birthrights - india - saidan''s story
From: Birthrights

Saidan: ‘I have strong intuition’

The 80-year-old village midwife is illiterate, deaf and blind in one eye, but has delivered about 100 babies.

Saidan had a heart attack last year and says she does not think she can work much longer [Save the Children]

“I’m about 80 years old. I’ve been a midwife now for about 50 years. I’ve delivered about 80 children in this
village and 20 in the village where I lived before. I was 30 when I delivered the first baby. She was a girl in the family and I had to step in because the attendant wasn’t there that day. The baby was coming out the
wrong way and I had to use oil on the baby and on the mother to turn it around.

I was offered a nursing job once, but I couldn’t take it because my husband wouldn’t let me work. I haven’t had any training. I’m illiterate. I would have liked training though, even just to learn that babies change position after five months and then again at seven.

If there are ever complications, I refer the mothers to doctors. I don’t take risks. I once delivered a baby who
was upside down and with an umbilical cord around his neck. The doctor came and declared the baby dead, but I turned it upside down when he’d gone and slapped it a bit on the back, and it started crying and breathing.

If there are acute cases, like when a baby is far bigger than its mother, we do deliver it still, but we remember
God before we do.

I go to the mothers’ houses with a blade and a thread to cut and sew up the umbilical cords. I take some soap and clean clothes with me too.

Once the baby is born, I normally advise mothers to give proper baths to their baby and to give the baby two
tonic waters to help him grow. If the child is unhealthy, I tell the mother to feed the child well and to give him or her dried fruits and nuts like almonds. They should put the almond in water, peel it and give it to the babies.

Pregnant women should eat grapes and apples during pregnancy, and dried fruits and milk afterwards. The
best foods for a mother are dried fruit, ghee and the sap from a tree.

Some mothers do now deliver in hospitals because they’re given 100 rupees if they do. But everyone just
goes there for the money not the facilities. Nowadays, because of this money, I find I am delivering fewer
babies. When the doctor’s not available I’m sometimes called upon, otherwise not.

I don’t know how old the mothers are when they give birth. Age just doesn’t matter to us like that. The other
day, for example, I took a woman who was 50 to the hospital so she could give birth.

Recently, I sent a mother to hospital telling her she would give birth in an hour. I have a very strong intuition but I don’t feel I can work too much any more.”

Saidan lives in Tonk, an ancient town in the Indian state of Rajasthan, in north west India, which borders Pakistan and encompasses much of the Thar Desert. A 2001 Indian census recorded its population as 135,663, with 18 per cent under six years of age.

According to the census, males outnumber women in Tonk, reflecting a worrying imbalance in the population found throughout the state. Traditionally, in parts of the region there has been a preference for boy children and a centuries-old practice of female infanticide.

Girls are often married and have babies at a young age. Children from poor backgrounds can suffer from severe malnutrition, and some local beliefs can affect children’s wellbeing, such as the practice of throwing away the first few days of a mother’s breast milk.

Around 2 million children under five die each year in India. Many of these deaths are caused by poor pre-ante and post-natal care, malnutrition, diarrhoea and respiratory infection, like pneumonia.

Rajasthan, along with the states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Utter Pradesh, accounts for more than 43 per cent of all underweight children in India.

Click here for more on Save the Children’s work in India.