A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A MMITRA MOM

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I joined mMitra program, of ARMMAN and MAMA, in September and since then I have had the opportunity of meeting several of our young pregnant subscribers. They hope for a healthy baby and a fulfilling motherhood like any of us, but their circumstances put them at risk. Although they come from varied backgrounds, the fact that they do not have access to health information and services binds them together. The story below is an archetype based on several different women in the program that captures the adversities faced by these women while they hope for a better future for their children.

My name is Parvati and I grew up in a remote village in Parbhani district of Maharashtra. My parents could not afford my education and I dropped out of school after 7th standard. There was social pressure to get me married as soon as I ‘grew up’ and I was married to a mill worker living in Mumbai at the age of 15. We were a joint family of seven members living in a shanty in the largest slum area located in the center of the city.

India momI conceived within the first year of marriage and at 16 I was expecting my first baby. My family expected me to bear a son; after all he will be the successor of the family. Unfortunately I could not carry the baby for a full term and doctors told me that my body was not prepared to carry a baby. I cannot explain in words the pain and stress, both physical and emotional, that I went through. After that I gave birth to two daughters, but I can never forget the pain of losing my first child.

Four months back I missed my period and started to feel tired. My husband took me to a private doctor in the neighborhood who asked me to get blood tests and pregnancy test done. The cost of the tests was high, so we went to the government health center in our area. There I got my tests done and I was told that I am expecting again. Although I am excited I am also fearful of the outcome. The fear of losing my first child haunts me often; even my daughters’ births were complicated. I remember when my eldest one was born they had to arrange for two bottles of blood for me. Both my daughters were underweight at the time of birth. I am keeping my fingers crossed this time. After two daughters everyone wants a son, but I am only hoping for a healthy baby.

Usually my day starts at 5 o’clock in the morning with brooming, making tea for everyone and then packing lunch for my husband. He works in a hotel so he leaves by 7 a.m. My father in law is a daily wage laborer, while my mother-in-law works as a house maid in a neighboring housing colony. After my husband leaves, I have to pack lunch for my father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law and my eldest daughter. After everyone leaves I drop off my daughter to school.

By then it’s time to fill up water from the community tap. Usually it’s a long queue and women end up fighting over it. Our community is not very safe, so I have to always take my second born along. By the time I finish my household chores of cooking, cleaning, washing utensils and clothes, it’s time for me to pick up my daughter from school. By lunch time my sisters-in-law come back from school. I stay at home almost all day long. Although I get about half an hour to rest during the day, for every family member who comes back from work I have to serve tea and snacks and by evening it’s time to cook dinner. In my limited leisure time I either watch television or chat with my neighbours.

India kids playingA few weeks back one of our neighbors brought a lady to my place and introduced her as ‘sakhi’ (friend) from an NGO working in our area. She asked me if I have a mobile phone, or if my husband has one. My husband has a phone but I use it only to receive calls from my family. She explained that through the mobile phone I can access mMitra free voice call service to receive information on everything related to my pregnancy, child birth and child care until my child turns one. I had to take permission from my family before sharing the phone number. When my husband and mother-in-law heard about the service, they agreed to share my husband’s mobile number for receiving the voice calls. About a month back, I started receiving the voice messages in my language of Marathi, between 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Since we weren’t sure what these calls are about, my husband put the calls on speaker. Both of us found it very useful.

The lady on the call tells me all about my diet, reminds me to take my iron tablets along with other information. Till I had heard the calls I did not know the growth pattern of the baby. It is exciting to hear about my child’s growth in my womb. Now my mother-in-law also listens to the calls and I have seen the change in her. Earlier I was the one taking care of everyone, but now they insist I eat well and take rest. My mother-in-law has instructed my sisters-in-law to help me with household chores. Every day she buys fruits for me on her way back from work and ensures that I have taken my iron pills. My husband also took leave to take me for my scheduled check-up.

I wish I had received these calls through my earlier pregnancies. Thankfully, this time I feel I am able to take better care of myself. I have found a friend in the lady (mMitra) who calls me twice every week without fail.

THE CHALLENGE

DonateEvery eight minutes a mother dies in childbirth in India. For every maternal death in India, 20 more women suffer from lifelong health impairments that result from complications during their pregnancies.

The majority of these deaths are among women in the 15-29 age group, at the prime of their reproductive lives.

The most tragic aspect of these deaths is that about 90 percent of them are avoidable, if women receive the right kind of intervention. The chart below shows the top five causes of maternal death. Each of these medical conditions has received extensive research and has methods of treatment and prevention. The key to avoiding the onset of these conditions is providing continual medical care and education to pregnant women throughout the entirety of their pregnancy.

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