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Labour - The Opening Body

Taken from a charpoy leg, this rare image of Bemata is shown with a swastik or satiya, which represents the auspicious nature of birth.

Food, Drink, Herbs And Other Locality Available Resources During Labour

“If progress is slow or the woman is tired and week, we give her a warm drink. We give a heating drink of ajwain and jaggery, or ajwain, ghee and milk.”(Delhi)

“We give a hot beverage and feed the birthing woman hot food like a mixture of rice and lentils called khichri so that she gets strength to push.”(Bihar)

“If the pains are not coming then I give a hot drink of milk and scrapped coconut to the woman to drink. Within 10 minutes the baby is delivered.” -Guddi, Rajasthan

“I give a hot drink made out of luang and jayphal.” -Rukma, Rajasthan

We have got brew of ajwain and laung. This hastens delivery. We also make a hot drink of milk, ghee and unrefined sugar. This procedures heat and helps in getting the pains quickly. In villages we get heat-producing pills ( garmee ki goli) which are given. We also crush cloves and give her drink made of cloves." -Panna, Rajasthan

"We spread ashes between two cloths, so that the blood gets soaked up."

"We don't spread ashes but paddy hay." -Kamla Delhi

"We explain to the family members and tell them its better to give milk and ghee, not injections (of syntocen) to the women. If you affectionately explain it then they understand. if the jachcha gets scared then we tell her that by giving mothers ghee we have delivered eight babies, and did not give any injections. then they say "At your time Amma, ghee was good." We make jachcha laugh." -Tara, Delhi

"We give a hot drink of milk and ghee or ghee and dried dates. This procedure heats and hastens delivery. It helps open the mouth of uterus." -Racha Kaur, Punjab

"We give hot fomentation on lower back, by placing pieces of heated coal under the cot." -Bihar

"If the pains are not getting stronger a Dai puts a grass, latlatiya or amarlatha in the woman's hair. The moment the baby is born the branch is taken out otherwise the uterus may come out." -Bihar

"If a women eats raw rice, chalk, or white clay or drinks thinned curd, the baby born has dry skin." -Kaushalay, Delhi

Skills and Knowledge

“During pregnancy, jachcha is advised to do all the usual household work, the more active she is, the better is her delivery. We ask her to squat to do her work, as this posture is very helpful. One will fall ill if one sits idle. Besides if she rest all the time then baby becomes heavier and birth can be difficult and painful. Her body stays active if she keeps herself busy in work. However, we advise rest for women who are weak and complain of pain.” -Punjab

“In our time, we had normal, head down presentations. Very few women had breech babies. Women those days worked a lot. So the baby used to move around and come out properly. Women worked in field and would deliver there itself.” -Dhapo, Delhi

“Sometimes the baby moves down the seventh or eighth month. Then we give special massage and push it otherwise the baby may be delivered before time. During these early months it she complains of having pain at particular place then too we message her. This may happen because the baby is changing its position.” -Punjab

“ If a pregnant woman complains of backache or pain in her anus, she is made to sit on a glass kept upside down.” -Punjab

“We count the months of pregnancy according, to the waxing-waning of moon. If here periods stopped on the no-moon day then the next no-moon we count as one month.” -Ramratni, Rajasthan

“In Andhra Pradesh, castor oil is poured on the navel. It its full term, oil flows till the end of the womb. The size of the baby is measured by placing the hands on upper and lower end of the belly.” -Delhi

“We check the position of the baby by pouring oil on the childbearing woman’s navel. If it falls straight, the baby is straight; if it falls at a slant then the baby is in a breech position. Dai keeps the oil near the bed. -Bihar

In the beginning of the ninth month I can look at the woman and tell that there is lot of time till the birth. If the time has come out, only then I use my hands (do an internal exam). If 10-15 days are left. I do not put my hands.” -Chuki, Rajasthan

“The Dai may check the baby’s heartbeat by putting her ear on the jachcha’s belly.” -Delhi

