was important. On another occasion I rather unsuccessfully and shabbily did the cord dressing for the baby in my 2-sizes-too-big gloves! With a lot of persuasion I finally did a PV in my last week there. My fingers were too short to reach the uterus but it was still quite an experience!
Finally, came the rather awaited day when I nearly fainted! There were two deliveries going on simultaneously and I was assisting one in which the placenta had yet to come out. I had been in the labour room for a long time and hadn’t eaten anything since morning. The smell began to get to me and I felt nausea and faint. When I normally feel this way I’m cured instantly with a glass of water. However this time I had a pair of gloves on! When I couldn’t take it any more I moved towards the tap and motioned to Ambika Chechi (the head nurse) that I was feeling dizzy. Before I knew it she had removed my apron and gloves and plonked me onto a chair. Patti aunty came rushing from the other labour bed and pushed my head down onto my knees. (Mind you, I was very much conscious through all this!) Then they put me on a bed and Ambika Chechi checked my pulse for 8(approx.) whole minutes!!! Soon Thangu Chechi got me a very appreciated glass of water. It wasn’t long before the news that “I had fainted” spread all over like wild fire.