Ten years ago, an eight-month pregnant Raju went about her daily household chores, and lifted a heavy jar of water. Her water broke immediately and her baby died in her womb.
A year later, she conceived again. During the last trimester, she took some traditional local medicine to relieve a severe headache. Labour pains started soon after and she gave birth to twin sons prematurely, without medical aid. They did not survive and died the next day.
Just when Raju lost all hope of becoming a mother, she soon gave birth to a baby girl safely. Then when her daughter was two and a half years old, she got bitten by a stray dog. Raju took her girl to the traditional village healer. A month later, her daughter died of rabies, which has been eradicated from the developed world through immunisation since the 1960s.
But these tragedies were not due to Raju’s recklessness. She was just unaware that extreme physical assertion should be avoided during the late stages of pregnancy. After all, she had never visited a doctor while pregnant.
“I was helpless and I blamed myself for my lack of knowledge as no one taught me otherwise. I’m illiterate and my mother-in-law was unaware of these practices too,” she said. “I didn’t even know that eating green vegetables and beans was beneficial during pregnancy," shares Raju.
Having gone through immense heartache for many years, Raju was determined to be more responsible. Hence, when she gave birth to Shankar, her son, she visited the village clinic regularly for his immunisations and check-ups.
But it was only after she joined a mother’s group supported by World Vision that she realised the life-saving importance of proper healthcare. She received training on birth preparedness, reproductive health, safe delivery, nutrition and child care. It was especially timely as she then gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Puja, shortly.
Today, Raju is three months pregnant, and optimistic about a smooth and successful delivery. She has visited the local health post for antenatal check-ups. “I now understand the importance of medical care, and want a safe pregnancy,” she said. Raju has also received de-worming and iron tablets, and a mosquito net, from World Vision.
Dhana, a Female Community Health Volunteer, is glad to witness Raju’s transformation. She said: “Raju is a changed woman since joining the mother’s group. She even brings other pregnant women to the meetings to gain critical knowledge.”
“I don’t wish any woman in the world to suffer like I did. I want to bring about awareness about safe pregnancy and proper child care, starting from my village,” says Raju.