A new mother in India leans forward weakly, her body still aching from labor, and takes a sip from a clay cup. She swallows the sickly sweet beverage called jaggery but is not offered food, even though she craves protein and vegetables. Her newborn baby will not be seen by a doctor, and his only protection against infections and illness is a knife kept in the corner. It is meant to protect him from evil spirits.
But for 300,000 babies in India each year, there is no protection. They die on their first day of life — because their bodies are not strong enough to fight malnourishment and infection.
Pushparani was one of those mothers whose mouth still tasted of sweet jaggery when her first child died. He was born the color of a bruise, and though Pushparani and her husband rushed the child to the hospital, he was already dead when they arrived.
A Shaky Foundation
The young mother was still grieving when she discovered she was pregnant again. Her husband’s job selling juice left the couple with little money, and Pushparani was once again unable to go to the doctor for prenatal care.
While Pushparani was in her third trimester, she learned about the Child Survival Program center in her community. She was soon registered — but for months she had been unable to provide adequate nutrition and care for her unborn child. Her second child, a daughter, lived only two months, despite the heroic efforts of the center staff.
The death of her daughter sent Pushparani spiraling into a depression. The neighbors said she was cursed. Her mother-in-law began making plans to find her son a new wife, and Pushparani wondered if her life was even worth living anymore.
Staff at the Child Survival Program quickly intervened. They provided counseling for Pushparani and reminded her that God had a plan for her. They prayed with her and visited her in her home, shielding her from the hate-filled words of her mother-in-law and the open stares of her neighbors.
When Pushparani conceived for the third time, she was supported from day one. She had fruits and vegetables and protein to eat, and went to regular prenatal appointments. When the time came to give birth to her son, she did so in a hospital, surrounded by friends who had prayed her out of the darkest place of her life.
Pushparani held her son in her arms and remembered the grief she had suffered with the loss of her first two children. But when she spoke her son’s name, she spoke a promise.
Ray of light. A reminder of God’s promises.
“I owe what I am today to Compassion’s Child Survival Program,” says Pushparani. “Had I not been in CSP, I would have ended my life. And now, I have big dreams for my son Ishu — dreams of a healthy, happy child with hopes of the future. It did not seem possible before, but now I am filled with great hope and my dreams for my son will become reality. I look upon God and I will hold on to my dream.”