Mashkura’s Motherhood

Mashkura, aged 28, wife of Abdul Hamid a shrimp-farmer, lives in the coastal village of Abadchondipur. She has grown up there, having had a happy, healthy childhood, and got married to a man that she thought would be able to give her a good life. By all rights, the shrimp cultivation business should’ve been a good bet, but being a solo-entrepreneur, he was soon pushed out of the market by larger, international competitors.

That did not initially bother Mashkura, who did not have dreams of an expensive lifestyle, coming from the remote village that she does. She had desired instead, for a small, cozy home with her husband and the children she hoped to have. However, sadly, her first child was stillborn just 3 months into her pregnancy, denying her of that dream. She tried again, however, and conceived a second time. Luck, it seemed, was against her, as she miscarried again, only 4 months in.

She had consoled herself saying that the first was an accident, the result of her youth and inexperience. The second time it happened however, it broke her spirit. Family is an essential aspect of rural, traditional Bangladesh, and she felt that she had let everyone down, and that her dream of having a happy, little family of her own was never to be, for reasons she could not understand. A dark cloud had descended on her extended family, an oppressive gloom that she internalized and pushed her into depression. Being of limited education and traditional, conservative mindsets, they did in fact, hold her to blame, an enormous weight for her to bear with no one to turn to.

Soon after this, she had learned of a Friendship Satellite Clinic nearby, and met with Dr. Shongita, who worked there. She told her about her painful story, but Dr. Shongita could immediately tell that Mashkura suffered from hypertension, high acidity and an assortment of digestive issues. Dr. Shongita prescribed her medication, which Mashkura followed diligently, but could not find the clean drinking water that she was told to drink. Her third miscarriage soon followed, and Mashkura has lost her will to live, blaming herself for the deaths of her would-be children.

Dr. Shongita counselled her and her family, however, prescribed her more medication and insisted that she drink clean water. Friendship also installed a water treatment plant in the vicinity to help with the problem that Mashkura and others of her community were facing. Soon afterwards, Mashkura became pregnant again. This time, finally, she gave birth to a healthy child.

ICDDR,B did an extensive study and found that women living within 20 km of the coastline and 7 m above sea-level were 1.3 times were likely to miscarry than women who lived further inland. Indeed, it seems like her ill luck was tied to her environment. The total saline affected land in Bangladesh was 83.3 million hectares in 1973, soon after independence. By 2009 it had risen to 105.6 million hectares, according to the Soil Development Research Institute. In 35 years, the end of the survey period, salinity increased by 26% in the country, spreading into non-coastal areas as well.

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