There's a feeling of sheer satisfaction for Sanu Maiya today as she held her newborn granddaughter. Her daughter Asha was also relived to have a safe delivery in the Hospital. Soon after the delivery, the skilled nurses covered the baby with a warm towel. The practitioner clamped the umbilical cord in two places and then cut between the two clamps. She collected a tube of blood from the cord to check baby's blood type and may use it for other tests as well. After the baby's temperature remained stable the baby was given a sponge bath. Asha’s husband Gautam brought her a nourishing lunch comprising of rice, green vegetables, lentils and fruits. The doctor examined both the baby and mother and after prescribing some medicines, signed the discharge sheet and reminded for the regular vaccines and follow up visits. Sanu Maiya remembered that horrible night when she gave birth to Asha. She was not allowed to have any antenatal check up as it was considered waste of money. Pregnancy was taken as a natural process and God's gift, for which any medical care was regarded as unnecessary. A traditional birth attended was called soon after she told her mother in law about the water leakage. She was placed in the straw mat in the unused store room of the house.
She could still feel the darkness and the coldness of that dirty room. She was weak and in extreme pain. The birth attended forcefully pulled the baby and used an unsterile knife to cut the cord. Soon after the birth , she became more weaker due to the lack of nutritious diet and suffered a prolapsed uterus due to recommencing, too soon, the expected workload, which was demanding and strenuous. The prolapse remained untreated and she continued her remaining reproductive life miserable due to pain and suffering. But despite the harsh situation, Asha was her shining star. Earlier Sanu Maiya had two miscarriages. There was no tap and piped water supply system in the house and the water needed to be collected from the nearest stone spout which was an hour distant. The burden of collecting water was on the shoulders of daughter in law i.e Her. She had to dedicate much of her day to water: walking for water, waiting for water, recovering from carrying heavy water containers over long distances – and at the end of all that, suffer due to the water being unclean. Due to the heavy load of gagri (water containers) she had to carry during her early period of pregnancy, she suffered the early two miscarriages. Her husband was kind enough to support her in her third pregnancy and she delivered a baby boy. Unfortunately the baby died suffering from severe diarrhoea when he was of a year old due to the dirty and untreated water. A life needlessly ended before it even began. The pain of losing him had been quite acute at times. Asha’s birth created a new hope in Sanu Maiya. She named her Asha meaning ‘hope’ in nepali.
The impact of water scarcity affected children especially girls. As soon as they were able to carry the jars they spend hours each day fetching water with their mother, leaving them with no time to play and attend school. Life threw many obstacles in Sanu Maiya’s way. But instead of giving up, and creating excuses, she was determined to give a better life to Asha. She believed education was the only way to stop her daughter inheriting her situation. So, discreetly, she stared weaving clothes and used the money to pay her daughter’s school fees. Asha grew up watching her mother’s life revolved around fetching water, taking care of family and household chores. She was proud of her mother’s contribution and wanted to fulfil her dream. After passing out her grade 10, she received the scholarship to study community health and started working as Auxiliary Health Worker. She contributes to the delivery of primary and preventive health care; facilitate improvements in health status and quality of life in communities and advocate for underserved individuals to receive appropriate health services. Sano Maiya held her granddaughter. She quietly blessed that may her generation have better infrastructure to help achieve the life goals. Her innocent face made all the hardships and troubles of old age worth it. Her innocent smile seemed to have the power to wipe off a hundred sorrows of the past.
Aneeva is the Office Manager at the Oxford Unit Clinical Research Unit. She wanted to share this story which is a fiction based on the reality she has seen and heard during her life in Kathmandu. She herself gave birth in Patan Hospital six years ago and is grateful for the modern care she received. Aneeva has been a dedicated champion and support for Jeewan Jal.