Written by Sharmila S, Manager – mMitra Programme.
9th August 2016. It was my second day at ARMMAN. With new responsibilities, came in a fresh wave of excitement. I was avid to learn all about how mMitra works.
I was visiting the community where young women were enrolled in the mMitra programme, specially designed for pregnant and new mothers. Accompanied by my colleague Mr.Mandar, Ms.Pragati and Ms.Smita (coordinators from Mumbai Smiles, our community partner NGO) and Ms.Anna (a guest), I stepped into a dense slum located at Marol Pipeline. We walked by the narrow stream, watching little children run around and women washing clothes or vessels on the road.
We stepped into Ms.Mahi’s (name changed on purpose for confidentiality) humble and tidy house where we were welcomed with her broad smile. She offered us the bed to sit on, as she sat down on the floor comfortably, still charming us with her genial smile. We introduced ourselves and started talking to her about mMitra, where she has been enrolled for the last 17 months.
A few excerpts from the conversation (that happened in Marathi) follow:
Mr.Mandar asked her if she got mMitra calls regularly. Mahi replied, “Yes, I get them very regularly. The calls are dot on time, at 7.45pm. In fact, my 6-yr old (first) daughter knows and brings me the mobile phone telling me it’s a call for me from mMitra”, she smiled.
Mr. Mandar asked, “What do you think about mMitra? Do you like the service?”.
She replied, “The calls are very informative. I got registered in the programme when I was 2 months pregnant with my second daughter, who is now 8 months old. Yes, I definitely am grateful to mMitra. It has been a great support. Things that I didn’t know during my first pregnancy, I was guided through mMitra calls now”
Mr. Mandar: How informative are mMitra calls?
Mahi: The calls were very comprehensive in the information. Elders from family or community do not come forward to tell us everything when we are pregnant, fearing that we might get worried or unnecessarily stressed. But mMitra calls gave me the right information about every little aspect of pregnancy – what I should eat, how to take care of myself, what is happening with my baby inside the womb and many others things that I should be educated about. In fact when the family members or neighbours would give me many advices that differed from mMitra’s information, I was surer about whatever mMitra calls told me and I stuck by them”.
She also went on to say how she was worried when her new-born had jaundice. Fortunately and much to her relief, the same day she had received a call from mMitra telling her about how new-born jaundice is common and is something not to worry about. “Also, I didn’t know the right ways of breastfeeding during my first pregnancy. I would only feed from one breast and not know that I could feed from both the breasts. mMitra calls taught me about feeding with alternative breasts every time and to remember which breast I fed from each time by wearing a bangle on that side hand.”
She narrated how she didn’t know during her first pregnancy that the baby turns and slides its head towards the cervix during the 8th month. She had panicked when that had happened. But now, with mMitra’s bi-weekly phone calls, she was aware of every little development in the foetus; she knew to differentiate what was normal and what wasn’t.
“In fact, I didn’t have much anxiety about my delivery, thanks to mMitra. I delivered at the Municipal Hospital close by (spending Rs.5000/- only). The care given there wasn’t as great as delivering in a private hospital like I did for my previous delivery spending Rs.20,000/- ( I was staying in my mother’s place near Ghatkopar back then for my first delivery). But this time I wasn’t very anxious or worried at all. From what I had heard in the mMitra calls, I kept a bag of cotton clothes for me and the baby packed before delivery, to be taken to the hospital”, she laughed. “It wasn’t as hasty as it was the first time that I was rushed to the hospital just like that”.
Mr. Mandar: What do you and your husband do for a livelihood?
“My husband works as a guard in the corporate office nearby. And I am a tailor”, pointing towards her sewing machine. “I don’t get to devote much time on stitching these days, but when both my kids sleep, I spend a little time sewing, which is usually post-midnight. Before I had kids, I could stitch a saree blouse in 30 minutes. Now it takes me about 2-3 days”, she flashed a smile.
After a few minutes of pleasant exchanges, we left. Walking back from the slum, I was just reflecting on some thoughts. mMitra not only educates but empowers these women with information support, helps them understand their pregnancy better and hence helps in making choices. It makes a huge difference in the lives of these women and their infants. Sometimes, a little care like this is everything.
I was happy for Mahi that day.
I was happy for the four lakh fifty thousand women who receive mMitra’s care.
I was happy for the millions of other women who would receive this care in the future.
I felt proud that I was going to be a part of this noble programme.
I felt proud that I will be involved in Delivering India’s Future!