Every year in India, about 78,000 women don’t survive giving birth, and a million babies die in their first month. But in the village of Devpuri—and in thousands of other rural villages and urban slums touched by PATH’s Sure Start project—ordinary people are using simple yet ingenious tools to make mothers and babies safer. We’re telling some of their stories of initiative and resilience in a new special web feature. And on the blog today, we invite you to meet Ramsajeevan, a young father who learned from a very unlikely source how to keep his wife and baby safe.
“This was my first child,” says 25-year-old Ramsajeevan, remembering the birth of his daughter Depika, “and I was scared senseless.”
Ramsajeevan knew the risks. Four of his seven siblings died as infants. His mother gave birth at home without skilled help, and his father kept his distance, believing childbirth wasn’t his place. When it came to protecting their son’s child, neither of Ramsajeevan’s parents had any words of wisdom.
The advice Ramsajeevan needed came from an unlikely source—a letter from his baby-to-be.
“My child told me the danger signs of pregnancy,” he says.
Out of the mouths of babes
The letter, developed by PATH’s Sure Start project and delivered to all expectant fathers, is written from the point of view of the yet-to-be-born baby. In it, the “baby” told Ramsajeevan to watch for warning signs in her mother, like bleeding, blurred vision, high fever, and fainting. “Do rush mom to the hospital immediately,” the letter read, “as these are critical danger signs.”
The letter also counseled Ramsajeevan to “identify a vehicle to go to the hospital and save regularly for transportation and medical expenses so that you are prepared for my birth.” Health workers often provide families with traditional clay piggy banks to encourage saving.
Hear Ramsajeevan read a portion of his letter.
“What I read in that letter went right into my heart, because it was from my child,” Ramsajeevan says. “Without the letters, I wouldn’t have even thought about it.”
A new tradition
Ramsajeevan agreed to let his wife Archana give birth at the health center and saved money to pay for transportation. And when Archana began bleeding in her ninth month of pregnancy, he didn’t ignore the warning sign. He went with her to the health center and stayed until Depika was born.
Now, with the healthy girl on his lap, Ramsajeevan is a proud father. He credits Sure Start. “Because of all that we were taught,” he says, “I knew that I could save my wife and child.”
- Lesley Reed is a senior content officer at PATH.