Meet Soodhaththa, Oldest Midwife of Hulhumeedhoo Who Delivered Over 1400 Babies

MV+ News Desk | November 3, 2022

“I’ve seen a lot of infants on the verge of death. Some babies I delivered had eaten fecal matter in their womb, and others had the umbilical cord wrapped around their necks,” says Soodhaththa, oldest midwife (ފޫޅުމައި) of Hulhumeedho who delivered over 1400 babies.

“I am now more than 90 years old. My mother was a midwife and she also helped prepare the dead to be buried. I followed my mother’s footsteps and did these things too.”

Soodhatha started as a midwife’s assistant before becoming a midwife around the age of 25. She talked about how women used to give birth naturally, “there were many women that were giving birth in their own homes without midwives. There were a lot of women that lived alone and if there were ever a situation where it was an emergency, I used to go alone and deliver the baby.”

She has helped deliver babies in breech position (baby lying bottom or feet first), which is very dangerous. She noted that it happened very rarely.

She says, “I have seen one child that was delivered in that position. The first thing that I saw was the baby’s toes and very carefully, I helped deliver the baby.”

“In addition to the delivery, the midwives used to make medicines for the mother’s post-pregnancy. After giving birth, the mothers would take the medicine and use a belly compression (ބޮނޑިތާން ކުރުން). This helps the belly heal properly and prevents swelling. After a few days, the mothers can head out and be active like getting dry wood and coconuts.”

During her time as a midwife, she delivered babies born to mothers as young as 12 and 15-year-old. Soodhatha says, “Back in those days, a lot of young girls at that age were getting married and having kids.”

Soodhatha also talked about her family and marriage. “The first time I was married, I was 12-years-old. At that time, I hadn’t hit puberty. I was really scared. My first husband was already married to someone else before me and the only reason I married him was because I was scared of my father. I used to sneak out a lot.”

After a year, she got divorced and married someone else.It was only during her second marriage that she got her first period. She continued to tell us her story and the grief that she lived through due to her children’s death, “When I married my third husband, I gave birth to my first child at 27-years-old. Two of my children died and four of my kids survived.”

The experienced midwife also talked about life on the island during the World War 2.

“We used to eat whatever was available to us. We didn’t have any money to buy food. We used to eat kankun leaves with roshi (ފަތް މޮޑެގެން ރޮއްޓާ އެކީ) and drink water and sugar (ހަކުރު ފަނި) mixed together. Also, we also used to eat potatoes almost every morning and night. This is how the kids grew up.”

“My earliest memories were when I was eight years old. I remember when the British settled here during World War 2. I remember when people used to come and get the girls and children as payment. There were so many beautiful women on this island. Aren’t I pretty too?”

History and culture are inherited from the past. Knowing our connection and roots are important to understand our culture, tradition, and our genetic makeup from those who lived before us.