Supporting “The First Relationship” in Northern India II


During our first visit to the Christian Hospital last year, Ginger and I were introduced to the nursing school and also visited the maternity ward and saw several women who had just given birth. As I considered this visit, I thought that a potentially valuable offering to the hospital would be to give a workshop to the nursing students, much as I did for the orphanage caregivers in El Salvador. The subject of the workshop to the nursing students might be the value of the “first relationship” and their potential role in scaffolding it.

Communication with the hospital by email was spotty, and though in a late message from Dr. HJ Lyall, he mentioned a workshop, I was not at all certain that he or the nursing school had any interest in such a program. I became concerned that my proposal would be received as an obligation, rather than as a benefit. Just before I left, I wrote to reassure them that I was prepared to do something “casual” and to respond, upon my arrival, to whatever they let me know was their interest or need.

Thursday afternoon, on our arrival, Dr. Nina Lyall gave us a tour of the hospital compound and visited the maternity ward, where a new mother proudly cradled her infant son. Later, Dr. Lyall, asked us what time we would like to give the workshop the following day, and after some discussion, we settled on 10 o’clock. That would give the nursing students time to finish their morning tasks and would give us a chance to attend the morning service in the chapel, something we were eager to do. That evening, we had a lovely dinner with both Drs. Lyall, their son, Himanshu, who has a graduate degree in hospital administration and has built the eye department into the substantial program that it is today, and his wife, Sonia.


The next morning, after a good sleep, we rose to hot tea and prepared for the church service before breakfast. Dr. HJ Lyall accompanied us to the service. As we approached the chapel, we were greeted by the music of song, a keyboard instrument, and the tambourine. I suppose this loud and rhythmic music was a hymn, though not like any I am used to. It was clearly religious and very enjoyable to listen to and had the quality of a melding of Christian ritual with indigenous culture that I have noticed in El Salvador and other parts of the world. The small chapel was packed with the nursing students – row after row of light blue dresses and white cap atop neat black hair, pulled back. As I sat in one of the back rows, I saw several of these young women adjust the pins in their hair to settle their hats more firmly on their heads or to secure a stray lock of hair. Dr. L introduced me and Ginger to the community in the chapel.

After chapel, we joined the Lyalls for a delicious Indian breakfast and then headed for the nursing school. Dr. Nina Lyall had volunteered to translate our words into Hindi, something for which we were very grateful. We were hoping that we could take the students into the maternity ward and use a version of the NBO as a way of demonstrating to the new mother – as well as the nursing students – the way mothers can learn to “listen to” their newborn babies (Nugent, ) In this example of the Touchpoints model, nurses caring for pregnant women or new mothers in the maternity ward can offer something like the kind of intervention described in the previous posting. They can show mothers how to become expert in understanding their own babies, and grow in their confidence and comfort as mothers. We now know that this kind of intervention can reduce the occurrence of post partum depression, a significant risk factor in child development (Brandt & Murphy, 2010, p. 185).

The Head of the School of Nursing, Mr. Jinson Mathew, had discussed with us and with the Lyall’s how to structure the workshop so as to accommodate the number of students, and we had decided to give two consecutive workshops in the same relatively small room. Nevertheless, when we were greeted with about forty students in the first workshop, we were taken aback. Of course, we realized that we could not take them all into the maternity ward to see the one new mother and her baby. It was with pleasure but also some apprehension that we surveyed the fresh and eager faces of the young women in the room and wondered what we were going to do instead, how we were going to engage them. We calmed our anxiety by presenting them with two copies of Kevin’s book.

In the next posting I will describe the actual workshop.

Brandt K, Murphy JM (2010), Touchpoints in a nurse home visiting program, in B Lester J Sparrow (eds), Nurturing Children and Families: Building on the Legacy of T. Berry Brazelton, Wiley-Blackwell, pp 177-190.

photographs by Ginger Gregory

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