A study conducted by the Ahmedabad-based NGO, Centre for Health Education, Training and Nutrition Awareness (CHETNA), reveals that India sees the death of one woman from childbirth every eight minutes. Moreover, as per the latest provisional figures from Census 2011, the Child Sex Ratio is an alarming 914 girls per 1000 boys, which means that only 914 baby girls make it past the age of six. Clearly, for Indian women, motherhood is not the glorified experience it is made out to be.
However, there is someone who has tried to do her bit to decode the difficulties of pregnancy and early child-rearing. She had done some serious hand-holding through a tell-all book on the experience of becoming a mother, keeping in mind Indian conditions and traditions. ‘Letters To My Baby’, written by Lucknow-born and London-based writer, Sangeeta Bhargava, brings to the reader, mother-to-be Sujata’s letters written to her daughter, Anjali. She recounts her journey from the sixth week of pregnancy to the child’s first birthday.
“The book is a missive from a mother, who has ‘been there’ and is now offering help and support to other women embarking on the same voyage,” is how the author describes her “labour of love.” She hopes that this week-by-week guide to pregnancy and the first year of a baby’s life will bust many myths and help keep unfounded fears away from the mind of first-time mothers.
Bhargava’s Sujata is not a super woman or a super mom. She makes mistakes, is often distressed but still manages to deal with difficult situations in a way that only a mother can. In the book, Bharagava writes, “Anjali, the baby in this book, can be anybody’s baby. Her mother Sujata is a mother who at times is distraught that her little one kept her up all night. She is not a perfect mother. We watch her cope and we clap with her as Anjali reaches her first birthday.”
Over 400 topics, ranging from pre-natal to post-natal care, including the emotional, physical and medical needs of a mother have been enumerated in the letters. So whether it is morning sickness, what and how much to eat or physical fitness during pregnancy or issues like breast feeding and dealing with stretch marks later, the 275-page paperback, brought out by Genesis Publishing, gives some good, sound advice.
Take a look:
‘Dieting vs Eating for Two – Pregnancy Week 21
I’m a little annoyed today. Some people keep commenting on how big I already am and then go on to add that their bump didn’t show until they were eight months pregnant! As if it is something to be ashamed of. Well, I’m proud of my bump and love my new look. I have even heard that some women are so conscious about maintaining their figure these days that they diet and workout even during pregnancy. I don’t think that’s good either for the mother or the baby.
Then there are these aunts of mine who are just the opposite. They keep telling me I must remember to eat for two! Now you tell me baby, do you really need all that extra food?
Since I don’t know when I will be able to return to work after your birth, Nikhil and I felt it was high time we did some financial planning. So we spent this weekend working out our monthly budget and tried to figure out how we could cope without my salary.
We have finally chosen a name for you. We have decided to call you Ashish if you are a boy and Anjali if you are a girl. I hope you approve.
Your loving mamma. …’
(Excerpted from ‘Letters to my Baby’)
The book’s been divided into two parts – Sujata’s Pregnancy and Anjali’s First Year. Bhargava has even taken pains to pen down details like the weekly changes that occur in the physical appearance of a baby in the womb – in fact, at three, six and nine months, the book even gives an hourly routine of the baby – its feeding and sleeping pattern as well as the various milestones and developments at that stage.
The concise, easy to understand and up-to-date information and medical tips on pregnancy and baby care make ‘Letter To My Baby’, an invaluable guide especially for those women, who do not have a traditional family support system, a growing reality in urban nuclear homes.
It was precisely because Bharagava too had been alone during her pregnancy with no one to tell her what to expect that she decided to put down her experiences in print. “This book happened because in London, where I had both my children. I was all by myself and had to deal with all the trials on my own. At that time, I was very afraid, alone and confused. I did not want any other woman to feel this way. I wanted to reach out to her, hold her hand and guide her through it all. I think I have been able to do that,” she says.
And from the kind of response she has received, it certainly appears that Bhargava has achieved what she had in mind. Says Dr. Saroj Chooramani Gopal, a pediatric surgeon and the outgoing Vice-Chancellor of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, Lucknow, “This book is a pleasure as well as a treasure. It combines fiction and facts in a beautiful manner.” Appreciating the medical tips given in the book Dr. Chooramani feels that the book should be translated into Hindi so that it is able to benefit many more women.
Bhargava is not a doctor. She is young woman who has experienced motherhood first hand and grappled with its many facets. That’s what makes the reader develop a bond with her immediately – it’s a “down-to-earth and humane book, penned by a mum for other mums.”