The greedy doctor, the village midwife and the nurse

October 2011

There are many curious things for a Westerner in Indian culture, and pregnancy is not an exception. For instance, a pregnant woman shall not visit a temple after the 6th month of pregnancy. I am still not sure why, but I read on the internet that it is just in case she might go into labour there. She should also not witness any eclipse, enter an empty house or cross a bridge at night. It is said that they are more vulnerable to attacks of evil spirits and negative energies, which of course are not beneficial for the mother and her unborn child.


It is also strange for us that the Indian law prohibits doctors to reveal the gender of the baby. Sadly daughters are usually not as welcome as sons. But with some baksheesh the doctor might hand you a pink or blue envelope containing a prescription, telling without saying a word. Baba and I of course didn’t care at all if we would have a boy or a girl, but still I was really curious and tried hard to find out by myself observing intensively the screen during ultrasound scans, but, of course, without any success. The village ladies kept on telling me with a big smile that I was carrying a baby boy, probably thinking that hearing that would make me happy.

I still had not made up my mind about the delivery. I found out that a really fantastic lady called Parvati from the village, who I already knew since some time, actually was a midwife. When I first met her, I liked her straight away. She has those vivid and at the same time loving eyes and even if we had some communication problems, because my Hindi was not an awful lot better than her English, we laughed a lot together and I felt a nice connection. She has helped to bring about a hundred babies to the world. I asked her if she wanted to assist me having the baby at home and she was more than happy to do so. From time to time she came to our house to touch my belly, smiled and said:

“Sub tikhe (all is well)!”

I loved the idea of having her with me when the baby would be born.

But then… my ignorant mind came into play and bombarded me with all those what-if-questions.

More I read on the Internet, more insecure I became. I was not one of those twenty year old Indian girls who might just pop out a child. What if there were complications or if I needed medical help?

Then, one day, I went to a routine checkup to the doctors where she told me that my baby was too small, that probably a cesarean would be necessary and that we needed to induce labour as soon as possible. My due date was on November 4 and there where still a bit more than two weeks to go. I was in shock! I had considered before having the baby in that private hospital. It was clean and modern, but expensive and loveless. We were approaching Divali, which is one of the most important festivals of the year in India, comparable to Christmas in the West. The doctor looked at me stony-faced and asked:

“So, would you like to deliver the child before or after Divali? As you understand, me, like everybody else, I want to celebrate the festival with my family” as if talking about an item I would receive by UPS.

I still couldn’t believe my ears and just reacted hearing me say

“Before Divali”

“Okay, we’ll show you your room and expect you here on 24th October. You can call me anytime”

Back home I calmed down and could think clearly again. Wait a minute… if the baby was too small, why would I need a cesarean? I felt great, the baby was in the correct position and moving like always. Maybe this woman just wanted to get some extra money from a naive foreigner? And a cesarean would save her time and in addition bring her a bit of extra money. Did I really want to spend the holidays in that hospital room while outside in the city all the fireworks were exploding? I listened to my heart and it clearly said that the baby was simply not wishing to be born yet and that it would decide by itself when to come to this world. Baba shared my opinion:

“This is bullshit! Hospital not good!”

A couple of days after I tried to call the hospital to inform them, that I had changed my mind, but nobody picked up. The doctor’s cellphone was switched off. Really comforting!


There was a third option: The Indian wife of a German guy I knew was a retired trained nurse and midwife. For a bit of money she would assist and make me a list with all the medicines and things I would have to buy, just in case. This sounded to me like a good compromise; the only inconvenience was that unfortunately she was an alcoholic.
So I had the sweet Indian midwife with ancient village knowledge, which would cost me a new saree, the money-grubbing gynecologist I would spend about 40.000 rupees (500 Euro) for and the alcoholic nurse which asked 5.000 rupees (60 Euro).

I guess that out of fear of the unknown, I opted for the middle way:

The alcoholic midwife,

praying and hoping that she would be sober when the baby would be ready to come to the world.


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