- The Washington Times - Friday, December 30, 2005

NAGAPATTINAM, India — On Monday, as hundreds of women in Nagapattinam came out of their temporary shelters and began wailing for relatives they lost in the tsunami a year earlier, an interesting story came to light.

Some women took a 16-day-old baby in their arms, and prayed for more such “miracles” to cope with the losses they suffered to the tsunami. The infant girl’s hands and feet were daubed with sand and seawater, turmeric paste was applied to her forehead, and many of the women prayed to have such miracle babies themselves.

The infant’s mother, Valli, joined the wailing women on the beach. Everyone in Nagapattinam thinks her newborn is “a miracle baby.”

Valli had two children, and underwent a tubectomy in 1999 — a “permanent” method of birth control that involves cutting and sealing a woman’s fallopian tubes. This prevents the monthly shedding of an egg from the ovary into the uterus, where it could be fertilized by a male partner.

The procedure can be reversed in some cases, but the surgery is expensive and there is no guarantee the woman’s fertility can be restored.

Valli lost both her children to the tsunami last year. Unlike some women in the area who sought to reverse their sterilization, Valli did not, but she conceived early this year and gave birth this month to Shanthanalaxmi — the goddess who brings peace and comfort.

“It is a miracle! After undergoing tubectomy, she had had normal relations with her husband and did not conceive for five years. But two weeks after the tsunami, the tubectomy failed by itself, and she became pregnant,” said Sister Ranjini Ramadoss, a midwife who took care of Valli.

“The baby is a miracle gift from the God. … It is still a mystery how the tubectomy failed two weeks after the tsunami … we were ruing the 1999 tubectomy after losing our all children to the tsunami. Then the God has sent us this surprise gift,” said Valli’s husband.

In Nagapattinam district, 240 women who lost their children in the tsunami a year ago were found eligible for reversal of their tubectomies at government expense. While half the women were unwilling to undergo the surgery, about 50 have undergone reversal surgery and about 10 of them have conceived after the operation.

Valli’s husband, Subramani, a fisherman, said: “After we lost our children, our house and our livelihood to the tsunami, 2005 has been a year of suffering for us. Now we have been given Shanthanalaxmi. I hope she is a sign that the new year will bring us some happiness.”

“Children are vital in fishermen’s families,” said Jayavel, a fisherman in Nagapattinam. Husbands are away at sea for days at a time, and women need to have children at home, as companions.

Since the success rate for reversing sterilizations has been only about 20 percent, many women in Nagapattinam who lost most or all of their children to the tsunami are praying for “miracle babies.”

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