“If the contractions indicate early labor, the Dai advises the woman to keep active – walking, doing light work and taking contractions holding onto a wall or ledge.” -Delhi

“If while cooking lentils you keep stirring, the they will get broken. If the pains are not strong (kachcha dard) and I ask the woman to push then the uterus will come out. If we put pressure on the belly from early on then also the uterus can come out. I never hurry. People do not listen to a Dai. They say “Do something. Use your hands.” I tell them “The baby is not a vegetable. It will come out only on its time.” Family members put a lot of pressure to give injections.” -Tara, Delhi
“In early labor, Injections can be dangerous, the womb can tear.” -Panna, Rajasthan

“If the pains are mild and at intervals ( ruk-ruk kar dhire dhire) then it is the beginning of labour. When contractions become strong (pakka dard), the belly becomes firm and the baby stops moving. Only then we put our fingers into assess how much the mouth had opened.” -Khevani, Rajasthan

“When the pains are not strong, injections should not be given as the uterus may come out. One should massage her back. Her body is kept warm by massaging her back and legs.” -Satwant Kaur, Punjab

Many times the woman’s body does not open fully. Then we use our hands to assess the situation. We put mustard oil on our fingers and stretch the flesh of the vagina very gently. We stop the moment we feel that the mouth has opened. We do not do this many times. This helps in letting the head comes out easily.” -Kheevni, Rajasthan

“We check whether the fullness of the baby been reached, that is the head is fixed ( sharer bhar gaya hai).” -Delhi

“When the pains begin, I ask the jachcha to walk around. I ask her to take sips of hot drinks, milk and ghee. When pains become strong. I ask her to hold on to out. There was a woman whose daughter got some pains the day before. The mother got scared. I told her that of first baby the jachcha may have pains for three days. I explained to her very nicely that everyone has to face a little bit of problem.” -Vidya Devi, Delhi

“When I go to see laboring women, I do an external check up, fell her belly to see whether the baby is moving around, feel the pulse of the baby. Then I do an internal check up of the cervix. If the cervix has opened to the size of fifty paisa coin then the delivery will take 8-16 hours. If the cervix has opened more then it will happen sooner. I do this check up and give her hot drinks.” -Kheevni, Rajasthan

“If the cervix has opened one finger then there is still some time. Then we ask her to call us after four hours. Often it openes one finger after every four hours. We calculate the time accordingly.” -Pushpa, Delhi

“If the baby is due soon, we begin to massage the stomach with oil.” -Bihar

”During labor we also press and rub the inner parts of her thighs, this is very comforting. We do not use oil.” -Punjab

“First the baby moves down slowly, and then the pain starts. If the mouth of the uterus has not opened then it will take some time. If it is open, then tell the time of delivery. I can make out because I do this work night and day.” -Kisturi, Rjasthan

“The woman sweats when the baby is about to come out. Close to the birth, she starts sweating more. Her thighs starts shaking. Then the water bag breaks. The baby starts coming out. In one out of 100 cases a black balloon (amniotic sac with meconium) comes out, which the Dai has to break.” -Mohini Rajasthan

Emotional & Social Support

The mouth of the uterus does not open fully when the contractions are mild. At this time we can only comfort her by saying that now it will not take much time, though we know that it may take time. -Punjab

“For birth the Dai is called secretly. Neighbours should not know about it. This is to avoid the evil eye ( nazar). When there are lot of people around then it is very disturbing and the woman takes time to open up. From out side we believe that birth is smoothere if there is no shouting around.” -Munni, Delhi

“If women gather around the jachcha she becomes nervous. They also force us to give injections. These days everybody is in a hurry. Then we tell them very affectionately that we have delivered so many babies by giving hot drinks of ghee and milk.” -Vidya Devi and Tara, Delhi

“A jachcha talks to us about things that she does not share with her mother or mother-in-law.” -Darshan Kaur, Punjab

