Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This day that year

The other day as I was surfing I saw a message, "What were you doing today, 10 years ago, blog it." I couldn't remember what I was doing 10 years ago, on that day. But I remember very well what I was doing 34 years ago, today.

I became a proud mother of our first child today, 34 years ago. As I had written earlier, there was no provision those days to plan time and star of the baby beforehand. And, hold your breath; we were not packing our bags to go to a sophisticated hospital to have the baby. I was going to have the baby in our ancestral home some 25 miles away from any hospital with some trained obstetricians. To this day, this first child of ours (who is a doctor today) shudders when I say, he and his younger brother were born in our ancestral home with the help of only a trained midwife. He says what all things could have gone wrong. He asks my mom, how could she take such bold decision. But, in those days, that was the normal practice in our village or in any village for that matter. All of my siblings, my cousins and my sister's two children were all born in that house. Believe me; most of the childbirths were normal without any problems. There were the village elders to help the midwife around and in very odd cases the doctor from 25 miles away was summoned.

By far, the children born were healthy, did not need any immediate medical assistance and grew up healthy. There were no antibiotic shots to be given immediately after birth. They did not catch any serious infections. The mother and child were taken care of very meticulously, given oil massages, given plenty of rest and healthy food to eat. Most importantly, the child was kept away from all outsiders for at least 11 days, only very near and dear were allowed after 11 days and others only after 28 days. Nobody except the mother and the help (there was one maid on duty to take care of the mother and baby) even touched the baby. That was the quarantine, they called it by another name, "valamai," i.e., the mother and baby were not to be touched for 11 days. The mother and baby stayed in a semi dark room away from the hustle and bustle of the house (there used to be a lot of it in a village house in those days). Even the other members of the house did not visit any social places, because of valamai. Thus, they ensured that no infection was brought in. Even after 11 days, only the baby was shown to the visitors, the mother was not to come out of her confinement except for her bath. Only after 21 days, was the mother allowed to come and eat in the kitchen (those days kitchen was the dining room). Only on the 28th day, the other members of the community were invited to see the baby. There was a ceremony of laying the baby in the cradle. All were invited and given sweets. The mother was just allowed to come and put the baby in the cradle. The mother was given 5 months adequate bed rest and nutritious food and ayurvedic massages and potions that at the end of the 5 months she was fully rejuvenated and was once again ready for the busy life. She never had any back aches nor did she have any protruding belly (no "ab" exercises those days). Plenty of rest and a healthy and nutritious diet. The children were also healthy and ate well.

Compared to those days, these days children born in sophisticated hospitals get all sorts of infections and are in need of many medical procedures, sometimes from the day one. One may argue that the infant mortality today is very low but this is a point to be debated with a lot of other data.


anand ranganathan said...

- I think the single relevant data point is infant mortality and maternal mortality. The modern times win outright.
- The other interesting thing: no husband in the delivery room egging the wife on with inspiring word and gesture.

Ammupatti said...

I dont think the infant mortality rate was very high even those days. In all my 19 years I spent in my village, where all children were born in the mothers home, there were perhaps, some 10 infant deaths.It is not a high percentage, considering even in todays modern hospitals, there is some plercentage of infant mortality.

And the other point of husband not being in the delivery room could perhaps be considered a blessing in disguise, those days. He could probably only get nervous and make things worse, if any.

anand ranganathan said...

10 children dying in 19 years could be a high rate. As an exercise, assume that 250 children were born in those 20 years (approx 1 child a month). that works out to an infant mortality rate of about 40 per 1000. So just anecdotally that is a high mortality rate. Now let's go to the numbers:
As shown here infant mortality rate in Kerala has fallen from 128 per 1000 in 1951 to 13 per 1000 in 1993, and today it's probably more like 10. In India as a whole we've gone from 146 in '51 to about 57 today. These are dramatic improvements in child mortality rates. Objectively, children born today have a much better chance of living than those born in 1951. In Kerala, a child is 10 times more likely to live than they used to.

Anonymous said...

Miss Ammupatti,

Please leave your romantic nostalgia at home before you begin to judge medical advances with suspicion.

Besides lowering both infant AND maternal mortality rate in BOTH rural AND urban areas, advancements in medical technology will help YOU and many of your generation live much, MUCH longer in your old age.

The reason that you 'think' children of those days did not need medical assistance was because your access to medical/hygiene resources was probably better than less privileged/poorer people.

Also, the 'healthy' food you talk about is hardly healthy by conventional scientific norms principally because it is unbalanced and has not an iota of science backing its use.

Do you even know the macronutrient composition of 'Ayurvedic' formulations that you speak so highly of? You probably gave and saw others give recovering mothers plenty of ghee and coconut oil, when what they needed more than anything else is exercise because more than half of India is FAT, very VERY FAT...and worse, they REFUSE to see, realize, and understand how they are fat, and how badly the fatness is going to affect their life and that of their kids.

Do you know that children who are fed the 'healthy' food (that you talk about) in their early years develop an EXCESS of fat cells that predisposes them to obesity in their adulthood.

Please, buy a few good books on nutrition and exercise so you understand how health is best achieved.

Anonymous said...

Well, there are a lot of truths in Ammupatti's article. Facts on Mortality rate etc are true too. But what surprises me is people go to the west or wake up to current medicine and thei own health /immunity issues, and suddenly indian food is unhealthy, Ayurveda is unscientific!!

Typical immigrant or gen-x mentality!! come out of your shell of calory counting /vitamin pill popping world!!

FYI: Ayurvedic potions are sans side effects and all natural!!
AKA ORGANIC! This has been around for 3000 years successfully if that is an indication!!

Ammupatti did have much better access to hygine and good food that may be 80% others in those times but the thing about children's immunity is very true!!

you are probably obsessed with counting calories and nutrients and probably live in thew US OF A.
Inidan food can be cooked healthy as long as u dont carve samosas and dress curries with chese :).

Raja said...

dear ammu,

i have been reading your posts just today and have spanned over 18 months in a single hour.

i skipped the details of most recipes for now. but great posts and immeasurable warmth.

if you don't mind me saying: the childbirths that you detail, describe the births of the upper to well to do classes in a small town.

i come from that background too.

with all the care, the nurturing and availability of m.b.b.s. doctors when needed definitely ensured, that most children were born normally and lived healthy without infection.

i come from a malabar family. our family doctor was an lmp of those days, a syrian christian. she delivered me and my sibling, and 3 cousins, all in our grandmother's house.

when my chithi was having extended pains for her first born, dr. stephens was at a loss, and immediately called dr. jamaluddin, who was m.b.b.s. and whom she reverently referred to as someone who knew better.

dr. stephens was in her 60s, and dr. jamaluddin was in his 30s at that time (1958).

my feeling, is that we had the best of both worlds handy.

today's medicine is universal. the maid has the same care (or should have anyway) as the memsaab.

do you think, that poor brahmin families had the same care as the well off ones.

i do not mean to insult or mock. pray, that is the last thought in my mind.

all i want to say, is that the 'good ole days' were such, to a certain economic status.

please forgive me, if i have hurt your feelings or stepped on anyone's toes.

Anonymous said...

It would have been wonderful to give birth in these condition. In today's world, where I live, I have no family support and no question of a maid. I have to go back to work in 6 weeks and need to find somebody to take care of my baby. Nobody is there to massage and I have to cook my own food. No wonder the child falls sick because the mother is in constant stress. I have to do this to support my family back home but nobody there wants to come and lend a hand because they get bored in US of A. They don't know what to do here, and so they don't really care.