Birth in India: One Chosen Perspective
by Diane Smith
© 2002 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 61, Spring 2002.]
“There are 700,000 traditional healers and dais (midwives) in India. 70 percent of the nation’s babies are born at home and the dai’s work is a living tradition. Ironically, modern hospitals and public health clinics fully represent allopathic medicine. There is a precarious balance being kept here between these paradigms of care. Women are being coerced and convinced by government advertising programs to leave the home and all that is traditional to give birth in environments that suggest safety and promise degradation. It is my feeling that we face a highly critical time here of losing a primal force—an ancient way—to a superficial, transient understanding of the birth process. The scales remain tipped toward tradition, while the trend is galloping toward the worst of western medicine’s offerings in childbirth technology. I am grateful to be sending down roots into an India that provides me the freedom to witness change, to practice the art of midwifery without tied hands, and to have a role in recultivating women’s power in childbirth through teaching and serving women. The sorrows lie in seeing women being beaten, ridiculed, abandoned, butchered and neglected in their hospital experiences. The joys are in remaining at home within tradition, teaching village dais and adding to the enhancement of their skills and in providing attitudes of sensitive care to government-trained midwives in the small health center here in Auroville, Tamil Nadu where I live.