We give her emotional and physical support. We help her create links between her body and mind (Maen te sanjha kar liya). She listens to me and even her family listens to me. Dai is like a farmer. Farmer grows crops and feeds so many people, a Dai helps in the birth of the baby who is a source of joy to so many.” -Punjab

Jachcha listens to us if we explain to her affectionately. Family members are always nervous. It is my responsibility to reassure them. I tell them that I can manage and will leave only after finishing the work.” -Tara, Delhi

“We keep our attention on the jachcha, talking with her, joking, reassuring her, asking questions and noting the progress of labor.” -Delhi

“We also have to be sure that pains are not for too long as this can lead to unnecessary panic in the family and can upset the woman.” -Punjab

“When the strong contractions begin, the top of the abdomen has a four finger emty space and the fetus is low in the birth canal. During, pukka dard the woman starts sweating, she is hot and says “Now I am going to die…I will not survive”. She calls for her mother, we give her reassurance. We tell her that everyone gets tehse pains and tell her of various women and how they coped. Tell her to bear it and console her by saying, “ Here comes the baby, here comes the baby…” -kheevni, Rajasthan

“We try to find out any possible concerns of the woman which may be why she is not “opening up”. Once a woman had eloped against her parent’s wishes, and it was only after her father came to the house and met her, that she was able to deliver her baby.” -Bihar

I was asked to come and sit in the jachcha’s room when my sister-in-law was in abor. She was “not opening up”. She delivered after I came in. The Dai said she must have been hiding something from me.” -Saroja, Bihar

“the Dai deals lovingly with the childbearing woman. She explains things affectionately, tells her to be strong and to push only when she is told.” -Bihar

Ritual and Body Imagery

“Before attending the delivery we first pay obeisance to the threshold of the house. If the pains are not strong or birth is taking time, we make the childbearing mother touch black gram and this is given away. This is to ward off bad spirits.” -Punjab

“Before entering the jachcha’s room we worship the threshold, the way we do in the temple. We fold our hands and say, “God ( Bhagwan) do justice and relieve her from pain.” Then bow near a fire, dust off our clothes and then enter the room. By this we ward off evil spirits.” -Rajasthan

“We have a custom that the threshold is nicked, cut slightly, five times with a small knife, We open boxes, hair and all other knots.” -Saubatiya, Bihar

“All knots on the woman’s clothing, her hair, other knots or locks in the room are untied or opened.” -Delhi

“During labor, earthen pots with large openings are tied on top of house. Her bangles, hairs, bindi, nose ring are taken off and are offered to “Bemeta open her knots the way we opened all her knots.” -Mohini, Rajasthan

“The younger sister-in-law is made to sit at the door, she knocks at the door five times-then picks up some water kept there. The mother-in-law puts her bag toe in the water and gives it to the jachcha to drink. She abuses ( gaalis) her while giving the water.” -Bihar

“Maybe the pains are not coming because of some blockage inside. We open the blocks inside the body by opening all the outside knots. Like we take off woman’s bindi, bangles, hair band, locks on boxes and windows.” -Khivani, Rajasthan

“In Rajasthan, a mound of wheat flour ( atta for making chappati) is kept in a plate. The jachcha takes a coin and separates in into the portions. It hastens birth.” -Delhi

“Some jaggery and grain is kept in a plate. Then we pray, “ Bagwan everything should happen smoothly and be over” ( Bhagwan sahi salamat se chhutkara dilwana). After praying, jaggery and grain is separated into two portions by the mother. With one portion sweet pudding is made for juchcha. The other portion is put in a sieve and circulated seven times over jachcha’s head. While doing this we pray to Bemata asking her to take care of jachcha and bachcha.” -Rajasthan

“We make the jachcha touch jaggery, grain and money and give it away as offering. Some keep garlic and grain near the bed. We also pray and offer jaggery in Gurdwara. We pray and grain near the bed. We also pray and offer jaggery in Gurudwara. We pray so that everything goes well. We feel responsible for the mother and the baby.” -Punjab
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