Each month a team of six midwives visits 22 remote villages in the Central Plateau of Haiti. The days are long for these midwives, but they are often longer for the women who come to see them. Most of the pregnant women who seek the care of the Mobile Prenatal Clinic walk over rocky roads for several hours in high temperatures to reach the care they know will help defy their odds of surviving childbirth.
In Haiti, every woman you encounter knows someone -a friend or a relative- who died or nearly died bringing life into this world. It is a haunting reality: Haiti has the highest rates of maternal and infant death in the western Hemisphere.
The fact is that these women die needlessly. 800 women will die today around the world from pregnancy or childbirth related causes that are almost always preventable.
But which women? It is mostly rural, poor mothers who die. Women like Carmina in Haiti, who lack access to education, transportation, and medical care. The Mobile Prenatal Clinic was established in the Central Plateau of Haiti to address all three of these barriers for one common goal- to prevent mothers from dying. And it’s working.
We want you to hear it directly from the midwives and the mothers. Because beyond the facts and the statistics, these are real people with names and families and hopes and struggles just like you. They just happened to be born in a poor country. So, we asked the women of the Mobile Prenatal Clinic to tell you their stories…. Let’s Hear From the Women of Mobile Clinic:
I love to spend time with people. I spend more time with patients than with my own family, it gives me good experience as a healthcare provider. I am married, my husband is a pastor. I have four children and I take care of twelve orphan children. My husband and I saw how miserable the local orphanage was so we decided to take in some of these children into our own home. In addition to the orphanage, we have taken in some children who were abandoned in the streets. For example, I saw two small children who were washing dishes for food. At another time, I found a baby in a trashcan. Now these three children live with my family. We used to take care of twenty five but now it’s just twelve.
I feel compelled to give. It comes from my heart. I watched my cousin die from eclampsia, I saw her seizing. That’s why I became a midwife. I like working on mobile clinic the most, it’s the most fulfilling because I am helping the women who have the least access to care.
Our patients come back many times and when we return to a village each month we see new women with new pregnancies. We recently stopped going to our big site of Cerca Carvajal because a clinic hired one of our graduate midwives to be there all the time. Every month we hold a mobile clinic at my home in Rhode. Today was that day and a pregnant woman from Cerca Carvajal walked three hours to my home because she wanted to see us again. We were happy to see her!
My baby is 12 days old. I named him Ricardo Jean. I had him at home, there was no matròn (traditional birth attendant), I did it on my own. I think he might have gotten hurt when I pushed. He came out and fell onto a sheet on my floor. He has a big lump on his head and his arm does not move. That’s why I brought him to the clinic. I’m very worried about him. I came here for my pregnancy and liked everything about it. It’s all important. I walk an hour each way to be here. This is my seventh baby and I’m 38 years old.
Marie Lerrecile Charles, Mobile Clinic Midwife
When I was a child, I used to play a lot. And cry. I was afraid of airplanes. I thought that they were coming to take away my mother. When I would hear an airplane, I would run inside to make sure my mother was still there. I have never been on an airplane but I would like to. If I could go anywhere I would go to the United States. We have so many volunteers that work with us from the US. I would like to visit a US hospital and US birth center and see where our visitors work.
I’m a mother myself now, I have three children. Two girls and one boy. My older children want to be doctors. My little girl is only three so she doesn’t know yet!
Recently, I saw a woman at our mobile clinic in Savein Halein. She was there for her first prenatal visit. She was eight months pregnant. The baby was outside of the uterus. I told her to go see a doctor so she saw a doctor at the hospital. There, she was informed that she had uterine cancer. Thankfully, she had the baby, it was a girl, and the baby girl is okay. Last week I visited her in the hospital. It had been two weeks since I had seen her in the mobile clinic when I referred her to the hospital.
Last week I was working a nightshift at Hospital Ste Therese. A woman came into the maternity ward from the operating room. She had been in there for 6 hours because she had major postpartum bleeding. She bled a lot before she came to the hospital. The baby died inside of her belly at home. I wanted to give a blood transfusion to the mother. We went to the Red Cross but they had no blood. The mother was so anemic by then that she was delirious and went into shock. She stood up and ripped out her IV. We got her to lay back down and we put the IV back in. I kept checking her blood pressure and it kept getting lower and lower. The doctor and I called her parents into the room and explained that we wanted to transport her to the hospital in Mirebalais to receive blood. Even though we explained that she needed blood, her parents thought that she was the victim of Vodou and insisted on taking her out of the hospital to visit a witchdoctor. She died in the middle of the road. She was 26 years old and had one baby already at home.
