Click here for shortcuts to regional language blogs and city-specific events.
This was about 8 years back when I wheeled out of the operation theatre for the first time. The situation was not grim; it was joyous as I had delivered my first baby despite many last minute complications. The feeling of being a mother was not even known to me yet as I was still to see my newborn. It was my first time as an admitted patient. I remember been wheeled back into the hospital room. A host of family members were waiting there eagerly to greet me. Their anxiety seemed to have settled down now that I was out of the OT and back in the room. The mood in the room was slowly changing as the discussion had moved on to happier topics like possible names for the baby, where to host the baby welcome ceremony, whether to send ladoos or chocolates to friends and relatives! Amid much chatter and laughter the baby arrived in our room, neatly swaddled up and covered in a cute pink cap. She was in her baby crib.
Everyone at once stopped. Here was the new centre of attraction. The highlight of their day! Everyone rushed to circle up around her, to get a closer look, to know if she resembled the new mommy or the new daddy. All of them wanted to feel her soft cheeks, given that that was the only visible part of her for now. The nurse refused. She would just not let anybody touch the baby. She brought out this huge bottle of sanitizer and asked everyone to use generous amounts of it before coming any closer to the baby. The new daddy obeyed diligently. Good enough, everyone followed suit and obeyed too.
After the initial flood of relatives, the flow thinned out. It was the two of us with the baby and plenty of time to ponder about things in between feeding and my own sleep sessions. We noticed how everyone religiously followed this sanitize-then-touch routine - every doctor, every nurse, every technician and nutritionist. It was a bit too much actually. At one point of time, my husband got quite bugged when he was asked to sanitize his hands, even though he had just then washed it with water. He whispered to me “There are so many babies born every minute in our country, in smaller maternity clinic and villages. Do you think they are so regimental about hand sanitization? These guys in the hospital are little too much. How will the baby build her immunity? We live in India not Europe. We need to build immunity against air borne diseases. These guys are just too fussed about using the sanitizer. ”
So once we were back home, we set everything up our own way. I mean, everybody raises babies. How difficult can it be? The newly employed nanny was the only one who was given instructions to follow this sanitize-then-touch instruction. It’s always the easiest thing to do. Give orders to your staff!
The house was decorated with balloons and ribbons. We kept a ready tray with snack and sweets for the many guests who started to pour in. The most excited ones were the little children. How amazed they were to touch those soft tiny hands and make the baby encircle their own fingers. I enjoyed all the attention I got from friends and relatives who came to visit us. But the baby wasn’t taking kindly to all this. She started to get loose motions. We thought it was normal and that it must be due to change in the environment, from hospital to home. But over next 1-2 days it became worse. She started to look pale, she was feeding much lesser and it seemed like she was losing weight. She was born with low birth weight. We became quite concerned. We rushed to the paediatrician and received a mouthful from him. “How could you be so reckless? If you have to doctor yourself do not visit me again” he said. In our defence I said “But doctor, we have sterilized her feeding bottle, nipples and washed and dried the pan that we use for making her formula milk. How could we be transmitting germs to her?”
“What about the never ending guests that you had? Do you think they were germ free? The small children who played with the baby, they could be worst carriers of germs. Who told you that babies born in villages don’t fall sick in their initial days? If you look closely at the data they are the ones falling sick much more than those born in sanitized and cleaner environments. Unfortunately, many times it becomes fatal for them due to lack of proper advice or the interest in following the advice. We didn’t expect educated parents like you to behave in this irresponsible manner. Moreover washing your own hands with soap is not enough when the baby is so fragile. Her immune system will take time to build up. You need to protect her till her own defence is up and running. I am going to prescribe the medicine and probiotic for now but you must control the exposure she has to germs. Please make sure to use the hand sanitizer before touching the baby in the initial months” the doctor explained.
We felt very guilty for putting our baby through this. We felt bad for ignoring the advice given by the caregivers.
That was the day when I first believed that Protection is freedom. A clean and sanitized environment should become a non-negotiable good habit for every mother. Mothers can make the world safe for their children.