After a few weeks with us in Hinche, we talked with midwife Elke Saunders about her experience supporting maternal and infant health in Haiti. Here are a few excerpts from our chat…

Over the years, I worked off and on in lactation and working as a doula, childbirth education, health educator at hospitals. And it got to the point where I realized that helping women try to get the kind of the care they wanted was an impossible task, it would just be a lot easier to be that person giving the good care. After I gave birth to my last daughter in 2007, I started training to be a midwife, started taking a course, and I was certified in 2013.

I have a very small home birth practice in a remote place [Kodiak Island, off the coast of Alaska]. I may be the most remote midwife in the United States, most likely. Its nine hours by ferry to get to the mainland. And that’s not to the big city, that’s just to the mainland, and from there you have to drive five hours to get to Anchorage. And with all the stops it takes to get there, it takes about 24 hours to get to Anchorage from where I live.

I’d had some friends who had gone to Cap Haïtien and some other friends who had come to Midwives for Haiti and blogged extensively about it. So they were the inspiration, and especially the thing I noticed is when they came down they would always go back. I don’t know anybody who has only been once. So that to me is a good sign.

[The midwives at the hospital] taught me a ton of stuff too. Because I’m not used to high risk. So when someone comes in seizing, I got to watch them manage situations with grace and no doctors in sight. It was very inspiring.

It was very humbling for me if anything. Because the women were so strong. The birthing women, and the midwives were so strong, and so beautiful and so graceful and took so much pride in themselves. It was extremely humbling. Intelligent, multilingual, they look like they’re fitness models. They had beautiful smiles, they dress wonderfully. That would be another thing I want to add. Don’t expect to come in to help these poor miserable little Haitian women. They will just make you feel very humble.