My name is Eugine. I had a son before this. He died when he was nine months old from diarrhea. Now this baby is two months old. I carried him a long way to see the midwives. He is healthy, thanks to God. I came here during my pregnancy. The midwives are kind and learned many things.
Marie Ange, Mobile Clinic Midwife
I have two girls. Tashae is six and Chrisnelle is two. Tashae wants to be a doctor but I want her to be a financial planner, she is good at business. She sells candy and counts money.
When I was in the seventh grade my sister almost died of preeclampsia and that was when I knew I wanted to have a job helping people. I wanted to learn medicine and be able to take care of women who were pregnant.
I hope that the mobile clinic always continues here. There are so many women who don’t have access to care. Without these clinics, they have no one. We are here to help them. Some cases are hard. One case recently was very complicated. There was a woman who was 25 weeks pregnant. We had to transfer her from Fombrun to Hospital Ste Therese because her blood pressure was so high. The doctor checked her and a few days later the baby died. Because she was transferred, her family wasn’t with her so she was scared and she had no visitors. I don’t know how she got home to her village.
Philomène Thelemaque, Mobile Clinic Midwife
I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse when I was a little girl. I looked up to my primary school teacher. She taught me for four years and always showed us compassion and love. When I was little, I would sit my friends down in groups and pretend that I was the Madam. I’ve always loved teaching.
When I was working as a nurse, I wanted to be the one to actually catch the babies. I was training in the MFH program to become a midwife and one night at the hospital my preceptor said, “Philomène, come here and help me. This mother is ready, the baby is coming.” I went to help and the baby’s head was coming out. I was scared! I caught the baby though. It was my first time.
As a midwife, I like everything. On the mobile clinic, it’s mostly prenatal or postnatal care and there’s not much delivering unless there’s a woman shows up in labor, which happens now and then. I like to give people with high blood pressure good care so that they don’t develop eclampsia. I like the difficult cases. I find comfort and happiness when I help people. My heart leads me when I treat patients, not my head. I love when women find me in the village and point out and say, “Hey you delivered this baby, my baby.”
There was a very complicated case recently. Right when we arrived at the mobile clinic in Saltadere village (two hours from Hinche), there was a woman and when she laid down, there was blood coming out. Her blood pressure was very high. The baby was delivered but her blood pressure was still very high and there was lots of blood because we realized she was having a postpartum hemorrhage. Father Ilrick was able to find a vehicle to the hospital and he called the hospital to let them know they were on their way. In the end, both the woman and baby lived!
I missed catching babies so I spoke with Nadene (our Director) and we changed my schedule so that I can work at Hospital Ste Therese one a day a week also. Last week, a woman came to the hospital all the way from Cerca Carvajel. It is an hour away on moto and 3 hours by foot. She was one of the patients we see on our mobile clinic there each month. I was so happy to deliver her baby!
This is my first visit to the clinic and this is my ninth baby. I have six kids at home, I lost two of my children. One died at thirteen from cholera and my six year old from a sudden illness. After the first birth with a matròn (traditional birth attendant), the rest I did on my own. Three of my babies were born in the middle of the road. The others were born in
my garden, alone. The midwives here seem kind. I heard the baby’s heart beat. They gave me medicine to keep me healthy. The midwives said I should give birth to this baby in the hospital.
We had a good day here. We left bright and early for the super rough, nauseating 26 mile (2 hours) drive to Boc Banic near the DR boarder. The mobile clinic on Monday had over 100 women show up! They travel remote roads to reach 22 different sites monthly to provide care and education. These women walk hours to get to these monthly clinics. It is the only care available to to them. The closest hospital is the one here in Hinche, 2 hours away. They then patiently wait hours in the heat to be seen. We saw 40 women today and about half of them it was their first visit. They ranged from 10 weeks to 41 weeks and barely any of them had any idea of their due date or even a due month. It really does test my assessment skills! We even had one lady who was 30 weeks with a blood pressure of 190/120 and +3 protein in her urine. But it looks like she has had the same issues even earlier in her pregnancy, so more likely she has chronic high blood pressure resulting in some kidney damage so not likely pre-eclampsia. We made the hard decision to leave her there with blood pressure medication and hope she is okay until next month when we could transport her back here to deliver. If we had brought her back today the Haitian OB would have induced her and her baby would not have survived.
The Mobile Prenatal Clinic is only possible through the generous donations of individuals. Please take a moment to support the midwives who are bringing health and hope to the women and families of the Central Plateau. At only $10 per prenatal visit for a mother and her baby, how can you not?